(Sample Material) UPSC Mains Philosophy (Optional) Study Kit "Socio Political Philosophy (Aristotles Theory of Justice)"

Sample Material of UPSC Mains Philosophy (Optional) Study Kit

Topic: Socio Political Philosophy (Aristotles Theory of Justice)

Realist—Philosopher Ethics

Politics forms the most important part. Aristotle gave much emphasis to the practice aspects of Justice, though he talks of universal and particular. So Aristotle philosophy has a time of Justice.

Universal and Particular Justice

It is the ideal from of Justice which means that each individual while dealing with other fellow mates should base his conduct on the principles of loyality.

When the universal Justice is applied in practical sense, it is called particular Justice. It is of two types Retributive and Distributive Justice. Retributive Justice is corrective or remedial in nature. The purpose of retributive justice is to remove some injustice.

It is related to voluntary and involuntary relations. Voluntary relations are contractual relations where the consent of concerned party is required. Involuntary relations are not based on the consent stealing, theft, etc. Retributive Justice is based on the principle of absolute equality. Perfect equality means treating all individual similarly.

Therefore retributive justice is based on Arithmetic Progression and Principle of equidistance.

Retributive Justice comes under the jurisdiction of Judge.

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Distributive Justice

It is related to the distribution of wealth and resources in the society.

Distributive Justice is based on the idea of propotionel equality. Proportional equality means equal treatment with equals and unequal treatment with unequals. E.g. Master and slaves.

Distributive Justice is based on Geometric progression and therefore principle is of equidistance is not followed.

Distributive Justice comes under the Jurisdiction of legislative.

While formulating the criteria for distribution, Aristotle talks of two things 1) Property 2) Tradition which means propertied class and traditional, well-off class will get more share in the national wealth and Resources.


DAS far as retributive theory is concerned, in many cases perfect retribution is not possible. As far as distributive theory is concerned ultimately like plato’s theory. Aristotle’s theory also becomes a plea to support the privilages of the master class.


1) The idea of distributive justice is still relevant but in a different form.
2) Aristotle was the first philosopher who formulated a practical theory of Justice.
3) Certain notions formulated by Aristotle have become the past of modern legal system, though with a different terminology.

Voluntary – Civil issues,

Involuntary —criminal issues perfect equality- equality before law like plato, Aristotle was also influenced by his time, context and was class biased.


‘’Justice as is fairness’’

Justice is not an ethic of reward but it is ethic of redress.

1971-A Theory of Justice Rawl’s theory of Justice is a liberal distributive procedural theory of Justice.

Rawls is essentially a liberal but has a balanced view.

Distribution means that it is not a legal theory, he is basically concerned with distribution of resources. Procedure is based on fair rules.

Like plato, Rawl also believes that Justice is the first virtue of all social institutions. Justice is related to the distribution of certain goods and resources which Rawl’s describes. Primary social rules All wealth, resource posts freedoms skill etc are primary social goods. He believes that Justice is fairness, therefore Justice distribution of these primary social goods must be fair the distribution will be fair, only if the rules principles or procedures on distribution is fair. So the central concern of Rawl’s is to formulated the rules and procedures which are fair. To know these fair rules, Rawl’s talks about a hypothetical situation which he calls original position. This is a situation where some individuals (contractor) sit together to know the fair means of Justice contractors are under the veil of ignorance which means they know that, they will have a place in the society but they do not know what place it will be. In this situation when they are asked to formulate the principle’s of Justice, their rationality will guide them to formulate principle’s of Justice based on maximin (Max-mine) rule Maximin rule means to maximize one’s minimum prospects, therefore all goal systems which are based on exploitation of the weaker section will be rejected. These rules will be fair because people under the veil of ignorance are themselves ignorant about their future class states there fore, they will not be biased in the favour of any class. According to Rawl’s contractor under the veil of Ignorance guided by their rationality and maximin rule will formulate two principles of Justice,

i) Maximum amount of liberty will be given to all individuals consistant with equal liberty for all.
ii) Social and Economic inequalities are to be arranged in a such a way that they are (a) to the greatest advantage of the least advantaged (b) All posts and offices are open to all under the fair equality of opportunity.

In the first principle is also called the principle equality of liberties. 2(a) is also called difference principle 2(b) is also called principle of equality of opportunities.

In the first instance, state will try to make a balance between them but if dispute becomes unavoidable then Rawl’s gives the criteria of lexicon priority, according to which equality of liberties will have priority over second and 2(b) will have priority over 2(a) practical implication of 1st Principle is support for market system regarding difference principle Rawls wants to remove the socio-economic disparity created by market through preferential behaviour with the weaker sections. Difference principle makes state action in the form of welfare measures and progressive taxation varied. In the light of this difference principle, Rawl’s maintains that Justice is not an ethic of reward, it is an ethic of redress. In support of difference principle he formulates chain principle According to chain principle the strength of a chain is measured from the strength of its weakest link, similarly the strength of the society depends on the strength of its weakest member.

To Difference principle, Rawl’s formulates the principle of equality of apportunity. Once the rules of Justice are formulated constitution is formed constitution will be dominate by the first mile liberty, After constitution is formed social legislation takes place legislation is dominated by difference principle after legislation the laws are implemented by the administrators and in case of disputes. Judges adjudicate.

Basically Rawl’s theory is based on Liberal, Distributive and procedural criticisms.

i) Marxist criticisms at according to Marxist philosopher’s Rawl’s talks of differential treatment in the favour of disadvantaged class which is not possible in a society based on private property so Rawl’s has provided moral justification for capitalism which is an exploitation system.
ii) According to libertarian thinkers Rawl’s has given too much significance to state action which may lead to curtailment of individual liberty (Anarchy, state and utopia 1973) NOZICK believes that Rawlsian theory of Justice will lead to the emergence of a taxation state based on progressive taxation. In suo a state, individual will be deprived of its fruits of labour. Individual will become a slave for some time partial enslavement). Therefore instead of remaining end in itself individual will become a means to fulfill some others end.
iii) According to feminist critics Rawl’s has used mate terms of references throughout his writing which reflects the male dominant thinking feminists also believe that Rawl’s talks of Justice in the public sphere but be is completely silent on the question of injustice and exploitation in the private sphere called family therefore like other male dominant philosophers Rawls also accepts the public – private dichotomy.
iv) According to communitarian group of philosopher’s Rawls claims formulate a theory of Justice. Which is universal but according to communitarians universal and objective theory of Justice is not possible because Justice is a culture bound concept.
v) Like Plato Rawls has also ignored legal aspects of Justice.
vi) According to Hayak, the idea of social Justice is a mirage. It is a dangerous concept which disturbs social stability.

Significance of Rawls

1) Balance between liberty and equality .
2) Provides moral justification for welfare state.

i) Rawls has answered one of the most important problems of contemporary political philosophy i.e. the relationship between state and market. This approach is balanced one because be combine market economy with welfarism.
ii) Rawls in his scheme of Justice made both liberty and equality the two components which are complimentary to each other.
iii) On moral ground, Rawls theory of Justice is a superior theory because he talks of the most disadvantage section of the society along with the other classes.
iv) Rawls political theory is held responsible for the revival of normative political philosophy .
v) It is a balanced theory. Format for short notes (200 words)

i) Rawls difference principle (explain) chain principle.
ii) Justice as fairness
Procedures — fair — out come —distribution original position, veil of ignorance impartial, unbiased, two Rules .
iii) Criticisms

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