What is Justice?

One of the most influential accounts of the origin and nature of justice comes from Plato’s Republic. According to Plato’s account, we can think of the principles of justice as mutually agreed to principles for the coordination and structure of social interaction that would benefit all who are subject to them. What those principles are will depend on the society. In addition, there’s a second theory of justice that Plato offers that’s more general. According to this second theory, justice is “each getting what is rightfully theirs and no one getting what is rightfully another’s.” In other words, questions of justice always ask, “Who has a right to what?”

Additional Readings and Videos

Here are recommended readings and additional videos that could be added to a syllabus or lesson plan on this topic.

Books and Articles

Anderson, Elizabeth, 1999, “What is the Point of Equality?”Ethics, 109: 287–337.

Barry, Brian, 1989, Theories of Justice, Hemel Hempstead: Harvester- Wheatsheaf.

Dworkin, Ronald, 1981, “What is Equality? Part 1: Equality of Welfare,” Philosophy and Public Affairs, 10: 185–246.

Dworkin, Ronald, 1981, “What is Equality? Part 2: Equality of Resources,” Philosophy and Public Affairs, 10: 283–345.

Feinberg, Joel, 1970, “Justice and Personal Desert,” in Doing and Deserving: essays in the theory of responsibility, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Fleischacker, Samuel, 2004, A Short History of Distributive Justice, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Gauthier, David, 1986, Morals by Agreement, Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Hampton, Jean, 1997, Political Philosophy, Boulder: Westview Press.

Schmidtz, David. 2006. Elements of Justice (New York: Cambridge). https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/elements-of-justice/74FB1043D35D22A65757D486E225FDF6

Mark LeBar, Justice.
https://global.oup.com/academic/product/justice-9780190631741?q=Lebar&lang=en&cc=us#

Martha Nussbaum: Frontiers of Justice.
https://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674024106

Alasdair MacIntyre, Whose Justice? Which Rationality?
https://undpress.nd.edu/9780268019440/whose-justice-which-rationality/

Michael Walzer, Spheres of Justice
https://www.amazon.com/Spheres-Justice-Defense-Pluralism-Equality/dp/0465081894

Brian Kogelmann, “Justice, Diversity, and the Well-Ordered Society” “Justice, Diversity, and the Well-Ordered Society.” The Philosophical Quarterly 67 (2017): 663-684”
https://www.briankogelmann.com/uploads/5/5/8/6/55864067/another_send.pdf

John Tomasi, Free Market Fairness

Hume, David, A Treatise of Human Nature, edited by L.A. Selby-Bigge, revised by P.H. Nidditch, Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Nozick, Robert, 1974, Anarchy, State and Utopia, Oxford: Blackwell.

Plato,380 B.C., The Republic, translated by G.M.A. Grube, revised by C.D.C. Reeve, Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company.

Rawls, John, 1958, “Justice as Fairness,” Philosophical Review, 67: 164– 94.

Rawls, John, 1971, A Theory of Justice, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.

Rawls, John, 2001, Justice as Fairness: a restatement, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Sandel, Michael, 1982, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sen, Amartya, 1980, “Equality of What?” in Tanner Lectures on Human Values, Volume 1, ed. S. McMurrin, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Plato, The Dialogues of Plato, vol. 3 (The Republic, Timaeus, Critias) Translator: Bejamin Jowett (1892) https://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/plato-dialogues-vol-3-republic-timaeus-critias

Susan Moller Okin, Justice, Gender, and the Family
https://www.basicbooks.com/titles/susan-moller-okin/justice-gender-and-the-family/9780465037032/

Michael Sandel, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice
https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/liberalism-and-the-limits-of-justice/6800BAC97E92FF5D64FF99DE858A900C

John Rawls, Justice as Fairness: A Restatement
https://www.amazon.com/Justice-Fairness-Restatement-John-Rawls/dp/0674005112

James Otteson, “Adam Smith on Justice, Social Justice, and Ultimate Justice”
https://www-cambridge-org.mutex.gmu.edu/core/journals/social-philosophy-and-policy/article/adam-smith-on-justice-social-justice-and-ultimate-justice/F64834D36D8A3DB7D11887CE91C011A6