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Sophos -- Study of Philosophy and Thought Message Board › Some information on the words "just" and "justice" as us

Some information on the words "just" and "justice" as used in the Republic

James E.
user 4561841
Shenzhen, CN
Post #: 1
To supplement the discussion from the last meeting concerning the words for "just" and "justice" in the Republic and our attempt at understanding how the connotations of the Greek words may have differed from our own conceptions, I offer the following.

The adjective dikaios (“just”) and the noun dikaiosyne (“justice”) ultimately derive from the noun dike, which (according to the Liddell-Scott Greek-English Lexicon) could have meanings such as: custom, usage; order, right; judgment. For example, from the Odyssey, haute dike esti broton, “This is the way of mortals.” From the Iliad, diken ithyntata eipein, “give judgment most righteously.”

There did not seem to be a necessary, strong moral connotation to the word to begin with, but in later periods, it came to be used in context of legal proceedings, to mean things like lawsuit, trial, or penalty, often in idiomatic phrases. For example, diken didonai, literally “to give dike,” equivalent to something like “to give satisfaction,” “to pay amends,” or “to suffer punishment.” Thus the derivative words dikaios and dikaiosyne obtained the shades of meaning that influence much of the argumentation in Republic I.

F.E. Peters, in Greek Philosophical Terms, says:

From the time of Homer dike had bound into it the transgression of certain limits, probably those dictated, in the first instance, by the class structure of society, and the payment of a compensation for this transgression. With the decline of an aristocratic class consciousness dike began to be seen as something pervasive in the society, applicable to all citizens alike, and guaranteed by Zeus himself. The limits within which the new dike was operative were now defined by written law (nomos), and a new abstract term dikaiosyne, “righteousness,” “justice,” came into use to describe the moral quality of the man who observed the limits of the law and thus was “just” (dikaios).

This analysis of course doesn’t solve any problems for us, but does help elucidate the conceptual background of the word.
William J.
user 43274802
Los Angeles, CA
Post #: 6

Thank you for your contribution. If you wish to pursue the subject further, you might care to look at the following two excellent books:

Hugh Lloyd-Jones, The Justice of Zeus (U California Press: Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1971)
Eric A. Havelock, The Greek Concept of Justice: From Its Shadow In Homer To Its Substance In Plato (Harvard U Press: Cambridge, 1978)

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