Do we live in a JUST society? Philosophy Colloquium 2017

A group of Year 8 boys were joined by 15 Firbank Girls to discuss this terms Philosophy topic. The task was to look at Justice with a focus on sentencing. To introduce the concept of what is good for society the following notion was put forward by Socrates. He believes that Philosophers should rule because only they understand what is good. If one is ill, one goes to a doctor rather than a psychologist, because the doctor is expert in the subject of health. Similarly, one should trust one’s city to an expert in the subject of the good, not to a mere politician who tries to gain power by giving people what they want, rather than what’s good for them.

After being divided into 5 groups of the next task was to consider a batch of 8 criminals that had been found guilty of a variety of crimes and to determine an appropriate punishment for each. To make things a bit more interesting the following rules had to be adhered to.

  • The perpetrator of the worst of these crimes would receive capital punishment with the least being released on a suspended sentence.
  • The other 6 criminals would then share a total of 40 years jail time between them which could be divided up in any way by the sentencing committees.
  • The jail terms for these 6 could range from 1 day through to 39 years 51 weeks and 2 days.


Harry Harte debating his case while Lucas Williamson looks on during his group’s discussion around sentencing and justice.

The groups spent approximately 30 minutes placing the crimes in order and applying the jail time. These lists were then pasted up on the wall around the room. Each group then reported back to the entire colloquium on their reasoning behind the decisions made. The criteria used by each group to make their decision varied and there was intense and animated discussion had by all groups with none of them arriving at exactly the same conclusion.

They were all left to ponder the following question: Do we live in a JUST society????