QUESTION 58: OF JUSTICE
We must now consider justice. Under this head there are twelve points of
(1) What is justice?
(2) Whether justice is always towards another?
(3) Whether it is a virtue?
(4) Whether it is in the will as its subject?
(5) Whether it is a general virtue?
(6) Whether, as a general virtue, it is essentially the same as every
(7) Whether there is a particular justice?
(8) Whether particular justice has a matter of its own?
(9) Whether it is about passions, or about operations only?
(10) Whether the mean of justice is the real mean?
(11) Whether the act of justice is to render to everyone his own?
(12) Whether justice is the chief of the moral virtues?
Article 1: Whether justice is fittingly defined as being the perpetual and constant will to render to each one his right?
Objection 1: It would seem that lawyers have unfittingly defined justice as
being "the perpetual and constant will to render to each one his right"
[*Digest. i, 1; De Just. et Jure 10]. For, according to the Philosopher
(Ethic. v, 1), justice is a habit which makes a man "capable of doing
what is just, and of being just in action and in intention." Now "will"
denotes a power, or also an act. Therefore justice is unfittingly defined
as being a will.
Objection 2: Further, rectitude of the will is not the will; else if the will
were its own rectitude, it would follow that no will is unrighteous. Yet,
according to Anselm (De Veritate xii), justice is rectitude. Therefore
justice is not the will.
Objection 3: Further, no will is perpetual save God's. If therefore justice is
a perpetual will, in God alone will there be justice.
Objection 4: Further, whatever is perpetual is constant, since it is
unchangeable. Therefore it is needless in defining justice, to say that
it is both "perpetual" and "constant."
Objection 5: Further, it belongs to the sovereign to give each one his right.
Therefore, if justice gives each one his right, it follows that it is in
none but the sovereign: which is absurd.
Objection 6: Further, Augustine says (De Moribus Eccl. xv) that "justice is
love serving God alone." Therefore it does not render to each one his
I answer that, The aforesaid definition of justice is fitting if
understood aright. For since every virtue is a habit that is the
principle of a good act, a virtue must needs be defined by means of the
good act bearing on the matter proper to that virtue. Now the proper
matter of justice consists of those things that belong to our intercourse
with other men, as shall be shown further on (Article ). Hence the act of
justice in relation to its proper matter and object is indicated in the
words, "Rendering to each one his right," since, as Isidore says (Etym.
x), "a man is said to be just because he respects the rights [jus] of
Now in order that an act bearing upon any matter whatever be virtuous,
it requires to be voluntary, stable, and firm, because the Philosopher
says (Ethic. ii, 4) that in order for an act to be virtuous it needs
first of all to be done "knowingly," secondly to be done "by choice," and
"for a due end," thirdly to be done "immovably." Now the first of these
is included in the second, since "what is done through ignorance is
involuntary" (Ethic. iii, 1). Hence the definition of justice mentions
first the "will," in order to show that the act of justice must be
voluntary; and mention is made afterwards of its "constancy" and
"perpetuity" in order to indicate the firmness of the act.
Accordingly, this is a complete definition of justice; save that the act
is mentioned instead of the habit, which takes its species from that act,
because habit implies relation to act. And if anyone would reduce it to
the proper form of a definition, he might say that "justice is a habit
whereby a man renders to each one his due by a constant and perpetual
will": and this is about the same definition as that given by the
Philosopher (Ethic. v, 5) who says that "justice is a habit whereby a man
is said to be capable of doing just actions in accordance with his
Reply to Objection 1: Will here denotes the act, not the power: and it is
customary among writers to define habits by their acts: thus Augustine
says (Tract. in Joan. xl) that "faith is to believe what one sees not."
Reply to Objection 2: Justice is the same as rectitude, not essentially but
causally; for it is a habit which rectifies the deed and the will.
Reply to Objection 3: The will may be called perpetual in two ways. First on the
part of the will's act which endures for ever, and thus God's will alone
is perpetual. Secondly on the part of the subject, because, to wit, a man
wills to do a certain thing always. and this is a necessary condition of
justice. For it does not satisfy the conditions of justice that one wish
to observe justice in some particular matter for the time being, because
one could scarcely find a man willing to act unjustly in every case; and
it is requisite that one should have the will to observe justice at all
times and in all cases.
Reply to Objection 4: Since "perpetual" does not imply perpetuity of the act of
the will, it is not superfluous to add "constant": for while the
"perpetual will" denotes the purpose of observing justice always,
"constant" signifies a firm perseverance in this purpose.
Reply to Objection 5: A judge renders to each one what belongs to him, by way of
command and direction, because a judge is the "personification of
justice," and "the sovereign is its guardian" (Ethic. v, 4). On the other
hand, the subjects render to each one what belongs to him, by way of
Article 2: Whether justice is always towards one another?
Objection 1: It would seem that justice is not always towards another. For the
Apostle says (Rm. 3:22) that "the justice of God is by faith of Jesus
Christ." Now faith does not concern the dealings of one man with another.
Neither therefore does justice.
Objection 2: Further, according to Augustine (De Moribus Eccl. xv), "it
belongs to justice that man should direct to the service of God his
authority over the things that are subject to him." Now the sensitive
appetite is subject to man, according to Gn. 4:7, where it is written:
"The lust thereof," viz. of sin, "shall be under thee, and thou shalt
have dominion over it." Therefore it belongs to justice to have dominion
over one's own appetite: so that justice is towards oneself.
Objection 3: Further, the justice of God is eternal. But nothing else is
co-eternal with God. Therefore justice is not essentially towards another.
Objection 4: Further, man's dealings with himself need to be rectified no less
than his dealings with another. Now man's dealings are rectified by
justice, according to Prov. 11:5, "The justice of the upright shall make
his way prosperous." Therefore justice is about our dealings not only
with others, but also with ourselves.
On the contrary, Tully says (De Officiis i, 7) that "the object of
justice is to keep men together in society and mutual intercourse." Now
this implies relationship of one man to another. Therefore justice is
concerned only about our dealings with others.
I answer that, As stated above (Question , Article ) since justice by its name
implies equality, it denotes essentially relation to another, for a thing
is equal, not to itself, but to another. And forasmuch as it belongs to
justice to rectify human acts, as stated above (Question , Article ; FS, Question , Article ) this otherness which justice demands must needs be between beings
capable of action. Now actions belong to supposits [*Cf. FP, Question , Article ]
and wholes and, properly speaking, not to parts and forms or powers, for
we do not say properly that the hand strikes, but a man with his hand,
nor that heat makes a thing hot, but fire by heat, although such
expressions may be employed metaphorically. Hence, justice properly
speaking demands a distinction of supposits, and consequently is only in
one man towards another. Nevertheless in one and the same man we may
speak metaphorically of his various principles of action such as the
reason, the irascible, and the concupiscible, as though they were so many
agents: so that metaphorically in one and the same man there is said to
be justice in so far as the reason commands the irascible and
concupiscible, and these obey reason; and in general in so far as to each
part of man is ascribed what is becoming to it. Hence the Philosopher
(Ethic. v, 11) calls this "metaphorical justice."
Reply to Objection 1: The justice which faith works in us, is that whereby the
ungodly is justified it consists in the due coordination of the parts of
the soul, as stated above (FS, Question , Article ) where we were treating of
the justification of the ungodly. Now this belongs to metaphorical
justice, which may be found even in a man who lives all by himself.
This suffices for the Reply to the Second Objection.
Reply to Objection 3: God's justice is from eternity in respect of the eternal
will and purpose (and it is chiefly in this that justice consists);
although it is not eternal as regards its effect, since nothing is
co-eternal with God.
Reply to Objection 4: Man's dealings with himself are sufficiently rectified by
the rectification of the passions by the other moral virtues. But his
dealings with others need a special rectification, not only in relation
to the agent, but also in relation to the person to whom they are
directed. Hence about such dealings there is a special virtue, and this
Article 3: Whether justice is a virtue?
Objection 1: It would seem that justice is not a virtue. For it is written
(Lk. 17:10): "When you shall have done all these things that are
commanded you, say: We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which
we ought to do." Now it is not unprofitable to do a virtuous deed: for
Ambrose says (De Officiis ii, 6): "We look to a profit that is estimated
not by pecuniary gain but by the acquisition of godliness." Therefore to
do what one ought to do, is not a virtuous deed. And yet it is an act of
justice. Therefore justice is not a virtue.
Objection 2: Further, that which is done of necessity, is not meritorious. But to render to a man what belongs to him, as justice requires, is of necessity. Therefore it is not meritorious. Yet it is by virtuous actions that we gain merit. Therefore justice is not a virtue.
Objection 3: Further, every moral virtue is about matters of action. Now those
things which are wrought externally are not things concerning behavior
but concerning handicraft, according to the Philosopher (Metaph. ix)
[*Didot ed., viii, 8]. Therefore since it belongs to justice to produce
externally a deed that is just in itself, it seems that justice is not a
On the contrary, Gregory says (Moral. ii, 49) that "the entire structure
of good works is built on four virtues," viz. temperance, prudence,
fortitude and justice
I answer that, A human virtue is one "which renders a human act and man
himself good" [*Ethic. ii, 6], and this can be applied to justice. For a
man's act is made good through attaining the rule of reason, which is the
rule whereby human acts are regulated. Hence, since justice regulates
human operations, it is evident that it renders man's operations good,
and, as Tully declares (De Officiis i, 7), good men are so called chiefly
from their justice, wherefore, as he says again (De Officiis i, 7) "the
luster of virtue appears above all in justice."
Reply to Objection 1: When a man does what he ought, he brings no gain to the
person to whom he does what he ought, but only abstains from doing him a
harm. He does however profit himself, in so far as he does what he ought,
spontaneously and readily, and this is to act virtuously. Hence it is
written (Wis. 8:7) that Divine wisdom "teacheth temperance, and prudence,
and justice, and fortitude, which are such things as men (i.e. virtuous
men) can have nothing more profitable in life."
Reply to Objection 2: Necessity is twofold. One arises from "constraint," and
this removes merit, since it runs counter to the will. The other arises
from the obligation of a "command," or from the necessity of obtaining an
end, when, to wit, a man is unable to achieve the end of virtue without
doing some particular thing. The latter necessity does not remove merit,
when a man does voluntarily that which is necessary in this way. It does
however exclude the credit of supererogation, according to 1 Cor. 9:16,
"If I preach the Gospel, it is no glory to me, for a necessity lieth upon
Reply to Objection 3: Justice is concerned about external things, not by making
them, which pertains to art, but by using them in our dealings with other
Article 4: Whether justice is in the will as its subject?
Objection 1: It would seem that justice is not in the will as its subject. For
justice is sometimes called truth. But truth is not in the will, but in
the intellect. Therefore justice is not in the will as its subject.
Objection 2: Further, justice is about our dealings with others. Now it
belongs to the reason to direct one thing in relation to another.
Therefore justice is not in the will as its subject but in the reason.
Objection 3: Further, justice is not an intellectual virtue, since it is not
directed to knowledge; wherefore it follows that it is a moral virtue.
Now the subject of moral virtue is the faculty which is "rational by
participation," viz. the irascible and the concupiscible, as the
Philosopher declares (Ethic. i, 13). Therefore justice is not in the will
as its subject, but in the irascible and concupiscible.
On the contrary, Anselm says (De Verit. xii) that "justice is rectitude
of the will observed for its own sake."
I answer that, The subject of a virtue is the power whose act that
virtue aims at rectifying. Now justice does not aim at directing an act
of the cognitive power, for we are not said to be just through knowing
something aright. Hence the subject of justice is not the intellect or
reason which is a cognitive power. But since we are said to be just
through doing something aright, and because the proximate principle of
action is the appetitive power, justice must needs be in some appetitive
power as its subject.
Now the appetite is twofold; namely, the will which is in the reason and
the sensitive appetite which follows on sensitive apprehension, and is
divided into the irascible and the concupiscible, as stated in the FP,
Question , Article . Again the act of rendering his due to each man cannot
proceed from the sensitive appetite, because sensitive apprehension does
not go so far as to be able to consider the relation of one thing to
another; but this is proper to the reason. Therefore justice cannot be in
the irascible or concupiscible as its subject, but only in the will:
hence the Philosopher (Ethic. v, 1) defines justice by an act of the
will, as may be seen above (Article ).
Reply to Objection 1: Since the will is the rational appetite, when the rectitude
of the reason which is called truth is imprinted on the will on account
of its nighness to the reason, this imprint retains the name of truth;
and hence it is that justice sometimes goes by the name of truth.
Reply to Objection 2: The will is borne towards its object consequently on the
apprehension of reason: wherefore, since the reason directs one thing in
relation to another, the will can will one thing in relation to another,
and this belongs to justice.
Reply to Objection 3: Not only the irascible and concupiscible parts are
"rational by participation," but the entire "appetitive" faculty, as
stated in Ethic. i, 13, because all appetite is subject to reason. Now
the will is contained in the appetitive faculty, wherefore it can be the
subject of moral virtue.
Article 5 Whether justice is a general virtue?
Objection 1: It would seem that justice is not a general virtue. For justice
is specified with the other virtues, according to Wis. 8:7, "She teacheth
temperance and prudence, and justice, and fortitude." Now the "general"
is not specified or reckoned together with the species contained under
the same "general." Therefore justice is not a general virtue.
Objection 2: Further, as justice is accounted a cardinal virtue, so are
temperance and fortitude. Now neither temperance nor fortitude is
reckoned to be a general virtue. Therefore neither should justice in any
way be reckoned a general virtue.
Objection 3: Further, justice is always towards others, as stated above (Article ). But a sin committed against one's neighbor cannot be a general sin,
because it is condivided with sin committed against oneself. Therefore
neither is justice a general virtue.
On the contrary, The Philosopher says (Ethic. v, 1) that "justice is
I answer that, Justice, as stated above (Article ) directs man in his
relations with other men. Now this may happen in two ways: first as
regards his relation with individuals, secondly as regards his relations
with others in general, in so far as a man who serves a community, serves
all those who are included in that community. Accordingly justice in its
proper acceptation can be directed to another in both these senses. Now
it is evident that all who are included in a community, stand in relation
to that community as parts to a whole; while a part, as such, belongs to
a whole, so that whatever is the good of a part can be directed to the
good of the whole. It follows therefore that the good of any virtue,
whether such virtue direct man in relation to himself, or in relation to
certain other individual persons, is referable to the common good, to
which justice directs: so that all acts of virtue can pertain to justice,
in so far as it directs man to the common good. It is in this sense that
justice is called a general virtue. And since it belongs to the law to
direct to the common good, as stated above (FS, Question , Article ), it follows
that the justice which is in this way styled general, is called "legal
justice," because thereby man is in harmony with the law which directs
the acts of all the virtues to the common good.
Reply to Objection 1: Justice is specified or enumerated with the other virtues,
not as a general but as a special virtue, as we shall state further on
Reply to Objection 2: Temperance and fortitude are in the sensitive appetite,
viz. in the concupiscible and irascible. Now these powers are appetitive
of certain particular goods, even as the senses are cognitive of
particulars. On the other hand justice is in the intellective appetite as
its subject, which can have the universal good as its object, knowledge
whereof belongs to the intellect. Hence justice can be a general virtue
rather than temperance or fortitude.
Reply to Objection 3: Things referable to oneself are referable to another,
especially in regard to the common good. Wherefore legal justice, in so
far as it directs to the common good, may be called a general virtue: and
in like manner injustice may be called a general sin; hence it is written
(1 Jn. 3:4) that all "sin is iniquity."
Article 6: Whether justice, as a general virtue, is essentially the same as all virtue?
Objection 1: It would seem that justice, as a general virtue, is essentially
the same as all virtue. For the Philosopher says (Ethic. v, 1) that
"virtue and legal justice are the same as all virtue, but differ in their
mode of being." Now things that differ merely in their mode of being or
logically do not differ essentially. Therefore justice is essentially the
same as every virtue.
Objection 2: Further, every virtue that is not essentially the same as all
virtue is a part of virtue. Now the aforesaid justice, according to the
Philosopher (Ethic. v. 1) "is not a part but the whole of virtue."
Therefore the aforesaid justice is essentially the same as all virtue.
Objection 3: Further, the essence of a virtue does not change through that
virtue directing its act to some higher end even as the habit of
temperance remains essentially the same even though its act be directed
to a Divine good. Now it belongs to legal justice that the acts of all
the virtues are directed to a higher end, namely the common good of the
multitude, which transcends the good of one single individual. Therefore
it seems that legal justice is essentially all virtue.
Objection 4: Further, every good of a part can be directed to the good of the
whole, so that if it be not thus directed it would seem without use or
purpose. But that which is in accordance with virtue cannot be so.
Therefore it seems that there can be no act of any virtue, that does not
belong to general justice, which directs to the common good; and so it
seems that general justice is essentially the same as all virtue.
On the contrary, The Philosopher says (Ethic. v, 1) that "many are able
to be virtuous in matters affecting themselves, but are unable to be
virtuous in matters relating to others," and (Polit. iii, 2) that "the
virtue of the good man is not strictly the same as the virtue of the good
citizen." Now the virtue of a good citizen is general justice, whereby a
man Is directed to the common good. Therefore general justice is not the
same as virtue in general, and it is possible to have one without the
I answer that, A thing is said to be "general" in two ways. First, by
"predication": thus "animal" is general in relation to man and horse and
the like: and in this sense that which is general must needs be
essentially the same as the things in relation to which it is general,
for the reason that the genus belongs to the essence of the species, and
forms part of its definition. Secondly a thing is said to be general
"virtually"; thus a universal cause is general in relation to all its
effects, the sun, for instance, in relation to all bodies that are
illumined, or transmuted by its power; and in this sense there is no need
for that which is "general" to be essentially the same as those things in
relation to which it is general, since cause and effect are not
essentially the same. Now it is in the latter sense that, according to
what has been said (Article ), legal justice is said to be a general virtue,
in as much, to wit, as it directs the acts of the other virtues to its
own end, and this is to move all the other virtues by its command; for
just as charity may be called a general virtue in so far as it directs
the acts of all the virtues to the Divine good, so too is legal justice,
in so far as it directs the acts of all the virtues to the common good.
Accordingly, just as charity which regards the Divine good as its proper
object, is a special virtue in respect of its essence, so too legal
justice is a special virtue in respect of its essence, in so far as it
regards the common good as its proper object. And thus it is in the
sovereign principally and by way of a mastercraft, while it is
secondarily and administratively in his subjects.
However the name of legal justice can be given to every virtue, in so
far as every virtue is directed to the common good by the aforesaid legal
justice, which though special essentially is nevertheless virtually
general. Speaking in this way, legal justice is essentially the same as
all virtue, but differs therefrom logically: and it is in this sense that
the Philosopher speaks.
Wherefore the Replies to the First and Second Objections are manifest.
Reply to Objection 3: This argument again takes legal justice for the virtue
commanded by legal justice.
Reply to Objection 4: Every virtue strictly speaking directs its act to that
virtue's proper end: that it should happen to be directed to a further
end either always or sometimes, does not belong to that virtue considered
strictly, for it needs some higher virtue to direct it to that end.
Consequently there must be one supreme virtue essentially distinct from
every other virtue, which directs all the virtues to the common good; and
this virtue is legal justice.
Article 7: Whether there is a particular besides a general justice?
Objection 1: It would seem that there is not a particular besides a general
justice. For there is nothing superfluous in the virtues, as neither is
there in nature. Now general justice directs man sufficiently in all his
relations with other men. Therefore there is no need for a particular
Objection 2: Further, the species of a virtue does not vary according to "one"
and "many." But legal justice directs one man to another in matters
relating to the multitude, as shown above (Articles ,6). Therefore there is
not another species of justice directing one man to another in matters
relating to the individual.
Objection 3: Further, between the individual and the general public stands the
household community. Consequently, if in addition to general justice
there is a particular justice corresponding to the individual, for the
same reason there should be a domestic justice directing man to the
common good of a household: and yet this is not the case. Therefore
neither should there be a particular besides a legal justice.
On the contrary, Chrysostom in his commentary on Mt. 5:6, "Blessed are
they that hunger and thirst after justice," says (Hom. xv in Matth.): "By
justice He signifies either the general virtue, or the particular virtue
which is opposed to covetousness."
I answer that, As stated above (Article ), legal justice is not essentially
the same as every virtue, and besides legal justice which directs man
immediately to the common good, there is a need for other virtues to
direct him immediately in matters relating to particular goods: and these
virtues may be relative to himself or to another individual person.
Accordingly, just as in addition to legal justice there is a need for
particular virtues to direct man in relation to himself, such as
temperance and fortitude, so too besides legal justice there is need for
particular justice to direct man in his relations to other individuals.
Reply to Objection 1: Legal justice does indeed direct man sufficiently in his
relations towards others. As regards the common good it does so
immediately, but as to the good of the individual, it does so mediately.
Wherefore there is need for particular justice to direct a man
immediately to the good of another individual.
Reply to Objection 2: The common good of the realm and the particular good of the
individual differ not only in respect of the "many" and the "few," but
also under a formal aspect. For the aspect of the "common" good differs
from the aspect of the "individual" good, even as the aspect of "whole"
differs from that of "part." Wherefore the Philosopher says (Polit. i, 1)
that "they are wrong who maintain that the State and the home and the
like differ only as many and few and not specifically."
Reply to Objection 3: The household community, according to the Philosopher
(Polit. i, 2), differs in respect of a threefold fellowship; namely "of
husband and wife, father and son, master and slave," in each of which one
person is, as it were, part of the other. Wherefore between such persons
there is not justice simply, but a species of justice, viz. "domestic"
justice, as stated in Ethic. v, 6.
Article 8: Whether particular justice has a special matter?
Objection 1: It would seem that particular justice has no special matter.
Because a gloss on Gn. 2:14, "The fourth river is Euphrates," says:
"Euphrates signifies 'fruitful'; nor is it stated through what country it
flows, because justice pertains to all the parts of the soul." Now this
would not be the case, if justice had a special matter, since every
special matter belongs to a special power. Therefore particular justice
has no special matter.
Objection 2: Further, Augustine says (Questions. lxxxiii, qu. 61) that "the soul has
four virtues whereby, in this life, it lives spiritually, viz.
temperance, prudence, fortitude and justice;" and he says that "the
fourth is justice, which pervades all the virtues." Therefore particular
justice, which is one of the four cardinal virtues, has no special matter.
Objection 3: Further, justice directs man sufficiently in matters relating to
others. Now a man can be directed to others in all matters relating to
this life. Therefore the matter of justice is general and not special.
On the contrary, The Philosopher reckons (Ethic. v, 2) particular
justice to be specially about those things which belong to social life.
I answer that, Whatever can be rectified by reason is the matter of
moral virtue, for this is defined in reference to right reason, according
to the Philosopher (Ethic. ii, 6). Now the reason can rectify not only
the internal passions of the soul, but also external actions, and also
those external things of which man can make use. And yet it is in respect
of external actions and external things by means of which men can
communicate with one another, that the relation of one man to another is
to be considered; whereas it is in respect of internal passions that we
consider man's rectitude in himself. Consequently, since justice is
directed to others, it is not about the entire matter of moral virtue,
but only about external actions and things, under a certain special
aspect of the object, in so far as one man is related to another through
Reply to Objection 1: It is true that justice belongs essentially to one part of
the soul, where it resides as in its subject; and this is the will which
moves by its command all the other parts of the soul; and accordingly
justice belongs to all the parts of the soul, not directly but by a kind
Reply to Objection 2: As stated above (FS, Question , Articles ,4), the cardinal virtues
may be taken in two ways: first as special virtues, each having a
determinate matter; secondly, as certain general modes of virtue. In this
latter sense Augustine speaks in the passage quoted: for he says that
"prudence is knowledge of what we should seek and avoid, temperance is
the curb on the lust for fleeting pleasures, fortitude is strength of
mind in bearing with passing trials, justice is the love of God and our
neighbor which pervades the other virtues, that is to say, is the common
principle of the entire order between one man and another."
Reply to Objection 3: A man's internal passions which are a part of moral matter,
are not in themselves directed to another man, which belongs to the
specific nature of justice; yet their effects, i.e. external actions, are
capable of being directed to another man. Consequently it does not follow
that the matter of justice is general.
Article 9: Whether justice is about the passions?
Objection 1: It would seem that justice is about the passions. For the
Philosopher says (Ethic. ii, 3) that "moral virtue is about pleasure and
pain." Now pleasure or delight, and pain are passions, as stated above
[*FS, Question , Article ; FS, Question , Article ; FS, Question , Article ] when we were
treating of the passions. Therefore justice, being a moral virtue, is
about the passions.
Objection 2: Further, justice is the means of rectifying a man's operations in
relation to another man. Now such like operations cannot be rectified
unless the passions be rectified, because it is owing to disorder of the
passions that there is disorder in the aforesaid operations: thus sexual
lust leads to adultery, and overmuch love of money leads to theft.
Therefore justice must needs be about the passions.
Objection 3: Further, even as particular justice is towards another person so
is legal justice. Now legal justice is about the passions, else it would
not extend to all the virtues, some of which are evidently about the
passions. Therefore justice is about the passions.
On the contrary, The Philosopher says (Ethic. v, 1) that justice is
I answer that, The true answer to this question may be gathered from a
twofold source. First from the subject of justice, i.e. from the will,
whose movements or acts are not passions, as stated above (FS, Question , Article ; FS, Question , Article ), for it is only the sensitive appetite whose
movements are called passions. Hence justice is not about the passions,
as are temperance and fortitude, which are in the irascible and
concupiscible parts. Secondly, on he part of the matter, because justice
is about man's relations with another, and we are not directed
immediately to another by the internal passions. Therefore justice is not
about the passions.
Reply to Objection 1: Not every moral virtue is about pleasure and pain as its
proper matter, since fortitude is about fear and daring: but every moral
virtue is directed to pleasure and pain, as to ends to be acquired, for,
as the Philosopher says (Ethic. vii, 11), "pleasure and pain are the
principal end in respect of which we say that this is an evil, and that a
good": and in this way too they belong to justice, since "a man is not
just unless he rejoice in just actions" (Ethic. i, 8).
Reply to Objection 2: External operations are as it were between external things,
which are their matter, and internal passions, which are their origin.
Now it happens sometimes that there is a defect in one of these, without
there being a defect in the other. Thus a man may steal another's
property, not through the desire to have the thing, but through the will
to hurt the man; or vice versa, a man may covet another's property
without wishing to steal it. Accordingly the directing of operations in
so far as they tend towards external things, belongs to justice, but in
so far as they arise from the passions, it belongs to the other moral
virtues which are about the passions. Hence justice hinders theft of
another's property, in so far as stealing is contrary to the, equality
that should be maintained in external things, while liberality hinders it
as resulting from an immoderate desire for wealth. Since, however,
external operations take their species, not from the internal passions
but from external things as being their objects, it follows that,
external operations are essentially the matter of justice rather than of
the other moral virtues.
Reply to Objection 3: The common good is the end of each individual member of a
community, just as the good of the whole is the end of each part. On the
other hand the good of one individual is not the end of another
individual: wherefore legal justice which is directed to the common good,
is more capable of extending to the internal passions whereby man is
disposed in some way or other in himself, than particular justice which
is directed to the good of another individual: although legal justice
extends chiefly to other virtues in the point of their external
operations, in so far, to wit, as "the law commands us to perform the
actions of a courageous person . . . the actions of a temperate person .
. . and the actions of a gentle person" (Ethic. v, 5).
Article 10: Whether the mean of justice is the real mean?
Objection 1: It would seem that the mean of justice is not the real mean. For
the generic nature remains entire in each species. Now moral virtue is
defined (Ethic. ii, 6) to be "an elective habit which observes the mean
fixed, in our regard, by reason." Therefore justice observes the rational
and not the real mean.
Objection 2: Further, in things that are good simply, there is neither excess
nor defect, and consequently neither is there a mean; as is clearly the
case with the virtues, according to Ethic. ii, 6. Now justice is about
things that are good simply, as stated in Ethic. v. Therefore justice
does not observe the real mean.
Objection 3: Further, the reason why the other virtues are said to observe the
rational and not the real mean, is because in their case the mean varies
according to different persons, since what is too much for one is too
little for another (Ethic. ii, 6). Now this is also the case in justice:
for one who strikes a prince does not receive the same punishment as one
who strikes a private individual. Therefore justice also observes, not
the real, but the rational mean.
On the contrary, The Philosopher says (Ethic. ii, 6; v, 4) that the mean
of justice is to be taken according to "arithmetical" proportion, so that
it is the real mean.
I answer that, As stated above (Article ; FS, Question , Article ), the other moral
virtues are chiefly concerned with the passions, the regulation of which
is gauged entirely by a comparison with the very man who is the subject
of those passions, in so far as his anger and desire are vested with
their various due circumstances. Hence the mean in such like virtues is
measured not by the proportion of one thing to another, but merely by
comparison with the virtuous man himself, so that with them the mean is
only that which is fixed by reason in our regard.
On the other hand, the matter of justice is external operation, in so
far as an operation or the thing used in that operation is duly
proportionate to another person, wherefore the mean of justice consists
in a certain proportion of equality between the external thing and the
external person. Now equality is the real mean between greater and less,
as stated in Metaph. x [*Didot ed., ix, 5; Cf. Ethic. v, 4]: wherefore
justice observes the real mean.
Reply to Objection 1: This real mean is also the rational mean, wherefore justice
satisfies the conditions of a moral virtue.
Reply to Objection 2: We may speak of a thing being good simply in two ways.
First a thing may be good in every way: thus the virtues are good; and
there is neither mean nor extremes in things that are good simply in this
sense. Secondly a thing is said to be good simply through being good
absolutely i.e. in its nature, although it may become evil through being
abused. Such are riches and honors; and in the like it is possible to
find excess, deficiency and mean, as regards men who can use them well or
ill: and it is in this sense that justice is about things that are good
Reply to Objection 3: The injury inflicted bears a different proportion to a
prince from that which it bears to a private person: wherefore each
injury requires to be equalized by vengeance in a different way: and this
implies a real and not merely a rational diversity.
Article 11: Whether the act of justice is to render to each one his own?
Objection 1: It would seem that the act of justice is not to render to each
one his own. For Augustine (De Trin. xiv, 9) ascribes to justice the act
of succoring the needy. Now in succoring the needy we give them what is
not theirs but ours. Therefore the act of justice does not consist in
rendering to each one his own.
Objection 2: Further, Tully says (De Offic. i, 7) that "beneficence which we
may call kindness or liberality, belongs to justice." Now it pertains to
liberality to give to another of one's own, not of what is his. Therefore
the act of justice does not consist in rendering to each one his own.
Objection 3: Further, it belongs to justice not only to distribute things
duly, but also to repress injurious actions, such as murder, adultery and
so forth. But the rendering to each one of what is his seems to belong
solely to the distribution of things. Therefore the act of justice is not
sufficiently described by saying that it consists in rendering to each
one his own.
On the contrary, Ambrose says (De Offic. i, 24): "It is justice that
renders to each one what is his, and claims not another's property; it
disregards its own profit in order to preserve the common equity."
I answer that, As stated above (Articles ,10), the matter of justice is an
external operation in so far as either it or the thing we use by it is
made proportionate to some other person to whom we are related by
justice. Now each man's own is that which is due to him according to
equality of proportion. Therefore the proper act of justice is nothing
else than to render to each one his own.
Reply to Objection 1: Since justice is a cardinal virtue, other secondary
virtues, such as mercy, liberality and the like are connected with it, as
we shall state further on (Question , Article ). Wherefore to succor the needy,
which belongs to mercy or pity, and to be liberally beneficent, which
pertains to liberality, are by a kind of reduction ascribed to justice as
to their principal virtue.
This suffices for the Reply to the Second Objection.
Reply to Objection 3: As the Philosopher states (Ethic. v, 4), in matters of
justice, the name of "profit" is extended to whatever is excessive, and
whatever is deficient is called "loss." The reason for this is that
justice is first of all and more commonly exercised in voluntary
interchanges of things, such as buying and selling, wherein those
expressions are properly employed; and yet they are transferred to all
other matters of justice. The same applies to the rendering to each one
of what is his own.
Article 12: Whether justice stands foremost among all moral virtues?
Objection 1: It would seem that justice does not stand foremost among all the
moral virtues. Because it belongs to justice to render to each one what
is his, whereas it belongs to liberality to give of one's own, and this
is more virtuous. Therefore liberality is a greater virtue than justice.
Objection 2: Further, nothing is adorned by a less excellent thing than
itself. Now magnanimity is the ornament both of justice and of all the
virtues, according to Ethic. iv, 3. Therefore magnanimity is more
excellent than justice.
Objection 3: Further, virtue is about that which is "difficult" and "good," as
stated in Ethic. ii, 3. But fortitude is about more difficult things than
justice is, since it is about dangers of death, according to Ethic. iii,
6. Therefore fortitude is more excellent than justice.
On the contrary, Tully says (De Offic. i, 7): "Justice is the most
resplendent of the virtues, and gives its name to a good man."
I answer that, If we speak of legal justice, it is evident that it
stands foremost among all the moral virtues, for as much as the common
good transcends the individual good of one person. In this sense the
Philosopher declares (Ethic. v, 1) that "the most excellent of the
virtues would seem to be justice, and more glorious than either the
evening or the morning star." But, even if we speak of particular
justice, it excels the other moral virtues for two reasons. The first
reason may be taken from the subject, because justice is in the more
excellent part of the soul, viz. the rational appetite or will, whereas
the other moral virtues are in the sensitive appetite, whereunto
appertain the passions which are the matter of the other moral virtues.
The second reason is taken from the object, because the other virtues are
commendable in respect of the sole good of the virtuous person himself,
whereas justice is praiseworthy in respect of the virtuous person being
well disposed towards another, so that justice is somewhat the good of
another person, as stated in Ethic. v, 1. Hence the Philosopher says
(Rhet. i, 9): "The greatest virtues must needs be those which are most
profitable to other persons, because virtue is a faculty of doing good to
others. For this reason the greatest honors are accorded the brave and
the just, since bravery is useful to others in warfare, and justice is
useful to others both in warfare and in time of peace."
Reply to Objection 1: Although the liberal man gives of his own, yet he does so
in so far as he takes into consideration the good of his own virtue,
while the just man gives to another what is his, through consideration of
the common good. Moreover justice is observed towards all, whereas
liberality cannot extend to all. Again liberality which gives of a man's
own is based on justice, whereby one renders to each man what is his.
Reply to Objection 2: When magnanimity is added to justice it increases the
latter's goodness; and yet without justice it would not even be a virtue.
Reply to Objection 3: Although fortitude is about the most difficult things, it
is not about the best, for it is only useful in warfare, whereas justice
is useful both in war and in peace, as stated above.