In my previous two posts, I discussed the Four Virtues of Stoicism in general and then examined Wisdom in a little more detail. This post focuses on another of the Virtues: Justice.
Justice lies at the interface of Wisdom and action. This is the Virtue of taking the right action at the right time. Justice implies that your actions with, for, and against others will not purposely harm them. Thus, Justice is the Virtue that most guides social interactions and is more outward facing than the other three.
Donald Robinson provides a great explanation of the social nature of Justice:
The Stoic virtue of justice consists of two main qualities: kindness and fairness. Kindness is simply the opposite of anger, according to the Stoics. Anger typically consists in the desire to harm others because of some perceived injury, the desire for vengeance. Kindness, by contrast, is the desire to help others. We help others, even our “enemies,” by educating them and bringing them closer to wisdom.Donald Robinson
In addition to Justice toward others, a Stoic is just with himself. A Stoic will try to maintain a healthy mind and body by consistently taking the right actions, such as eating a balanced diet and exercising her mind, all the while understanding that health is fleeting and beyond her control. Being just with oneself means accepting one’s shortcomings while working to overcome them.
Given the value of acting justly toward oneself and society, some scholars believe that Justice was the most important Virtue to the Stoics. As you might recall from my previous post, I disagree. Although Justice was undeniably in the top half of the Virtues, I believe Wisdom was more important to the Stoics, with the possible exception of Marcus Aurelius (see the quote below), and if it was not, it should have been. Justice requires doing the right thing at the right time. If you are unable to discern the right thing to do, thereby practicing Wisdom, how can you do the right thing? Of course, Stoics want to do the right thing, but they must first use Wisdom to decide what that is.
To the best of my judgment, when I look at the human character I see no virtue that counters justice.Marcus Aurelius
Regardless of the order of importance, Stoics should strive to be both wise and just. I am unable to think of two better adjectives to describe effective lawyers. Our goal should be to gain and apply a bit of wisdom each day while striving for the most just outcome obtained through the most just process. We must always remember that we are the guardians of Justice and the enemies of injustice.
How have you acted justly recently? What injustices have you fought and conquered?