Plato's Quest for Justice
[Chapter V from the book, The Eleventh
published in 1944 by C.C. Nelson Publishing Company]
JUST before Greece was crushed under the heel of the invader, an
unofficial committee under the chairmanship of Plato sat to
investigate the origin and nature of justice. It was a small committee
for such a task, but it contained Socrates. For the first time, so far
as records reveal, and really the only time, the subject was opened
for discussion in a practical manner. This unique experience has not
received the appreciation it deserves. Though many philosophers and
theologians have attempted elucidations of the work and the findings
of the committee, not one has quite understood its true purpose, or
the significance of its report. When Jowett's translation of The
Republic was published over forty years ago, there was great
difference of opinion among philosophers as to whether the search
after justice or the building of a state were the chief aim of the
work. For example, Morgenstern was one of several not sure whether the
search after justice or the building of a state were its real aim. On
the other hand, Stallbaum thought the intention was to be found "in
the representation of human life in a state perfected by justice and
governed according to the idea of good." Jowett, replying to the
doubt raised by Morgenstern, says:
The answer is, that the two blend in one and are two
faces of the same truth; for justice is the order of the state, and
the state is the visible embodiment of justice under the conditions
of human society. The one is the soul, and the other is the body,
and the Greek idea of the state, as of the individual, is a fair
mind in a fair body. In Hegelian phraseology, the state is the
reality of which justice is the idea. Or, described in Christian
language, the Kingdom of God is within, and yet develops into a
Church, or external kingdom; "the house not made with hands,
eternal in the heavens," is reduced to the proportions of an
earthly building. Or, to use a Platonic image, justice and the state
are the warp and the woof which run through the whole texture. And
when the constitution of the state is completed, the conception of
justice is not dismissed, but reappears under the same or different
names throughout the work, both as the inner law of the individual
soul, and finally as the principle of rewards and punishments in
This reply carries the student far from the Socratic field, and opens
up many questions which for the moment were better kept in abeyance.
The question put by Morgenstern is concise and admits of no such
metaphysical interpretations as Jowett gives it. Really, the trouble
lies here: there are two distinct books in The Republic, and
the task of Socrates, defining justice, is contained in the first
section - the first four books, which might have been given the title
- "Justice." The second section, Books V-X, deals with the
construction of the luxurious state. But the luxurious state is used
antithetically, as a terrible example not to be followed, for the
state finally constructed in the second section is the very reverse of
luxurious; it is communistic, and not strictly that, because the
question of the ownership of the land - private or communal - is left
open. It is much simpler, for the work of following the arguments, to
keep the two parts separate, although the same material and debating
points are used in both books. In the analysis which follows, an
attempt will be made to show that the conception of justice defined by
Socrates was purely individualistic and utterly foreign to any
conception of communism. It is one of the greatest curiosities of
literature, how philosophers have gone solemnly to work to elucidate
The Republic, heaping blunder on blunder and never getting
within calling distance of the significance of Socrates' definitions.
The most amusing cases are those of Jowett and Lewis Campbell. The
latter asks: "What is justice?" and ignores the definition
of Socrates. Then he says: "It is a singular fact, and worth the
attention of those who look for system in Plato, that the definition
of justice here so laboriously wrought out, viz. the right division of
labour between the three classes in the state, and between the three
corresponding faculties in the individual soul, is nowhere else
repeated or applied, although the tripartite division of the soul
recurs in the Timaeus, and the notion of justice is of great
importance to the arguments of the Politicus and the Laws."
The tripartite division of labour is nowhere given as a definition of
justice. The division arises out of the definition and is consequent
to the fundamental laid down by Socrates. But no one was more
conscious of failure to apprehend the drift of Socrates than Jowett.
Over and over again, in the introduction to The Republic, he
reveals hesitancy, uncertainty, and an inclination to minimize the
idea of any definite aim. He says: "The reader who seeks to find
some one idea, under which the whole may be conceived, must
necessarily seize on the vaguest and most general." And again, "it
is not prose but poetry, at least a great part of it, and ought not to
be judged by the rules of logic or the probability of history."
Moreover, he regarded the fifth, sixth, and seventh books "as the
most important as they are also the most original parts of the work."
And, so far did he depart from Socrates' definition, that he
substituted a definition riddled by Socrates in the argument, viz. "human
perfection, which is justice." Strangely enough, Walter Pater
came nearer than Jowett and Lewis Campbell to understanding Socrates.
He writes of the "indefectible definition of justice," and
says: "It is thus incidentally and by way of setting forth the
definition of justice or rightness, as if in big letters, that the
constitution of the typically right state is introduced into what
might actually have figured as a dialogue on the nature of justice."
Justice is the true aim of the first section, and not the state,
because the discovery of justice is essential for the foundation of
the economic state, and its nature and operation will determine the
kind of state to be built. This search for the origin and nature of
justice in the first four books of The Republic, when the
Greek states were tottering, is one of the most vital contributions to
philosophy bequeathed by ancient civilizations. The very point raised
by Jowett in his definition, "human perfection, which is justice,"
was the one Plato and Socrates found wanting, for there had been men
as near perfection as human kind can very well be, who came to aid
mankind when its cry for justice shook the heavens, indeed wherever
slavery was maintained by the political state. Four hundred years
later the perfect man appeared where justice was not to be found, and
he was put to death because he preached the coming of the kingdom and
its justice. Therefore, the notion of Jowett "that the two (the
definition of justice and the construction of the state) blend in one,
and are two faces of the same truth," cannot be sustained. Two
entirely different aims are pursued in the separate sections; the
first four books and the last six. The aim reached in the first is
wholly antithetic to the one vainly pursued in the second. The whole
of the confusion arises because Jowett and others completely overlook
or misunderstand the economic significance of the definition of
justice given by Socrates.
The story of The Republic opens at the Piraeus, on the
occasion of the festival of Bendis, the Thracian Artemis. Socrates,
with his friend Glaucon, goes to offer up his prayers to the goddess.
While enjoying the festal procession, Polemarchus, the son of an old
friend, invites Socrates and Glaucon to his house. There Socrates
finds Cephalus (the father of Polemarchus), Thrasymachus, Adeimantus,
and Cleitophon. Cephalus, old and rich, is asked by Socrates what he
considers to be the greatest blessing he has reaped from his wealth.
The reply contained the idea which served Socrates as a basis for
opening the discussion of the origin and nature of justice. Cephalus
says: "To him who is conscious of no sin, sweet hope, as Pindar
charmingly says, is the kind nurse of his age. 'Hope,' he says,
'cherishes the soul of him who lives in justice and holiness, and is
the nurse of his age and the companion of his journey: - hope which is
mightiest to sway the restless soul of man.'
"How admirable are his words! And the great blessing of riches,
I do not say to every man, but to a good man, is that he has had no
occasion to deceive or to defraud others, either intentionally or
unintentionally, and when he departs to the world below he is not in
any apprehension about offerings due to the gods or debts which he
owes to men."
Socrates asks: "As concerning justice, what is it? - to speak
the truth and to pay your debts - no more than this?"
The debate is opened, but it does not proceed far when Socrates
reminds the company that they are seeking for justice, "a thing
more precious than many pieces of gold."
The first book closes with a recapitulation of the arguments
considered, and Socrates declares: "The result of the whole
discussion has been that I know nothing at all. For I know not what
justice is, and therefore I am not likely to know whether it is or is
not virtue, nor can I say whether the just man is happy or unhappy."
Glaucon takes up the argument at the beginning of the second book and
states the received account of the nature and origin of justice. He
They say that to do injustice is, by nature, good; to
suffer injustice, evil; but that the evil is greater than the good.
And so when men have both done and suffered injustice and have had
experience of both, not being able to avoid the one and to obtain
the other, they think that they had better agree among themselves to
have neither; hence there arise laws and mutual covenants; and that
which is ordained by law is termed by them lawful and just. This
they affirm to be the origin and nature of justice - it is a mean or
compromise between the best of all, which is to do injustice and not
to be punished, and the worst of all, which is to suffer injustice
without the power of retaliation; and justice, being at a middle
point between the two, is tolerated not as a good but as the lesser
evil, and honoured by reason of the inability of man to do
injustice. For no man who is worthy to be called a man would ever
submit to such an agreement if he were able to resist; he would be
mad if he did. Such is the received account, Socrates, of the nature
and origin of justice.
Socrates pretends to be silenced, but the skirmishing has really
produced some result; for the case for the Crown, as it were, has been
stated frankly, and now the defence knows the charges to be met.
Assuming discouragement, and putting forward a plea of inability to
meet the attack of his opponents, he seems about to give up the quest,
but they urge him not to let the question drop, to proceed in the
investigation. Once again he returns to the debate and reminds them
that justice is the subject of the inquiry. It is here that so many
commentators of The Republic become confused as to the aim of
the first four books; for Socrates introduces the analogy of the state
with a view to assisting their search of finding justice, only as an
aid, not as an objective in itself. He states: "When the search
is complete, there may be a hope that the object of our search will be
more easily discovered." The object being justice, not the state.
Then he points out the reason why the analogy is useful to their
purpose: the state arises out of the needs of mankind. Here the state
is a mere idea, as Kant would say. Socrates labours under no delusion,
for he knew Athens, and that was state enough for his experience.
Indeed, he starts the new approach by saying: "Let us begin and
create in idea a state." In idea. The model will be a figment of
the imagination, so unlike any concrete example that the very term
state may be an absurd misnomer} as good an example of an heuristic
fiction as Vaihinger could wish for in expounding the philosophy- of "As
If." In stating the hypothesis, Socrates begins his idea of the
ideal state from fundamentals up.
Then, I said, let us begin and create in idea a state;
and yet the true creator is necessity, who is the mother of our
invention. Now the first and greatest of necessities is food, which
is the condition of life and existence. The second is a dwelling,
and the third clothing and the like.
His hearers agree.
The foundation of the state is here economic, not political. The
needs of mankind create the state of Socrates.
And now let us see how our city (state) will be able to
supply this great demand. We may suppose that one man is a
husbandman, another a builder, someone else a weaver - shall we add
to them a shoemaker, or perhaps some other purveyors to our daily
They accept the suggestions.
The basis of this state must be common ownership of land. The
business of supplying the demands for food, dwellings, and clothing is
not handicapped at the outset by landlords, solicitors, or bailiffs.
The husbandman, the builder, the weaver, and the shoemaker are not so
far restricted} as producers they have equal opportunity to use the
source from which they will produce the supplies. Rent, taxes,
tariffs, and charitable contributions have not been invented yet.
It is sometimes urged that there is a grave danger in taking the
beginning of the state seriously, for, when Socrates is not carrying
his irony too far, he is revealing an unpractical attitude to life. If
such notions mean that Socrates was not serious, not in earnest, when
he began his state with the need of food, dwelling, and clothing, then
in his playful mood he reveals a clearer understanding of economic
sequence than many modern economists do when they are serious.
No policeman, no magistrate, no politician, no ruler, no slavery yet}
only purveyors to our bodily wants. And supplies can be furnished best
by each purveyor sticking to his own job, and doing it at the right
time. For example, the husbandman will not make his own plough, the
builder will not make his own tools} so carpenters and smiths will be
added to the list of purveyors. And the state begins to grow. They
will need a marketplace and money tokens for the sale and exchange of
their products. This mere idea soon grows at such a pace, that it is "matured
and perfected," but resembles no state such as Babylon or Athens,
for there is yet no code of Hammurabi, no code of Draco, or any of the
arms of the law. Only the economic laws of production, distribution,
and exchange have put in appearance. Socrates asks: "Where then
is justice, and where is injustice, and in what part of the state did
they spring up?" Adeimantus says: "Probably in the dealings
of the citizens with one another," but the suggestion is not
conclusive. Justice is there, but men of a great civilization, men °f
a powerful state, men of palatial Athens, do not recognize her. How
could they know that that simple, smooth-moving, comfortable,
pleasant-looking lady was justice and not a farmer's wife? Athens
carried the old curse with her to the end, and the curse works out in
many ways; one is: slowly destroying every memory of the natural
beginnings of a community.
Here Socrates might have brought the discussion to an end, for he had
discovered justice, but that was not enough for his purpose. He had to
satisfy himself that his opponents were themselves just as incapable
of recognizing injustice in the complex political state where it is
legalized. From this point to the close of the ninth book, Socrates
exposes in the finest spirit of high comedy civilized public opinion
as represented by his opponents. The conditions of Athens are laid
bare, and not until Socrates rubs their noses in the mess do they
realize how deep the mire of injustice goes under the fair face of
Evidently justice is not readily discovered in the simple or frugal
state, so a luxurious state is thought of; for in such a state,
Socrates says, "we shall be more likely to see how justice and
injustice originate." He reminds them that in his opinion the
true and healthy constitution of the state is the one which he has
described, but, if they wish "to see a state at fever-heat,"
he has no objection to the idea of building a luxurious state. He
suspects that many will not be satisfied with the simpler way of life.
So numbers of non-essential callings are created, and the de luxe
state is set going, increasing desires, and, by the growth of
population, exceeding its bounds.
Then a slice of our neighbours' land will be coveted by
us fc>r pasture and tillage, and they will want a slice of ours,
if, like ourselves, they exceed the limit of necessity, and give
themselves up to the unlimited accumulation of wealth.
That, Socrates, will be inevitable.
And so we shall go to war, Glaucon, shall we not?
Most certainly, he replied.
Then, without determining as yet whether war does good or harm, this
much we may affirm, that now we have discovered war to be derived from
causes which are also the causes of almost all the evils in states,
private as well as public.
The phrase, wanting "a slice of our neighbours' land," may
be translated into the language of the Foreign or Colonial Office as
desiring commercial penetration, or trade following the flag, or
civilizing the backward native, or developing the natural resources of
the ignorant savage. There are many polite ways of expressing
Socrates' crude remark. In any case, he clearly saw war as derived
from the cause which underlies "almost all the evils in states,
private as well as public." Moreover, a slice of a neighbour's
land, in the sense of territorial aggression, implies such evils as
tribute and slavery; for it is not a mere slice of land that is the
military objective; it is the fiscal and labour possibilities which go
with captured land.
The argument that follows, describing what is necessary in a
luxurious state, once a slice of a neighbour's land is wanted, is
Hebraic in tone and reads almost like a broad paraphrase of
Deuteronomy. "Cursed be he who removeth his neighbour's landmark."
And now armies, policemen, magistrates, politicians, and all the
departments for protection and aggression multiply fast. People are
drafted from their essential occupations into others, where they are
to be drilled and regimented. Parasites increase, and well-fed drones
batten on the producers.
The rest of the second book, and most of the third book, are devoted
to the task of organizing the luxurious state. Magistrates, armies,
poets, physicians, and musicians are to receive an education which
will fit them for their duties. The inference is: all educators in the
luxurious state will work overtime. Public opinion, as represented by
Glaucon and the others, follows Socrates through the maze of
organizing the state as children follow their nurse through the one at
Hampton Court. Soldiers and guardians are to be humanized and live in
dwellings which will "shield them from the cold of winter and the
heat of summer." A really good education will furnish the best
safeguard, for "true education, whatever that may be, will have
the greatest tendency to civilize and humanize them in their relations
to one another and to those who are under their protection." Some
of the Platonists, and some of the Neo-Platonists, too, have
overlooked the fact that Socrates was not only an ironist, he was a
high-minded disciplinarian also. The third book closes with a
description of the method of life to be practised by the guardians:
In the first place, none of them should have any property
of his own beyond what is absolutely necessary; neither should they
have a private house or store closed against anyone who has a mind
to enter; their provisions should be only such as are required by
trained warriors, who are men of temperance and courage; they should
agree to receive from the citizens a fixed rate of pay, enough to
meet the expenses of the year and no more; and they will go to mess
and live together like soldiers in a camp. Gold and silver we will
tell them that they have from God; the diviner metal is within them,
and they have therefore no need of the-dross which is current among
men, and ought not to pollute the divine by such earthly admixture;
for that commoner metal has been the source of many unholy deeds,
but their own is undefiled. And they alone of all the citizens may
not touch or handle silver or gold or be under the same roof with
them, or drink from them. And this will be their salvation, and they
will be the saviours of the state. But should they ever acquire
homes, or lands, or moneys of their own, they will become
housekeepers and husbandmen instead of guardians, enemies and
tyrants instead of allies of the other citizens; hating and being
hated, plotting and being plotted against, they will pass their
whole life in much 'greater terror of internal than external
enemies, and the hour of ruin, both to themselves and the rest of
the state, will be at hand. For all which reasons may we not say
that thus shall our state be ordered, and that these shall be the
regulations appointed by us for our guardians concerning their
houses and other matters?
And Glaucon said: "Yes!"
The profound prophecy hidden in the description of a luxurious state
was fulfilled about seven years later, for in 404 Lysander destroyed
the Pirseus and conquered Athens.
The search for justice was postponed until "the state at
fever-heat," in process of construction, was completed.
Now the work is ended, Socrates asks:
"But where amid all this, is justice?"
Assuming that their state, if rightly ordered, is perfect, it will be
wise, valiant, temperate, and just; they test the validity of these
qualities in their state, and having proved to their satisfaction that
the first three are without flaw, they find: "the last of the
qualities which make a state virtuous must be justice," if they
only knew what it was. They had failed to find justice in the simple
state, and now, having created a luxurious state to make the search
easier, justice is just as hard to find. Public opinion, as
represented by Glaucon and the others, is no nearer the quarry. But
Socrates is, and he exclaims:
Why, my good sir, at the beginning of
your inquiry, ages ago, there was justice tumbling out at our feet,
and we never saw her; nothing could be more ridiculous. Like people
who go looking about for what they have in their hands - that was
the way with us - we looked not at what we were seeking, but at what
was far off in the distance; and, therefore, I suppose, we missed
What do you mean?
I mean to say that in reality, for a long time past, we have been
talking of justice and have failed to recognize her. I grow
impatient at the length of your exordium. Well then, tell me, I
said, whether I am right or not: You remember the original principle
which we were always laying down at the foundation of the state,
that one man should practise one thing only, the thing to which his
nature was best adapted? Now justice is this principle or part of
Yes, we often said that one man should do one thing only. Further,
we affirmed that justice was doing one's own business, and not being
a busybody; we said so again and again, and many others have said
the same to us.
Yes, we said so.
Then to do one's own business in a certain way may be assumed to be
justice. Can you tell me whence I derive this inference?
I cannot, but I should like to be told.
Because I think that this is the only virtue which remains in the
state when the other virtues of temperance and courage and wisdom
are abstracted; and, that this is the ultimate cause and condition
of the existence of all of them, and while remaining in them is
their perspective; and we were saying that if the three were
discovered by us, justice would be the fourth or remaining one. . .
. Are not the rulers in a state those to whom you would entrust the
office of determining suits of law?
And are suits decided on any other ground, but that a man may
neither take what is another's, nor be deprived of what is his own?
Yes, that is their principle.
Which is a just principle?
Then, on this view also, justice will be admitted to be the having
and doing what is a man's own, and belongs to him?
The just man, then, if we regard the idea of justice only, will be
like the just state?
Are you satisfied, then, the quality which makes such men and such
states is justice, or do you hope to discover some other?
Not I, indeed.
Then our dream has been realized, and the suspicion which we
entertained at the beginning of our work of construction, that some
divine power must have conducted us to a primary form of justice,
has now been verified?
Yes, certainly. . . .
The just man does not permit the several elements within him to
interfere with one another, or any of them to do the work of
others-he sets in order his own inner life, and is his own master,
and his own law, and at peace with himself. . . .
So ages ago, justice was tumbling out at their feet. Glaucon and the
others had been looking for something they would not know if they saw
it, and it was not necessary to create the luxurious state. What
chance of recognizing justice had they in a state at fever-heat, if
they could not find her in the simple one? But the creation of the
luxurious state gave Socrates the opportunity he desired of taking the
lid off Athens and exposing her numberless rascalities. There,
injustice in every form was rampant: slavery, meddlesomeness and
interference, assertions of unlawful authority, rebellious subjects -
"what is all this confusion and delusion but injustice and
intemperance and cowardice and ignorance, and every form of vice?"
he asks. As from some tower of speculation they look down, and see
that virtue is one, but that the forms of vice are innumerable. The
beautiful Acropolis rose like a mighty tomb over the artificial, the
degraded, and the corrupt life which festered in the city beneath.
"And is not the creation of justice the institution of a natural
order and government of one by another in the parts of the soul, and
the creation of injustice the production of a state of things at
variance with the natural order?" Putting this spiritual seal on
the conclusion of the argument, Socrates bequeathes to mankind the
jewel of life which Jesus set in a crown to shine there for all time.
The search for justice, ten, has resulted in discovering this
Justice is the institution of a natural order in which a man can
produce food, buildings, and clothing for himself, removing not a
neighbour's landmark, practising one thing only, the thing to which
his nature is best adapted, doing his own business, not being a
busybody, not taking what is another's, nor being deprived of what is
his own, having what is his own, and belongs to him, interfering not
with another, so that he may set in order his own inner life, and be
his own master, his own law, and at peace with himself.
Glaucon and the others agree with Socrates that some divine power
must have conducted them to a primary form of justice. Now what has
all this arch for justice, and the revelation of the meaning of
justice, to do with the Spartan type of state set up in the fifth to
the ninth books? The first four books reveal justice to be a fun of
pure individualism, for individualism, in the sense of a man being and
acting the part of an individual in a free society, must have for an
economic fundamental equality opportunity to produce food, fuel,
clothing, and shelter. What has all this to do with wives in common
and meals in coition? In the eighth book and elsewhere, too, it is
laid down "that in the perfect state, wives and children are to
be in common, and that all education and the pursuits of war and peace
are also to be common . . . that no one was to have any of the
ordinary possessions of mankind." Could anything be more absurd
than creating a state, for the sole purpose of discovering justice, in
which justice would not be required? For communism and socialism deny
natural rights, justice; indeed, it is essential, it is the first step
taken, to abrogate all notions of right, else how could there be goods
in common? wives in common? or any persons, faculties, or other
possessions in common?
Was Socrates tired of the childishness of public opinion as
represented by Glaucon, Adeimantus, Polemarchus, Thrasymachus, and the
others, and so set a hare coursing to see how far public opinion would
chase it? If all the metaphysics in the last six books be set aside
for the moment, and only the scheme of communism contained therein be
considered, how can it be demonstrated that the individualism of the
first four books is in any way connected with the creation of a
communist state? It seems to be no accident or defect on Plato's part
that contradictions abound in the second section, and that public
opinion is just as blind to them as it was to justice. Socrates
undoubtedly takes public opinion by the nose and leads it where he
wills, into impossible labyrinths of argument about a state that not
only is sheer speculation, but that has not the faintest chance of
ever being worked in a dream. He asks them not to break and drown him
in laughter and dishonour, when they hear his opinion of the
impossibility of creating a state without evil. He says:
Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of
the world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political
greatness and wisdom meet in one, and those commoner natures who
pursue either to the exclusion of the other are compelled to stand
aside, cities will never have rest from their evils - no, nor the
human race, as I believe - and then only will this our state have a
possibility of life and behold the light of day.
Is the creation of the communist state in the second section - the
fifth to the ninth book s- a delicious joke? Here the philosopher-king
is the essentially in the first section, justice is all that is
required. The one, for communism, cannot be found; the other, for
individualism, was discovered when a divine power conducted them to
it. Surely the purpose of the inquiry into the origin and nature of
justice was complete at the end of the fourth book. But Plato was a
transcendentalist, and Socrates was a religious economist; therefore,
they had to find an enlivening pretext for indulging their desire to
present their views; and what better than communism? All men who have
little are ready to share with those who have much; the very rich with
the richest. And Plato knew few were ready to share his metaphysics
without promise of something tangible. Socrates knew that few desire
the gifts which stimulate the spirit j because, unfortunately, so many
are destitute, and an all-consuming hunger keeps their attention
riveted on an empty stomach. With the mass, poverty of body means
poverty of soul. And any other state system than that of Athens, some
other in which a more equitable method of distribution of wealth would
be practised, might afford a field for sowing the seed of truth in
men's souls. They knew "a man must take with him into the world
below an adamantine faith in truth and justice, that there, too, he
may be undazzled by the desire of wealth and the other allurements of
evil, lest coming upon tyrannies and similar villainies, he do
irremediable wrong to others, and suffer yet worse himself."
Hence the small commons of the communist state. What did it matter to
Plato and Socrates what system was an alternative to that of Athens?
They knew the end was near; Athens was doomed. The Peloponnesian War,
like all final wars embroiling the states of a particular
civilization, was the means unconsciously taken by the people for
bringing about that utter disintegration which always heralds the
coming of the avenging sword.
In a fragment of one of the poems of Solon, written in his old age,
when he lamented the wisdom of his reforms, he says:
The ambition of the rich knows no bounds; the most
wealthy wish to grow yet more so. Who may be able to assuage this
insatiable greed! They respect neither sacred property nor public
treasure; they plunder all, in defiance of the sacred laws of
The epitaph is supplied by Philemon, who, like Walt Whitman, reflects
on the quiet acceptance of cattle.
O blessed thrice and thrice endowed with wealth the
beasts who of things hold no discourse, nor any of them resorteth to
convincing proof, nor have they any other evil of this kind brought
from abroad; but nature such as each brings on, this straightway has
for law. But we, mankind, we live a life not worth the living; we
are enslaved to opinions, statutes have we found in thraldom to our
ancestors and to our offspring.