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(for the possibility of this is also a debated question). [5] Moreover, lack of self-restraint may make a person voluntarily submit to being harmed by another; which again would prove that it is possible to suffer injustice voluntarily. But perhaps this definition of acting unjustly is incorrect, and we should add to the words ‘to do harm knowing the person affected, the instrument and the manner’ the further qualification ‘against that person's wish.’ [6] If so, though a man can be harmed and can have an unjust thing done to him voluntarily, no one can suffer injustice voluntarily, because no one can wish to be harmed: even the unrestrained man does not, but acts contrary to his wish, since no one wishes for a thing that he does not think to be good, and the unrestrained man does what he thinks he ought not to do. [7] One who gives away what is his own—as Homer1 says that Glaucus gave to Diomede “ golden arms for bronze,
An hundred beeves' worth for the worth of nine—

” cannot be said to suffer injustice; for giving rests with oneself, suffering injustice does not—there has to be another person who acts unjustly. [8]

It is clear then that it is not possible to suffer injustice voluntarily.

There still remain two of the questions that we proposed to discuss: (1) Is it ever he who gives the unduly large share, or is it always he who receives it, that is guilty of the injustice? and (2) Can one act unjustly towards oneself? [9]

If the former alternative is possible, that is, if it may be the giver and not the receiver of too large a share who acts unjustly, then when a man knowingly and voluntarily assigns a larger share to another than to himself— as modest people are thought to do, for an equitable man is apt to take less than his due—this is a case of acting unjustly towards oneself. But perhaps this also requires qualification. For the man who gave himself the smaller share may possibly have got a larger share of some other good thing, for instance glory, or intrinsic moral nobility. Also the inference may be refuted by referring to our definition of acting unjustly: in the case supposed, the distributor has nothing done to him against his wish; therefore he does not suffer injustice merely because he gets the smaller share: at most he only suffers damage. [10]

And it is clear that the giver as well as the receiver of an undue share may be acting unjustly, and that the receiver is not doing so in all cases. For the charge of injustice attaches, not to a man of whom it can be said that he does what is unjust, but to one of whom it can be said that he does this voluntarily, that is to say one from whom the action originates; and the origin of the act in this case lies in the giver and not in the receiver of the share. [11]

Again, ‘to do a thing’ has more than one meaning. In a certain sense a murder is done by the inanimate instrument, or by the murderer's hand, or by a slave acting under orders. But though these do what is unjust, they cannot be said to act unjustly.2 [12]

Again, although if a judge has given an unfair judgement in ignorance, he is not guilty of injustice, nor is the judgement unjust, in the legal sense of justice (though the judgement is unjust in one sense, for legal justice is different from justice in the primary sense), yet if he knowingly gives an unjust judgement,

1 Hom. Il. 6.236.

2 It is not clear whether this is meant to apply, in certain circumstances, to the distributor, or to the receiver, or to both.

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  • Commentary references to this page (1):
    • Walter Leaf, Commentary on the Iliad (1900), 6.236
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