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Plato : LAWS

Persons of the dialogue: An Athenian stranger - Cleinias, a Cretan
 - Megillus, a Lacedaemonian

Translated by Benjamin Jowett - 80 Pages (Part 1) - Greek fonts
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LAWS part 1 of 2, 3, 4, 5

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Ath. 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?

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

Meg. Why, my good friend, how could any Lacedaemonian say anything else?

Ath. And is what you say applicable only to states, or also to villages?

Cle. To both alike.

Ath. The case is the same?

Cle. Yes.

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

Cle. The same.

Ath. And should each man conceive himself to be his own enemy: - what shall we say?

Cle. 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.

(Ath. My good sir, what do you mean?)—

Cle..... 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.

Ath. 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?

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

Ath. Yes.

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