For as man is the best of the animals when perfected, so he is the worst of all when sundered from law and justice. For unrighteousness is most pernicious when possessed of weapons, and man is born possessing weapons for the use of wisdom and virtue, which it is possible to employ entirely for the opposite ends. Hence when devoid of virtue man is the most unholy and savage of animals, and the worst in regard to sexual indulgence and gluttony.

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Politics [Πολιτικά], Book 1, ch. 2 / 1253a.31 [tr. Rackham (1932)]
    (Source)

Alt. trans.:

  • "For man is an animal which, just as it is when fully perfected the best of all, so when separated from law and justice, is the worst of all. For injustice is most difficult to cope with when armed. Man is born into the world in the possession of arms, in the shape of practical wisdom and moral excellence, which he can use to the fullest degree for exactly contrary objects; when destitute of virtue, he is an animal most unholy and most savage, and most viciously disposed toward sensuality and gluttony." [tr. Bolland (1877)]

  • "For man, when perfected, is the best of animals, but, when separated from law and justice, he is the worst of all; since armed injustice is the more dangerous, and he is equipped at birth with arms, meant to be used by intelligence and virtue, which he may use for the worst ends. Wherefore, if he have not virtue, he is the most unholy and the most savage of animals, and the most full of lust and gluttony." [tr. Jowett (1885)]

  • "For as by the completion of it man is the most excellent of all living beings, so without law and justice he would be the worst of all, for nothing is so difficult to subdue as injustice in arms: but these arms man is born with, namely, prudence and valour, which he may apply to the most opposite purposes, for he who abuses them will be the most wicked, the most cruel, the most lustful, and most gluttonous being imaginable." [tr. Ellis (1912)]

  • "For just as man is the best of animals when completed, when separated from law and adjudication he is the worst of all. For injustice is harshest when it is furnished with arms, and man is born naturally possessing arms for prudence and virtue which nevertheless are very susceptible to being used for their opposites. That is why, without virtue, he is the most unholy and the most savage of animals, and the worst with regard to sex and food." [tr. Lord (1984)]
Added on 10-Jan-11 | Last updated 12-Feb-21
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