There are seven virtues. That’s right, only seven. Four of them play a pivotal role and accordingly are called “cardinal.” The other three are the theological virtues and play a direct role in the other four. Only seven virtues! Now there are numerous traits you show when you are virtuous, that’s the good news. The bad news is that there are as many bad traits you demonstrate to the rest of us when you are not trying to be virtuous.
The four cardinal virtues are …? What do you mean you didn’t know there would be a quiz? Prudence, Temperance, Courage and the last of the cardinal virtues is Justice.
Whenever I think of justice, it is usually when someone gets punished for doing wrong —”justice was served.” In this way, justice is viewed as punishment. This is not the justice I am talking about. I am talking about justice as an individual virtue.
The concept of justice differs in every culture. In classical European philosophy, it is the moderation between selfishness and selflessness – between having more and having less than one’s fair share.The last three words of that sentence summarizes justice; one’s fair share.
Do you recognize the slogan Occupy Wall Street? It is a protest to the extreme wealth of a few compared to the extreme poverty of many. It seems like an unequal distribution of wealth, thus, an injustice.
On the flip side, the wealthy say they earned their wealth and are therefore entitled to more of the pie.
It just so happens that I have a pie story, therapists always have an analogy on hand. In my story, two boys pitch in to buy a pie. The first boy had $1 and the other boy had $2. With the combined $3, they bought their pie. Now comes the time to divide the pie. If they divide the pie in equal halves, each boy gets the same amount. See, equal share of the pie does not always equal justice. If they divide the pie into thirds and the boy who pitched in a dollar gets one third and the other gets two thirds, they will get an unequal share of the pie but there is justice. Until some adult comes by and forces the kid with more to give up some of his pie.
Let me lay a bedtime story on you. Your little minions are playing and it hits bedtime for the youngest two. You can A) be a horrible parent and not enforce the bedtime because you are enjoying the peace. Or B) you can stick to the plan and endure the cries of injustice over the oldest being allowed to stay up for an extra hour. If you choose B, I would try telling them the pie story. It probably will not help, but It would be an excellent time to teach the virtue of justice.
Justice regulates relationship with others. It is a cardinal virtue, which is to say “pivotal” because it regulates all such relationships, and is sometimes deemed the most important of the cardinal virtues.
So then, what is justice? It is the virtue that enables us to assume our responsibilities and to give others their due.
Happiness comes to those who are fair to others and are always just and good.