I'm afraid that I am not too well versed in philosophy so I do not know whether this is a silly question, but I've had some difficulty in finding out what this is called.


Suppose we had a judicial system which tried to uphold the idea that justice is when an offender makes right exactly what he has done wrong to society, and furthermore, all practical precautions are taken to maintain peace. What school of thought would this belong to?

One sentence Explanation of "Further Explanation":

I am looking for a justice system that holds practicality above everything else, but tries its best to stay agnostic to every other belief, value, or philosophy (of course, in some instances it may be more practical to favor major values of the society that this justice system was meant to serve).

Further Explanation:

So if a man were to steal a purse, and was convicted in court, he should have to not only return the purse with all its contents, but also, in some way (possibly monetary or otherwise), make up for the cost of taking time away from the jury, the judge, the victim, and anyone else who may have been involved in making this system work.

Furthermore, the man has caused harm to society by setting an example (of course the harm done to society by setting an example depends on how influential this person is, including possible media presence, esteem in society, or even on a smaller scale, having children, etc. ) and this may further harm society as it may increase the chances of other members to commit similar crimes. So then the system/society, would decide how this man would make it right.

In this system, if a man were to be sentenced to jail, it is only under the belief that if the man, in his current state is harmful to society, and the man upon spending time in whatever 'corrective program' will either be beneficial, or at least benign to society. Furthermore, the cost of this program, would probably be paid for by the offender, as it may be considered unjust that the offender's corrective program be paid for by taxpayers.

In cases of murder, etc., implementations may get even more complicated, due to differences in what society believe a person is worth (is it possible to 'repair' something like murder?, even in cases other than murder, is it possible to compensate for someone's time with money?), how much has the action harmed society (how harmful is the act of murder, in addition to having killed someone? It is at the very least likely to have contributed to, disrupting the peace, causing panic, etc. which would probably be considered a harm to society). In such a situation, the system tries to make best of a bad situation -- for instance, if after reasonable study of the murderer's character, society's values and other factors, it is believed that releasing the offender is the best alternative for society, that is what it may choose to do.

As far as death sentence is concerned, it should not be out of 'righteousness', but out of practicality. Of course, exile, and other forms of solutions (as opposed to 'punishments') may be considered first, to figure out what would be the best course of action for the society, given its values.

Kinda shorter explanation..:

So in short, I am asking about a justice system independent of vengeance (i.e. there is no reason to 'punish' anyone, or hurt someone just because they have done something wrong, but all effort is made to repair all unjust harm in the 'fairest' way possible, and take reasonable action to make sure it does not happen again), that is also sustainable (since the system itself would be paid for by the offenders, as much as possible).

A concrete implementation of this kind of justice system would depend on even more philosophical questions, (e.g. what is the 'fairest' way to repair all unjust harm; when is something unjust; when has someone 'been harmed' enough that we should care), however, I think the practice of this philosophy would involve the pursuit of such a system, as opposed to a concrete implementation, because there could be so many different philosophies underlying the details of any implementation, and even an individual's beliefs on the implementations may change over time.


I'm sorry that this might have become a rant, but I wasn't sure how else to deliver what I had in mind, without some descriptions. Maybe if I find what I am looking for, I could just tell people I'm talking about "< word I'm looking for here >". It might not always be a good thing to condense lengthy ideas into a single word, but I've had an even harder time explaining my religious views before I found the word "agnostic". Actually I still have a hard time explaining my religious views, but I don't think I would be lying if I told people I am probably agnostic.

  • &math4tots. It's a bit late - I have only just come across your question but my answer might still help.
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Commented Nov 27, 2017 at 21:50

3 Answers 3


It sounds like you are looking for some variant of Restorative Justice.


The basic terminology of justice was set by Aristotle. It still controls contemporary debate.

Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics, BK V, distiguishes, besides a general sense meaning something like 'righteousess', three kind of justice. The first is distributive justice, which involves the proper distribution of benefits and burdens (e.g. equal slices of cake at a party); the second is corrective justice, which restores to the injured party the loss s/he has suffered (e.g. the restoration of money stolen or adequate compensation for harm); and commutative justice or fair exchange (e.g. not over-charging for a service, or deceptively accepting something valuable for something cheap or worthless).

Aristotle's name for corrective justice (for the record) is diorthotic justice. This label occurs in the Oxford Greek text, ed. I. Bywater, at 1131b24-5. A helpful discussion of corrective justice is given in Gerard J. Hughes, 'Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics', London : Routledge, 2015 : 96-8.


Sounds like a form of ostracizing. If possible this would be a enforcement of individual-rights, each individual solely responsible for his or her own actions. Maybe someday!

  • I don't see how the examples of compensating the judge, jury, etc. for their time has any relationship to ostracization. Bear in mind also that any system in which a body of people hold someone to account necessarily draws some boundaries around individual rights: the judge and the police, for example, become partly responsible for the actions of others, in the sense that their profession is to preoccupy themselves with them. Could you clarify in what way your answer addresses the OP? Commented Jan 15, 2014 at 9:14

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