By James R. Otteson
A safeguard of the 'classical liberal' political culture, utilized to state-of-the-art ethical and political concerns.
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Additional resources for Actual Ethics
Positive virtue and negative justice I would like to introduce a distinction that is crucial to my discussion of judgment, freedom, and responsibility and that plays a large role in the drawing out of political implications in this book. That distinction is between positive virtue, on the one hand, and negative justice, on the other. The positive virtues are those actions and behaviors that one ought to engage in to be a fully good person, those activities that go above and beyond the minimal call of duty.
It turns out there is. Historical investigation converges on a concept of justice that is indeed nearly universal, centering on, as I suggested earlier, 23 The literature on Platonic and Aristotelian justice is vast. Accounts I recommend are Richard Kraut’s “The Defense of Justice in Plato’s Republic” and Fred D. ’s Nature, Justice, and Rights in Aristotle’s Politics. 26 Working Out the Position three things: protections of oneself, protections of one’s liberty, and protections of one’s property.
Singer would have us judge the passerby to be immoral if he does not help the child. And surely he is blameworthy. But the two-place picture I am recommending enables, I believe, a more accurate judgment: we can say that the person is vicious and thus blameworthy, but he is not unjust and thus not punishable. That is, we disapprove of his behavior, but, because he himself did no “real and positive hurt” to the child—he refrained from doing the child a good turn, but he was himself not the cause of the child’s distress or suffering—he committed no injustice.