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Man and Justice

In Search of Truth and Justice by Gabriel Marcel
1. Introduction
a. Purpose of the Article
b. Urgency and Importance of Waking Up from Spiritual Stupor
c. Approach
2. Insidious Devaluation of the Important Concepts of Truth and Justice
a. Partial Truth and Indolence in the Quest for the Truth
b. Partial Truth leads to Apparent Justice
3. Authentic Justice as the Beginning and Sign of Love
a. Independence from Subjective Inclination/Affective Attraction
b. Respect of the Persons Inviolability
4. Authentic Justice in Relation to Truth: Justice Living in Truth
a. Truth cannot be equated with the order imposed from without
b. Truth cannot be equated with my moods
c. Truth refers to something on the plane of the sacred

a Purpose of the Article
- to clarify the relationship between truth and justice in order
- to wake ourselves from spiritual sleep concerning truth and justice
- to arouse in us the unique passion for justice and peace
b Urgency and Importance of Waking Up from Spiritual Stupor
- As things now stand,
- Many remain deaf to the irresistible appeal of truth and justice
- No longer arouse us from apathy to perform deed of profound
consequences, simply because truth and justice of a sudden become
suffused with irresistible appeal
- Incapable of experiencing violent emotion assumed in the face of truth
and justice
- Right now, they evoke nothing more than a faint and muted echo
- Such by words (truth and justice) no longer mean anything to us
- Those big words no longer make much sense in our day and age
- Image: like inscription carved into the facade of a public building, we
simply pass them by, no more moved at the sight of them than we are by
anything else degenerated into commonplace
- Danger/Consequence:
- we are fated to perish in technocratic delirium
c Approach
- Not discursive thinking
- Discursive thinking on justice means:
- to gather from the works of philosophers (past and present), their
considerations about justice or truth, and then in a work similar to their
manipulate my findings so as to present some sort of resounding
- Why does he not adopt this approach?
- Boring, incapable of waking us up from spiritual stupor
- But existential
- Based on his own personal experience and on something abstracted from
- He would cite and clarify the experiences from which he has come to the
questions of justice and truth:
- Dreyfuss Affair
- His fellow student getting into trouble by sending pacifist pamphlet to the
- French Communistic university professor was accused of conniving with
the Algerian freedom fighter.
- Etc.
- Why?

The questioin of truth and justice as existing within the existential

relation, within a drama that arouses a unique passion

Insidious Devaluation of the Important Concepts of Truth and Justice

- in our time, we have reduced without being aware of it and its danger:
- Truth to partial truth
- Justice to apparent justice

Indolent in the Quest for Truth and Satisfied with Partial Truths
- the different disciplines particularly the empirical sciences lead us to the
discovery of a lot of things about man and the world
- there is generally the ability to search and the willingness to recognize/accept
these truths discovered by science
- but truths of science are partial truths:
- we do not see any connection between them,
- they seem like discreet facts and explanations, atomistic, pluralism of facts,
- stratified thinking (of layers and boxes)
- Scientists find extreme difficulty to establish any kind of unity of these scientific
knowledge. Responses/Consequences:
- They leave to philosophers the difficult task
- They little interest in this perilous task
- General Indolence pervades our quest for truth
- Instead of searching for the truth, it finds solace/comfort in any of the
philosophical systems that have been effected and take this system as THE
TRUTH, outside of which there is no truth. E.g.: Marxism, Thomism, among
- Infra-Scepticism
- A scepticism that is even incapable of proceeding skeptically
- Withdraws into a fog that stifles courageous initiative
- Sense of responsibility is replaced by fundamental mistrust

Partial Truths leads to Apparent Justice

- just as the increasing discoveries of scientific truths leads us to realize that
they are simply partial truths,
- in the same way the increasing demand for justice by different unions,
organized groups and by the whole nation in our time leads us to assume
that the manifest quest for justice is not in fact a search for authentic justice
but partial/apparent justice
- In this quest for justice, justice is equated with
- Partisan interests
- Equity
- Price Lists
- When this happens, we have an apparent justice but not an authentic justice


Justice equated with partisan interest

Partisan interest:
- Needs, demands of a particular group that are more or less acute, very
important, urgent and even justified.
Justice for some is reduced, equated, associated with the just demands and
needs of a particular group. Justice is said to be obtained when the just
demands and needs are obtained.
For Marcel, isolated demands are not necessarily prompted by love or
concern for and do not lead necessarily to genuine justice (i.e., that which
just/fair to all, the common good).
- In some instances, the just demand of a particular group might be
injurious to the common welfare, the welfare of society.
- E.g.: granting of the labor groups just demand for higher wages (not
a question of minimum wage) would eventually damage the general
economy of the country and inflict injury on the general citizenry.
Point of Marcel: Authentic/Integral Justice is not just a matter of granting of
an explicit demand of a particular group



Justice is not obtained simply because the needs/interests of a particular

group is granted and simply because it is demanded by the group
- Something more than just granting the demands and needs of particular
group is needed in the consideration of authentic justice
- Sometimes, a particular group might even give up their
rights/demands/needs so that authentic justice might be achieved.
Bottomline: question of justice is not just a question of partisan interest
Justice equated with equity
Justice and Equity are equated:
- When there is equal or equitable distribution of goods and resources (just
distribution), justice is obtained.
- Analogy: Mother dividing a cake equally to her children
The mothers action could only be justified on practical ground:
- If she does not bother about equal distribution, there will be no end of
- Therefore, it is better to play safe.
This concession (to divide equally so as to avoid quarrel) has no ethical
- There are no further reasonable grounds for her precaution except to
avoid quarrels among her children
- And it is not certain that there is reason to treat those in the table alike.
- Other examples cited by Marcel to prove this point: Universal Suffrage
- as applied to the Illiterate/Insane, on the one hand, and doctor, public
official on the other.
- As applied to countries with his percent of illiteracy and to countries
which are highly cultured.
Thus, for Marcel, justice and equity have to be kept separate, have to be
Justice equated with price list of ones abilities/accomplishment and failure
Courts of Justice as no more than and even worse than revenue offices
- Assess your liability and merit based on the data provided and the
standing price list
- But the charts hardly correspond to anything resembling a genuine
feeling of guilt
As a consequence, the judge is no longer recognized as a man of justice. And
when respect is destroyed, justice itself is bound to vanish.

True/Authentic Justice as the Beginning of Love

- We could come only to authentic understanding of justice in the context of love
not in context of:
- Partisan interests
- Equity
- Tariff of Legal system
- Justice is authentic justice when it is the beginning, the minimum of love
- There are two essential elements of justice as the beginning, minimum of love

Independence from Subjective Inclination, Affective Attraction

- Justice requires/demands us to do things even for which
- we have no affective attraction, no subjective inclination to the other
- we have a negative affective and subjective disposition to the other.
- E.g. cited by Marcel
- Communist university professor was accused of conniving with the Algerian
Freedom Front.
- He was arrested, disappeared under suspicious circumstances.
- There was a public demand:
- That those who pronounced the sentence on the professor should give a
full explanation
- That those responsible for his disappearance and death should be
punished and the punishment should be known to the public

The protest and accusation should come not only from those who approve of
the ideology, behavior, and actions of the professor, but also from those who
were against them, even those who even found it repugnant.

Respect for the Inviolability of the Person

- This needs to be emphasized: THE RESPECT FOR THE INVIOLABILITY OF THE
- There is in us an irresistible temptation to destroy a particular person (like to
kill him/her, to extract admission from him by force, to destroy him/her in
whatever way) simply because he/she is unarmed, different, a stranger and
much more because he is an enemy.
- Justice is basically erecting a barrier, an obstacle between this temptation
and the execution of this temptation.
- This means that I will not do anything that would destroy the person in
whatever way even with the irresistible temptation:
- Even with the claim that this is a necessity of war,
- Even with the demand of the law, situation, circumstance
- Even with strong subjective inclination and affection to destroy
- As human persons, we dont only experience the appeal of love; we also
experience the appeal of hate.
- Love is the yes to the appeal of the other to accept, to will, support, to foster,
to create his/her subjectivity, his/her unique self-project and possibilities,
his/her selfhood, his/her freedom. Here I choose to become a shepherd to the
- Yet there is the opposite of love: Hatred
- It is the yes to the appeal to destroy the others subjectivity, unique selfproject, his/her selfhood, his/her freedom. Here I choose to become a wolf
to the other.
- Thus, we experience ourselves both as wolf and shepherd to the other
- Justice is the minimum demand of love
- The minimum demand for the acceptance, support etc. of the other consists
in not permitting the wolf in me to destroy/devour the other
- The minimum of my yes to the other is not to destroy him/her
- The fundamental human rights contain the minimum requirements/ the
gauge/limit below which I will already destroy the Other
- Denial of the fundamental human rights is equivalent to the destruction of
the person himself/herself
- Yes for the other is yes to the essence or deepest dimension of my
existence. And the minimum requirement for me to live in the deepest
dimension of my existence, for me to be authentically human is to do
justice, to be just.
- If I dehumanize other people, I become less human.
- If I humanize other people, I become more human.

Authentic Justice in Relation to Truth: Justice as Living in Truth

- Justice:
- Living in the truth, according to the truth
- Living on the plane of the Sacred, Holy
- as Creative Testimony
- To live in truth, on the plane of the Sacred
- is to conform our lives to the truth
- is to bring oneself, ones life, actions into agreement with the truth
- What is the truth to which we have to conform our lives, to which we have to
bring our lives and action into agreement?

The Truth cannot be equated, identified with the order imposed by Totalitarian
State, human institutions or the legal system
- To live in the truth is not simply conforming our lives with the order particularly
with the legal orders of a given society, with the societal order.

To live in the truth, sometimes one needs to defy any order imposed from

Truth cannot be identified with ones moods and interests

- ones moods and interests refer to:
- ones personal moods and interests
- moods and interests of ones group
to live in the truth is not simply an agreement with oneself

Truth refers to something on the plane of the Sacred:




Something that is totally beyond yourself
Something which defies and resists any objectification or identification with
mundane realities, with any reality that we could definitely perceive and
Could not be identified with any group interest, with any order, ideology,
system or Isms
Could not be confused with humanity as a totality (positivistic tendencies).
- One could not add men and women like stones, blocks of wood or ideas
and eventually come to humanity, man
- Besides, the idea of humanity presupposes divine understanding and
within this or in the framework of divine understanding, it has an
appointed place, significance and meaning.
Absolutely Stable and Consistent
Not changing, unstable in itself unlike our interest, moods, order, institutions
Nevertheless, it has to express itself in us and cannot be stifled.
That which we could not be indifferent
Truth which is transcendent, stable and consistent manifests in us in a form
of unconditional demand.
- Demands from us, appeals to us o bear witness to no matter who we are
- Demands a response that is unconditional even at the expense of ones
The demand is so strong, persistent
- that we could not deny it though we could stifle it
- that is stronger than any appeal that we could identify within the world
This does not necessarily mean that the demand presses forward into our
consciousness in entire universal character
Most probably this transcendent, stable and consistent demand will only take
shape when a particular situation demands it or when an action is required,
regardless of the personal risk involved.

Illustrations/Examples of Justice as Testimony to the Truth on the Plane of the

A member of French Council of State testifying in behalf of an alleged
prominent German collaborator, Marshall Petain
- Marshal Petain: head of the French government created by the Germans
who had occupied France in World War II
- After the war, those who collaborated with the Germans were tried for war
crimes and treason and Marshall Petain was the principal accused in the case
- During the trial, a member of the French Council of State who was in direct
contact with Marshall Petain during the War felt personally obliged to speak
in the marshals behalf whatever it might cost him personally and even
though it was a lost cause
- Council:
- Made up of 400 trained lawyers; the highest council that advised the
government on legal matters
- Governments main goal was to prosecute and punish the collaborators
and traitor


His testimony would not make any difference in the acquittal of Marshal
- It would even mean great personal cost on him.
- In fact, after the trial he was suspended for two (2) years and
consequently he and his large family were forced to live under most
difficult material conditions.
Why did he do it?
- We might say that he was following his conscience and this would seem
superficial to us.
- Nevertheless, this points to the intimate relation between genuine truth
and authentic justice:
- If he had refrained from testifying out of fear and prudence, he would
have acted contrary to the spiritual character of the truth and at the
same time he would have committed an injustice.
- But, the man lived according to the truth on the plan of the holy,
otherwise he could not have been impelled to act as he did.

4,500 French resistance fighters in World War II who were executed in Mt

- In December morning, there was an act of reparation by a group of Germans
at the Mt. Valerian where 4,500 French resistance fighters were executed.
- During this celebration, Marcel realized the just cause that this freedom
fighters had died for and where did this just cause come from.
- Not from religious convictions (i.e. convictions arising from their particular
- They have different religious convictions
- Far from unanimous in their religious convictions
- Not from any isms or specific doctrines:
- They held different and even contradicting views.
- Consequently, if this were the case, some of the resistance fighters
would have fought in the name of truth, others in the name of error.
- Rejection
- Though all commonly were for rejection, this was much too little to
lead die to martyrdom
- The truth that die for, the just cause they were fighting for was more than
- Though all these people differ so much from one another, yet there
was a group illumined by the same light and united by a common
brotherly bond.
- What was this light?
- The idea that humanity had to be restored to its dignity
- It was because of this that they fully and completely stood behind
- But the light in this case is invisible because it is source of light; it
makes seeing possible:
- Seeing in the sense of proper evaluation of the concrete options
available to us and irresistible.