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Political Theory Assignment

Done by:

Ananthu SS

Roll No: 31316206

MA International Relations
Dept. of Politics and Public Administration

University of Madras
The entire Greek political thought revolves around the important concept of justice. This is an abstract
concept and is difficult to define it in fixed terms, as it is viewed differently by different thinkers. But
for Aristotle, justice is of two types, universal justice and particular justice. The former refers to
obedience to laws that one should be virtuous. As far as particular justice is concerned, it is again of two
types, distributive justice and remedial or corrective justice. Distributive justice implies that the state
should divide or distribute goods and wealth among citizens according to the merit. Again remedial
justice is divided into two, dealing with voluntary transactions (civil law) and the dealing with
involuntary transaction (criminal law).

Further, Aristotle added commercial and cumulative justice to the above-mentioned types of justice. The
term "just," as used by Aristotle,' has two separate meanings .In its first meaning it is principally used to
describe a conduct in agreement with the law, therefore, which conforms to an established, authoritative
rule of human conduct; in short, it is used to describe a conduct which conforms to whatever constitutes
an authoritative instrument of social and moral control. In this sense Justice denotes a moral disposition
which renders men apt to do just things and which causes them to act justly and to wish what is just. It
refers primarily to the application or observance of certain authoritative rules of human conduct and
should, consequently, rather be called the virtue of righteousness or of moral Justice a virtue displayed
towards others a social virtue.

In its second meaning Justice signifies Equality, or, to be exact, a fair mean. It is this second meaning of
Justice in the narrower sense in which we are primarily interested, since it constitutes that concept by
means of which the law in action, and not merely the moral conduct of man, can be more specifically
evaluated. In order to make clear the distinction between Justice according to an authoritative rule" and
Equality, Aristotle states that a person whose conduct is unjust, who acts contrary to certain moral
principles and, therefore, lacks virtue, is not necessarily unjust as far as the principle of Equality is
concerned that is to say, he need not be one who has or claims more than his fair due.

Justice can mean either lawfulness or fairness, since injustice is lawlessness and unfairness. The laws
encourage people to behave virtuously, so the just person, who by definition is lawful, will necessarily
be virtuous. Virtue differs from justice because it deals with ones moral state, while justice deals with
ones relations with others. Universal justice is that state of a person who is generally lawful and fair.
Particular justice deals with the divisible goods of honour, money, and safety, where one persons
gain of such goods results in a corresponding loss by someone else


Aristotle in his book 5 of Nicomachean Ethics says that there are two forms of particular justice:
distributive and rectificatory or corrective.

Distributive justice deals with the distribution of wealth among the members of a community. It
employs geometric proportion: what each person receives is directly proportional to his or her merit, so
a good person will receive more than a bad person. This justice is a virtuous mean between the vices of
giving more than a person deserves and giving less. Aristotle was of the opinion that this form of justice
is the most powerful law to prevent any revolution, as this justice believes in proper and proportionate
allocation of offices, honours, goods and services as per their requirement being a citizen of the state.
.This justice is mostly concerned with political privileges. Aristotle advocated that every political
organization must have its own distributive justice. He, however, rejected democratic as well as
oligarchic criteria of justice and permitted the allocation of offices to the virtuous only owing to their
highest contributions to the society, because the virtuous people are few. Aristotle believed that most of
the offices should be allocated to those few only.

Corrective justice remedies unequal distributions of gain and loss between two people. Rectification
may be called for in cases of injustice involving voluntary transactions like trade or involuntary
transactions like theft or assault. Justice is restored in a court case, where the judge ensures that the
gains and losses of both parties are equalled out, thus restoring a mean. All laws related to commercial
transactions are dealt within the remedial and corrective actions. It aims to restore what an individual
had lost due to the injustice of the society. This justice prevents from encroachments of one right over
the other. Aristotle opined that corrective justice relates to voluntary and commercial activities such as
hire, sale and furnishing security. These actions involve aggression on life, property, honour and
freedom. In brief, this justice aims at virtue and moral excellence of character and it is for this reason, it
is called corrective justice.

Justice must be distributed proportionately. For instance, a shoemaker and a farmer cannot exchange one
shoe for one harvest, since shoes and harvests are not of equal value. Rather, the shoemaker would have
to give a number of shoes proportional in value to the crops the farmer provides. Money reflects the
demand placed on various goods and allows for just exchanges.

Some key points in Nicomachean Ethics are

The commonly accepted opinion with respect to justice is that it is a disposition to be just, to do
what is just, and to wish what is just. A disposition is often only understood by looking at its
opposite, and so the discussion of justice will include an examination of injustice as well.

The unjust man is considered to be both someone who breaks laws and also someone who is
grasping and unfair; the just man will therefore be a law-abiding and fair man. The unjust man is
grasping in the sense that he seeks goods which are not goods in themselves, and often sacrifices
higher goods for the sake of lesser goods.

All lawful things are in some sense just. Laws deal with matters that are commonly expedient
with respect to virtue or honour in this sense that which preserves happiness in a political
community is called just. The law orders us to perform the actions of a virtuous man through
certain commands and prohibitions.

Both justice in the specific sense and justice as the whole of virtue are defined in relation to other
people, but justice in the specific sense is concerned with honour, property, safety and similar
things, while justice in the larger sense is concerned with virtue as a whole.

That which is unjust (in the narrow sense) defies the proper proportion, since the person who
acts unjustly gets a greater proportion of the good, while the person who is treated unjustly gets a
smaller proportion.

Justice is a disposition to do what is just and to distribute good equitably, in accordance with an
equitable proportion.
A man may act unjustly without being unjust; for example a man who commits adultery because
of passion acts unjustly but is not unjust, but rather intemperate.


The city is a political partnership that comes into being for purposes of self-sufficiency but exists
primarily for the sake of living well. Man is by nature a political animal, because he has the ability to
communicate and to dialogue and about justice and the good. The city is prior to the individual.

Natural slaves are those who perceive reason but do not have it. It is mutually beneficial that such
people be ruled. There are also slaves according to the law, who may or may not be natural slaves.
Mastery is rule over slaves, but political rule is rule over free and equal persons.

Justice is equality for equals and inequality for unequal. Because the city exists for the sake of living
well, virtue must be a care for every city.


Book 3 is ultimately concerned with the nature of different constitutions, but in order to
understand cities and the constitutions on which they are founded, Aristotle begins with an
inquiry into the nature of citizenship. It is not enough to say a citizen is someone who lives in
the city or has access to the courts of law, since these rights are open to resident aliens and even
slaves. Rather, Aristotle suggests that a citizen is someone who shares in the administration of
justice and the holding of public office. Aristotle then broadens this definition, which is limited
to individuals in democracies, by stating that a citizen is anyone who is entitled to share in
deliberative or judicial office.

Aristotle's suggestion that a citizen is someone who shares in the deliberative or judicial offices
of a city may seem odd to the modern reader, as very few people in the twentieth century would
count as citizens by this definition. In the polis, on the other hand, involvement in the affairs of
the city defined one's identity to a large extent. Though there were certain leaders concerned
exclusively with the government of the city, all citizens were required to contribute in some
way. Assemblies of citizens made decisions in bodies whose modern equivalents are law courts
and city councils, and these assemblies would rotate membership so that every citizen served a
specific term. The only aspect of this system that remains in modern times is jury duty.

Points to ponder

The citizen is one who shares in holding office and making decisions. This type of citizen
in the unqualified sense really only exists in a democracy. In general, one can say that
whoever is entitled to participate in an office even if he actually does not do so is a

Commonly speaking, however, a citizen is usually defined as a person whose parents are
both citizens. There can be difficulty in this definition, however, as regards those who
came to be citizens after a revolution. There is a question of whether such people are
citizens justly or unjustly.
There are several kinds of citizens, corresponding to the different types of regimes. In a
democratic regime, labourers must be citizens, while in aristocratic regime citizenship is
granted only in accordance with virtue and merit. In an oligarchy, on those who are
wealthy are citizens. In one type of city the virtue of the excellent man and the excellent
citizen is the same, but in another it is not.

In reality, however, it always happens that the majority are poor and only a few are
wealthy. The cause of dispute between democracy and oligarchy is that while some are
poor and others rich, all are free.

"The political good is justice, and this is the common advantage." Justice is considered to
be a certain sort of equality, but what remains to be determined is what sort of equality
and equality in what things. Persons preeminent in some things may not be preeminent in
others, and some things are more of claim to honour and merit than others. The well-
born, the free and the wealthy deserve some sort of honour.

In the best city, the virtue of the excellent man is identical to the virtue of the excellent

Aristotle wants to avoid rule by a single man because it is apolitical and also thinks that
the rule of law should be preeminent because human beings are too easily swayed by
their passions, he cannot deny that if such an outstanding person or group of people
existed, it would be irrational not to allow them to rule.

Book 3 is, thematically speaking, probably the central book of the Politics. In this
book Aristotle lays out almost all of his major ideas about the purpose of politics, the virtue
of citizens, the varieties of regimes and the nature of justice.


Aristotle believes that it is impossible for a man to act unjustly to himself because no one
voluntary wishes for anything that is not good. Implied in this belief is the idea that the
human will is naturally directed toward the good, and that human beings do not voluntary
and knowingly choose something that is an absolute evil, but rather that they choose a lesser
good over a greater good. The Ethics and The Politics cannot be properly understood in
isolation from one another. Without knowledge of the virtues, and particularly of justice, it is
impossible to know what a good regime is, since the end of politics is to live virtuously. Yet
politics is important for ethics because it is only within the polis that a person learns how to
live virtuously and can attain full virtue and happiness.


1)Aristotle's Conception of Justice by Anton-Hermann Chroust

2) Politics (Summary and Reviews) book 3 by Aristotle
3) Nichomachean Ethics (Book 5) by Aristotle