Two Related Contradictions in Laws IX

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Roslyn Weiss


Laws IX contain two paradoxes that seem unrelated at first. The first appears to address the coextensiveness of the just—even just sufferings—and the beautiful; the second, the voluntariness or involuntariness of injustice. Yet, the Athenian suggests that they both concern “the same matters” (860c)—namely, whether just sufferings are or are not disgraceful. By maintaining, perhaps paradoxically, that voluntary wrongdoing is involuntary—because it is specifically voluntary wrongdoing that introduces into the soul the kind of evil that no one wants, the Athenian can hold, too, that just suffering is beautiful, most welcome to the offender, since it relieves him of the evil that he really does not want. It is the many who are confused: they believe that all just things are beautiful but believe nevertheless that just sufferings are shameful.

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