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Nicomachean Ethics   


the distribution effects, and, if the terms are so combined, effects
justly. The conjunction, then, of the term A with C and of B with D is
what is just in distribution, and this species of the just is
intermediate, and the unjust is what violates the proportion; for the
proportional is intermediate, and the just is proportional.
(Mathematicians call this kind of proportion geometrical; for it is in
geometrical proportion that it follows that the whole is to the whole
as either part is to the corresponding part.) This proportion is not
continuous; for we cannot get a single term standing for a person and
a thing.
This, then, is what the just is-the proportional; the unjust is what
violates the proportion. Hence one term becomes too great, the other
too small, as indeed happens in practice; for the man who acts
unjustly has too much, and the man who is unjustly treated too little,
of what is good. In the case of evil the reverse is true; for the
lesser evil is reckoned a good in comparison with the greater evil,
since the lesser evil is rather to be chosen than the greater, and
what is worthy of choice is good, and what is worthier of choice a
greater good.
This, then, is one species of the just.
4
(B) The remaining one is the rectificatory, which arises in connexion
with transactions both voluntary and involuntary. This form of the
just has a different specific character from the former. For the
justice which distributes common possessions is always in accordance
with the kind of proportion mentioned above (for in the case also in
which the distribution is made from the common funds of a partnership
it will be according to the same ratio which the funds put into the
business by the partners bear to one another); and the injustice
opposed to this kind of justice is that which violates the proportion.
But the justice in transactions between man and man is a sort of
equality indeed, and the injustice a sort of inequality; not according
to that kind of proportion, however, but according to arithmetical
proportion. For it makes no difference whether a good man has
defrauded a bad man or a bad man a good one, nor whether it is a good
or a bad man that has committed adultery; the law looks only to the
distinctive character of the injury, and treats the parties as equal,
if one is in the wrong and the other is being wronged, and if one
inflicted injury and the other has received it. Therefore, this kind
of injustice being an inequality, the judge tries to equalize it; for
in the case also in which one has received and the other has inflicted
a wound, or one has slain and the other been slain, the suffering and
the action have been unequally distributed; but the judge tries to
equalize by means of the penalty, taking away from the gain of the
assailant. For the term 'gain' is applied generally to such cases,
even if it be not a term appropriate to certain cases, e.g. to the
person who inflicts a woundand 'loss' to the sufferer; at all events
when the suffering has been estimated, the one is called loss and the
other gain. Therefore the equal is intermediate between the greater
and the less, but the gain and the loss are respectively greater and
less in contrary ways; more of the good and less of the evil are gain,
and the contrary is loss; intermediate between them is, as we saw,
equal, which we say is just; therefore corrective justice will be the
intermediate between loss and gain. This is why, when people dispute,
they take refuge in the judge; and to go to the judge is to go to
justice; for the nature of the judge is to be a sort of animate
justice; and they seek the judge as an intermediate, and in some
states they call judges mediators, on the assumption that if they get
what is intermediate they will get what is just. The just, then, is an
intermediate, since the judge is so. Now the judge restores equality;
it is as though there were a line divided into unequal parts, and he
took away that by which the greater segment exceeds the half, and
added it to the smaller segment. And when the whole has been equally
divided, then they say they have 'their own'-i.e. when they have got

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