Archive for June 29, 2010
In my last post, I talked about how Plato did not think life in general was worth preserving, but only the good life.
Related to this is his opinion that only those diseases should be treated that are not the person’s own fault. So, putting it in a modern context, if a chain smoker is diagnosed with lung cancer, Plato would think it proper for that person to accept his death as the natural consequence of his actions. Treating him would offend justice, not to mention be a waste of valuable resources. People who chain smoke should not be surprised if they get cancer, and it would be highly unreasonable for them to expect society to try prevent their speedy death.
Sounds just and reasonable. But where is grace in all of this? The Christian understanding is that we all do many things that deserve punishment. None of us lives 100% healthily all the time. Many diseases (though certainly not all!) can be traced back to some form of human shortcoming. We all deserve to die. We all need grace.
Plus, who exactly will determine whether and to what degree a certain ailment was the person’s own fault? Shouldn’t all the circumstances that led the person to make his bad choices be taken into account as well? Who, except an omniscient being, would be qualified to judge people in this way?
Still, there is something very reasonable about Plato’s approach, and I wonder whether we have gone too far to apply Christian grace to society as a whole. Individual relationships should be guided by grace; the laws of society should be guided by justice.
What’s better for society? Christian grace or Platonic justice? Or a combination of the two?