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HUMA 1825 Lecture Notes - Categorical Imperative, Distributive Justice, Final Good

Course Code
HUMA 1825
Neil Braganza

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HUMA 1825 Note 3
Course Announcements:
- Next week is the writing assignment (Monday Tutorial).
o Different assignments each. Worth 10% each.
There are four questions
o Formula: Answer the question asked: Don’t spin the question into
another question that you would like to answer. Look for what it asks:
implications: zero in on answering questions. Don’t answer irrelevant
things, look at it, and answer it.
Aristotle’s Law and Justice
- We should understand his place in the course (How he fits into the themes
into this course) (Aristotle 384 BCE he was born, and died in 322 BCE)
- We should understand why he is important, and why we are reading him not
withstanding the difficulty of access to some of his ideas
- We should know what Aristotle’s key concepts are in the reading (today),
how they pertain to law (today), and why does it continue to be read 25
hundred years after he wrote it.
- First question we are examining: what is the nature of law: what is the
connection between law and morality? Two coercive guides to behaviour.
- Greeks: What is the nature between the relationship of law and morality.
- Answer: Law is justice. Law stands in the closest possible relationship to
morality. Natural law theorists (Aristotle, Aquinas) tell us that unless the law
is just, we don’t have law. We have something else, that is not law, that
Aquinas calls “a perversion of law”
- For natural law theorists: law is necessarily, conceptually, connected to
- If Law is supposed to be just, how is it possible that there are unjust
- Aristotle and Aquinas are exposed in natural law. Aquinas gives us the
essence of natural law theory. For centuries afterwards, natural law theory
which equates law and justice, law and morality. Dominant law theory until
the Utilitarians challenged natural law theory. (How people thought about
law for most of theory)
- Legal positivists: they say that law is law. Law is not necessarily conceptually
tied to morality. They say that law is valid, if it came into existence in
accordance to the criteria specified with the regime.
o Nazi law was law. Slave law was law. Apartheid laws were law.
o They were evil, but valid, authoritative laws.
o Just business
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- On one hand, law is justice; if it’s not justice, it’s not law.
- On other hand it’s what’s stipulated with the regime in question. May be bad
law, but its still law.
- Antigone: Creon can’t say what’s law. Creon says he has both authority and
jurisdiction to make the law.
- Aristotle’s son, Nicomachus, took the notes that Aristotle’s students said, and
tried to reconstruct what he said. There might be inconsistencies, repetitions.
We also don’t have the original Greek text; Arabic translations, then into
Latin, then into English.
- Aristotle’s life: he was born philosophizing and died. The details of his life are
less important then his writing. He was a student of plate; student of
Socrates. They are the three most important chains of thinkers. He was a
student till 17 (stayed with him for some decades). He left after Plato died,
and became the tutor of Alexander the great. Came back. Found of Lyceum.
Accused of Impiety. Sentenced to death. He fled. He didn’t want the Athenians
to sin a second time, against philosophy. Why is this important?
o Many of his ideas are still extant today in the law. His ideas on
distributive and corrective justice, on equality, on degrees of
culpability (legal and moral), on equity have survived until today. If
we read case law of Section 15 (Canadian Charter) we will find
references to Aristotle.
- Aristotle’s Ethical Theory:
o He’s famous for his theory “Virtue Ethics”. It’s no longer “in mode”. We
now use utilitarian theory: advocates the feeling of utility; greatest
good for greatest number: problem, what is the good?
o Emanuel Kant: Categorical Imperative.
o Aristotle’s interest in virtue follows Socrates: how should we live our
lives to make something good and valuable for our community and
ourselves. What is the good life? How should we live our life? How can
we become whatever we are meant to become?
o There are four related concepts to Aristotle’s mission of how to live a
good life:
Concern the idea of Telos; teleology: Aristotle believes that
everything in nature is composed of a distinct kind of being.
Each thing in nature moves from its potentiality to its actuality.
Everything has a purpose, function, and final end.
Acorn finally becomes an oak.
This considered on what the end to become
Every art and every inquiry and similarly every action
as well as choice is held to aim at some good, and for
this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that
at which all things aim.
The final good is happiness (Geminia)
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