Justice as Fairness

Anthropologists studying hunter-gatherer societies have long know that such societies don't split off into family groups as obviously as do more settled and prosperous societies. They've come up with an answer: the relative equality of power distribution in such societies stops that from happening. Why?
First author of the study, Mark Dyble (UCL Anthropology), said: "While previous researchers have noted the low relatedness of hunter-gatherer bands, our work offers an explanation as to why this pattern emerges. It is not that individuals are not interested in living with kin. Rather, if all individuals seek to live with as many kin as possible, no-one ends up living with many kin at all."
So it's a lot more fair that modern society, because in a hunter-gatherer society they all want the same thing but nobody gets it. Justice, at least on the contemporary model of justice-as-fairness, was achieved before the dawn of civilization! One wonders why we ever walked away from such a paradise.

I would tell you what Aristotle said about that from a position much closer to the dawn of civilization, but you can probably already guess: that justice means something besides mere equality of suffering. It might have something to do with structuring a society to enable pursuing and sometimes even actually achieving the excellences of which human nature is capable.

Those ideas are somewhat out of favor at the moment. I'm very much interested in democratizing the idea, so that people who are ordinary working class people can have access to the things they need to pursue excellence if they work hard and honestly. I'd like to see society structured in such a way that people are less likely to be rewarded for catering to lower desires, where virtue is rewarded and vice is not. All the same I think that, surely, examples like this ought to call into question the idea that justice is in any way reducible to fairness. I'm not sure that fairness is even a proper part of justice, though I haven't made up my mind that it isn't either. Whether or not fairness is in any way part of justice, it's certainly not the whole.

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