Just / Justice Defined and Explained

The constant and perpetual disposition to render every man his due.2 min read


Ethically, morally & legally correct. This epithet is applied to that which agrees with a given law which is the test of right and wrong. It is that which accords with the perfect rights of others. By just is also understood full and perfect, as a just weight.


The constant and perpetual disposition to render every man his due. Toullier defines it to be the conformity of our actions and our will to the law. In the most extensive sense of the word, it differs little from virtue, for it includes within itself the whole circle of virtues. Yet the common distinction between them is that that which considered positively and in itself is called virtue, when considered relatively and with respect to others has the name of justice. But justice, being in itself a part of virtue, is confined to things simply good or evil and consists in a man's taking such a proportion of them as he ought.

Distributive Justice

Justice is either distributive or commutative. Distributive justice is that virtue whose object is to distribute rewards and punishments to each one according to his merits, observing a just proportion by comparing one person or fact with another so that neither equal persons have unequal things, nor unequal persons things equal.

Commutative Justice

Commutative justice is that virtue whose object it is to render to every one what belongs to him, as nearly as may be, or that which governs contracts. To render commutative justice, the judge must make an equality between the parties, that no one may be a gainer by another's loss.

Toullier exposes the want of utility and exactness in this division of distributive and commutative justice, adopted in the compendium or abridgments of the ancient doctors, and prefers the division of internal and external justice; the first being a conformity of our will, and the latter a conformity of our actions to the law: their union making perfect justice. Exterior justice is the object of jurisprudence; interior justice is the object of morality.

According to the Frederician code, justice consists simply in letting every one enjoy the rights which he has acquired in virtue of the laws. And as this definition includes all the other rules of right, there is properly but one single general rule of right, namely, Give every one his own.

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