Plato on Virtue and the Law

Plato’s Ethics: An Overview
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And the work of legislation is carried back to the first principles of morals. No other writing of Plato shows so profound an insight into the world and into human nature as the Laws. That 'cities will never cease from ill until they are better governed,' is the text of the Laws as well as of the Statesman and Republic. The Laws of Plato contain numerous passages which closely resemble other passages in his writings.

And at first sight a suspicion arises that the repetition shows the unequal hand of the imitator. For why should a writer say over again, in a more imperfect form, what he had already said in his most finished style and manner? And yet it may be urged on the other side that an author whose original powers are beginning to decay will be very liable to repeat himself, as in conversation, so in books. He may have forgotten what he had written before; he may be unconscious of the decline of his own powers.

Hence arises a question of great interest, bearing on the genuineness of ancient writers. Is there any criterion by which we can distinguish the genuine resemblance from the spurious, or, in other words, the repetition of a thought or passage by an author himself from the appropriation of it by another? The question has, perhaps, never been fully discussed; and, though a real one, does not admit of a precise answer. A few general considerations on the subject may be offered:—. There would be nothing surprising again in his losing somewhat of his powers of expression, and becoming less capable of framing language into a harmonious whole.

There would also be a strong presumption that if the variation of style was uniform, it was attributable to some natural cause, and not to the arts of the imitator. The inferiority might be the result of feebleness and of want of activity of mind. But the natural weakness of a great author would commonly be different from the artificial weakness of an imitator; it would be continuous and uniform. The latter would be apt to fill his work with irregular patches, sometimes taken verbally from the writings of the author whom he personated, but rarely acquiring his spirit.

His imitation would be obvious, irregular, superficial. The patches of purple would be easily detected among his threadbare and tattered garments. He would rarely take the pains to put the same thought into other words. There were many forgeries in English literature which attained a considerable degree of success 50 or years ago; but it is doubtful whether attempts such as these could now escape detection, if there were any writings of the same author or of the same age to be compared with them. And ancient forgers were much less skilful than modern; they were far from being masters in the art of deception, and had rarely any motive for being so.

In every man's writings there is something like himself and unlike others, which gives individuality. To appreciate this latent quality would require a kindred mind, and minute study and observation. There are a class of similarities which may be called undesigned coincidences, which are so remote as to be incapable of being borrowed from one another, and yet, when they are compared, find a natural explanation in their being the work of the same mind. The imitator might copy the turns of style—he might repeat images or illustrations, but he could not enter into the inner circle of Platonic philosophy.

He would understand that part of it which became popular in the next generation, as for example, the doctrine of ideas or of numbers: he might approve of communism. But the higher flights of Plato about the science of dialectic, or the unity of virtue, or a person who is above the law, would be unintelligible to him. The strength of the argument from undesigned coincidences of style is much increased when they are found side by side with thoughts and expressions which can only have come from a great original writer.

The great excellence, not only of the whole, but even of the parts of writings, is a strong proof of their genuineness—for although the great writer may fall below, the forger or imitator cannot rise much above himself. Whether we can attribute the worst parts of a work to a forger and the best to a great writer,—as for example, in the case of some of Shakespeare's plays,—depends upon the probability that they have been interpolated, or have been the joint work of two writers; and this can only be established either by express evidence or by a comparison of other writings of the same class.

If the interpolation or double authorship of Greek writings in the time of Plato could be shown to be common, then a question, perhaps insoluble, would arise, not whether the whole, but whether parts of the Platonic dialogues are genuine, and, if parts only, which parts.

Hebrew prophecies and Homeric poems and Laws of Manu may have grown together in early times, but there is no reason to think that any of the dialogues of Plato is the result of a similar process of accumulation. It is therefore rash to say with Oncken Die Staatslehre des Aristoteles that the form in which Aristotle knew the Laws of Plato must have been different from that in which they have come down to us.

It must be admitted that these principles are difficult of application. Yet a criticism may be worth making which rests only on probabilities or impressions. Great disputes will arise about the merits of different passages, about what is truly characteristic and original or trivial and borrowed. Many have thought the Laws to be one of the greatest of Platonic writings, while in the judgment of Mr. Grote they hardly rise above the level of the forged epistles.

The manner in which a writer would or would not have written at a particular time of life must be acknowledged to be a matter of conjecture. But enough has been said to show that similarities of a certain kind, whether criticism is able to detect them or not, may be such as must be attributed to an original writer, and not to a mere imitator.

The parallelisms are like the repetitions of favourite thoughts into which every one is apt to fall unawares in conversation or in writing. They are found in a work which contains many beautiful and remarkable passages. We may therefore begin by claiming this presumption in their favour. Such undesigned coincidences, as we may venture to call them, are the following. Some lesser similarities of thought and manner should not be omitted, such as the mention of the thirty years' old students in the Republic, and the fifty years' old choristers in the Laws; or the making of the citizens out of wax Laws compared with the other image Republic ; or the number of the tyrant , which is NEARLY equal with the number of days and nights in the year , compared with the 'slight correction' of the sacred number , which is divisible by all the numbers from 1 to 12 except 11, and divisible by 11, if two families be deducted; or once more, we may compare the ignorance of solid geometry of which he complains in the Republic and the puzzle about fractions with the difficulty in the Laws about commensurable and incommensurable quantities—and the malicious emphasis on the word gunaikeios Laws with the use of the same word Republic.

These and similar passages tend to show that the author of the Republic is also the author of the Laws. They are echoes of the same voice, expressions of the same mind, coincidences too subtle to have been invented by the ingenuity of any imitator. The force of the argument is increased, if we remember that no passage in the Laws is exactly copied,—nowhere do five or six words occur together which are found together elsewhere in Plato's writings.

Theory of education in Plato's « Laws »

In other dialogues of Plato, as well as in the Republic, there are to be found parallels with the Laws. Such resemblances, as we might expect, occur chiefly but not exclusively in the dialogues which, on other grounds, we may suppose to be of later date. The punishment of evil is to be like evil men Laws , as he says also in the Theaetetus.

Compare again the dependence of tragedy and comedy on one another, of which he gives the reason in the Laws—'For serious things cannot be understood without laughable, nor opposites at all without opposites, if a man is really to have intelligence of either'; here he puts forward the principle which is the groundwork of the thesis of Socrates in the Symposium, 'that the genius of tragedy is the same as that of comedy, and that the writer of comedy ought to be a writer of tragedy also.

That men are the possession of the Gods Laws , is a reflection which likewise occurs in the Phaedo. The remark, whether serious or ironical Laws , that 'the sons of the Gods naturally believed in the Gods, because they had the means of knowing about them,' is found in the Timaeus. The reign of Cronos, who is the divine ruler Laws , is a reminiscence of the Statesman. It is remarkable that in the Sophist and Statesman Soph. The madness of the poets, again, is a favourite notion of Plato's, which occurs also in the Laws, as well as in the Phaedrus, Ion, and elsewhere.

There are traces in the Laws of the same desire to base speculation upon history which we find in the Critias. Once more, there is a striking parallel with the paradox of the Gorgias, that 'if you do evil, it is better to be punished than to be unpunished,' in the Laws: 'To live having all goods without justice and virtue is the greatest of evils if life be immortal, but not so great if the bad man lives but a short time.

The point to be considered is whether these are the kind of parallels which would be the work of an imitator. Would a forger have had the wit to select the most peculiar and characteristic thoughts of Plato; would he have caught the spirit of his philosophy; would he, instead of openly borrowing, have half concealed his favourite ideas; would he have formed them into a whole such as the Laws; would he have given another the credit which he might have obtained for himself; would he have remembered and made use of other passages of the Platonic writings and have never deviated into the phraseology of them?

Without pressing such arguments as absolutely certain, we must acknowledge that such a comparison affords a new ground of real weight for believing the Laws to be a genuine writing of Plato. The relation of the Republic to the Laws is clearly set forth by Plato in the Laws. The Republic is the best state, the Laws is the best possible under the existing conditions of the Greek world.

The Republic is the ideal, in which no man calls anything his own, which may or may not have existed in some remote clime, under the rule of some God, or son of a God who can say? The Laws distinctly acknowledge what the Republic partly admits, that the ideal is inimitable by us, but that we should 'lift up our eyes to the heavens' and try to regulate our lives according to the divine image. The citizens are no longer to have wives and children in common, and are no longer to be under the government of philosophers. But the spirit of communism or communion is to continue among them, though reverence for the sacredness of the family, and respect of children for parents, not promiscuous hymeneals, are now the foundation of the state; the sexes are to be as nearly on an equality as possible; they are to meet at common tables, and to share warlike pursuits if the women will consent , and to have a common education.

The legislator has taken the place of the philosopher, but a council of elders is retained, who are to fulfil the duties of the legislator when he has passed out of life. The addition of younger persons to this council by co-optation is an improvement on the governing body of the Republic. The scheme of education in the Laws is of a far lower kind than that which Plato had conceived in the Republic. There he would have his rulers trained in all knowledge meeting in the idea of good, of which the different branches of mathematical science are but the hand-maidens or ministers; here he treats chiefly of popular education, stopping short with the preliminary sciences,—these are to be studied partly with a view to their practical usefulness, which in the Republic he holds cheap, and even more with a view to avoiding impiety, of which in the Republic he says nothing; he touches very lightly on dialectic, which is still to be retained for the rulers.

Yet in the Laws there remain traces of the old educational ideas. He is still for banishing the poets; and as he finds the works of prose writers equally dangerous, he would substitute for them the study of his own laws. He insists strongly on the importance of mathematics as an educational instrument. He is no more reconciled to the Greek mythology than in the Republic, though he would rather say nothing about it out of a reverence for antiquity; and he is equally willing to have recourse to fictions, if they have a moral tendency.

His thoughts recur to a golden age in which the sanctity of oaths was respected and in which men living nearer the Gods were more disposed to believe in them; but we must legislate for the world as it is, now that the old beliefs have passed away. Though he is no longer fired with dialectical enthusiasm, he would compel the guardians to 'look at one idea gathered from many things,' and to 'perceive the principle which is the same in all the four virtues.

He assimilates the education of the two sexes, as far as possible, both in music and gymnastic, and, as in the Republic, he would give to gymnastic a purely military character. In marriage, his object is still to produce the finest children for the state. As in the Statesman, he would unite in wedlock dissimilar natures—the passionate with the dull, the courageous with the gentle. And the virtuous tyrant of the Statesman, who has no place in the Republic, again appears. In this, as in all his writings, he has the strongest sense of the degeneracy and incapacity of the rulers of his own time.

In the Laws, the philosophers, if not banished, like the poets, are at least ignored; and religion takes the place of philosophy in the regulation of human life. It must however be remembered that the religion of Plato is co-extensive with morality, and is that purified religion and mythology of which he speaks in the second book of the Republic. There is no real discrepancy in the two works. In a practical treatise, he speaks of religion rather than of philosophy; just as he appears to identify virtue with pleasure, and rather seeks to find the common element of the virtues than to maintain his old paradoxical theses that they are one, or that they are identical with knowledge.

The dialectic and the idea of good, which even Glaucon in the Republic could not understand, would be out of place in a less ideal work. There may also be a change in his own mind, the purely intellectual aspect of philosophy having a diminishing interest to him in his old age. Some confusion occurs in the passage in which Plato speaks of the Republic, occasioned by his reference to a third state, which he proposes D. Like many other thoughts in the Laws, the allusion is obscure from not being worked out. Aristotle Polit.

But it is not clear that by this the third state of Plato is intended. It is possible that Plato may have meant by his third state an historical sketch, bearing the same relation to the Laws which the unfinished Critias would have borne to the Republic; or he may, perhaps, have intended to describe a state more nearly approximating than the Laws to existing Greek states. The Statesman is a mere fragment when compared with the Laws, yet combining a second interest of dialectic as well as politics, which is wanting in the larger work. Several points of similarity and contrast may be observed between them.

In some respects the Statesman is even more ideal than the Republic, looking back to a former state of paradisiacal life, in which the Gods ruled over mankind, as the Republic looks forward to a coming kingdom of philosophers. Of this kingdom of Cronos there is also mention in the Laws. Again, in the Statesman, the Eleatic Stranger rises above law to the conception of the living voice of the lawgiver, who is able to provide for individual cases. A similar thought is repeated in the Laws: 'If in the order of nature, and by divine destiny, a man were able to apprehend the truth about these things, he would have no need of laws to rule over him; for there is no law or order above knowledge, nor can mind without impiety be deemed the subject or slave of any, but rather the lord of all.

The Laws are confessedly a Second-best, an inferior Ideal, to which Plato has recourse, when he finds that the city of Philosophers is no longer 'within the horizon of practical politics. It is also interesting to remark that the new Ideal is always falling away, and that he hardly supposes the one to be more capable of being realized than the other. Human beings are troublesome to manage; and the legislator cannot adapt his enactments to the infinite variety of circumstances; after all he must leave the administration of them to his successors; and though he would have liked to make them as permanent as they are in Egypt, he cannot escape from the necessity of change.

At length Plato is obliged to institute a Nocturnal Council which is supposed to retain the mind of the legislator, and of which some of the members are even supposed to go abroad and inspect the institutions of foreign countries, as a foundation for changes in their own. The spirit of such changes, though avoiding the extravagance of a popular assembly, being only so much change as the conservative temper of old members is likely to allow, is nevertheless inconsistent with the fixedness of Egypt which Plato wishes to impress upon Hellenic institutions.

He is inconsistent with himself as the truth begins to dawn upon him that 'in the execution things for the most part fall short of our conception of them' Republic. And is not this true of ideals of government in general? We are always disappointed in them. Nothing great can be accomplished in the short space of human life; wherefore also we look forward to another Republic. As we grow old, we are sensible that we have no power actively to pursue our ideals any longer.

We have had our opportunity and do not aspire to be more than men: we have received our 'wages and are going home. We look in vain for consistency either in men or things. But we have seen enough of improvement in our own time to justify us in the belief that the world is worth working for and that a good man's life is not thrown away.

Such reflections may help us to bring home to ourselves by inward sympathy the language of Plato in the Laws, and to combine into something like a whole his various and at first sight inconsistent utterances. The Republic may be described as the Spartan constitution appended to a government of philosophers. But in the Laws an Athenian element is also introduced. Many enactments are taken from the Athenian; the four classes are borrowed from the constitution of Cleisthenes, which Plato regards as the best form of Athenian government, and the guardians of the law bear a certain resemblance to the archons.

In the constitution of the Laws nearly all officers are elected by a vote more or less popular and by lot. But the assembly only exists for the purposes of election, and has no legislative or executive powers. The Nocturnal Council, which is the highest body in the state, has several of the functions of the ancient Athenian Areopagus, after which it appears to be modelled. Life is to wear, as at Athens, a joyous and festive look; there are to be Bacchic choruses, and men of mature age are encouraged in moderate potations.

On the other hand, the common meals, the public education, the crypteia are borrowed from Sparta and not from Athens, and the superintendence of private life, which was to be practised by the governors, has also its prototype in Sparta. The extravagant dislike which Plato shows both to a naval power and to extreme democracy is the reverse of Athenian. The best-governed Hellenic states traced the origin of their laws to individual lawgivers. These were real persons, though we are uncertain how far they originated or only modified the institutions which are ascribed to them.

But the lawgiver, though not a myth, was a fixed idea in the mind of the Greek,—as fixed as the Trojan war or the earth-born Cadmus. And the constant reference in the Laws of Plato to the lawgiver is altogether in accordance with Greek modes of thinking and speaking. There is also, as in the Republic, a Pythagorean element. The highest branch of education is arithmetic; to know the order of the heavenly bodies, and to reconcile the apparent contradiction of their movements, is an important part of religion; the lives of the citizens are to have a common measure, as also their vessels and coins; the great blessing of the state is the number Plato is deeply impressed by the antiquity of Egypt, and the unchangeableness of her ancient forms of song and dance.

And he is also struck by the progress which the Egyptians had made in the mathematical sciences—in comparison of them the Greeks appeared to him to be little better than swine. Yet he censures the Egyptian meanness and inhospitality to strangers. He has traced the growth of states from their rude beginnings in a philosophical spirit; but of any life or growth of the Hellenic world in future ages he is silent. He has made the reflection that past time is the maker of states Book iii.

Plato on Virtue and the Law

If he could have stamped indelibly upon Hellenic states the will of the legislator, he would have been satisfied. The utmost which he expects of future generations is that they should supply the omissions, or correct the errors which younger statesmen detect in his enactments. When institutions have been once subjected to this process of criticism, he would have them fixed for ever.

About Plato on Virtue and the Law

BOOK I. Strangers, let me ask a question of you—Was a God or a man the author of your laws? In Crete, Zeus is said to have been the author of them; in Sparta, as Megillus will tell you, Apollo. And as you and Megillus have been trained under these laws, I may ask you to give me an account of them. We can talk about them in our walk from Cnosus to the cave and temple of Zeus. I am told that the distance is considerable, but probably there are shady places under the trees, where, being no longer young, we may often rest and converse. My first question is, Why has the law ordained that you should have common meals, and practise gymnastics, and bear arms?

We lead the life of the camp even in time of peace, keeping up the organization of an army, and having meals in common; and as our country, owing to its ruggedness, is ill-suited for heavy-armed cavalry or infantry, our soldiers are archers, equipped with bows and arrows. The legislator was under the idea that war was the natural state of all mankind, and that peace is only a pretence; he thought that no possessions had any value which were not secured against enemies. Or, again, in a family there may be several brothers, and the bad may be a majority; and when the bad majority conquer the good minority, the family are worse than themselves.

The use of the terms 'better or worse than himself or themselves' may be doubtful, but about the thing meant there can be no dispute. And which will be the better judge—he who destroys the worse and lets the better rule, or he who lets the better rule and makes the others voluntarily obey; or, thirdly, he who destroys no one, but reconciles the two parties? He will reconcile the contending factions, and unite them against their external enemies.

He who makes war his object instead of peace, or who pursues war except for the sake of peace, is not a true statesman. The poet Tyrtaeus you know his poems in Crete, and my Lacedaemonian friend is only too familiar with them —he was an Athenian by birth, and a Spartan citizen:—'Well,' he says, 'I sing not, I care not about any man, however rich or happy, unless he is brave in war. Oh Tyrtaeus, I would say to him, we agree with you in praising those who excel in war, but which kind of war do you mean?

You say that you abominate 'those who are not eager to taste their enemies' blood,' and you seem to mean chiefly their foreign enemies. The mercenary soldier is ready to die at his post; yet he is commonly a violent, senseless creature. And the legislator, whether inspired or uninspired, will make laws with a view to the highest virtue; and this is not brute courage, but loyalty in the hour of danger. The virtue of Tyrtaeus, although needful enough in his own time, is really of a fourth-rate description.

A divine lawgiver would have had regard to all the different kinds of virtue, and have arranged his laws in corresponding classes, and not in the modern fashion, which only makes them after the want of them is felt,—about inheritances and heiresses and assaults, and the like. As you truly said, virtue is the business of the legislator; but you went wrong when you referred all legislation to a part of virtue, and to an inferior part. For the object of laws, whether the Cretan or any other, is to make men happy.

Now happiness or good is of two kinds—there are divine and there are human goods. He who has the divine has the human added to him; but he who has lost the greater is deprived of both. The lesser goods are health, beauty, strength, and, lastly, wealth; not the blind God, Pluto, but one who has eyes to see and follow wisdom. For mind or wisdom is the most divine of all goods; and next comes temperance, and justice springs from the union of wisdom and temperance with courage, which is the fourth or last.

These four precede other goods, and the legislator will arrange all his ordinances accordingly, the human going back to the divine, and the divine to their leader mind. There will be enactments about marriage, about education, about all the states and feelings and experiences of men and women, at every age, in weal and woe, in war and peace; upon all the law will fix a stamp of praise and blame.

There will also be regulations about property and expenditure, about contracts, about rewards and punishments, and finally about funeral rites and honours of the dead. The lawgiver will appoint guardians to preside over these things; and mind will harmonize his ordinances, and show them to be in agreement with temperance and justice. Now I want to know whether the same principles are observed in the laws of Lycurgus and Minos, or, as I should rather say, of Apollo and Zeus.

We must go through the virtues, beginning with courage, and then we will show that what has preceded has relation to virtue. Tell me, Megillus, were not the common meals and gymnastic training instituted by your legislator with a view to war? There is, too, the so-called Crypteia or secret service, in which our youth wander about the country night and day unattended, and even in winter go unshod and have no beds to lie on.

Moreover they wrestle and exercise under a blazing sun, and they have many similar customs. Remember that I am more in the way of hearing criticisms of your laws than you can be; for in well-ordered states like Crete and Sparta, although an old man may sometimes speak of them in private to a ruler or elder, a similar liberty is not allowed to the young.

But now being alone we shall not offend your legislator by a friendly examination of his laws. My first observation is, that your lawgiver ordered you to endure hardships, because he thought that those who had not this discipline would run away from those who had. But he ought to have considered further, that those who had never learned to resist pleasure would be equally at the mercy of those who had, and these are often among the worst of mankind.

Pleasure, like fear, would overcome them and take away their courage and freedom. Next as to temperance: what institutions have you which are adapted to promote temperance? Now although gymnastics and common meals do good, they are also a cause of evil in civil troubles, and they appear to encourage unnatural love, as has been shown at Miletus, in Boeotia, and at Thurii. And the Cretans are said to have invented the tale of Zeus and Ganymede in order to justify their evil practices by the example of the God who was their lawgiver.

Leaving the story, we may observe that all law has to do with pleasure and pain; these are two fountains which are ever flowing in human nature, and he who drinks of them when and as much as he ought, is happy, and he who indulges in them to excess, is miserable.

For there is no drunken revelry in Sparta, and any one found in a state of intoxication is severely punished; he is not excused as an Athenian would be at Athens on account of a festival. I myself have seen the Athenians drunk at the Dionysia—and at our colony, Tarentum, on a similar occasion, I have beheld the whole city in a state of intoxication. Yet I might reply, 'Yes, Spartans, that is not your vice; but look at home and remember the licentiousness of your women.

To return to the question of drinking: shall we have total abstinence, as you have, or hard drinking, like the Scythians and Thracians, or moderate potations like the Persians? The stronger overcomes the weaker, as the Athenians have overcome the Ceans, or the Syracusans the Locrians, who are, perhaps, the best governed state in that part of the world. People are apt to praise or censure practices without enquiring into the nature of them.

This is the way with drink: one person brings many witnesses, who sing the praises of wine; another declares that sober men defeat drunkards in battle; and he again is refuted in turn. I should like to conduct the argument on some other method; for if you regard numbers, there are two cities on one side, and ten thousand on the other. Of course you Spartans and Cretans have never seen anything of the kind, but I have had wide experience, and made many enquiries about such societies, and have hardly ever found anything right or good in them.

Victory is often suicidal to the victors, because it creates forgetfulness of education, but education itself is never suicidal. But first let me offer a word of apology. We Athenians are always thought to be fond of talking, whereas the Lacedaemonian is celebrated for brevity, and the Cretan is considered to be sagacious and reserved. Now I fear that I may be charged with spinning a long discourse out of slender materials.

For drinking cannot be rightly ordered without correct principles of music, and music runs up into education generally, and to discuss all these matters may be tedious; if you like, therefore, we will pass on to another part of our subject. The saying is true, that the best Athenians are more than ordinarily good, because they are good by nature; therefore, be assured that I shall be glad to hear you talk as much as you please. You know that Epimenides, the Cretan prophet, came and offered sacrifices in your city by the command of an oracle ten years before the Persian war.

He told the Athenians that the Persian host would not come for ten years, and would go away again, having suffered more harm than they had inflicted. Now Epimenides was of my family, and when he visited Athens he entered into friendship with your forefathers. But, first, I must define the nature and power of education, and by this road we will travel on to the God Dionysus. The man who is to be good at anything must have early training;—the future builder must play at building, and the husbandman at digging; the soldier must learn to ride, and the carpenter to measure and use the rule,—all the thoughts and pleasures of children should bear on their after-profession.

To the good man, education is of all things the most precious, and is also in constant need of renovation.

Let me offer you an illustration which will assist our argument. Man is one; but in one and the same man are two foolish counsellors who contend within him—pleasure and pain, and of either he has expectations which we call hope and fear; and he is able to reason about good and evil, and reason, when affirmed by the state, becomes law.

There is a soft golden cord which draws him towards virtue—this is the law of the state; and there are other cords made of iron and hard materials drawing him other ways. The golden reasoning influence has nothing of the nature of force, and therefore requires ministers in order to vanquish the other principles. This explains the doctrine that cities and citizens both conquer and are conquered by themselves. The individual follows reason, and the city law, which is embodied reason, either derived from the Gods or from the legislator.

When virtue and vice are thus distinguished, education will be better understood, and in particular the relation of education to convivial intercourse. And now let us set wine before the puppet. You admit that wine stimulates the passions? Would any man willingly degrade or weaken that? And if so, are they not to be preferred to other modes of training because they are painless? This is called by the legislator reverence, and is greatly honoured by him and by every good man; whereas confidence, which is the opposite quality, is the worst fault both of individuals and of states.

This sort of fear or reverence is one of the two chief causes of victory in war, fearlessness of enemies being the other. He must learn by many trials to win the victory over himself, if he is ever to be made perfect. Courage and fearlessness are trained amid dangers; but we have still to consider how fear is to be trained.

Keywords: virtue , law , Plato , ideal theory , natural law. Forgot password? Don't have an account? All Rights Reserved. OSO version 0. University Press Scholarship Online. Sign in. Not registered? Sign up. This is why it is important for Annas that Book 10's preamble only be available to a few. The preambles simply present the ideals underlying the laws and encourage the citizens to adopt them by "praise and blame, and by the ethical force of Magnesian social pressure generally" Annas, like many who view the preambles' rationality negatively, offers no explanation for the mismatch between the methodological passages' rationale for them and what she takes to be their actuality.

It is hard, I think, to integrate Annas' positive and negative remarks within a single account. Why bother to provide an advanced mathematical education intending that the citizens have a "rational appreciation" of the cosmos, when the preambles do not offer rational explanations and the Book 10 theology which gives an account of the cosmos' rationality is forbidden to almost all Magnesians?

Why think that praising and blaming certain actions and ends will produce an understanding of these ends and the proper motivation for pursuing them, i. Other commentators have noticed these tensions and there have been a variety of responses to them. This will involve giving some account of ordinary citizens' education and resultant disposition that shows why, despite falling short of philosophical standards, they count as rational.

Such interpretations must also explain the Laws ' apparently inconsistent features, e. Such interpretations then should say whether such education and persuasion can constitute a rational process and whether it allows the citizens, e. Such interpretations must explain or explain away the methodological passages and the sophisticated aspects of the citizens' education. This category is broad. At one end, it includes interpretations allowing that praise and blame can be rational processes and that they can provide some understanding of genuine virtue and attachment to it for its own sake.

At the other end, one might think that the methodological passages are not seriously intended and that the preambles are designed merely to encourage unthinking obedience to the laws. All these strategies should ultimately show how their interpretation fits with Plato's late epistemology, metaphysics, and psychology. At least on one prominent interpretation of the Two-Worlds view, this will restrict them to thinking about sensibles and thus not being able to cognize genuine value properties. Annas does not engage with these issues and interpretations as much as one might expect. She does remark that the preambles generally work by presenting the law "in terms of praise and blame praiseworthy shame " Such persuasion will, however, mostly involve neither "philosophical argument [nor] appeal to non-rational force" But do they appeal to non-rational emotions or to rational considerations that fall short of philosophical argument?

Annas' example of how this works is the hunting law and its preamble This law bans certain kinds of hunting and the preamble explains that the banned types encourage laziness DC.

PHILOSOPHY - The Good Life: Plato [HD]

Annas picks an interesting example here. So even in the relatively unpromising hunting preamble, citizens learn a sufficient condition of the badness of the kind of acts forbidden by law. This still leaves, however, the question of whether simply inculcating a sense of shame, even if it is directed towards the right objects, is sufficient to develop attachments to genuine virtue for its own sake, and whether inculcating true ethical beliefs by making citizens ashamed to hold others is a kind of ethical learning.

Since I am sure Annas has something interesting to say on these points, it would have been welcome if she had gone further. I shall be briefer on the Cicero and Philo chapters which serve as a sort of postscript albeit an interesting one to Annas' discussion of Plato.

Cicero's On the Laws takes Plato's Laws as a model and agrees with Plato that the laws should persuade the citizens and not merely compel them by threats and force 2. In Annas' view, however,. Cicero does not specify an educational programme by which all citizens can be encouraged to think about their laws and ways of life. Looking towards an ideal past more than Plato does, Cicero seems content to have philosophy enlighten the leading citizens of the best state, leaving most citizens with merely the rudiments; he has more faith than Plato in the good direction given by traditional ways of life which leave it to leading citizens to provide guidance.

At most, the large majority of citizens should recognize that the laws have some objective basis. The more philosophically inclined will grasp that this is cosmic reason as the Stoics understood it. Annas makes the interesting argument that although Cicero insists that natural law has authority imperium and is directive, the laws of nature should not be seen as having a strictly law-like form, that is, as prescribing or forbidding certain types of action. Natural law should instead be identified with right reason in the mind of the wise person The average citizen will, of course, fall far from this ideal, but Cicero finds it acceptable that most will be governed by a system of law that expresses what natural law requires and which turns out to be Roman law as it existed in a better past and which has "universal validity" We see in Philo a tension similar to that noted above in the Laws with, Annas thinks, a more pessimistic resolution.