June 16, 2006 § 1 Comment
Tom suggests that “justice” has two completely distinct meanings, which I will refer to forthwith as “subjective justice” and “objective justice”. I am not at all sure that there truly is a dualism here, but what are the consequences if there is one?
If there is a true dualism here, then it is possible at least in principle for a woman to have a subjectively just abortion, for the Nazis to carry out a subjectively just holocaust, and for the Iraq war to be subjectively just; even though all of those occurrences are clearly unjust under an objective understanding.
UPDATE: Tom objected to me using my own labels to refer to the two distinct concepts. That is fair enough. His own words are “the virtue of justice” and “the object of justice”. I am perfectly content to use those words too, as long as we acknowledge that someone with a less than perfectly formed conscience and less than perfect information can act in accordance with the virtue of justice by following his conscience. (And if we don’t acknowledge that we aren’t really talking about human acts at all).
Another way to define things would have it that the virtue of justice doesn’t make mistakes, I suppose. So mistakes are unjust by definition. And no doubt there are other possibilities.
All that aside, Tom rephrases my basic question as “In what sense, if any, can it be said that a man acts in accordance with the virtue of justice when he mistakenly fails to give to another his due?” But that isn’t my question at all. A better rephrasing might be to ask: in what sense, if any, can it be said that a man gave another his due even though he didn’t, in fact (by mistake or otherwise), give another his due?