Justice pp 11-45 | Cite as

Philosophy and Justice

Part of the Critical Issues in Social Justice book series (CISJ)


Justice is usually said to exist when a person receives that to which he or she is entitled, namely, exactly those benefits and burdens that are due the individual because of his or her particular characteristics and circumstances. If someone states that a certain person or act is good or moral or virtuous, he or she does not necessarily mean that that person or act is just. Mary may believe, for example, that Tom’s lending her his coat when she was cold was good or generous—but it was an act of beneficence, not of justice. Similarily, if someone states that a certain person or act is immoral or wrong, he or she does not necessarily mean that it is unjust. Tom may be deliberately rude to his employees, and he may show callous disregard for the suffering of a poor man whom he could easily help—but although he acts immorally in both instances, he may perhaps ease his conscience by reminding himself that at least he did not act unjustly. The point here is simply that justice is not the whole of morality, it is only one part of it. Thus justice is one characteristic among many of a good society. As William Frankena (1962, p. ix) states, “Societies can be loving, efficient, prosperous, or good, as well as just, but they may be just without being notably benevolent, efficient, prosperous, or good.”1


Distributive Justice Moral Theory Difference Principle Primary Good Formal Principle 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA

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