Justice and Taxes: Aristotle and Plato Say Just Enough

Aristotle, Magna Moralia 1194a

“For example, it is fair that one who possesses much should pay a lot in taxes while one who has little should pay little”

οἷον ἀνάλογόν ἐστιν τὸν τὰ πολλὰ κεκτημένον πολλὰ εἰσφέρειν, τὸν δὲ τὰ ὀλίγα κεκτημένον ὀλίγα·

Plato, Republic 8 (568e)

“But, I was saying, we have wandered off topic. Let’s talk again about the tyrant’s camp, how he is going to pay for such a large and strange crew that’s never in the same place.

He said, “it is clear that if there is any money sacred to the state, he will spend it as long as what is left over remains, so that he can demand fewer taxes from the population.”

Ἀλλὰ δή, εἶπον, ἐνταῦθα μὲν ἐξέβημεν· λέγωμεν δὲ πάλιν ἐκεῖνο τὸ τοῦ τυράννου στρατόπεδον, τὸ καλόν τε καὶ πολὺ καὶ | ποικίλον καὶ οὐδέποτε ταὐτόν, πόθεν θρέψεται.

Δῆλον, ἔφη, ὅτι, ἐάν τε ἱερὰ χρήματα ᾖ ἐν τῇ πόλει, ταῦτα ἀναλώσει, ὅποι ποτὲ ἂν ἀεὶ ἐξαρκῇ τὰ τῶν ἀποδομένων, ἐλάττους εἰσφορὰς ἀναγκάζων τὸν δῆμον εἰσφέρειν.

Plato, Republic 1 (343e)

“As matters of state go, whenever there are taxes, the just person pays in more from the same amount on which the unjust man pays less. And when there are refunds, the former takes nothing while the lesser profits a lot.”

ἔπειτα ἐν τοῖς πρὸς τὴν πόλιν, ὅταν τέ τινες εἰσφοραὶ ὦσιν, ὁ μὲν δίκαιος ἀπὸ τῶν ἴσων πλέον εἰσφέρει, ὁ δ’ ἔλαττον, ὅταν τε λήψεις, ὁ μὲν οὐδέν, ὁ δὲ πολλὰ κερδαίνει.

 

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A List of Women Authors from the Ancient World

I am reposting this list for International Women’s day.

Most of the evidence for these authors has been collected only in Wikipedia. We can probably do better by adding more information from ancient sources and modern ‘scholarly’ texts. I have been translating the fragments of some for the website and linking as appropriate

I received a link to the following in an email from my undergraduate poetry teacher the amazing poet and translator Olga Broumas. The post is on tumblr on a page by DiasporaChic, bit the original author who has already won my admiration is Terpsikeraunos.

*denotes comments I have added with this re-post

** denotes names I have added

Calliope

Women in ancient Greece and Rome with surviving works or fragments

 

PHILOSOPHY

Aesara of Lucania: “Only a fragment survives of Aesara of Lucania’s Book on Human Nature, but it provides a key to understanding the philosophies of Phintys, Perictione, and Theano II as well. Aesara presents a familiar and intuitive natural law theory. She says that through the activity of introspection into our own nature – specifically the nature of a human soul – we can discover not only the natural philosophic foundation for all of human law, but we can also discern the technical structure of morality, positive law, and, it may be inferred, the laws of moral psychology and of physical medicine. Aesara’s natural law theory concerns laws governing three applications of moral law: individual or private morality, laws governing the moral basis of the institution of the family, and, laws governing the moral foundations of social institutions. By analyzing the nature of the soul, Aesara says, we will understand the nature of law and of justice at the individual, familial, and social levels.” – A History of Women Philosophers: Volume I: Ancient Women Philosophers, 600 B.C.-500 A.D., by M.E. Waith

*Wikipedia on Aesara

Melissa: “Melissa (3rd century BC)[1][2] was a Pythagorean philosopher…Nothing is known about her life. She is known only from a letter written to another woman named Cleareta (or Clearete). The letter is written in a Doric Greek dialect dated to around the 3rd century BC.[2] The letter discusses the need for a wife to be modest and virtuous, and stresses that she should obey her husband.[2] The content has led to the suggestion that it was written pseudonymously by a man.[2] On the other hand, the author of the letter does not suggest that a woman is naturally inferior or weak, or that she needs a man’s rule to be virtuous.[1]” –Wikipedia

Perictione (I and II): “Two works attributed to Perictione have survived in fragments: On the Harmony of Women and On Wisdom. Differences in language suggest that they were written by two different people. Allen and Waithe identify them as Perictione I and Perictione II. Plato’s mother was named Perictione, and Waithe argues that she should be identified as the earlier Perictione, suggesting that similarities between Plato’s Republic and On the Harmony of Women may not be the result of Perictione reading Plato, but the opposite–the son learning philosophy from his mother. On the Harmony of Women, however, is written in Ionic prose with occasional Doric forms. This mixed dialect dates the work to the late fourth or third centuries BC. The reference in On the Harmony of Women to women ruling suggests the Hellenistic monarchies of the third century BC or later. On Wisdom is written in Doric and is partly identical with a work by Archytas of the same name. This work should be dated later, to the third or second centuries BC. Both the dates of the works and their dialects mean Perictione as the mother of Plato could not have written them. We then have two Pythagorean texts, attributed to otherwise unknown women named Perictione who should be dated perhaps one hundred years apart.” –Women Writers of Ancient Greece and Rome: An Anthology, by I.M. Plant

*N.B. This account leaves out the the basic narrative from Diogenes Laertius, that Plato’s father Ariston raped his mother Perictione.

Phintys: “Phintys (or Phyntis, Greek: Φίντυς; 4th or 3rd century BC) was a Pythagorean philosopher. Nothing is known about her life, nor where she came from. She wrote a work on the correct behavior of women, two extracts of which are preserved by Stobaeus.” –Wikipedia

*Note, Stobaeus (4.32.61a) calls her the daughter of  Kallikrates the Pythagorean (Φιντύος τᾶς Καλλικράτεος θυγατρὸς Πυθαγορείας). Here are some of her fragments on the prudence befitting women: part 1 and part 2.

Ptolemais of Cyrene: “Ptolemais is known to us through reference to her work by Porphyry in his Commentary on the Harmonics of Ptolemy. He tells us that she came from Cyrene and gives the title of her work, The Pythagorean Principles of Music, which he quotes. She is the only known female musical theorist from antiquity. Her dates cannot be known for sure. She clearly preceded Porphyry, who was born about AD 232; Didymus, who is also quoted by Porphyry, knew Ptolemais’ work and may even have been Porphyry’s source for it. This Didymus is probably the one who lived in the time of Nero, giving us a date for Ptolemais of the first century AD or earlier…One of the problems in dealing with this text is that it is in quotation. Porphyry does not clearly distinguish between the text he quotes from Ptolemais and his own discussion of the issues raised…A second issue is the problem of the accuracy of the quotation. Porphyry says in the introduction to fragment 4 that he has altered a few things in the quotation for the sake of brevity. We should not assume that this is the only quotation to have suffered from editing. On the other hand, where he quotes the same passage twice (fragment 3 is repeated almost verbatim in fragment 4) his consistency is encouraging. Ptolemais’ extant work is a catechism, written as a series of questions and answers. She discusses different schools of thought on harmonic theory, distinguishing between the degree to which they gave importance to theory and perception. Her text prefers the approach of Aristoxenus to that of the Pythagoreans, thus she should not be thought a Pythagorean, despite the title of her work.” –Women Writers of Ancient Greece and Rome: An Anthology, by I.M. Plant

**Theano the Pythagorean (I have collected her words here)

“When Theano the Pythagorean philosopher was asked what eros is, she said ‘the passion of a soul with spare time.’ ”

Θεανὼ ἡ πυθαγορικὴ φιλόσοφος ἐρωτηθεῖσα τί ἐστιν ἔρως ἔφη· ” πάθος ψυχῆς σχολαζούσης.”

“While Theano was walking she showed her forearm and some youth when he saw it said “Nice skin”. She responded, “it’s not communal”.

Θεανὼ πορευομένη ἔξω εἶχε τὸν βραχίονα· νεανίσκος δέ τις ἰδὼν εἶπε· ” καλὸν τὸ δέμας·” ἡ δὲ ἀπεκρίνατο· ” ἀλλ’ οὐ κοινόν.”

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Justice and Hurting People

He’s not hurting the people he needs to be hurting.”

from a NY Times article on the impact of the US government shutdown.

Homer, Od. 6.181-185

“May the gods grant as much as you desire in your thoughts,
A husband and home, and may they give you fine likemindness,
For nothing is better and stronger than this
When two people who are likeminded in their thoughts share a home,
A man and a wife—this brings many pains for their enemies
And joys to their friends. And the gods listen to them especially”

σοὶ δὲ θεοὶ τόσα δοῖεν, ὅσα φρεσὶ σῇσι μενοινᾷς,
ἄνδρα τε καὶ οἶκον, καὶ ὁμοφροσύνην ὀπάσειαν
ἐσθλήν· οὐ μὲν γὰρ τοῦ γε κρεῖσσον καὶ ἄρειον,
ἢ ὅθ’ ὁμοφρονέοντε νοήμασιν οἶκον ἔχητον
ἀνὴρ ἠδὲ γυνή· πόλλ’ ἄλγεα δυσμενέεσσι,
χάρματα δ’ εὐμενέτῃσι· μάλιστα δέ τ’ ἔκλυον αὐτοί.

Plato, Republic, 1. 333d

“So, [Simonides] means that justice is helping your friends and hurting your enemies?”

Τὸ τοὺς φίλους ἄρα εὖ ποιεῖν καὶ τοὺς ἐχθροὺς κακῶς δικαιοσύνην λέγει;

Plato, Republic, 4. 433b

“And, really, justice is each person taking care of his own business and not meddling in too many things. We have heard this from many others and said it ourselves many times”

“Yes, we have said this.”

Then, I said, “so, then, justice runs the risk in some way of just being taking care of your own business?”

Καὶ μὴν ὅτι γε τὸ τὰ αὑτοῦ πράττειν καὶ μὴ πολυπραγμονεῖν δικαιοσύνη ἐστί, καὶ τοῦτο ἄλλων τε πολλῶν ἀκηκόαμεν καὶ αὐτοὶ πολλάκις εἰρήκαμεν. Εἰρήκαμεν γάρ. Τοῦτο τοίνυν, ἦν δ’ ἐγώ, ὦ φίλε, κινδυνεύει τρόπον τινὰ γιγνόμενον ἡ δικαιοσύνη εἶναι, τὸ τὰ αὑτοῦ πράττειν.

Plato, Gorgias 473a5

“Committing harm is worse than suffering it”

τὸ ἀδικεῖν τοῦ ἀδικεῖσθαι κάκιον εἶναι

Thucydides, 3.82.7-8

“To exact vengeance from someone was thought to be more important than not suffering at all. If oaths were ever taken in turn, were strong because each person was at a loss and had no power at all. But as soon as one of them had the advantage, he attached if he saw anyone unguarded: it was sweeter to take vengeance despite a pledge than to do so openly. It was thought generally to be safe and to have won a prize for intelligence, prevailing by deceit. Many wicked people become famous for being clever than good people do for being ingenuous. Men are ashamed by the latter but delight in the former.

To blame for all of these things the love of power and a love of honor. From both, they fell into a voluntary love of conflict. For those who were in charge of the state each claimed identities for themselves, some the equal rights of the masses, the others the wisdom of the aristocrats; while guarding the common goods in word, they were making them the contest’s prize, competing with one another to be pre-eminent, they dared the most terrible things—and they surpassed them with greater acts of vengeance too. They did not regard either justice or advantage for the city…”

ἀντιτιμωρήσασθαί τέ τινα περὶ πλείονος ἦν ἢ αὐτὸν μὴ προπαθεῖν. καὶ ὅρκοι εἴ που ἄρα γένοιντο ξυναλλαγῆς, ἐν τῷ αὐτίκα πρὸς τὸ ἄπορον ἑκατέρῳ διδόμενοι ἴσχυον οὐκ ἐχόντων ἄλλοθεν δύναμιν· ἐν δὲ τῷ παρατυχόντι ὁ φθάσας θαρσῆσαι, εἰ ἴδοι ἄφαρκτον, ἥδιον διὰ τὴν πίστιν ἐτιμωρεῖτο ἢ ἀπὸ τοῦ προφανοῦς, καὶ τό τε ἀσφαλὲς ἐλογίζετο καὶ ὅτι ἀπάτῃ περιγενόμενος ξυνέσεως ἀγώνισμα προσελάμβανεν. ῥᾷον δ’ οἱ πολλοὶ κακοῦργοι ὄντες δεξιοὶ κέκληνται ἢ ἀμαθεῖς ἀγαθοί, καὶ τῷ μὲν αἰσχύνονται, ἐπὶ δὲ τῷ ἀγάλλονται. πάντων δ’ αὐτῶν αἴτιον ἀρχὴ ἡ διὰ πλεονεξίαν καὶ φιλοτιμίαν· ἐκ δ’ αὐτῶν καὶ ἐς τὸ φιλονικεῖν καθισταμένων τὸ πρόθυμον. οἱ γὰρ ἐν ταῖς πόλεσι προστάντες μετὰ ὀνόματος ἑκάτεροι εὐπρεποῦς, πλήθους τε ἰσονομίας πολιτικῆς καὶ ἀριστοκρατίας σώφρονος προτιμήσει, τὰ μὲν κοινὰ λόγῳ θεραπεύοντες ἆθλα ἐποιοῦντο, παντὶ δὲ τρόπῳ ἀγωνιζόμενοι ἀλλήλων περιγίγνεσθαι ἐτόλμησάν τε τὰ δεινότατα ἐπεξῇσάν τε τὰς τιμωρίας ἔτι μείζους…

justice

Patience, a Great Part of Justice

Pliny, Letters 6.2 to Maturus Arrianus

“Surely, when ever I am judging a case—a thing which I do more frequently than I speak in one—I grant however much time anyone requests. For I think it rather intemperate to prophesy how much space an unheard case requires and to declare an end to business of an unknown kind especially when a judge owes patience first to his his sacred duty.  This is a great part of justice.

Ok, that’s enough and these things which have been said are not necessary to say. Nevertheless, you aren’t able to figure out what is superfluous unless you hear it.”

Equidem quotiens iudico, quod vel saepius facio quam dico, quantum quis plurimum postulat aquae do. Etenim temerarium existimo divinare quam spatiosa sit causa inaudita, tempusque negotio finire cuius modum ignores, praesertim cum primam religioni suae iudex patientiam debeat, quae pars magna iustitiae est. At quaedam supervacua dicuntur. Etiam: sed satius est et haec dici quam non dici necessaria. Praeterea, an sint supervacua, nisi cum audieris scire non possis.

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We Don’t Have Justice, But We Still have Hope

Theognis, Elegies 1135-1150

“Hope is the only noble god left among mortals:
The rest of have abandoned us to go to Olympos.
Trust, a great god, left; Prudence has left men.
The Graces, my friend, have surrendered the earth.

Oaths in a court of law can no longer be trusted;
And no one fears shame before the immortal gods
As the race of righteous men has disappeared.
People no longer recognize precedents or sacred duties.

But as long as someone lives and sees the light of the sun,
Let him foster Hope and act righteously before the gods.
Let him pray to the gods and, while burning shining thigh bones,
Sacrifice to Hope first and last.

And let each person always look out for the crooked word of unjust men:
Those men who do not fear the rage of the gods at all,
Who forever conspire in their thoughts against others’ property,
Men who make shameful agreements for future evil deeds.”

᾿Ελπὶς ἐν ἀνθρώποισι μόνη θεὸς ἐσθλὴ ἔνεστιν,
ἄλλοι δ’ Οὔλυμπόν<δ’> ἐκπρολιπόντες ἔβαν·
ὤιχετο μὲν Πίστις, μεγάλη θεός, ὤιχετο δ’ ἀνδρῶν
Σωφροσύνη, Χάριτές τ’, ὦ φίλε, γῆν ἔλιπον·
ὅρκοι δ’ οὐκέτι πιστοὶ ἐν ἀνθρώποισι δίκαιοι,
οὐδὲ θεοὺς οὐδεὶς ἅζεται ἀθανάτους.
εὐσεβέων δ’ ἀνδρῶν γένος ἔφθιτο, οὐδὲ θέμιστας
οὐκέτι γινώσκουσ’ οὐδὲ μὲν εὐσεβίας.
ἀλλ’ ὄφρα τις ζώει καὶ ὁρᾶι φῶς ἠελίοιο,
εὐσεβέων περὶ θεοὺς ᾿Ελπίδα προσμενέτω·
εὐχέσθω δὲ θεοῖσι, καὶ ἀγλαὰ μηρία καίων
᾿Ελπίδι τε πρώτηι καὶ πυμάτηι θυέτω.
φραζέσθω δ’ ἀδίκων ἀνδρῶν σκολιὸν λόγον αἰεί,
οἳ θεῶν ἀθανάτων οὐδὲν ὀπιζόμενοι
αἰὲν ἐπ’ ἀλλοτρίοις κτεάνοισ’ ἐπέχουσι νόημα,
αἰσχρὰ κακοῖσ’ ἔργοις σύμβολα θηκάμενοι.

Recueil de prose et de vers concernant Alexandre, Annibal et Scipion, Hector et Achille, Dagobert, Clovis II et Charles VIII, Philippe le Beau, roi d'Espagne, les comtes de Dammartin.

 

Not Exactly the Serenity Prayer…

Solon, Fr. 13. 1–8

“Glorious children of Olympian Zeus and Memory
Pierian Muses, hear me as I pray.
Grant me happiness from the blessed gods and possession
Of a good reputation among all people forever.
In this may I be sweet to my friends and bitter to my enemies,
Revered by the former and terrible for the latter to see.
I long to have money, but I do not want to obtain it
Unjustly—punishment inevitably comes later.

Μνημοσύνης καὶ Ζηνὸς ᾿Ολυμπίου ἀγλαὰ τέκνα,
Μοῦσαι Πιερίδες, κλῦτέ μοι εὐχομένωι·
ὄλβον μοι πρὸς θεῶν μακάρων δότε, καὶ πρὸς ἁπάντων
ἀνθρώπων αἰεὶ δόξαν ἔχειν ἀγαθήν·
εἶναι δὲ γλυκὺν ὧδε φίλοις, ἐχθροῖσι δὲ πικρόν,
τοῖσι μὲν αἰδοῖον, τοῖσι δὲ δεινὸν ἰδεῖν.
χρήματα δ’ ἱμείρω μὲν ἔχειν, ἀδίκως δὲ πεπᾶσθαι
οὐκ ἐθέλω· πάντως ὕστερον ἦλθε δίκη.

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Image from here

Fragmentary Friday Finale: Theognis on the Evil Man’s Justice

Theognis, 279-282

“It is fitting that an evil man have an evil understanding of justice
And no concern for any criticism to come.
For a wicked man many crimes are ready,
And he thinks that everything he does is good.”

εἰκὸς τὸν κακὸν ἄνδρα κακῶς τὰ δίκαια νομίζειν,
μηδεμίαν κατόπισθ᾿ ἁζόμενον νέμεσιν·
δειλῷ γάρ τ᾿ ἀπάλαμνα βροτῷ πάρα πόλλ᾿ἀνελέσθαι
πὰρ ποδός, ἡγεῖσθαί θ᾿ ὡς καλὰ πάντα τιθεῖ.

Theognis, 319-322

“Kurnos, a good man’s judgment is always firm
And he is constant in both bad times and good ones.
But if a god grants life and wealth to a wicked man,
He cannot refrain from evil because of his stupidity.”

Κύρν᾿, ἀγαθὸς μὲν ἀνὴρ γνώμην ἔχει ἔμπεδον αἰεί,
τολμᾷ δ᾿ ἔν τε κακοῖς κείμενος ἔν τ᾿ ἀγαθοῖς·
εἰ δὲ θεὸς κακῷ ἀνδρὶ βίον καὶ πλοῦτον ὀπάσσῃ,
ἀφραίνων κακίην οὐ δύναται κατέχειν.

Image result for medieval manuscript bad friend
This is an allegory.