Sunday, May 01, 2011

Justice and Charity

Justice is the opposite of charity, Dagny tells Cherryl.

This is a good example of Rand's twisting the meaning of words to fit her twisted ideology - another good trick she learned from Lenin and Stalin.  In fact, both of these concepts (and words) stem from the same empathetic impulse.  Charity stems etymologically from the word carus, meaning "valued," and is related to the word care.
Even our closer pre-human ancestors have primitive notions of justice, and those notions relate to cooperative action.  Pairs of certain monkeys will cooperate to gain rewards for each, if the rewards are equivalent, but will refuse cooperation when they aren't - they will forego their own reward rather than help another get a disproportionately large reward.  The root of this behavior is a notion of caring about the other, and what the other gets.

Of course one could argue that this notion of justice stems from envy and our conventional notion of charity stems from compassion, but both involve our ability to think about the other as like ourselves.  These notions are at the root of our social behaviors and were probably essential elements that enabled civilization.

Interestingly, the only other complex societies we know of in life, the social insects, are based on an even more profound and primitive identification of self and other - genetic equivalence.