The Elements of Justice (Google eBook)
What is justice? Questions of justice are questions about what people are due. However, what that means in practice depends on the context in which the question is raised. Depending on context, the formal question of what people are due is answered by principles of desert, reciprocity, equality, or need. Justice, therefore, is a constellation of elements that exhibit a degree of integration and unity. Nonetheless, the integrity of justice is limited, in a way that is akin to the integrity of a neighborhood rather than that of a building. A theory of justice offers individuals a map of that neighborhood, within which they can explore just what elements amount to justice.
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Page 5 - Consider for example the proceedings that we call "games." I mean boardgames, card-games, ball-games, Olympic games, and so on. What is common to them all? — Don't say: 'There must be something common, or they would not be called 'games'" — but look and see whether there is anything common to all. — For if you look at them you will not see something that is common to all, but similarities, relationships, and a whole series of them at that.
Page 10 - We cannot, in general, assess a conception of justice by its distributive role alone, however useful this role may be in identifying the concept of justice. We must take into account its wider connections; for even though justice has a certain priority, being the most important virtue of institutions, it is still true that, other things equal, one conception of justice is preferable to another when its broader consequences are more desirable.
Page 8 - Those who hold different conceptions of justice can, then, still agree that institutions are just when no arbitrary distinctions are made between persons in the assigning of basic rights and duties and when the rules determine a proper balance between competing claims to the advantages of social life.