laws (books 7 - 12)
Ath. Yes; and courage is a part of virtue, and cowardice of vice?
Ath. And the one is honourable, and the other dishonourable?
Cle. To be sure.
Ath. And the one, like other meaner things, is a human quality,
but the Gods have no part in anything of the sort?
Cle. That again is what everybody will admit.
Ath. But do we imagine carelessness and idleness and luxury to be
virtues? What do you think?
Cle. Decidedly not.
Ath. They rank under the opposite class?
Ath. And their opposites, therefore, would fall under the opposite
Ath. But are we to suppose that one who possesses all these good
qualities will be luxurious and heedless and idle, like those whom the
poet compares to stingless drones?
Cle. And the comparison is a most just one.
Ath. Surely God must not be supposed to have a nature which he
himself hates?-he who dares to say this sort of thing must not be
tolerated for a moment.
Cle. Of course not. How could he have?
Ath. Should we not on any principle be entirely mistaken in praising
any one who has some special business entrusted to him, if he have a
mind which takes care of great matters and no care of small ones?
Reflect; he who acts in this way, whether he be God or man, must act
from one of two principles.
Cle. What are they?
Ath. Either he must think that the neglect of the small matters is
of no consequence to the whole, or if he knows that they are of
consequence, and he neglects them, his neglect must be attributed to
carelessness and indolence. Is there any other way in which his
neglect can be explained? For surely, when it is impossible for him to
take care of all, he is not negligent if he fails to attend to these
things great or small, which a God or some inferior being might be
wanting in strength or capacity to manage?
Cle. Certainly not.
Ath. Now, then, let us examine the offenders, who both alike confess
that there are Gods, but with a difference-the one saying that they
may be appeased, and the other that they have no care of small
matters: there are three of us and two of them, and we will say to
them-In the first place, you both acknowledge that the Gods hear and
see and know all things, and that nothing can escape them which is
matter of sense and knowledge:-do you admit this?
Ath. And do you admit also that they have all power which mortals
and immortals can have?
Cle. They will, of course, admit this also.
Ath. And surely we three and they two-five in all-have
acknowledged that they are good and perfect?
Ath. But, if they are such as we conceive them to be, can we
possibly suppose that they ever act in the spirit of carelessness
and indolence? For in us inactivity is the child of cowardice, and
carelessness of inactivity and indolence.
Cle. Most true.
Ath. Then not from inactivity and carelessness is any God ever
negligent; for there is no cowardice in them.
Cle. That is very true.
Ath. Then the alternative which remains is, that if the Gods neglect
the lighter and lesser concerns of the universe, they neglect them
because they know that they ought not to care about such
matters-what other alternative is there but the opposite of their