What Is Justice Essays

Individuals are different in terms of their opportunities, physical and mental capabilities, financial and social statuses, and by other criteria. At the same time, most people live in societies—therefore norms regulating interactions and behavior in societies were developed. Historically, these norms were often beneficial for the few privileged members of a society, while other people had to deal with mistreatment and violations. This is where the concept of justice comes in. Philosophers were looking for a form of rule, or for a social organization that would embrace and satisfy the interests of all members of a society. Some of these philosophers—such as Plato, for example—saw justice in public ownership of all goods produced within a community; others believed an access to goods should be provided in accordance to the contribution a person had made to social affairs. It may seem paradoxical, but even now the concept and the understanding of justice is debated.

According to Dictionary.com, justice is synonymous to such concepts as righteousness, lawfulness, and equality. As an ethical category, justice can be defined as a principle of fairness, according to which similar cases should be treated alike, and a punishment should be proportionate to the offense; the same refers to rewards for achievements. The Merriam-Webster Online dictionary defines justice as an impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments; the establishment or determination of rights according to the rules of law or equity. As a broader meaning, justice is defined as a conformity to the ideal of just or right doing.

Justice in its legal and ethical perspective can be defined as acting according to the ideal of fair-doing recognized in a particular society, and treating a person or his or her doings in accordance to this ideal and state laws. At the same time, justice, law, and norms are not equivalent; for example, a punishment for a crime judged fairly according to the existing laws does not necessarily look fair in the eyes of public, as it was in Anders Breivik’s case. Breivik, the Norwegian terrorist who killed 77 people in July, 2011, was sentenced to 21 years of imprisonment (The New York Times), which is unfairly unequal to the scale of the crime he committed.

Referring to justice in its socioeconomic aspect, it is rather difficult to provide an unequivocal definition, as most of them are closely connected to various political and economic doctrines. Simply put, justice can be defined as a way of allocating and distributing material and intangible benefits (such as education, employment opportunities, access to political life) in a society in a way that does not infringe or insult any individual.

Justice is a concept which can be understood in different ways, especially in its socioeconomic perspective. Also, justice can be defined as acting according to the ideal of fair-doing recognized in a particular society, and treating a person or their doings in accordance to this ideal and state laws. In its economical aspect, justice is a way of distributing material and intangible goods in a way that does not insult anyone. As you can see, justice is multifaceted.


Lewis, Mark, and Sarah Lyall. “Norway Mass Killer Gets the Maximum: 21 Years.” The New York Times. N.p., 24 Aug. 2012. Web. 12 July 2013. <http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/25/world/europe/anders-behring-breivik-murder-trial.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0>.

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What is Justice?

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Of course I looked “justice” up in the dictionary before I started to write this paper and I didn’t find anything of interest except of course a common word in every definition, that being “fair”. This implies that justice would have something to do with being fair. I thought that if one of the things the law and legal system are about is maintaining and promoting justice and a sense of “fairness”, they might not be doing such a spiffy job. An eye for an eye is fair? No, that would be too easy, too black and white. I could cite several examples where I thought a judge’s or jury’s ruling was not fair, but I won’t because frankly, we’ve all seen those.

I actually believe in our legal system and I believe in justice. I believe in justice as an ideal that we strive for and that is what it means to me. The legal system, when looked at closer is not justice but instead - judgment. You can be punished when found guilty, in a number of ways, but who knows if they’re “fair” punishments, it’s all a matter of opinion. Is life in jail, say 25 years, going to be enough punishment for the parents charged with brutally murdering their daughter Farah Khan? Her life was brief, but whoever killed her also mutilated her body parts. The possibilities for her life were endless, she could have lived to the old age of 95. So is 25 years enough for her killers? They’ll be able to walk free at the end of their term, and perhaps few will remember them then and what they did. Why is justice important then? Because although the legal system is not always right, it needs that lofty ideal of justice as something to strive for, something to hope gets accomplished, the hope for every victim of a crime of any nature. The seeking of justice is a tiring and long quest akin to the seeking of truth, for they are closely linked and without one there may not be the other.

Without the understanding of what really happened in an event or place and time justice is not being sought out and can’t be dealt to those that need it. We all have felt wronged, at one time or another, in one form or another and I feel that is why we all have a common interest in seeking justice.

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When we see the unfortunate stories of others, people who have had murder or assault, petty theft or vandalism, committed against them or the ones they love, we hope that our idea of justice is served. We hope that the people who commit crimes “get what they deserve” at one time or another and we have a common belief and hope that is as soon as possible and justice can only occur in the form of a jail term, a fine, probation etc. We have this “hope” for others because we know that if the same situation occurred in our lives, we’d like to have some comfort in knowing that the “system works”. That bad guys go to jail and the like. This is why justice is important and sought after, for the common interests of the people.

I truly believe however, that justice as an ideal of a form of punishment does not always come in the conventional ways of a jail sentence, or any other means a court uses to punish criminals. Justice is almost divine to me in that I’d like to know that if I see a victim who has been wronged, the person who committed this crime against them might feel the same pain and anguish as the victim. That they too feel loss and betrayal, would be as close as I could come to feeling a sense of justice has occurred. Justice can only be hoped for though, can only be striven for and although we may not feel it is always served - we cannot lose faith in our legal or “justice” system. The fact that at least justice is looked at as what would be ideal and striven for in every courtroom might be good enough, I think It might just be good enough for me.

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