Preview Response

Justice / Architecture

Philip Bess

Professor, School of Architecture, University of Notre Dame, USA


I liked this a lot -- its tone is generous and nuanced, and spot on in its recognition that concerns for justice are not "value added" but rather intrinsic to human being in the world -- but for some reason I liked it much more the second time I read it (when on my first reading perhaps I was feeling crabby and contentious). Not a philosopher myself, I was nevertheless surprised to find Aristotle associated with the view that justice is "equity or fairness in the distribution of benefits and burdens" (this is perhaps what upset me), and the notion of justice as rendering to another his or her due attributed to Ulpias; for I had imagined (apparently mistakenly) the latter view as Aristotle’s -- probably because Alasdair MacIntyre, an Aristotelian, writes in After Virtue of justice as rendering to another his or her due. I might quibble with the centrality of justice to architecture (no quibble at all with respect to justice and urbanism), but I suspect NW and I could arrive at some accord.

I do hope it is evident that justice in Ulpian’s and Wolterstorff’s sense (as well as environmental stewardship, which seems to me related to justice but also distinguishable) is central to my interest in the laws that govern land use and how we make contemporary human settlements.

And I wonder, no doubt naively, whether there is some clarity to be gained by associating justice with goodness as the telos of practical reason, corresponding in the transcendental triad with beauty as the telos of productive reason, and truth as the telos of theoretical reason?

But these are random late night thoughts, for an overdue assessment of a work that (in justice) deserves more careful attention than I have given it. I look forward to how NW’s preview fleshes out.