TABLE OF CONTENTS
TITLE PAGE……………………………………….. i
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT ……………………………. iv
TABLE OF CONTENTS…………………………… vi
GENERAL INTRODUCTION………………………... viii
1.0 THE NOTION OF STATE AND
Notion of State……………………………. 1
of State in Aristotle………………………… 8
and Definition of Justice……………… 16
of Justice……………………………... 20
1.4.1 Social Justice……………………………………… 20
1.4.2 Commutative Justice…………………… 22
Notion of Justice………………………… 23
2.0 APPLICATION OF JUSTICE IN
THE STATE.. 27
of Slavery………………………….. 27
vis-à-vis Types of Constitution…… 31
2.2.1 Monarchy………………………………………… 33
22.214.171.124 Kingship……………………………………….. 33
126.96.36.199 Tyranny………………………………………… 34
2.2.2 Aristocracy……………………………………….. 36
2.2.3 Oligarchy…………………………………………. 37
2.2.4 Democracy……………………………………….. 38
Best Justifiable and Practicable
AND REVOLUTION IN THE STATE.. 43
as Justice………………………………… 43
as the Cause of Revolution in the state. 45
3.3 The role of
Education in the Application and sustenance
of Justice in the state……… 48
4.0 EVALUATION AND CONCLUSION…………. 53
4.1 Critical Evaluation………………………………. 53
4.2 Conclusion……………………………………… 58
of the origin and harmonious organization of the state has been an age long
problem for philosophers. They have varied opinions as regards the solution to
this problem. The conventionalists and contractualists hold that the state originated
out of convention or contract between individuals or groups.
However, Aristotle a master in ancient
philosophical thought, whose influence has always rocked the philosophical
defense of his contemporaries and successors, has it that the state is natural
to man. Also, his refutation of the conventionalist’s notion of the state led
him to redefine the state as an association of communities made up of citizens
with the aim of achieving the highest common good. Having defined the state thus, he sets
himself the task of investigating the activities of the state in order to find
out its end and goal; to find out who and who are qualified to be citizens of
the state; and if all the members of the state are qualified to enjoy the basic
individual rights in the state.
It is in
this context that he brought in the issue of justice as the central point on
which the activities of the state revolves.
Hence, I found it appropriate to treat as my project topic “Justice and
its primacy in the political philosophy of Aristotle.” As the political philosophy of Aristotle is
concerned mainly with the governmental order of the state, we shall be using
the word ‘state’ more frequent in this work.
this work shall be divided into four chapters.
Chapter one will deal with the meaning and notion of state and justice
respectively, with special reference to Aristotle. Chapter two will deal with the application of
justice in the state. Since man is
naturally born in the state, there is the necessity for harmonious relationship
between members of the state. This
harmonious co-existence can only be achieved through the application of justice
in the state.
different political organization, there are different constitutions
applied. Nevertheless, the application
of justice lies in the governing principles of the constitution of that
particular state. Justice therefore
always implies “Justice for whom.” Here
Aristotle seems to make justice relative.
However, he holds that though justice is often determined by a
particular circumstance, there is on the whole a particular justice which other
relative justice of different constitutions must square up to. This is the absolute justice; that which
justifies any constitution. But since it
aims towards the common good, it is guided by law and morality. Chapter three
will concern itself with justice vis-à-vis revolution in the state. Here we shall look into the consequence of
the absence of justice in the state. And
if justice is necessary for the stability of any political organization, how do
we restore it? Moreover, since the
problem of political stability depends on good rulership, it follows that
present and future leaders must be educated and trained on the acquisition and
practice of justice. Hence the relevance
of education and political awareness towards upholding justice and stability of
government in the state. Finally, we shall end the work with chapter four which
will deal with evaluation and conclusion of all that has been said.
1.0 THE NOTION OF STATE AND JUSTICE
1.1 GENERAL NOTION OF STATE
saying goes that, no man is an Island, it
follows that no man, no matter his status in life, owes the origin of his
existence and development solely to himself alone. Man needs his fellow man to exist and grow in
a way that is fitting for him as a rational creature. This avenue needed for inter-personal
relationship is the political organization. General to the early study of
political organization by Plato and Aristotle is the concept of ‘Polis’ or the
‘state’. Their study of ‘state’ is restricted within the confines of Greek
city. It is in the modern time that the
notion of state became universalized.
the state, etymologically, comes from the Latin words ‘civitas’ which means
city and ‘stare’ which means to stand.
According to the new encyclopedia Britannica a state is: “a government
clothed with monopoly of force for the preservation of peace and the other and
having a plenitude of authority within…independent of external control”.
is entrusted with the task of providing for its citizens, the basic rights and
duties. In consideration of the extent
of power, which the state posses, the lexicon Webster’s dictionary defines it
as, “the supreme civil
authority recognized by a politically organized people of a given geographical
area.” In other words, the authority of
the state should be supreme since it is in itself the end of man’s quest for
good as far as this physical world is concerned.
the above classical definitions are given from the context of the contemporary
notion of state. But prior to these
definitions, there have been various opinions among philosophers as regarding
the state. The definitions of the state
were considered mainly from the point of view of its origin. Thus two camps: the contractualists and the
naturalist emerged to tackle this problem.
The former holds that the state originates out of contract or convention
while for the later; the state has its origin from nature.
early Greeks and their philosophers, it is a truism and a self evident fact
that the state is natural to man. Plato
made this distinctively clear in his work, The Republic, when he says:
The origin of a city… is, in my opinion, due to the
fact that no one of us is sufficient for himself but each is in need of many
things… then man, being in want of many things gather into one settlement many
partners and helpers; to satisfy their diverse needs, and to this common
settlement, we give the name city…
for Plato is a state of type; it is the ideal one, whereby the good is the
goal, which everybody in the state aspires to.
But to grasp it means having knowledge of it (the good).This good
transcends all customs and conventions, it is natural and permanent. According to Sabine, “it must belong to nature and not
to the shifting winds of customs and conventions”.
Plato is not interested with the practicability of the ideal state, rather he
sets it as a mode which every state should strive to conform to. Sabine affaims this when he says:
…the Republic aims not to describe states but to find
what is essential or typical in them the general sociological principles upon
which any society of human beings depends, in so far as it aims at good life.
Plato’s notion of the state is not a mere narration or description of events in
the state, but speculative and prescriptive.
philosophers mainly, Aristotle and Plato considered the state only from the
point of view of Greek ‘Polis’ in particular.
In other words, the state for them refers only to the Greek city. But the Stoics, the Epicurians and the
skeptics changed the whole idea of the state as a particular city of Athens to the universal and international state, where every
man is a citizen of the world. For them
the basic law that should guide man in the state is not that which is
particular to a city, but the natural law.
because the state is natural to man. It arose out of man’s nature as a social
being. And as such, man needs peace and
order. But this cannot be achieved
without an administration, invested with power, which should control the
affairs of the state.
However, since man is not
self-sufficient, therefore, he needs to interact with others in order to
develop fully. With the advent of the modern epoch of political philosophy, the
notion of state, and its origin changed for them, the state is not natural. It
arose out of contract. This seems to stem from the sophists’ principle that,
“man is the measure of all things; of those that are that they are, of those
that are not that they are not.” State is
a man made entity, which arose out of cultural evolution of individual man.
However, the philosophers of this modern era tend to support absolute sovereignty.
Hobbes one of the chief proponents and supporters of conventionalism believes
that man in his natural state was apolitical.
He tried to justify this position by positing that man originally
existed in a state of “Homo-homini Lupus,” a situation in which man is a wolf
to man. This state is an unhappy state, full of anarchy, confusion and
pandemonium. There were no morality, no
justice and no law. Each man was egocentrically
concerned with achieving his own goal and not considering the goal of
others. Infact, “there is always war of
every one against everyone”. However,
this ‘war’ is not always a physical combat.
order to achieve peace, men should renounce their natural rights and enter into
a social contract submitting this right to the common wealth-the leviathan.
This leviathan, then takes charge of the natural rights of the people. It becomes the absolute sovereign. This sovereign can be one man or an assembly
of persons. It in turn owes the citizens
security and peace.
contemporary thinkers, Karl Marx came up with his Dialectical materialism. For him what his predecessors (like Hegel and
Plato) called ideal world must be achieved not by mere intellectual speculation
but by exertion of physical efforts on nature.
The state is primarily a socio-economic formation, which arises through
stages of some historical economic development.
The relations of production in their totality
constitute what are called social relation, society and specifically, a society
at a definite state of historical development… ancient society,…feudal society,
courgois socilist society are such totalities…
The state and its elements exist in ancient society,
feudal society, capitalist society where class struggle reaches its peak.
According to Nwoko I.M:
The state is the tool of the dominant, ruling, or
oppressing class of the society. Its legal and political order forms a
superstructure, designed by the class (the bourgeois) to control the mode of
It is therefore
to extinguish this antagonism arising between the capitalists who own the
forces of production and the proletariat who are merely workers, that brings
about the emergence of socialism which then settles down to communism. For once this communism is established, the
state and its elements automatically cease to exist. There then exists only a classless society,
where the factors of production are owned in common.
NOTION OF STATE IN ARISTOTLE
began his theory of the state by first investigating and criticizing the views
of his predecessors especially that of Plato his teacher. Like other Greek philosophers, his aim was to
found an ideal state which the Greek Polis conforms to. However, unlike his master Plato, the ideal
state must never be on the utopic world but ought to be practically realizable
through the second possible alternative. ‘‘An association… formed with the view
to some good purpose.”
association is not merely any kind of association even though every association
or individual aims at something, which it thinks good;
…that association which is the most sovereign among
them all and embraces all others will aim…at the sovereign of all goods.
having therefore its end as the supreme good is not in any way an accidental
feature. It is not an association formed out of chance contract or any form of
conventionality. Goodness in itself,
which is perfection, is a natural phenomenon and any organization which aims
towards its realization in the highest degree must also be natural. Therefore the state is natural to man, and
man dwells in it naturally. In the words
It follows that the state
belongs to the class of objects, which exist by nature, and that man is by
nature a political animal. Any one who
by nature and not simply by ill-luck has no state is either too bad or too
good, either sub-human or superhuman…
It is not
only that man has to live in the state naturally but he necessarily has to do
so. This is because as an individual he is naturally dependent on others. Stumpf rightly agrees with this point when he
says that, “a particular
individual … is conscious of himself in so far as he is a part of this larger
self.”13 However, even if the
individuals by any means have no need of another’s help, they still have to
come together so that, they have a full realization of their individualities,
for they have a common end-attainment of happiness.
Hence men have a desire for life
together, even when they have no need to seek each others help. “Nevertheless,
common interest too is a factor in bringing them together, in so far as it
contributes to the good life of each person’’
considering certain things and their order, we see that it is highly necessary
that, for there to be the existence of finite living beings, the question of
individuality must be relegated to the background. So, as there is the natural propensity for
two living beings to come together so that their species may constantly be
reproduced, so also, there is that same natural tendency for two or more people
to unite for the purpose of achieving the goal of man.
The first point is that
those which are incapable of existing without each other must be united as a
pair. For example (a) the union of male and female is essential for
reproduction and this is not a matter of choice, but is due to the natural
urge… Equally essential is (b) the combination of the natural ruler and ruled,
for the purpose of preservation.
Man as we
have seen so far, naturally and essentially needs the other and has to live
together in order to exist and continue in existence. Nevertheless, this social characteristic of
man, must never be taken so lightly as to be placed on the same level with
other social or gregarious animals like bees, termites etc. One may at this juncture ask: where lies the
difference then, since both (man) and other gregarious animal’s aim towards the
well being of their respective members? However,
no matter how similar this similarity may be in their mode of living, the
difference as we shall see is very clear.
uniquely different from other finite creatures in that he possesses rationality
which guides his behaviours whereas other animals are propelled by mere
instincts. Moreover in order to
distinguish man from other social animals, nature has endowed him with the
power of speech. Only man has language
and can speak. However, this is not
without a reason for nature as we say does nothing without some purposes.
But could the reason be solely to distinguish man from
other animals? To this, Aristotle says ‘No’ as much as it serves for that
distinction; it also serves man in the organization of the state. According to
…has endowed man alone among
animals with the power of speech. Speech
is something different from voice which is possessed by other animals and used
by them to express pain or pleasure… speech on the other hand serves to
indicate what is useful and what is harmful, and so also what is just and what
of language for man is to enable him express that cognition of his rationality.
This includes: what is just and unjust; what is moral and immoral, in short
those actions or thoughts that transcend the natural feelings which man shares
with other animals. For instance, only man can say that something is good or
bad, beautiful or handsome etc.
this capacity, he is able to propound ethical theories as a deal which guided
his life. However, the meaningness of
these principles lies in his interaction with his fellow men; otherwise, it
would be useless because he cannot formulate these principles to guide himself
alone. It always has to do with the other or others. Since these ethical principles are natural
and divinely ordained it follows that the purpose for which they were meant to
serve is also natural. This purpose is
the harmonious co-existence of individuals with the view to a common good. And can only be found in the state which is
an offshoot of a family and village.
state is a body, which comprises individuals of different categories, different
talents and functions, it follows that it ought to be independent and
self-sufficient. Sabine rightly put this when he says:
The state is self sufficing
in the sense that it alone provides all conditions within which the highest
type of moral development can take place.
for the individual to exist and actualize his individuality in the way that is
proper to man as a rational being there must necessarily exist the state.
It is clear that the state
is both natural and prior to the individual.
For if an individual is not fully self-sufficient after separation, he
will stand in the same relationship to the whole as the parts in the other case
In other words, the individual is to the state what for
instance, the ‘leg’ is to the body. So, if either is cut off from the whole
which it belongs, it becomes useless in itself because it can not perform that
function for which it was naturally made.
Hence, whoever is not able to fit into the state because
of his inferior nature is a sub-human-a beast on the other hand, whoever is
self-sufficient as not to have any need of the state is a super human being-a
god. So in either case, they are not
members of the state. It is only him who
is quite dependent on the state for his well being that can be said to be a
member of the state.
for Aristotle should take care of the well being of all categories of
individuals existing in it. Also the
rule existing in the state must not be like: the master’s rule over slave or
the rule of the house holder over his family.
This is because in the former, the rule is solely in the interest of the
ruler while in the later, the rule though is in the interest of the ruled, and
the ruled has no say. But man as a
rational being, should not be passive in affairs concerning him. In either case the ruler is of absolute
authority. The rulers are merely
despotic or dictators. It is for the
above reasons precisely that Aristotle rejected Plato’s notion of the ideal
state which explicitly leads towards communism contrary to Aristotle’s view,
Plato maintains that the state ought to be a kind of an enlarged family;
whereby everything will be owned in common, including children and wives. Sabine noted rightly when he says:
The failure to distinguish
house hold from political authority, Aristotle regarded as one of Plato’s
errors, since it led him in the statement to assert that the state is like a
family only larger.
So the rule in the state for Aristotle should be nothing
short from constitutional rule which basis its guiding principles on equality
and law. Furthermore:
The relation of the
constitutional ruler to his subject is different in kind from any other sort of
subjection because it is consistent with both parties remaining degree free
men, and for this reason it requires a degree of moral equality or likeness of
kind between them
despite the undoubted difference which must exist.
The rule in the state should be constitutional. It should include the rule of a ruler over
free and willing subjects who can also rule in turn. The ruler must be virtuous in himself. So the practice of virtuous life in the state
by all should be encouraged. Since, it
aims at the common good.
discharge of the common good in the general affair of the state hinges on good
law. Without law, there is no order, no justice. A good law ruling is better than a good man
ruling because; man is often overwhelmed by passion and personal idiosyncrasies. Where as law is universal and objective in
its operation. Therefore, a good law
must be the ultimate sovereign in Aristotle’s ideal state.
1.3 NOTION AND DEFINITION OF JUSTICE
The issue of justice is an age long and infact a natural
one as far as man’s existence and his relationship with one another is
concerned. Moreover, it is a
controversial issue, in the sense that, different thinkers of different
philosophical epoch have given it nuances of interpretations and definitions.
Etymologically, justice is derived
from the Latin word “Justicia” which
means fairness or righteousness. According to Bourker, “It is evident that the
term justice can be dependent on the shorter Latin word ‘jus’ which means
right”.However, the origin of justice would be
traced to man’s nature. Man naturally is unlimited in his wants but highly
limited in the means of satisfying these wants. Now this state of lack and the
effort to fill it up with his wants, make him a curious and voracious being. In
the course of pursuing the means to satisfying his wants, he infringes on the
rights of others. It is this state that has resulted in slavery, wars, abortion
and all kinds of man’s inhumanity to man which is prevalent in the society
man as a rational being would not wish to remain in the chaotic state. Order must be maintained by defining the
limits of every man in proportion to his status in life, by means of
legislation. These limits so mapped out,
gives each man his own rights, duties etc. Therefore, “Justice presupposes
people pressing claims or justifying them by rules or standards”.
pertinent here to note that justice does not deal with privileges or sentiments
as such rather it deals with rights-binding by both civil and natural law. For
instance, the gift of alms is not a right but a mere privilege.
in the past have grappled with the issue of justice in view of giving it a
concise definition. However, Plato, in
one of his dialogues- The Republic
tried in a dialectical manner to give a philosophical definition of justice.
Thrasymarchus, a character in the book, defined justice as obeying the will of
the stronger. According to him: “I declare that justice is nothing else than
that which is advantageous to the stronger”.
stronger, he meant those who are able to make and enforce laws in the ways that
suit their ego. Furthering this stand he continued, “In every city, justice is
the same. It is what is advantageous to
the established government” without much argument, Thrasymarchus then
arrived at the conclusion that the decision of the stronger is just. However, it should be noted that he was
talking in reference to the political realism of his time. Here the Greeks regard themselves as the
rulers and there is the distinction between the noble class and the slave. The slave is inferior to his master both
intellectually and otherwise. And as
such, they (slaves) have no sense of justice.
So any dictate coming from the master automatically becomes what is
of justice as the will of the stronger has reared its ugly head into the arena
of modern and contemporary political theories.
This is evident in the “philosophy of might is right” propounded by
Machiavelli. For any state worth the name to exist, justice must have its place
in its administrative structure.
Aquinas, justice is one of the cardinal virtues of man. He defines it as that virtue which resides in
the will. Therefore justice is: “…a
habit whereby a man renders to one, ones due by a constant and perpetual will”.
defines justice as:
…a chief virtue… which
regulates man’s will so that he wills for himself what belongs for himself and
wills for others what belongs to them.27
critically at the above notion of justice, one cannot help asking such simple
question as: since justice consists in giving everyone his dues, can one be
justified, if one gives what is harmful or detrimental to its owner? Therefore,
justice is not a mere irrational habit; it should involve every amount of
rationality and prudence, which should guide the will of man that naturally
seeks the good. This good is mainly for
order in the society.
1.4 KINDS OF JUSTICE
different kinds of justice existing in the state. They all have the same
purpose, the fair distribution of duties with the end to achieving a common
good. But we shall treat only two.
This is the
justice that deals with the duties and responsibilities of the individual
towards the state. It is often called
“Legal Justice” in certain places.
Social justice looks forward to the common good of all in the
state. If it should pursue any
particular good, it does so with a view to achieve a better goal for all.
the individual thinks of what he/she can do for the progress of the state. It
refers to the organization of society in such a way that the common good to
which all are expected to contribute in proportion to their ability and
opportunity is available to all the members for their ready use and enjoyment. It concerns all that is connected with being
a good citizen or a good member of the society and getting what one ought to
get as one’s proper share of the benefits of social living; that is, as the
reward of his/her good and cooperative conduct in the society. Social justice is violated whenever a society
is organized in such a way that it excludes or denies certain classes or groups
within it from getting their fair share of the common good.
justice deals with interchanging of goods such as in contract. It exists between one person and another or
between groups acting as if they were private persons negotiating on equal
justice is realized by establishing a certain arithmetical equality between the
values of things which people need. The interaction which commutative justice
directs is not between physical persons but also between rational and moral
persons. Here each man acts under the
subjection to the tribunal of his conscience under the guidance of law. Sincerity and honesty is highly inevitable so
much so that even if one for instance, has the opportunity to cheat the other
without being noticed, he ceases from doing so in respect of sincerity.
justice is also a virtue that regulates the dealing of private individuals as
moral persons, whereby the objective rightness is to be determined by the
simple equality of whatever is exchanged and where no attention is to be paid
to the possible inequality of persons involved.
So whatever exchange is made among the members of a society, objective
rightness must be considered and fostered.
1.5 ARISTOTLE’S NOTION OF JUSTICE
treats of justice in book five of his Ethics and applies it in his political
philosophy. For him, justice would be
seen from the universal point of view. Universal justice extends through the
life of the people and enforces virtue which leads to the fulfillment of the
goal of the state. The application of
universal justice stems from what is lawful.
Aristotle has the ingenuity of associating justice with law. This is because:
…No philosopher has supposed
Aristotle’s tributes to the rational dignity of authoritative textual rules
which provides justice according to law.
as much as we accept that justice is anchored on law, such laws must be just.
It is no respecter of person nor shrouded with passions and
sentimentality. It must tend towards the
goal of the state – which is the moral life seeking the common good. Aristotle’s invocation of the magnanimous
spirit of equity and morality in law as pertinent now as is evident in his
…he who asks law to rule is
asking God and intelligence… to rule; while he who asks for the rule of a human
being is importing a wild beast too; for desire is like a wild beast… Hence,
law is intelligence without appetition.
Aristotle, Laws of morality are more binding and more fundamental than positive
law. Therefore justice is an impartial application of substantial rule.
Aristotle considers justice from its particular perspective. This deals with the distribution of goods and
rights according to the proportion of merit.
He however, observes that particular justice hinges on the notion of equality
in any particular community. Justice
according to him, arises from the notion that those who are equal in one aspect
should be treated equally only on that aspect and vice versa. “Justice consists
in treating equals equally and unequals unequally but in proportion to their
This is the
basic notion of justice in Aristotle, what he calls proportionate equality. For
instance in any political organization where goodness is a criterion for
holding offices, Aristotle opines that:
…superiority of any good
whatsoever justifies unequal distribution of offices, given that in all other
respects than this, the persons are not different but similar.
justice is the core of harmonious existence in the state. It is “that kind of
state of character which makes people disposed to do what is just.”
entails a self-denial and strong-willed character for each to take that which
is proportionate and give others that, which is theirs. It fosters love and
social order in the state. Higgins summed these up when he asserted that
“justice is the virtue which includes the head of a natural community to
promote the social good of the individual.
It is violated by favoritism and partiality.”
Justice is anything that
tends to produce or conserve the happiness of man (and the constituent of happiness
of a political association).
Aristotle, then justice is that which is highly essential for human
co-existence. Therefore any state
without justice is like the Hobbesian “another man”, a state of unorganized
life. While any state, which operates
with objective justice is that, which is natural and proper to man as a