JUSTICE AND POLITICS
How he cultivated and delivered justice to humanity we shall best understand if we trace it to its first principle, and ultimate cause. Also we must investigate the ultimate cause of injustice, which will show us how he avoided it, and what methods he adopted to make justice fructify in his soul.
The principle of justice is mutuality and equality, through which, in a way most nearly approximating union of body and soul, all men become cooperative, and distinguish the mine from the thine, as is also testified by Plato, who learned this from Pythagoras. Pythagoras effected this in the best possible manner by erasing from common life every thing private, while increasing everything held in common, so far as ultimate possessions, which after all are the causes of tumult and sedition (Among his disciples[),] everything, was common, and the same to all, no one possessing anything private. He himself indeed, who most approved of this communion, made use of common possessions in the most just manner; but disciples who changed their minds was given back his original contribution, with an addition, and left. Thus Pythagoras established justice in the best possible manner, beginning at its very first principle.
In the next place, justice is introduced by association with other people, while injustice is, produced by unsociability and neglect of other people. Wishing therefore to spread this sociability as far as possibility among men, he ordered his discipled to extend it to the most kindred animal races, considering these as their intimates and friends, which would forbid injuring, slaying, or eating any of them. He who recognizes the community of elements and life between men and animals will in much greater degree establish fellowship with those who share a kindred and rational soul. This also shows that Pythagoras prompted justice beginning from its very root principle. Since lack of money often compels men sometimes to act contrary to justice, he tried to avoid this by practising such economy that his necessary expenses might be liberal, and yet retain a just sufficiency. For as cities are only magnificent households, so the arrangement of domestic concerns is the principle of all good order in cities. For instance, it was said that he himself was the heir to the property of Alceus, who died after completing an embassy to the Lacedemonians; but that in spite of this Pythagoras was admired for his economy no less than for his philosophy. Also when he married, he so educated the daughter that was born to him, and who afterwards married the Crotonian Meno, that while unmarried she was a choir-leader, while as wife she held the first place among those who worshipped at altars. It is also said that the Metapontines preserved PythagorasÕs memory by turning his house into a temple of Ceres, and the street in which he lived into a museum.
Because injustice also frequently results from insolence, luxury, and lawlessness, he daily exhorted his disciples to support laws, and shun lawlessness. He considered luxury the first evil that usually glides into houses and cities; the second insolence, the third destruction.
Luxury therefore should by all possible means be ecluded and expelled; and that from birth men should be accustomed to live temperately, and in a manly manner. He also added the necessity of purification from bad language, whether it be piteous, or provocative, reviling, insolent or scurrilous.
Besides this household justice, he added another and most beautiful kind, the legislative, which both orders what to do and what not to do. Legislative justice is more beautiful that the judicial kind, resembling medicine which heals the diseased, but differs in this that it is preventive, planning the health of the soul from afar.
That is why the best of legislators graduated from the school of Pythagoras: first, Charondas the Catanean, and next Zaleucus and Timaratus, who legislated for the Locrians. Besides these were Theaetetus and Helicaon, Aristocrates and Phytius, who legislated for the Rhegini. All these aroused from the citizens honors comparable to those offered to divinities. For Pythagoras did not act like Heraclitus, who agreed to write laws for the Ephesians, but also petulantly added that in those laws he would order the citizens to hang themselves. What laws Pythagoras endeavored to establish were benevolent and scientific.
Nor need we specially admire those (above mentioned professional) legislators. Pythagoras had a slave by the name of Zamolxis, hailing from Thrace. After hearing Pythagoras's discourses, and obtaining his freedom, he returned to the Getae, and there, as has already been mentioned at the beginning of this work, exhorted the citizens to fortitude, persuading then that the soul is immortal. So much so is this that even at present all the Galatians and Trallians, and many others of the Barbarians, persuade their children that the soul cannot be destroyed, but survives death, so that the latter is not to be feared, so that (ordinary) danger is to be met with a firm and manly mind. For instructing the Getae in these things, and for having written laws for them, Zamolxis was by them considered as the greatest of the gods.
Further, Pythagoras conceived that the dominion of the divinities was most efficacious for establishing justice; and from this principle he deduced a hole polity, particular laws and a principle of justice. Thus his basic theology was that we should realize God's existence, and that his disposition towards the human race is such that he inspects and does not neglect it. This theology was very useful: for we require an inspection that we would not be disposed to resist, such as the inspective government of the divinity, for if divine nature is of this nature, it deserves the empire of the universe. For the Pythagoreans rightly taught that (the natural) man is an animal naturally insolent, and changeable in impulse, desire and passions. He therefore requires an extraordinary inspectionary government of this kind, which may produce some chastening and ordering. They therefore thought that any who recognize their changeableness should never be forgetful of piety towards and worship of divinity. Everyone should pay heed, beneath the divine nature, and that of genii, to his parents and the laws, and obey them unfeignedly and faithfully. In general, they thought it necessary to believe that there is no evil greater than anarchy; since the human race is not naturally adapted to salvation without some guidance. The Pythagoreans also considered it advisable to adhere to the customs and laws of their ancestors, even though somewhat inferior to other regulations. For it is unprofitable and not salutary to evade existing laws, or to be studious of innovation. Pythagoras, therefore, to evince that his life was conformable to his doctrines gave many other specimens of piety to the Gods.
It may be quite suitable to mention one of these, as an example of the rest. I will relate what Pythagoras said and did relative to the embassy from Sybaris to Crotona, relative to the return of the exiles. By order of the ambassadors, some of his associates had been slain, a part of them, indeed, by one of the ambassadors himself, while another one of them was the son of one of those who had excited the sedition, and had died of disease. When the Crotonians therefore were deliberating how they should act in this affair, Pythagoras told his disciples he was displeased that the Crotonians should be so much at odds over the matter, and that in his opinion the ambassadors should not even be permitted to lead victims to the altar, let alone drag thence the suppliant exiles. When the Sybarites came to him with their complaints, and the man who had slain some of his disciples with his own hands was defending his conduct, Pythagoras declared he would make no answer to (a murderer). Another (ambassador) accused him of asserting that he was Apollo, because when in the past, some person had asked him about a certain subject, why the thing was so; and he had retorted. Would he think it sensible, when Apollo was delivering oracles to him, to ask Apollo why he did so? Another one of the ambassadors derided his school, wherein he taught the return of souls to this world saying that, as Pythagoras was about to descend into Hades, the ambassador would give Pythagoras an epistle to his father, and begged him to bring back an answer, when he returned. Pythagoras responded that he was not about to descend into the abode of the impious, where he clearly knew that murderers were punished. As then the rest of the ambassadors reviled him, Pythagoras, followed by many people, went to the seashore, and sprinkled himself with water. After reviling the rest of the ambassadors, one of the Crotonian counselors observed that he understood they had defamed Pythagoras, whom not even a brute would dare to blaspheme, though all animals should again utter the same voice as men, as prehistoric fables relate. Pythagoras discovered another method of restraining men from injustice: the fear of judgment. He knew that this method could be taught, and that fear was often able to suppress justice. He asserted therefore that it is much better to be injured, than to kill a man; for judgment is dispensed in Hades, where the soul and its essence and the first nature of beings, are accurately appraised.
Desiring to exhibit among human unequal, indefinite and unsytemmatical affairs the equality, definiteness and symmetry of justice, and to show how it ought to be exercised, he likened justice to (a right-angled) triangle, the only one among geometrical forms, which, though, having an infinite diversity of adjustments of indeed unequal parts (the length of the sides), yet has equal powers (the square on the hypotenuse is equal to the squares on the other two sides).
Since all associations (imply relations with some other person) and therefore entail justice, the Pythagoreans declared that there were two kinds of associations, that differed: the seasonable, and the unseasonable, according to age, merit, familiarity, philanthropy, and so forth. For instance, the association of a younger person with an elderly one is unseasonable, while that of two young persons is seasonable. No kind of anger, threatening or boldness is becoming in a younger towards an elderly man, all which unseasonable conduct should be cautiously avoided. So also with respect to merit, for, towards a man who has arrived at the true dignity of consummate virtue, neither unrestrained form of speech, nor any other of the above manners of conduct is seasonable.
Not unlike this was what he taught about the relations towards parents and benefactors. He said that the use of the opportune time was various. For of those who are angry or enraged, some are so seasonably, and some unseasonably. The same distinction obtains with desires, impulsions and passions, actions, dispositions, associations and meetings. He further observed that to a certain extent, the opportuneness is to be taught, and that also the unexpected might be analysed artificially; while none of the above qualifications obtain when applied universally, and simply. Nevertheless its results are very similar to those of opportuneness, namely elegance, propriety, congruence, and the like.
Reminding us that unity is the principle of the universe, being its principal element, so also is it in science, experiment, and growth. However two-foldness is most honorable in houses, cities, camps, and such like organizations. For in sciences we learn and judge not by any single hasty glance, but by a thorough examination of every detail. There is therefore grave danger of entire misapprehension of things, when the principle has been mistaken; for while the true principle remains unknown, no consequent conclusions can be final. The same situation obtains in things of another kind. Neither a city nor a house can be well organized unless each has an effective ruler who governs voluntary servants. For voluntariness is as necessary with the ruler to govern, as in the ruled to obey. So also must there be a concurrence of will between teacher and learner; for no satisfactory progress can be made while there obtains resistance on either side. Thus he demonstrated the beauty of being persuaded by rulers, and to be obedient to preceptors.
This was the greatest objective illustration of this argument. Pherecydes the Syrian had been his teacher, but now was afflicted with the morbus pedicularis, Pythagoras therefore went from Italy to Delos, to nurse him, tending him until he died, and piously performing whatever funeral rites were due to his former teacher. So diligent was he in discharge of his duties towards those from whom he had received instruction.
Pythagoras insisted strenuously with his disciples on the fulfillment of mutual agreements. (Here is an illustration). Lysis had once completed his worship in the temple of Juno, and was leaving as he met in the vestibule with Euryphamus the Syracusan, one of his fellow disciples, who was then entering into the temple. Euryphamus asked Lysis to wait for him, till he had finished his worship also. So Lysis sat down on a stone seat there situate, and waited. Euryphamus went in, finished his worship, but, having become absorbed in some profound considerations, forgot his appointment, and passed out of the temple by another gate. Lysis however continued to wait, without leaving his seat, the remainder of that day, and the following and also the greater part of the next day.
He might have staid there still longer, perhaps unless, the following day, in the auditorium, Euryphamus had heard that. LysisÕs associates were missing him. Recollecting his appointment, he hastened to Lysis, relieved him of the engagement, telling him the cause of his forgetfulness as follows: “Some God produced this oblivion in me, as a trial of your firmness in keeping your engagements.”
Pythagoras also ordained abstinence from animal food, for many reasons, besides the chief one that it conduced to peaceableness. Those who are trained to abominate the slaughter of animals as iniquitous and unnatural will not think it much more unlawful to kill a man, or engage in war. For war promotes slaughter, and legalizes it, increasing it, and strengthening it. Pythagoras 's maxim “not to touch the balance above the beam” is in itself an exhortation to justice, demanding the cultivation of everything that is just, Ñ as will be shown when we study the Pythagorean symbols. In all these particulars, therefore, Pythagoras paid great attention to the practice of justice; and to its preachment to men, both in deeds and words.