Justice is one of the four cardinal virtues in classical European philosophy and Roman Catholicism. It is the moderation or mean between selfishness and selflessness - between having more and having less than one's fair share.
Justice is closely related, in Christianity, to the practice of charity, because it regulates the relationships with others. It is a cardinal virtue, which is to say "pivotal" because it regulates all such relationships, and is sometimes deemed the most important of the cardinal virtues.
In Aristotle's wake, Thomas Aquinas developed a theory of proportional reciprocity, whereby the just man renders to each and all what is due to them in due proportion: what it is their moral and legal rights to do, possess, or exact.
This is equal insofar as each one receives what he is entitled to, but may be unequal insofar as different people may have different rights: two children have different rights from a certain adult if that adult is the parent of one of them and not of the other. Aristotle developed the idea of equity to cover irregular cases so that “the ordinance is framed to fit the circumstances”.
With the late modern rise in interest in virtue ethics, a new interest in articulating the virtue of justice has emerged. John Rawls saw justice as the typical virtue of the institution; Irene van Staveren saw it as that of the state, marked by such indicators as votes, legitimacy, public fairness and distributive rules.
Freudians consider that in the unconscious the image of the Father embodies a stern but fair justice; Jungians similarly see the archetype of the King as representing the right ordering of society.
Wallace Stevens rejected what he called “galled Justicia/Trained to poise the tables of the law” as part of the obsolete images of the past, and favoured instead the modernist seeking out of new ruling images – new “sovereigns of the soul”.
- Aristotle, Ethics (1976) p. 186
- Aristotle, p. 182-3
- D. Manuel Jr, Contemporary Social Philosophy (nd) p. 58
- Aristotle, p. 198-200
- C. S. Lewis, The Discarded Image (1976) p. 68-9
- Deidre McCloskey, The Bourgeois Virtues (2007) p. 286 and p. 431
- L. P. Nucci, Handbook of Moral and Character Education (2008) p. 60
- Eric Berne, A Layman's Guide to Psychiatry and Psychooanalysis (1976) p. 45
- R. Bly/M. Woodman, The Maiden King (1999) p. 155
- Dante, Paradise (1975) p. 215
- Sidney, A Defence of Poetry (1984) p. 31
- Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism (1971) p. 201
- Wallace Stevens, Collected Poems (1984) p. 124