Thrasymachus and the Will to Power

Thrasymachus, Socrates' antagonist at the beginning of The Republic, puts forth the view that power, the ability to do whatever you want, is a virtue, and what whatever injustice a powerful person does out of self interest is actually virtuous. He says that it is clear that what man calls immorality is actually the ideal. The only reason we avoid immorality is because most people are afraid of immorality being practiced on them, and thus create "morality" in order to avoid being oppressed by others. This is essentially the same position held by the atheistic philosopher Frederick Nietzsche. Nietzsche wrote, "The world itself is the will to power--and nothing else! And you yourself are the will to power--and nothing else!" and "What is good? All that heightens the feeling of power in man, the will to power, power itself. What is bad? All that is born of weakness."

This echoes Thrasymachus' statement, "The point is that immorality has a bad name because people are afraid of being at the receiving end of it, not of doing it."

These ideas are often expressed by villainous characters in many of our books and stories:

The Old Pike in the moat in T.H. White's The Sword in the Stone says, "Love is a trick played on us by the forces of evolution. Pleasure is the bait laid down by the same. There is only power. Power is of the individual mind, but the mind's power is not enough. Power of the body decides everything in the end, and only Might is Right."

Likewise, the evil Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone says, "There is no good and evil, there is only power...and those too weak to seek it."

While we, as a society, seem to recognize this philosophy as wrong, from an atheistic perspective there is no way to condemn it. An atheist discussing morality is seeing shadows (beliefs) by the light of the fire (opinion). When morality is kept in the realm of opinion and belief rather than taken up outside the cave in the realm of sunlight (absolute truth and knowledge), there is no possible standard by which to judge good and evil.