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[891a] since legal ordinances when put in writing remain wholly unchanged, as though ready to submit to examination for all time, so that one need have no fear even if they are hard to listen to at first, seeing that even the veriest dullard can come back frequently to examine them, nor yet if they are lengthy, provided that they are beneficial. Consequently, in my opinion, it could not possibly be either reasonable or pious for any man to refrain from lending his aid to such arguments to the best of his power.1

What Clinias says, Stranger, is, I think, most excellent. [891b]

Most certainly it is, Megillus; and we must do as he says. For if the assertions mentioned had not been sown broadcast well-nigh over the whole world of men, there would have been no need of counter-arguments to defend the existence of the gods; but as it is, they are necessary. For when the greatest laws are being destroyed by wicked men, who is more bound to come to their rescue than the lawgiver?

No one.

Come now, Clinias, do you also answer me again, [891c] for you too must take a hand in the argument: it appears that the person who makes these statements holds fire, water, earth and air to be the first of all things, and that it is precisely to these things that he gives the name of “nature,” while soul he asserts to be a later product therefrom. Probably, indeed, he does not merely “appear” to do this, but actually makes it clear to us in his account.


Can it be then, in Heaven's name, that now we have discovered, as it were, a very fountain-head of irrational opinion in all the men who have ever yet handled physical investigations? Consider, and examine each statement. For it is a matter [891d] of no small importance if it can be shown that those who handle impious arguments, and lead others after them, employ their arguments not only ill, but erroneously. And this seems to me to be the state of affairs.

Well said; but try to explain wherein the error lies.

We shall probably have to handle rather an unusual argument.

We must not shrink, Stranger. You think, I perceive, that we shall be traversing alien ground, outside legislation, if we handle such arguments. But if there is no other way in which it is possible for us to speak in concert with the truth, as now legally declared, [891e] except this way, then in this way, my good sir, we must speak.

It appears, then, that I may at once proceed with an argument that is somewhat unusual; it is this. That which is the first cause of becoming and perishing in all things, this is declared by the arguments which have produced the soul of the impious to be not first, but generated later, and that which is the later to be the earlier; and because of this they have fallen into error regarding the real nature of divine existence.

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