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Author Topic: Please point out the Failings of the Original Position.  (Read 3526 times)
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July 12, 2011, 07:05:05 AM
 #1

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/original-position/

Original Position
First published Tue Feb 27, 1996; substantive revision Sat Dec 20, 2008

The original position is a central feature of John Rawls's social contract account of justice, “justice as fairness,” set forth in A Theory of Justice (TJ). It is designed to be a fair and impartial point of view that is to be adopted in our reasoning about fundamental principles of justice. In taking up this point of view, we are to imagine ourselves in the position of free and equal persons who jointly agree upon and commit themselves to principles of social and political justice. The main distinguishing feature of the original position is “the veil of ignorance”: to insure impartiality of judgment, the parties are deprived of all knowledge of their personal characteristics and social and historical circumstances. They do know of certain fundamental interests they all have, plus general facts about psychology, economics, biology, and other social and natural sciences. The parties in the original position are presented with a list of the main conceptions of justice drawn from the tradition of social and political philosophy, and are assigned the task of choosing from among these alternatives the conception of justice that best advances their interests in establishing conditions that enable them to effectively pursue their final ends and fundamental interests. Rawls contends that the most rational choice for the parties in the original position are the two principles of justice. The first principle guarantees the equal basic rights and liberties needed to secure the fundamental interests of free and equal citizens and to pursue a wide range of conceptions of the good. The second principle provides fair equality of educational and employment opportunities enabling all to fairly compete for powers and prerogatives of office; and it secures for all a guaranteed minimum of the all-purpose means (including income and wealth) that individuals need to pursue their interests and to maintain their self-respect as free and equal persons....................  See above link

I created this thread because I want to get a wide range of critiques.  Please argue against the original position model or any of its components.
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July 12, 2011, 07:12:34 AM
 #2

I don't agree with social or political justice. True justice doesn't require oppression, which "social justice" does.

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July 12, 2011, 07:17:17 AM
 #3

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/original-position/

Original Position
First published Tue Feb 27, 1996; substantive revision Sat Dec 20, 2008

The original position is a central feature of John Rawls's social contract account of justice, “justice as fairness,” set forth in A Theory of Justice (TJ). It is designed to be a fair and impartial point of view that is to be adopted in our reasoning about fundamental principles of justice. In taking up this point of view, we are to imagine ourselves in the position of free and equal persons who jointly agree upon and commit themselves to principles of social and political justice. The main distinguishing feature of the original position is “the veil of ignorance”: to insure impartiality of judgment, the parties are deprived of all knowledge of their personal characteristics and social and historical circumstances. They do know of certain fundamental interests they all have, plus general facts about psychology, economics, biology, and other social and natural sciences. The parties in the original position are presented with a list of the main conceptions of justice drawn from the tradition of social and political philosophy, and are assigned the task of choosing from among these alternatives the conception of justice that best advances their interests in establishing conditions that enable them to effectively pursue their final ends and fundamental interests. Rawls contends that the most rational choice for the parties in the original position are the two principles of justice. The first principle guarantees the equal basic rights and liberties needed to secure the fundamental interests of free and equal citizens and to pursue a wide range of conceptions of the good. The second principle provides fair equality of educational and employment opportunities enabling all to fairly compete for powers and prerogatives of office; and it secures for all a guaranteed minimum of the all-purpose means (including income and wealth) that individuals need to pursue their interests and to maintain their self-respect as free and equal persons.


Tear apart the Original Position Now.

I see a lot of meaningless collectivist buzzwords that don't require any tearing apart.

Beyond that, the idea of a "social contract" is a cheap justification for statist coercion. A contract that I have never seen nor agreed to and is only considered to be justified because it can be enforced is not a legitimate contract. Try harder.
I moved this over from the other thread
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July 12, 2011, 07:20:02 AM
 #4

I don't agree with social or political justice. True justice doesn't require oppression, which "social justice" does.

but everyone comes to a consensus in the original position.

Who is everyone?

Either it is literally everyone, in which case it is voluntary and thus requires no enforcement, or it is justified through a large web of contradictions and vague interpretations (it is okay for a sufficiently large group of people to steal, kill, etc but not for an individual to do so, etc).

Your argument is spineless. Try harder.

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July 12, 2011, 07:25:29 AM
 #5

I don't agree with social or political justice. True justice doesn't require oppression, which "social justice" does.

but everyone comes to a consensus in the original position.

Who is everyone?

Either it is literally everyone, in which case it is voluntary and thus requires no enforcement, or it is justified through a large web of contradictions and vague interpretations (it is okay for a sufficiently large group of people to steal, kill, etc but not for an individual to do so, etc).

Your argument is spineless. Try harder.

So if we were in the original position you believe we would come to the conclusion that it is ok for a large group to steal, kill, etc but not for an individual to do so.
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July 12, 2011, 07:42:13 AM
 #6

I don't agree with social or political justice. True justice doesn't require oppression, which "social justice" does.

but everyone comes to a consensus in the original position.

Who is everyone?

Either it is literally everyone, in which case it is voluntary and thus requires no enforcement, or it is justified through a large web of contradictions and vague interpretations (it is okay for a sufficiently large group of people to steal, kill, etc but not for an individual to do so, etc).

Your argument is spineless. Try harder.

So if we were in the original position you believe we would come to the conclusion that it is ok for a large group to steal, kill, etc but not for an individual to do so.

Most of our decisions are based entirely subjectively from our own experiences, since economics and most social sciences lack an objective standard. Thus, the "veil of ignorance" would either result in our "agreement" either being utterly without standing in reality, or we wouldn't come to one.

Furthermore, even assuming we came to a conclusion that wasn't based on false premises (as any agreement we came to under the circumstances would be), we wouldn't have any right to impose it on those who are wrong, for the reason that individuals have the right to make mistakes (assuming we are unequivocally correct in our view, ignoring the impossibility of that occurring)

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July 12, 2011, 07:46:40 AM
 #7


Most of our decisions are based entirely subjectively from our own experiences, since economics and most social sciences lack an objective standard. Thus, the "veil of ignorance" would either result in our "agreement" either being utterly without standing in reality, or we wouldn't come to one.

Furthermore, even assuming we came to a conclusion that wasn't based on false premises (as any agreement we came to under the circumstances would be), we wouldn't have any right to impose it on those who are wrong, for the reason that individuals have the right to make mistakes (assuming we are unequivocally correct in our view, ignoring the impossibility of that occurring)

If our decisions are based entirely subjectively from our own experiences, since economics and most social sciences lack an objective standard how would we know if something coincides with reality or not?
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July 12, 2011, 07:55:35 AM
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Most of our decisions are based entirely subjectively from our own experiences, since economics and most social sciences lack an objective standard. Thus, the "veil of ignorance" would either result in our "agreement" either being utterly without standing in reality, or we wouldn't come to one.

Furthermore, even assuming we came to a conclusion that wasn't based on false premises (as any agreement we came to under the circumstances would be), we wouldn't have any right to impose it on those who are wrong, for the reason that individuals have the right to make mistakes (assuming we are unequivocally correct in our view, ignoring the impossibility of that occurring)

If our decisions are based entirely subjectively from our own experiences, since economics and most social sciences lack an objective standard how would we know if something coincides with reality or not?
How do you know that anything coincides with reality? How do you know we weren't created five minutes ago with our thoughts implanted in our minds?

Don't ask nonsensical questions.

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July 12, 2011, 07:59:51 AM
 #9

"Most of our decisions are based entirely subjectively from our own experiences, since economics and most social sciences lack an objective standard."

Is the logical conclusion that each persons truth is based entirely subjectively from our own experiences?


Furthermore, even assuming we came to a conclusion that wasn't based on false premises (as any agreement we came to under the circumstances would be), we wouldn't have any right to impose it on those who are wrong, for the reason that individuals have the right to make mistakes (assuming we are unequivocally correct in our view, ignoring the impossibility of that occurring)

So the original position is an invalid premise why?  A group cannot try to approximate the original position because they cannot remove themselves from their experiences?
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July 12, 2011, 08:05:12 AM
 #10

"Most of our decisions are based entirely subjectively from our own experiences, since economics and most social sciences lack an objective standard."

Is the logical conclusion that each persons truth is based entirely subjectively from our own experiences?

I would imagine that is an a priori assumption.

What is red?

----

As Antony Flew put it:

Quote
My fundamental objection to the theory construction of Rawls is that it is based upon two monster-not to say monstrous-assumptions. There is first the socialist assumption that "income and wealth" are "at the disposition of society." Then there is, second, the assumption that "the accidents and contingencies of social circumstances" are, "from a moral point of view," irrelevant. These two assumptions are said, no doubt truly, to be necessary in order to produce the desired conclusions. I am myself inclined to say that the first is simply unsupported while the second is simply insupportable. Yet without sufficient support for these two fundamental assumptions, the whole system surely collapses? I am tempted to add, "And good riddance." For the collectivism of Rawls's undertaking to regard the distribution of natural abilities as a collective asset, so that the more fortunate are to benefit only in ways that help those who have lost out" (p. 179, emphasis and comma added) not only constitutes a most unlovely dog-in-the-manger commitment but also one which is manifestly inconsistent with the initial insistence upon "the priority of liberty." I confess, not very shamefacedly, that had I discovered that my principles required such a commitment, I should have taken that as a pressing reason for reviewing those principles.

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July 12, 2011, 08:08:15 AM
 #11

"Most of our decisions are based entirely subjectively from our own experiences, since economics and most social sciences lack an objective standard."

Is the logical conclusion that each persons truth is based entirely subjectively from our own experiences?

I would imagine that is an a priori assumption.

What is red?

But your not saying there is no truth outside of subjective experiences...?
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July 12, 2011, 08:13:58 AM
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"Most of our decisions are based entirely subjectively from our own experiences, since economics and most social sciences lack an objective standard."

Is the logical conclusion that each persons truth is based entirely subjectively from our own experiences?

I would imagine that is an a priori assumption.

What is red?

But your not saying there is no truth outside of subjective experiences...?

Again, what is red?

The world is as we see it, interpreted by the instruments that are our senses. Outside of those interpretations, it is impossible to discern "truth". A blind man cannot conceive of things that a man with vision can, a deaf man cannot conceive of sound, etc. We can, using our senses, agree upon what reality is and can discern certain things that are always true (as in, are never false), which are hard sciences. We cannot do the same for soft sciences.

See the quote above.

Another one, this from Hoppe:

Quote
While one would think that scarcity ranks among the general facts of society and economic theory, Rawls's parties, who supposedly knew about scarcity, were themselves strangely unaffected by this condition. In Rawls's construction of the "original position," there was no recognition of the fact that scarcity must be assumed to exist even here. Even in deliberating behind a veil of ignorance, one must still make use of scarce means—at least one's physical body and its standing room, i.e., labor and land. Even before beginning any ethical deliberation then, in order to make them possible, private or exclusive property in bodies and a principle regarding the private or exclusive appropriation of standing room must already be presupposed. In distinct contrast to this general fact of human nature, Rawls's moral "parties" were unconstrained by scarcities of any kind and hence did not qualify as actual humans but as free-floating wraiths or disembodied somnambulists. Such beings, Rawls concluded, cannot but "acknowledge as the first principle of justice one requiring an equal distribution (of all resources). Indeed, this principle is so obvious that we would expect it to occur to anyone immediately." True; for if it is assumed that "moral parties" are not human actors but disembodied entities, the notion of private property must indeed appear strange. As Rawls admitted with captivating frankness, he had simply "define[d] the original position so that we get the desired result." Rawls's imaginary parties had no resemblance whatsoever with human beings but were epistemological somnambulists; accordingly, his socialist-egalitarian theory of justice does not qualify as a human ethic, but something else entirely.

As I said as it started, the "Original Position" is logically infeasible. For the entities surrounded by the "veil of ignorance" to be able to come to a decision, they must put aside reality and make arbitrary decisions.

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July 12, 2011, 08:28:54 AM
 #13


As Antony Flew put it:

Quote
My fundamental objection to the theory construction of Rawls is that it is based upon two monster-not to say monstrous-assumptions. There is first the socialist assumption that "income and wealth" are "at the disposition of society." Then there is, second, the assumption that "the accidents and contingencies of social circumstances" are, "from a moral point of view," irrelevant. These two assumptions are said, no doubt truly, to be necessary in order to produce the desired conclusions. I am myself inclined to say that the first is simply unsupported while the second is simply insupportable. Yet without sufficient support for these two fundamental assumptions, the whole system surely collapses? I am tempted to add, "And good riddance." For the collectivism of Rawls's undertaking to regard the distribution of natural abilities as a collective asset, so that the more fortunate are to benefit only in ways that help those who have lost out" (p. 179, emphasis and comma added) not only constitutes a most unlovely dog-in-the-manger commitment but also one which is manifestly inconsistent with the initial insistence upon "the priority of liberty." I confess, not very shamefacedly, that had I discovered that my principles required such a commitment, I should have taken that as a pressing reason for reviewing those principles.

Lets assume Anthony Flew is spot on with assumption 1, I don't understand his objection to assumption 2.  Is he stating that people are unfortunate cause some divine force made it so or that change is their fault?

I think there is a better way to collapse the premise of the original position based on Rawls assumption of agreed upon rights and their "natural progression."


Edit:   OOOOOOOhhhhh I seee.  He agrees with George Washington's theory that the divine hand brings some people into more noble birth than otheres for a reason and only men of means can truly be moral and free.



The world is as we see it, interpreted by the instruments that are our senses. Outside of those interpretations, it is impossible to discern "truth". A blind man cannot conceive of things that a man with vision can, a deaf man cannot conceive of sound, etc. We can, using our senses, agree upon what reality is and can discern certain things that are always true (as in, are never false), which are hard sciences. We cannot do the same for soft sciences.


Green = 510 nm = hard science = true.    Bystander effect/cognitive bias = soft science = not true.  Got it.
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July 12, 2011, 08:34:28 AM
 #14


As Antony Flew put it:

Quote
My fundamental objection to the theory construction of Rawls is that it is based upon two monster-not to say monstrous-assumptions. There is first the socialist assumption that "income and wealth" are "at the disposition of society." Then there is, second, the assumption that "the accidents and contingencies of social circumstances" are, "from a moral point of view," irrelevant. These two assumptions are said, no doubt truly, to be necessary in order to produce the desired conclusions. I am myself inclined to say that the first is simply unsupported while the second is simply insupportable. Yet without sufficient support for these two fundamental assumptions, the whole system surely collapses? I am tempted to add, "And good riddance." For the collectivism of Rawls's undertaking to regard the distribution of natural abilities as a collective asset, so that the more fortunate are to benefit only in ways that help those who have lost out" (p. 179, emphasis and comma added) not only constitutes a most unlovely dog-in-the-manger commitment but also one which is manifestly inconsistent with the initial insistence upon "the priority of liberty." I confess, not very shamefacedly, that had I discovered that my principles required such a commitment, I should have taken that as a pressing reason for reviewing those principles.

Lets assume Anthony Flew is spot on with assumption 1, I don't understand his objection to assumption 2.  Is he stating that people are unfortunate cause some devine force made it so?

I think there is a better way to collapse the premmise of the original position based on Rawls assumption of agreed upon rights and there "natural progression."

Then understand it.

Also, the Hoppe criticism is less of an attack on Rawl's general positions (as Antony's was) but specifically on the Original Position assumption, making it a bit better.

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July 12, 2011, 08:45:37 AM
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Another one, this from Hoppe:

Quote
While one would think that scarcity ranks among the general facts of society and economic theory, Rawls's parties, who supposedly knew about scarcity, were themselves strangely unaffected by this condition. In Rawls's construction of the "original position," there was no recognition of the fact that scarcity must be assumed to exist even here. Even in deliberating behind a veil of ignorance, one must still make use of scarce means—at least one's physical body and its standing room, i.e., labor and land. Even before beginning any ethical deliberation then, in order to make them possible, private or exclusive property in bodies and a principle regarding the private or exclusive appropriation of standing room must already be presupposed. In distinct contrast to this general fact of human nature, Rawls's moral "parties" were unconstrained by scarcities of any kind and hence did not qualify as actual humans but as free-floating wraiths or disembodied somnambulists. Such beings, Rawls concluded, cannot but "acknowledge as the first principle of justice one requiring an equal distribution (of all resources). Indeed, this principle is so obvious that we would expect it to occur to anyone immediately." True; for if it is assumed that "moral parties" are not human actors but disembodied entities, the notion of private property must indeed appear strange. As Rawls admitted with captivating frankness, he had simply "define[d] the original position so that we get the desired result." Rawls's imaginary parties had no resemblance whatsoever with human beings but were epistemological somnambulists; accordingly, his socialist-egalitarian theory of justice does not qualify as a human ethic, but something else entirely.

As I said as it started, the "Original Position" is logically infeasible. For the entities surrounded by the "veil of ignorance" to be able to come to a decision, they must put aside reality and make arbitrary decisions.

Was that Hoppe or Rothbard???  It assumes one has to experience something in order to Know something.  Can one assume the human brain can fathom that which they have not experienced? So you don't know 300 nM until you experienced it?  I would argue that I have never experienced it but I know it.  Rawls doesn't assume equal distribution of all resources and while epistemological somnambulists has good comedic value it has little relevance to Rawls actors.  Anthony Flew might be more on point?
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July 13, 2011, 03:58:26 PM
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Another one, this from Hoppe:

Quote
While one would think that scarcity ranks among the general facts of society and economic theory, Rawls's parties, who supposedly knew about scarcity, were themselves strangely unaffected by this condition. In Rawls's construction of the "original position," there was no recognition of the fact that scarcity must be assumed to exist even here. Even in deliberating behind a veil of ignorance, one must still make use of scarce means—at least one's physical body and its standing room, i.e., labor and land. Even before beginning any ethical deliberation then, in order to make them possible, private or exclusive property in bodies and a principle regarding the private or exclusive appropriation of standing room must already be presupposed. In distinct contrast to this general fact of human nature, Rawls's moral "parties" were unconstrained by scarcities of any kind and hence did not qualify as actual humans but as free-floating wraiths or disembodied somnambulists. Such beings, Rawls concluded, cannot but "acknowledge as the first principle of justice one requiring an equal distribution (of all resources). Indeed, this principle is so obvious that we would expect it to occur to anyone immediately." True; for if it is assumed that "moral parties" are not human actors but disembodied entities, the notion of private property must indeed appear strange. As Rawls admitted with captivating frankness, he had simply "define[d] the original position so that we get the desired result." Rawls's imaginary parties had no resemblance whatsoever with human beings but were epistemological somnambulists; accordingly, his socialist-egalitarian theory of justice does not qualify as a human ethic, but something else entirely.

As I said as it started, the "Original Position" is logically infeasible. For the entities surrounded by the "veil of ignorance" to be able to come to a decision, they must put aside reality and make arbitrary decisions.

Was that Hoppe or Rothbard???  It assumes one has to experience something in order to Know something.  Can one assume the human brain can fathom that which they have not experienced? So you don't know 300 nM until you experienced it?  I would argue that I have never experienced it but I know it.  Rawls doesn't assume equal distribution of all resources and while epistemological somnambulists has good comedic value it has little relevance to Rawls actors.  Anthony Flew might be more on point?

Who understands starvation better, a teacher in California or a child in Biafra?

You can understand it in a sense, true, but without experiencing it, you won't factor it in the same way as a person who has. I assume you haven't had your house robbed before, and more likely than not (though there are exceptions, as there are with everyone) you don't protect excessively, whereas a person who has may very well turn their house into a fortress in fear of another robbery (illogically, since it is unlikely they will be robbed twice).

What is private property? Why bother with it? If you are a disembodied ghoul with little understanding of scarcity (the reason for economic systems at all), you are unlikely to factor in the requirement for private property, and thus you will reach Rawl's conclusions (because his scenario was made PRECISELY to prove his own point, not to create an unbiased scenario).

You also seem to be missing the point. These people are in a room, correct? Who made the room? Where is it located? Who owns the room?  Also, where did the people come from? Did they pop into existence? If they are hidden behind a veil of ignorance, are they still experiencing their own existence, the existence of others in the room, and the room itself?

Also, that was Hoppe.

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July 14, 2011, 06:45:45 PM
 #17


Was that Hoppe or Rothbard???  It assumes one has to experience something in order to Know something.  Can one assume the human brain can fathom that which they have not experienced? So you don't know 300 nM until you experienced it?  I would argue that I have never experienced it but I know it.  Rawls doesn't assume equal distribution of all resources and while epistemological somnambulists has good comedic value it has little relevance to Rawls actors.  Anthony Flew might be more on point?

Who understands starvation better, a teacher in California or a child in Biafra?

You can understand it in a sense, true, but without experiencing it, you won't factor it in the same way as a person who has. I assume you haven't had your house robbed before, and more likely than not (though there are exceptions, as there are with everyone) you don't protect excessively, whereas a person who has may very well turn their house into a fortress in fear of another robbery (illogically, since it is unlikely they will be robbed twice).

What is private property? Why bother with it? If you are a disembodied ghoul with little understanding of scarcity (the reason for economic systems at all), you are unlikely to factor in the requirement for private property, and thus you will reach Rawl's conclusions (because his scenario was made PRECISELY to prove his own point, not to create an unbiased scenario).

You also seem to be missing the point. These people are in a room, correct? Who made the room? Where is it located? Who owns the room?  Also, where did the people come from? Did they pop into existence? If they are hidden behind a veil of ignorance, are they still experiencing their own existence, the existence of others in the room, and the room itself?

Also, that was Hoppe.
[/quote]


If that is Hoppe's argument then he seems to predicate his premise on a assumption that cognitive biases are are valid components for a basis of justice, economics, and power structure.  You specificaly bring up the negative bias and illusion of control.  I would not dismiss a system that minimizes putting undo weight on these psychologically unhealthy tenancies.  Of course if you flat out refuse to incorparate what humanity has learned inn the past 60 years of psychology, sociology, cognitive neuroscience, ect. then we will have to agree to disagree.  Rawls is not concerned with the origin of the room or its dimensions, it is just a thought exercise to allow a group to think outside their cognitive and experiential biases.  

I think there is a much more damning criticism of Rawl's model by everyones favorite hot blooded red headed anarchist that would be much more persuasive to the average Joe.  And far more beautiful in its simplicity I might add.  Just waiting for someone to bring it up.  Sadly no one has yet, as far as I know.
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July 14, 2011, 06:51:39 PM
 #18

It is impossible to objectively remove oneself from his life experiences.  It doesn't matter if this is the right way to perform justice or not - it is impossible to perform justice in this manner anyway.

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That which has been felt cannot be unfelt.
That which has been experienced cannot be unexperienced.
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July 14, 2011, 06:59:51 PM
 #19

It is impossible to objectively remove oneself from his life experiences.  It doesn't matter if this is the right way to perform justice or not - it is impossible to perform justice in this manner anyway.

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July 14, 2011, 07:01:50 PM
 #20

It is impossible to objectively remove oneself from his life experiences.  It doesn't matter if this is the right way to perform justice or not - it is impossible to perform justice in this manner anyway.

That which has been seen cannot be unseen.
That which has been heard cannot be unheard.
That which has been felt cannot be unfelt.
That which has been experienced cannot be unexperienced.

If you're on the internet and don't know this, you haven't been on the internet long enough.

All judgments are made based on past experiences.
What you mean this?



I know it.  I was just making the others up based on it, because they're all true.
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