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laws (books 7 - 12)   


Ath. We all of us remark of one man that he is superior to
pleasure and passion, and of another that he is inferior to them;
and this is true.
Cle. Certainly.
Ath. But no one was ever yet heard to say that one of us is superior
and another inferior to ignorance.
Cle. Very true.
Ath. We are speaking of motives which incite men to the fulfilment
of their will; although an individual may be often drawn by them in
opposite directions at the same time.
Cle. Yes, often.
Ath. And now I can define to you clearly, and without ambiguity,
what I mean by the just and unjust, according to my notion of
them:-When anger and fear, and pleasure and pain, and jealousies and
desires, tyrannize over the soul, whether they do any harm or not-I
call all this injustice. But when the opinion of the best, in whatever
part of human nature states or individuals may suppose that to
dwell, has dominion in the soul and orders the life of every man, even
if it be sometimes mistaken, yet what is done in accordance therewith,
the principle in individuals which obeys this rule, and is best for
the whole life of man, is to be called just; although the hurt done by
mistake is thought by many to be involuntary injustice. Leaving the
question of names, about which we are not going to quarrel, and having
already delineated three sources of error, we may begin by recalling
them somewhat more vividly to our memory:-One of them was of the
painful sort, which we denominate anger and fear.
Cle. Quite right.
Ath. There was a second consisting of pleasures and desires, and a
third of hopes, which aimed at true opinion about the best. The latter
being subdivided into three, we now get five sources of actions; and
for these five we will make laws of two kinds.
Cle. What are the two kinds?
Ath. There is one kind of actions done by violence and in the
light of day, and another kind of actions which are done in darkness
and with secret deceit, or sometimes both with violence and deceit;
the laws concerning these last ought to have a character of severity.
Cle. Naturally.
Ath. And now let us return from this digression and complete the
work of legislation. Laws have been already enacted by us concerning
the robbers of the Gods, and concerning traitors, and also
concerning those who corrupt the laws for the purpose of subverting
the government. A man may very likely commit some of these crimes,
either in a state of madness or when affected by disease, or under the
influence of extreme old age, or in a fit of childish wantonness,
himself no better than a child. And if this be made evident to the
judges elected to try the cause, on the appeal of the criminal or
his advocate, and he be judged to have been in this state when he
committed the offence, he shall simply pay for the hurt which he may
have done to another; but he shall be exempt from other penalties,
unless he have slain some one, and have on his hands the stain of
blood. And in that case he shall go to another land and country, and
there dwell for a year; and if he return before the expiration of
the time which the law appoints, or even set his foot at all on his
native land, he shall be bound by the guardians of the law in the
public prison for two years, and then go free.
Having begun to speak of homicide, let us endeavour to lay down laws
concerning every different kind of homicides, and, first of all,
concerning violent and involuntary homicides. If any one in an
athletic contest, and at the public games, involuntarily kills a
friend, and he dies either at the time or afterwards of the blows
which he has received; or if the like misfortune happens to any one in
war, or military exercises, or mimic contests. of which the
magistrates enjoin the practice, whether with or without arms, when he
has been purified according to the law brought from Delphi relating to

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