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What is the difference between justice and morality? Evidently, the concepts overlap each other, and in many cases they appertain to each other.
I have made some observation, though I am not quite sure whether they are of any relevance, in terms of difference. Firstly, it appears to me that morality deals with the means of an action, in most of the cases, rather than the ends, where the motive of your action is of major, if not absolute, significance (whereof Kant suggested good will as the basis of morality, or something done out of reverence of law). In justice, however, the means are scarcely ever mentioned, and all we hear about is the ends. It appears to me that some ends are in themselves the measure of justice, independent of intention. Also, the word justice, apparently, from the word "jus", which means law, which certainly does make it easier to approach. However, it does not appear to be the case that law is equal to justice. Laws can, supposedly, also be unjust. It really bothers me that I cannot substantiate the difference between the two concepts, for it appears to me that I can apprehend them, though not separate from each other.

November 25, 2012

Response from Charles Taliaferro on November 30, 2012
Your frustration is understandable! In English, we used to have fine distinctions between the terms ethics and morality, duties and obligations, labor and work, recklessness and negligence..... but we English-speakers seem less keen about the finer distinctions at work. One might easily conflate the terms just and moral; saying a law is unjust seems the equivalent of claiming that a law is immoral (or the establishment of the law is morally wrong). But, there is still some distinctions to observe: justice usually pertains to matters of governance and human rights. And there are different domains of justice: Distributive justice concerns the distribution of goods and burdens; Retributive justice refers to matters of punishment; Restorative justice refers to compensation for past wrongful harms, and so on. Such forms of justice are related to rights, distributive justice may concern itself with a person's having a right to health care, retributive justice needs to address respecting or violating a person's right to a fair trial. What we call morality can certainly enter into different domains of justice or specific forms of inquiry about what is just or unjust in war, for example ("Just War Theory"). But morality is, in a sense, broader than matters of governance. In a class on morality, one might take up the moral permissibility of abortion, capital punishment, gay marriage, physician assisted suicide all of which have implications for governance but in a moral inquiry there tends to be less interest in the actual legality of an act. So, you and your friend may fully agree that abortion is legally permitted in the USA, prostitution is legal in Las Vagas, pornography is available to adults on the internet, and you and your friend may have compelling arguments and objections of the morality of each of these domains. What is known as moral psychology is especially concerned with the nature and value of motives: pride, compassion, empathy, anger, greed, lust, envy, jealousy, love, hate...

You suggestion about means of an action versus ends is interesting, though in the context of many laws concerning life and property, motives (what you are calling 'means' I think) come into play. When someone is arrested on the grounds of theft, we need to know if the subject had bad motives (a guilty mind or mens rea) or she was deceived and innocent (she took a bike that was not hers, but she thought it was hers because her Aunt had explained to her that the Aunt bought the bike and had given it to her as a gift. There is at least one troubling area of law, though, where motives are ignored, and that occurs in statutory laws. In statutory rape (an adult has sex with someone under the age of consent), someone may be found guilty of rape even if the girl he had sex with was disguised as a senior citizen in an assisted living, retirement community. I can understand why we have statutory laws, but see them as problematic.

Thank you for your engaging question! I hope you are less bothered after considering my suggestions.


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