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Reciprocity and Political Justice in Nicomachean Ethics Book V

  • Dhananjay Jagannathan EMAIL logo


The profusion of senses of justice in NE V.1–7 has left many readers with a general impression of chaos, but also gives rise to pressing questions about Aristotle’s conception of justice. Specifically, (1) why does Aristotle claim that there are two parts to justice as equality, but go on to discuss three types of equality in the subsequent chapters? (2) What is the relationship between political justice and the distinction between general justice and particular justice? I argue in this essay that the notion of reciprocity, central to the first question, can also help us address the second. Specifically, I show that reciprocity is not a third species of particular justice, but rather a prior condition for political community and for political justice. Political justice is best understood as a redescription of particular justice that highlights how distributive and corrective justice maintain equality among citizens in an existing political community. In addition to explaining the unity of Aristotle’s thought in these chapters of NE V, I demonstrate a number of philosophical consequences for understanding Aristotle’s conception of justice.

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Published Online: 2021-02-10
Published in Print: 2022-03-28

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