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



Previous | Next
                  

laws (books 1 - 6)   


everything, and thinks that he honours his soul by praising her, and
he is very ready to let her do whatever she may like. But I mean to
say that in acting thus he injures his soul, and is far from honouring
her; whereas, in our opinion, he ought to honour her as second only to
the Gods. Again, when a man thinks that others are to be blamed, and
not himself, for the errors which he has committed from time to
time, and the many and great evils which befell him in consequence,
and is always fancying himself to be exempt and innocent, he is
under the idea that he is honouring his soul; whereas the very reverse
is the fact, for he is really injuring her. And when, disregarding the
word and approval of the legislator, he indulges in pleasure, then
again he is far from honouring her; he only dishonours her, and
fills her full of evil and remorse; or when he does not endure to
the end the labours and fears and sorrows and pains which the
legislator approves, but gives way before them, then, by yielding,
he does not honour the soul, but by all such conduct he makes her to
be dishonourable; nor when he thinks that life at any price is a good,
does he honour her, but yet once more he dishonours her; for the
soul having a notion that the world below is all evil, he yields to
her, and does not resist and teach or convince her that, for aught she
knows, the world of the Gods below, instead of being evil, may be
the greatest of all goods. Again, when any one prefers beauty to
virtue, what is this but the real and utter dishonour of the soul? For
such a preference implies that the body is more honourable than the
soul; and this is false, for there is nothing of earthly birth which
is more honourable than the heavenly, and he who thinks otherwise of
the soul has no idea how greatly he undervalues this wonderful
possession; nor, again, when a person is willing, or not unwilling, to
acquire dishonest gains, does he then honour his soul with gifts-far
otherwise; he sells her glory and honour for a small piece of gold;
but all the gold which is under or upon the earth is not enough to
give in exchange for virtue. In a word, I may say that he who does not
estimate the base and evil, the good and noble, according to the
standard of the legislator, and abstain in every possible way from the
one and practise the other to the utmost of his power, does not know
that in all these respects he is most foully and disgracefully abusing
his soul, which is the divinest part of man; for no one, as I may say,
ever considers that which is declared to be the greatest penalty of
evil-doing--namely, to grow into the likeness of bad men, and
growing like them to fly from the conversation of the good, and be cut
off from them, and cleave to and follow after the company of the
bad. And he who is joined to them must do and suffer what such men
by nature do and say to one another-a suffering which is not justice
but retribution; for justice and the just are noble, whereas
retribution is the suffering which waits upon injustice; and whether a
man escape or endure this, he is miserable-in the former case, because
he is not cured; while in the latter, he perishes in order that the
rest of mankind may be saved.
Speaking generally, our glory is to follow the better and improve
the inferior, which is susceptible of improvement, as far as this is
possible. And of all human possessions, the soul is by nature most
inclined to avoid the evil, and track out and find the chief good;
which when a man has found, he should take up his abode with it during
the remainder of his life. Wherefore the soul also is second [or
next to God] in honour; and third, as every one will perceive, comes
the honour of the body in natural order. Having determined this, we
have next to consider that there is a natural honour of the body,
and that of honours some are true and some are counterfeit. To
decide which are which is the business of the legislator; and he, I
suspect, would intimate that they are as follows:-Honour is not to
be given to the fair body, or to the strong or the swift or the
tall, or to the healthy body (although many may think otherwise),
any more than to their opposites; but the mean states of all these
habits are by far the safest and most moderate; for the one extreme

Previous | Next
Site Search