Study Guide

The Nicomachean Ethics Justice and Judgment

By Aristotle

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Justice and Judgment

Aristotle understands justice in terms of balance. In both "distributive" and "corrective" justice, he says that we have to be concerned with preserving what is both lawful and equal. To be equal, those who deal in law and life seek the "middle term," the point at which loss and gain are neutralized.

In terms of people, justice (or to be just) describes the virtue that makes us take exactly our share of the good and bad out of the common pot. A just person doesn't grab for more than his fair share of what's good. When we do, we're unjust and deserve to undergo corrective judgment, in which a judge will inflict loss to set the balance of society straight again.

In Nicomachean Ethics, justice is a necessity for a thriving society…and it's not a matter of emotion. He expresses it as both an arithmetical equation and a geometric proportion, just to make sure we don't muddle it up with bias. When the law is insufficient to deal justly, we have recourse to another virtue—equity—which helps us to perfect law and bring us to a higher level of justice.

Questions About Justice and Judgment

  1. Why is it difficult for someone who is ignorant to be just or unjust?
  2. What are the two types of justice that Aristotle speaks of? How are they different from each other?
  3. What is the difference between "equity" and "equality"?
  4. Why is justice necessary for a community?

Chew on This

Justice is the most crucial attribute of any society.

An unjust person may do just things.

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