Concepts / Justice

Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of systems of thought. … justice denies that the loss of freedom for some is made right by a greater good shared by others. It does not allow that the sacrifices imposed on a few are outweighed by the larger sum of advantages enjoyed by many. Therefore in a just society the liberties of equal citizenship are taken as settled; the rights secured by justice are not subject to political bargaining or to the calculus of social interests. (Rawls 1971)

Justice is the absence of injustice. This is a useful way to look at it if only because we feel injustice more viscerally. No comprehensive theory of justice is available to us. It is contextual. (Miller 2021).

(Interestingly, privacy is perhaps best negatively defined too, and it too is contextual.)

We must have some deep and shared insight into the nature of justice for the gap to be felt so. Justice, as the word indicates, pivots on that which is considered just, i.e. right, fair, deserved. And so:

… justice has to do with the distribution amongst persons of benefits and burdens, these being loosely defined so as to cover any desirable or undesirable thing or experience. (Campbell 2001)

Allegoria de la Giustizia, in the Galleria del Poccetti.

It is just to treat equals equally. Some might go further and say that just process leads to equal outcomes.

Greater emphasis may be placed on freedom from economic, social and political domination, although these may be accommodated by considering the distribution (decentralization) of such power.


  • Rawls, J. (1971). A Theory of Justice. Belknap Press.
  • Campbell, T. (2001). Justice. Macmillan Press.
  • Miller, D. (2021). Justice. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2021 Edition).
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