Page:Ethical Studies (reprint 1911).djvu/199

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


on the side of duty, is very simple. We saw above that in right the emphasis is on the universal side. Now every act is a determined this or that act, and what makes it a this or that act is the particularization. What I have a right to do thus depends on what my duty is; for duty, we saw, emphasized the particular side. Now, where there are no indifferents and no choice between them, rights are never wider than duties. It is where indifferents come in (cf. Essay VI.) that possibility is wider than actuality. And because right emphasizes the side common to all the indifferents, i.e. the undetermined side, it is therefore wider than duty, which emphasizes the particular side, and hence is narrower.

Thus, where the choice of my particular will comes in, that has rights and must be respected. But it has rights only because the sphere of its exercise, and therefore what it does therein, is duty. And it must be respected by others only so far as it thus expresses the universal will. If it has not right on its side, it has no rights whatever.

There is indeed a sphere where rights seem in collision with right. Wherever you have law you have this, since it comes from the nature of law. Thus I am justified in returning evil for evil; I have a right to do it, even where it is not right but wrong to do it. The same thing is found in the spheres of state-law, social law, and mere moral law alike. This does not show that in these cases there is no moral universal; it shows that we are keeping to nothing but the universal. We have here the distinction of justice and equity. A merely just[1] act may (we all know) be most unjust. The universal as law must be the same for all: it can not be specified to meet every particular case. Hence, in keeping to this unspecified universal, I have ‘right’ on my side; but again, failing to specify it in my case, I do what is not right for me to do. I fail in duty, do not do, and am not, right.

The sphere of mere private right in the state can not exist out

  1. What is justice? I have no space to develope or illustrate, but will set down what seems to be the fact. The just does not = right; injustice does not = wrong. Justice does not = giving to each his deserts: ‘nothing but justice’ may be less or more than my deserts. Justice is not mere conforming to law: injustice is not mere acting against law; e.g. murder is not called ‘unjust.’ Justice and injustice mean this, but they imply something more.
      Injustice is, while you explicitly or implicitly profess to go on a rule, the not going merely on the rule, but the making exceptions in favour of persons. Justice is the really going by nothing but one’s ostensible rule in assigning advantage and disadvantage to persons.
      What the rule is, is another matter. The rule may be the morally right. This is ideal justice. All lower sorts of law furnish each its own lower justice and injustice.