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Principles of Justice



It may seem to be a simple matter of common sense that justice is central to any decision making to have a well-functioning society. However, the question of what justice is exactly, and how it is achieved, are more difficult matters. The principles of justice point to ideas of fair treatment and "fair play.” Not surprisingly, principles of justice can be applied in a variety of contexts. Most commonly known are:

Distributive Justice, or the fair distribution of scarce resources;

Rights-Based Justice, or the respect for people’s rights;

And Legal Justice, or the respect for acceptable laws.

These ways of thinking about justice can have conflicting implications, especially to decision-making, leading to disputes about fairness. For example, some believe that an equitable distribution is fairest, while others may insist that a society's assets should be allocated according to need. Similarly, some believe that those who violate the rights of others should receive their “justice” (paying a fine or going to prison), while others believe the focus should be on the needs of victims and offenders (which can be protected through a restorative justice system).

As the ethicist John Rawls has pointed out, the stability of a society, or any group for that matter, depends upon the extent to which the members of that society feel that they are being treated justly and that decisions are being made with justice in mind.

Teaching Strategy: Concept Formation

Concept formation is an inductive teaching strategy that helps students form a clear understanding of a concept (or idea) through studying a small set of examples of the concept.



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