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Xenophon

The Memorable Thoughts of Socrates

    Nina Skaletskayahas quoted7 years ago
    say, then, that justice ‘is nothing but the observance of the laws.’” “You mean,” said Hippias, “that to observe the laws is to be just?” “Yes,” answered Socrates. “I cannot comprehend your thought,” said Hippias. “Do you not know,” pursued Socrates, “what the laws in a State are?” “The laws,” answered Hippias, “are what the citizens have ordained by an universal consent.” “Then,” inferred Socrates, “he who lives conformably to those ordinances observes the laws; and he who acts contrary to them is a transgressor of the laws.” “You say true.” “Is it not likewise true,” continued Socrates, “that he who obeys these ordinances does justly, and that he obeys them not does unjustly?” “Yes.” “But,” said Socrates, “he who acts justly is just, and he who acts unjustly is unjust?” “Without doubt.” “Therefore,” said Socrates, “whosoever observes the laws is just, and whosoever observes them not is unjust.” “But how can it be imagined,” objected Hippias, “that the laws are a good thing, and that it is good to obey them, since even they that made
    Nina Skaletskayahas quoted7 years ago
    But who will ever blame me because others have not confessed my innocence, nor done me justice? Past experience lets us see that they who suffer injustice, and they who commit it, leave not a like reputation behind them after their death. And thus, if I die on this occasion, I am most certain that posterity will more honour my memory than theirs who condemn me; for it will be said of me, that I never did any wrong, never gave any ill advice to any man; but that I laboured all my life long to excite to virtue those who frequented me.”
    This was the answer that Socrates gave to Hermogenes, and to several others. In a word, all good men who knew Socrates daily regret his loss to this very hour, reflecting on the advantage and improvement they made in his company.
    Nina Skaletskayahas quoted7 years ago
    have the sincere testimony of my conscience that I have done my duty; and in this belief I strengthen myself by the conversation I have had with others, and by comparing myself with them. My friends, too, have believed the same thing of me, not because they wish me well, for in that sense every friend would think as much of his friend, but because they thought they advanced in virtue by my conversation.
    “If I were to live longer, perhaps I should fall into the inconveniences of old age: perhaps my sight should grow dim, my hearing fail me, my judgment become weak, and I should have more trouble to learn, more to retain what I had learnt; perhaps, too, after all, I should find myself incapable of doing the good I had done before. And if, to complete my misery, I should have no sense of my wretchedness, would not life be a burden to me? And, on the other hand, say I had a sense of it, would it not afflict me beyond measure? As things now stand, if I die innocent the shame will fall on those who are the cause of my death, since all sort of iniquity i
    Nina Skaletskayahas quoted7 years ago
    what unjust; that he had always cherished justice and hated injustice, and that he did not believe there was any better way to justify himself.
    Hermogenes said further to him—“Do you not know that judges have often condemned the innocent to death, only because their answers offended them, and that, on the contrary, they have often acquitted the guilty?” “I know it very well,” answered Socrates; “but I assure you, that having set myself to think what I should say to my judges, the demon that advises me dissuaded me from it.” At which Hermogenes seeming surprised, Socrates said to him, “Why are you surprised that this God thinks it better for me to leave this world than to continue longer in it? Sure, you are not ignorant that I have lived as well and as pleasantly as any man, if to live well be, as I take it, to have no concern but for virtue, and if to live pleasantly be to find that we have made some progress in it. Now, I have good reason to believe that this is my happy case, that I have always had a steady regard for virtue, and made progress in it, because I perceive that
    Nina Skaletskayahas quoted7 years ago
    Socrates told him that he had made it the whole business of his life to examine what was just and
    Nina Skaletskayahas quoted7 years ago
    Why do you lay this to my charge,” said Socrates, “since I am continually showing to all the world what are the things I believe to be just?” “How do you show it?” said Hippias. “If I explain it not by my words,” answered Socrates, “my actions speak it sufficiently; and do you think that actions deserve not rather to be believed than words?” “Much rather,” said Hippias, “because many may say one thing, and do another; nay, we see that, in fact, many who preach up justice to others are very unjust themselves; bu
    Nina Skaletskayahas quoted7 years ago
    Do you imagine that idleness and laziness contribute toward our learning things necessary; that they can enable us to retain those things we have already learnt; that they help to strengthen the body or keep it in health; that they can assist us to get riches, or keep what we have got already; and do you believe that labour and industry are good for nothing? Why did your ladies learn what you say they know. Did they believe them to be useless things, and had they resolved never to put them in practice? Or, on the contrary, was it with design to employ themselves in those matters, and to get something by them? Is it a greater piece of wisdom to sit still and do nothing, than to busy oneself in things that are of use in life, and that turn to account? And is it not more reasonable for a man to work than to be with his arms across, thinking how he shall do to live? Shall I tell you my mind, Aristarchus? Well, then, I am of opinion that in the condition you are in you cannot love your guests, nor they you for this reason, that you, on the one hand, feel they are a burden to you, and they, on the other, perceive you uneasy and discontented on their account.
    Nina Skaletskayahas quoted7 years ago
    of a treaty of peace? With whom would we rather choose to make an alliance? To whom will the allies more readily give the command of their armies, or the government of their towns? From whom can we rather hope for a grateful return of a kindness than from a man who strictly obeys the laws? and, by consequence, to whom will men be more ready to do good turns, than to him of whose gratitude they are certain? With whom will men be better pleased to contract a friendship, and, consequently, against whom will men be less inclined to commit acts of hostility, than against that person who has everybody for his well-wisher and friend, and few or none for his ill-wishers or enemies? These, Hippias, are the advantages of observing the laws. And now, having shown you that the observance of the laws is the same thing with justice, if you are of another opinion, pray let me know it.” “Indeed, Socrates,” answered Hippias, “what you have said of justice agrees exactly with my sentiments of it.” “Have you never heard,” continued Socrates, “of certain laws that are not written?” “You mean the laws,” answered Hippias, “which are received all over the earth.” “Do you think, then,” added Socrates, “that it was all mankind that made them?” “That is impossible,” said Hippias, “because all men cannot be assembled in the same place, and they speak not all of them the same language.” “Who, then, do you think gave us these laws?” “The gods,” answered Hippias; “for the first command to all men is to adore the gods.” “And is it not likewise commanded everywhere to honour one’s father and mother?” “Yes, certainly,” said Hippias. Socrates went on:—“And that fathers and mothers should not marry with their own children, is not that too a general command?” “No,” answered Hippias, “this last law is not a Divine law, because I see some persons transgress it.” “They observe not the others better,” said Socrates; “but take notice, that no man violates with impunity a law established by the gods. There are unavoidable punishments annexed to this crime; but we easily secure ourselves from the rigour of human laws, after we have transgressed them, either by keeping ourselves hid, or defendi
    Nina Skaletskayahas quoted7 years ago
    posture of defence during the war, because you might tell them that the peace will one day be made: and thus you would condemn those who generously expose their lives for the service of their country. Do you know,” added he, “that Lycurgus could never have rendered the Republic of Sparta more excellent than other States if he had not made it his chief care to incline the citizens most exactly to observe the laws? This, too, is what all good magistrates aim at, because a Republic that is obedient to the laws is happy in peace, and invincible in war. Moreover, you know that concord is a great happiness in a State. It is daily recommended to the people; and it is an established custom all over Greece to make the citizens swear to live in good understanding with one another, and each of them takes an oath to do so. Now, I do not believe that this unity is exacted of them, only that they might choose the same company of comedians, or of musicians, nor that they might give their approbation to the same poets, or all take delight in the same diversions, but that they may all unanimously obey the laws, because that obedience is the security and the happiness of the State. Concord, therefore, is so necessary, that without it good polity and authority cannot subsist in any State, nor good economy and order in any family.
    “In our private capacity, likewise, how advantageous is it to obey the laws? By what means can we more certainly avoid punishments, and deserve rewards? What more prudent conduct can we observe, always to gain our suits at law, and never to be cast! To whom should we with greater confidence trust our estates or our children, than to him who makes a conscience of observing the laws? Who can deserve more of his country? whom can she more safely entrust with public posts, and on whom can she more justly bestow the highest honours, than on the good and honest man? Who will discharge himself better of his duty towards his father or his mother, towards his relations or his domestics, towards his friends, his fellow-citizens, or his guests? To whom will the enemy rather trust for the observing of a truce, or for the perform
    Nina Skaletskayahas quoted7 years ago
    them mend, alter, and repeal them so often?” To this Socrates answered, “When you blame those who obey the laws, because they are subject to be abrogated, you do the same thing as if you laughed at your enemies for keeping themselves in a good
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