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The Two Faces of Justice

The Two Faces of Justice

Jiwei Ci

ISBN 9780674021600

Publication date: 05/15/2006

Justice is a human virtue that is at once unconditional and conditional. Under favorable circumstances, we can be motivated to act justly by the belief that we must live up to what justice requires, irrespective of whether we benefit from doing so. But our will to act justly is subject to conditions. We find it difficult to exercise the virtue of justice when others regularly fail to. Even if we appear to have overcome the difficulty, our reluctance often betrays itself in certain moral emotions.

In this book, Jiwei Ci explores the dual nature of justice, in an attempt to make unitary sense of key features of justice reflected in its close relation to resentment, punishment, and forgiveness. Rather than pursue a search for normative principles, he probes the human psychology of justice to understand what motivates moral agents who seek to behave justly, and why their desire to be just is as precarious as it is uplifting.

A wide-ranging treatment of enduring questions, The Two Faces of Justice can also be read as a remarkably discerning contribution to the Western discourse on justice relaunched in our time by John Rawls.


  • Ci’s account of justice is perhaps one of the most in-depth discussions on the subject published in recent years. Showing an impressive understanding of the works of the major philosophers that have helped to shape western philosophy, Ci’s work is an attempt to address some of the frequently debated philosophical questions about the nature of social and personal justice, reciprocity, altruism, egoism, forgiveness, resentment, and virtue. The author’s approach is refreshing though demanding in terms of the philosophical literacy it expects from its reader. Ci attempts to bring together the objective and the subjective aspects of justice to show how justice is both an institution of society, while the law must seek to protect in order to ensure reciprocity between its members, as well as a personal disposition and human desire. The main argument of the book, therefore, as its title suggests, is that justice has two faces: one conditional, the other unconditional… Ci’s ability to account for the two faces of justice is what makes his book so provocative and original. It prompts the reader to reconsider his/her philosophical stance vis-à-vis justice and to align it more closely to what we know about the psychological and moral make-up of human beings… It is clear that Ci’s book will provoke much discussion in a plethora of contexts.

    —Ann Marie Mealey, Ethical Perspectives


  • Jiwei Ci is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Hong Kong. He is the author of Moral China in the Age of Reform, The Two Faces of Justice (Harvard), and Dialectic of the Chinese Revolution: From Utopianism to Hedonism. He has held research fellowships at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, the National Humanities Center, and the Stanford Humanities Center.

Book Details

  • 264 pages
  • 0-13/16 x 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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