Justice versus Mercy
True virtues are not supposed to clash, that would be our nirvana. Our human desires may at times battle with the virtues we are trying to cultivate, but higher virtues themselves are supposed to complement one another. How then, do we explain the apparent conflict between the virtues of mercy and justice and the age-old debate as to whether justice or mercy deserves to prevail in society?
I think we must first look at the definitions of mercy and justice. Mercy: Compassionate treatment, especially of those under one's power, something for which to be thankful; a blessing. (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/mercy). Justice: The quality of being just; fairness. To treat adequately, fairly, or with full appreciation. (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/mercy).
Justice it seems can be found somewhere in the concept of fairness, between some middle ground of excessive and deficient behavior. Justice, as fairness, means that people get exactly what they deserve. The victim must feel satisfied in some way. If they get more, something is excessive; if they get less, something is deficient. What is the determining factor in the grand equation to what a person deserves? In principle, justice is delving out people’s “just desserts” for their actions.
Let’s look at mercy as a virtue. Some say that mercy is the foundation to civilized society. That without mercy, society will not know kindness, people will be fearful of making mistakes, and everyone makes mistakes. Mercy gives people a second chance a veritable ‘redo’ if you will. Without mercy, we would not be able to forgive ourselves if we make a mistake.
Now here’s the kicker- mercy basically requires justice not be done. We need to make clear here that mercy is not an act of kindness or the same thing as sympathy and pity. What mercy encompasses is that something less than justice be done. In a religious perspective, to ask for mercy means that you are asking your god to hand...