mercredi, octobre 04, 2006

Social Justice

Just some notes from yesterday meeting
Saint Thomas Aquinas group !
Social Justice


Man = social animal. True but not enough precise. We say, with Aristotle: man = political animal, because certain species of animals live in society.

Greek: Polis = organized society.
: Politeiai = constitution ; the citizens as a whole.

Definition of politics: “the art and science of government.” The most usual definition, but we can find many others which are reflected more or less the mind of their authors.
In its wide sense, politics refer to the structures and functioning ( methodical, theoretical and practical ) of a community or a society.

Certainly man can live without any political organization, but his life is of inferior quality: Aristotle points out that Barbarians don’t live in cities.
Societies have all a goal according to their activities. State, which is a perfect society, has a higher goal: the common good.
Aristotle: even though man can live without political organization, politics are a part of human nature. But in order to go from the state of social animal to political animal, certain conditions must be fulfilled. The political science ( or art ) extends our nature and makes a human community a civilization.

A difficulty
Politics are a science, which supposes a certain determinism in its objects and some constants. But Politics involve a certain freedom. Man has the power to organize society whom he belongs to. He has a certain freedom in this matter. What can be the rules and the laws of a science that admits freedom?
In other words, is there a political reality we can objectively study? Are there stable laws of human order?

We will have to speak about truth and freedom ( next meetings ).

Social justice:

New expression from Catholic origin introduced by Pius XI in Pontifical Documents especially with the Encyclical Letter Quadragesimo anno.
Saint Thomas used the word ‘general justice’. In the XVIII-XIX, ‘legal justice’ was more used. Some Catholics theologians began to use the expression ‘social justice’ in the second half of XIX. It is now usual in the Pontifical Documents since Pius XI.

Definition of Justice: “justice is a habit whereby a man renders to each one his due by a constant and perpetual will.” ( IIa-IIae Q58 art1)

It is a social virtue because it has reference to others while virtues are usually self-regarding. The object of all the commandments of the Decalogue are acts of the virtue of justice as Saint Thomas explains: “Seemingly justice is the sole virtue whereby we are directed to another. Now we are directed to another by all the precepts of the Decalogue, as is evident if one consider each of them. Therefore all the precepts of the Decalogue pertain to justice.” (IIa-IIae Q122 art1)

General justice: it directs the acts of every other virtues to the common good.
Particular justice: it directs man in matters relating to particular goods of others.

We speak also about legal justice ( = general justice ): virtue of a good legislator who makes good laws and also of the good citizen who obeys these laws. By ‘legal’ we don’t speak about only positive laws but also natural law.

Particular justice is divided in:
--> commutative justice: from a person to another person. It requires an arithmetic equivalence in exchanges between persons. (If I buy an item of $100 to someone, I owe him $100)

--> distributive justice: from each single person to the whole community. It requires proportionality in the distribution of the common good.

Now, there is a difficulty. Pius XI gives the definition of social justice. It is the same definition that Saint Thomas gives for general justice. “Now it is of the very essence of social justice to demand for each individual all that is necessary for the common good.” (Divini redemptoris 51)
But it seems that the Pope distinguishes social justice from commutative justice when he writes: “In reality, besides commutative justice, there is also social justice with its own set obligations.”
So is social justice similar to distributive justice?

Some authors consider these two justice to be the same and only one. We don’t think so.

“In reality, besides commutative justice, there is also social justice with its own set obligations, from which neither employers nor workingmen can escape. Now it is of the very essence of social justice to demand for each individual all that is necessary for the common good. But just as in the living organism it is impossible to provide for the good of the whole unless each single part and each individual member is given what it needs for the exercise of its proper functions, so it is impossible to care for the social organism and the good of society as a unit unless each single part and each individual member - that is to say, each individual man in the dignity of his human personality - is supplied with all that is necessary for the exercise of his social functions.­ à it is precisely distributive justice!
So there is no social justice possible if there is no distributive justice first. They are distinct.

If social justice be satisfied, the result will be an intense activity in economic life as a whole, pursued in tranquility and order. This activity will be proof of the health of the social body, just as the health of the human body is recognized in the undisturbed regularity and perfect efficiency of the whole organism.”

Importance of distributive justice
When we speak about justice, we usually think about commutative justice and we usually forgot distributive justice. Yet, it is important as Pius XI says. We have to consider not only our personal goods but also – and maybe first – the common good.

Definition of common good: it is both the good of the community and the community of the good.
It is not a good which would be the good of the community considered as a person. First a community is not a person, even though we use the expression morale person : analogy !
à Pius XII : social community has no unity which subsists in itself. Its unity is a unity of finality or action, but not metaphysical.
Then if we consider common good as the good of the community as a person à by this fact it is a singular good which would be the good of the State. It might be the case with a tyrant, who, by the way, usually doesn’t care about the common good. When a State appropriate the common good for itself, it is Totalitarianism. In this case, social justice is destroyed.
( Case: What about the despoiling of the goods of the Church in France in 1905? Was it a kind of Totalitarianism? )

Leo XIII: Civil society exists for the common good ( Rerum novarum ) It is the supreme goal which gives its origin to human society ( Au milieu des solicitudes )
Justice is a virtue
Not ideology à it means, acts !! It is first a virtue to practice rather than a right to assert. We often demand justice for ourselves but we also fail to practice justice toward others or toward the community. It is also true for social justice.

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