Study Guide

The Nicomachean Ethics Book 5, Chapter 7 (1134b18-1135a16)

By Aristotle

Book 5, Chapter 7 (1134b18-1135a16)

  • Political justice has two parts: natural and conventional. Natural justice is a general concept that applies everywhere. This is a universal idea of justice, one that no one anywhere would debate.
  • Conventional justice is more particular and community-specific. It regulates everyday transactions (i.e. how much to pay for ransom, when to make a sacrifice).
  • Aristotle muses on the changeability of justice. Isn't all justice really merely conventional, changing with values and beliefs?
  • He waffles some more by saying that there's a universal sense of what is just—but that it may also be variable.
  • Aristotle compares conventional justice to the trading of wine and corn in different places. The measures of these commodities may differ in different kingdoms.
  • But Aristotle says there's one regime that upholds natural justice, and it's the best one (in which the common good is promoted? In which the virtuous receive merit?).
  • Justice in the general sense differs from a more particular sense in other ways. What is just by nature does not become particular (conventional) justice until a just act is done.
  • So natural justice is a kind of universal idea; conventional (particular) justice is the performance of just acts, as interpreted by law.
  • And injustice/unjust acts? The same ideas apply.