Conform to law

An interpretation of Aristotle's outline on how to be virtuous through practice, habit, and finally obtaining disposition, can be that a habit is more easily formed when suffering injustice than causing it, and vice versa for those who cause injustice, will be inclined to do it again, if they can get away with it. Those suffering from injustice will avoid it, if possible (The habitual choice of too little for oneself is neglected as impossible), and thus, there is a better chance that they can become (or are) virtuous, as long as that person will not commit an act of injustice from receiving one.

Again, laws and the system would help to prevent that by giving back to the person something was taken from. "We see also that justice is that habit in respect of which the just man is said to be apt to do deliberately that which is just; that is to say, in dealings between himself and another (or between two other parties)… "Ethical virtues, Aristotle argued, are formed by habit (ethos) and should be more easily instilled in someone who is suffering, rather than committing injustice.

Although Aristotle's belief that it is worse to commit than suffer injustice is one that is honored today in many religions and constructs of morals, Aristotle, however, was not an egalitarian. His ideas on the distribution of justice follows an equation of equality, but he did not believe all people were equal, and in "special justice", there can be an unequal distribution of honours or wealth. 8 He followed Plato and Socrates' ideas that justice and thus law is defined by those who are more virtuous, and those who are less virtuous deserve less. "…what is politically just must conform to law, and apply to those who are naturally suited for law, hence to those who have equality in ruling and being ruled.

"One could interpret his labeling of those more virtuous in the ability to rule as the educated and upper class, born with a "silver spoon" in their mouths. Of course if Aristotle or his friends were apart of the elite, he would argue that it is better to suffer injustice by the hands of those governing (if he was governing), and by his definition, be able to discourage any "slaves" to revolt against the law.

"For instance, if an officer strike a man, he ought not to be struck in return; and if a man strikes an officer, he ought not merely to be struck, but to be punished. "10 What if the officer was acting unjustly, and the man being struck was acting in self-defense, or running for freedom under an oppressive regime or master? While Aristotle does agree some laws may be unjust, he concedes to the idea that the system that makes the laws will be best suited for the preservation of the entire community, and during Aristotle's time, that did entail the ownership of slaves.

"Now, the laws prescribe about all manner of things, aiming at the common interest of all, or of the best men, or of those who are supreme in the state (position in the state being determined by reference to personal excellence, or to some other such standard); and so in one sense we apply the term just to whatever tends to produce and preserve the happiness of the community, and the several elements of that happiness.

"In modern democracies like today, and other systems based on equality for all, people surely would have problems in Aristotle's description on who is to rule and who is to follow. While Aristotle does state that the most privilege goes to the most virtuous, not to those with the most monetary or military power, he did support an institution that had biases towards the working class, women, and children. However, when we regard the statement by Aristotle: "Equity bids us be merciful to the weakness of human nature; to think less about the laws than about the person who framed them.

"I think there is some kind of redemption by his moral grounds, compared to what he believed a government should be. It also encourages the critical thinker to look at who is forming the laws and for what reasons. Aristotle believed it is unjust to have to suffer by the hand of a person causing injustice, but he also understands human nature is limiting. Everybody has weakness, vices, but potential to grow and become just.

End Notes

1 1130a, Book V, Porter, Jene M., (ed), Classics In Political Philosophy 2 Beck, Sanderson, History of Ethics, Vol. 1 to 30 BC: Ancient Wisdom and Folly 3 8-2, Book V, Peters, F. H. , (trans. ), The Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle 4 Book V, W. D. Ross, (trans. ), Nicomachean Ethics By Aristotle 5 4-6, Peters, F. H. , (trans. ), The Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle 6 Cf. II. 6, Footnote, Peters, F. H. , (trans. ), The Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle 7 5-13, Peters, F. H. , (trans. ), The Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle