The notion of justice as a virtue began in reference to a trait of individuals, and to some extent remains so, even if today we often conceive the justice of individuals as having some grounding reference to social justice.
But from the start, the focus on justice as a virtue faced pressures to diffuse, in two different ways. However, justice as a virtue of societies, polities, and their institutions is addressed elsewhereso the focus in this essay will be on justice as a virtue in individuals.
That said, individuals typically live as members of political communities, so the societal dimension of justice as a virtue will never be long out of view Woodruff Second, from the start the effort to analyze the virtue of justice has led to attempts to formalize the requirements or norms of justice, and at times the latter project has threatened to swallow the first in ways that make thinking of a virtue of justice gratuitous or otiose. We might be tempted to think that the virtue of justice Justice and love are the highest virtues simply in compliance with the norms of justice our theory specifies: a just person will be one who complies with the norms of justice, whether those are narrowly interpersonal or more broadly social or political in scope.
In this way the virtue becomes subsidiary to norms of justice independently specified Andersonp. Doing so threatens to lose the force that the notion of virtue had in the earliest thinking about justice.
A further complication is that even the idea of justice as a virtue of individuals seems ambiguous in regard to scope. Plato in the Republic treats justice as an overarching virtue of both individuals and societies, so that almost every issue he or we would regard as ethical comes in under the notion of justice. Individual justice first and most readily regards moral issues having to do with distributions of goods or property.
It is, we say, unjust for someone to steal from people or not to give them what he owes them, and it is also unjust if someone called upon to distribute something good or bad or both among members of a group uses an arbitrary or unjustified basis for making the distribution.
Discussion of justice as an individual virtue often centers on questions, therefore, about property and other distributable goods, though the broader sense broached by Plato never entirely disappears.
Still there is disagreement over whether the broader distributive questions associated with political morality have subordinated or obscured the earlier Greek concerns with justice as a virtue of individual character Hursthousepp. Philosophical discussion of justice begins with Plato, who treats the topic in a variety of dialogues, most substantially in Republic.
There Plato offers the first sustained discussion of the nature of justice dikaiosune and its relation to happiness, as a departure from three alternatives receiving varying degrees of attention.
First, there is a traditionalist conception of justice speaking the truth and paying your debts. These last two challenges give rise to the central question of the book: to whose advantage is justice?
Would we really be better off being unjust if we could get away with it? Further, Plato argues, justice is a master virtue in a sense, because in both the city and the psyche, if each part is doing its own job, both city and psyche will also have wisdom, courage, and moderation or self-discipline. This conception of justice sustains the contrast with the conventionalist view advocated by the Sophists.
On the other hand, at least initially it leaves it an open question whether the just individual refrains from such socially proscribed actions as lying, killing, and stealing. Aristotle does not see the virtue of justice in quite the comprehensive sense Plato does; he treats it as a virtue of character in the entirety of one of the ten books of the Nicomachean Ethicsalso common to the Eudemian Ethicsand as a virtue of constitutions and political arrangements in Politics.
The question naturally arises as to the relation between these forms of justice. Aristotle seems to think they are closely related, without being synonymous applications of the same concept. As the latter is a conception of political justice, we will focus here on the former. He distinguishes between justice in distribution and justice in rectification.
The former, he claims, adheres to a kind of proportionality, in which what each deserves is proportional to the relationship between the contributions.
These structural devices are elegant and attractive, but they leave open a of questions LeBar, forthcoming. First, as indicated, to what are we to suppose they apply? Second, in what way do they figure into the nature of the person who is just in the particular sense?
That is, how are they related to justice as a virtue? Does a model of particular justice as a virtue fit the general model of virtue as a mean, and if so, what sort of mean is it? Aristotle seems torn between a conception of justice as a virtue in his distinctive understanding of what a virtue is — with a requirement that one have all the virtues to have any Nicomachean Ethics VI.
For Epicurus this consisted in ataraxia — tranquility, or freedom from disturbance.
Given that the good life is the life without disturbance, justice plays a key instrumental role. One might, Epicurus thinks, withdraw entirely from human society to avoid disturbance, but the alternative is to live socially under terms which secure the avoidance of disturbance. This is the structure of the ideal Epicurean community, in which each forbears aggression ArmstrongThrasher Justice is a matter of keeping agreements generally, and in particular the agreement not to harm or transgress social norms. In this way Epicurus offers a conception of the virtue of justice that harmonizes both its personal and its political dimensions.
The personal virtue consists in the motivation to abide by a contract not to aggress or harm others. The political virtue inheres in a polity in which such norms regulate the conduct of its citizens, and these two dimensions of justice as a virtue reinforce each other.
The other great ethical tradition of antiquity Stoicism had remarkably little to say about justice Annasp. As in Aristotle, virtue and virtues are prominent parts of his ethical theory. And, like Aristotle justice is an important virtue, though for Aquinas it less important than the virtue of charity, a Christian virtue that did not appear among the virtues recognized by Aristotle. There Justice and love are the highest virtues other elements of his that situate it in an interesting way in the transition from ancient eudaimonist s of virtue, to virtue as it appears in the modern era, before it recedes from prominence in ethical theory.
But to the extent Christian writers allied themselves with Plato and Aristotle, they were downplaying another central element in Christian thought and morality, the emphasis on agapic love. Such love seems to be a matter of motivationally active feeling rather than of being rational, and some writers on morality eventually allowed this side of Christianity to have a major influence on what they had to say about virtue.
First, justice is first and foremost a virtue of character rather than institutions, although Aquinas draws a distinction among such virtues not found in Aristotle. Second, Aquinas grounds the norms for these exchanges in the ancient formula of Justinian, which hearkens back to Plato: justice is giving each his own. But his interpretation of this formula situates him astride a deep but subtle divide between ancient and modern thought.
To some extent this effect is an upshot of his inheriting not only the Greek eudaimonist tradition, but also a Roman jurisprudential tradition in which notions like standing and right as claim rather than, say, fairness had begun to emerge Porterp. One major complication, relative to the ancient s, is that what is ours by right is a recognition of a kind of status, as an effect of the order among people ordained by God ST I-II There are two ificant follow-on implications.
The highest good: an introduction to the 4 stoic virtues
First, the fabric of the eudaimonist approach to practical reasoning and life — inherited from the Greeks — begins to fray. For better or worse, on the Greek eudaimonist views including here Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, and Epicurus our reasons for action arise from our interest in a happy life. If the reason-giving nature of others arises from a different source, as this reading of Aquinas suggests, then practical reason seems to have a duality of ultimate sources, with the complications that kind of duality brings.
Second, this is the first step in the diminution of the theoretical ificance of the virtues — a process that will not begin to be reversed until the middle of the 20th century. Virtue is no longer the normative epicenter of the theory, as it was for the Greeks. Hume is an excellent exemplar of this point, in both the Treatise and the Enquiries.
T III. I, We can think of that as the criterion some quality of character must have to be deemed a virtue.
In consequence, what counts as virtuous is an upshot of, and not the source of, the normative foundations of this view. We may always be aspiring for more but justice aims at the preservation and security of what one has already E III. So the virtue of justice, as Hume thinks of it, will in the main consist of a quality in one which disposes one to observe and uphold these rules.
What Hume wants to show is, first, that we can have such a disposition or quality that is, that it is possible for us to have a quality or character to observe the rules of justiceand, second, that such a quality would count as a virtue, given his criteria.
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His approach to these questions in the Treatise is framed by a problem he has set up himself. Morality, and virtue, is a matter of sentiments or passions. Hume marshals a of arguments to this effect which are not relevant to our purposes. I ; as such, it utterly lacks the capacity to move us to action. Only the passions can do that T II. Virtue is Justice and love are the highest virtues a practical matter: it is a property of what we do, and to act we must be motivated. That means any successful of virtue must find it in our passions, not in any aspect of our reason T III. So far so good.
However, when we come to justice, we look in vain for a passion that can supply motive power for us to act justly. If anything, our natural motives move us away from justice T III. And only a passion can do that. But which? Hume himself dismisses the possibilities of public or private beneficence or universal love.
In the end he concludes that there is no natural passion to explain it.
Instead, it is in a certain crucial sense artificial T III. Two facts about the conditions in which we act — one about us, one about our environment — set this alteration in motion. First, Hume maintains, we are limited in our generosity or benevolence.