ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

To Every Man His Due: The Battle for Justice #4

Updated on August 19, 2020

The word Justice as it has been beautifully said, has a lofty but tragic sound. It has enkindled noble passion and inspired the practice of the finest generosity. Yet, it also reminds us of great wrongs and of widespread destruction and suffering. So much so that the whole history of mankind could be written under the heading: The battle of Justice.


Justice consists in communication, says Aquinas. The action of the just man is, by its very essence, referred to another. In obligation, the primary focus is not on the person who is the recipient of the rightly deserved good, but on the individual who by duty is moved to give the other his right. To oblige is to necessarily do the needful. Thus, we are faced with the individual who is under obligation to render to another his due.

There are essentially two degrees of obligation. First, we have those of the just obligation, made compulsory by law, and second, those that imply only a moral obligation, hinged on values and principles. The nature of the first makes it compelling, the law is already entrenched, and thus a failure to comply infringes the law. However, the second one is more personalized, for it depends exclusively upon my own good will and moral standard.

Moral obligation is solely based on the discretion of the giver and his goodwill. For example, when out of goodwill a person presents a gift to another. The receiver is morally obliged to show gratitude. Gratitude here includes both the affection and the gift. Concerning the affection, gratitude should be shown right away, with a good heart for the gift. As far as the gift is concerned, one should wait for a time when the reward would be useful to the benefactor. Reciprocating the gift immediately or not willing to when able to, will be an ungrateful act.

Still on moral obligation, one could also make a similar distinction concerning simple moral obligations, that is, those that are only morally binding. First, violating these simple moral obligations, for example lying, is said to be a dishonourable act. However, it may also happen that without being dishonourable, an action can be said to be unseemly, as when a person behaves discourteously.

Nevertheless, all these forms of obligation fall under the virtue of justice: in all these forms of obligation there is something common to all. In all forms of obligation, there is a debitum, a duty, something due. To be just means to owe something and to pay the debt. The duty to do the right is the core of obligation.

One should now raise an important question: namely, that when there is a moral action, no matter the virtue involved, it is always to satisfy a debt. The fundamental principle of moral obligation, of duty, of what one ought to do, has its origin in the field of justice. The terms suggesting moral obligation also belong to the realm of justice: debt, debit, to be indebted etc., and so do the verbs: owe and ought.

It is thus evidently clear that the structure of the act of justice reveals the whole structure of ethics. If ethics have a structure of obligation, it must certainly have gotten it from the structure of justice. At first glance, it might seem that man is the lord of himself and free to do as he pleases in the things that pertain to him personally. However, we are presented with quite the opposite; we aren’t totally free in ourselves and from others. Even in the most personal life of the individual, there is the inevitable obligation that is owned and directed to the other person.

An insightful investigation does reveals to us that just like justice, moral obligation also has a personal character: it is a bond to another person who in certain situations I am obliged to render him/her the due required. Moral obligation makes this clear in moral situations, but it is in justice that the notion of duty, which is essential to a precept, appears distinctly. It is more clear in justice because it applies to all in the society regardless of values; and also because it has the backing and the force of the law.

Justice is meant to bring about the good. When we do good, we are thus proclaiming justice and acting in accord with the laws and principles of justice. Good is not related to some abstract norm, but a working principle that is aimed at bringing the desired result. Whether in the most private decisions that relate to our lives or that which is directed to the other person, to do good always means to give what is obligatory to ourselves or to a person to whom we are committed.

However to effectively see that the society is just, and individuals are just too, there is the enforcer of justice who confronts us even when we are not being just or unjust in the strictest sense of the word. There are two answers to this

The first enforcer is the community, the social whole. It is indeed true that the individual person is part of the social whole, but also the social whole stands as a juridical body in the society. As a juridical body, it seeks and enhances the common good and frowns on anyone and any action that tends to jeopardize the common good.

Outside the needed duties and fulfilment of the civil laws, like the payment of taxes or the performance of electoral duties, the community requires also the performance of good which furthers the common good. The common good is however at stake when one is disorderly or indolent in a purely private capacity. The community does requires every individual to be good, to be just.

The nature and acceptance of virtue is such that it brings about good. The good of any virtue, whether such virtue directs man in relation to himself or in relation to another person, is always referable to the common good, to which justice as establishing order directs so that all acts of virtue can pertain to justice.

Inversely, every immoral act can in a certain sense be called an injustice. This logically entails a widening of the idea of justice. It is in this sense that Aquinas speaks of legal or general justice, which contains all virtues and is the most perfect of all. In a society where this is accepted, there is a holistic idea of justice which will be informed and strengthened by the community as the enforcer.

The second is the eternal law giver God. The thesis that any moral action follows the structure of justice can be interpreted in this sense: that anybody who does good or evil is placed before God as another, to whom is given or withheld what is owed to Him. Regarding justice and good, we deal with God.

God is the true judge who gives to each one what is rightly his due. Good is the corresponding due to him who does good, and evil is reciprocated to the evil doer. It corresponds to general justice to do good as due to society or to God, and to avoid the contrary evil. When fulfilling or transgressing precepts, man is not dealing with objective legality but with a personal law-giver, who is God.


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)