Saturday, 19 October 2013

348 BC, Laws, Plato.

Book I,


Athenian. And must each individual man regard himself as his own enemy? Or what do we say when we come to this point?
Clinias. O Stranger of Athens, for I should be loth to call you a man of Attica, since methinks you deserve rather to be named after the goddess Athena, seeing that you have made the argument more clear by taking it back again to its starting-point; whereby you will the more easily discover the justice of our recent statement that, in the mass,
all men are publicly one another’s enemies, and each man privately his own.
Athenian. What is your meaning, my admirable sir?
Clinias. It is just in this war, my friend, that the victory over self is of all victories the first and best while self-defeat is of all defeats at once the worst and the most shameful. For these phrases signify that a war against self exists within each of us.
Athenian. Now let us take the argument back in the reverse direction. Seeing that individually each of us is partly superior to himself  and partly inferior, are we to affirm that the same condition of things exists in house and village and State, or are we to deny it?
Clinias. Do you mean the condition of being partly self-superior and partly self-inferior?
Clinias. That, too, is a proper question; for such a condition does most certainly exist, and in States above all. The state in which the better citizens win a victory over the mob and over the inferior classes may be truly said to be better than itself, and may be justly praised, where such a victory is gained, or censured in the opposite case.


Athenian. And let me ask you a question:— Do we not distinguish two kinds of fear, which are very different?
Cleinias. What are they?
Athenian. There is the fear of expected evil.
Cleinias. Yes.
Athenian. And there is the fear of an evil reputation; we are afraid of being thought evil, because we do or say some dishonourable thing, which fear we and all men term shame.
Cleinias. Certainly.
Athenian. These are the two fears, as I called them; one of which is the opposite of pain and other fears, and the opposite also of the greatest and most numerous sort of pleasures.
Cleinias. Very true.
Athenian. And does not the legislator and every one who is good for anything, hold this fear in the greatest honour? This is what he terms reverence, and the confidence which is the reverse of this he terms insolence; and the latter he always deems to be a very great evil both to individuals and to states.
Cleinias. True.
Athenian. Does not this kind of fear preserve us in many important ways? What is there which so surely gives victory and safety in war? For there are two things which give victory — confidence before enemies, and fear of disgrace before friends.
Cleinias. There are.
Athenian. Then each of us should be fearless and also fearful; and why we should be either has now been determined.
Cleinias. Certainly.
Athenian. And when we want to make any one fearless, we and the law bring him face to face with many fears.
Cleinias. Clearly.
Athenian. And when we want to make him rightly fearful, must we not introduce him to shameless pleasures, and train him to take up arms against them, and to overcome them? Or does this principle apply to courage only, and must he who would be perfect in valour fight against and overcome his own natural character — since if he be unpractised and inexperienced in such conflicts, he will not be half the man which he might have been — and are we to suppose, that with temperance it is otherwise, and that he who has never fought with the shameless and unrighteous temptations of his pleasures and lusts, and conquered them, in earnest and in play, by word, deed, and act, will still be perfectly temperate?
Cleinias. A most unlikely supposition.

Book III, 


Athenian. What kind of ignorance would deserve to be called the “greatest”? Consider whether you will agree with my description; I take it to be ignorance of this kind,—
Clinias. What kind?
Athenian. That which we see in the man who hates, instead of loving, what he judges to be noble and good, while he loves and cherishes what he judges to be evil and unjust. That want of accord, on the part of the feelings of pain and pleasure, with the rational judgment is, I maintain, the extreme form of ignorance, and also the “greatest” because it belongs to the main mass of the soul,— for the part of the soul that feels pain and pleasure corresponds to the mass of the populace in the State. So whenever this part opposes what are by nature the ruling principles—knowledge, opinion, or reason,—this condition I call folly, whether it be in a State, when the masses disobey the rulers and the laws, or in an individual, when the noble elements of reason existing in the soul produce no good effect, but quite the contrary.
All these cases I term the worst ignorance, whether in individuals or in states.

Book VI, 


Athenian. I see that among men all things depend upon three wants and desires, of which the end is virtue, if they are rightly led by them, or the opposite if wrongly. Now these are eating and drinking, which begin at birth — every animal has a natural desire for them, and is violently excited, and rebels against him who says that he must not satisfy all his pleasures and appetites, and get rid of all the corresponding pains — and the third and greatest and sharpest want and desire breaks out last, and is the fire of sexual lust, which kindles in men every species of wantonness and madness. And these three disorders we must endeavour to master by the three great principles of fear and law and right reason; turning them away from that which is called pleasantest to the best, using the Muses and the Gods who preside over contests to extinguish their increase and influx.

Book VIII, 


Athenian. Would a man be more ready to abstain from sex-indulgence, and to consent to carry out the law on this matter soberly, if he had his body not ill-trained, but in good condition, than if he had it in bad condition?
Clinias. He would be much more ready if it were not ill-trained.
Athenian. Do we not know by report about Iccus1 of Tarentum, because of his contests at Olympia and elsewhere,— how, spurred on by ambition and skill, and possessing courage combined with temperance in his soul, during all the period of his training (as the story goes) he never touched a woman, nor yet a boy? And the same story is told about Crison and Astylus and Diopompus and very many others. And yet, Clinias, these men were not only much worse educated in soul then your citizens and mine,  but they also possessed much more sexual vigor of body.
Clinias. That this really happened in the case of these athletes is indeed, as you say, confidently affirmed by the ancients.
Athenian. Well then, if those men had the fortitude to abstain from that which most men count bliss for the sake of victory in wrestling, running, and the like, shall our boys be unable to hold out in order to win a much nobler victory—that which is the noblest of all victories, as we shall tell them from their childhood's days, charming them into belief, we hope, by tales and sentences and songs.
Clinias. What victory?
Athenian. Victory over pleasures,—which if they win, they will live a life of bliss, but if they lose, the very opposite. Furthermore, will not the dread that this is a thing utterly unholy give them power to master those impulses which men inferior to themselves have mastered?

Clinias. It is certainly reasonable to suppose so.

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