3.1.2 Answer: justice

Back to 3.1.1

Unit 3 Contents

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We have already seen that the fundamental answer that CST gives to the question of the role of political authority is justice.

When looking at the main principles of CST (1.3), the first one we focused on was justice.  As we saw, Pope Benedict XVI reiterated Catholic teaching on this in his first encyclical, in 2005:

Justice is both the aim and the intrinsic criterion of all politics. Politics is more than a mere mechanism for defining the rules of public life: its origin and its goal are found in justice. (Deus Caritas Est, #28)

What we have to address here is what this means in practice.

Read that screen about justice again now (passing over the first few paragraphs about what the word ‘principle’ means).

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Re-reading (3pp)

VPlater, Module B, 1.3.1, ‘Justice’

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That screen includes the brief, formal definition that to do justice is to render what is due.  It also outlines the distinction between distributive and retributive justice.

We all have a basic intuitive sense of what justice requires, or at least few would deny that they have such a sense.  This means that there is some possibility for agreement about justice, even among people who have deeply different religious and philosophical convictions.  That intuitive sense means we can argue together in a potentially fruitful way about what is due, about what justice demands in practice.

Nevertheless, there are in the public culture in which CST has developed – that of the modern, now post-modern, Western world – several different understandings of justice and, therefore, of what government should do.  The vision of justice we find in CST is only one of these.  There are others associated with the main traditions of political thought and practice that we began to study in the last part of Unit 2, liberalism, conservatism and socialism.

Recognising this, we shall proceed as follows in Unit 3.  We shall give most space to exposition of what CST has to say about the justice that government must do.  Then, in the last part of the unit, we shall briefly compare and contrast this with other positions, building on that initial study of liberalism, conservatism and socialism.

It makes sense at the outset to give attention to a very important point about how government operates in practice.  In all government does, it depends on the possibility of using coercive force.  We look at this on the next screen, before returning to the distinction between ‘distributive’ and ‘retributive’ justice.

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End of 3.1.2

Go to 3.1.3 Government depends on possible resort to coercion

Module B outline

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