The most basic rule of justice instils that “Treat equals equally and unequals unequally” (first stated by Aristotle two thousand years ago). Similarly, the modern version of this principles of justice says,

“Unless the situation justifies the differences, we must treat all individuals equally and fairly.” For example,

If Jack and Jill perform the same task—going up the hill—and there are no material distinctions between them or the task, they should be paid equally under the law. However, because of the irrelevant demographic factors such as race and gender, jack makes more money than jill.

Different Kinds of Justice

The ideas of social cohesion, interdependence, and equal dignity serve as the cornerstones of justice. We, as a society, violate a person’s dignity when we treat them unfairly because of arbitrary and irrelevant characteristics such as gender, religion, race, etc. There are various forms of justice.

  1. Distributive Justice: The degree to which societal institutions ensure that benefits and burdens are fairly shared among their members is referred to as distributive justice.
  2. Retributive Justice: The degree to which punishments are just and fair is referred to as retributive justice. These consider relevant factors like race while disregarding irrelevant ones like the severity of the crime and the criminal’s intent.
  3. Compensatory Justice: Compensation is relative to the loss inflicted on a person, and compensatory justice refers to the compensatory extent accustomed to injured ones.

Principles of Justice: Differences Deemed Justifiable & Unjust

However, we see numerous distinctions as acceptable grounds for treating people differently. Therefore, we acknowledge many factors as justifying differential treatment, including need, desert, contribution, and effort. For instance,

We believe it is just when authorities reward the hard workers more than the others. Similarly, we also consider it okay to punish someone who commits a crime.

On the other hand, some criteria are not grounds for treating people differently. Sociocultral factors have an impact on principles of justice. We believe it is unfair to treat people differently because of their age, sex, race, relationship, control, power, or religion.

For instance, we would consider it unfair if the brother of the public works director received a million-dollar contract despite receiving lower bids from other contractors. In contrast, the judge’s nephew received a suspended sentence for armed robbery.

Final Thoughts

Therefore, justice is a fundamental component of ethics and should be considered in our moral lives. Whenever making a moral choice, we must consider whether we are treating everyone equally. If not, we must decide if the unjust treatment is reasonable.

Always keep in mind that there are other ethical principles to take into account when making decisions. If you want to learn more about this topic, feel free to contact our forensic psychologists. They have the principles of justice as their fundamental guidelines.

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