What Is Justice?

When a tragedy occurs, we often hear pleas for justice for the victims. This raises a difficult question: Just what, exactly, is justice?

Ideally, perhaps, justice should mean the application of the law. We want to see our laws applied evenly to all, regardless of class, race, political party, or income. But what if the law itself is unjust?

More generally, we want people to be held accountable for their actions. But what “accountable” means can vary from person to person. What one person thinks is fair and just, another may think is too harsh, or too lenient.

Does the victim’s opinion on what exactly is considered just for the crime committed against them matter? What if the opinion of the victim does not match what society as a whole believes?

From a legal standpoint, the victim’s opinion might be taken into account, but the victim does not get to make the final decision on what is just. That is up to a jury and a judge. However, if a jury and judge come to a conclusion, but the victim does not feel that justice has been served, has it?

Justice is an important concept in our society. There is even an entire federal organization, the Department of Justice, whose sole job is to see that justice is done. But what recourse is there if people feel that fairness is not being achieved?

Related questions: What are our responsibilities to others? Where does authority come from? How much power does an individual have? When should you not follow the law? What is the purpose of incarceration?

What Does It Mean To Be Healthy?

Being more healthy is a goal that many of us have. We want to lose a few pounds, lower that cholesterol, climb the stairs without getting winded.

But what, exactly, does getting “healthy” mean? Determining how to define the word health is a logical first step.

There are many different ways to be healthy: physically, mentally, emotionally, socially.

Physical health is, perhaps, the most obvious, and the easiest to measure. For instance, you can step on a scale, or count the number of reps or laps, or take your blood pressure. In January, gym memberships surge, as people try and work out regularly. They want to lose the weight they gained over the holidays.

Equally important but less often addressed is mental health. How much introspection do you do? Do you go to therapy, for yourself or with your significant other? Meditation, for example, is becoming more popular, which many people use to become more calm and centered.

Similarly, emotional health is rarely dealt with. Are you more often happy or sad? Do you express your emotions in a healthy way? Our emotional well-being is part of who we are, but we often ignore it.

Finally, there is the issue of how we fit in with others. Our relationships with friends, co-workers, and family members can be positive or negative. Healthy or unhealthy. On a larger scale, how do you fit into society? What is your carbon footprint? Are you a good citizen?

Of course, this is not meant to be an exhaustive list. There are other ways to be healthy. Can you think of some?

In short, what is your definition of health? Do you eat organic food? Run marathons? Host a weekly poker night? Vote in your town elections?

What does it mean to be healthy?

Related questions: Could everyone benefit from therapy? What duty do we have to live properly? What makes you the happiest? Resolutions or no resolutions?

 

What Makes A Friendship?

When you connect with someone else, it can feel like magic. The start, and the deepening, of a friendship can feel both natural and exhilarating.

And yet, defining what exactly “friendship” means is not easy. For example, you want some common interests, or you won’t have a similar frame of reference. On the other hand, you can’t be too similar, or else you have nothing to learn from each other.

Similarly, in order to be friends, you need to enjoy each other’s company. So both have to be interesting (at least to each other), but one can’t overshadow the other.

You might have a friend who doesn’t like the same music as you. Or movies, or books, or TV shows. A friend might have a completely different job, or marital status, or be in a different economic tier. Or be a different height, have different skin color, or hail from a different religion or political party.

So what is necessary for friendship to arise between two people? And what is needed for that friendship to grow and strengthen? What makes a friendship?

Related questions: What makes a good friend? What qualities do you look for in a friend? Who are your most interesting friends? How can we become better listeners?

 

What Is Waste?

You can waste a lot of things. Time. Energy. Potential. In addition, we produce several different kinds of waste. Environmental. Biological. Toxic.

But what exactly is it? By one definition, it is a substance that is not useful in a particular context. For example, a cell in our body takes in oxygen, and after metabolic changes, produces carbon dioxide as waste. The cell doesn’t need it. The carbon dioxide is taken by our blood stream to our lungs, where it is expelled as exhaust.

But while that carbon dioxide is not needed by our cells, plants need those molecules for growth. In a different context, our cells’ waste is not waste at all.

This cycle is repeated throughout the natural world. What is considered useless by one organism is a valuable resource for another.

So does that mean that waste is simply a matter or perspective? If there is a substance that one being considers useless, is it possible to find another that will make use of that material? Or are there some things that simply cannot be used in any other context?

In addition, there are the other definitions of the word waste. If I waste my time, that time is not a resource that can be retrieved by someone or something else. It is simply gone. Similarly, if an person wastes their potential, that isn’t a resource that is available to others.

Is there a common element to these two different uses of the word waste, between the ephemeral, like time or talent and the corporeal resource, like oxygen or carbon dioxide? In short, is it is just the same word being used for two different concepts?

What is waste? How should we think about our waste? How can we reduce it? Is waste ever useful and desirable?

Related questions: What is the value of inefficiency? What do we owe the future? How do you define success? What do we do about plastic?

Why Are Bad Words Bad?

@#$%!

We are all familiar with swear words. Whether they are taught to us by an older sibling, or a particularly mischievous kid at the playground, or you happen to overhear adults swearing, these words often fascinate us as children.

It makes sense. Children, particularly very young children, are among the most powerless members of society. They have to be fed, clothed, taken everywhere, they don’t have or make money. And yet, just by speaking a particular set of words, they can elicit a reaction from adults all around.

These words also hold some fascination, even for adults. You may or may not swear yourself, but cursing is everywhere. Certain words are bleeped on broadcast TV, sometimes with humorous effects. For example, late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel has a recurring segment called “This Week in Unnecessary Censorship“. In it, non-swear words are bleeped, with the intended effect to make seemingly innocuous speech sound dirty.

But what is it about these words that makes them bad?

$#*!

To help examine this question, let’s look at the word shit. What makes this word bad? What are the qualities that make it so offensive that it can’t be spoken in polite conversation?

Certainly it isn’t the action itself. We are all familiar with going to the bathroom — it is among those things that everybody does. There is even a children’s book called “Everybody Poops”. The concept of pooping is something that is explained to every child in every language and in every culture. It has to be, because, well, everybody poops.

So there must be a difference between the word poop and the word shit. They can’t simply be synonyms, or else why would you be able to say “poop” on broadcast TV and not be bleeped, but “shit” is censored every time?

What is the difference? Is it the context in which it is used? Is it simply that everyone agrees that it is a bad word? Would it be possible to just agree that a bad word is no longer a bad word? Why are bad words bad?

Related questions: How does your vocabulary influence how you think? Where do shared ideas exist? What do we have in common? What words have the most power?