laws (books 1 - 6)
how to make a right use of it in some way; and yet this mode of
looking at things may turn out after all to be a mistake, and not
according to nature, either in our own case or in any other?
Meg. To what are you referring, and what do you mean?
Ath. I was thinking of my own admiration of the aforesaid
Heracleid expedition, which was so noble, and might have had such
wonderful results for the Hellenes, if only rightly used; and I was
just laughing at myself.
Meg. But were you not right and wise in speaking as you did, and
we in assenting to you?
Ath. Perhaps; and yet I cannot help observing that any one who
sees anything great or powerful, immediately has the feeling
that-"If the owner only knew how to use his great and noble
possession, how happy would he be, and what great results would he
Meg. And would he not be justified?
Ath. Reflect; in what point of view does this sort of praise
appear just: First, in reference to the question in hand:-If the
then commanders had known how to arrange their army properly, how
would they have attained success? Would not this have been the way?
They would have bound them all firmly together and preserved them
for ever, giving them freedom and dominion at pleasure, combined
with the power of doing in the whole world, Hellenic and barbarian,
whatever they and their descendants desired. What other aim would they
Meg. Very good.
Ath. Suppose any one were in the same way to express his
admiration at the sight of great wealth or family honour, or the like,
he would praise them under the idea that through them he would
attain either all or the greater and chief part of what he desires.
Meg. He would.
Ath. Well, now, and does not the argument show that there is one
common desire of all mankind?
Meg. What is it?
Ath. The desire which a man has, that all things, if possible-at any
rate, things human-may come to pass in accordance with his soul's
Ath. And having this desire always, and at every time of life, in
youth, in manhood, in age, he cannot help always praying for the
fulfilment of it.
Meg. No doubt.
Ath. And we join in the prayers of our friends, and ask for them
what they ask for themselves.
Meg. We do.
Ath. Dear is the son to the father-the younger to the elder.
Meg. Of course.
Ath. And yet the son often prays to obtain things which the father
prays that he may not obtain.
Meg. When the son is young and foolish, you mean?
Ath. Yes; or when the father, in the dotage of age or the heat of
youth, having no sense of right and justice, prays with fervour, under
the influence of feelings akin to those of Theseus when he cursed
the unfortunate Hippolytus, do you imagine that the son, having a
sense of right and justice, will join in his father's prayers?
Meg. I understand you to mean that a man should not desire or be
in a hurry to have all things according to his wish, for his wish
may be at variance with his reason. But every state and every
individual ought to pray and strive for wisdom.
Ath. Yes; and I remember, and you will remember, what I said at
first, that a statesman and legislator ought to ordain laws with a
view to wisdom; while you were arguing that the good lawgiver ought to
order all with a view to war. And to this I replied that there were
four virtues, but that upon your view one of them only was the aim