Law, Justice and punishment

  • Created by: Estheexd
  • Created on: 16-03-15 20:09


Justice is concerned with treating everyone equally and fairly.

St Augustine said “ Equality must be something other than treating everyone in the same way since everyone is different”

Plato argued that: Justice is the way to the happiest life, justice is the expression of health, justice is achieved when everyone is able to live and work in harmony with one another.

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Justice (2) - The nature of equality

Justice is concerned with equality. There are four main view of what equality actually means:

·         Fundamental equality – where all people are treated as equal by the government and the legal systems

·         Social equality – where all people have the right to vote and stand for public office

·         Equal treatment for equals – treating people of the same group in the same way

Justice is difficult to achieve, however, because life is full of inequalities. David Hume said that it would never be possible to form a justice system based on what people deserve since its impossible to agree about what each person deserves. There could never be a justice of equality since people are unequal in what they have.

Thomas nagel noted that: many inequalities are deliberately imposed for example racial and sexual discrimination. There will always be people who are wealthier or more talented.

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Justice (3) - Justice, rights and duties

A key aspect of justice is the principle of rights and duties. When people interact and make choice, they are acting as moral agents. This means that they have certain duties and rights – things they ought to do and ought to receive. For instance, I ought to kill and should not in turn be kill be killed.

There are five types of rights:

·         Divine rights: these are rights given by god for example the right to life

·         Natural rights – these are rights that come from human nature  for example the right to shelter

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Justice (4)

The word ‘justice’ is derived from the Latin word which means fairness and equality

Plato said "Justice offers the happiest life, whereas injustice is like a sickness. Justice is an expression of health, it curbs self interest."

Hume said "it is impossible to achieve justice based on what people deserve. People will never be able to agree on what each individual actuallydeserves."

For Aristotle, justice is about restoring balance.Justice is ‘the mean’itis the midpoint between two extremes. Injustice is either an excess or a deficiency.

For Aristotle, justice was also that which abides by the law.

  • Justice is fairness, equal opportunities for all to make something of their lives.
  • ‘do not treat anybody in a way you yourself would not expect to be treated

According to Rawls, justice has to be a tangible good – objective – and available to everyone equally.


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Justice (5)

Nozick- If we have acquired something in a just manner, then it is ours. It is unrealistic to expect us to share it. We have no moral obligation to anyone other than ourselves.

Colson- justice is characterised by the society it is a part of.

Social contract- an agreement between the people and society itself, whereby the people are agreeing to abide by certain rules for the benefit of everyone.

Hobbes- we require a social contract to operate. The ruler acts as protector, guaranteeing the rights of the individual within the social contract. The people agree to live under that rule and limit their own freedom for the greater good.

Rousseau- mutual benefit. 

An important principle of justice is the notion of rights and duties- things we ought to receive and things we ought to do. Without them there can be no justice. Rights and duties are the different sides of the same coin ie. we have a duty to respect the rights of others and in turn have our rights respected.

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Retribution-  receive the appropriate punishment. James Rachels- “fits naturally with many people’s feelings.”, “people deserve to be treated in the same way that they have treated others.” All guilty people deserve to be punished.  Crimals ought to suffer in some way.

Protection- protect society from offenders misconduct Reformation- put through a programme that is designed to reform their character, so they become a valued member of society. Is it a type of punishment?

Deterrence- when the offender is punished, this acts as to  deter other people who might consider committing the same offence.

Vindication- the offender is punished in order to maintain respect for the law. Justice must be seen to be done.

The primary purpose of criminal justice is to preserve order with the minimum infraction of individual liberty... criminal justice requires a just means to restore the domestic order when it has broken down, and a system of punishment that is redemptive. Colson

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Punishment (2)

Punishment is given when laws are disobeyed. Punishment is the intentional infliction of pain and suffering by those in authority on those who have disobeyed its law. It can be inflicted by parents, employers and most significantly the state. In the uk punishment consists of imprisonment, fines and community service orders

“all punishment is mischief… all punishment, in itself, is evil” Jeremy Bentham

Types of punishment

·         Harm to the body – corporal punishment and execution

·         Harm to property – selling of goods or restriction of ownership

·         Restriction of movement – house arrest, imprisonment

·         Harm to reputation – public shaming

Utilitarian’s may argue that punishment is justified if one persons suffering means less suffering for others. For instance imprisoning a burglar prevent loss more people having their homes broken in to

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  • Its to do with rules that govern human relationships.
  • A system of rules and they serves as a social mediator of relations between people
  • Given by authority, for everyone’s benefit, ensures that the majority of people conform to standards
  • Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God. Romans 13
  • Aquinas- law necessarily concerns itself primarily with the order directing us toward beatitude.
  • Laws are created by society for the protection of the values of society and the defence of the rights of the individual.
  • Law is a rule and measure of actions through which one is induced to act or restrained from acting.
  • About seeking the common good.
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