Theories of Justice

Topics: John Rawls, Political philosophy, John Locke Pages: 12 (3834 words) Published: December 12, 2006


Justice is action in accordance with the requirements of law. It is suppose to ensure that all members of society receive fair treatment. Issues of justice arise in several different spheres and often play a significant role in causing, enabling, and addressing discord. The goal of the Justice System is to try to resolve and satisfy all these issues for the members of society. Injustice can lead to dissatisfaction, and/or rebellion. The different spheres express the principles of justice and fairness in their own way resulting in different types and concepts of justice. This paper will take a closer look at three justice theories based on our textbook "Moral Issues in Business", by William H. Shaw and Vincent Barry. I will then use these various theories to create an argument for a topic that will later be defined. (Shaw, Barry, 2004) (Beyond Intractability, 2003)

Utilitarian Justice

As suggested by philosophers Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill.

The Utilitarian theory of justice promotes social well-being or happiness. It's a system that wants to bring more good to society than any other system. However, it depends on various social, economic, and political facts. A utilitarian must understand the various possibilities, then determine their consequences and assess what options may be available. (Shaw, Barry, 2004)

Utilitarianism is a moral theory which claims that the right action is whatever action brings about the most utility of all the possible actions. Utility is a measure of what is valuable, and John Stuart Mill claims that the only thing which has inherent value is the happiness of individuals. Happiness is defined by Mill as pleasure minus pain, but this is not limited to physical pleasure and pain. Every person's happiness counts equally. So, the right action in a situation is the action whose consequences contain the greatest sum of future happiness that it is possible to create from that situation. (Shaw, Barry, 2004) (Utilitarianism, 2005)

The utilitarian theory suggests that an action is just if it is in accord with the correct principles of justice. These principles will demand that people be given what they are due, and that they be treated equally. People are due what they have a moral right to, but these moral rights are ultimately determined by what set of rules would maximize utility if they were accepted and enforced by a given society. In other words, justice is respecting rights which are defined by their utility. A part of this will be treating people equally, where the type of equality is also determined by what maximizes utility. Nevertheless, an action which follows these principles and is just, may fail to maximize utility. (Shaw, Barry, 2004), (Utilitarianism, 2005)

The Utilitarian theory I believe presents numerous problems in its conception, most of which lie in the fact that the theory oversimplifies many aspects of human life. It would make life very easy and simple if all we had to worry about was causing the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest amount of people. However, this gives no protection to the rights of the minority or individual, nor does it allow for the ideal of Justice. (Shaw, Barry, 2004), (Utilitarianism, 2005)

The Utilitarian theory suggests that morality is nothing more than the attempt to bring about as much happiness as possible to as many people as possible. This means that every person's happiness is weighed evenly. However, if there are more people to be made happy by an event or decision, then those in the minority, no matter how many or how close in numbers to being the majority will have to suffer unhappiness. (Shaw, Barry, 2004)

I would like to use an example involving the recent Presidential election. There are two men running for President, John Kerry and George Bush. If those voting in favor of Kerry are fewer in number than those voting in favor of...

References: Shaw, W. H, Barry, V. Moral Issues in Business, Ninth Edition. Wadsworth,
Maiese, M. Beyond Intractability Types of Justice, 2003. Retrieved on 4/4/05 from
UTLITARIANISM. John Stuart Mill. Retrieved on 4/9/05 from
Lamont, J. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Libertarian Principles Sept. 8, 2003.
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Jedicke, P. John Rawls Theory of Justice, 1997 Retrieved on 4/11/05 from
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