previous next
6. But seeing that a man may commit injustice without actually being unjust, what is it that distinguishes those unjust acts the commission of which renders a man actually unjust under one of the various forms of injustice, for example, a thief or an adulterer or a brigand? Or shall we rather say that the distinction does not lie in the quality of the act? For a man may have intercourse with a woman knowing who she is, yet not from the motive of deliberate choice, but under the influence of passion; [2] in such a case, though he has committed injustice, he is not an unjust man: for instance, he is not a thief, though guilty of theft, not an adulterer, though he has committed adultery, and so forth. [3]

The relation of Reciprocity to Justice has been stated already. [4]

But we must not forget that the subject of our investigation is at once Justice in the absolute sense and Political Justice. Political Justice means justice as between free and (actually or proportionately) equal persons, living a common life for the purpose of satisfying their needs. Hence between people not free and equal political justice cannot exist, but only a sort of justice in a metaphorical sense. For justice can only exist between those whose mutual relations are regulated by law, and law exists among those between whom there is a possibility of injustice, for the administration of the law means the discrimination of what is just and what is unjust. Persons therefore between whom injustice can exist can act unjustly towards each other (although unjust action does not necessarily involve injustice): to act unjustly meaning to assign oneself too large a share of things generally good and too small a share of things generally evil. [5] This is why we do not permit a man to rule, but the law, because a man rules in his own interest, and becomes a tyrant; but the function of a ruler is to be the guardian of justice, and if of justice, then of equality. [6] A just ruler seems to make nothing out of his office; for he does not allot to himself a larger share of things generally good, unless it be proportionate to his merits; so that he labors for others, which accounts for the saying mentioned above,1 that ‘Justice is the good of others.’ [7] Consequently some recompense has to be given him, in the shape of honor and dignity. It is those whom such rewards do not satisfy who make themselves tyrants. [8]

Justice between master and slave and between father and child is not the same as absolute and political justice, but only analogous to them. For there is no such thing as injustice in the absolute sense towards what is one's own; and a chattel,2 or a child till it reaches a certain age and becomes independent, is, as it were, a part of oneself, and no one chooses to harm himself; [9] hence there can be no injustice towards them, and therefore nothing just or unjust in the political sense. For these, as we saw, are embodied in law, and exist between persons whose relations are naturally regulated by law, that is, persons who share equally in ruling and being ruled. Hence Justice exists in a fuller degree between husband and wife than between father and children, or master and slaves; in fact, justice between husband and wife is Domestic Justice in the real sense, though this too is different from Political Justice.

1 See 1.17 note.

2 i.e., a slave.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: