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  • Print publication year: 2000
  • Online publication date: March 2008

17 - Justice and the polis

Aristotle's own thoughts about justice are shaped by his canvassing of the available alternatives for whatever bits of the truth they might contain. Aristotle's dialectical method is well illustrated by his contribution to the by then traditional nature-convention (nomos-phusis) debate. As with any Aristotelian virtue, the character of justice is to be determined by looking to the nature or functioning of the creature whose virtue it is. When Aristotle says that political justice, which characterizes relations between citizens of a polis, is both conventional and natural, he is carving out a new position on the traditional question. Aristotle thinks of individuals as essentially social or political in a sense which ties the good of any individual to the good of his fellow citizens. In the ideal polis all citizens are virtuous. The justice of a political structure has become, in Aristotle, a matter of fairness to individual citizens.
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