Aristotle: Justice is Equal Geometric Proportionality

In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle writes about a very specific definition of justice that I think is worth mentioning.

Justice, therefore, is a certain kind of proportion, for proportion is not merely something peculiar to the numbers of arithmetic, but belongs to number in general, for proportionality is equality of ratios…” (84)

He sees justice as a type of geometric porportionality; basically, he abstracts the distance between two points and measures that against the distance between two other points and says justice means to adjust the two distances so that they are equal. Equal ratios that are independent of whatever is being measured.

When you think about sharing a treat with your kids, you try to give each kid the exact same amount as the other one got. That’s just. 🙂

“Therefore as the A term is to the B, so is the C to the D, and hence alternately, as A is to C, so is B to D, and so too is the whole to the whole, which is exactly what the distribution links up, and if they are put together in this way they are linked up justly. Therefore, the linking together of the A term with the C, and of the B with the D, is what is just in distribution, and what is just in this sense is a mean, while what is unjust is what is disproportionate, for what is proportional is a mean and what is just is proportional. (85)

You can see here, Aristotle is looking at the ‘linking’ as the justice part. The ‘links’ should be equidistant from each other in order to be just.

He goes on to say that justice is really a type of adjustment. And, a judge is really just an adjuster.

“And this is the mannner in which the just gets its name, because it adjusts things in halves, as if one were to call it “the adjusted” and the judge the adjuster.”(87)

Pretty cool!

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Nate Vineyard

Business Blogger. Reader. Loves creating business clarity through effective digital marketing practices.

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