“Ethics Book 5” by Aristotle (349 BC)

“Ethics Book 5” by Aristotle (349 BC)

Ch. 1

  • Need to find the mean between Justice & Injustice
    • Definition – moral disposition that renders men able to do just thing & to want just things (Injustice is the opposite)
    • Not the same as with Science where there are always opposites & certain actions lead to opposites results
      • Health doesn’t lead to unhealthy actions
      • Healthy walking = walking as a healthy man
  • Justice & Unjust have different meanings but equivocal uses are generally connected
  • An unjust man breaks the law [illegal act] & takes more than his fair due [unfair]
    • Will be unjust in good things
  • Good is not always good for every particular person but he should pray for & pursue things good for him
  • Unjust men don’t always choose the larger share but is thought to choose more than his due because the lesser of two evils is seen to be good
    • He is unfair – taking too much good & too little is bad
  • We see the law breaker as unjust & law abider as just
    • “Lawful” is decided by legislature & its decisions are rules of justice
    • Pronouncement of law aims at common interest of all or of a ruling class determined by excellence
      • “Just” produces & preserves the happiness of the political community
    • Law prescribes a certain conduct
      • Brave man’s conduct isn’t to desert one’s past, not to run away, etc.
      • Temperate conduct – no adultery or outrage
      • Gentle conduct – not to strike or speak evil
  • Law commands some actions & forbids other actions
  • Justice is the perfect virtue displayed toward others
    • Chief virtue, practice of perfect virtue
      • Possessor can practice towards others not just alone [unlike other virtues]
  • When justice acts it does so to the advantage of others
    • Man who’s vicious towards other & himself is the worst king of man
  • Justice isn’t a virtue but the whole of virtue
  • Injustice isn’t a vice but the whole of vice

 

Ch. 2

  • 1 – When a man displays other vices, even though he displays vices, he’s not taking more than his share of anything
  • 2 – If 2 men commit adultery, 1 can out of desire & 1 can out of profit.
    • This makes one a profligate & the other unjust but not a profligate
  • 3 – Unjust acts are ascribed to a particular vice [adultery due profligacy, desertion to cowardice, assault to anger] but an unjust man profits not from any vice except Injustice
  • There’s another sort of injustice besides universal injustice
    • In a man’s relations to others & concerned with honor, money or security, the motive is pleasure of gain
  • Justice – has 2 meanings: lawful & fair v. unequal
  • Need to discuss Justice & Injustice in the particular sense
    • According to the law & conduct displaying virtues & vices
    • Rules for social life [education] –> political science
      • Good Men aren’t always good citizens
  • Particular Justice
    • 1 – Exercised in distribution of honor, wealth & divisible assets of the community – allotted equally or unequally
    • 2 – Corrective principle in private transactions
      • A – Voluntary – selling, buying, lending, pledging, depositing, renting
      • B – Involuntary – (furtive) theft, adultery, poisoning procuring, enticement of slaves, assassination, imprisonment, murder, robbery, maiming, verbal abuse, insolence

 

Ch. 3

  • Unjust men are unfair & unequal
    • The mean is being Equal
      • A – “Just” is the mean & equal
      • B – “Mean” implies the extremes are “more” & “less”
      • C – “Equal” implies 2 shares of the same size
      • D – This implies certain persons “just” is good for
  • Principle of “assignment of deserts”
    • Just distributions based on merit [not all the same]
      • Being born free in a Democracy
      • Having wealth in an Oligarchy
      • Having nobility in an Aristocracy
  • Principle of distributive justice where “just” is the mean of 2 extremes that are disproportionate, while proportionate is a just mean
    • Proportion is a geometric proportion
  • Unjust is either too much or too little
    • With Evil, lesser evil is a relative good because it’s more desirable than the greater evil

 

Ch. 4

  • Corrective Justice is voluntary & involuntary private transactions
    • Justice in distributing common property is proportional & geometric & injustice a violation of this
  • Justice in private actions is arithmetical
    • Doesn’t matter if a good man defrauds a bad man or if a bad man defrauds a good man
    • The law only looks at the damage done, treats both parties as equals
    • Asking who did what & what the damage was
      • The unjust is unequal & the judge tries to equalize them by placing a penalty to take away the gain by shifting balance between good & evil, loss & gain, which is the mean
  • When disputes occur, men have recourse to a judge who is a mediator & justice personified to reach a mean
    • Restores equality by taking from greater & giving to the lesser
    • “Loss” & “Gain” are terms borrowed from voluntary exchanges where gain is having more than one’s own & loss is having less than one’s own

 

Ch. 5

  • Some say reciprocity is justice
    • Doesn’t coincide with distributive or corrective justice
    • At variance with justice
    • It’s not just the hit back the office who hit you
      • Makes a difference if the other party consents or not
  • Reciprocity maintains association & is on the basis of proportion not equality
    • Men want to return evil for evil & if they can’t they feel like they’re in the position of slaves
    • repaying good with good maintains a bond of association
    • Shrines of the Graces built in Greece are there to remind people to repay kindness
  • Exchange in business is based on this
    • My goods for yours – in some proportion
      • Equality of proportions must be established & the reciprocation takes place
      • If not equal, exchange won’t continue
  • Interchange of goods & services rarely occurs between 2 men of the same trade – usually different trades
    • Commodities exchanged must be able to be compared
      • Men introduced money as a middle term to measure each side of the exchange in one standard holding everything together
      • Doesn’t exist in nature – only in custom & can be altered or made worthless at will
    • Once 2 sides are measured, money will redress the imbalance
  • When there’s no demand for mutual service by at least 1 party, no exchange occurs
    • Money guarantees present & future exchanges but can incur fluctuations of demand like other commodities
      • Should fix the price like with other commodities
  • Relative value of a product or service will be reflected in prices in terms of money
  • With these definitions of Justice & Injustice as having either equality of 2 sides or inequality of 2 sides
    • Justice is observing the mean – not to take too much or give too much but what is proportionately equal on both sides
    • Injustice is disproportionate excess & defect

 

Ch. 6

  • A man can commit injustice without being unjust in that some men must do acts that render themselves unjust
    • Man may get with a women knowing who she is not out of deliberate choice but out of passion
      • He has done an unjust act but isn’t an unjust man
      • He’s not a thief, murderer but he has committed adultery
  • Political justice – between free & equal people, living a common life in order to satisfy their needs
    • Unfree & unequal people can’t get political justice, only metaphorically
      • Mutual relations regulated by law when there’s a possibility of injustice [law discriminates what’s just & unjust]
    • People where injustice can exist can act unjustly towards one another assigning themselves too large a share of good & too small a share of bad
      • Can’t permit a man to rule because he rules in his own interest & becomes a tyrant
      • Ruler’s role is guardian of justice & equality
        • Doesn’t allot himself a larger share of the good & smaller of the bad unless it’s proportionate to merits [honor & dignity]
  • Justice between master & slave, father & child is not the same as political or absolute justice but analogous
    • No injustice against what’s one’s own
      • Not against the child until it reaches adulthood & independence
    • Inherent in the law [those who rule & are ruled]
      • More apparent between husband & wife than between father & son
      • Domestic Justice is slightly different to political justice

 

Ch. 7

  • Political Justice
    • 1 – Natural – has same validity everywhere & doesn’t depend on our acceptance of it
      • Laws are immutable
    • 2 – Conventional – may be settled in one way or another indifferently where rules can vary within convention
      • Standard measures which aren’t the same everywhere
  • There’s a difference between just conduct & what’s just, between what’s unjust & unjust conduct
  • Only when an act is done in a just manner is there a “just act” otherwise, there’s only “just”

 

Ch. 8

  • Voluntary performance of just or unjust acts constitutes just & unjust conduct
    • Whether or not an act is an act of justice or injustice depends on whether or not it’s voluntary
  • When it’s voluntary an agent carries responsibility
  • An act can be unjust without being an act of injustice depends because there was no voluntary aspect of the act
    • Voluntary acts within an agent’s control & performed knowingly excludes accidents & compulsion
    • Involuntary acts – done in ignorance or under compulsion
  • An act may be just or unjust incidentally
  • Voluntary acts divided into:
    • Done by choice after deliberation
    • Not by choice, without deliberation
  • 3 Ways you can injure others
    • 1 – Misadventure – injury happens contrary to reasonable expectation
    • 2 – Culpable error – no done contrary to reasonable expectation
      • 1 & 2 – culpability lies where the cause of one’s ignorance is in oneself
      • Misadventure – culpability lies outside of oneself
      • Culpable error – culpability lie with oneself
    • 3 – Act of injustice – injury done knowingly but not deliberately
      • Injuries done in anger or unavoidable passion
      • Man who does this commits an unjust act but not out of wickedness
      • When the act is done out of choice, deliberately, doer is unjust & wicked [malice aforethought]
  • Issue is not of fact but of justification
    • If a man acts unjustly on purpose, he’s an unjust man
    • If a man acts justly on purpose, he’s a just man
      • Acts done in ignorance & caused by ignorance are pardonable
      • Acts done in ignorance but cause not by ignorance but by unnatural or inhuman passion are pardonable

 

Ch. 9

  • If it’s possible to be willingly treated unjustly or is all injustice suffered unwillingly? Always? Never? Sometimes?
    • We say that just & unjust can be done voluntarily or involuntarily
    • But the agent, object or bystander of an unjust act may not have wanted to be involved
      • Could be involuntary or incidental
      • Impossible to be treated unjustly without an unjust agent
  • If acting unjustly is simply doing harm to someone voluntarily, a man of defective self-restraint voluntarily suffers injustice & it’s possible for a man to act unjustly towards himself
    • Lack of self-restraint makes a person voluntarily submit to harm by another making suffering injustice voluntary
  • Maybe we need to update the definition of Injustice to:
    • To do harm knowing the person affected, the instrument & manner against that person’s wish
    • If so, though a man can be harmed & have an unjust thing done to him voluntarily, no one can suffer injustice voluntarily because no one can wish to be harmed
      • Even an unrestrained man can’t because acts are contrary to his wish since no one wishes for a thing that he thinks to be good & the unrestrained man does what he thinks he ought not to do
        • Not possible to suffer injustice voluntarily
  • 2 questions remain:
    • 1 – Is the giver or receiver of an unduly large share guilty of injustice?
    • 2 – Can you act unjustly toward yourself?
      • 1 – If a giver of too large a share knowingly & voluntarily assigns a larger share to another than to himself [this is what modest people do]
        • Maybe in receiving a smaller share of 1 thing, he receives a larger share of another
        • This might refute the definition of injustice
        • In this case, distributor’s done nothing to him against his wish
          • Not injustice because of the smaller share
      • Giver & receiver may be acting unjustly but receiver isn’t the origin in all cases
  • If a judge gives an unfair judgment in ignorance, he’s not guilty of injustice – nor is the judgment unjust [especially with legal definition of justice]
    • If he knowingly gives an unjust judgment, he’s taking more than his share in favor or vengeance
      • This is injustice
  • Men think it’s in their power to act unjustly & that it’s easy to be just – NOT TRUE
    • Easy to commit adultery, hit innocent people, bribe – all voluntary acts
    • Easy to understand the law’s position on these actions
      • Must understand how actions must be performed, how to distribute, which is harder than knowing what medical treatment produces health
  • Just men must act no less unjustly than what’s just because a just man is able to do unjust things
    • To be a coward & to be guilty of injustice is not simply to do cowardly & unjust things, but to do them from a certain disposition of mind
  • Claims of justice exist between people who share in good things & who can have too large or small a share of them
    • Gods can’t have too large of a share
    • Some can’t get any benefit from good things – the incurably vicious because they see them as harmful

 

Ch. 10

  • Equity with respect to justice
    • Equity & justice aren’t absolutely identical or generally different
    • Sometimes we praise equity & equitable men
    • We even use it as a synonym for “good”
    • Other times it would be weird to praise it if it’s slightly different to “just”
  • Equity isn’t legal justice but a rectification of legal justice
    • Legal statements can be flawed & lacking
      • Laws lay down general rules & when an exception arises the law is defective in its application
  • Equitable is just but not superior to absolutely justice because it’s only the improvement of legal justice

 

Ch. 11

  • We’ve answered the question – is it possible or not for a man to commit injustice against himself
    • One class of just actions consists of those acts
      • Law doesn’t sanction suicide
  • Justice & injustice imply more than 1 person
    • Acts of injustice must be voluntary, out of choice & unprovoked
    • When you injure yourself, you do & suffer the same thing at the same time
  • Justice isn’t towards oneself but between different parts of one’s nature
    • Just as servant & master, father & child