What is Justice? – with David Schmidtz

There are different contexts and relationships that rely on varying forms of justice. University of Arizona Kendrick Professor of Philosophy David Schmidtz articulates the principles of justice as part of our video series with Big Think on the core concepts of classical liberalism.

We want to live in a society where everyone feels comfortable standing or falling by their own merit.

–David Schmidtz, University of Arizona Kendrick Professor of Philosophy

As an example of this, Dr. Schmidtz uses the relationship between parents and their children. While a child may disagree with how their parents are managing their life and needs, children do not necessarily have a choice. When a child transitions into adulthood, however, they transition into a stage where the focus is not on needs, but equality, reciprocity, and what they deserve.

Equality, in particular, is central to the concept of justice.

Justice is the idea that we are going to be citizens involved in a project of building a community and there isn’t anything about what I want that privileges it over what you want.

–David Schmidtz, University of Arizona Kendrick Professor of Philosophy

Dr. Schmidtz highlights the movement of equal pay for equal work. This principle of equality plays an important role in the idea that women have good reason to expect equal pay based on their performance.

Baked into the idea of equality is equal citizenship. Paying it forward and owing someone a favor in return are a couple of day-to-day manifestations of justice.

“Why return favors to people who have gone out of their way to help us?” Dr. Schmidtz asks. “Well, there’s an answer to that, which is to say: look at the kind of lives that people can build together when those are the principles we live by.”

Ultimately, where there is justice, society is a better place for all citizens.

This video is one in a series about the core concepts of classical liberalism. Additional articles, videos, and content on this topic and others can be found on the Institute for Humane Studies blog.

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