ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

To Every Man His Due: The Battle for Justice # 2

Updated on July 29, 2020

In spite of the many manifestations of justice, there is a very simple notion to which all this variety can be reduced. Plato already mentioned it as a truth known for a long time: that every man is to be given what is due to him. This is the basis for a just order on earth. An injustice means that something belonging to someone is retained or taken away from him. Not taken by what we usually call an act of God, a storm, an accident, an earthquake, but by man.

This idea, to give to each his own, which goes back to time immemorial, belongs to the common patrimony of humankind. We should add that, since we are dealing with justice as a virtue, we are speaking of a habit of the will. A habit that inclines man to give to everyone his own. St Thomas gives the following formula, taken from the Roman law: Justice is a habit by which a man renders to each one his due with a constant and perpetual will.

The idea is a very simple one, but its meaning is not so easily grasped. Several questions immediately arise from it. We ask ourselves what is his due (the suum) for each man? What is the reason for a due to exist? How is it that something corresponds to somebody, to the extent that everybody else is obliged to give it to him or let him have it? Since the answer to these questions is clearly not evident, an investigation becomes necessary.

Since the act of justice consists in rendering to each what is his own, the act by which a thing becomes one’s own property precedes the act of justice…It cannot be an act of justice. Justice comes second. It presupposes right.

Man’s work, for example, entitles him to possess as his own what his employer, by an act of justice, pays to him. Nobody however, ignores the fact that there are rights that are not the result of one’s work or due to an action of man. The right to one’s own life, for instance. Nevertheless, the question goes still deeper. In the same chapter of the Summa Contra Gentes, St Thomas states: By the act of creation, a created thing first possesses something of its own. This is not just a mere platitude and he draws from it this consequence: it is not, therefore, from a debt of justice that creation proceeds. That is, justice, in a strict sense, cannot be found in the relation of God to man.

Unless we agree to the previous existence of something due to somebody, a duty of justice cannot exist. This is the meaning of the statement. It is evident that right is the object of justice. It is also the reason for a special question on rights, which breaks somehow the order, to precede the treatise on Justice in the Summa Theologica.

Some rights are irrevocable or inalienable. This means simply that whoever, instead of giving what he owes somebody, retains it or steal it, injures and harms himself. He is the one who loses something and may even destroy himself. Socrates’ well-known sentence expresses precisely this: Any wrong done to me and mine is at once more shameful and worse for the wrongdoer than for me the sufferer. The deeper meaning of this is that justice belongs to man’s true being. Consequently, whoever does an injustice is to be pitied.

We should now look at the foundation of that irrevocable right, the basis of justice. One may begin by saying that a due can be made up in diverse manners. Sometimes by convention or common agreement, which may be private like contracts, promises etc. or public treaties, or legal decisions, that is, positive law. At other times, it has to be founded in the nature of the thing itself. This is precisely where Aristotle speaks of the just in politics as being natural or legal. Aquinas speaks of natural right, or law of nature and adds a very important observation: if something is opposed to natural law, it cannot be made just by human will. That is, human convention, either public or private, can only be the basis for a due and consequently for a right, if it does not contradict the nature of the thing.

That is, unless one has a conception of man and his nature, it is not possible to show the foundation of rights nor of the obligation of justice. When one claims there is no human nature, as Sartre does, then the formal legitimation of a totalitarian praxis logically follows. Right then becomes might. If there is something that is due to man without any restriction, if man has a right that he can plead against everybody else, which imposes on others the obligation at least not to violate it, it is because man is a person, that is , a spiritual being, a whole unto himself.

The deepest root of this can only be found when one looks at his absolute foundation. Man has inalienable rights because he is created a person by the act of God, an act beyond human discussion. In the final analysis, something is inalienably due to man because he is a creature. Moreover, as a creature, man has the absolute duty to give another his due. In the words of Kant: We have a divine sovereign and his divine gift to man is man’s right.

Justice, then, is that order in which man can exist as a person, in which he can form his judgment about himself and the world. There he can have a conviction that none can touch, can be master of his decisions and act according to his judgement. Justice is that order of existence in which man can participate in this world and carry on his work. This is true not only of one or another, not only of the powerful or fortunate or the talented person, but of every man because he is human.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)