Volume 23, Issue 2, Spring 2019
Self-Love and the Unity of Justice in Aristotle
In this paper I take up the question about the unity of justice in Aristotle and advocate for a robust relationship between lawfulness and equality, the two senses of justice that Aristotle distinguishes in Nicomachean Ethics (EN) V. My strategy is to focus on Aristotle’s indication in NE V 2 that “other-relatedness” is the common element shared by the two justices and turn to Aristotle’s discussion of the notion of self-love (philautia) in EN IX 8 to explain what that means. I argue that the other-relatedness of justice can be characterized in terms of proper self-love. Concretely, the discussion of self-love makes clear that those who are concerned with the well-being of others in their community over their own material gain—i.e., those who are lawful and not grasping or pleonectic—are able to see that their own self-interest is in harmony with (and promoted by) acting in benefit of their community. This shows that there is an intimate link between lacking pleonectic inclinations and being able to act for the sake of the common good—and in general, between lacking pleonectic inclinations (i.e., being equal) and being virtuous in relation to others (i.e., being lawful).