Grotius and aristotle: The justice of taking too little

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The theory of justice that Hugo Grotius developed in De Jure Belli ac Pacis (The Law of War and Peace, 1625) set itself against a certain reading of Aristotle, according to which justice is conceived of as a mean between taking too much and taking too little. I argue that we can best understand the implications of Grotius’ mature conception by considering the ends to which he had deployed this Aristotelian notion in his earlier work. Grotius came to perceive that his earlier understanding of justice too easily ruled out the sorts of humanitarian concerns that could have a moderating effect on the recourse to war.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)84-112
Number of pages29
JournalHistory of Political Thought
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015


  • Aristotle
  • Commutative and distributive justice
  • De Jure Belli ac Pacis
  • De Jure Praedae Commentarius
  • Doctrine of the mean
  • Expletive and attributive justice
  • Hugo grotius
  • Injustice
  • Justice
  • Love (caritas)
  • Perfect and imperfect rights
  • Pleonexia
  • Rights (subjective)
  • The Law of Prize and Booty
  • The law of war and peace
  • Virtue and vice


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