The idea may help to explain why we have so many views of justice (or social justice or economic justice).
In the ancient world, teleological thinking was more prevalent than it is today. Plato and Artistotle thought that fire rose because it was reaching for the sky, its natural home, and that stones fell because they were striving to get close to earth, where they belonged. Nature was seen as having meaningful order. …Subjective justice. To Winnie, it was only justice that he get the honey. It wouldn’t dawn on him that the bees, which made the honey, might need or want the honey, or that other creatures also might claim the honey on an equally subjective basis.
[T]he temptation to see the world as teleologically ordered, as a purposeful whole, is not wholly absent. It persists, especially in children, who have to be educated out of seeing the world this way. I noticed this when my children were very young, and I read them the book “Winnie-the-Pooh,” by A.A. Milne. The story evokes a childlike view of nature as enchanted, animated by meaning and purpose.
Early in the book, Winnie-the-Pooh is walking in the forest and comes to a large oak tree. From the top of the tree, “there came a loud buzzing-noise.”“Winnie-the-Pooh sat down at the foot of the tree, put his head between his paws and began to think.
“First of all, he said to himself: ‘That buzzing-noise means something. You don’t get a buzzing-noise like that, just buzzing and buzzing, without its meaning something. If there’s a buzzing-noise, somebody’s making a buzzing-noise, and the only reason for making a buzzing-noise that I know of is that you’re a bee.’
“Then he thought another long time and said: ‘And the only reason for being a bee that I know of is making honey.’
“And then he got up and said: ‘And the only reason I know of for making honey is so I can eat it.’ So he began to climb the tree.”
The debate also is illustrated in the question, which is the best way to use a Stradivarius? Is it justice that only rich people have access to such an excellent violin? Among the rich who can afford one, is it justice if one buys one for display only, and never plays it? And if a Stradivarius were accessible to violinists of all economic classes, how would you decide who plays it most?
The variety of answers reflects the variety of ways we perceive what things are for, and what is fair, right, just. For Winnie, it was easy to decide who should get the honey. But even in the woods, real life is not so simple.
* * *
Hat tip to JJ Mollo.