Besides being the foundation for monotheism and thus the beginning of at least three major world religions the ten commandments are also a summary of one of the most comprehensive texts on human rights and social regulation in all of history. The giving of these laws wrapped in the contextual story of the freedom of the Israelite people from slavery in Egypt is one of the foundations of a civil liberties movement in the Unite States in the last 80 years. The validity of these laws has continued to influence communities far removed from the religions from which they have come. Some might say that we have gone beyond these laws to a greater and more developed list of values and beliefs.
I would not disagree with such a statement but point out only that we have moved beyond only because we have first had the opportunity to see these laws implemented utilized and enforced in a real social and economic setting.
The Ten Commandments Summarized
from Exodus 20
- No gods other than God.
- No making of idols or graven images.
- No cursing God or misusing his name.
- There should be a day of rest in the week.
- Fathers and mothers should be respected.
- There should be no murder.
- There should be no adultery.
- There should be no theft.
- There should be no collusion, or lying.
- There should be no covetous thoughts.
Most groups see the external uses of points 6-9 but even in those there are quite a few who would assert that one or two of those points should be allowed in a society. These were the laws that Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai and the presence of God. It was with these particular laws that the first order was enforced upon the traveling nomads in search of their own land and it was with these laws that they were supposed to govern themselves. This was done to some level or another to the benefit of this small nation but grew into a law that was used by many others as the Israelites were taken into captivity. The Israelite people influenced the Syrian and Achaemenid and Greek Empires. Not all of these laws were adopted by all groups but there was an interchange of practices during this time and many of the exiled Jews had great influence in the empires in which they resided.
What is Justice?
One could search their whole life and never find a system where perfect justice is enforced. If one were to find such a system one would most definitely find a nervous, fretting and fearful people in the constant study of the law and with little expression and much conformity to social structures.
Justice within a written codices is an inflexible and rigid thing. It requires adherence by all members and requires impartial administration. The definition of the term in encyclopedic terms can be found many places – Wikipedia being one such location easy to reference.
One bemoans the injustices in the world wishing for a more rigid enforcement against those who step across the lines of the law but rarely does one want to see the minor infractions they impose on a regular basis. The most self-righteous judge among us finds it frustrating to be held back by all the limitations and regulations of laws that must be equal in their dealing. We are not all of equal ability – physically, mentally, socially or spiritually. It is a frustration for most to deal with a system that believes all must be equally seated before the written codices in order for justice to be served.
One quickly finds that in human justice there is a role for conscience and sympathy, charity and prejudice. If one is to hope to find justice something to be related to and not a cold rod of destruction then one must remember that they are looking for an interpersonally connected form of justice that takes into account both the one causing the infraction, the intent of the law itself and the specific extenuating circumstances of the instance of the infraction.
With all of these things taken into consideration, one would have to be perfect in their knowledge of many factors, cultural climates, historical references, intent of the accused, as well as well as many other unknown categories that may come into play with every separate instance. One would have to have godlike qualities to truly dispense justice without fault or fear of future recourse.
It is with great humility then that we will try to explain justice in our social blog. We have no corner on the market of truth and justice. We simply hope that you will find this a great place to discuss the philosophy of justice with us.