The Moral Imagination -  Michael Matheson Miller
The Moral Imagination
Ep. 39 Marcel Guarnizo: What is Justice

Ep. 39 Marcel Guarnizo: What is Justice

What is Justice?  What do we owe to each other? The theme of justice is core issue of all human societies and pervades myth and philosophy.  Plato’s Republic and Gorgias are reflections on justice and the right ordering of the soul and society. So is Aristotle’s Politics.  The Hebrew Bible, the Tao Te Ching, the Analects of Confucius, the writings of Buddhism, and the Stoics all contain reflections on justice.  C.S. Lewis notes in his appendix to the Abolition of Man that in every land and every culture there is a “Tao,” a way of being in the world that affirms what is good and condemns what is bad.  Despite the universal hungering for justice, injustice seems to be the way of man.  Against Plato stands Thrasymachus and Callicles, the tyrant and the sophist who want to reduce justice to power.  

In this episode I speak with Marcel Gaurnizo about the nature of justice. We discuss the definition of justice — giving each what is due.  We discuss how justice is not simply a social or political condition but a human virtue that requires a consistent act of the will.

Marcel explains how the shift from metaphysical view of justice to political justice opens the door to the dictatorship and tyranny of the majority or injustice through procedural methods. We discuss the Plato’s story of the ring of Gyges which makes the wearer invisible just like Bilbo and Frodo in the Lord of the Rings — and thus free from any punishment. Would we have strength to do the right thing even if we would never get in trouble for doing what is wrong? As Marcel notes, the ring of Gyges is all around us.  There are many things that are legal—that we will not be punished for — but which are evil and unjust.

Marcel also walks us through different species of justice — commutative (exchange) and distributive.  He explains how many of the errors we make about legal, economic, and social justice —both on the right and the left — often come from a misunderstanding of the difference between commutative and distributive justice, e.g. we apply commutative justice to the family.

Marcel argues that one of the problems we have today on the right and left is that we are not formed in correct thinking about justice is that In this conversation there are some detailed discussions, but in a time where there the word “justice” is used so frequently and where there is so much confusion, I think it is very worthwhile.

Some of the themes and thinkers we discuss include: 

  • Justice as a virtue

  • Economic justice of exchange

  • Social Justice

  • Family vs. Market

  • Gary Becker and the error of applying commutative justice to the family

  • John Rawls and the shift to political and procedural justice

  • Socialist view of justice

  • Marxism

  • Philosophical Materialism

  • Aristotle’s Politics 

  • Plato’s Republic 

  • St. Thomas Aquinas Treatise on Justice 

  • Friedrich Nietzsche

  • Monasteries

  • Catholic Social Teaching

  • John Rawls and the transformation of justice into political justice.

  • Relativism

  • Post-Modernism

  • Human Nature — what kind of thing we are

  • Individualism, the market, and the state

  • Poverty and Distribution


Marcel Gaurnizo is a philosopher and theologian. He spent many years in Europe and has founded a number of institutions including an academy in Austria to teach philosophy, ethics, and politics, and was president of Aid to the Church in Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union.


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The Moral Imagination -  Michael Matheson Miller
The Moral Imagination
Welcome to the Moral Imagination Podcast.
The overarching theme of my podcast is what it means to be a human person and what makes for a meaningful and good life.
We will discuss philosophy of the human person, culture, religion, social philosophy, and many other related topics, like education, learning, economics, food, technology, artificial intelligence, and intellectual history. My goal is to interact with ideas and people whose work I find challenging, and intellectually and socially important.