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The Lure of Injustice


Howard H. Harriott1
I.

In a justifiably famous passage in Platos Gorgias,2 Socrates discusses whether or not the truly wicked, those who perpetrate injustices against humankind, can be happy. This issue has been the subject of countless commentaries by moral philosophers. In the end, Socrates comes to the reassuring conclusion that the unjust cannot really be happy. It is well known of course that Socrates argues for what is called by one writer the supreme crowning paradox3 of Socratic ethics: Socrates makes the case that the worst thing that can happen to a person is that he or she should commit some terrible wrong and escape the corrective influence of justice. This supremely paradoxicalsounding insight is important not only for what it tells us about Socratic thinking on ethical matters, but more importantly because of the way that the conclusion that Socrates desperately wants to draw that the perpetrators of injustice are miserable and ultimately suffer is one that has stimulated moral inquiry. It has led to the search by many philosophers for a master argument which might show that whatever lure immorality might have for us, it is not only bad for us, but it is ultimately irrational for us to be unjust. If shown, a persuasive argument for the ultimate irrationality of injustice would be a powerful argument for encouraging the motivation to justice and morality, however onerous the commitment to the moral conventions of our society might be. Such an argument must show that whatever might be the lure of perpetrating injustice, it is an illusion which rational argumentation can show. I take it that a large part of some of the Socratic Dialogues are just attempts to prove that a

commitment to justice is a good thing, both for the individual and for society, and concomitantly, to countenance the arguments of a Thrysamachus or a Callicles, that perhaps those committed to conventional moral norms are wrong. The rationalistic strain to prove that justice pays is inherent in much of the philosophical endeavors of moral philosophers as different in their methods and tools of analysis as David Hume and David Gauthier.4 Hume wrestles with the question of whether the sensible knave who pays lip service to the rules of justice but takes advantage of the exceptions is not better off than those of us who dutifully live by the conventions of justice. He wonders whether injustice is such that those of us who live by the constraints of justice are dupes. The contemporary philosopher Gauthier attempts to show that from purely self-interested motives a community of egotists differently advantaged could come to form a moral community in which matters of justice can be agreed upon. The investment in the view that justice pays and that injustice does not, even if the philosophical arguments are ultimately faulty, is clearly a view which has been found pragmatically useful in society. Religion provides a metaphysics of justice, in which we are assured that the unjust, while they may succeed in gaining material benefits via their injustice, fail ultimately to gain in eternal benefits. Of course, the wise injunctions of religion have not always been a sufficient deterrent as a restraint to the perpetration of injustice. With its accent on skepticism and cynicism, modernity has, for some, effectively destroyed the built-in theodicies of many religions. Indeed, in a world where skepticism about the prospects of an afterlife is high, there are few credible restraints by which we can impress on educated and willful

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evil-doers that they are harmed by their cultivation of injustice. Even in the absence of religious evidence and of convincing philosophical argument, many people believe that a commitment to justice and a repudiation of injustice is correct. Psychologists acknowledge this sentiment without being able to explain it, in terms of what they call a just world hypothesis. It simply cannot be the case that the world is so constructed that evil could ultimately prevail. Camus powerful analysis of a world devoid of the evidence of justice captures as much our spiritual desire that the world would be just as it simultaneously reflects the skeptical fear that it is not. That very sentiment of a just world is evident in the way in which we interpret the world to ourselves. We seem to hear very little about the evil-doer who escapes from the arms of justice and enjoys the fruits of his crimes. What is more typical is a story of the following sort. A Mr. X has committed a heinous crime. This has remained undetected, and now, thirty years later, conscience and guilt have gotten the better of him and he turns himself in. He reports that the burdens of guilt for the crimes he committed were too great; he repents and is now eager to serve his sentence. We are relieved to discover that for all those years that he had been a fugitive from justice, he was also a miserable individual who could not enjoy the fruits of his crime. Underpinning such stories, which periodically appear in the media, is a view of the unjust character compatible with the claims of Socrates. The wicked, and those who cheat in life, are never happy in their injustice. Part of our rationalisation of this is to suppose a particular kind of moral psychological state for such individuals, one which is compatible with our hopes. In the view of the Ancients, the perpetrators of evil are either those who are ignorant of the good and hence mistakenly guided by morally wrong goals and aspirations (a view famously argued for by Socrates in the Protagoras) or else are simply wicked individuals persons who constitutionally, for

whatever reasons, are unable to come to terms with the good. Such views still resonate today in our understanding of the nature of evil. We cling to the hope that those who do heinous acts are mostly reformable and hence capable of satisfying the rehabilitative ideal; where they are not so, we think they ought to be the objects of pity.
II.

These moral psychological characterisations once served us well, but it is quite clear that Platonic conceptions of evil cannot make sense of a variety of evils which we have witnessed this century, or of the kinds of evil individuals that we have had to confront today. The behaviours and motivations of such persons do not fit into a moral psychological character of the sort derivable from a Platonic conception. There is a dilemma here. We are loath to claim, on reflection, that many of the evils we are aware of the evils of war, of genocide, the Holocaust, the Autogenocide in Cambodia, our retrospective evaluation of Chattel Slavery in the Americas, the actions of the Conquistadors in South Americas, the crimes committed by both sides in the conflict in Rwanda are simply the actions of the ignorant or the innately wicked. It is easy enough to pin the blame on unique individuals, whom we then paint with the caricature of the ogre and blame those who follow them for being beguiled by the evil charisma of the ogre. The ogre is a useful scapegoat in order to make our moral horror of these evils palatable, retaining the view of ourselves as basically good. What makes for greater difficulty however, is the fact that many of the grosser evils could not have been committed without the voluntary and compliant behaviour of individuals whose self-conception of their own moral wills does not include a belief that they too, with some reasonable probability, are capable of participating in such gross evils and in perpetrating injustice.

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To see the nature of the difficulty of reconciling our moral psychological categories with reality, I would like to consider two examples of behaviour, here gleaned from the diaries and recollections of persons who were caught in evil institutions. From an Auschwitz diary of a Nazi soldier, we discover for instance a surprising oddity about the soldier who we might think of as merely an evil individual, without any redeeming features. It is well-known that at Auschwitz it was sometimes the practice to engage in mass atrocities known as Sonderaktionen (special actions), involving repulsively murderous actions on innocent victims.5 Yet in one personal diary, a Nazi soldier writes of the pleasant news he has concerning his divorce, his excellent lunch and, in a very matter-of-fact way, his presence at the execution of prisoners. What can be said of this individual? Is he morally ignorant, or irremediably wicked? Clearly, neither of these descriptions fit the bill . The narratives of slaves during the troubled era of Chattel Slavery provides us with yet another example. In Harriet Jacobss Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, an account of her life under plantation slavery in the USA, she describes the behaviour of her mistress.6 The mistress of the plantation, to whose will she is already fully subordinated, continues in acts of gross cruelty in a seemingly gratuitous way. Once again, we cannot explain this by the idea of ignorance or indeed wickedness, for it is also true that plantation mistresses of the kind described were also capable of acts of kindness, generosity and compassion.
III.

our moral theories. It is a paradoxical fact that while it has been clear to many psychologists that human nature is a vastly complex terrain, and that moral theory must take the complexity of human character into account, philosophers have not fully recognised this. Modern twentieth-century developments of moral theory have ignored the complexity of human nature, to the detriment of the development of moral theory. I offer three reasons as to why, even now, moral philosophers have failed to take the complexity of our moral characters as central and serious data for moral understanding. This failing has been particularly true of the Anglo-American Philosophers.
a. The first is the legacy of the Kantian bias against psychology. Kants enormously influential synthesis and methods of moral philosophy, and his rejection of heteronomy, have loomed large in the minds of moral theorists. His transcendental psychology speaks little to the situation of real persons, even when we factor in the pleas of Neo-Kantians that Kant has been misunderstood, or that we have failed to see that he does care about real human nature.

In order to understand the moral psychology of such persons, it is clear that we simply cannot force human character onto the Procrustean bed of the ignorant and the wicked. Yet it is such a moral psychological category which has underpinned much of the psychological dimension of

The evolution of ethical theory during the twentieth-century has for the most part moved away from the analysis of real persons and into rather self-contained areas of meta-ethics, a research tradition of moral philosophy dedicated to not answering questions about substantial ethical issues. Instead meta-ethics was absorbed solely in the nature of language and meaning, and other second-order issues. Twentieth century ethics has, for the most part, completely divorced itself from an earlier tradition of metaphysical ethics which heroically attempted grand synthesis. G.E. Moores Principia Ethica, widely thought to be the most celebrated work of ethical theory, diverted the attention of moral philosophers by suggesting that the fundamental problem of ethics was the analysis of the Good. Moore came to the
b.

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unilluminating conclusion that the Good was an indefinable and non-natural property. Had he followed the insights of Montaigne he might have observed, like Montaigne, that it is to God that we attribute such absolute properties as Good, and that we morally appraise ourselves in terms of the interplay of virtues and vices, thereby defining ethical matters in terms of moral aspirations and moral struggles. Had most of the twentieth century analytic moral philosophers thought along these lines they might not also have ignored such substantial and weighty issues of human morality as those raised by the Ancients concerning human character. Mary Warnocks Ethics Since 1900 nicely and succinctly summarises the history of the positivistic and linguistic turns of twentieth century ethics.7 In the study of moral philosophy today, in which virtue ethics or the ethics of moral character now has a larger and growing influential voice, (thanks to the pioneering work of thinkers like Richard Taylor, Iris Murdoch, Elizabeth Anscombe, Martha Nussbaum, Alasdair Macintyre and others),8 the study of the relevant moral psychology of persons has been thought of as an unreliable exercise, due in no small measure to the refusal of many moral philosophers to see any insights to be gained for moral theorising in the study of psychology.
c. IV.

Psychological inquiry is sometimes seen as a jargon-ridden restatement of the obvious. What is needed is for us to challenge this arrogant assumption, and to see that there are important aspects of human nature discoverable by psychology, which show that we need to take the results of psychological research very seriously. We should also note that even within this framework, we must still make assumptions and provide theories about human behaviour which may at some later stage be capable of testing. My aim is to illustrate this more concretely by considering some of what we know about gross injustice, and finally to offer a sketch of some moral psychology relevant to the situation of those who have been the victims of gross injustice.
V.

Yet, as I propose to show here briefly, by examples from the work of some writers in psychology, especially those working in areas related to human development and the social psychology of individuals, we do not know as much about ourselves as we might suppose. If there has been a failure in moral theory, it is that there has been an unwarranted assumption that our knowledge of ourselves and of our human capacities for moral motivation and for evil is pretty self-evident.

First, consider some of the ways in which psychology has pointed to systematic biases in human nature, and to systematic shortcomings which would be scarcely believed by many moral theorists.9 A priori thinking is often contradicted by the results of research, replicated in many places on matters concerning conformity, obedience, rational judgment, and the limits of human altruistic sentiments. Also, the degree to which the human will can be corrected and modulated by the mere existence of others, our fragility with respect to manipulation by others in authority, the cognitive processes by which we self-justify our moral and other actions and attitudes, are further areas where research has confounded a priorism. Some have taken the view that the results of psychology, interesting as they might be, have very little to offer moral theory, not because psychology is ideologically thought to be irrelevant to moral theory, but because it is claimed that very little of these burgeoning fields of psychology produce any stable sets of results. Psychological science is not, we are told, like the traditionally exact sciences of physics and chem-

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istry. There we can expect stable phenomena which can be reliably induced by controlled experiment, observation and intervention. The image of psychological science is that it is merely a collection of experiments and empirical generalisations with no particular validity over persons and contexts, in which the control of experiment is impossible and from which results of a very general and reliable character cannot be expected. Some of these objections may be fair, given the wide spectrum which encompasses modern psychological inquiry. But there are areas of psychology relevant to moral concerns whose scientific respectability matches those of the natural sciences. To give some examples of the non-obvious regularities, consider the following. In the matter of judgment, standard theories of rational judgment suggest that individuals are rational insofar as they seek to optimally maximise their utilities. Psychologically-based theories of rationality, however, seem to show that we are often satisficers, engaged in what is sometimes dubbed quasi-rational behaviour. In decisionmaking contexts, we sometimes deliberately suboptimise terminating our search for the very best and settling for good enough. Quasi-rationality reflects a more accurate account of rationality fitting to persons like ourselves, and does not consist of an inferior type of rationality. Consider our tendencies to conformity. The following type of situation was considered by the social psychologist Solomon Asch.10 You are invited to participate in a test of perceptual judgment, and you are asked to compare a reference line X, with three lines A, B, and C and you are asked to decide which line comes closest in length to X. In Aschs experiment, it is clear that line B is the closest in length to the reference line X. But before you are asked to make your judgment, others in your presence are asked to state their judgment. Unknown to you, they are part of the experimental setup and have been instructed to state (incorrectly) that A is closest to X. How do you judge? In repeated experiments of this

type, Asch discovered that an overall 35% of those questioned conformed to the incorrect judgment, despite the fact that their private judgments yielded the obvious correct answer. This is all the more surprising when one realises that the conformity was achieved without pressure to conform. It shows too the surprising willingness of a surprisingly high percentage of persons to defer their own subjective judgments to fit in with group consensus. The extensive and justly famous work on compliant behaviour undertaken by Stanley Milgram11 shows the ease with which we can be manipulated to act contrary to our most cherished ideals. Peoples avowed aversion to inflicting pain on their fellows on orders from persons with authority and standing was easily shown to be not as resilient as reason alone might have supposed. Milgrams experiments, incidentally, were conducted on a wide variety of persons of different income levels and social standing. They were replicated in such a way that possible confounding variables were eliminated. The above examples are meant to draw attention to the ways in which social behaviour and conduct are not always obviously predictable. The use by modern theorists of terms such as quasirationality is meant to indicate that we should not presuppose theories of human abilities in an a priori fashion, theories which in fact are rarely, if ever, able to be realised in typical human beings. The links between these observations and my claims about the lure of injustice can now be addressed.
VI.

In the influential Kantian perspective on moral thinking, human beings are considered to have an innately evil disposition. Kant is forthright about this in his Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone, but there is no doubt that even in his less strident statements (for example, in The Metaphysics of Morals and elsewhere), he is con-

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vinced that there is an innate perversity in all human beings. This evil disposition cannot, however, be discovered by any a priori analysis, but Kant is nonetheless willing to consider it to be a universal claim. I shall not try to show here how this view restricts his understanding of good and evil persons, and the limits of their motivational capacities. I believe that given this central and unprovable claim, we are entitled to consider other hypotheses which compete with it and which perhaps merit being credibly entertained... For example, the theoretical assumptions of Abraham Maslows view of the psychological foundations for understanding human beings,12 presupposes views of human nature which are just as credible as those which would be presumed by a Kantian inquirer. Maslows theory makes bold assumptions. He suggests, for example, that our moral orientation is towards goodness. Destructiveness, sadism, malice, cruelty and other retributively unkind character-traits are rarely found to be the norm among those who are healthy individuals. This does not mean, however, that the orientation towards goodness is resilient in all. Maslow argues that these character virtues can be deeply undermined by adverse circumstances, goal frustrations and ego frustrations. Maslow suggests that we will come closer to a better understanding of ethics when we have acquired more accurate knowledge of how individuals are able to flourish and to resist evil. But we can note too how unalien this research program is, when we consider some of the assumptions about human nature to be found in Aristotles conception of ethics and of moral and political inquiry. Indeed, some of these Aristotelian views that Maslow so clearly pins his hopes on have received considerable verification in the work of scholars from a variety of disciplines concerned to defend human natures brighter side. I think here of recent work in economics modifying the assumptions of rational agents as basically egotistically motivated, as well as work in experimental games testing the extent of human volun-

tariness and propensity for cooperation.13


VII.

It might seem that having endorsed a view compatible with Maslows assumptions concerning the orientation to goodness, I am now, paradoxically, less able to offer any account of the great amount of injustice which characterises relationships among human beings. How much easier it is, some might say, to see the world in Kantian terms, i.e. a perspective which views humans as guided essentially by corruption and evil, especially when one considers the gross injustices so plainly revealed by the Holocaust and other acts of genocide.14 In the goodness-orientation view, gross injustice and other forms of human cruelty might seem to be beyond sensible explanation. But this is not the case, as I shall demonstrate. The path to injustice may be surprisingly easier than we might think, in spite of our orientation to human goodness. No one is immune to the lure of injustice. Endorsing a kind of moral zealotry may not be sufficient for us to evade injustice, and even good persons, those with every intention to lead lives within the boundaries of the ethical, may be unwittingly drawn into perpetrating injustice. Aristotle made a better stab at this problem than Plato, when he paid attention to the moral psychology of the incontinent person in the Nicomachean Ethics. But his moral psychology did not go far enough. While it is generally agreed that the Nicomachean Ethics provides an internal defense of the virtuous life that is, it defends the good life for those whose commitments are to such a pursuit it fails to consider those whose commitments to this might be set back by adverse circumstances; he did not give sufficient attention to the kinds of adverse circumstances which might de-rail persons who are not deficient in important moral and intellectual virtues. In what follows, I want to indicate with some

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examples three ways in which injustice can come to be a feature of peoples ordinary lives and in which they may come to be perpetrators of and even unwitting participants in injustice. Others become persons whose lives are overtaken by the experience of injustice. Such persons need not set out to be lovers of injustice, nor intend to be participants in injustice, but nevertheless it is those contexts which may help to account for the possibility of the cruelties which periodically so shatter our idea and belief in human moral progress. One question can be put this way: How can it be that people who have an initial positive orientation to goodness can become individuals capable of and willing to inflict great injustice? Another question is this: How can the experience of some kinds of injustice to some groups present encumbrances to later generations wishing to lead just lives? I provide three scenarios, noting in the process that these by no means exhaust the categories of explanations.
1.

The Gradualist Beguilement of Injustice

It would be a nice thing if injustice were to be self-evidently shown to be counter-productive. But the world is not so constructed, and along with the facts of social hierarchy and the attendant distribution of power, come the opportunities for perpetrating injustice. There are few who, when given power over others, are not tempted to use it in illegitimate ways. The power to dominate others also enables us to make them bend to our will. In modern society we accept the practicality of some inequality of power and status roles, given the interdependent nature of our lives as well as our desire to live in a governed society. How might this lead to injustice? With more powerful roles there often comes more powerful status, and it is easy enough for the powerful, in order to justify their own status, to initiate a process of gradual disvaluing of the weak and the powerless. Those who are in subordinate roles

may come to be viewed as inferior, unworthy and undeserving, not merely in their roles, but actually as persons. That path may begin with the viewing of other persons not as in a Buberian IThou relationship, but as in an I-It relationship. It may end with the powerful viewing their contingent status as a morally deserving one in their fortune and status. Concomitantly, the movement towards injustice can be marked by a gradual change in moral language and attitudes of the powerful directed towards the weak. The powerful may withhold genuine compassion. They may fail to sympathetically resent the misfortune of the weak, and fail to countenance the pain of their suffering or they may evoke standards of personal responsibility on the weak where ought cannot practically imply can. Such stances are sometimes held by persons who (in John Deweys terms) might hold themselves to be exemplars of moral athleticism in the virtues. Such persons mistakenly fail to see their attempts at moral self-perfection as paradoxically leading them down the path of injustice by way of a self-righteous unconcern for the wellbeing of others.
2.

The Victims of Injustice as Perpetrators of Injustice

Moral philosophers have not often focused on the psychology of the victims of injustice. In suggesting that the perpetrators of injustice are worse off than those who suffer unjust acts, they have traditionally failed to focus on the way in which the experience of injustice can immeasurably harm. In a rebuke to the concerns of moral philosophers, Judith Shklar15 points out that moral philosophers, with the exception perhaps of Montaigne,16 have rarely talked about experiences of cruelty and the suffering of injustice. How could they? Save perhaps for Epictetus, they have rarely belonged to the class of persons who have been at the receiving end of gross injustice. Yet there is a standard philosophical view and an expecta-

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tion of those who have been the victims of gross injustice. We would like to think that the suffering of great injustice can be ennobling. We marvel at those who have come through such experiences gaining in moral strength and embracing even more passionately the cause of justice and moral virtue. We think here of exemplars such as Gandhi, or Mandela. The victims of injustice, especially of a gross kind, ought to be full of vengeance and hatred for the perpetrators, but we find that they sometimes press passionately for justice, and preach forgiveness, mercy and compassion, virtues which stand at the core of Christian ethics. How do we understand such moral exemplars? Is it that they have been able to make the very difficult Augustinian separation between the love and compassion of the unjust, and the hate of their injustice? Have such persons no concern for the interruption of their own life-projects cruelly arrested by injustice, or is it that we are encouraged to see the suffering of injustice as having a dignity all of its own? Are they in a true Stoic spirit indifferent to their own suffering of injustice? The edifying vision of the victim of injustice as almost saintly may not, however, be a universal truth. What if the person has more modest personal goals than the universal cause of justice? It may be true that in other contexts the experience of injustice can warp the moral sensibilities of those who are its victims and ruin their prospects of leading lives which contain the basic ingredients for human fulfillment. The victims of sexual abuse, racial abuse or gross economic deprivation at the hands of others may not be ennobled by those traumatic experiences. The economically exploited may in time yearn and succeed at being exploiters, the abuser may in later life replicate the violent abuse that he or she has been subjected to. I believe that we do not know enough about the experience of gross injustice or the transformations on the lives of those who have been so subjected to suppose that they,

while having every intention of leading virtuous lives, can overcome their disabling circumstances.

3.

The Victims of Injustice as Morally Fractured Individuals and Groups

We come now to the third form of injustice, which may morally affect and transform the lives of the victims of injustice and their descendants for the worse. Some of the injustices which we have looked at affect individuals and perhaps those intimately connected to them, but there are other kinds which affect larger social groups, whose effects resonate into the lives of their descendants. For these cases I use the expression morally fractured individuals and groups. These experiences perhaps constitute some of the grossest of injustices to bear, because it seems to me that the pain and suffering of such persons and groups transcends the evil of death itself. I consider some of the survivors of the Holocaust as examples, as well as the case of some who endured and some who have borne the legacy of Slavery in the New World. Injustices of the sort I am alluding to here are hard to bear because they encompass a multitude of dimensions all at once. They often combine a mixture of disvaluing, stigmatisation, exploitation, and mental and physical cruelty. For example, the evil of the Holocaust has been characterised by some as transcendentally unique, because of the way that some Jews suffered and the way that it placed in jeopardy and undermined their whole world view, their selfidentity, their conception of God as one who is just and compassionate. This, of course, is not in any way to fail to recognise the suffering of other innocents on all sides, during that terrible descent into barbarism.17 But I can point even now to the resonances in the ways in which the injustice of the Shoah has affected those whose lives were touched by this tragedy. As one author, Robert Nozick,18 has recently put it: before the Holo-

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caust, contemplating the destruction of all humanity for whatever reason, might have seemed an enormous tragedy for humanity; after the Holocaust, the prospect of the annihilation of all humanity would be a tragedy but it would not seem to matter all that much. Such a dramatic perspective, and loss of faith in humanity experienced by many survivors of the Holocaust, illustrates the way in which the unexpected experience of gross injustice can alter the perspective of those whose moral faith was relatively intact before. If injustices are gross enough to destroy the self-concept of whole communities, they may also render them incapable of trusting the world in which they must live. Let me turn to the example of Chattel Slavery. Many writers consider the very experience of slavery in the New World to be one which has immeasurably affected those who were enslaved. The injustice of slavery in the modern world goes well beyond the mere physical and economic suffering which it brought into being. Its incongruity with the Enlightenment was one of its many glaring contradictions. Today, many writers and philosophers who have reflected on these matters speak of the natally alienating19 character of the slave experience, and characterise the lives of those who endured it as a kind of mort vivant, although they differ in their interpretation of the content of that natal alienation and its enduring effects. Its essential cruelty lay as well in its legacy which resonates today in the psychological lives of some of the descendants of those who experienced its horrors. Some experience the shame of slavery, the pain of a loss of self-identity, an alienation from their heritage and the cultural roots keenly desired and yet not clearly recoverable. Simone Weil20 has pointed out the following fact: when a social group has had its culture taken away essentially through domination and forcible subjugation it is often caused to follow the bits and pieces of culture that the dominating society condescends to give. She claims that it

is a rare thing that the dominating culture over time attempts to ensure that the historically dominated are helped to assimilate with full equality and yet preserve in some way their cultural personality. In some sense, the gross injustices done to some social groups can never be undone. Dominating groups the world over share a legacy in their historically unjust treatment of significant minorities, not the least of which may be varieties of self-hatred and complexes of inferiority, and the loss of self-esteem which they may imprint on those whom they subjugate. These can adversely affect their efforts at human flourishing, for the bitter fruit of self-hatred is often an impulse to self-destruction and social nihilism.
VIII.

I have tried to show here quite a number of things. First, I sought to undermine the view that the suffering of injustice cannot create a worse state in an individual than if that individual were to be a perpetrator of injustice. Second, I have attempted to demonstrate that an understanding of the limits of our psychological and cognitive capacities means that the perpetration of injustices, even gross ones, are events which can come to be part of anyones life, given certain contexts. Thus even those who would claim to be fully morally autonomous beings, and who would suppose themselves incapable of engaging in evil, can become wittingly or unwittingly perpetrators of injustice. The very psychological limitations of our capacities, which serve us ill in those contexts where we are beguiled into injustice, are the very same psychological capacities and tendencies which serve us well in others. Just as our tendencies to conformity and obedience serve us badly if we are cleverly manipulated by others, so they serve us well socially where the needs of cooperation are required for the fulfillment of human good. Thirdly, I have attempted to provide a sketch

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of how the kind of experience of injustice in the lives of persons not obviously committed to injustice can help to perpetrate injustice by those very same persons, or cause the injustices of others on them to resonate in their lives, thereby robbing their lives of its full potential for wellbeing. That most of us are able to lead decent lives, freed from the constant temptation to do injustice, speaks as much for the moral orientation of our basic characters as for our attempt to inculcate in ourselves moral ideals which cause us to repudiate the temptations which injustice promises. Perhaps the moral orientation of human nature to

which I have alluded is not something which can be proved conclusively and so is more a mysterious thing. One would then have to concur with Schopenhaeurs analysis of the human will.21 In his view, the mystery of human morality is not that we are prone to self-interest, for this is a commonplace motivation in us. Rather, it lies is the fact that, unlike other creatures of nature, we are capable of performing acts of great cruelty and injustice, even when motives of self-interest and fear are not present. On the other hand, we are, as human beings, also capable of performing acts of disinterested sweetness and great benevolence on behalf of our fellow beings.

Notes
Department of Philosophy, The University of South Carolina, USA. PLATO, Gorgias, trans. W.C. HELMHOLD. New York, Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1952. See Richard TAYLOR, Virtue Ethics: An Introduction. New York, Linden Books, 1991. See David HUME, Enquiries Concerning The Human Understanding and Concerning the Principles of Morals, ed. L.A. SELBY-BIGGE. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1963, p. 282-284, and David GAUTHIER, Morals by Agreement. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1986. 5. I learned of the details of this example from the intriguing work of John SABINI and Maury SILVER, Moralities of Everyday Life. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1982, p. 57. See the particularly illuminating chapter four, entitled On Destroying the Innocent with a Clear Conscience. 6. See Harriet JACOBS, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1988, recently authenticated and full of the kind of details of the cruelties which the institution of Chattel Slavery placed on those who were caught up in it, and the way that the injustices of racism and sexism combined to distort the moral sensibilities of all who were bound up in the slavery system. The work was originally published in 1861. 7. See Mary WARNOCK, Ethics Since 1900. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1960. For a more recent critical if idiosyncratic critique of the status of recent philosophical ethics, see Bernard WILLIAMS, Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy. Cambridge (MA), Harvard University Press, 1985. See also Charles LARMOUR, Patterns of Moral Complexity. Cambridge (MA), Cambridge University Press, 1987. 8. We owe to these writers a turning away from the sterility of philosophical ethics and the growing attention to the ethics of virtue. Although the contemporary literature is now extensive, spurred on by works like that of Alasdair MACINTYRE, After Virtue. Notre Dame, University of Notre Dame Press, 1984; and Martha NUSSBAUM, The Fragility of Goodness. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1986. The following pioneering works are particularly worth reading: Richard TAYLOR, Good and Evil: A New Direction. New York, Macmillan, 1970; Iris MURDOCH, The Sovereignty of Good. New York, Schocken Books, 1971; as well as the classic paper by G.E.M. ANSCOMBE, Modern Moral Philosophy in Philosophy, 33(1958), p. 1-19. A good source of classic papers is Robert B. KRUSCHWITZ and Robert C. ROBERTS (eds.), The Virtues: Contemporary Essays on Moral Character. Belmont California, Wadsworth, 1987. 9. See for example, R.E. NISBET and L. ROSS, Human Inference: Strategies and Shortcomings of Social Judgment. New Jersey, Prentice Hall, 1980; as well as the classic work by Amos Tversky and his associates. See Daniel KHANEMAN, Paul SLOVIC and Amos TVERSKY (eds.), Judgment Under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1982.
1. 2. 3. 4.

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See Solomon E. ASCH, Social Psychology. Englewood Cliffs, Prentice Hall, 1952. Stanley MILGRAM, Obedience to Authority. New York, Harper Row, 1974. Abraham Maslow was well known for his development of humanistic psychology and his contributions constitute a vast corpus on the issue of human well-being. A useful work of interest for our discussion is his Towards a Psychology of Being. New York, D. Van Nostrand, 1968. Note that we can appreciate the ingenuity of his moral ideas without committing ourselves to his larger goal of a science of ethics. Nothing I say suggests that ethical theory can or should be reduced to a science. Rather I have only suggested that we could yield better ethical theories if they contained a greater psychological content. 13. I think here of the work of Robert FRANK, Passions Within Reason: The Strategic Role of the Emotions. New York, W.W. Norton, Co., 1988 which is that economists attempts to correct the view standard in economic theory, in sociobiology, and elsewhere that humans are for the most part egotistical, with very weak propensities towards altruistic and non-self-seeking behavior. A useful further source of data and evidence from a wide variety of sources which support the view of humans as often committed to justice and fairness is to found in the highly readable work by Morton HUNT, The Compassionate Beast: What Science is Discovering about the Human Side of Humankind. New York, William Morrow, 1990. 14. Note here that Kant, no less than Plato, is forced into the same problem of failing to account for persons who freely choose to engage in gross evils and injustice. Kant cannot account for a free will which is at one and the same time an evil will, since to act freely is to act morally and to fail to do so is to embrace immorality. His problems are of course linked to his attempt to construct a rational ethics. For an illuminating discussion, see Emil FACKENHEIM, Kant and Radical Evil in University of Toronto Quarterly, 23(1954), p. 339-354. Note that Hume would also have difficulty in understanding the psychology of perpetrators of gross evils. He suggests in the Enquiry that it is inconceivable that there could be such persons belonging to the human species absolutely malicious and spiteful since they would be beyond our images of virtues and vices. 15. Cf. Judith SHKLAR, Ordinary Vices. Cambridge (MA), Harvard University Press, 1984 as well as her later work, The Faces of Injustice. New Haven, Yale University Press, 1990. 16. Cf. MONTAIGNE, Essays. Harmondsworth, Penguin Books, 1958. 17. For a discussion of the impact of such human evils, as well as that of the threat of a nuclear holocaust on religious faith generally, see Ignaz MAYBAUM, The Face of God after Auschwitz. Amsterdam, Polak and van Gennep, 1965. See also Robert Jay LIFTON, The Future of Immortality. New York, Basic Books, 1987. 18. See Robert NOZICK, The Examined Life: Philosophical Meditations. New York, Simon & Schuster, 1989. 19. See for example, Orlando PATTERSON, Slavery and Social Death. Cambridge (MA), Harvard University Press, 1982; Laurence M. THOMAS, Vessels of Evil: American Slavery and the Holocaust. Philadelphia, Temple University Press, 1993; and Eugene D. GENOVESE, Roll, Jordan Roll: The World the Slaves Made. New York, Pantheon Books, 1974. 20. Simone WEIL, The Need for Roots. London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1952. The original publication, in French, was entitled Lenracinement (1949). 21. Arthur SCHOPENHAEUR, On The Basis of Morality. New York, Bobbs Merrill Co., 1965.
10. 11. 12.

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