The study of wisdom, sophology, is a vast area that has fascinated the students of human nature for millennia. For a more in-depth article that encompasses the Virtue of Wisdom in more detail than I offered yesterday, you might visit this link.
Meantime, our journey continues, as we examine the components that our classical ancestors deemed Virtue. In our exploration today, we will consider the third element, Justice.
Justice, in the classical sense as a virtue, is the moderation between selfishness and selflessness. It is regarded as the proper balance between self-interest and the rights and needs of others.
Plato’s Republic identified the cardinal virtues with societal classes, and with the faculties of humanity. While Courage was associated with the warrior class and with the spirited element in man, and Wisdom with the rulers and with reason, Justice stood outside the class system and divisions of man, and ruled the proper inter-relationship among the three of them (the other being Temperance, which I will discuss next week).
By the way, the term “cardinal” comes from the Latin cardo or hinge. This is a reference to how the cardinal virtues are the hinges upon which the door of the good and moral life swings.
Plato treats justice as an overarching virtue of relationships between individuals (and of societies), meaning that almost every issue that might be viewed as ethical is so because of justice (dikaosoune).
In modern usage, justice as a personal behavior more often has to do with our property or possessions than a general attribute. But perhaps it is time to once again consider it in broader terms, for as Plato suggests, Justice is the virtue that controls and regulate all of our dealings with one another. It is the linchpin of our ability to live in harmony with one another.
Justice is a virtue of the will, in the ways that Wisdom is a virtue of the intellect and Courage is thought to be a virtue of the sensory appetites and passions. We are just because we deliberately make the effort to be.
In an article about Benjamin Franklin’s essays on the virtue of Justice, husband and wife blogging team, Brett and Kate McKay comment that “Apathy is perhaps the greatest impediment to justice. There are many unjust things happening in your community, state, nation, and world that fail to produce righteous indignation because [we] do not care to educate themselves about what is happening.”
To cultivate the virtue of Justice, we must stand up for it. This extends beyond the concerns and events that personally affect us, but that impact all, including strangers. Many injustices that need correction are subtle, hidden, and complex. To possess the virtue of Justice, we must be willing to learn as much as possible about our culture, current events, and step outside our comfort zone to see what is true for others.
Most of all, we must be willing to act. It is easy enough to complain about the many, many injustices we see every day. But to cultivate the habit of Justice, we are called upon to act, for it is, truly, the action of making right, or equal, that which has not been.
Where do you see injustice? Do you know anyone who is a true champion for justice, both in their personal and public life? How might you cultivate Justice as a personal virtue? Where do you believe you might be able to lend your skills and vision to bring Justice to others?
Most importantly, will you?