How Have Ideas of Social Justice Changed From Ancient to Modern Philosophers in the Attempt to Envision the Ideal or Just Society?
Most who use it argue that social justice is the moral fairness of the system of rules and norms that govern society. Do these rules work so that all persons get what is due to them as human beings and as members of the community? Shifting from the will of individuals in rendering justice to the outcome of the system of rules in achieving justice can be a dangerous leap. To some, it suggests that virtually every inequality arises because the rules of the game are unfair and that the state must intervene whenever there are unequal outcomes.
For example, humans have the ability to control their bodily desires through reason. In addition, only humans are capable of logical calculation and intellectual activities, which Aristotle defines as intellectual virtue
Already from its origins, Greek political philosophy put the question of the forms of regimes or “constitutions” (politeia, singular) at the center of its concerns. The classification of types of constitutions already found in Herodotus, fleshed out by Plato, and further adapted by Aristotle— in Aristotle’s version, there were three “good” good regimes:monarchy, aristocracy, and a moderate form of democracy; and their three “perversions”: tyranny, oligarchy, and a bad form of democracy—would continue to inform the discussion of politics into the context of the “mixed regime” of the Roman republic, held to combine elements of all three of the good regimes (Frank, J., 2005). These discussions were indexed to the particular historical setting under consideration while also offering general principles that remain relevant in many ways, even as the questions and contexts for political philosophy have changed.
Or, when you think of a system of justice, you might picture a courtroom where a jury determines what punishment is appropriate for a criminal proven to be guilty. This may be your version of justice being served. Today when we hear the term social justice, we may think of equal opportunities in society. For instance, you may view efforts to fight racism and sexism as movement toward greater social justice in our communities.
Duvall, T., and P. Dotson, 1998, “Political Participation and Eudaimonia in Aristotle’s Politics” History of Political Thought, 29: 21–34.
Dyck, A.R., 1996, A Commentary on Cicero, De Officiis, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
El Murr, D., 2014, Savoir et gouverner: essai sur la science politique platonicienne, Paris: J. Vrin.
Frank, J., 2005, A Democracy of Distinction: Aristotle and the work of politics, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.