Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Underfables: The Judge’s Philosophy

The Judge’s Philosophy       

            Once upon a time, a judge said to two convicts, “You have been charged, tried, found guilty, and sentenced. Do you have any last words to the Court before the bailiff takes you away?”

          The first convict said, “By my philosophy, this is all unfair; for I am a victim of circumstance. My actions were pre‑determined by society, psychology, biology, and the laws of physics and mathematics. I am a material bio‑mechanism; I do what I must; why then do you punish me?”

          The judge replied, “If you are a material bio‑mechanism, controlled by deterministic laws, why then so am I; and those laws determine that I shall punish cowards like you. I do this under the illusion of my own free will; for I calculate that your example will cause others like you to reject a life of crime and instead obey the law.”

          The second convict said, “By my philosophy, this is all absurd; for I create my own reality, in which your rules do not apply. My will is free; I am beholden only to the mysterious promptings of my sovereign soul. I am a spiritual being; I do what I may; who then are you to judge me?”

          The judge replied, “If you are a free spirit, beholden only to your sovereign soul, why then so am I; and my own soul mysteriously prompts me to punish lunatics like you. I do this although I have little hope of reforming you, or even deterring others like you, for nonetheless I have the physical power to protect society by removing you from it.”

          The judge pounded his gavel, and the bailiff took the convicts away. The bailiff returned later, and asked the judge, “What is your philosophy?”

          The judge said, “Any stick will do to beat a dog.”

          Commentary on the Underfable:
          Another implicit moral, in the last line. 
          His Honor addresses the materialist as a fellow robot; but he discusses the authority of the law, which is a spiritual issue. He then addresses the spiritualist as a fellow spirit; but he discusses the safety of the people, which is a material issue. He then addresses the bailiff as a fellow pragmatist.
          This Underfable summarizes decades of philosophical discussion between me and my father. I sent this to him about a year before he died. He registered approval, possibly because the Judge, in the last line, delivered a verdict that Dad himself had often pronounced.

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