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It is obvious also that exchange was thus conducted before the existence of money: for it makes no difference whether you give for a house five beds or the price of five beds. We have now said then what the abstract Just and Unjust are, and these having been defined it is plain that just acting is a mean between acting unjustly and being acted unjustly towards: the former being equivalent to having more, and the latter to having less.
But Justice, it must be observed, is a mean state not after the same manner as the forementioned virtues, but because it aims at producing the mean, while Injustice occupies both the extremes.
1134a] And Justice is the moral state in virtue of which the just man is said to have the aptitude for practising the Just in the way of moral choice, and for making division between, himself and another, or between two other men, not so as to give to himself the greater and to his neighbour the less share of what is choiceworthy and contrariwise of what is hurtful, but what is proportionably equal, and in like manner when adjudging the rights of two other men.
Injustice is all this with respect to the Unjust: and since the Unjust is excess or defect of what is good or hurtful respectively, in violation of the proportionate, therefore Injustice is both excess and defect because it aims at producing excess and defect; excess, that is, in a man’s own case of what is simply advantageous, and defect of what is hurtful: and in the case of other men in like manner generally speaking, only that the proportionate is violated not always in one direction as before but whichever way it happens in the given case. And of the Unjust act the less is being acted unjustly towards, and the greater the acting unjustly towards others.
Let this way of describing the nature of Justice and Injustice, and likewise the Just and the Unjust generally, be accepted as sufficient.
VI] Again, since a man may do unjust acts and not yet have formed a character of injustice, the question arises whether a man is unjust in each particular form of injustice, say a thief, or adulterer, or robber, by doing acts of a given character.
We may say, I think, that this will not of itself make any difference; a man may, for instance, have had connection with another’s wife, knowing well with whom he was sinning, but he may have done it not of deliberate choice but from the impulse of passion: of course he acts unjustly, but he has not necessarily formed an unjust character: that is, he may have stolen yet not be a thief; or committed an act of adultery but still not be an adulterer, and so on in other cases which might be enumerated.
Of the relation which Reciprocation bears to the Just we have already spoken: and here it should be noticed that the Just which we are investigating is both the Just in the abstract and also as exhibited in Social Relations, which latter arises in the case of those who live in communion with a view to independence and who are free and equal either proportionately or numerically.
It follows then that those who are not in this position have not among themselves the Social Just, but still Just of some kind and resembling that other. For Just implies mutually acknowledged law, and law the possibility of injustice, for adjudication is the act of distinguishing between the Just and the Unjust.
And among whomsoever there is the possibility of injustice among these there is that of acting unjustly; but it does not hold conversely that injustice attaches to all among whom there is the possibility of acting unjustly, since by the former we mean giving one’s self the larger share of what is abstractedly good and the less of what is abstractedly evil.
134b] This, by the way, is the reason why we do not allow a man to govern, but Principle, because a man governs for himself and comes to be a despot: but the office of a ruler is to be guardian of the Just and therefore of the Equal. Well then, since he seems to have no peculiar personal advantage, supposing him a Just man, for in this case he does not allot to himself the larger share of what is abstractedly good unless it falls to his share proportionately (for which reason he really governs for others, and so Justice, men say, is a good not to one’s self so much as to others, as was mentioned before), therefore some compensation must be given him, as there actually is in the shape of honour and privilege; and wherever these are not adequate there rulers turn into despots.
But the Just which arises in the relations of Master and Father, is not identical with, but similar to, these; because there is no possibility of injustice towards those things which are absolutely one’s own; and a slave or child (so long as this last is of a certain age and not separated into an independent being), is, as it were, part of a man’s self, and no man chooses to hurt himself, for which reason there cannot be injustice towards one’s own self: therefore neither is there the social Unjust or Just, which was stated to be in accordance with law and to exist between those among whom law naturally exists, and these were said to be they to whom belongs equality of ruling and being ruled.
Hence also there is Just rather between a man and his wife than between a man and his children or slaves; this is in fact the Just arising in domestic relations: and this too is different from the Social Just.
VII] Further, this last-mentioned Just is of two kinds, natural and conventional; the former being that which has everywhere the same force and does not depend upon being received or not; the latter being that which originally may be this way or that indifferently but not after enactment: for instance, the price of ransom being fixed at a mina, or the sacrificing a goat instead of two sheep; and again, all cases of special enactment, as the sacrificing to Brasidas as a hero; in short, all matters of special decree.
But there are some men who think that all the Justs are of this latter kind, and on this ground: whatever exists by nature, they say, is unchangeable and has everywhere the same force; fire, for instance, burns not here only but in Persia as well, but the Justs they see changed in various places.
Now this is not really so, and yet it is in a way (though among the gods perhaps by no means): still even amongst ourselves there is somewhat existing by nature: allowing that everything is subject to change, still there is that which does exist by nature, and that which does not.
Nay, we may go further, and say that it is practically plain what among things which can be otherwise does exist by nature, and what does not but is dependent upon enactment and conventional, even granting that both are alike subject to be changed: and the same distinctive illustration will apply to this and other cases; the right hand is naturally the stronger, still some men may become equally strong in both.
1135a] A parallel may be drawn between the Justs which depend upon convention and expedience, and measures; for wine and corn measures are not equal in all places, but where men buy they are large, and where these same sell again they are smaller: well, in like manner the Justs which are not natural, but of human invention, are not everywhere the same, for not even the forms of government are, and yet there is one only which by nature would be best in all places.