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DOI
10.4324/9780415249126-S032-1
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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-S032-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved September 15, 2019, from https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/thematic/justice/v-1

Article Summary

The idea of justice lies at the heart of moral and political philosophy. It is a necessary virtue of individuals in their interactions with others, and the principal virtue of social institutions, although not the only one. Just as an individual can display qualities such as integrity, charity and loyalty, so a society can also be more or less economically prosperous, artistically cultivated, and so on. Traditionally defined by the Latin tag ‘suum cuique tribuere’ – to allocate to each his own – justice has always been closely connected to the ideas of desert and equality. Rewards and punishments are justly distributed if they go to those who deserve them. But in the absence of different desert claims, justice demands equal treatment.

A common division of the topic distinguishes between corrective and distributive justice. Corrective justice covers that which is due to a person as punishment, distributive that which is due by way of benefits and burdens other than punishments. Within the sphere of corrective justice there is disagreement about the justification of punishment itself. But there has been – and is – widespread agreement on the criteria for just punishment: just punishments must be properly imposed and the quantum of punishment must reflect the seriousness of the offence.

There has been no such agreement about the content of just principles for the distribution of benefits and (non-punitive) burdens. Conventionalists claim that what is due to each person is given by the laws, customs and shared understandings of the community of which the person is a member. Teleologists believe that an account can be given of the good for human beings and that justice is the ordering principle through which a society (or humanity) pursues that good. Justice as mutual advantage proposes that the rules of justice can be derived from the rational agreement of each agent to cooperate with others to further their own self-interest. Theorists of what may be called justice as fairness believe that justice is a thin concept which provides a fair framework within which each person is enabled to pursue their own good.

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    Citing this article:
    Barry, Brian and Matt Matravers. Justice, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-S032-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis, https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/thematic/justice/v-1.
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