Home | Texts by category | | Quick Search:   
Works by Plato
Pages of laws (books 1 - 6)

Previous | Next

laws (books 1 - 6)   

Meg. Heaven forbid!
Ath. Or an artist, who was clever in his profession, but a rogue?
Meg. Certainly not.
Ath. And surely justice does not grow apart from temperance?
Meg. Impossible.
Ath. Any more than our pattern wise man, whom we exhibited as having
his pleasures and pains in accordance with and corresponding to true
reason, can be intemperate?
Meg. No.
Ath. There is a further consideration relating to the due and
undue award of honours in states.
Meg. What is it?
Ath. I should like to know whether temperance without the other
virtues, existing alone in the soul of man, is rightly to be praised
or blamed?
Meg. I cannot tell.
Ath. And that is the best answer; for whichever alternative you
had chosen, I think that you would have gone wrong.
Meg. I am fortunate.
Ath. Very good; a quality, which is a mere appendage of things which
can be praised or blamed, does not deserve an expression of opinion,
but is best passed over in silence.
Meg. You are speaking of temperance?
Ath. Yes; but of the other virtues, that which having this appendage
is also most beneficial, will be most deserving of honour, and next
that which is beneficial in the next degree; and so each of them
will be rightly honoured according to a regular order.
Meg. True.
Ath. And ought not the legislator to determine these classes?
Meg. Certainly he should.
Ath. Suppose that we leave to him the arrangement of details. But
the general division of laws according to their importance into a
first and second and third class, we who are lovers of law may make
Meg. Very; good.
Ath. We maintain, then, that a State which would be safe and
happy, as far as the nature of man allows, must and ought to
distribute honour and dishonour in the right way. And the right way is
to place the goods of the soul first and highest in the scale,
always assuming temperance to be the condition of them; and to
assign the second place to the goods of the body; and the third
place to money and property. And it any legislator or state departs
from this rule by giving money the place of honour, or in any way
preferring that which is really last, may we not say, that he or the
state is doing an unholy and unpatriotic thing?
Meg. Yes; let that be plainly declared.
Ath. The consideration of the Persian governments led us thus far to
enlarge. We remarked that the Persians grew worse and worse. And we
affirm the reason of this to have been, that they too much
diminished the freedom of the people, and introduced too much of
despotism, and so destroyed friendship and community of feeling. And
when there is an end of these, no longer do the governors govern on
behalf of their subjects or of the people, but on behalf of
themselves; and if they think that they can gain ever so small an
advantage for themselves, they devastate cities, and send fire and
desolation among friendly races. And as they hate ruthlessly and
horribly, so are they hated; and when they want the people to fight
for them, they find no community of feeling or willingness to risk
their lives on their behalf; their untold myriads are useless to
them on the field of battle, and they think that their salvation
depends on the employment of mercenaries and strangers whom they hire,
as if they were in want of more men. And they cannot help being
stupid, since they proclaim by actions that the ordinary
distinctions of right and wrong which are made in a state are a

Previous | Next
Site Search