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Inventions of NemesisUtopia, Indignation, and Justice$
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Douglas Mao

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780691199252

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691199252.001.0001

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Utopian Nemesis

Utopian Nemesis

(p.21) 1 Utopian Nemesis
Inventions of Nemesis

Douglas Mao

Princeton University Press

This chapter shows that it is possible to dignify outrage at wrongness in human arrangements with a particular name, nemesis. Nemesis is an ancient Greek word whose meanings evolved in complicated ways over hundreds of years, but in most of its acceptations it suggests, directly or indirectly, umbrage taken at a state of affairs or an action that in some basic or absolute sense is not right. It marks anger at some violation of nomos, where the latter — a noun with an even more diverse array of significations — betokens an apposite arrangement of things, the order that should prevail. Nemesis matters because in Greek and Latin writings it was closely bound up with an ideal still widely cherished, and on behalf of which countless people struggle, at the present time. That ideal is justice. There is ample warrant for understanding justice as, fundamentally, a condition of right arrangement. And once we have this point before us, it becomes still clearer that discontent with inadequate arrangement is not merely some embarrassing compulsion that attached itself contingently to serious utopian speculation. Rather, this discontent proves a propelling source of that speculation — one that, once recognized, illuminates how the achievement of justice is utopia's essential project.

Keywords:   nemesis, wrongness, nomos, justice, right arrangement, utopian speculation, utopia

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