Corrective justice and the revival of judicial virtue

Abstract

Aristotle's discussion of corrective justice has been generally thought to mark the beginning of the philosophical examination of tort law. In addition, many scholars consider corrective justice, of one form or another, the main normative alternative to the economic analysis of law for explaining not only tort law but also private law and law in general. Most discussions of Aristotle’s conception of corrective justice in the law review literature, however, have failed to account for the established reading of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics as proposing a teleological form of ethics. Accordingly, Corrective Justice and the Revival of Judicial Virtue argues for a teleological interpretation of Aristotle's conception of corrective justice. The teleological conception of corrective justice does not attempt to analyze corrective justice merely as a formal (Weinrib), substantive (Wright), or political (Heyman) conception of equality or freedom that can be applied by technical reason to various circumstances. Rather, it maintains that corrective justice is a moral virtue of the judge that cannot be fully understood without specifying its relationship to practical wisdom and the telos of the good life. Under this reading, Aristotle’s conception of corrective justice specifies a method of judicial decision making whereby only the practically wise (i.e., morally virtuous) judge can know the content of corrective justice in all cases. Judging requires moral virtue not technical, philosophical or legal, expertise. Consequently, this article advocates a revival of Aristotle’s notion that judicial virtue requires moral virtue.

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