Author Topic: A Debate Between James and Chris: On Distributive vs. Commutative Justice  (Read 1429 times)

Offline christulsa

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Intro:  I believe James and I have ironed out the topic and rules, at this point we just need a moderator (s) to determine the outcome.  Wilson suggested someone with more knowledge of the topic.  In no particular order, perhaps Non Nobis, Miriam, Xavier, or Maximillian?  Or a combination of a few?   James let me know if any of the below terms needs to be edited or refined.  This is a good will, gentleman's wager, for the sake of seeking Truth.

Context:  discussion in this thread:  https://www.suscipedomine.com/forum/index.php?topic=24817.15

Topic of Debate: Whether or not this statement is true, as discussed in the thread: 

"Distributive justice outweighs commutative justice, and corresponding rights, according to classical Thomistic philosophical doctrine."

The terms are being used according to the meaning used by St. Thomas. 

Positions:

1.  I will argue in the affirmative.  Following the terms as expressed (reply #27), I will back up this position primarily from not just one, but multiple citations from the writings of St. Thomas, but also secondary sources of authoritative Thomistic philosophers who represent "classical Thomistic philosophy" in so far as they explain/interpret the texts and topic at hand.  I may also reference Aristotle as a tertiary source, in so far as certain parts of the citations I will give, the terminology, and concepts are derived by St. Thomas to a great extent from his writings.  But I will maintain reference primarily to what St. Thomas says.  I will also follow the standards of logical argumentation, and avoid all fallacies.   I will show that a) the particular forms of justice correspond to particular "goods" (private vs. common), persons, and levels of the social order,  b) that distributive justice provides for an object proportionately greater in value and importance in reference to its subject, that its subject is at a higher hierarchical order in society having more "owed to it," c) therefore distributive justice corresponds to a higher social hierarchical order, and thus it generally "outweighs" commutative justice and its corresponding rights.  Where "outweigh" would refer to having a greater value, importance, authority, or weight.

2. James will argue that my position cannot be concluded from the actual writings of St. Thomas.

Outcome:  The winner will receive one case of Shiner Bock beer, deliverable in the church parking lot.  Here is the approximate local value:
 https://www.walmart.com/ip/Shiner-Bock-12-pack-12-fl-oz/44391438

My Proposed Timeline:   If this is agreeable to James, I will begin with my first argument, James can respond.  We can do this exchange three times.  Then see if the moderator (s) have reached a decision.  If not we continue, until no later than 11:59 pm CST on Christmas Eve, after which a final decision is made.

 :cheeseheadbeer:
« Last Edit: December 02, 2020, 11:19:28 PM by christulsa »
 

Offline Jacob

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Re: A Debate Between James and Chris: On Distributive vs. Commutative Justice
« Reply #1 on: December 02, 2020, 11:14:36 PM »
Either of you guys debate in high school? :)
“Arguing with anonymous strangers on the Internet is a sucker's game because they almost always turn out to be—or to be indistinguishable from—self-righteous sixteen-year-olds possessing infinite amounts of free time.”
--Neal Stephenson
 

Offline christulsa

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Re: A Debate Between James and Chris: On Distributive vs. Commutative Justice
« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2020, 11:20:53 PM »
Either of you guys debate in high school? :)

I've been debating since birth.   :)  It's in my temperament.   But I did serve as Debate Judge when I taught high school. 
 

Offline christulsa

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Re: A Debate Between James and Chris: On Distributive vs. Commutative Justice
« Reply #3 on: December 03, 2020, 09:46:36 PM »
Wanted:  debate moderator (s)

Description: a forum member will follow the arguments made, and decide which person in the end wins the debate, by answering a poll.

Pay:  no pay, except if I kill a deer this season, deer jerky.  Add "Debate Moderator" to your resume under "Hobbies/Volunteering"!

Qualifications:  academic experience with Thomistic philosophy and/or theology, either formally or through personal reading.

Pm me, or post here, if you are interested!

« Last Edit: December 03, 2020, 10:07:10 PM by christulsa »
 

Offline christulsa

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Re: A Debate Between James and Chris: On Distributive vs. Commutative Justice
« Reply #4 on: December 03, 2020, 09:47:26 PM »
My argument will be based on three questions.

1.  Do particular forms of justice each correspond to a different hierarchical level in society, or to different levels of the moral “good,” provided for by the virtue of justice?

I’ll show that a) God did in fact create society as a social hierarchy, b) that corresponding to each level of that hierarchy are different levels of persons, rights, and forms of the “good” that perfect man, and therefore, c) a particular kind of justice corresponds to a particular hierarchical level corresponding to a different form of the "good."


2.  Is distributive justice at a higher hierarchical social level, with a higher object (that form of the “good” which is owed), given to a higher subject (that which is owed)?

I’ll show that a) the object of distributive justice is the common good to perfect Society itself which is greater than the private good of the individual, b) that Society itself is at a higher level than the individual, and therefore, c) distributive justice is at a higher social level with a higher object and subject.


3.  Does distributive justice (and corresponding rights to what is owed by justice) generally outweigh (in authority, value, importance, or weight) commutative justice?

I’ll show that since a) there is a social hierarchy of goods, persons, and forms of justice, and since b) distributive justice provides for a higher good at a higher level, with a higher object/subject, therefore, c) ultimately, distributive justice (and corresponding rights to what is owed by justice) does outweigh (in authority, value, importance, or weight) commutative justice.
« Last Edit: December 03, 2020, 10:03:07 PM by christulsa »
 

Offline Michael Wilson

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Re: A Debate Between James and Chris: On Distributive vs. Commutative Justice
« Reply #5 on: December 04, 2020, 06:00:00 PM »
Should be an interesting debate.
"The World Must Conform to Our Lord and not He to it." Rev. Dennis Fahey CSSP

"My brothers, all of you, if you are condemned to see the triumph of evil, never applaud it. Never say to evil: you are good; to decadence: you are progess; to death: you are life. Sanctify yourselves in the times wherein God has placed you; bewail the evils and the disorders which God tolerates; oppose them with the energy of your works and your efforts, your life uncontaminated by error, free from being led astray, in such a way that having lived here below, united with the Spirit of the Lord, you will be admitted to be made but one with Him forever and ever: But he who is joined to the Lord is one in spirit." Cardinal Pie of Potiers
 
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Offline james03

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Re: A Debate Between James and Chris: On Distributive vs. Commutative Justice
« Reply #6 on: December 06, 2020, 05:00:48 PM »
Topic 1 is a scratch.  I more or less agree with those statements with perhaps a tweak.  The bet is on topic 2 and 3.  I agree to the bet on those terms.
"But he that doth not believe, is already judged: because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God (Jn 3:18)."

"All sorrow leads to the foot of the Cross.  Weep for your sins."

"Although He should kill me, I will trust in Him"
 

Offline christulsa

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Re: A Debate Between James and Chris: On Distributive vs. Commutative Justice
« Reply #7 on: December 06, 2020, 06:05:21 PM »
Actually, points 1, 2, 3 are the main parts of my own side of the argument, as I stated, to prove the actual topic which you framed in the previous  thread.    I’ll show that I can back up the statement with not just one, as stipulated, but multiple references from St. Thomas.

Maximilian agreed to moderate, unless you object, and he can decide who better argues their position.

I’m in the Ozarks fly-fishing ‘til Wednesday, then I’ll start writing my argument.  May the Truth prevail.  :cheeseheadbeer:
« Last Edit: December 06, 2020, 06:24:37 PM by christulsa »
 

Offline james03

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Re: A Debate Between James and Chris: On Distributive vs. Commutative Justice
« Reply #8 on: December 06, 2020, 09:42:01 PM »
OK we have a bet.  You can argue for Item 1 for the purposes of developing 2 and 3, but I'm not denying item 1.
Max will evaluate how we handle Item 2 and Item 3.
"But he that doth not believe, is already judged: because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God (Jn 3:18)."

"All sorrow leads to the foot of the Cross.  Weep for your sins."

"Although He should kill me, I will trust in Him"
 
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Offline christulsa

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Re: A Debate Between James and Chris: On Distributive vs. Commutative Justice
« Reply #9 on: December 09, 2020, 11:28:29 PM »
First Part of My Argument:

Introduction: 


The position I am arguing is simple:  “Distributive justice ‘outweighs’  commutative justice (and corresponding rights), according to classical Thomistic philosophical doctrine.”   

And as stated (in the OP), by “outweigh” I’m referring to having a greater value, importance, authority, or weight, which I will show.  To prove my position, per the framework proposed by James (Reply #27, Thread about rights), which I accepted (Reply #30, same thread), strictly speaking I have to be able to “back up” my position from a citation of St. Thomas, yet I will actually back it up with not only one, but several citations from St. Thomas. 

James also stated above “I more or less agree...with perhaps a tweak” with my statement (point #1) that:  “Particular forms of justice each correspond to a different hierarchical level in society, or to different levels of the more ‘good’.”  In other words, he and I basically agree that a) there is a social hierarchy, b) each level of that hierarchy corresponds to different forms of particular justice, and c) to different levels of the “good.” 

In this first part of my argument then, I will show both that (point #2):  “distributive justice is at a higher social level, with a higher object (that form of the “good’ which is owed), given to a higher subject (that which is owed),” and therefore (point #3) "distributive justice (and corresponding rights to what is owed by justice) generally outweighs (in authority, value, importance, or weight) commutative justice."  I will begin with 1) St. Thomas’ treatment of commutative vs. distributive justice, 2) then his view of authority in relation to justice.

1) St. Thomas’ Teachings on the difference between Commutative vs. Distributive Justice:

St. Thomas explains the different particular forms of justice in his Summa Theologicae, Part II of II, Question 61 (https://www.newadvent.org/summa/3061.htm).  Commutative justice is simply one private person, giving to another private person, a private good owed to that person.  For example, I borrow $5 from James.  I owe James $5.  According to commutative justice, I must pay him back $5.   

St. Thomas teaches:  “As stated above, particular justice is directed to the private individual, who is compared to the community as a part to the whole. Now a twofold order may be considered in relation to a part. On the first place there is the order of one part to another, to which corresponds the order of one private individual to another. This order is directed by commutative justice, which is concerned about the mutual dealings between two persons. On the second place there is the order of the whole towards the parts, to which corresponds the order of that which belongs to the community in relation to each single person. This order is directed by distributive justice, which distributes common goods proportionately. Hence there are two species of justice, distributive and commutative.”

It is self-evident that for St. Thomas the whole (or the community) itself is greater in value, importance, and at a higher social level than the part (the private individual).  Commutative justice corresponds to the “part,” whereas distributive justice corresponds to the “whole” or the higher level of the community.  Society itself, as represented in part by government, but other social institutions, possesses “common goods” for the perfection of both Society itself, and every person in it; therefore, it has a duty to distribute all common goods to all citizens proportionately, which happens through distributive justice.  It is not just for each person as a private person, for their own private good, but compared to commutative, it is for each person as a public person, in so far as they share in the common good which itself is public.  In other words, distributive justice is Society providing to all private individuals, as members of society, and not just as private individuals according to their private needs, and therefore for the common good of Society itself.

For St. Thomas, society does not come into existence just to meet the private needs of the private individual (like modern philosophers have argued, ex: Locke, Hobbes, etc), but for its own sake, with males and females forming families, which leads to families forming “villages,” which in turn form cities, the ideal representation of society (Commentary on Aristotle’s Politics, Book 1, 25-30).  The “common goods” for all people are public, and common.  They are what all men need to perfect their nature.  For example, all men need some level of education, law and order, social-moral training in citizenship, and opportunities to perfect their natures as social persons, that by definition comes from the higher level of Society itself.  That means they need access to private or public schools, educational resources, a public market place, and places to gather for socializing such as a plaza or town square.  Such things are essential to man’s perfection.   A man is not perfected completely at the private level in their home or neighborhood, but at the social level, by the common good.

St. Thomas says “Actions are indeed concerned with particular matters: but those particular matters are referable to the common good, not as to a common genus or species, but as to a common final cause, according as the common good is said to be the common end” (ST I-II, q. 90, a. 2, ad 2).  The private good, or private matters, is subordinate to the common good provided to each private person by distributive justice which is public by nature (as well as legal justice, which is obedience owed to the government and laws for the common good).

Lastly, the rights to what is provided by distributive justice, i.e. common goods, are greater or generally outweigh the rights that are provided by commutative justice, i.e. the private good (where “rights” are the “object” of each form of justice[Question 57, Article 1].  That is because the common good outweighs the private good.  For example, if there is an actual, verifiable plague, the right of society to enforce a quarantine, to protect both individual and public health, would outweigh the right of private individuals to not comply with a quarantine and freely assemble as they would normally.  As another example, if the federal government denied the fundamental, sacred, constitutional rights to vote, or bear arms, of free speech, that would violate a higher order of justice owed to each citizen (distributive) than justice between two private persons involved in a private business exchange. 


2) St. Thomas’ Teaching on Authority or Status in Relation to Justice:

St. Thomas then goes on to explain “in distributive justice a person receives all the more of the common goods, according as he holds a more prominent position in the community. This prominence in an aristocratic community is gauged according to virtue, in an oligarchy according to wealth, in a democracy according to liberty, and in various ways according to various forms of community. Hence in distributive justice the mean is observed, not according to equality between thing and thing, but according to proportion between things and persons: in such a way that even as one person surpasses another, so that which is given to one person surpasses that which is allotted to another” (Article 2).

In other words, more is owed, by means of distributive justice, from Society, to an individual, the more they already possess, which gives them a higher status or authority in society (by means of virtue, wealth, or liberty).  In the example of illegal immigrants, it is citizens who have higher rights to what is provided in the Bill of Rights, because they have higher status as citizens.

For St. Thomas, while he prefers monarchy to aristocracy, he believes the ideal society should be a mixed regime (like in pre-reformation England), with, so to speak, the monarchy at the top, aristocracy in the middle, and the common man at the bottom with representatives (On Kingship, Ch. 4, section 23)).  He accepts Aristotle’s teachings that there are three forms of just government: monarchy, aristocracy, and democratic rule by the many through representation (their corresponding corrupt forms being tyranny, oligarchy, and mob rule, respectively) (see Commentary on Aristotle’s Politics, on the forms of government).  And since the government’s main objective is the common good, which is the moral perfection of all private persons but ultimately Society itself, then aristocracy (rule by virtue) is greater than oligarchy (rule by wealth), or democracy (rule by liberty).   Therefore, distributive justice is of a higher order since it provides more to those few in authority with higher rights, because they have exceptionally more virtue than the common man, from a Thomistic view of society.

St. Thomas continues in the same article to say “in distributive justice the mean is observed, not according to equality between thing and thing, but according to proportion between things and persons: in such a way that even as one person surpasses another, so that which is given to one person surpasses that which is allotted to another. Hence the Philosopher says (Ethic. v, 3,4) that the mean in the latter case follows "geometrical proportion," wherein equality depends not on quantity but on proportion...on the other hand in commutations something is paid to an individual according to the ‘arithmetical mean’”.

While commutative justice provides for a 1:1 exchange between two people based on basic social equality at the private level, distributive justice provides for a proportional, and therefore greater exchange where some are owed more because they “surpass another” though proportionally depending on their level of public status, as for example a 1:2 exchange between a peasant farmer who rents land from an aristocratic landlord with greater status, paying the landlord 2/3rds of the profit, they receiving 1/3rd of it..  That is, the "geometric mean" provides something greater, though proportionately and therefore justly, according to distributive justice.

Applying then the above citations, a) Society owes more, through distributive justice, to men of higher status in the community, especially men of virtue, b) who possess extraordinary virtue compared to the common man, c) and therefore more honor, title, authority, and d) therefore more influence over Society itself.  But in turn, e) more is then owed by the aristocrat (or king himself) to the common man (represented by democracy), by means of distributive justice.  This all shows the reasonableness of the statement “distributive justice (and corresponding rights) outweighs commutative justice.”

In conclusion, this is my main argument.  James can give a rebuttal, and then I will respond to his rebuttal in part 2, with further quotes or arguments if needed.  After 3 rounds (or before?), Max will decide who won.  If he hasn't decided, then we keep hashing it out until Christmas eve, then the final decision. 
« Last Edit: December 10, 2020, 01:06:42 AM by christulsa »
 
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Offline Maximilian

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Re: A Debate Between James and Chris: On Distributive vs. Commutative Justice
« Reply #10 on: December 10, 2020, 08:41:50 AM »
Chris has done a good job establishing a prima facie case, which means that the person who argues first should have convinced you of their position, until you have heard the opposite side.
 

Offline james03

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Re: A Debate Between James and Chris: On Distributive vs. Commutative Justice
« Reply #11 on: December 10, 2020, 02:52:49 PM »
Chris makes 2 category errors:

1.  He is confusing particular justice with general or legal justice.  Particular justice is what is due to the individual.  General justice is what is due to society.  Therefore his arguments are incoherent when he talks about "distibutive justice".  Go back and read items 2 and 3.  There's no way he can prove those statements because an attempt to do that is incoherent.

2.  Commutative justice and distributive justice, which fall under particular justice, deal with separate objects.  They have the same subject, the individual.  Commutative justice concerns giving what is owed by an individual to an individual.  Distributive justice is giving what is owed by society (via the government official) to the individual.  To say one is superior or higher is incoherent at best, utilitarianism at worst.

An example: Bill signs a contract to provide a service to Frank.  Frank is a rich and well connected individual.  Bill performs the work.  If Frank pays Bill, he is acting according to commutative justice.  If he stiffs Bill, he offends commutative justice.  Bill takes Frank to court.  If Bill gets a fair hearing, then this accords with distributive justice.  If the court favors Frank due to his status, it offends distributive justice.  Apples and oranges.

Bottom line, Chris wants to talk about (and does) General Justice or Legal Justice.  However that is not the terms of the bet.  I win.
"But he that doth not believe, is already judged: because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God (Jn 3:18)."

"All sorrow leads to the foot of the Cross.  Weep for your sins."

"Although He should kill me, I will trust in Him"
 

Offline james03

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Re: A Debate Between James and Chris: On Distributive vs. Commutative Justice
« Reply #12 on: December 10, 2020, 02:57:16 PM »
Particular responses:

Quote
1) St. Thomas’ Teachings on the difference between Commutative vs. Distributive Justice:
Non sequitur.  No one disputes that Distributive Justice is different than commutative justice.

Quote
2) St. Thomas’ Teaching on Authority or Status in Relation to Justice:
Non sequitur.  St. Thomas argues that it accords with Distributive Justice for a high status person to receive more goods and services from the public common than someone that is lower status.  That is not part of our bet (and I disagree with St. Thomas on this somewhat, though he's talking about medieval society, and knows more about it than me).


"But he that doth not believe, is already judged: because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God (Jn 3:18)."

"All sorrow leads to the foot of the Cross.  Weep for your sins."

"Although He should kill me, I will trust in Him"
 

Offline james03

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Re: A Debate Between James and Chris: On Distributive vs. Commutative Justice
« Reply #13 on: December 10, 2020, 03:03:32 PM »
Addressing items  2 and 3:

Quote
2.  Is distributive justice at a higher hierarchical social level, with a higher object (that form of the “good” which is owed), given to a higher subject (that which is owed)?
The subject is the same.  The individual is the subject.  By definition, I have won the bet.

Quote
3.  Does distributive justice (and corresponding rights to what is owed by justice) generally outweigh (in authority, value, importance, or weight) commutative justice?
  In general? No.  The State might gyp me out of a $50 refund and an individual might stiff me on a $1MM contract.  Again, Chris wants to talk about General or Legal Justice.  But that's not the terms of the bet.
"But he that doth not believe, is already judged: because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God (Jn 3:18)."

"All sorrow leads to the foot of the Cross.  Weep for your sins."

"Although He should kill me, I will trust in Him"
 

Offline christulsa

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Re: A Debate Between James and Chris: On Distributive vs. Commutative Justice
« Reply #14 on: December 10, 2020, 09:32:44 PM »
Second Part of My Argument:

Intro:  I'm going to answer James' objections, make a second argument, and then James can make more objections if he wishes.  After that point, all things considered, I would suggest Max decide, if he can at that point, who won the debate.  Per the topic/terms proposed by James, I simply have to show that it is reasonable to say that "distributive justice outweighs commutative justice, and corresponding rights, according to classical Thomistic philosophical doctrine."  Where "outweigh" refers to having a greater value, importance, authority, or weight.  I simply have to back it up with a citation from St. Thomas, but I will back it up with several more citations in addition to the several I have already given. 


Chris makes 2 category errors:

1.  He is confusing particular justice with general or legal justice.  Particular justice is what is due to the individual.  General justice is what is due to society.  Therefore his arguments are incoherent when he talks about "distibutive justice".  Go back and read items 2 and 3.  There's no way he can prove those statements because an attempt to do that is incoherent.

a)  James gave no citation from my argument to back this claim up, or any citation from St. Thomas to back up his objections.  They are assertions.  In point of fact, I clearly stated in several places that distributive justice concerns the common good owed by society to the individual, and nowhere did I state or imply that distributive justice is what is "due to society" (the object of legal justice).  The only place I mentioned legal justice is in the statement "...distributive justice which is public by nature (as well as legal justice, which is obedience owed to the government and laws for the common good)."  It was a side comment to make the distinction between the two.  Legal justice is from the individual to society, specifically to the State, and not the other way around, as it is with distributive justice.

b)  I believe my argument is already strong enough to demonstrate points  #2/#3.


2.  Commutative justice and distributive justice, which fall under particular justice, deal with separate objects.  They have the same subject, the individual.  Commutative justice concerns giving what is owed by an individual to an individual.  Distributive justice is giving what is owed by society (via the government official) to the individual.  To say one is superior or higher is incoherent at best, utilitarianism at worst.

a)  I agree they have separate objects.  As I already argued, the object of distributive justice are the "common goods" of Society itself, which is greater than the "private good" of the individual person. 

b)  I also agree they have the same subject, the individual, since St. Thomas concludes that justice, without distinction as to kind, "always" "is only in one man towards another" (Question 58 on Justice, article 2:  https://www.newadvent.org/summa/3058.htm#article2).  Justice in its very nature, involves a fair exchange between individuals.  It follows from this that for all forms of justice (commutative, distributive, legal), the subject that receives justice according to their rights, is, strictly speaking an individual.   However, when an individual receives a higher good, i.e. the common good, they therefore have a higher level of rights, and are therefore at a higher level as the subject of that right.


Bottom line, Chris wants to talk about (and does) General Justice or Legal Justice.  However that is not the terms of the bet.  I win.

Addressed above.


Particular responses:

Quote
1) St. Thomas’ Teachings on the difference between Commutative vs. Distributive Justice:
Non sequitur.  No one disputes that Distributive Justice is different than commutative justice.

That statement is an actual title to introduce that particular section of the argument.  What we are disputing is the topic of the debate (see OP).

Quote
2) St. Thomas’ Teaching on Authority or Status in Relation to Justice:
Non sequitur.  St. Thomas argues that it accords with Distributive Justice for a high status person to receive more goods and services from the public common than someone that is lower status.  That is not part of our bet (and I disagree with St. Thomas on this somewhat, though he's talking about medieval society, and knows more about it than me).

a) Obviously that is part of my argument, to demonstrate points #2/#3, not the actual bet (topic) itself.

b) It is however “part of our bet” to show that distributive justice pertains to a higher authority, importance, or “weight” as indicated by the statement, as you worded it, “St. Thomas argues that it accords with Distributive Justice for a high status person to receive more goods and services from the public common than someone that is lower status.”
 

Addressing items  2 and 3:

Quote
2.  Is distributive justice at a higher hierarchical social level, with a higher object (that form of the “good” which is owed), given to a higher subject (that which is owed)?
The subject is the same.  The individual is the subject.  By definition, I have won the bet.

Already addressed.

Quote
3.  Does distributive justice (and corresponding rights to what is owed by justice) generally outweigh (in authority, value, importance, or weight) commutative justice?
  In general? No.  The State might gyp me out of a $50 refund and an individual might stiff me on a $1MM contract.  Again, Chris wants to talk about General or Legal Justice.  But that's not the terms of the bet.

Already addressed.

Forming the body of the second argument now...


« Last Edit: December 11, 2020, 02:13:00 AM by christulsa »