Boston College / Challenge of Justice
Judith Shklar, The Faces of Injustice
Introduction and Chapter 1
1) Why does Shklar critique the phrase/attitude “life’s unfair”?
• It neglects the victims and makes their problems seem lessthan
2) Why does Shklahr suggest that selfblame is preferable to absurdity?
• Due to our “fluency in casual thinking”
• “We tend to attribute our own behavior to external environmental causes but other
peoples’ to internal motives”
• No one wants to be seen as a victim
3) What is the difference for Shklar between active injustice and passive injustice?
• Passive injustice has nothing to do with morals or ethics – it is strictly related to
bad citizenship (“refers to our public roles and their political context”)
• “The normally unjust man is guilty of falling below law and custom by actively
violating them and also by being unfair. The passively unjust man, however, does
something different; he is simply indifferent to what goes on around him,
especially when he sees fraud and violence. His failure is specifically as a
citizen.” (Page 41)
4) What is Shklar’s critique of established models of justice (and injustice)?
• Primary model: complacent view of injustice, confidence in the ability of the
institutions that it underwrites (government, legal system)
• Plato’s model: too idealistic, people are prompted by more than immediate and
physical needs, requires collapse of traditions
• Religious (Christian) model: we don’t know people well enough to make
judgments about their life
5) For Shklar, who is a victim?
• Starts off by saying that maybe the unjust people are victims of their own plans
• Realizes that we look more at the unjust than we do their actual victims
• The real victims are the people that suffer due to the injustice caused by people
around them – they are usually just in the wrong place at the wrong time in the
wrong company (page 35)
6) What is the role of the skeptic? Does this role remind you of anyone in ancient
Greek philosophy? What does the skeptic do?
• Skepticism is a doubting, unconventional view of accepted social beliefs,
“overwhelmed by the evil of the times”
• “Doubt the moral relevance of the normal model of justice among other things
and to reject or question it in ways that made injustice stand out more starkly than
conventional political ethics permitted” (page 20)
• Examples: Plato, Augustine, and Montaigne • They accuse the normal model of not offering an “elaborate or serious
understanding of injustice as a personal and political experience or as a part of all
societies known to history.” (page 19)
• Aim: “to expose moral ignorance”
7) What is the cause of injustice? What do you think is the cause of injustice? If justice
is always relational, w