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Justice - equality among unequal

The idea of Justice is the biggest speculation in the political dictionary – it is used constantly in order to show what people want to hear and what government would never fulfill. Society is possible if Justice is alive. In other words, ways are sought for its formal, fictitious revival, which converts it in dreamed illusion. The degree of civilization of a society is the smallest difference between real and formal justice. 

There are two types of people: the ones who know that they are living in an unjust world and the ones who don’t know even that. My concern is that the first group is divided into two subgroups: the ones who are sure that Injustice is absolute and the ones who know that Justice is simply impossible.

Justice for me is the level of complacency of the person that he/she lives (or should live) in a world full of love, equality and fraternity. It is in this sense that a man needs the two main possessions of our civilization – God and Law. If we have fear of God as a supreme instance, handing out justice, then we need the Law, which to impose justice by force. But, alas, this does not exhaust the problem of application of justice. There is nothing more useless in this life than universal rules. They help to put in the same mold everything and everyone, but when it comes to the individual and his often unrealized, but desired and sought freedom, then the universal and the absolute do more harm, rather than being helpful.

As Oscar Wilde says, ―Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing‖ [1]. Unfortunately, when we talk about justice, too often we consider it a convertible currency that we can use to buy public recognition or at least sleeping conscience. The people in power feel instinctively that the populism on "Justice" is the easiest way to win the voters’ choice so especially before elections they fill our heads with the ideas of who is the ―biggestest‖ advocate for a just and humane society. Whether this bought and sold Justice will cost 20-30 dollars or a lucrative position, the real value of this effort is the Hope given to us that finally we the people will receive by the merits. And so – generation after generation – we live with the illusion that the Justice will reign, that man will not be a wolf to man, that we will love each other as brothers and we will live satisfied and happy in a society of mutual respect, understanding and honest desire to help each other in need; in other words, in a society where the Value of Justice, not its Price, will be recognized by all.

In order to avoid being ungrounded in my reasoning, I will focus on the understanding of justice of the great philosophers – Socrates and Aristotle.

For Socrates justice is related to the compliance with laws, but also to citizens’ conscience. The emphasis is on the fact that one should not enter into strife with his own moral values when they are in conflict with the law. In other words, it is better to suffer injustice, than to commit one, because the suffering of an injustice, as opposite to committing one, has nothing to do with vice.

Aristotle on the other hand emphasizes on the person acting consciously, guided in everything by the proportionality and the consideration of uniformity. According to him, people are unequal in nature. This means that each person has different capabilities; different talents and therefore we cannot evaluate people the same way. Everyone has also a different contribution to the development of society. That is why we cannot speak of quantitative equality between people. Because it would not be fair. One should be judged according to his/her merits and skills. For Aristotle, there are two types of justice:

The distributive justice is associated with determining the type of proportion or criteria for evaluating people and the way to distribute proportional equal parts of good and harm. On the distributive justice rests the existence of the state.

The rectificatory justice is associated with re-establishment of equality before the law. It means receiving a punishment when a particular person violates the law. The rectificatory justice of the state replaces revenge, having in mind that revenge could hardly contain justice due to the content of emotions, whilst the judge is impartial. Therefore the punishment that he imposes will be associated with restoration of justice [2].

After Aristotle it looks like the priests of the goddess "Justice" should simply apply her decrees in society and people will be pleased and happy.

But what happens at the end of the day? The whole course of human history is a series of failures on the "Justice" topic! Equality before the law - yes, but not for the ―more equal‖. Judgment for the guilty? Naturally! Anyone is guilty if he doesn’t have the equivalent of 30 pieces of silver to redeem himself. And moral, conscience… Oh, conscience is so fashionable today, that anyone who has decided to work ―for the benefit of the genus‖, i.e. in favor of his whole extended family, has armed himself up with several consciences – as soon as one gets dirty, the next replaces it immediately.

So justice is a beautiful but vicious circle of our recognized desire to manifestation of ourselves, in the impetuous ―waving of hands‖, in this grand celebration of our personality, until we reach the "neighbor’s nose" and break it down. Then we feel that Justice is not giving or limiting freedom. It is something much more important and much more difficult to actually implement, because actually it is self-limitation and respect other rights and freedoms first, and only then respect the own ones. The failure of previous social systems lies in the really vicious defense of one’s freedom, in the search of the price and not the value of Justice. So it doesn’t matter whether we want justice in communist, capitalist or any other society. Our consumer thinking has created a consumer Justice. The more the illusory, but craved happiness lies in the Wanting, the easier the true Justice will slip out.

Justice cannot be bought, sold or given away. It must come from where she originated – from the law of conscience and the clear moral values. Social harmony will appear when we ourselves embrace harmony. Justice is therefore something "fragile" and fine. It tries to protect its sacred values: personality, liberty, property. That is why the "equality of unequal" [3] is the most blatant injustice that blows any, even the healthiest society. Societies built on the principles of misunderstood justice,

i.e. on grounds of "yours is your" and "mine is mine", are doomed to destruction, because the boundary between "yours" and "mine" is totally subjective. As absurd as it sounds, people actually tolerate "Justice by necessity." It is a social peace with plenty of demagoguery in the proclaimed rights of all and their actual absence when "mine" is threatened by "yours".

Let us answer to ourselves: do we encourage individuality and differences? Do we have the ability to forget the artificial "equality" that penalizes talented and by grabbing from them benefits those who otherwise cannot take care of themselves? Do we realize that justice does not equalize, but highlights the differences and so it gives each person his ―due‖, what’s ―his/hers‖, not… ―equally to everybody‖, ―the same‖, ―in equal parts‖.

So it inevitably follows that any attempt to proclaim a general and abstract "justice" applicable to all individuals, and even more ―in any case‖, actually is a denial of justice and protection of arbitrariness and non freedom: what is equal for the unequals, is absurd and unjust.

So I logically reach two funny but also sad conclusions that I will express in aphoristic style:

  • Inequality is eternal (absolute) Justice - transient (relative)!
  • To the question ―is there Justice‖ we have to give an affirmative answer: yes, there is no Justice!

Everything is interconnected in this world. So, I suppose, the following interpretation of the Relativity theory will not sound absurd. The known formula can also sound like this:

The real relativity of Justice is equal to the real mass of the won freedoms and rights of citizens in society, multiplied by the real empty populist rhetoric, squared.

As you can see, Einstein's theory is valid in this case and therefore we can conclude that Justice and Relativity go hand in hand and their absolute dependence on one another is visible to everyone.

With this unusual little formula I want to show the true relativity of this important factor in the development and functioning of the society - Justice. Whether we like it or not, the idea of justice is an indisputable speculation in political, social, informal, human vocabulary. It is trite, but sought concept for justifying our actions. At the same time, whether we realize it or not, we yearn for this dreamed Justice, because we need to live in the illusion of the "best of all possible worlds." At the end of the day the society itself is possible, if Justice is alive. In other words, when it lacks, we are looking for ways for its formal, fictitious revival. It is this fictitious revival that is the most absurd, but also the most sought way to deal with social conflicts and tensions. Relativity is neither the most desirable nor the most advantageous characteristic of Justice, but definitely the most correct.

At this point of my presentation I will ignore the philosophical insight about Justice – not because Plato’s ideas, Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s utopia, Kant’s dry rational conclusion and John Rose’s practical contemporary interpretation do not deserve to be given their due attention. On the contrary! However, justice is too much treated as a philosophical phenomenon, its moral nature is too much sought and therefore it turns out to be impossible to take it out of the frame of Relativity.

Is it possible a safe and reliable criterion be found for assessing what is fair and what - not? And without the need of long and boring evidence? By the logic that there isn’t anything incredible enough that hasn’t been already described in numerous volumes; I also tried to find something… absurd for me as a philosopher, namely, the psychological aspect of Justice. It turned out that I easily found a strange, but maybe revolutionary discovery. It is made by American neurophysiologists who have held very curious study. They found out that when taking decisions on moral dilemmas requiring a choice between "more fair" and "more efficient", three not very large sections of the human brain are excited, related not to the reflective-logical activity, but to the emotions. This confirms the assumption of some of the empirical philosophers such as David Hume and Adam Smith that the notion of justice is rooted in the emotional sphere and is based on empathy and sympathy. I will not go into explanations of the study itself, nor will I accept it unconditionally. I am more excited over these issues that I propose for discussion:

  • If we know where the "Control Center" of our fair assessment of things is located, is it better in the future to stimulate it in order to take the ―right‖ decisions or on the contrary – to blunt it in order to ―eradicate‖ the very sense of justice?
  • The road to justice can be emotional, can be reflective, can be intuitive - it doesn’t really matter. Why do we need to be fair to others and why we seek justice for us - that is the question that makes

At the end of the day everyone cares whether the society can guarantee justice for him/her, he/she is irritated to see the reigning all around injustice and asks himself/herself: why should I be fair to others, when they are not fair to me? Let’s admit it – doesn’t that attitude repel us from others and make us bitter and closed in ourselves? How long will we accept with crooked, but silent and obedient smile when the people in power turn Justice into a bargaining chip for their electoral success?

There is very little ethics in our relations in society and a lot of indifference, neglect and disinterest. Let us find ourselves in the society and the society in ourselves. Human life is too short to squander it in alienation, indifference and hatred. It is fair to have the chance of being ourselves in this life. Let us not waste it!



  1. 1 Wilde O. The Picture of Dorian Gray. - University of Virginia, 2011. - P.53.
  2. 2 Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics. - University of Adelaide, 2014. - P.45.
  3. 3 Hegel G. Elements of Philosophy of Right. - Cambridge University Press, 1991. - P.347.

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