terça-feira, 14 de julho de 2009

A.Sen e a teoria da justiça

Matéria enviada pelo doutorando em Direito da Puc e professor da Ucam Farlei Martins

The Guardian, 13.07.2009
Amartya Sen
Pip was right: nothing is so finely felt as injustice. And there the search

Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote in the preface to his first major book in
philosophy, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, published in 1921: "What can be
said at all can be said clearly; and whereof one cannot speak thereof one
must be silent." Wittgenstein would re-examine his views on speech in his
later work, but it is wonderful that even as he was writing the Tractatus,
the great philosopher did not always follow his own exacting commandments.
In a remarkably enigmatic letter to Paul Engelmann in 1917, Wittgenstein
said: "I work quite diligently and wish that I were better and smarter. And
these both are one and the same." Really? One and the same thing – being a
better person and a smarter guy? Who is Wittgenstein kidding?

I am, of course, aware that modern American usage has drowned the
distinction between "being good" as a moral quality and "being well" as a
comment on a person's health (no aches and pains, fine blood pressure, and
such), and I have long ceased worrying about the apparent immodesty of those
of my friends who, when asked about how they are, reply with manifest
self-praise: "I am very good." But Wittgenstein was not an American, and
1917 was well before the conquest of the world by vibrant American usage. So
what was this pronouncement about?

Underlying Wittgenstein's claim may be the recognition, in some form, that
many acts of nastiness are committed by people who are deluded, in one way
or another, on the subject. It has been argued that some children carry out
odd acts of brutality to others – other children or animals – precisely
because of their inability to appreciate adequately the nature and intensity
of the pains of others. There is perhaps a strong connection between being
antisocial and the inability to think clearly. We cannot, of course, be
really sure about what Wittgenstein meant, but if this is what Wittgenstein
meant, he was in the powerful tradition of the European Enlightenment that
saw clear-headed reasoning as a major ally of making societies decent and

The leaders of thought in the Enlightenment did not, however, speak with one
voice. In fact, there is a substantial dichotomy between two different lines
of reasoning about justice that can be seen among two groups of leading
philosophers associated with the radical thought of the Enlightenment
period. One approach concentrated on identifying perfectly just social
arrangements, and took the characterisation of "just institutions" to be the
principal – and often the only identified – task of the theory of justice.

Woven in different ways around the idea of a hypothetical "social contract",
major contributions were made in this line of thinking by Thomas Hobbes in
the 17th century, and later by John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and
Immanuel Kant, among others. The contractarian approach has become the
dominant influence in contemporary political philosophy, led by the most
prominent political philosopher of our time, John Rawls – whose classic book
of 1971, A Theory of Justice, presents a definitive statement on the social
contract approach to justice. The principal theories of justice in
contemporary political philosophy draw in one way or another on the social
contract approach, and concentrate on the search for ideal social

In contrast, a number of other Enlightenment theorists (Adam Smith,
Condorcet, Mary Wollstonecraft, Karl Marx and John Stuart Mill, for example)
took a variety of approaches that shared an interest in making comparisons
between different ways in which people's lives may go, jointly influenced by
the working of institutions, people's actual behaviour, their social
interactions, and other factors that significantly impact on what actually
happens. The analytical, and rather mathematical, discipline of "social
choice theory" – which can be traced to the works of Condorcet in the 18th
century, but has been developed in the present form under the leadership of
Kenneth Arrow in the last century – belongs to this second line of
investigation. That approach, suitably adapted, can make a substantial
contribution, I believe, to addressing questions about the enhancement of
justice and the removal of injustice in the world.

In this alternative approach, we don't begin by asking what a perfectly just
society would look like, but asking what remediable injustices could be seen
on the removal of which there would be a reasoned agreement. "In the little
world in which children have their existence," says Pip in Great
Expectations, "there is nothing so finely perceived, and finely felt, as
injustice." In fact, the strong perception of manifest injustice applies to
adult human beings as well. What moves us is not the realisation that the
world falls short of being completely just, which few of us expect, but that
there are clearly remediable injustices around us which we want to

This is evident enough in our day-to-day life, with inequities or
subjugations from which we may suffer and which we have good reason to
resent; but it also applies to more widespread diagnoses of injustice in the
wider world in which we live. One of the limitations of the social contract
approach to justice, which is so pervasive in contemporary political
philosophy, is the unjustified conviction that there could only be one
precise combination of principles that could serve as the basis of ideal
social institutions. In contrast with this rigid insistence, a social choice
approach allows the possibility of a plurality of competing principles, each
of which is given a status, after being subjected to critical scrutiny.

Thanks to this plurality, we may not be able to resolve on grounds of
justice alone all the questions that may be asked: for example, whether a
40% top tax rate is more just – or less just – than a 41% top rate. And yet
we have every reason to try to see whether we can get reasoned agreement on
removing what can be identified as clear injustice in the world, such as
slavery, or the subjugation of women, or extreme exploitation of vulnerable
labour (which so engaged Adam Smith, Condorcet and Mary Wollstonecraft, and
later Karl Marx and John Stuart Mill), or gross medical neglect of the bulk
of the world population today (through the absence of medical facilities in
parts of Africa or Asia, or a lack of universal health coverage in most
countries in the world, including the US), or the prevalence of torture
(which continues to be used with remarkable frequency in the contemporary
world – sometimes practised by pillars of the global establishment), or the
quiet tolerance of chronic hunger (for example in India, despite the
successful abolition of famines).

The idea of justice demands comparisons of actual lives that people can
lead, rather than a remote search for ideal institutions. That is what makes
the idea of justice relevant as well as exciting in practical reasoning.

This article is based on the Southbank Centre Lecture delivered today at the
London Literature Festival

Nenhum comentário: