The Ajax Dilemma: Justice, Fairness, and Rewards - Paul Woodruff Quotes from the NYTimes Book Review: "The author argues that this myth revolves around the issue of rewards, which “mark the difference between winners and losers.” He adds: “Rewards are public recognition for contributions made. They express the values of a community.” But which, he asks, do we value more: “Cleverness or hard work? Strength or intelligence? Loyalty or inventiveness?”

We see the significance of all this today. “In industry, bankers and fund managers have carried off the prizes,” Mr. Woodruff says, “while most of us are Ajaxes, team players who work hard at our various tasks and are loyal to the communities in which we live.” We grow angry, he says, when rewards go to those “who do not live by our values.” Justice, we believe, has failed."

“We all know highly learned people who are fools,” he writes. “Experts often use their knowledge or skill to do dreadful things.” He also stresses the role of compassion in making just choices. “If justice is going to help us get along,” he says, “it has to affect our feelings,” which implies that it must consider what others have at stake emotionally. One reason Agamemnon fails so badly here, Mr. Woodruff argues, is that he displays little or no compassion for the shame and dishonor Ajax feels in not winning the armor.

I am currently reading Michael Sandel's
Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? and watching his Yales lectures at iTunesU. This might make a terrific companion book. The word "justice" is thrown around so loosely these days, and is often used as a synonym for revenge. It's just not that simple, witness the recent per curiam decision in Cavazos v Smith (see my group post at