laws (books 7 - 12)
able to preserve that of which he does not even know the aim?
Ath. And therefore, if our settlement of the country is to be
perfect, we ought to have some institution, which, as I was saying,
will tell what is the aim of the state, and will inform us how we
are to attain this, and what law or what man will advise us to that
end. Any state which has no such institution is likely to be devoid of
mind and sense, and in all her actions will proceed by mere chance.
Cle. Very true.
Ath. In which, then, of the parts or institutions of the state is
any such guardian power to be found? Can we say?
Cle. I am not quite certain, Stranger; but I have a suspicion that
you are referring to the assembly which you just now said was to
meet at night.
Ath. You understand me perfectly, Cleinias; and we must assume, as
the argument iniplies, that this council possesses all virtue; and the
beginning of virtue is not to make mistakes by guessing many things,
but to look steadily at one thing, and on this to fix all our aims.
Cle. Quite true.
Ath. Then now we shall see why there is nothing wonderful in
states going astray-the reason is that their legislators have such
different aims; nor is there anything wonderful in some laying down as
their rule of justice, that certain individuals should bear rule in
the state, whether they be good or bad, and others that the citizens
should be rich, not caring whether they are the slaves of other men or
not. The tendency of others, again, is towards freedom; and some
legislate with a view to two things at once-they want to be at the
same time free and the lords of other states; but the wisest men, as
they deem themselves to be, look to all these and similar aims, and
there is no one of them which they exclusively honour, and to which
they would have all things look.
Cle. Then, Stranger, our former assertion will hold, for we were
saying that laws generally should look to one thing only; and this, as
we admitted, was rightly said to be virtue.
Cle. And we said that virtue was of four kinds?
Ath. Quite true.
Cle. And that mind was the leader of the four, and that to her the
three other virtues and all other things ought to have regard?
Ath. You follow me capitally, Cleinias, and I would ask you to
follow me to the end, for we have already said that the mind of the
pilot, the mind of the physician and of the general look to that one
thing to which they ought to look; and now we may turn to mind
political, of which, as of a human creature, we will ask a question:-O
wonderful being, and to what are you looking? The physician is able to
tell his single aim in life, but you, the superior, as you declare
yourself to be, of all intelligent beings, when you are asked are
not able to tell. Can you, Megillus, and you, Cleinias, say distinctly
what is the aim of mind political, in return for the many explanations
of things which I have given you?
Cle. We cannot, Stranger.
Ath. Well, but ought we not to desire to see it, and to see where
it is to be found?
Cle. For example, where?
Ath. For example, we were saying that there are four kinds of
virtue, and as there are four of them, each of them must be one.
Ath. And further, all four of them we call one; for we say that
courage is virtue, and that prudence is virtue, and the same of the
two others, as if they were in reality not many but one, that is,
Cle. Quite so.
Ath. There is no difficulty in seeing in what way the two differ
from one another, and have received two names, and so of the rest. But