laws (books 1 - 6)
And to that I rejoin:-O my father, did you not wish me to live as
happily as possible? And yet you also never ceased telling me that I
should live as justly as possible. Now, here the giver of the rule,
whether he be legislator or father, will be in a dilemma, and will
in vain endeavour to be consistent with himself. But if he were to
declare that the justest life is also the happiest, every one
hearing him would enquire, if I am not mistaken, what is that good and
noble principle in life which the law approves, and which is
superior to pleasure. For what good can the just man have which is
separated from pleasure? Shall we say that glory and fame, coming from
Gods and men, though good and noble, are nevertheless unpleasant,
and infamy pleasant? Certainly not, sweet legislator. Or shall we
say that the not-doing of wrong and there being no wrong done is
good and honourable, although there is no pleasure in it, and that the
doing wrong is pleasant, but evil and base?
Ath. The view which identifies the pleasant and the pleasant and the
just and the good and the noble has an excellent moral and religious
tendency. And the opposite view is most at variance with the designs
of the legislator, and is, in his opinion, infamous; for no one, if he
can help, will be persuaded to do that which gives him more pain
than pleasure. But as distant prospects are apt to make us dizzy,
especially in childhood, the legislator will try to purge away the
darkness and exhibit the truth; he will persuade the citizens, in some
way or other, by customs and praises and words, that just and unjust
are shadows only, and that injustice, which seems opposed to
justice, when contemplated by the unjust and evil man appears pleasant
and the just most unpleasant; but that from the just man's point of
view, the very opposite is the appearance of both of them.
Ath. And which may be supposed to be the truer judgment-that of
the inferior or of the better soul?
Cle. Surely, that of the better soul.
Ath. Then the unjust life must not only be more base and depraved,
but also more unpleasant than the just and holy life?
Cle. That seems to be implied in the present argument.
Ath. And even supposing this were otherwise, and not as the argument
has proven, still the lawgiver, who is worth anything, if he ever
ventures to tell a lie to the young for their good, could not invent a
more useful lie than this, or one which will have a better effect in
making them do what is right, not on compulsion but voluntarily.
Cle. Truth, Stranger, is a noble thing and a lasting, but a thing of
which men are hard to be persuaded.
Ath. And yet the story of the Sidonian Cadmus, which is so
improbable, has been readily believed, and also innumerable other
Cle. What is that story?
Ath. The story of armed men springing up after the sowing of
teeth, which the legislator may take as a proof that he can persuade
the minds of the young of anything; so that he has only to reflect and
find out what belief will be of the greatest public advantage, and
then use all his efforts to make the whole community utter one and the
same word in their songs and tales and discourses all their life long.
But if you do not agree with me, there is no reason why you should not
argue on the other side.
Cle. I do not see that any argument can fairly be raised by either
of us against what you are now saying.
Ath. The next suggestion which I have to offer is, that all our
three choruses shall sing to the young and tender souls of children,
reciting in their strains all the noble thoughts of which we have
already spoken, or are about to speak; and the sum of them shall be,
that the life which is by the Gods deemed to be the happiest is also
the best;-we shall affirm this to be a most certain truth; and the
minds of our young disciples will be more likely to receive these