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A Brief History of Justice

ISBN: 978-1-4443-9754-3
280 pages
March 2011, Wiley-Blackwell
A Brief History of Justice (1444397540) cover image


A Brief History of Justice traces the development of the idea of justice from the ancient world until the present day, with special attention to the emergence of the modern idea of social justice.
  • An accessible introduction to the history of ideas about justice
  • Shows how complex ideas are anchored in ordinary intuitions about justice
  • Traces the emergence of the idea of social justice
  • Identifies connections as well as differences between distributive and corrective justice
  • Offers accessible, concise introductions to the thought of several leading figures and schools of thought in the history of philosophy
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

Prologue: From the Standard Model to a Sense of Justice 7

1 The Terrain of Justice 15

2 Teleology and Tutelage in Plato's Republic 38

3 Aristotle's Theory of Justice 63

4 From Nature to Artifice: Aristotle to Hobbes 89

5 The Emergence of Utility 116

6 Kant's Theory of Justice 142

7 The Idea of Social Justice 167

8 The Theory of Justice as Fairness 196

Epilogue: From Social Justice to Global Justice? 223

Glossary of Names 233

Source Notes 239

Index 257

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Author Information

David Johnston is Professor of Political Science and formerly Joseph Straus Professor of Political Philosophy in the Department of Political Science at Columbia University. His books include The Rhetoric of Leviathan: Thomas Hobbes and the Politics of Cultural Transformation (1986), The Idea of a Liberal Theory (1994), Leviathan: A Norton Critical Edition (ed. with Richard Flathman, 1997), and Equality (ed., 2000).
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“Highly recommended.  Lower-level undergraduates through graduate students; general readers.” (Choice, 1 March 2012)


"David Johnston has given us what we have long lacked, a fine and readable account of the importance of justice, which focuses as much (or more) on the heritage of our thought about this matter as on the detail of the particular theories that have preoccupied philosophers for the past thirty years."
Jeremy Waldron, Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory, Oxford; and University Professor, NYU Law School

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