Friedrich Nietzsche, Human All Too Human (Menschliches, Allzumenschliches), subtitled A Book for Free Spirits (Ein Buch für freie Geister).

First published in 1878.   A second part, Assorted Opinions and Maxims (Vermischte Meinungen und Sprüche), was published in 1879, and a third part, The Wanderer and his Shadow (Der Wanderer und sein Schatten), followed in 1880.

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Previous Section   92. THE ORIGIN OF JUSTICE   Next Section

THE ORIGIN OF JUSTICE.  Justice (equity) has its origin amongst powers which are fairly equal, as Thucydides (in the terrible dialogue between the Athenian and Melian ambassadors) rightly comprehended: that is to say, where there is no clearly recognisable supremacy, and where a conflict would be useless and would injure both sides, there arises the thought of coming to an understanding and settling the opposing claims; the character of exchange is the primary character of justice.  Each party satisfies the other, as each obtains what he values more than the other.  Each one receives that which he desires, as his own henceforth, and whatever is desired is received in return.  Justice, therefore, is recompense and exchange based on the hypothesis of a fairly equal degree of power, thus, originally, revenge belongs to the province of justice, it is an exchange.  Also gratitude.  Justice naturally is based on the point of view of a judicious self preservation, on the egoism, therefore, of that reflection, "Why should I injure myself uselessly and perhaps not attain my aim after all”?  So much about the origin of justice.  Because man, according to his intellectual custom, has forgotten the original purpose of so called just and reasonable actions, and particularly because for hundreds of years children have been taught to admire and imitate such actions, the idea has gradually arisen that such an action is un egoistic; upon this idea, however, is based the high estimation in which it is held: which, moreover, like all valuations, is constantly growing, for something that is valued highly is striven after, imitated, multiplied, and increases, because the value of the output of toil and enthusiasm of each individual is added to the value of the thing itself.  How little moral would the world look without this forgetfulness!  A poet might say that God had placed forgetfulness as door keeper in the temple of human dignity.  
 

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