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Publication date: 2004-12-18

Illustrating Impartiality ...

We often get questions involving the issues of “objectivity” and “impartiality”, which underlie the operation of the World Court of Justice.

One American site‐visitor wrote to us, saying, “What would you do, if your daughter were raped?”.

Our answer was, that we would expect the rapist to be dealt with in the same way, as if the raped woman was not “our daughter”, but somebody else's, and the rapist happened to be “our son”.

Often, when one's own daughter is raped, the parents think no punishment is harsh enough to punish the criminal. But, if their own son rapes somebody else's daughter, they call for mercy and say, “She must have seduced our innocent boy, our boy is good at heart, he could not have done such an evil thing”.

A good example of how partiality distorts human thinking is from the Old Testament, Samuel II, 12:1–9, where the Prophet Nathan told King David a parable about a poor man's sheep.

When the king heard the parable, he was greatly outraged at the actions of the rich man in the parable and said that the man should be killed for his actions. But then the prophet told him that the man in the parable was King David himself, because he had committed a similar unjust act.

So, the king was capable of seeing the injustice of actions of another person as described in the prophet's parable, in which he himself was not involved, and which he could see impartially and objectively, “from the side”. But he could not see the injustice of his own actions which were even more unjust, because he was personally involved in it, and this made him incapable to see it impartially and objectively. (One needs to read this passage from the Bible to appreciate it).

And it is this human difficulty of seeing their own actions impartially and objectively that is the reason why people are capable of making great advances in “material sciences”, but have such difficulties to make sense of their own behaviour.

And it is this human difficulty of being honest, objective and impartial, that leads to wars and politics.

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