The study of how best men should lives with each has remained as a puzzling study for many centuries. In line with this, there are many sociologists and philosophers who have taken their time to study the structure of the society in relation to the issues that affects it. One of the prominent philosophers who have made numerous contributions to this subject is Aristotle. According to Aristotle and Reeve (1998), ‘it is evident that the city exists by nature, and that a human being is by nature a political animal’ (4). In consistent with this statement, one of the questions that have arose among societal researchers and scholars is whether justice is natural. Additionally, the other questions that have arisen are whether defining justice as natural depends on whether justice is defined as a virtue. Similarly, since Aristotle perceived justice as a virtue, does that mean that justice is natural?
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The answer to these questions depend on an in-depth analysis of the works of Aristotle backed up with evidence from other ancients philosophers who carried out research on the same subject. To begin with, ethics is an issue or subject matter that is concerned with virtues. So to articulate, ethics concerns the virtues that human beings who have organized themselves into a society need to lead happy lives and live with each other in harmony. Stated in other words, ethics are the principles that guarantee that people are able to live together in a rational way, without undermining the status of the other in the society.
Notably, it has been argued that justice is one of the virtues that form part or rather that is a component of ethics. In reference to Aristotle and Reeve (1998), whereas most people have tried to define justice, their definitions have a lot of limitation since it encompasses a wide perspective that cannot be grasped in a simple definition (79). However, to answer one of the questions that have been by researchers and scholars is that justice is natural. To begin with, Aristotle argues that politics is natural. In line with this, it is natural for human beings to organize themselves into manageable groups. Therefore, it is important to mention that politics exist to ensure that human beings are under a certain form of control that prevents misuse of power. Following this point, it is important therefore to mention that justice is one of the factors that play a critical role in politics. It cannot be separated from politics.
In line with this, one would not be wrong to argue that justice is natural. Notably, every human being, irrespective of the societal class demands to be treated in a just way. To make matter worse, even those who have isolated themselves from the political societal and joined the rebellious class would argue that their contentions are aimed at attaining a certain form of justice. Consequently, whether understood fully or in part, justice is a natural factor among human beings, not only to one race or region, but among all people across the globe.
The understanding of human virtue plays a vital role in grasping the idea that justice is natural. From a broader perspective, whereas one is not born with virtues, their cultivation in a person’s life defines whether such a person is able understand that justice is natural or not. In reference to Plato and Jowett (2008), ‘virtue is the health and beauty and well-being of the soul and vice the disease and weakness and deformity of the same’ (91). Therefore, without such an understanding, one cannot be able to conceive the fact that justice is natural and is required in a person’s life, irrespective of whether that person is good or bad. Without the understanding of justice as a virtue, it would be difficult to view justice as natural.
Aristotle saw justice as natural. There are two positions that can be taken on this argument. First that justice is natural. In reference to Aristotle and Reeve (1998), ‘it is evident…that a city-state is among the things that exist by nature, that a human being is by nature a political animal…’(p.52). Remarkably, politics being natural is governed by many factors among them justice. When justice is eliminated from these factors that govern politics, then there would result a state of failed politics. Therefore, justice is a natural virtue that is needed in every society to guarantee its successful operation.
On the other hand, whereas Aristotle claims that justice is natural, this may be the case. Note that when justice is classified as a virtue, there are a few factors that change. In this respective, Aristotle initially argued that children at birth do not have virtues but as they grow up, they develop them (p. lxxiv). Therefore, virtues are not natural from this point of view. Consequently, justice, being one of the factors is part of virtues is not natural.
The issues of ethics and justice have been studied by many researchers and scholars. In this regard, the issue of justice, and how natural it is, remained as one of the most important subjects of discussion under the work of Aristotle. It is important to understand that justice is natural. However, the being natural of justice is depended on the understanding of justice as a virtue. On the contrary, one can argue that justice is not natural when virtues are defined as being unnatural. This is based on the fact that justice is a component of virtue.