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9— The Centrality of Justice (Book V)
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Justice Particulière:
The Lower Register

In contrast to the universal and ideal sphere depicted in the upper register, the lower half represents Justice particulière, who operates in concrete and mundane situations. The lower register depicts two aspects of Particular Justice. Although the term does not figure in the inscriptions (Fig. 24b), it is defined in Chapters 1, 3, 4, 5, and 6 of Oresme's text. In addition, the glossary states that Justice particulière is synonymous with Justice équale; in modern French, Justice égale. In this context égal is best translated as "fair." Justice particulière thus connotes the principle of fair dealing by establishing a mean in regard to two types of actions. On the basis of merit, the first distributes goods or honors held by the political community. The second assesses penalties or awards damages as they concern the actions of individuals. Aristotle's division of Particular Justice into two parts finds visual reflection in the lower register occupied by Justice distributive on the left and Justice commutative on the right. The placement of Justice distributive reflects prior sequence in the text. The domain of Justice distributive includes three main concepts: fairness, the notion of the mean, and relativity. The latter also implies a system of proportions, since "just distribution" is concerned with relationships among four terms: two people and two things.[44]

In Figure 24b, the image of Justice distributive offers an ingenious visual definition of these complex ideas corresponding to Oresme's clear explanation of them. The tricolor quadrilobe isolates and frames the field of action. In contrast to the city gateway motif of the upper register, a table furnishes an interior setting. The center of attention is Justice distributive, who once again holds down the center, the visual and verbal analogue of the ethical ideal. Identified by the inscription unfurling above her head, she wears the familiar widowlike headdress and simple robe characteristic of Attrempance and Liberalité. Her actions also recall the representation in Book IV of Liberalité (Fig. 20). In Figure 24b Justice distributive is meting out rewards to four figures. Of these, two—seen only partially—may be bystanders or witnesses. The one closer to Justice distributive holds a pile of coins in one hand, and in the other, a document bearing a red seal. The second full-length figure holds a gold chalice. All four glance anxiously at Justice distributive, who presides over a table covered with stacks of gold coins and vessels and documents. These items symbolize the material rewards, honors, or offices given


to deserving individuals by the political community. In this context, charters bestowing land or office are intelligible medieval signs of such awards.

With one hand on the coins in front of her and the other upraised in a reflective gesture, Justice distributive seeks guidance in meting out fair shares from a set of rectangular measuring rods. Written like the inscriptions with brown ink on white ground, the rods' sizes are proportionate to the numbers marked on the short projecting sides: ".vi.," ".iii.," ".iiii.," and ".ii." The reader is prepared for the introduction of the key notion of finding the mean by a system of proportions in the first two chapter headings of the right text column. From the titles for Chapters 6 and 7 comes the information linking the mean and proportion with Justice distributive. If the reader is puzzled by the word proporcionalité , a neologism according to Menut, Oresme defines the term and its application in the first gloss of Chapter 7. In the next sentence, Oresme arrives at the set of figures written on the measuring rods above the head of Justice distributive: "Ces deux porporcions doubles sont equales et ce est appellé proporcionalité; si come nous diron en la proporcion de .vi. a .iii. est equale a la porporcion de .iiii. a .ii." (These two double proportions are equal and this is what is called proportionality, as we say the proportion of six to three is equal to the proportion of four to two).[45]

To clarify the relationships among the four terms of this proportional system, in Chapter 7 Oresme substitutes numbers for letters in the text and several glosses.[46] The measuring rods of Figure 24b give an example of a double proportional relationship, identical with that established by Oresme in the first gloss of Chapter 7 cited above. If the merit of the first person (A) has a value of six, double that of the second man (B), fixed at three, the reward of A, fixed at four (C), will be twice that given to B, fixed at two (D), or 6:3 = 4:2.

In the left half of the scene, a visual demonstration of the proportions indicated on the measuring rods is enacted. The coins and document held by the foremost figure, whose feet overlap the frame and who stands closest to Justice distributive, represent an instance of the two-to-one ratio of the awards, since the figure next to him holds only a single object, a chalice. Figure 24b is the unique example of Justice distributive to feature the numbered measuring rods in all the illustrated copies of Oresme's translation of the Ethics .[47] The inclusion here of the proportionally sized rods constitutes another important argument that Oresme designed the program of this illustration. The particular set of numbers on the rods appears only in a gloss composed by Oresme, and his substitution of numbers for the usual letters that define the proportional relationships is consistent with his scientific and mathematical training. As previously noted, he wrote a treatise on the subject of proportions.[48] Although the system of proportions illustrated on the measuring rods is not elaborate, its prominence within the larger visual definition reflects Oresme's subtle turn of mind and his fondness for visual conceits.

The lower right quadrilobe of Figure 24 represents the second subdivision of Particular Justice invented by Aristotle: Remedial Justice, or Justice commutative.[49] In another metaphor of kinship, consistent with the mother-daughter one of the upper register, the identical appearance of Justice distributive and Justice commu-


tative shows that they are twin sisters. Yet their fields of operation as judges are different. Justice commutative acts to "rectify a wrong that has been done by awarding damages."[50] Whether an act involves breach of contract or a civil or criminal wrong, "in both cases the injury is regarded as done to an individual, and in both the judge's object is not to punish but to give redress."[51]

Which verbal and visual devices convey the distinctive functions of Justice commutative? In the second column directly below the miniature, the titles for Chapters 8 and 9 contain key words. The terms Justice commutative and commutacions respectively locate for the reader the places where this concept is defined. The inscription Justice commutative above the personification provides the link between text and image. The visual ordering of the lower right quadrilobe clarifies the judgment between two parties by placing one on each side of Justice commutative. Certain attributes associated with this type of justice further emphasize her sphere of operations. Suspended on her right is the balance, a traditional symbol of fair judgment. On her left, at the same level, a scourge and a stock are depicted, while an axe rests on the floor. Although the text outlines a system of proportions for arriving at the mean in the disputes mediated by Justice commutative, the device of measuring rods is not repeated here. Deployed like the instruments of Christ's Passion, the less complex but familiar symbols of judgment and punishment create positive and negative areas of the picture field.[52]

Justice commutative stands in the center, the judge who is a living embodiment of the law. She occupies the middle ground in her search for the mean. By definition, judges serve as "moienneurs, comme ceulz qui actaingnent au moien quant ilz viennent et actaingnent a justice. Et donques chose juste est moienne et le juge est moien en tant comme il fait equalité" (mediators, as those who achieve the mean when they come [to judge] and [in fact] achieve justice. And thus the just thing is the mean and the judge is the mean inasmuch as he acts fairly).[53] The gesture of Justice commutative conveys another essential aspect of the good judge: evenhandedness or impartiality. Her crossed hands express her function of taking away from one and giving to the other party the fair share of damages or penalties.

The direction of Justice commutative's glance toward the person on her left indicates the probable nature of her judgment. She looks sadly toward the tonsured cleric, whose costume contrasts with the fashionably clad secular figure on her right. Moreover, the closeness of the scourge and the axe to the cleric's figure are further clues that his case is lost. The contemporary reader was familiar with the perennial disputes between the relative legal powers of ecclesiastic and civil courts when clerics were involved. The claims of the secular power triumph decisively in the Songe du vergier and its Latin predecessor. Although Oresme's text does not address this issue, the illustration makes a point favorable to royal justice sure to please his patron.

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