The understanding and practice of 'justice' is central to the achievement of peace and happiness by the individual as well as society, as a whole. However, no amount of institutalization and administration of legal, political or civil systems, no matter how just or fair, can ever ensure the achievement of the same, without individual and collective commitment to the upholding of the concept of justice, in its fullest sense.
Most human beings are, of necessity, primarily concerned with their material well-being and to that extent, have a preponderance towards the concept of economic and social justice, which accounts for the overt emphasis on constitutional and legal frameworks to define and dispense justice. Such definitions, however, are really an outcome of the essence of justice, as a concept, and not complete in themselves.
To arrive at the true essence of the concept of 'justice,' it is necessary to understand its complexity, which is evident in the multiple definitions of its very meaning and its synonymity with other concepts. The multiple definitions of justice include: "The quality of being just; fairness; conformity to moral righteousness in action; the upholding of what is just, especially fair treatment and due reward in accordance with honor, standards or law" (American Heritage Dictionary). Similarly, justice is seen synonymous with the concepts of 'law entity,' 'morality,' and 'political entity,' all of which contain nuances of justice. For instance, if the concept of 'law entity' has "...authority... constitutionality...equity...fair play...honesty, impartiality, integrity...law, legal process, legality...penalty...redress...right, rule...truth," the concept of morality is seen synonymous with "...conduct...ethicality...godliness...honesty, honor, ideals...moral code...righteousness...standards...virtue." The term 'justice' also finds itself linked with the concept of 'political entity' under the entry of democracy, which is seen as the most liberal form of government that strives to ensure the equality and emancipation of its citizens (Roget's Thesaurus).
It is obvious from the above that the concept of justice is all pervading, impacting as it does, all aspects of life, be it economic, social or individual. Be that as it may, what is key to the true understanding of the concept lies in the fact that certain moral virtues such as righteousness, honesty and integrity seem to intrude into both the very definition of justice as well as its synonyms. Inherent in the fact that such virtues are seen as defining justice, is that these, then, need to be ingrained in the practitioners of justice.
This, in turn, reveals the need for individual internalization and actualization of justice, as a virtue. And only when the practitioners of justice achieve such a state of virtuous character can the aimed for outcome as in "the upholding of what is just, especially fair treatment and due reward in accordance with honor, standards or law," result. Thus, the real essence of justice lies in the knowledge and actualization of moral standards or righteousness.
The definition of justice as 'moral righteousness' is more easily accepted on reflection of personal experiences of injustice. One and all would acknowledge a sense of moral outrage when faced with injustice and the unprovoked, unnecessary suffering often expressed, as 'it's just not fair'! There is a sense of indignation as well as a desire for redressal. The indignation and cry for justice is also more acute when the injustice suffered is one for which there is no court of appeal other than God or the divine. A good example here is the injustice felt by a child of parents who clearly demonstrate that a sibling is their favorite. There is no human court that can redress such emotional injustice since the child is materially taken care of and only suffers from the abuse of emotional neglect.
Perhaps, it is precisely because of the above type of injustice that Aristotle defined justice as virtuous actions based on knowledge and wisdom that need to be cultivated through practice and actualization till it becomes a state of character. To achieve this, Aristotle states that it is important to arrive at a practical knowledge of virtue that enables people to learn how to become good.
He advocates temperance since virtue is a mean between the two vices of excess and deficiency. To prove his point, Aristotle gives the example of "...the man who flies from and fears everything...becomes a coward, and the man who fears nothing at all but…