the most savage of beasts. The reason thereof is this,—that no man's nature is naturally able both to perceive what is of benefit to the civic life of men and, perceiving it, to be alike able and willing to practice what is best. For, in the first place, it is difficult to perceive that a true civic art necessarily cares for the public, not the private, interest,—for the public interest bind States together, whereas the private interest rends them asunder,—and to perceive also that it benefits both public and private interests alike when the public interest, rather than the private, is well enacted.
And, secondly, even if a man fully grasps the truth of this as a principle of art, should he afterwards get control of the State and become an irresponsible autocrat, he would never prove able to abide by this view and to continue always fostering the public interest in the State as the object of first importance, to which the private interest is but secondary; rather, his mortal nature will always urge him on to grasping and self-interested action, irrationally avoiding pain
and pursuing pleasure; both these objects it will prefer above justice and goodness, and by causing darkness within itself it will fill to the uttermost both itself and the whole State with all manner of evils. Yet if ever there should arise a man competent by nature and by a birthright of divine grace to assume such an office, he would have no need of rulers over him; for no law or ordinance is mightier than Knowledge,1
nor is it right for Reason to be subject or in thrall to anything, but to be lord of all things,
if it is really true to its name and free in its inner nature. But at present such a nature exists nowhere at all, except in small degree; wherefore we must choose what is second best, namely, ordinance and law, which see and discern the general principle, but are unable to see every instance in detail. This declaration has been made for the sake of what follows: now we shall ordain what the man who has wounded, or in some way injured, another must suffer or pay. And here, of course, it is open to anyone, in regard to any case, to interrupt us, and quite properly, with the question—“What wounds has the man you speak of inflicted,
and on whom, and how and when? For cases of wounding are countless in their variety, and they differ vastly from one another.” So it is impossible for us either to commit all these cases to the law courts for trial, or to commit none of them. Yet in regard to them all there is one point that we must of necessity commit for decision,—the question of fact, whether or not each of the alleged acts took place;