A Continued Study of Aristotle’s Virtues – Justice

By Alisa Murray
Nationally recognized
portrait artist and

This year marks my 15th anniversary writing my column Living the Sweet Life. This year also marks my 50th birthday. As a way of reflection and remembrance, this year’s Sweet Life will be a continuous study of Aristotle’s 12 Virtues and how they are applied to my life.

Well my Sweet Life friends, we have been studying Aristotle this year, and in reflection, there was no better year to go through the virtues. This year has been an exercise in testing all of us both individually, as well as globally, and justice, as complicated as it is to understand and define, is up next.

Justice has many definitions and what makes it more so complicated than any of the other virtues is the interpretations of what justice actually is. Justice has been “argued” over humankind and can be broken down into two parts that simply are what justice is to us and what is just to others.

Justice as a virtue in the context of society is based on doing things for the greater good of the whole. Selecting a way of acting or caring for our neighbors that does not necessarily directly benefit us, but morally and socially, we deem it to be correct because of an agreed upon set of values. A great example of this for us today is wearing a mask, dropping off food to those who are in need, shopping for the elderly so they are not in harm’s way and of course, supporting small businesses. In choosing to give our resources to those we know need them, we are acting “justly.” In choosing to protect from harm the weaker by shopping for them and wearing a mask, we are showing respect to the greater good of us all. We are acutely aware that our actions are selfless, and through them, we are offering a form of justice to all. Doing so creates a balance of goodness and at the very core of Aristotle’s virtues is the acceptance of and practice in one’s life of doing right. The reward is living the good life, although I would now argue living a sweet life.

Alisa Murray and William.

Justice as a virtue in the context of the individual is choosing to provide through hard work for one’s self and family. It is a selfish and singularity focused act but a necessary one for survival. Resources are scarce, and we need to have some control over having our lives be in our control. The concept of building a business, and through those efforts, the results are wealth and living the good life are at the core of what is deemed American where you can be and dream and become anything you would  like to be. You have to be selfish enough to go out there and grab it. Acknowledgment of being successful and then choosing to give back resources also creates a sense of belonging to something greater than yourself, and again, creates balance in society and also a sense of well-being that directly influences the ultimate achievement of the virtues – that of a life well-lived. The point? Justice is a complicated subject to tackle.

It is perhaps easier to define what is unjust. That could not be more evident than in these times. From my perspective, it is unjust to see businesses destroyed and looted. Justice is based in morality and abiding to a moral quit of social morays that benefit all who live in it. Justice is peace. Justice is loving others and treating both yourself and society with respect and reaping the rewards from hard work. Justice is not easy, which is why it is considered to be as Plato described a “master virtue.” Justice is love. As Paul spoke in Corinthians, “Love is the greatest amongst the virtues of faith and hope.” ( 1 Corinthians 13:13) It is the ability to show love for both yourself and your neighbor even when you disagree.

Take Care of YOU and OTHERS!