Aristotle’s take on Justice

Aristotle is an empiricist, materialist and an ethical relativist who attempted to understand the world as it is rather than changing it radically. Aristotle believed that along with man being a social animal who lives in a Polis, he is also the sole creature with a sense of good and bad, just and unjust, which makes him an ethical being. Human life is the life of justice and is what differentiates the human species from others. He says in his Nichomachean Ethics that if the ‘good’ has been aptly described as that at which everything aims, then a life of justice represents the ‘good’. Justice is therefore the essence of being human. He believes that in a political society, the politics is to enable the process of personal development such that the humans live a life full of justice to satisfy their own nature and become actual human beings properly so called; to live a ‘good life’. Achieving this life, Aristotle in his Nichomachean ethics calls ‘Eudaimonia’. It can be achieved through rules or laws serving as moral agents of wrong and right for individuals. These rules are principles of political justice of a Polis in which they live. Aristotle‘s concepts of ethics and politics are closely related and hence maintains that for human study, politics is the highest master science because it incorporates within its self the study of ethics.

In general terms he associates justice with righteousness and obedience to law.  He further associates acting unjustly with doing something contrary to the law. By law he means moral law and since he considers ethical and political to be identical, being unjust is against political justice.

In another sense he talks about justice as fairness which is further connected to equality. He clarifies the concept of equality and distinguishes between arithmetical and proportional equality. The proportional equality refers to equal treatment of those whose circumstances are similar in the relevant aspect, and unequal treatment of those who are unequal. This unequal treatment must be proportional to the inequality. According to Aristotle, if this condition is satisfied we can legitimately claim ‘just’ treatment even when treated unequally.

On the other hand arithmetical equality assumes the members involved to be equals with their circumstances relevantly similar, and here the treatment is strictly equal, equity reduces its self to simple reciprocity. Simply put, doing as one would be done by. This principle of justice according to Aristotle applies into spheres of human activity; rectificatory and distributive justice. The first applies while regulating ethical relations between citizens of a particular polis, where everyone is considered equal and treated with strict arithmetical equality. When this does not happen the function of law to correct the imbalance arises. This sphere of justice envelops the principles of justice that forbid actions such as murder, theft, adultery, etc.

Distributive justice is constituted upon three underlying criterias; there is some good to be distributed; the people among whom it is to be distributed; and the extent of entitlement of the good. This sphere of justice has to do with the relationship between the citizens and the particular polis. 

He emphasises on the necessity to transit from the study of ethics that are abstract or formal to the study of politics in the real world with differences that exist between polis in this respect.

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

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