Re: justice and freedom

W Ramsay (
Wed, 29 May 1996 13:45:33 +0100

Hemant Desai writes (25 May) on justice and freedom:

>Dear Devi and others:
>Let me respond to the posts on social constructs of justice and freedom
>again; perhaps I didn't make my points clear enough earlier so here goes:

Acatually, for some reason, I missed your first posting, Hemant, and got
involved in this subsequently for Kellian procedural reasons.

> 1) Justice and freedom are effective in a way that is limited
>to one's position in the social scheme of things. For example: the
>more powerful one is economically, the more legal assistance one can
>buy. So, in this, "truth" is relative to abilty to show "proof" in courts
>of law and depends to a large extent on whether one can obtain testimony
>from experts such as psychologists, physicians, consultants, and so forth.

It's a truism to say that in some of our more 'developed' societies the law
has nothing to do with justice. Whether 'just - unjust' subsumes 'legal -
illegal'is a feature of the society, certainly. Corollarly: a 'freedom
fighter' is one for whom this particular subsumption is not necessarily the
case; a 'despot' is one for whom it is!

> 2) From a Kellian perspective, Justice and Freedom would make sense
>only if they are seen as anchored on the often submerged constructs of
>Equality and Responsibility, respectively. This goes back to my recent
>suggestion for adding Compassion and Understanding as a supplement to
>the J & F ideas.

Would make sense ...? I don't see how this squares with the individuality
corollary and the idea of constructive alternativism. Can you enlighten me?

I have serious reservations about 'Equality' and 'Responsibility' as
constructs, in any case, which I've expressed in connection with 'Justice'
in other postings. The kind of analysis I've presented would apply in
similar terms to these. From a PCP perspective, surely, two people are
'unequal' if, in the same circumstances (say, stealing a loaf of bread to
feed a hungry child) they are the subjects respectively of a just and an
unjust action by society. (The construing of the acts in this case would
presumably have to be by a third party to accommodate the fragmentation
corollary.) Of course, the root of the inequality is likely to be the
differential construing of the individuals by that society.

> 3) From a cognitive-developmental perspective (e.g. Kohlberg's
>Kant/Rawls influenced research), justice as THE superordinate metaphor
>for morality is inherently limited without taking into account social
>inequalities and prosocial behavior, among other things. I believe
>either Bob Parks or Mike Mascolo mentioned the Kohlberg-Gilligan debate
>recently--I'll gladly supply more information on this issue if someone
>else here is also interested in moral developmental research.

I think that the PCP perspective eliminates this problem since the nature of
people's construct hierarchies is what determines the relationships among
'just - unjust' actions, 'moral - immoral' ones and 'legal - illegal' ones.
If I felt like sticking my neck out I'd suggest that the problem of non-PCP
approaches is that they permit the use of A as a _metaphor_ for B, leading
to confusion all round. Isn't metaphor redundant in PCP?
> One final note: Some of the issues we have been discussing such as
>justice, freedom, gender roles, etc., are undoubtedly CORE SOCIAL
>constructs [ in that they are shared as meaningful ideals by people and
>are imported by individuals through language and socialization ].
> Further, these Core Social Constructs arouse strong emotions if
>challenged because they impact the arrangements we have given to our
>lives in so many ways. IMHO, this is where Kelly's theory needs
>to be updated: All constructs are not invented or discovered by
>individuals, many constructs become internalized and thus meaningful
>because of the direct social benefits AND constraints put around us.

I'm not sure that Kelly needs to be updated yet, since I'm not convinced
that we've freed ourselves from other frameworks in our analyses of issues
like this, or exhausted the possibilities of analysis within the PCP
theoretical framework. Even here, for instance, the strong emotion is
accounted for by Kelly's definition of threat.

> Anyway, given that psychologically important factors such as
>social class, race and gender inequalities and their effect on the
>individual are being discussed on this list, I feel that some sort of
>congratulations are in order to all concerned.
> Thanks a lot for your time...
And, indeed for yours, Hemant. This has been an education for me!

Kind regards,

Bill Ramsay,
Dept. of Educational Studies,
University of Strathclyde,
Jordanhill Campus,
G13 1PP,

'phone: +44 (0)141 950 3364
'fax: +44 (0)141 950 3367