Justice & Justification — A-to-Z Blog Challenge, Literary Terms

JI end the second week with two very unforgiving letters. The letter J is so promising, it has a great sound to it, and yet there are so few J words. We need more I tell you. And with K, I cry.

Today I tackle Justice and Justification. Important for worldbuilding and character development.

And before you leave today, please post what you think. I’ll be more than happy to read and respond.


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Justice appears to be a universal concept. It is a reflection on the government and a need of the people. Even in our world now, how one country defines the sense of justice can often seem appalling to the next. This tells us that justice is entirely dependent on morals and cultural values.

To this end, there are 3 types of justice: State, Social, and Self. The state represents the government as a whole, and the laws they set forth. Social, is more of our culture of peers. Within a society, there are several cultures within, called communities. Each of these communities will have their own fundamental morals, ethics, and values. Most of the time, they will act within the judgement of the State, but there are exceptions to that. Self is that of the individual.

Individual justice can often be in conflict with State, but can be embraced by a social group if the individual is convincing enough. Individual justice is more emotionally charged and is often a personal reaction to an event done to the individual. Sometimes it is an attack on their morals or ethics, than just emotions.

Social justice is when a group within the State feel that someone has violated a rule important to them. Depending on the group, this can be against the state and the Individual. Often times it will embrace an Individual need over the state. Crime families would be considered for Social, and having their own method for dealing justice would be against the State requirement for it.

Social justice is more based on values and ethics rather than emotions. Doesn’t mean emotions cannot be involved. Some social groups may feel they are answering to a higher calling and they feel they themselves are judged to that calling and must act accordingly. So when an Individual does something due to religious reasons, this is an act of Social Justice. While the reasons are not as emotional as Individual, there is still a lot of passion found.

State justice is generally in the need of fairness for all people. Often time is it based on the Leader(s) of a society directing how justice is carried out, such as making the laws and finding people to enforce the law. Whether a small community to a large one, the principles remain the same. Law is to give people hope that if wronged, they have a chance to obtain a correction that may or may not be followed with a corrective action.

Smaller societies tend to be more direct in their laws and sense of justice, as everyone knows each other and discovering the truth or evidence to a matter is far easier to obtain (not that is not without its challenges). This kind of society is more often associated with a small town or a tribe. This is not seen as Social because the system is about balance and fairness for all people and tries to answer to a universal thought of law rather than personal or emotional. Not to say the system cannot become corrupt.

Larger societies often come with more complex law. This is due to the fact that there is a level of anonymity when it comes to the concept of crime. Unlike smaller society where ‘everyone knows everyone’, it is not possible to know every person, and those you do know can take you by surprise. To this end, justice becomes more emotional as some crimes simply go unsolved and often passed over because there are bigger crimes to deal with. It’s sad, but more often true.

As a society becomes larger, the laws set must accommodate all the different needs of people and will often be changed to try to handle a situation, or take established law and embrace a new interpretation that the law was not meant to address upon creation. One can hope over time that laws can be repealed.

Laws for the most part represents cultural values of the time. If we look at laws for the US since its inception, we can see that many laws over time are now considered unconstitutional. Such as Separate but Equal. While very wrong, it represented a thinking of society of the time when it was ratified, and eventually was overturned when society matured. By what is stated in the constitution, it shouldn’t have ever been made a law, but it was still left to the State to interpret the law. It is not right, but it is how it is.

Justice is as much a principle, a philosophy, and an emotion in any level. The need to feel justified, or properly represented when someone violates you. It is an overwhelming feeling, especially when the injustice causes an emotional outburst.

The concept and theory of Justice is a complex one and I recommend people reading further into it.


Justification is used to support propositions and beliefs of a group or individual. Often used to convey knowledge or condone actions. Justification is used on the basis of belief, warrant, rationality, and probability.

When a person makes a claim and it is disputed by others, they follow one of three paths: Empiricism, authoritative testimony, and logical deduction. In respect to understanding of knowledge, there are two ways Justification can be divided:

Irrationalism – authority of feelings
Panrationalism – authority of observation or reasoning

Most of the times we see Justification, it is more related in belief; why someone feels the way they do about something. Belief tends to be a very personal conviction, and when a belief leads to actions, often times Justification is used to explain actions. Not always bad actions, but not always good actions either.

Not all explanations are Justification. When attempting to explain someone else’s behavior for the purpose to better understand said person; their purpose is of understanding. A profiler will do this to help understand and potentially lead to an arrest. They offer little to no sympathy and this explanation is used to discourage this type of behavior.

These tend to be extreme examples of Justification, but it is normal for humans to use Justification in day to day life. Almost everything you do is a justification as to the reason. But more often than not, you are are not required to explain that reason.

Only when our actions are dishonest or hurt others is a reason required to understand. A person may feel compelled to Justify their actions, and often times why they believe their conduct is necessary and/or for a greater good.


For a belief to be justified, there must be something that justifies it. This is called a Justifier. For a belief to be justified, it must have at least one Justifier. An example of this would be evidence.

A woman believes that her husband is lying to her. He says he was out with his friends, but finds a receipt to a hotel. The receipt would be her Justifer, evidence to support her beliefs.

Now sometimes a belief can be used to justify a belief. One might belief aliens exist, and use a belief that aliens created crop circles as a Justifier to the initial belief. However, to only consider that crop circles can only be made by aliens, is intellectual dishonesty and irresponsible thinking. It is how many people Justify their beliefs, to support that they cannot be wrong when their foundation is questionable.

Common Justifiers

  •     Abductive reasoning
  •     Deduction
  •     Empiricism
  •     Induction
  •     Occam’s Razor
  •     Pragmatism
  •     Probability theory
  •     Scientific method
  •     Logical positivism

When people want something to be true, they will look for Justifiers so that it can be true. This often requires ignoring other counter arguments. When something belongs as a personal belief, it is hard to convince a person that they are wrong or there is fault in their logic. At the end of the day, their belief is their own, and no one can change that. They might feel victorious, but in a Panrationalist society, they have actually lost the argument.

Now Justification can be used in a legal way. It can be used as an act to commit a crime. Murder is bad, but not a crime if it is in self-defense. Justification is not an excuse. An excuse would be that a person should not be charged for a crime due to a reason of inadequacy…such as a mental defect, mental capacity, or unable to control conduct. But if there was substantial reason for you to commit the crime and no other means to avoid it, then it might very well be a Justification.

Characters will find justification to their action and try to find ways to support their belief of a situation or decision to empower themselves more. Many crimes have been committed because a person felt justified that their actions were correct. Remember that Justification (law) is different from Justification (philosophy).

Justice & Justification

Both of these come from the same root word of Jus, literally meaning law. Justice is more of a worldbuilding term where as Justification is more of a character building. Justification can be used to explain why a character, generally the antagonist, does said action. Justice can then be used to explain why the antagonist receives the punishment for their actions.

The connection here is balances. In all systems, there is a sense of balance in play. It is not always perfectly balanced, but there are consequences to actions. The why of the action is the result of Justification and Consequence is the result of the Justice. But it is not always fair and sometimes Justice is not a result of law or State, but of Social/Self justice.

Sometimes, in an imbalanced system, individuals enact justice under their own justification.

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  1. This is a fascinating and comprehensive post! Glad you included that justification does NOT equal an excuse.

  2. […] a reason can be a justification of their actual purpose. A Villain may tell themselves that it is for a greater good but instead […]

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