Is justice Moral or political?
We will first study political justice (I), then moral justice (II).
You will find definitions of justice, important for knowing what we are talking about, here.
A fact sheet on justice and quotes on justice are also available.
Justice understood as the state institutions responsible for adjudication is political.
John Locke (1632–1704) and Montesquieu theorized the separation of powers.
In de l’Esprit des lois, XI, 4, Montesquieu stats in particularisa about justice :
« There is still no liberty, if the power to judge is not separated from the legislative and executive power. If it were joined to the legislative power, the power over the life and liberty of citizens would be arbitrary; for the judge would be the legislator. If it were joined to the executive power, the judge could have the force of an oppressor. »
He clearly expresses the importance of justice as an independent power and limited by the legislative and executive counterpowers. It is then a question of a political justice.
Aristotle also affirmed the political character of justice: “Now the virtue of justice is political, because justice introduces order into the political community, and justice distinguishes the just from the unjust. (Politics, Book I, chapter 2.)
Justice is also a moral virtue.
Plato distinguishes four main virtues: wisdom, courage, temperance and justice. Justice is the most important and the most difficult of the four for Plato (The Republic, Book IV)
Aristotle establishes another classification of virtues, at the top of which he also places justice. He defines virtues as: ‘a disposition to act in a deliberate way consisting of a middle ground relative to us, which is rationally determined and as the prudent man would determine it’. (Book II, chapter 6, of theNicomachean Ethics.)
Saint Ambrose (around 340–397), a Catholic, establishes the four cardinal virtues: temperance, prudence, strength and justice, which have been taken up by the church to this day.
Saint Augustine deepens and defines these virtues” justice, love submitted to the only object loved, and consequently reigning on all the rest with righteousness”. Justice is understood as love, love that is the love of God. “Justice is loved serving God alone and therefore ruling with righteousness all that is subject to man.”
The virtue of justice is also defined as the ability to restore each thing to its proper place, to distinguish between good and evil, and therefore includes a sense of measure: giving neither too much nor too little, just what is needed.