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[662a] is really unjust and insolent, he must necessarily be living a base life? Probably you will agree at any rate to call it “base”?


And also a bad life1?

We would not go so far as to admit that.

Well, would you admit the epithets “unpleasant” and “unprofitable to himself”?

How could we agree to such further descriptions?

“How?” do you ask? Only (as it seems, my friend) [662b] if some god were to grant us concord, since at present we are fairly at discord one with another. In my opinion these facts are quite indisputable even more plainly so, my dear Clinias, than the fact that Crete is an island; and were I a legislator, I should endeavor to compel the poets and all the citizens to speak in this sense; and I should impose all but the heaviest of penalties on anyone in the land who should declare that [662c] any wicked men lead pleasant lives, or that things profitable and lucrative are different from things just; and there are many other things contrary to what is now said, as it seems, by Cretans and Lacedaemonians,—and of course by the rest of mankind,—which I should persuade my citizens to proclaim. For, come now, my most excellent sirs, in the name of Zeus and Apollo, suppose we should interrogate those very gods themselves who legislated for you, and ask: “Is the most just life the most pleasant; [662d] or are there two lives, of which the one is most pleasant, the other most just?” If they replied that there were two, we might well ask them further, if we were to put the correct question; “Which of the two ought one to describe as the happier, those that live the most just or those that live the most pleasant life? If they replied, “Those that live the most pleasant life,” that would be a monstrous statement in their mouths. But I prefer not to ascribe such statements to gods, but rather to ancestors and lawgivers: [662e] imagine, then, that the questions I have put have been put to an ancestor and lawgiver, and that he has stated that the man who lives the most pleasant life is the happiest. In the next place I would say to him this: “O father, did you not desire me to live as happily as possible? Yet you never ceased bidding me constantly to live as justly as possible.” And hereby, as I think, our lawgiver or ancestor would be shown up as illogical and incapable of speaking consistently with himself, but if, on the other hand, he were to declare the most just life to be the happiest, everyone who heard him would, I suppose, enquire what is the good and charm it contains which is superior to pleasure, for which the lawgiver praises it.

1 κακῶς ζῆν, “to live badly” may mean either “to live wickedly” or “to live wretchedly”: Clinias takes it in this latter sense.

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