Justice Intro

Injustice anywhere is a threat
to justice everywhere.
Martin Luther King Jr.
What is Justice
• Moral principle that determines what is just, equitable,
and morally right based on ethical, political,
environmental, and religious beliefs and values.
– Just: guided by truth, reason, and fairness
• Promoting welfare, virtue, and freedom
• Keeping intact the foundations of our democracy
including upholding the law
• Securing natural rights
• According to Merriam Webster
Justice is the use of law and being fair
Sandel’s Theories of Justice
Michael Sandel is a professor of history and philosophy at Harvard University.
He is one of the most prominent thinkers and writers on the idea of justice
Maximizing Welfare
• Improving standard of living for society as a whole
• Bringing the “greatest happiness for the greatest
number” of people = UTILITARIAN
• This means that a persons theory of justice is based on
promoting prosperity or spurring economic growth, to
seek the greatest happiness for the greatest number of
• Examples: Social Security, healthcare (Medicare and
Medicaid), public schools, criminal justice system with
Respecting Freedom
• This means that you have respect for individual rights
and universal human rights. E.g. the Bill of Rights
– Emphasis on respect for individual rights
• Laissez-faire camp (free-market libertarians)
– Policies that respect voluntary choices so minimal
government intervention in individual lives and choices.
• Fairness camp (egalitarian theorists)
– Policies that give everyone a fair chance at success so
government passes laws that ensure everyone has equal
Promoting Virtue
• This means that you look at justice by affirming certain
virtues and conceptions of the ‘good life’.
• These virtues must be defined by society by drawing
from moral or religious ideals.
“A just society affirms certain virtues”
– Policies and laws are made based on those virtues.
Other Philosophers
• Aristotle - justice means giving people
what they deserve.
• John Rawls – a fair society respects each
person’s freedom to decide what is virtue.
• Justice involves REAL issues that deal with the
equality and fair treatment of humanity and the
• Justice also involves the laws in a country or
nation, and the arrangement of how a
government will protect it’s values and maintain
order while preserving the rights of the people.
Essential Questions:
• How is justice defined?
• Can a free society ensure both justice and
• Should justice be our first priority?