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On what follows, see Introd. pp. 191—2, on equity; and the 14th chapter of the Nic. Eth. Book V. ‘For equity appears to be just (or a kind of justice), and it is the supplement to the written law that is equity (equitable)’. Comp. Eth. Nic. V 14, 1137 b 8, τό τε γὰρ ἐπιεικὲς δικαίου τινὸς ὂν βέλτιόν ἐστι δίκαιον, καὶ οὐχ ὡς ἄλλο τι γένος ὂν βέλτιόν ἐστι τοῦ δικαίου. Ib. line 12, τὸ ἐπιεικὲς δίκαιον μέν ἐστιν, οὐ κατὰ νόμον δέ, ἀλλ᾽ ἐπανόρθωμα νομίμου δικαίου. Line 26, καὶ ἔστιν αὕτη ἡ φύσις ἡ τοῦ ἐπιεικοῦς, ἐπανόρθωμα νόμου, ᾗ ἐλλείπει διὰ τὸ καθόλου. ‘This is done sometimes unintentionally, sometimes intentionally, on the part of the legislators, unintentionally when the omission escapes their notice, intentionally when they find it impossible to define or determine every thing (to provide by their definitions or determinations for all possible cases in detail), and are therefore obliged to lay down the rule as absolute (to pronounce universally), though it is not so in fact, but only true and fair for the most part’; and so fail to provide for exceptional cases. Eth. Nic. V 14, 1137 b 15, ἐν οἷς οὖν ἀνάγκη μὲν εἰπεῖν καθόλου, μὴ οἷόν τε δὲ ὀρθῶς, τὸ ὡς ἐπὶ τὸ πολὺ λαμβάνει ὁ νόμος, οὐκ ἀγνοῶν τὸ ἁμαρτανόμενον. καὶ ἔστιν οὐδὲν ἧττον ὀρθῶς: τὸ γὰρ ἁμάρτημα οὐκ ἐν τῷ νόμῳ οὐδ᾽ ἐν τῷ νομοθέτῃ ἀλλ̓ ἐν τῇ φύσει τοῦ πράγματός ἐστιν: εὐθὺς γὰρ τοιαύτη ἡ τῶν πρακτῶν ὕλη ἐστίν. Pol. III 11, 1282 b 2, so in the administration of government, and in enforcing obedience to the laws of the state, the sovereign power assumes the office of equity in the administration of justice; δεῖ τοὺς νόμους εἶναι κυρίους κειμένους ὀρθῶς, τὸν ἄρχοντα δέ, ἄν τε εἷς ἄν τε πλείους ὦσι, περὶ τούτων εἶναι κυρίους περὶ ὅσων ἐξαδυνατοῦσιν οἱ νόμοι λέγειν ἀκριβῶς διὰ τὸ μὴ ῥᾴδιον εἶναι καθόλου δηλῶσι περὶ πάντων. In Magna Moralia, II 1, the author, in treating of ἐπιείκεια, says, ἃ γὰρ ὁ νομοθέτης ἐξαδυνατεῖ καθ᾽ ἕκαστα ἀκριβῶς διορίζειν, ἀλλὰ καθόλου λέγει, ὁ ἐν τούτοις παραχωρῶν, καὶ ταῦθ̓ αἱρούμενος ἃ ὁ νομοθέτης ἐβούλετο μὲν τῷ καθ̓ ἕκαστα διορίσαι, οὐκ ἠδυνήθη δέ, ὁ τοιοῦτος ἐπιεικής, and concludes, τῶν μὲν γὰρ φύσει καὶ ὡς ἀληθῶς ὄντων δικαίων οὐκ ἐλαττοῦται, ἀλλὰ τῶν κατὰ νόμον, ἃ ὁ νομοθέτης ἐξαδυνατῶν ἀπέλιπεν. On the defects of the written law, see also Rhet. I 1. 7. And not only is the legislator unable to provide for all exceptional cases to general rules, but also the infinity of particular circumstances which distinguish human actions and crimes precludes the possibility of his enumerating in detail all those varieties which in justice should have different degrees of punishment apportioned to them; as for instance, in enacting the prohibition of ‘wounding with an iron instrument’, to define the size and the kind of instrument in every case; for life is too short, and would fail a man in the attempt to reckon them all up in detail (on this case, which is given also by Quintilian, VII 6. 8, see Introd. p. 191).
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