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We must, of course, believe it.Athenian
Are you aware that, according to some, there are as many kinds of laws as there are kinds of constitutions? And how many constitutions are commonly recognized we have recently recounted.2 Please do not suppose that the problem now raised is one of small importance; rather it is of the highest importance. For we are again3 faced with the problem as to what ought to be the aim of justice and injustice. The assertion of the people I refer to is this,— [714c] that the laws ought not to aim either at war or at goodness in general, but ought to have regard to the benefit of the established polity, whatever it may be, so that it may keep in power forever and never be dissolved; and that the natural definition of justice is best stated in this way.Clinias
In what way?Athenian
That justice is “what benefits the stronger.”4.Clinias
Explain yourself more clearly.Athenian
This is how it is:—the laws (they say) in a State are always enacted by the stronger power? Is it not so?Clinias
That is quite true.Athenian
Do you suppose, then (so they argue), that a democracy [714d] or any other government—even a tyrant—if it has gained the mastery, will of its own accord set up laws with any other primary aim than that of securing the permanence of its own authority?Clinias
Then the lawgiver will style these enactments “justice,” and will punish every transgressor as guilty of injustice.Clinias
That is certainly probable.Athenian
So these enactments will thus and herein always constitute justice.Clinias
That is, at any rate, what the argument asserts. [714e] Athenian
Yes, for this is one of those “agreed claims” concerning government.5Clinias
Those which we dealt with before,—claims as to who should govern whom. It was shown that parents should govern children, the older the younger, the high-born the low-born, and (if you remember) there were many other claims, some of which were conflicting. The claim before us is one of these, and we said that6—to quote Pindar—“the law marches with nature
1 A double word-play:νοῦς=νόμος, andδιανομάς=δαίμονας. Laws, being “the dispensation of reason,” take the place of the “daemons” of the age of Cronos: the divine element in man (τὸ δαιμόνιον), which claims obedience, is reason (νοῦς).
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