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

Previous | Next

laws (books 1 - 6)   

qualification. But if I had an extremely rich wife, and she bade me
bury her and describe her burial in a poem, I should praise the
extravagant sort; and a poor miserly man, who had not much money to
spend, would approve of the niggardly; and the man of moderate
means, who was himself moderate, would praise a moderate funeral.
Now you in the capacity of legislator must not barely say "a
moderate funeral," but you must define what moderation is, and how
much; unless you are definite, you must not suppose that you are
speaking a language that can become law.
Cle. Certainly not.
Ath. And is our legislator to have no preface to his laws, but to
say at once Do this, avoid that-and then holding the penalty in
terrorem to go on to another law; offering never a word of advice or
exhortation to those for whom he is legislating, after the manner of
some doctors? For of doctors, as I may remind you, some have a
gentler, others a ruder method of cure; and as children ask the doctor
to be gentle with them, so we will ask the legislator to cure our
disorders with the gentlest remedies. What I mean to say is, that
besides doctors there are doctors' servants, who are also styled
Cle. Very true.
Ath. And whether they are slaves or freemen makes no difference;
they acquire their knowledge of medicine by obeying and observing
their masters; empirically and not according to the natural way of
learning, as the manner of freemen is, who have learned scientifically
themselves the art which they impart scientifically to their pupils.
You are aware that there are these two classes of doctors?
Cle. To be sure.
Ath. And did you ever observe that there are two classes of patients
in states, slaves and freemen; and the slave doctors run about and
cure the slaves, or wait for them in the dispensaries-practitioners of
this sort never talk to their patients individually, or let them
talk about their own individual complaints? The slave doctor
prescribes what mere experience suggests, as if he had exact
knowledge; and when he has given his orders, like a tyrant, he
rushes off with equal assurance to some other servant who is ill;
and so he relieves the master of the house of the care of his
invalid slaves. But the other doctor, who is a freeman, attends and
practises upon freemen; and he carries his enquiries far back, and
goes into the nature of the disorder; he enters into discourse with
the patient and with his friends, and is at once getting information
from the sick man, and also instructing him as far as he is able,
and he will not prescribe for him until he has first convinced him; at
last, when he has brought the patient more and more under his
persuasive influences and set him on the road to health, he attempts
to effect a cure. Now which is the better way of proceeding in a
physician and in a trainer? Is he the better who accomplishes his ends
in a double way, or he who works in one way, and that the ruder and
Cle. I should say, Stranger, that the double way is far better.
Ath. Should you like to see an example of the double and single
method in legislation?
Cle. Certainly I should.
Ath. What will be our first law? Will not the the order of nature,
begin by making regulations for states about births?
Cle. He will.
Ath. In all states the birth of children goes back to the connection
of marriage?
Cle. Very true.
Ath. And, according to the true order, the laws relating to marriage
should be those which are first determined in every state?
Cle. Quite so.
Ath. Then let me first give the law of marriage in a simple form; it
may run as follows:-A man shall marry between the ages of thirty and

Previous | Next
Site Search