But what is justice?

Dr. Johnathan Reibsamen, Philosophy program director
October 26, 2020

By Joshua Ford

CIU Student Writer

Plato said that justice has more to it than being honest and paying debts. There’s more to it than doing good to friends and harm to enemies, and there’s more to it than having the interest of the stronger social class of people. He says that justice is the excellence of the soul and that injustice is the defect of the soul.

The views of Plato and many other philosophers were discussed at CIU’s second “Responses to Injustice” seminar. Dr. Jonathan Reibsamen, the director of Philosophy, led the seminar titled, “But what is justice?”

Reibsamen looked at how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s response to criticism he received while in prison had theological ties. He looked at the works of Socrates, Augustine, John Rawls and others to see how they each came up with their definitions of justice.

“Often the problem is that we don’t communicate effectively with others because we use a word like justice and we aren’t latching onto the same ideas,” Reibsamen said. “It’s not that there aren’t enough definitions it’s that there are too many.”

The definition of freedom was brought up to help explain.

“Is freedom the absence of interference in what you want to do? Or is it the capabilities to accomplish various things in your life?” Reibsamen said. “People who believe that freedom is a capability will be more inclined to say that justice requires that we give you those capabilities whereas people who say freedom is the absence of interference are more likely to say, ‘get the government off of my back.’”

With that in mind, Reibsamen stated that finding a clear definition for oneself is key.

“We do have to have an idea of doing good and what is just, but as a follower of Christ, I believe that the ultimate human good is the knowledge of Christ,” Reibsamen said. “That’s how I would want to live my life and I would want to commend that to others.”

Humanities major Jordan Gottfried, a senior, reflected on Reibsamen’s address.

“As we’re searching and trying to find the answers to these things, looking at those who came before and struggled with these things and did it in a biblical way … we can learn a lot from how they approached the issue and the answer they came to,” Gottfried said.

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