Front Page Titles (by Subject) QUESTION LXI.: OF THE PARTS OF JUSTICE. - Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 2 (Summa Theologica - Secunda Secundae Pt.2)
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QUESTION LXI.: OF THE PARTS OF JUSTICE. - St. Thomas Aquinas, Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 2 (Summa Theologica - Secunda Secundae Pt.2) 
Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas. A Translation of the Principal Portions of the Second part of the Summa Theologica, with Notes by Joseph Rickaby, S.J. (London: Burns and Oates, 1892).
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OF THE PARTS OF JUSTICE.
Article I.—Is it proper to assign two species of justice, commutative and distributive?
R. Particular justice is in relation to some private person, who stands to the community as a part to the whole. Now to a part we may either have another part related; and that expresses the relation of one private person to another, which relation is regulated by commutative justice, or the justice that is concerned with the mutual dealings of two private persons one with another: or again, we have the relation of the whole to the part; and such is the relation of the community to the individual, which relation is presided over by distributive justice, or the justice that distributes the goods of the common stock according to proportion. And therefore there are two species of justice, distributive and commutative.
§ 3. The act of distribution of the goods of the common stock belongs to him alone who presides over the common stock. Nevertheless distributive justice is found also in the subjects to whom the distribution is made, inasmuch as they are content with a just distribution.
Article II.—Is the mean taken in the same way in distributive as in commutative justice?
R. In distributive justice the mean is not taken according to equality of thing to thing, but according to the proportion of things to persons, so that in proportion as one person exceeds another, so also the thing that is given to the one person exceeds the thing that is given to the other. But in exchanges we must equalize thing to thing, so that whatever excess one party gets, over and above what is his own, of what belongs to another, so much exactly he should restore to the party to whom it belongs.
Article III.—Is the matter of each of these two species of justice the same?
R. Justice is conversant with the exterior acts of distribution and exchange. These are acts of disposing of exterior objects, either things, or persons, or services: things, as when one takes away from or restores to another the thing that is his; persons, as when one does wrong to the corporal presence of a man, striking him, or using insulting language to him, or again, when one shows him reverence; services, as when one justly exacts some service of another, or renders him some service due. If, therefore, we take as the matter of both species of justice the objects that we act upon and use, the matter of distributive and commutative justice is the same; for things can be distributed from the common store to individuals, and also exchanged between one individual and another: and there is also a distribution of laborious services, and a recompensing of the same. But if we take as the matter of the two species of justice the principal actions themselves by which we make use of persons, things, and services, at that rate we find different subject-matter in the two species. For distributive justice presides over distributions, while commutative justice presides over the exchanges that may have place between two individuals. Of these exchanges some are involuntary, some voluntary. Those are involuntary, in which one uses the thing, or person, or service of another against his will.1 This is done sometimes by fraud, sometimes by open violence. Both the one and the other have place either touching your neighbour’s thing, or touching his person, or touching some person related to him. Touching a thing, if one takes the thing of another secretly, it is called theft; if openly, it is called robbery. The involuntary exchange touches the person of your neighbour either in its substance or in its dignity. In the substance of his person, a neighbour is injured secretly by assassination, or by poison; openly by open murder, or by imprisonment, or by beating, or by maiming. In the dignity of his person, a neighbour is injured secretly by false witness or detraction; openly, by a judicial accusation, or by abusive language addressed to him. Touching a person related to him, a man is injured in his wife by adultery, and that secretly for the most part.
Voluntary exchanges, as they are called, are when one voluntarily transfers the thing that is his to another. If the transference is absolute without its being due, as in a gift, that is not an act of justice, but of liberality. A voluntary transference is a matter of justice, then when it bears some character of being due. And this character may be borne in many ways. One way is when a person absolutely transfers the thing that is his to another, to receive compensation in something else, as in buying and selling. Another way is when one hands over the thing that is his to another, granting him the use of the thing, but reserving a claim to the recovery of the thing. If he grants the use of the thing gratis, it is called usufruct in things that fructify, loan or lending in things that do not fructify. If not even the use is granted gratis, it is called letting and hiring. In a third way a man hands over the thing that is his, making it returnable to himself, and bargaining that the receiver shall not use it in the meanwhile, but shall merely hold it in safe-keeping, as a deposit or a pledge.
In all transactions such as these enumerated, whether voluntary or involuntary, the same principle holds of fixing the mean according to an even balance of give and take. And therefore the said transactions all belong to one species of justice, namely, commutative.
[1 ]Ethics and Natural Law, pp. 106 foot, 107. (Trl.)