Isocrates: Virtue and the Law

Isocrates_Creative Commons ShareShareAlike photo by Shakko
Isocrates (photo by Shakko)


Virtue is not advanced by written laws but by the habits of everyday life; for the majority of men tend to assimilate the manners and morals amid which they have been reared. Furthermore, they held that where there is a multitude of specific laws, it is a sign that the state is badly governed; for it is in the attempt to build up dikes against the spread of crime that men in such a state feel constrained to multiply the laws. Those who are rightly governed, on the other hand, do not need to fill their porticoes with written statutes, but only to cherish justice in their souls; for it is not legislation, but by morals, that states are well directed, since men who are badly reared will venture to transgress even laws which are drawn up with minute exactness, whereas those who are well brought up will be willing to respect even a simple code.

Source: Isocrates (436-338 B.C.)

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