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What a horrible statement you have described, Stranger! And what widespread corruption of the young in private families as well as publicly in the States!Athenian
That is indeed true, Clinias. What, then, do you think the lawgiver ought to do, seeing that these people have been armed in this way for a long time past? Should he merely stand up in the city and threaten all the people that unless they affirm that the gods exist and conceive them in their minds to be such as the law maintains2 and so likewise with regard to the beautiful and the just and all the greatest things, [890c] as many as relate to virtue and vice, that they must regard and perform these in the way prescribed by the lawgiver in his writings; and that whosoever fails to show himself obedient to the laws must either be put to death or else be punished, in one case by stripes and imprisonment, in another by degradation, in others by poverty and exile? But as to persuasion, should the lawgiver, while enacting the people's laws, refuse to blend any persuasion with his statements, and thus tame them so far as possible? [890d] Clinias
Certainly not, Stranger; on the contrary, if persuasion can be applied in such matters in even the smallest degree, no lawgiver who is of the slightest account must ever grow weary, but must (as they say) “leave no stone unturned”3 to reinforce the ancient saying that gods exist, and all else that you recounted just now; and law itself he must also defend and art, as things which exist by nature or by a cause not inferior to nature, since according to right reason they are the offspring of mind, even as you are now, as I think, asserting; and I agree with you.Athenian
What now, my most ardent Clinias? Are not statements thus made to the masses [890e] difficult for us to keep up with in argument, and do they not also involve us in arguments portentously long?Clinias
Well now, Stranger, if we had patience with ourselves when we discoursed at such length on the subjects of drinking and music,4 shall we not exercise patience in dealing with the gods and similar subjects? Moreover, such a discourse is of the greatest help for intelligent legislation,
1 This antithesis between “Nature” (φύσις) and “Convention” (νόμος) was a familiar one in ethical and political discussion from the time of the Sophists. The supremacy of “Nature,” as an ethical principle, was maintained (it is said) by Hippias and Prodicus; that of “Convention,” by Protagoras and Gorgias: Plato goes behind both to the higher principle of Reason (νοῦς), cp. Introduction. p. xiv.
3 Literally, “utter every voice” (leave nothing unsaid).
4 In Books I and II.
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