laws (books 7 - 12)
Cle. There is none.
Ath. And, O most excellent and best of men, do I understand you to
mean that they are careless because they are ignorant, and do not know
that they ought to take care, or that they know, and yet like the
meanest sort of men, knowing the better, choose the worse because they
are overcome by pleasures and pains?
Ath. Do not all human things partake of the nature of soul? And is
not man the most religious of all animals?
Cle. That is not to be denied.
Ath. And we acknowledge that all mortal creatures are the property
of the Gods, to whom also the whole of heaven belongs?
Ath. And, therefore, whether a person says that these things are
to the Gods great or small-in either case it would not be natural
for the Gods who own us, and who are the most careful and the best
of owners to neglect us.-There is also a further consideration.
Cle. What is it?
Ath. Sensation and power are in an inverse ratio to each other in
respect to their case and difficulty.
Cle. What do you mean?
Ath. I mean that there is greater difficulty in seeing and hearing
the small than the great, but more facility in moving and
controlling and taking care of and unimportant things than of their
Cle. Far more.
Ath. Suppose the case of a physician who is willing and able to cure
some living thing as a whole-how will the whole fare at his hands if
he takes care only of the greater and neglects the parts which are
Cle. Decidedly not well.
Ath. No better would be the result with pilots or generals, or
householders or statesmen, or any other such class, if they
neglected the small and regarded only the great;-as the builders
say, the larger stones do not lie well without the lesser.
Cle. Of course not.
Ath. Let us not, then, deem God inferior to human workmen, who, in
proportion to their skill, finish and perfect their works, small as
well as great, by one and the same art; or that God, the wisest of
beings, who is both willing and able to take care, is like a lazy
good-for-nothing, or a coward, who turns his back upon labour and
gives no thought to smaller and easier matters, but to the greater
Cle. Never, Stranger, let us admit a supposition about the Gods
which is both impious and false.
Ath. I think that we have now argued enough with him who delights to
accuse the Gods of neglect.
Ath. He has been forced to acknowledge that he is in error, but he
still seems to me to need some words of consolation.
Cle. What consolation will you offer him?
Ath. Let us say to the youth:-The ruler of the universe has
ordered all things with a view to the excellence and preservation of
the whole, and each part, as far as may be, has an action and
passion appropriate to it. Over these, down to the least fraction of
them, ministers have been appointed to preside, who have wrought out
their perfection with infinitesimal exactness. And one of these
portions of the universe is thine own, unhappy man, which, however
little, contributes to the whole; and you do not seem to be aware that
this and every other creation is for the sake of the whole, and in
order that the life of the whole may be blessed; and that you are
created for the sake of the whole, and not the whole for the sake of
you. For every physician and every skilled artist does all things