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Being Human and the Need for Justice

Tolman, Charles W.
June 4, 2015

Source: (2006) In Anthony J. W. Taylor, ed., Justice as a Basic Human Need. New York: Nova Science Publishers, Inc. Pp. 13-23.

“The characteristics that distinguish us as human beings from other animals derive from the social relations in which we produce the conditions of life. Central here are the shared meaning, manifest in individuals as intentional action and agency, that can be detached from their objects and manipulated as such. These are the necessary and sufficient conditions for our humanity. We are not human without intentional action and agency; there is no agency or intentional action in the absence of humanity. An important implication of this is that the relations that insure our humanity are not natural but intentional; that is, we must act so as to maintain them. A consequence is that our humanity can range between forms that are merely rudimentary to forms that represent the fullest possible development of individuals as persons in community. Acts that intend community are moral. We can be human and not moral, but we cannot be moral without being human. In the long run, however, immorality is destructive of both individual and society, and ultimately of humanity. Thus morality is a necessary condition for the maintenance of the conditions of our humanity. But we cannot be truly moral unless we are moral respecting all others. Morality is nothing if it is not fairly applied, that is, if the rights of all are not respected. Thus justice, which is fairness, is a necessary condition for our being moral. Justice is the most basic need we have in the maintenance and furthance of our humanity.


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