Hume on Justice

Hume says that ‘public utility is the sole origin of justice’ (Hume 1777, III.1), and that ‘the rules of equity and justice depend entirely on the particular state and condition in which men are placed’ (Hume 1777, III.1).

Justice and Well-Being

Our partiality to one another is natural; we extract our enjoyments from nature by labor and industry. This leads to the ideas of property in society. And from here justice ‘derives its usefulness to the public’ (Hume 1777, III.1). If in a society people are isolated from one another, the solitary being would be ‘incapable of justice’ (Hume 1777, III.1).
Justice is necessary for the ‘well-being of mankind and existence of society’ (Hume 1777, III.2) because it ‘tends to promote public utility and to support civil society’ (Hume 1777, III.2); this includes the property as a subject of justice. The reflection on public interest and utility leads us to seed ‘the necessity of justice to the support of society’ (Hume 1777, III.2). That is why, ‘general peace and order’ accompany justice (Hume 1777, Appendix III).

Hume, David. 1777. An Enquiry Concerning The Principles of Morals.

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