My most recent post discussed W.D. Auden’s suggestion that we must love one another or die. This claim is both too strong and unrealistic. It is unrealistic to expect us to love everyone; and it is too strong because love does not assure our survival nor does it absence assure our destruction.
Instead, we might focus on justice, since without justice our chances of surviving diminish. If we are just then we will all live in a better world, one more conducive to our survival. Aristotle famously said that if all people were friends then we wouldn’t need justice, but since they are not friends, justice is necessary. I think he was right.
I have dealt with the issue of the nature of justice in previous posts so we need not rehash those arguments, except to say that society is built upon what E.O. Wilson called “soft-core” altruism. Not on the love between family members but on fairness and justice in our dealings with others. If I rent your house, use your land or eat your food, then I should pay you for the privilege–unless you decide to let me use them for free. How do we elicit this cooperation? Again previous posts have discussed the issue.
So here is how I would summarize the essence of the last two posts. We must love one another for all to live best; be just toward one another for all to live well; and not hate one another or we will all die.
One thought on “Justice is Enough”
With or without love or hate, we will all die eventually. Maybe that is why Auden turned against his own words later on. He realized that death was the final outcome, regardless of the kind of life we lived. After all, what the evil men do lives after them. However, his original words are poignantly relevant today in view of all the protests over a senseless death. You either live in hope or despair and maybe later in his life Auden lived in the latter.