West Virginia University
18 Nov

What is Justice?

Kenneth | November 18th, 2005

Is Justice fairness? Does justice require everyone getting the exact same treatment? Do some people deserve more than others? Is justice giving each person what he or she deserves even if that results in inequality? Here?s one answer from a young philosopher.


Alaine is a spunky and cheerful 9 year old, in 4 th grade at Mountainview Elementary School . Her teacher is Mrs. Edwards. She really likes school, especially social studies.

Alaine is very busy, has many interests, and she has big dreams for her future. Alaine especially loves to dance, play soccer, run, and go horseback riding. She also loves to read and write. Her favorite subjects to read about, write about, and think about, are dolphins and horses. When she goes to her horseback riding lessons, she always rides Wally, her favorite horse. They are pals. Alaine is dancing in the upcoming performance of the Nutcracker in Moragantown. She dances the roles of both a party boy and a toy soldier. Alaine plans to study dolphins, play soccer, and ride horses for a very long time. She plans to be an oceanographer and a writer of both fiction and non-fiction. She will focus on many different subjects, but obviously, two of those subjects will be dolphins and horses.

Alaine has traveled to Germany , Switzerland , Italy , and France with her parents and her older brother and sister. Alaine adores her faithful dog, Willow , a young, Black Lab and Border Collie mix. She loves to take Willow to the woods and run around with her. I have seen them run together, and they might be the two fastest creatures in Morgantown !

On to THE QUESTION. I gave Alaine a choice of many different philosophical questions to work on. In my opinion, she picked a doosey. I tried to get her to consider some of the other questions, but the one she picked was the one that she was determined to answer. She picked: ?What is Justice?? Alaine fired off an answer in two seconds flat! She said, ?Justice is equality. Everyone should be treated the same. No matter how tall you are, how big you are, no matter how old you are, no matter what your name is, no matter who your parents are, no matter what you look like, you should be treated the exact same way as anyone else. If we come up with good rules, they should be applied evenly and equally too.? I thought I would stir things up a bit and I said, ?But what if I had a cake, and I could cut 10 pieces out of the cake. Imagine that there are 10 people who would like a piece of cake. On your theory of justice, I should give each person the exact same size piece of cake, no matter what.? ?Right? she said. I asked, ?But what if 5 of the people are 3 year olds and 5 are 15 year olds. Does doing the just thing really require that I give them each the exact same size slice of cake?? ?Definitely? she said immediately and confidently. She added, ?If after getting their cake, some of the little kids decide to share with the bigger kids, that would be fine. It would be nice of them. The just thing is to treat everyone the same. If people want to give away their fair share, that?s fine.?

More proof! Philosophy is for kids. Even if you do not share Alaine?s view of justice, it is a view to be reckoned with. Stay tuned.