JUSTICE AND ITS PRIMACY IN THE POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY OF ARISTOTLE
The problem of the origin and harmonious organization of the state has been an age long problem for philosophers. They have varied opinions as regards the solution to this problem. The conventionalists and contractualists hold that the state originated out of convention or contract between individuals or groups. However, Aristotle a master in ancient philosophical thought, whose influence has always rocked the philosophical defense of his contemporaries and successors, has it that the state is natural to man. Also, his refutation of the conventionalist’s notion of the state led him to redefine the state as an association of communities made up of citizens with the aim of achieving the highest common good. Having defined the state thus, he sets himself the task of investigating the activities of the state in order to find out its end and goal; to find out who and who are qualified to be citizens of the state; and if all the members of the state are qualified to enjoy the basic individual rights in the state.
It is in this context that he brought in the issue of justice as the central point on which the activities of the state revolves. Hence, I found it appropriate to treat as my project topic “Justice and its primacy in the political philosophy of Aristotle.” As the political philosophy of Aristotle is concerned mainly with the governmental order of the state, we shall be using the word ‘state’ more frequent in this work. Furthermore, this work shall be divided into four chapters. Chapter one will deal with the meaning and notion of state and justice respectively, with special reference to Aristotle. Chapter two will deal with the application of justice in the state. Since man is naturally born in the state, there is the necessity for harmonious relationship between members of the state. This harmonious co-existence can only be achieved through the application of justice in the state.
However, in different political organization, there are different constitutions applied. Nevertheless, the application of justice lies in the governing principles of the constitution of that particular state. Justice therefore always implies “Justice for whom.” Here Aristotle seems to make justice relative. However, he holds that though justice is often determined by a particular circumstance, there is on the whole a particular justice which other relative justice of different constitutions must square up to. This is the absolute justice; that which justifies any constitution. But since it aims towards the common good, it is guided by law and morality. Chapter three will concern itself with justice vis-à-vis revolution in the state. Here we shall look into the consequence of the absence of justice in the state. And if justice is necessary for the stability of any political organization, how do we restore it? Moreover, since the problem of political stability depends on good rulership, it follows that present and future leaders must be educated and trained on the acquisition and practice of justice. Hence the relevance of education and political awareness towards upholding justice and stability of government in the state. Finally, we shall end the work with chapter four which will deal with evaluation and conclusion of all that has been said.