By James Urmson
Aristotle's moral writings are one of the world's maximum, yet are simply misunderstood by means of the green. Professor Urmson, after 50 years of research, offers a transparent account of the most doctrines in an simply intelligible approach and with out residing on issues of commonly scholarly curiosity.
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These two meanings and the confusion the ambiguity can cause, may be illustrated from the first book of Plato's Republic. There Polemarchus offers the definition that justice is rendering to each man what is due to him; this is surely at least a reasonable shot at defining justice in Aristotle's narrower sense. But Socrates offers as a counterexample to this definition that it is unjust to return a borrowed weapon to a man who has gone mad. Now it may be imprudent, reckless, negligent and even unkind to return the weapon in the envisaged circumstances; but it would not in English naturally be called unjust to return it, nor would it be unfair or grasping to do so.
Further, if the brave man is in a mean in each case, then 'brave' ought to be ambiguous also. If this be granted, then we get two triads like this: Emotion Fear Confidence Excess Coward Rash Mean Brave Brave Deficiency Nameless Coward Thus the ambiguously named coward is either in an excess of fear or a deficiency of confidence. But Aristotle gives no indication that he recognizes any such ambiguity here. Perhaps it would have been better to recognize two triads of excellence and faults, two types of good and bad character thus: Emotion Fear Confidence Excess Coward Rash Mean Brave Cautious Deficiency Nameless Overcautious But Aristotle does not, though it has much to commend it in its own right.
Instead we find justice subdivided into two types, called distributive and rectificatory justice. Very briefly stated, distributive justice is concerned with ensuring a proper distribution of honour and wealth among the citizens, rectificatory justice is concerned with restoring fair shares when some unfairness has come about. Within rectificatory justice Aristotle then makes further subdivisions of some importance. The need for rectificatory justice may arise with regard to transactions that are intended or those that are contary to intention.