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PLATO (428 – 348 BCE)


“Weighing is a good analogy; you put the pleasures together and the pains together, both the near and the remote, on the balance scale, and then say which of the two is more. For if you weigh pleasant things against pleasant, the greater and the more must always be taken; if painful things against painful, the fewer and the smaller. And if you weigh pleasant things against painful, and if the painful is exceeded by the pleasant – whether the near by the remote or the remote by the near – you have to perform that action in which the pleasant prevails; on the other hand, if the pleasant is exceeded by the painful, you have to refrain from doing that.” Plato, Protagoras 356B

“Since it has turned out that our salvation in life depends on the right choice of pleasures and pains, be they more or fewer, greater or lesser, farther or nearer, doesn’t our salvation seem, first of all, to be measurement, which is the study of relative excess and deficiency and equality? And since it is measurement, it must definitely be an art, and knowledge.” Plato, Protagoras 357B

“These two springs of pleasures and pains flow forth by nature, and he who draws from the right one, at the right time, and in the right amount, is happy; the same holds for a city and for a private individual and for every animate thing. But he who does so without knowledge and at the wrong time lives a life that is just the opposite.” Plato, Laws 636E

“By nature, the human consists above all in pleasures and pains and desires. To these every mortal animal is, as it were, inextricably attached and bound in the most serious ways.” Plato, Laws 732E

“We want to have pleasure; we neither choose nor want pain; we prefer the neutral state if we are thereby relieved of pain, but not if it involves the loss of pleasure. We want less pain and more pleasure, we do not want less pleasure and more pain; but we would find it difficult to be clear about our wishes when faced with a choice of two situations bringing pleasure and pain in the same proportions. Considerations of number or size or intensity or equality (or their opposites) which determine our wishes all influence or fail to influence us whenever we make a choice.” Plato, Laws 733B

“When one man harms another by theft or violence and the damage is extensive, the indemnity he pays to the injured party should be large, but smaller if the damage is comparatively trivial. The cardinal rule should be that in every case the sum is to vary in proportion to the damage done, so that the loss is made good. And each offender is to pay an additional penalty appropriate to his crime, to encourage him to reform. *** This additional penalty is to be inflicted not because of the crime – for what has been done will never be undone – but for the sake of the future: so that the offender himself, and those that observe his punishment, will hate the wrongful conduct altogether or at any rate refrain in large part from such conduct.” Plato, Laws 933E – 934B

“When anyone commits an act of injustice, great or small, the law will teach and compel him in every way either never again to dare voluntarily to do such a thing, or to do it very much less.” Plato, Laws 862D

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