The virtue of justice revisited

In S. van Hooft, N. Athanassoulis, J. Kawall, J. Oakley & L. van Zyl (eds.), The handbook of virtue ethics. Durham: Acumen Publishing (2014)
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Some of the earliest Western ideas about the virtues of character gave justice a prominent position, but if moral philosophy has made any progress at all in the past two centuries, we might think it worthwhile to reconsider what that virtue involves. Kant seems (even to most non-Kantians) to have crystallized something important to our relations with others in formulating a proscription against treating others merely as means. And twentieth-century moral and political theory put the justice of social institutions in the spotlight in an unprecedented way. Here I explore the significance of these developments for what it is to be a just person (the nature of “individual justice”) as it was originally understood, within the eudaimonist virtue-ethical theories of the ancient Greeks. By any standard, ancient thinking about individual justice seems to have been incomplete in important ways; perhaps, in virtue of these advances in moral theory, we are in position to enrich our thinking about it.

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Mark LeBar
Florida State University


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