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[861a] and lighter penalties for the others? Or shall we enact equal penalties for all, on the view that there is no such thing as a voluntary act of injustice?”

What you say, Stranger, is quite right: so what use are we to make of our present arguments?

A very proper question! The use we shall make of them, to begin with, is this—


Let us recall how, a moment ago, we rightly stated that in regard to justice we are suffering from the greatest confusion and inconsistency. Grasping this fact, [861b] let us again question ourselves,—“As to our perplexity about these matters, since we have neither got it clear nor defined the point of difference between those two kinds of wrongdoing, voluntary and involuntary, which are treated as legally distinct in every State by every legislator who has ever yet appeared,—as to this, is the statement we recently made to stand, like a divine oracle, as a mere ex cathedra statement, unsupported by any proof, and to serve as a kind of master-enactment1?” [861c] That is impossible; and before we legislate we are bound first to make it clear somehow that these wrong-doings are two-fold, and wherein their difference consists, in order that when we impose the penalty on either kind, everyone may follow our rules, and be able to form some judgment regarding the suitability or otherwise of our enactments.

What you say, Stranger, appears to us to be excellent: we ought to do one of two things,—either not assert that all unjust acts are involuntary, or else make our distinctions first, [861d] then prove the correctness of that assertion.

Of these alternatives the first is to me quite intolerable—namely, not to assert what I hold to be the truth,—for that would be neither a lawful thing to do nor a pious. But as to the question how such acts are two-fold,—if the difference does not lie in that between the voluntary and the involuntary, then we must try to explain it by means of some other distinction.2

Well, certainly, Stranger, about this matter there is no other plan we can possibly adopt. [861e]

It shall be done. Come now, in dealings and intercourse between citizens, injuries committed by one against another are of frequent occurrence, and they involve plenty of the voluntary as well as of the involuntary.

To be sure!

Let no one put down all injuries as acts of injustice and then regard the unjust acts involved as two-fold in the way described, namely, that they are partly voluntary and partly involuntary (for, of the total, the involuntary injuries are not less than the voluntary either in number or in magnitude);

1 Literally, “to legislate down” (i.e. over-rule the popular objection to our Socratic view).

2 The proper distinction to be drawn (as Ath. proceeds to argue) is not that between voluntary and involuntary acts of injustice (since there are no such voluntary acts), but that between “injuries” (βλάβαι, “acts causing loss”) and “acts of injustice.” Injustice is really a quality of the agent rather than of the act, and (like all vice) is a form of un-reason: as the slave of un-reason, the unjust man is never a free agent. Hence the task of the lawgiver is two fold, (1) to make good the “injuries,” and (2) to cure the agent of his “injustice” by restoring the power of reason (“moral sense”) in his soul.

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