Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Defect Leads Most of the Time to Slavery: Plato Laws, 729 A

Andrei Rublev

Platone: breviario, Marcellino ed., Milan: Rusconi, 1995.

Here, the context, Plato, Laws 728d-730a

Wherefore the soul is put second (The first place belongs to the gods ([i.e. to Divine Reason]) in order of honor; as for the third, everyone would conceive that this place naturally belongs to the honor due to the body. But here again one has to investigate the various forms of honor,—which of them are genuine, which spurious; and this is the lawgiver's task. Now he, as I suppose, declares that the honors are these and of these kinds:—the honorable body is not the fair body nor the strong nor the swift nor the large, nor yet the body that is sound in health, although this is what many believe; neither is it a body of the opposite kind to any of these; rather those bodies which hold the mean position between all these opposite extremes are by far the most temperate and stable; for while the one extreme makes the souls puffed up and proud, the other makes them lowly and spiritless. The same holds good of the possession of goods and chattels, and they are to be valued on a similar scale. In each case, when they are in excess, they produce enmities and feuds both in States and privately, while if they are deficient they produce, as a rule, serfdom. And let no man love riches for the sake of his children, in order that he may leave them as wealthy as possible; for that is good neither for them nor for the State. For the young the means that attracts no flatterers, yet is not lacking in things necessary, is the most harmonious of all and the best; for it is in tune with us and in accord, and thus it renders our life in all respects painless. To his children it behooves a man to bequeath modesty, not money, in abundance. We imagine that chiding the young for their irreverence is the way to bequeath this; but no such result follows from the admonition commonly given nowadays to the young, when people tell them that “youth must reverence everyone.” Rather will the prudent lawgiver admonish the older folk to reverence the young, and above all to beware lest any of them be ever seen or heard by any of the young either doing or saying anything shameful; for where the old are shameless, there inevitably will also the young be very impudent. The most effective way of training the young—as well as the older people themselves—is not by admonition, but by plainly practicing throughout one's own life the admonitions which one gives to others. By paying honor and reverence to his kinsfolk, and all who share in the worship of the tribal gods and are sprung from the same blood, a man will, in proportion to his piety, secure the goodwill of the gods of Birth to bless his own begetting of children. Further, a man should regard contracts made with strangers as specially sacred; for practically all the sins against Strangers are—as compared with those against citizens—connected more closely with an avenging deity. For the stranger, inasmuch as he is without companions or kinsfolk, is the more to be pitied by men and gods; wherefore he that is most able to avenge succors them most readily, and the most able of all, in every case, is the Strangers' daemon and god, and these follow in the train of Zeus Xenios (The supreme Guardian of the rights of hospitality). Whoso, then, is possessed of but a particle of forethought will take the utmost care to go through life to the very end without committing any offence in respect of Strangers. Of offences against either Strangers or natives, that which touches suppliants is in every case the most grave; for when a suppliant, after invoking a god as witness, is cheated of his compact, that god becomes the special guardian of him who is wronged, so that he will never be wronged without vengeance being taken for his wrongs.
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