The Anti-Thrasymachus

In Plato’s Republic, Socrates and his interlocutors discuss the meaning of Justice. What is it? According to one character, Polemarchus, Justice is giving to each what he is owed. This probably sounds about right, to most people. Another character has a much more controversial opinion. Thrasymachus believes that Justice is the advantage of the stronger. In other words, might makes right.

It’s easy to see why we might not want to adopt Thrasymachus’s view. But I think another view of Justice has become pervasive in our day which is just as pernicious—we instinctively regard Justice as the advantage of the weaker; conversely, we regard Injustice as the advantage of the stronger. Whatever benefits the weak is good, and whatever benefits the strong is bad. Nietzsche referred to this kind of morality as slave morality, and he hated it because it rewards weakness and hobbles mankind’s potential for self-improvement. I hate it because it’s wrong.

You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.

– Leviticus 19:15


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