Injustice: A Greater Portion of Good; A Lesser Share of Evils

Demosthenes, Against Olympiodorus 46

“This is the greatest sign of all, jurors, by which you will know that this man is an unjust and selfish person.”

ὃ δὲ πάντων μέγιστόν ἐστιν, ὦ ἄνδρες δικασταί, ᾧ καὶ γνώσεσθε ταυτονὶ ὅτι ἄδικός ἐστιν καὶ πλεονέκτης ἄνθρωπος·

Pleonektes

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 1129b (Book 5)

“Let us consider now how many ways a man may be called unjust. It is indeed clear that a man who breaks laws is unjust but so is someone who is greedy and inegalitarian—thus it is clear that the just man will be law-abiding and fair. Justice, then, is lawful and fair; injustice is unlawful and unfair.

Since the unjust man someone who is greedy, he will be selfish regarding good things, not everything, but those things upon which good fortune and bad fortune rely—those things which are universally always good but not always for the same person. People pray for these things and pursue them; it is not right, however, that they pray for things which are universally good and good for them, but that they choose things that are just good for them.

The unjust man does not always choose the larger portion;for he will choose the smaller portion of bad things. But even here he is more selfish of the good because he appears to take on less evil, which is a type of good, and for that reason he seems greedy. He should be called unfair. This also embraces the common sense.”

εἰλήφθω δὴ ὁ ἄδικος ποσαχῶς λέγεται. δοκεῖ δὴ ὅ τε παράνομος ἄδικος εἶναι καὶ ὁ πλεονέκτης καὶ ἄνισος, ὥστε δῆλον ὅτι καὶ [ὁ] δίκαιος ἔσται ὅ τε νόμιμος καὶ ὁ ἴσος. τὸ μὲν δίκαιον ἄρα τὸ νόμιμον καὶ τὸ ἴσον, τὸ  δ’ ἄδικον τὸ παράνομον καὶ τὸ ἄνισον. ἐπεὶ δὲ πλεονέκτης ὁ ἄδικος, περὶ τἀγαθὰ ἔσται, οὐ πάντα, ἀλλὰ περὶ ὅσα εὐτυχία καὶ ἀτυχία, ἃ ἐστὶ μὲν ἁπλῶς ἀεὶ ἀγαθά, τινὶ δ’ οὐκ ἀεί. οἱ δ’ ἄνθρωποι ταῦτα εὔχονται καὶ διώκουσιν· δεῖ δ’ οὔ, ἀλλ’ εὔχεσθαι μὲν τὰ ἁπλῶς ἀγαθὰ καὶ αὑτοῖς ἀγαθὰ εἶναι, αἱρεῖσθαι δὲ τὰ αὑτοῖς ἀγαθά. ὁ δ’ ἄδικος οὐκ ἀεὶ τὸ πλέον αἱρεῖται, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὸ ἔλαττον ἐπὶ τῶν ἁπλῶς κακῶν· ἀλλ’ ὅτι δοκεῖ καὶ τὸ μεῖον κακὸν ἀγαθόν πως εἶναι, τοῦ δ’ ἀγαθοῦ ἐστὶν ἡ πλεονεξία, διὰ τοῦτο δοκεῖ πλεονέκτης εἶναι. ἔστι δ’ ἄνισος· τοῦτο γὰρ περιέχει καὶ κοινόν.

 

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