Justice remembered

Jonathan Crowe

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Extract: Allan Beever has written a book about justice. 1 It is also, less obviously, a book about memory. The central claim of the book, as the title suggests, is that there is a particular conception of justice to be found in classical authors that has subsequently been forgotten. Beever sets out to uncover this conception and restore it to its proper place in legal and political theory. The idea of forgotten justice is an intriguing one. It makes me wonder: is justice really the kind of thing that can be forgotten? Forgetting justice is not, it seems, like forgetting one's car keys or a book symposium deadline. I will return to this issue below.I would like to begin, however, by examining Beever's methodology. I said that Beever has written a book about justice, but in a way he has written two books.The more substantial book is an exercise in the history of ideas. Beever argues that classical authors such as Plato, Cicero and Thomas Aquinas privilege a particular conception of justice, which he terms commutative justice (79-80). This form ofjustice derives from interpersonal relations. It emphasises interactions between individual people, rather than their relationships to the state or the community as a whole. Commutative justice, in Beever's sense, contrasts with the notion of distributive justice that he argues is strongly emphasised by contemporary political philosophers. Commutative justice, Beever argues, is now largely overlooked: '[i]tis the forgotten justice'
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-150
Number of pages6
JournalAustralian Journal of Legal Philosophy
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


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