Addendum IV - When are wrongs and badness justified?
Wrongs and badness abound in human affairs. People break rules, damage property, and hurt and kill each other. Are wrongs and badness ever justified? Attempts to justify wrongs and badness is a common occurrence in everyday life and in the affairs of state. Our criminal justice system is based on this phenomenon. Wrongs or badness can be justified when they are deemed to produce some kind of good. We intuitively make these value judgments all the time--but sometimes our intuition produces unethical outcomes. By applying Value Logic as we make ethical determinations in complex situations we can learn to analyze and evaluate our intuitive responses. Recall that:
- Concept combinations which enhance or deepen the meaning of (and therefore reinforce or enhance the value of) the concept being modified are called "compositions." Compositions are instances of goodness and carry the subscript ‘c’. Repairing (an "E" concept) the roof on your house (an"E" concept) would be an example of an "E" concept enhancing (adding value to) another "E" concept. This would be mathematically noted as "Ec" to indicate a composition at the extrinsic dimension of value.
- Combinations which break or violate (and therefore deplete or devalue) the concept being modified are called "transpositions." Transpositions are instances of badness, and carry the subscript ‘t’. A falsehood (an "S" concept) violates (devalues) the truth (another "S" concept). This would be mathematically noted as "St" to indicate a transposition at the systemic dimension of value .
In Value Logic redressing wrongs is called transposing transpositions. This reverses (negates) the transposition and is done either (a) by disvaluing the original transposition; or (b) by overcoming it. This is analogous to the way that, in arithmetic, a positive value is produced from a negative value either (a) by subtracting another negative value (-2 subtracted from -1 equals +1) or; (b) by adding a larger positive value (-1 +2 equals +1). Some examples of transposing a transposition are given below.
- Lying in order to prevent something worse happening;
- Returning stolen property;
- Admitting and making amends for breaking a promise;
- Breaking a rule to avoid a calamity;
- Reporting a fire to the Fire Department.
Redressing wrongs and badness is the right thing to do when:
- An action was known to be wrong, bad, or unjust at the time of execution;
- The wrong, bad, or unjust action was done inadvertently;
- Wrongs and badness are discovered in a situation for which one has some responsibility.
Here are some more examples to illustrate the Value Logic approach:
- Is driving on the wrong side of the road ok? Driving (an "E" concept) is devalued by violation of the motor vehicle regulations, an "S" concept. However, driving on the wrong side of the road to avoid hitting another vehicle is ok because violating the motor vehicle regulations (devaluing an "S" concept), is less unethical than hitting another car (wrecking or devaluing an "E" concept). Thus, one wrong act (breaking regulations) is justified by the avoidance of another, higher dimension, wrong act (a collision.)
- Is killing fish for food ok? Killing (an "E" concept)
fish (another "E" concept) is a transpositional concept combination. E disvalues E = Et.
Providing (the act of providing is an "E" concept) food (another "E" concept) produces a compositional concept combination. E values E = Ec. Thus, the relevant consideration of providing food mitigates the transposition of killing fish.
- Jim burns down John's house and then regrets it. He goes to Jim and offers him $50 in compensation. Burning (an "E" concept) a house (another "E" concept) is a transposition, E disvalues E = Et. In trying to make amends, Jim offers (an "E" concept) some cash (an "E" concept). This is a composition, E values E = Ec. Thus, cash composition can transpose (make amends for) the transposition. Note, however, that Value Logic does not determine the amount of cash that would be appropriate. That's for Jim and John to decide. Value Logic points to how to decide, not what to decide.
Determining when - if ever - wrongs and badness are justified is a three step process as follows:
- Step I. Determine if a relevant consideration exists, and if so, is it compatible with the transposition. The source of a relevant consideration is the set of facts and circumstances (the context) surrounding the act or event that comprises the transposition. Hopefully, a relevant consideration is the reason for the transpositional act or event. (The need for food is the relevant consideration that justifies killing the fish in the example above.) If a relevant consideration does not exist, the transposition is unjustified.
- Step II. If there is relevant consideration that is compatible with the transposition, will a secondary unjustified transposition be induced (will something worse happen)?
- Step III. If the relevant consideration produces a composition to negate the transposition, and no secondary transposition will be induced then the transposition can be justified.