But evils cannot be eradicated, Theodorus, for there must always be something in opposition to the good. Neither can they be situated among the gods, but they must haunt the mortal nature and prowl about the earth. So we should endeavour to flee from here to there as quickly as we can, and to flee is to be as like unto god as we can, and to be like god is to become just and holy with the help of wisdom. However, my friend, it is not very easy to convince people that the reasons we should be pursuing excellence and avoiding vice, are not the reasons the world gives, namely, that we should practise the one and avoid the other, so that we are reputed to be good men and not bad. This actually sounds to me like the idle talk of old women, as they say. So we should speak the truth; which is that god is not unjust in any way whatsoever, but is as just as it is possible to be, and there is no one more like unto god than the person among us who has, in turn, become as just as possible. And therein lies the true measure of a man’s accomplishment, and indeed, his worthlessness and inhumanity, for knowledge of this is wisdom and true excellence, while ignorance of this is folly and manifest vice. Any other seeming accomplishment or wisdom is vulgar in the case of political sovereignty and commonplace when it comes to the other arts.

Therefore, it is best, by far, not to concede to an evildoer or one whose words or deeds are unholy, that his roguery is an accomplishment, for they delight in that reproach and fancy they are hearing, not that they are ridiculous burdens to the earth, but men well fitted for survival in the city. So the truth must be spoken, that they are the sort of people they believe they are not, and all the more so because they do not believe so. Indeed they are ignorant of the penalty for injustice, which is the last thing they should be ignorant of. For the penalty is not what they think it is, scourging or execution, which offenders sometimes avoid suffering; no, this is a penalty that cannot be avoided.

Translation: David Horan