“Laws” by Plato

Excessive Love of Self Causes Errors of Judgment

Whereas the excessive love of self is in reality the source to each man of all offences; for the lover is blinded about the beloved, so that he judges wrongly of the just, the good, and the honourable, and thinks that he ought always to prefer himself to the truth. But he who would be a great man ought to regard, not himself or his interests, but what is just, whether the just act be his own or that of another. … and because we will not let others act for us in what we do not know, we are compelled to act amiss ourselves.

Courage vs. Fear

There are two very different kinds of fear: the fear of expected evil and 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. This is what the legislator 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.

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.

Then each of us should be fearless and also fearful;And when we want to make any one fearless, we and the law bring him face to face with many fears. 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? … Are we to suppose 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?

The Fear Potion as the Touchstone of Courage

Suppose that some God had given a fear-potion to men, and that the more a man drank of this the more he regarded himself at every draught as a child of misfortune, and that he feared everything happening or about to happen to him; and that at last the most courageous of men utterly lost his presence of mind for a time, and only came to himself again when he had slept off the influence of the draught.

The Criterion of Good Art

“When any one says that music is to be judged of by pleasure, his doctrine cannot be admitted; and if there be any music of which pleasure is the criterion, such music is not to be sought out or deemed to have any real excellence, but only that other kind of music which is an imitation of the good. And those who seek for the best kind of song and music ought not to seek for that which is pleasant, but for that which is true”

The Greatest Ignorance

The greatest ignorance is when a man hates that which he nevertheless thinks to be good and noble, and loves and embraces that which he knows to be unrighteous and evil. This disagreement between the sense of pleasure and the judgment of reason in the soul is, in my opinion, the worst ignorance; and also the greatest, because affecting the great mass of the human soul; for the principle which feels pleasure and pain in the individual is like the mass or populace in a state.

Arbitrary Power vs. Moderation

If any one gives too great a power to anything, too large a sail to a vessel, too much food to the body, too much authority to the mind, and does not observe the mean, everything is overthrown, and, in the wantonness of excess, runs in the one case to disorders, and in the other to injustice, which is the child of excess. …There is no soul of man, young and irresponsible, who will be able to sustain the temptation of arbitrary power.

Monarchy vs. Democracy

There are two mother forms of states from which the rest may be truly said to be derived; and one of them may be called monarchy and the other democracy: the Persians have the highest form of the one, and we [the Greeks] of the other; almost all the rest, as I was saying, are variations of these. Now, if you are to have liberty and the combination of friendship with wisdom, you must have both these forms of government in a measure; the argument emphatically declares that no city can be well governed which is not made up of both.

In music there first arose the universal conceit of omniscience and general lawlessness;–freedom came following afterwards, and men, fancying that they knew what they did not know, had no longer any fear, and the absence of fear begets shamelessness. For what is this shamelessness, which is so evil a thing, but the insolent refusal to regard the opinion of the better by reason of an over-daring sort of liberty?

Consequent upon this freedom comes the other freedom, of
disobedience to rulers; and then the attempt to escape the control and exhortation of father, mother, elders, and when near the end, the control of the laws also; and at the very end there is the contempt of oaths and pledges, and no regard at all for the Gods,–herein they exhibit and imitate the old so-called Titanic nature, and come to the same point as the Titans when they rebelled against God, leading a life of endless evils.

Passion vs. Pleasure

Passion, which may be described either as a state or a part of the soul, is hard to be striven against and contended with, and by irrational force overturns many things; Pleasure is not the same with passion, but has an opposite power, working her will by persuasion and by the force of deceit in all things.

Punishment for the Purpose of Healing

Wherefore the law is not disposed to inflict a less penalty on the one than on the other because his theft is less, but on the ground that the thief may possibly be in one case still curable, and may in another case be incurable.

Principle in War

Of all soldiers the life should be always and in all things as far as possible in common and together; there neither is nor ever will be a higher, or better, or more scientific principle than this for the attainment of salvation and victory in war. And we ought in time of peace from youth upwards to practise this habit of commanding others, and of being commanded by others; anarchy should have no place in the life of man or of the beasts who are subject to man.

Links:

Advertisements

One thought on ““Laws” by Plato

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s