Which came first: the Just Act or the Just Person

I’ve enjoyed a nice FB conversation spawned by the following status update.

Does one become a just person by doing acts of justice, or is doing acts of justice the product of being a just person?

First off, clearly both are required. If an wicked person accidently did something that had a beneficial effect, I wouldn’t call it a virtuous act. (Or shoud I?) Nonetheless, I think which causes which is important in deciding how to instill values. E.g., if you are going to work at a soup kitchen and your kid doesn’t want to go, should you make him? If behaving in a virtuous manner, makes us virtuous, then the answer is yes. If truly virtuous acts require a virtuous heart first, then making him go is no good, and maybe even counterproductive.

2 replies on “Which came first: the Just Act or the Just Person”

I'm sure it's a complex relationship with feedback loops involved. In other words, you make your kid go, because the relationship between the act and the person is a two-way street.

Plus, and irrelevant to the thought experiment, if you make them serve soup, then a hungry person gets soup, so there's a good result regardless.


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