Eight Philosophical Quotes on Justice (With References)

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This page contains a collection of philosophical quotes on justice, arranged in roughly chronological order. These quotes are all genuine and details about the author, book, chapter number, and translation are included where applicable. Without further ado, here are eight philosophical quotes on justice:


This . . . is what the just is-the proportional; the unjust is what violates the proportion. Hence one term becomes too great, the other too small, as indeed happens in practice; for the man who acts unjustly has too much, and the man who is unjustly treated too little, of what is good.

– Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1131b17, trans. W. D. Ross


Justice is the bond of men in states, for the administration of justice, which is the determination of what is just, is the principle of order in political society.

– Aristotle, Politics, 1253a36, trans. Benjamin Jowett


The weaker are always asking for equality and justice, but the stronger care for none of these things.

– Aristotle, Politics, 1318b, trans. Benjamin Jowett


Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies? For what are robberies themselves, but little kingdoms? The band itself is made up of men; it is ruled by the authority of a prince, it is knit together by the pact of the confederacy; the booty is divided by the law agreed on. If, by the admittance of abandoned men, this evil increases to such a degree that it holds places, fixes abodes, takes possession of cities, and subdues peoples, it assumes the more plainly the name of a kingdom, because the reality is now manifestly conferred on it, not by the removal of covetousness, but by the addition of impunity. Indeed, that was an apt and true reply which was given to Alexander the Great by a pirate who had been seized. For when that king had asked the man what he meant by keeping hostile possession of the sea, he answered with bold pride, “What thou meanest by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, whilst thou who dost it with a great fleet art styled emperor.”

– St. Augustine, City of God, IV, 4, trans. Marcus Dods


Before the names of just and unjust can have place, there must be some coercive power to compel men equally to the performance of their covenants, by the terror of some punishment greater than the benefit they expect by the breach of their covenant, and to make good that propriety which by mutual contract men acquire in recompense of the universal right they abandon: and such power there is none before the erection of a Commonwealth. And this is also to be gathered out of the ordinary definition of justice in the Schools, for they say that justice is the constant will of giving to every man his own. And therefore where there is no own, that is, no propriety, there is no injustice; and where there is no coercive power erected, that is, where there is no Commonwealth, there is no propriety, all men having right to all things: therefore where there is no Commonwealth, there nothing is unjust. So that the nature of justice consisteth in keeping of valid covenants, but the validity of covenants begins not but with the constitution of a civil power sufficient to compel men to keep them: and then it is also that propriety begins.

– Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, I, 15


Commerce and manufactures can seldom flourish long in any state which does not enjoy a regular administration of justice; in which the people do not feel themselves secure in the possession of their property; in which the faith of contracts is not supported by law; and in which the authority of the state is not supposed to be regularly employed in enforcing the payment of debts from all those who are able to pay. Commerce and manufactures, in short, can seldom flourish in any state, in which there is not a certain degree of confidence in the justice of government.

– Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, V, 3


Justice itself is the great standing policy of civil society; and any eminent departure from it, under any circumstance, lies under the suspicion of being no policy at all.

– Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France


Under the government which imprisons unjustly, the true place for a just man is also in prison.

– Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience


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