Justice: Living Virtuously as a Stoic

Introduction

‘Every place is safe to him who lives with justice”. The moral behind this quote by Epictetus is that when our lives are compassed by integrity and we treat others fairly, we are less likely to encounter conflicts or threats to our safety. By living justly, we are able to cultivate, and maintain fruitful relationships with others and avoid actions that could lead to negative consequences towards ourselves, others, and society in general. Today we will look at how we can live justly as Stoics in today’s world.

Scales of Justice
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What is Justice?

Justice is one of the four main cardinal virtues of stoicism. According to ancient Stoics, justice is treating others and ourselves with fairness and kindness. To them, justice was not just a moral principle or an abstract idea. It was an active and practical virtue that stood to be cultivated daily and remains so. For Stoics, justice is closely related to wisdom, also one of the four cardinal virtues of stoicism. A wise person, therefore, would strive to act and think justly.

Justice requires us to treat all people as equals, regardless of their social status or background. In today’s society, many groups of people are treated with prejudice. This is what has led to retaliation against laws and societal norms meant to keep the peace. Stoics are advised to be impartial in their actions and are given a warning against prejudice towards any particular group or person.

We should also look out for ourselves and treat ourselves with kindness and respect. Standing for others, especially those who cannot do so themselves, is what Stoics should aim for daily in their actions. However, you cannot fill other people’s cups when yours is only half full. Being just to yourself is what would drive you to feel empathy for those who are treated unfairly. Our bodies and minds are within our control so it is only fair to treat ourselves with respect and kindness before doing so for others.

How to Live Justly Today

According to our previous definitions of justice, we have gathered that stoicism is a cardinal virtue that promotes social harmony and strengthens our relationships with others. We also get to see that if we consider everyone’s rights while acting, we get to cultivate wisdom in ourselves. Here are ways that the Stoic could live justly in the modern world:

  • Treating others with dignity and fairness – This is treating other people equally, regardless of their gender, religion, race, or ethnicity. Thanks to many advancements in civilization, every place in the world is easily accessible. There is so much to live for, so many kind people to meet, so many breathtaking creations to see, and so many social activities to perform together. This means that we are going to meet so many people daily, physically and even online. We need not waste time being angry and being so discriminative against each other. We are all one people and united we could overcome anything. Practicing fairness in all our actions is the small price we have to pay for such a future; for ourselves and for our children.
  • Acting with honesty and integrity when conducting transactions. Businesses have longed to shift to e-commerce and make transactions through modern methods such as untraceable This means that there are people who use their knowledge to cause harm and steal from others who are trying to monetize their skills fairly and within the rules. This should not be the case for Stoics. Stoics should aim for honesty, transparency, and integrity in their daily transactions. Stoic entrepreneurs should also be just in their pricing and avoid ripping people off just because they can.
  • Thirdly, to be just, a Stoic should show compassion and empathy towards others. We must not be quick to judge others. We should always listen with an open mind and heart. Thereafter, we may understand the needs and perspectives of others. Only then can people be comfortable being around us and see us as guides and wise enough to take our words seriously We should thrive to be the light wherever darkness descends upon others.
  • Lastly, justice demands that Stoics be proactive when it comes to promoting harmony and cooperation in society. Remember that justice is our duty to our fellow man to our society.

Justice to Yourself

We have seen that treating others cultivates positive relationships with others. What about you? Who is looking out for you? Well, if this were a perfect world, the answer would be ‘others’. Stoics should generally look out for one another as well as others. However, you cannot do so if you yourself haven’t taken care of yourself and do not understand what being taken care of looks like. To feel empathy for others you have to take care of yourself to a point where you identify that that is how you should feel after such a long time of being in the dark. So, how do we become kind to ourselves? There are a number of ways in which a Stoic could take care of himself:

  • Exercising self-control. Self-mastery, especially over pleasures, is a fundamental virtue in Stoicism. Practicing self-control and discipline allows the Stoic to act in accordance with reason, rather than being at the mercy of impulses.
  • Following a steady course. Living in line with one’s aims and goals, and making continual progress towards them allows one to honor one’s own rational nature and conception of good life.
  • Focusing on what we can control – While we may have aims and goals that give our lives purpose, we cannot control the outcomes of our journey. Making peace with that and focussing on what we can control gives us inner peace and allows us to enjoy solving whatever the world throws at our faces in the form of challenges
  • Taking care of our minds and bodies. Achieving optimum self-mastery helps the Stoic understand what they need and what they want. By balancing the two, we keep ourselves sane and in a good position to help others when they cannot do so themselves.

By practicing these guidelines daily, we are able to keep in good shape and stay sound of mind to be able to feel empathy toward others. Only then can we be able to identify those who are not being treated fairly and kindly so as to seek justice for them.

Conclusion

In conclusion, justice is an essential virtue in Stoicism. It is essential in practicing the other three virtues to achieve a peaceful life. Justice is essential in promoting harmony and cooperation within societies. We have seen that it is imperative that Stoics be kind and fair to themselves as it allows them to feel true empathy towards others. By practicing the guidelines above in their daily lives, Stoics are able to achieve justice and help others do so. So keep them in mind and do not forget to share with others what you have learned here so as to promote virtue in others as well.

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