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he is himself taking more than his share, either of favor or of vengeance. [13] Hence a judge who gives an unjust judgement for these motives takes more than his due just as much as if he shared the proceeds of the injustice; for even a judge who assigns a piece of land on that condition does not receive land but money. [14]

Men think that it is in their power to act unjustly and therefore that it is easy to be just. But really this is not so. It is easy to lie with one's neighbor's wife or strike a bystander or slip some money into a man's hand, and it is in one's power to do these things or not; but to do them as a result of a certain disposition of mind is not easy, and is not in one's power. [15] Similarly men suppose it requires no special wisdom to know what is just and what is unjust, because it is not difficult to understand the pronouncements of the law. But the actions prescribed by law are only accidentally just actions. How an action must be performed, how a distribution must be made to be a just action or a just distribution—to know this is a harder task than to know what medical treatment will produce health. Even in medicine, though it is easy to know what honey, wine and hellebore, cautery and surgery are, to know how and to whom and when to apply them so as to effect a cure is no less an undertaking than to be a physician. [16] And for this very reason1 men think that the just man will act unjustly no less than justly, because the just man is not less but rather more able than another to do any particular unjust thing: for example, he can lie with a woman, or strike a blow, and a brave man can throw away his shield, and can wheel to the right or left and run away. But to be a coward and to be guilty of injustice consists not in doing these things (except accidentally), but in doing them from a certain disposition of mind; just as to be a physician and cure one's patients is not a matter of employing or not employing surgery or drugs, but of doing so in a certain manner. [17]

Claims of justice exist between persons who share in things generally speaking good, and who can have too large a share or too small a share of them. There are persons who cannot have too large a share of these goods: doubtless, for example, the gods. And there are those who can derive no benefit from any share of them: namely, the incurably vicious; to them all the things generally good are harmful. But for others they are beneficial within limits; and this is the case with ordinary mortals.10.

We have next to speak of Equity and the equitable, and of their relation to Justice and to what is just respectively. For upon examination it appears that Justice and Equity are neither absolutely identical nor generically different. Sometimes, it is true, we praise equity and the equitable man, so much so that we even apply the word ‘equitable’2

1 i.e., that acting unjustly is in our own power, 9.14.

2 ἐπιεικές in some contexts means ‘suitable’ or ‘reasonable.’

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  • Commentary references to this page (2):
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Oedipus at Colonus, 1127
    • W. W. How, J. Wells, A Commentary on Herodotus, 3.53
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