Opis

Long understudied, Plato’s „Laws” has been the object of renewed attention in the past decade and is now considered to be his major work of political philosophy besides „The Republic”. In his last dialogue, Plato returns to the project of describing the foundation of a just city and sketches in considerable detail its constitution, Laws and other social institutions. In it, Plato describes in fascinating detail a comprehensive system of legislation in a small agricultural utopia he named Magnesia. The government of Magnesia is a mixture of democratic and authoritarian principles that aim at making all of its citizens happy and virtuous. Although Plato’s views that citizens should act in complete obedience to the law have been read as totalitarian, „The Laws” nonetheless constitutes a highly impressive program for the reform of society and provides a crucial insight into the mind of one of Classical Greece’s foremost thinkers.

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Liczba stron: 702

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Contents

BOOK I

BOOK II

BOOK III

BOOK IV

BOOK V

BOOK VI

BOOK VII

BOOK VIII

BOOK IX

BOOK X

BOOK XI

BOOK XII

BOOK I

PERSONS OF THE DIALOGUE: An Athenian Stranger, Cleinias (a Cretan), Megillus (a Lacedaemonian).

ATHENIAN: Tell me, Strangers, is a God or some man supposed to be the author of your laws?

CLEINIAS: A God, Stranger; in very truth a God: among us Cretans he is said to have been Zeus, but in Lacedaemon, whence our friend here comes, I believe they would say that Apollo is their lawgiver: would they not, Megillus?

MEGILLUS: Certainly.

ATHENIAN: And do you, Cleinias, believe, as Homer tells, that every ninth year Minos went to converse with his Olympian sire, and was inspired by him to make laws for your cities?

CLEINIAS: Yes, that is our tradition; and there was Rhadamanthus, a brother of his, with whose name you are familiar; he is reputed to have been the justest of men, and we Cretans are of opinion that he earned this reputation from his righteous administration of justice when he was alive.

ATHENIAN: Yes, and a noble reputation it was, worthy of a son of Zeus. As you and Megillus have been trained in these institutions, I dare say that you will not be unwilling to give an account of your government and laws; on our way we can pass the time pleasantly in talking about them, for I am told that the distance from Cnosus to the cave and temple of Zeus is considerable; and doubtless there are shady places under the lofty trees, which will protect us from this scorching sun. Being no longer young, we may often stop to rest beneath them, and get over the whole journey without difficulty, beguiling the time by conversation.

CLEINIAS: Yes, Stranger, and if we proceed onward we shall come to groves of cypresses, which are of rare height and beauty, and there are green meadows, in which we may repose and converse.

ATHENIAN: Very good.

CLEINIAS: Very good, indeed; and still better when we see them; let us move on cheerily.

ATHENIAN: I am willing–And first, I want to know why the law has ordained that you shall have common meals and gymnastic exercises, and wear arms.

CLEINIAS: I think, Stranger, that the aim of our institutions is easily intelligible to any one. Look at the character of our country: Crete is not like Thessaly, a large plain; and for this reason they have horsemen in Thessaly, and we have runners–the inequality of the ground in our country is more adapted to locomotion on foot; but then, if you have runners you must have light arms–no one can carry a heavy weight when running, and bows and arrows are convenient because they are light. Now all these regulations have been made with a view to war, and the legislator appears to me to have looked to this in all his arrangements:–the common meals, if I am not mistaken, were instituted by him for a similar reason, because he saw that while they are in the field the citizens are by the nature of the case compelled to take their meals together for the sake of mutual protection. He seems to me to have thought the world foolish in not understanding that all men are always at war with one another; and if in war there ought to be common meals and certain persons regularly appointed under others to protect an army, they should be continued in peace. For what men in general term peace would be said by him to be only a name; in reality every city is in a natural state of war with every other, not indeed proclaimed by heralds, but everlasting. And if you look closely, you will find that this was the intention of the Cretan legislator; all institutions, private as well as public, were arranged by him with a view to war; in giving them he was under the impression that no possessions or institutions are of any value to him who is defeated in battle; for all the good things of the conquered pass into the hands of the conquerors.

ATHENIAN: You appear to me, Stranger, to have been thoroughly trained in the Cretan institutions, and to be well informed about them; will you tell me a little more explicitly what is the principle of government which you would lay down? You seem to imagine that a well-governed state ought to be so ordered as to conquer all other states in war: am I right in supposing this to be your meaning?

CLEINIAS: Certainly; and our Lacedaemonian friend, if I am not mistaken, will agree with me.

MEGILLUS: Why, my good friend, how could any Lacedaemonian say anything else?

ATHENIAN: And is what you say applicable only to states, or also to villages?

CLEINIAS: To both alike.

ATHENIAN: The case is the same?

CLEINIAS: Yes.

ATHENIAN: And in the village will there be the same war of family against family, and of individual against individual?

CLEINIAS: The same.

ATHENIAN: And should each man conceive himself to be his own enemy:–what shall we say?

CLEINIAS: O Athenian Stranger–inhabitant of Attica I will not call you, for you seem to deserve rather to be named after the goddess herself, because you go back to first principles,–you have thrown a light upon the argument, and will now be better able to understand what I was just saying,–that all men are publicly one another’s enemies, and each man privately his own.

(ATHENIAN: My good sir, what do you mean?)–

CLEINIAS:...Moreover, there is a victory and defeat–the first and best of victories, the lowest and worst of defeats–which each man gains or sustains at the hands, not of another, but of himself; this shows that there is a war against ourselves going on within every one of us.

ATHENIAN: Let us now reverse the order of the argument: Seeing that every individual is either his own superior or his own inferior, may we say that there is the same principle in the house, the village, and the state?

CLEINIAS: You mean that in each of them there is a principle of superiority or inferiority to self?

ATHENIAN: Yes.

CLEINIAS: You are quite right in asking the question, for there certainly is such a principle, and above all in states; and 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: Whether the better is ever really conquered by the worse, is a question which requires more discussion, and may be therefore left for the present. But I now quite understand your meaning when you say that citizens who are of the same race and live in the same cities may unjustly conspire, and having the superiority in numbers may overcome and enslave the few just; and when they prevail, the state may be truly called its own inferior and therefore bad; and when they are defeated, its own superior and therefore good.

CLEINIAS: Your remark, Stranger, is a paradox, and yet we cannot possibly deny it.

ATHENIAN: Here is another case for consideration;–in a family there may be several brothers, who are the offspring of a single pair; very possibly the majority of them may be unjust, and the just may be in a minority.

CLEINIAS: Very possibly.

ATHENIAN: And you and I ought not to raise a question of words as to whether this family and household are rightly said to be superior when they conquer, and inferior when they are conquered; for we are not now considering what may or may not be the proper or customary way of speaking, but we are considering the natural principles of right and wrong in laws.

CLEINIAS: What you say, Stranger, is most true.

MEGILLUS: Quite excellent, in my opinion, as far as we have gone.

ATHENIAN: Again; might there not be a judge over these brethren, of whom we were speaking?

CLEINIAS: Certainly.

ATHENIAN: Now, which would be the better judge–one who destroyed the bad and appointed the good to govern themselves; or one who, while allowing the good to govern, let the bad live, and made them voluntarily submit? Or third, I suppose, in the scale of excellence might be placed a judge, who, finding the family distracted, not only did not destroy any one, but reconciled them to one another for ever after, and gave them laws which they mutually observed, and was able to keep them friends.

CLEINIAS: The last would be by far the best sort of judge and legislator.

ATHENIAN: And yet the aim of all the laws which he gave would be the reverse of war.

CLEINIAS: Very true.

ATHENIAN: And will he who constitutes the state and orders the life of man have in view external war, or that kind of intestine war called civil, which no one, if he could prevent, would like to have occurring in his own state; and when occurring, every one would wish to be quit of as soon as possible?

CLEINIAS: He would have the latter chiefly in view.

ATHENIAN: And would he prefer that this civil war should be terminated by the destruction of one of the parties, and by the victory of the other, or that peace and friendship should be re-established, and that, being reconciled, they should give their attention to foreign enemies?

CLEINIAS: Every one would desire the latter in the case of his own state.

ATHENIAN: And would not that also be the desire of the legislator?

CLEINIAS: Certainly.

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