PLUTARCH – MORALS
Plutarch. Plutarch’s Morals. Translated by Arthur Richard Shiletto. London, George Bell and Sons. 1898. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg, 2007. Retrieved 2019, from http://www.gutenberg.org/files/23639/23639-h/23639-h.htm
i. Come let us consider what one might say on the education of free children, and by what training they would become good citizens.
iv. To speak generally, what we are wont to say about the arts and sciences is also true of moral excellence, for to its perfect development three things must meet together, natural ability, theory, and practice. By theory I mean training, and by practice working at one’s craft. Now the foundation must be laid in training, and practice gives facility, but perfection is attained only by the junction of all three. For if any one of these elements be wanting, excellence must be so far deficient. For natural ability without training is blind: and training without natural ability is defective, and practice without both natural ability and training is imperfect. For just as in farming the first requisite is good soil, next a good farmer, next good seed, so also here: the soil corresponds to natural ability, the training to the farmer, the seed to precepts and instruction. I should therefore maintain stoutly that these three elements were found combined in the souls of such universally famous men as Pythagoras, and Socrates, and Plato, and of all who have won undying fame. Happy at any rate and dear to the gods is he to whom any deity has vouchsafed all these elements! But if anyone thinks that those who have not good natural ability cannot to some extent make up for the deficiencies of nature by right training and practice, let such a one know that he is very wide of the mark, if not out of it altogether. For good natural parts are impaired by sloth; while inferior ability is mended by training: and while simple things escape the eyes of the careless, difficult things are reached by painstaking. The wonderful efficacy and power of long and continuous labour you may see indeed every day in the world around you. Thus water continually dropping wears away rocks: and iron and steel are moulded by the hands of the artificer: and chariot wheels bent by some strain can never recover their original symmetry: and the crooked staves of actors can never be made straight. But by toil what is contrary to nature becomes stronger than even nature itself. And are these the only things that teach the power of diligence? Not so: ten thousand things teach the same truth. A soil naturally good becomes by neglect barren, and the better its original condition, the worse its ultimate state if uncared for. On the other hand a soil exceedingly rough and sterile by being farmed well produces excellent crops. And what trees do not by neglect become gnarled and unfruitful, whereas by pruning they become fruitful and productive? And what constitution so good but it is marred and impaired by sloth, luxury, and too full habit? And what weak constitution has not derived benefit from exercise and athletics? And what horses broken in young are not docile to their riders? while if they are not broken in till late they become hard-mouthed and unmanageable. And why should we be surprised at similar cases, seeing that we find many of the savagest animals docile and tame by training? Rightly answered the Thessalian, who was asked who the mildest Thessalians were, “Those who have done with fighting.” But why pursue the line of argument further? For the Greek name for moral virtue is only habit: and if anyone defines moral virtues as habitual virtues, he will not be beside the mark.
v. The next point to discuss will be nutrition. In my opinion mothers ought to nurse and suckle their own children. For they will bring them up with more sympathy and care, if they love them so intimately and, as the proverb puts it, “from their first growing their nails.” Whereas the affection of wet or dry nurses is spurious and counterfeit, being merely for pay. And nature itself teaches that mothers ought themselves to suckle and rear those they have given birth to. And for that purpose she has supplied every female parent with milk. And providence has wisely provided women with two breasts, so that if they should bear twins, they would have a breast for each. And besides this, as is natural enough, they would feel more affection and love for their children by suckling them. For this supplying them with food is as it were a tightener of love, for even the brute creation, if taken away from their young, pine away, as we constantly see. Mothers must therefore, as I said, certainly try to suckle their own children: but if they are unable to do so either through physical weakness (for this contingency sometimes occurs), or in haste to have other children, they must select wet and dry nurses with the greatest care, and not introduce into their houses any kind of women. First and foremost they must be Greeks in their habits. For just as it is necessary immediately after birth to shapen the limbs of children, so that they may grow straight and not crooked, so from the beginning must their habits be carefully attended to. For infancy is supple and easily moulded, and what children learn sinks deeply into their souls while they are young and tender, whereas everything hard is softened only with great difficulty. For just as seals are impressed on soft wax, so instruction leaves its permanent mark on the minds of those still young. And divine Plato seems to me to give excellent advice to nurses not to tell their children any kind of fables, that their souls may not in the very dawn of existence be full of folly or corruption. Phocylides the poet also seems to give admirable advice when he says, “We must teach good habits while the pupil is still a boy.”
vii. Next, when our boys are old enough to be put into the hands of tutors, great care must be taken that we do not hand them over to slaves, or foreigners, or flighty persons. For what happens nowadays in many cases is highly ridiculous: good slaves are made farmers, or sailors, or merchants, or stewards, or money-lenders; but if they find a winebibbing, greedy, and utterly useless slave, to him parents commit the charge of their sons, whereas the good tutor ought to be such a one as was Phœnix, the tutor of Achilles. The point also which I am now going to speak about is of the utmost importance. The schoolmasters we ought to select for our boys should be of blameless life, of pure character, and of great experience. For a good training is the source and root of gentlemanly behaviour. And just as farmers prop up their trees, so good schoolmasters prop up the young by good advice and suggestions, that they may become upright. How one must despise, therefore, some fathers, who, whether from ignorance or inexperience, before putting the intended teachers to the test, commit their sons to the charge of untried and untested men. If they act so through inexperience it is not so ridiculous; but it is to the remotest degree absurd when, though perfectly aware of both the inexperience and worthlessness of some schoolmasters, they yet entrust their sons to them; some overcome by flattery, others to gratify friends who solicit their favours; acting just as if anybody ill in body, passing over the experienced physician, should, to gratify his friend, call him in, and so throw away his life; or as if to gratify one’s friend one should reject the best pilot and choose him instead. Zeus and all the gods! can anyone bearing the sacred name of father put obliging a petitioner before obtaining the best education for his sons? Were they not then wise words that the time-honoured Socrates used to utter, and say that he would proclaim, if he could, climbing up to the highest part of the city, “Men, what can you be thinking of, who move heaven and earth to make money, while you bestow next to no attention on the sons you are going to leave that money to?” I would add to this that such fathers act very similarly to a person who should be very careful about his shoe but care nothing about his foot. Many persons also are so niggardly about their children, and indifferent to their interests, that for the sake of a paltry saving, they prefer worthless teachers for their children, practising a vile economy at the expense of their children’s ignorance… I will tell you what happens to such admirable fathers, when they have educated and brought up their sons so badly: when the sons grow to man’s estate, they disregard a sober and well-ordered life, and rush headlong into disorderly and low vices; then at the last the parents are sorry they have neglected their education, bemoaning bitterly when it is too late their sons’ debasement.
viii. I say, then, to speak comprehensively (and I might be justly considered in so saying to speak as an oracle, not to be delivering a mere precept), that a good education and sound bringing-up is of the first and middle and last importance; and I declare it to be most instrumental and conducive to virtue and happiness. For all other human blessings compared to this are petty and insignificant. For noble birth is a great honour, but it is an advantage from our forefathers. And wealth is valuable, but it is the acquisition of fortune, who has often taken it away from those who had it, and brought it to those who little expected it; and much wealth is a sort of mark for villanous slaves and informers to shoot at to fill their own purses; and, what is a most important point, even the greatest villains have money sometimes. And glory is noble, but insecure. And beauty is highly desirable, but shortlived. And health is highly valuable, but soon impaired. And strength is desirable, but illness or age soon made sad inroads into it. And generally speaking, if anyone prides himself on his bodily strength, let him know that he is deficient in judgment. For how much inferior is the strength of a man to that of animals, as elephants, bulls, and lions! But education is of all our advantages the only one immortal and divine.
x. Next our freeborn lad ought to go in for a course of what is called general knowledge, but a smattering of this will be sufficient, a taste as it were (for perfect knowledge of all subjects would be impossible); but he must seriously cultivate philosophy. I borrow an illustration to show my meaning: it is well to sail round many cities, but advantageous to live in the best.
xiii. And I have ere now seen some fathers, whose excessive love for their children has turned into hatred. My meaning I will endeavour to make clearer by illustration. While they are in too great a hurry to make their sons take the lead in everything, they lay too much work upon them, so that they faint under their tasks, and, being overburdened, are disinclined for learning. For just as plants grow with moderate rain, but are done for by too much rain, so the mind enlarges by a proper amount of work, but by too much is unhinged. We must therefore give our boys remission from continuous labour, bearing in mind that all our life is divided into labour and rest; thus we find not only wakefulness but sleep, not only war but peace, not only foul weather but fine also, not only working days but also festivals. And, to speak concisely, rest is the sauce of labour. And we can see this not only in the case of animate, but even inanimate things, for we make bows and lyres slack that we may be able to stretch them. And generally the body is preserved by repletion and evacuation, and the soul by rest and work. We ought also to censure some fathers who, after entrusting their sons to tutors and preceptors, neither see nor hear how the teaching is done. This is a great mistake. For they ought after a few days to test the progress of their sons, and not to base their hopes on the behaviour of a hireling; and the preceptors will take all the more pains with the boys, if they have from time to time to give an account of their progress. Hence the propriety of that remark of the groom, that nothing fats the horse so much as the king’s eye.
Then, again, if anyone thinks it a small and unimportant matter to govern the tongue, another point I promised to touch on, he is very far from the reality. For silence at the proper season is wisdom, and better than any speech. And that is, I think, the reason why the ancients instituted the mysteries that we, learning therein to be silent, might transfer our secrecy to the gods to human affairs. And no one ever yet repented of his silence, while multitudes have repented of their speaking. And what has not been said is easy to say, while what has been once said can never be recalled.
xvii. We ought, at all hazards, to keep our boys also from association with bad men, for they will catch some of their villany… We must keep our boys, as I said, from association with all bad men, but especially from flatterers. For, as I have often said to parents, and still say, and will constantly affirm, there is no race more pestilential, nor more sure to ruin youths swiftly, than the race of flatterers, who destroy both parents and sons root and branch, making the old age of the one and the youth of the others miserable, holding out pleasure as a sure bait. The sons of the rich are by their fathers urged to be sober, but by them to be drunk; by their fathers to be chaste, by them to wax wanton; by their fathers to save, by them to spend; by their fathers to be industrious, by them to be lazy.
xviii. What I have said hitherto is apropos to my subject: I will now speak a word to the men. Parents must not be over harsh and rough in their natures, but must often forgive their sons’ offences, remembering that they themselves were once young. And just as doctors by infusing a sweet flavour into their bitter potions find delight a passage to benefit, so fathers must temper the severity of their censure by mildness; and sometimes relax and slacken the reins of their sons’ desires, and again tighten them; and must be especially easy in respect to their faults, or if they are angry must soon cool down. For it is better for a father to be hot-tempered than sullen, for to continue hostile and irreconcilable looks like hating one’s son. And it is good to seem not to notice some faults, but to extend to them the weak sight and deafness of old age, so as seeing not to see, and hearing not to hear, their doings. We tolerate the faults of our friends; why should we not that of our sons?
xx. I shall add a few remarks, and then bring my subject to a close. Before all things fathers must, by a good behaviour, set a good example to their sons, that, looking at their lives as a mirror, they may turn away from bad deeds and words. For those fathers who censure their sons’ faults while they themselves commit the same, are really their own accusers, if they know it not, under their sons’ name; and those who live a depraved life have no right to censure their slaves, far less their sons. And besides this they will become counsellors and teachers of their sons in wrongdoing; for where old men are shameless youths will of a certainty have no modesty. We must therefore take all pains to teach our sons self-control, emulating the conduct of Eurydice, who, though an Illyrian and more than a barbarian, to teach her sons educated herself though late in life, and her love to them is well depicted in the inscription which she offered to the Muses: “Eurydice of Hierapolis made this offering to the Muses, having conceived a vast love for knowledge. For when a mother with sons full-grown she learnt letters, the preservers of knowledge.”
To carry out all these precepts would be perhaps a visionary scheme; but to attain to many, though it would need a happy disposition and much care, is a thing possible to human nature.
ON LOVE TO ONE’S OFFSPRING
i. Appeals to foreign law-courts were first devised among the Greeks through mistrust of one another’s justice, for they looked on justice as a necessity not indigenous among them. Is it not on much the same principle that the philosophers, in regard to some of their questions, owing to their variety of opinion, have appealed to the brute creation as to a strange state, and submitted the decision to their instincts and habits as not to be talked over and impartial? Or is it a general charge against human infirmity that, having different opinions on the most necessary and important things, we seek in horses and dogs and birds how to marry and beget and rear children, as though we had no means of making our own nature known, and appeal to the habits and instincts of the brute creation, and call them in to bear witness against the many deviations from nature in our lives, which from the first are confused and disorderly. For among the brutes nature remains ever the same, pure and simple, but in men, owing to reason and habit, like oil in the hands of the perfumers, being mixed up with many added opinions, it becomes various and loses its original simplicity. And let us not wonder that the brutes follow nature more closely than human beings, for in that respect even they are outstripped by inanimate things, which, being dowered neither with imagination nor any appetite or inclination contrary to nature, ever continue in the one path which nature has prescribed for them, as if they were tied and bound. But in brutes the gentleness of mood inspired by reason, the subtlety, the love of freedom, are not qualities found in excess, but they have unreasonable appetites and desires, and act in a roundabout way within certain limits, riding, as it were, at the anchor of nature, and only going straight under bit and bridle. But in man reason, which is absolute master, inventing different modes and fashions of life, has left no plain or evident trace of nature.
ii. Consider in their marriages how much the animals follow nature. For they do not wait for any legislation about…
THAT VIRTUE MAY BE TAUGHT
i. As to virtue we deliberate and dispute whether good sense, and justice, and rectitude can be taught: and then we are not surprised that, while the works of orators, and pilots, and musicians, and house-builders, and farmers, are innumerable, good men are only a name and expression, like Centaurs and Giants and Cyclopes, and that it is impossible to find any virtuous action without alloy of base motives, or any character free from vice: but if nature produces spontaneously anything good, it is marred by much that is alien to it, as fruit choked by weeds. Men learn to play on the harp, and to dance, and to read, and to farm, and to ride on horseback: they learn how to put on their shoes and clothes generally: people teach how to pour out wine, how to cook; and all these things cannot be properly performed, without being learned. The art of good living alone, though all those things I have mentioned only exist on its account, is untaught, unmethodical, inartistic, and supposed to come by the light of nature!
ON VIRTUE AND VICE
i. Clothes seem to warm a man, not by throwing out heat themselves (for in itself every garment is cold, whence in great heat or in fevers people frequently change and shift them), but the heat which a man throws out from his own body is retained and wrapped in by a dress fitting close to the body, which does not admit of the heat being dissipated when once it has got firm hold. A somewhat similar case is the idea that deceives the mass of mankind, that if they could live in big houses, and get together a quantity of slaves and money, they would have a happy life. But a happy and cheerful life is not from without, on the contrary, a man adds the pleasure and gratification to the things that surround him, his temperament being as it were the source of his feelings.“But when the fire blazes the house is brighter to look at.”
So, too, wealth is pleasanter, and fame and power more splendid, when a man has joy in his heart, seeing that men can bear easily and quietly poverty and exile and old age if their character is a contented and mild one.
ii. For as perfumes make threadbare coats and rags to smell sweet, while the body of Anchises sent forth a fetid discharge, “distilling from his back on to his linen robe,” so every kind of life with virtue is painless and pleasurable, whereas vice if infused into it makes splendour and wealth and magnificence painful, and sickening, and unwelcome to its possessors.
“He is deemed happy in the market-place, But when he gets him home, thrice miserable, His wife rules all, quarrels, and domineers.”
And yet there would be no great difficulty in getting rid of a bad wife, if one was a man and not a slave. But a man cannot by writing a bill of divorce to his vice get rid of all trouble at once, and enjoy tranquillity by living apart: for it is ever present in his vitals, and sticks to him night and day, “and burns without a torch, and consigns him to gloomy old age,” being a disagreeable fellow-traveller owing to its arrogance, and a costly companion at table owing to its daintiness, and an unpleasant bed-fellow, disturbing and marring sleep by anxiety and care and envy. For during such a one’s sleep the body indeed gets rest, but the mind has terrors, and dreams, and perturbations, owing to superstition,
“For when my trouble catches me asleep, I am undone by the most fearful dreams,”
as one says. For thus envy, and fear, and anger, and lust affect one. During the daytime, indeed, vice looks abroad and imitates the behaviour of others, is shy and conceals its evil desires, and does not altogether give way to its propensities, but often even resists and fights stoutly against them; but in sleep it escapes the observation of people and the law, and, being as far as possible removed from fear or modesty, gives every passion play, and excites its depravity and licentiousness… and enjoys lawlessness as far as is practicable in visions and phantasies, that end in no complete pleasure or satisfaction, but can only stir up and inflame the passions and morbid emotions.
iii. Where then is the pleasure of vice, if there is nowhere in it freedom from anxiety and pain, or independence, or tranquillity, or rest? A healthy and sound constitution does indeed augment the pleasures of the body, but for the soul there can be no lasting joy or gratification, unless cheerfulness and fearlessness and courage supply a calm serenity free from storms; for otherwise, even if hope or delight smile on the soul, it is soon confused and disturbed by care lifting up its head again, so that it is but the calm of a sunken rock.
iv. Pile up gold, heap up silver, build covered walks, fill your house with slaves and the town with debtors, unless you lay to rest the passions of the soul, and put a curb on your insatiable desires, and rid yourself of fear and anxiety, you are but pouring out wine for a man in a fever, and giving honey to a man who is bilious, and laying out a sumptuous banquet for people who are suffering from dysentery, and can neither retain their food nor get any benefit from it, but are made even worse by it. Have you never observed how sick persons turn against and spit out and refuse the daintiest and most costly viands, though people offer them and almost force them down their throats, but on another occasion, when their condition is different, their respiration good, their blood in a healthy state, and their natural warmth restored, they get up, and enjoy and make a good meal of simple bread and cheese and cress? Such, also, is the effect of reason on the mind. You will be contented, if you have learned what is good and honourable. You will live daintily and be a king in poverty, and enjoy a quiet and private life as much as the public life of general or statesman. By the aid of philosophy you will live not unpleasantly, for you will learn to extract pleasure from all places and things: wealth will make you happy, because it will enable you to benefit many; and poverty, as you will not then have many anxieties; and glory, for it will make you honoured; and obscurity, for you will then be safe from envy.
ON MORAL VIRTUE
i. I propose to discuss what is called and appears to be moral virtue (which differs mainly from contemplative virtue in that it has emotion for its matter, and reason for its form), what its nature is, and how it subsists, and whether that part of the soul which takes it in is furnished with reason of its own, or participates in something foreign….
ii. Menedemus of Eretria took away the number and differences of virtues, on the ground that virtue was one though it had many names; for that just as mortal is synonymous with man, so temperance and bravery and justice were the same thing.
iii. Now all these agree in supposing virtue to be a disposition and faculty of the governing part of the soul set in motion by reason, or rather to be reason itself conformable and firm and immutable. They think further that the emotional and unreasoning part of the soul is not by any natural difference distinct from the reasoning part, but that that same part of the soul, which they call intellect and the leading principle of action, being altogether diverted and changed by the passions, and by the alterations which habit or disposition have brought about, becomes either vice or virtue, without having in itself any unreasoning element, but that it is called unreasoning when, by the strong and overpowering force of appetite, it launches out into excesses contrary to the direction of reason. For passion, according to them, is only vicious and intemperate reason, getting its strength and power from bad and faulty judgement.
iv. As for those who wonder that what is unreasoning should obey reason, they do not seem to me to recognize the power of reason, how great it is, and how far-reaching its dominion is—a power not gained by harsh and repelling methods, but by attractive ones, as mild persuasion which always accomplishes more than compulsion or violence. For even the spirit and nerves and bones, and other parts of the body, though devoid of reason, yet at any instigation of reason, when she shakes as it were the reins, are all on the alert and compliant and obedient, the feet to run, and the hands to throw or lift, at her bidding. Right excellently has the poet set forth in the following lines the sympathy and accordance between the unreasoning and reason:—
“Thus were her beauteous cheeks diffused with tears, Weeping her husband really present then. But though Odysseus pitied her in heart, His eyes like horn or steel impassive stood Within their lids, and craft his tears repressed.”
So completely under the control of judgement did he keep his spirit and blood and tears.
v. But since they do not regard every virtue as a mean, nor call it moral, we must discuss this difference by approaching the matter more from first principles.
But the sayings of incontinence are quite different, as
“My nature forces me against my judgement,”
“Alas! it is poor mortals’ plague and bane, To know the good, yet not the good pursue.”
“My anger draws me on, has no control,’Tis but a sandy hook against a tempest.”
Here he compares not badly to a sandy hook, a sorry kind of anchor, the soul that is unsettled and has no steady reason, but surrenders judgment through flabbiness and feebleness. And not unlike this image are the lines,
“As some ship moored and fastened to the shore, If the wind blows, the cables cannot hold it.”
By cables he means the judgement which resists what is disgraceful, though sometimes it gives way under a tremendous storm of passion. For indeed it is with full sail that the intemperate man is borne on to pleasure by his desires, and surrenders himself to them, and even plays the part of pilot to the vessel; whereas the incontinent man is dragged sidelong into the disgraceful, and is its victim, as it were, while he desires eagerly to resist and overcome his passion, as Timon bantered Anaxarchus: “The recklessness and frantic energy of Anaxarchus to rush anywhere seemed like a dog’s courage, but he being aware of it was miserable, so people said, but his voluptuous nature ever plunged him into excesses again, nature which even most sophists are afraid of.” For neither is the wise man continent but temperate, nor the fool incontinent but intemperate; for the one delights in what is good, and the other is not vexed at what is bad. Incontinence, therefore, is a mark of a sophistical soul, endued with reason which cannot abide by what it knows to be right.
Moreover, when he resists passion by reason, he does not escape passion altogether; nor again, when he is mastered by passion does he fail to discern his fault through reason: so that neither by passion does he abolish reason, nor does he by reason get rid of passion, but is tossed about to and fro alternately between passion and reason. And those who suppose that the leading principle in the soul is at one time desire, and at another time reason in opposition to desire, are not unlike people who would make the hunter and the animal he hunts one and the same person, but alternately changing from hunter to animal, from animal to hunter. As their eyesight is plainly deficient, so these are faulty in regard to their perceptions, seeing that they must perceive in themselves not a change of one and the same thing, but a difference and struggle between two opposing elements.”What then,” say they, “does not the deliberative element in a man often hold different views, and is it not swayed to different opinions as to expediency, and yet it is one and the same thing?” Certainly, I reply; but the case is not similar. For the rational part of the soul does not fight against itself, but though it has only one faculty, it makes use of different reasonings; or rather the reasoning is one, but employs itself in different subjects as on different matter. And so there is neither pain in reasonings without passion, nor are men compelled, as it were, to choose something contrary to their judgement, unless indeed some passion, as in a balance, secretly predominates in the scale. For this often happens, reason not opposing reason, but ambition, or contention, or favour, or jealousy, or fear opposing reason, that we do but think there is a difference between two reasons, as in the line, “They were ashamed to refuse, and feared to accept,” or, “To die in battle is dreadful but glorious; but not to die, though cowardly, is more pleasant.” … And so reason gladly inclines to the truth, when it is evident, and abandons error; for in it, and not in passion, lies a willingness to listen to conviction and to change one’s opinions on conviction. But the deliberations and judgements and arbitrations of most people as to matters of fact being mixed up with passion, give reason no easy or pleasant access, as she is held fast and incommoded by the unreasonable, which assails her through pleasure, or fear, or pain, or desire. And the decision in these cases lies with sense which has dealings with both passion and reason, for if one gets the better of the other the other is not destroyed, but only dragged along by force in spite of its resistance. For he who is dissatisfied with himself for falling in love calls in reason to his aid to overcome his passion, for both reason and passion are in his soul, and he perceives they are contrary one to the other, and violently represses the inflammatory one of the two… And, generally speaking, when reason seems opposed to reason, there is no perception of two distinct things, but only of one under different phases, whereas when the unreasoning has a controversy with reason, since there can be no victory or defeat without pain, forthwith they tear the soul in two, and make the difference between them apparent.
viii. And not only from their contest, but quite as much from their agreement, can we see that the source of the passions is something quite distinct from that of reason. For since one may love either a good and excellent child or a bad and vicious one, and be unreasonably angry with one’s children or parents, yet in behalf of them show a just anger against enemies or tyrants; as in the one case there is the perception of a difference and struggle between passion and reason, so in the other there is a perception of persuasion and agreement inclining, as it were, the scale, and giving their help. Moreover a good man marrying a wife according to the laws is minded to associate and live with her justly and soberly, but as time goes on, his intercourse with her having engendered a strong passion for her, he perceives that his love and affection are increased by reason. Just so, again, young fellows falling in with kindly teachers at first submit themselves to them out of necessity and emulation for learning, but end by loving them, and instead of being their pupils and scholars become and get the title of their lovers. The same is the case in cities in respect to good magistrates, and neighbours, and connections by marriage; for beginning at first to associate with one another from necessity and propriety, they afterwards go on to love almost insensibly, reason drawing over and persuading the emotional element. And he who said—
“There are two kinds of shame, the one not bad, The other a sad burden to a family,”
is it not clear that he felt this emotion in himself often contrary to reason and detrimental by hesitation and delay to opportunities and actions?
ix. In a certain sense yielding to the force of these arguments, they call shame modesty, pleasure joy, and timidity caution; nor would anyone blame them for this euphemism, if they only gave those specious names to the emotions that are consistent with reason, while they gave other kinds of names to those emotions that resist and do violence to reason. But whenever, though convicted by their tears and tremblings and changes of colour, they avoid the terms pain and fear, and speak of bitings and states of excitement, and gloss over the passions by calling them inclinations, they seem to contrive evasions and flights from facts by names sophistical, and not philosophical. And yet again they seem to use words rightly when they call those joys and wishes and cautions not apathies but good conditions of the mind. For it is a happy disposition of the soul when reason does not annihilate passion, but orders and arranges it in the case of temperate persons. But what is the condition of worthless and incontinent persons, who, when they judge they ought to love their father and mother better than some boy or girl they are enamoured of, yet cannot, and yet at once love their mistress or flatterer, when they judge they ought to hate them? For if passion and judgement were the same thing, love and hate would immediately follow the judging it right to love and hate, whereas the contrary happens, passion following some judgements, but declining to follow others. Wherefore they acknowledge, the facts compelling them to do so, that every judgement is not passion, but only that judgement that is provocative of violent and excessive impulse: admitting that judgement and passion in us are something different, as what moves is different from what is moved. Even Chrysippus himself, by his defining in many places endurance and continence to be habits that follow the lead of reason, proves that he is compelled by the facts to admit, that that element in us which follows absolutely is something different from that which follows when persuaded, but resists when not persuaded.
x. Now as to those who make all sins and offences equal, it is not now the occasion to discuss if in other respects they deviate from truth: but as regards the passions they seem to go clean contrary to reason and evidence. For according to them every passion is a sin, and everyone who grieves, or fears, or desires, commits sin. But in good truth it is evident that there are great differences between passions, according as one is more or less affected by them.
xi. For how is it possible that the same person can be both better and worse than himself, both master of himself and not master, unless everyone is in some way twofold, having in himself both a better and worse self? For so he that makes the baser element subject to the better has self-control and is a superior man, whereas he who allows the nobler element of the soul to follow and be subservient to the incorrigible and unreasoning element, is inferior to what he might be, and is called incontinent, and is in an unnatural condition. For by nature it appertains to reason, which is divine, to rule and govern the unreasoning element, which has its origin from the body, which it also naturally resembles and participates in its passions, being placed in it and mixed up with it, as is proved by the impulses to bodily delights, which are always fierce or languid according to the changes of the body.
xii. And generally speaking of all existing things, as they themselves admit and is clear, some are governed by nature, some by habit, some by an unreasoning soul, some by a soul that has reason and intelligence. Man too participates in all this, and is subject to all those differences here mentioned, for he is affected by habit, and nourished by nature, and uses reason and intelligence. He has also a share of the unreasoning element, and has the principle of passion innate in him, not as a mere episode in his life but as a necessity, which ought not therefore to be entirely rooted out, but requires care and attention. For the function of reason is no Thracian or Lycurgean one to root up and destroy all the good elements in passion indiscriminately with the bad, but, as some genial and mild god, to prune what is wild, and to correct disproportion, and after that to train and cultivate the useful part. For as those who are afraid to get drunk do not pour on the ground their wine, but mix it with water, so those who are afraid of the disturbing element in passion do not eradicate passion altogether but temper it. Similarly with oxen and horses people try to restrain their mad bounds and restiveness, not their movements and powers of work, and so reason makes use of the passions when they have become tame and docile, not by cutting out the sinews or altogether mutilating the serviceable part of the soul. For as Pindar says, “The horse to the chariot, and the ox to the plough, while he that meditates destruction for the boar must find a staunch hound.” But much more useful than these are the whole tribe of passions when they wait on reason and run parallel to virtue. Thus moderate anger is useful to courage, and hatred of evil to uprightness, and righteous indignation against those who are fortunate beyond their deserts, when they are inflamed in their souls with folly and insolence and need a check. And no one if they wished could pluck away or sever natural affection from friendship, or pity from philanthropy, or sympathy both in joy and grief from genuine goodwill. And if those err who wish to banish love because of erotic madness, neither are they right who blame all desire because of love of money, but they act like people who refuse to run because they might stumble, or to throw because they might throw wide of the mark, or object to sing altogether because they might make a false note. For as in sounds music does not create melody by the banishment of sharps and flats, and as in bodies the art of the physician procures health not by the doing away of cold and heat but by their being blended in due proportions and quantities, so is victory won in the soul by the powers and motions of the passions being reduced by reason to moderation and due proportion. For excessive grief or fear or joy in the soul (I speak not of mere joy grief or fear), resembles a body swollen or inflamed. And Homer when he says excellently,
“The brave man’s colour never changes, nor Is he much frightened,”
does not take away all fear but only excessive fear, that bravery may not become recklessness, nor confidence foolhardiness. So also in regard to pleasure we must do away with excessive desire, and in regard to vengeance with excessive hatred of evil. For so in the former case one will not be apathetic but temperate, and in the latter one will not be savage or cruel but just. But if the passions were entirely removed, supposing that to be possible, reason would become in many duller and blunter, like the pilot in the absence of a storm. And no doubt it is from having noticed this that legislators try to excite in states ambition and emulation among their townsmen, and stir up and increase their courage and pugnacity against enemies by the sound of trumpets and flutes. For it is not only in poems, as Plato says, that he that is inspired by the Muses, and as it were possessed by them, will laugh to shame the plodding artist, but also in fighting battles passion and enthusiasm will be irresistible and invincible, such as Homer makes the gods inspire men with, as in the line,
“Thus speaking he infused great might in Hector, The shepherd of the people.”
“He is not mad like this without the god,”
as if the god had added passion to reason as an incitement and spur.
HOW ONE MAY BE AWARE OF ONE’S PROGRESS IN VIRTUE
i. What amount of argument, Sossius Senecio, will make a man know that he is improving in respect to virtue, if his advances in it do not bring about some diminution in folly, but vice, weighing equally with all his good intentions, “acts like the lead that makes the net go down?” For neither in music nor grammatical knowledge could anyone recognize any improvement, if he remained as unskilful in them as before, and had not lost some of his old ignorance. Nor in the case of anyone ill would medical treatment, if it brought no relief or ease, by the disease somewhat yielding and abating, give any perception of improvement of health, till the opposite condition was completely brought about by the body recovering its full strength. But just as in these cases there is no improvement unless, by the abatement of what weighs them down till they rise in the opposite scale, they recognize a change, so in the case of those who profess philosophy no improvement or sign of improvement can be supposed, unless the soul lay aside and purge itself of some of its imperfection, and if it continue altogether bad until it become absolutely good and perfect. For indeed a wise man cannot in a moment of time change from absolute badness to perfect goodness, and suddenly abandon for ever all that vice, of which he could not during a long period of time divest himself of any portion. And yet you know, of course, that those who maintain these views frequently give themselves much trouble and bewilderment about the difficulty, that a wise man does not perceive that he has become wise, but is ignorant and doubtful that in a long period of time by little and little, by removing some things and adding others, there will be a secret and quiet improvement, and as it were passage to virtue. But if the change were so great and sudden that the worst man in the morning could become the best man at night, or should the change so happen that he went to bed vicious and woke up in the morning wise, and, having dismissed from his mind all yesterday’s follies and errors, should say,
“False dreams, away, you had no meaning then!”
who on earth could be ignorant of so great a change happening to himself, of virtue blazing forth so completely all at once? I myself am of opinion that anyone, like Caeneus, who, according, to his prayer, got changed from a woman into a man, would sooner be ignorant of the transformation, than that a man should become at once, from a cowardly and senseless person with no powers of self-control, brave and sensible and perfect master of himself, and should in a moment change from a brutish life to a divine without being aware of it.
ii. That was an excellent observation, Measure the stone by the mason’s rule, not the rule by the stone. But the Stoics, not applying dogmas to facts but facts to their own preconceived opinions, and forcing things to agree that do not by nature, have filled philosophy with many difficulties, the greatest of which is that all men but the perfect man are equally vicious, which has produced the enigma called progress, one little short of extreme folly, since it makes those who have not at once under its guidance given up all passions and disorders equally unfortunate as those who have not got rid of a single vile propensity.
v. Either precisely the same as this or very similar is Hesiod’s very ancient definition of progress in virtue, namely, that the road is no longer very steep or arduous, but easy and smooth and level, its roughness being toned down by exercise, and casting the bright light of philosophy on doubt and error and regrets, such as trouble those who give themselves to philosophy at the outset, like people who leave a land they know, and do not yet descry the land they are sailing to. For by abandoning the common and familiar, before they know and apprehend what is better, they frequently flounder about in the middle and are fain to return.
viii. Furthermore, take care, in reading the writings of philosophers or hearing their speeches, that you do not attend to words more than things, nor get attracted more by what is difficult and curious than by what is serviceable and solid and useful. And also, in studying poems or history, let nothing escape you of what is said to the point, which is likely either to correct the character or to calm the passions. For as Simonides says the bee hovers among the flowers “making the yellow honey,” while others value and pluck flowers only for their beauty and fragrance, so of all that read poems for pleasure and amusement he alone that finds and gathers what is valuable seems capable of knowledge from his acquaintance with and friendship for what is noble and good… So much does attention and assiduous practice make people perceptive and receptive of what contributes to virtue from any source.
ix. We must therefore see to it that our discourse be serviceable to ourselves, and that it may not appear to others to be vain-glorious or ambitious, and we must show that we are as willing to listen as to teach, and especially must we lay aside all disputatiousness and love of strife in controversy, and cease bandying fierce words with one another as if we were contending with one another at boxing, and leave off rejoicing more in smiting and knocking down one another than in learning and teaching. For in such cases moderation and mildness, and to commence arguing without quarrelsomeness and to finish without getting into a rage, and neither to be insolent if you come off best in the argument, nor dejected if you come off worst, is a sufficient sign of progress in virtue.
x. And not only ought each to see to his discourses but also to his actions whether he regards utility more than show, and truth more than display. For if a genuine love for youth or maiden seeks no witnesses, but is content to enjoy its delights privately, far more does it become the philosopher and lover of the beautiful, who is conversant with virtue through his actions, to pride himself on his silence, and not to need people to praise or listen to him… For as Æschylus says,
“I never can mistake the burning eye
Of the young woman that has once known man,”
so to the young man who has tasted of true progress in philosophy the following lines of Sappho are applicable, “My tongue cleaves to the roof of my month, and a fire courses all over my lean body,” and his eye will be gentle and mild, and you would desire to hear him speak. For as those who are initiated come together at first with confusion and noise and jostle one another, but when the mysteries are being performed and exhibited, they give their attention with awe and silence, so also at the commencement of philosophy you will see round its doors much confusion and assurance and prating, some rudely and violently jostling their way to reputation, but he who once enters in, and sees the great light, as when shrines are open to view, assumes another air and is silent and awe-struck, and in humility and decorum follows reason as if she were a god. And the playful remark of Menedemus seems to suit these very well. He said that the majority of those who went to school at Athens became first wise, and then philosophers, after that orators, and as time went on became ordinary kind of people, the more they had to do with learning, so much the more laying aside their pride and high estimate of themselves.
xi. Of people that need the help of the physician some, if their tooth ache or even finger smart, run at once to the doctor, others if they are feverish send for one and implore his assistance at their own home, others who are melancholy or crazy or delirious will not sometimes even see the doctor if he comes to their house, but drive him away, or avoid him, ignorant through their grievous disease that they are diseased at all. Similarly of those who have done what is wrong some are incorrigible, being hostile and indignant and furious at those who reprove and admonish them, while others are meeker and bear and allow reproof. Now, when one has done what is wrong, to offer oneself for reproof, to expose the case and reveal one’s wrongdoing, and not to rejoice if it lies hid, or be satisfied if it is not known, but to make confession of it and ask for interference and admonishment, is no small indication of progress in virtue. And so Diogenes said that one who wished to do what was right ought to seek either a good friend or red-hot enemy, that either by rebuke or mild entreaty he might flee from vice. But as long as anyone, making a display of dirt or stains on his clothes, or a torn shoe, prides himself to outsiders on his freedom from arrogance, and, by Zeus, thinks himself doing something very smart if he jeers at himself as a dwarf or hunchback, but wraps up and conceals as if they were ulcers the inner vileness of his soul and the deformities of his life, as his envy, his malignity, his littleness, his love of pleasure, and will not let anyone touch or look at them from fear of disgrace, such a one has made little progress in virtue, yea rather none. But he that joins issue with his vices, and shows that he himself is even more pained and grieved about them than anyone else, or, what is next best, is able and willing to listen patiently to the reproof of another and to correct his life accordingly, he seems truly to be disgusted at his depravity and resolute to divest himself of it. We ought certainly to be ashamed of and shun every appearance of vice, but he who is more put about by his vice itself than by the bad reputation that ensues upon it, will not mind either hearing it spoken against or even speaking against it himself if it make him a better man.
xii. Look also at the opinion of Zeno, who thought that everybody might gauge his progress in virtue by his dreams, if he saw himself in his dreams pleasing himself with nothing disgraceful, and neither doing nor wishing to do anything dreadful or unjust, but that, as in the clear depths of a calm and tranquil sea, his fancy and passions were plainly shown to be under the control of reason. And this had not escaped the notice of Plato, it seems, who had earlier expressed in form and outline the part that fancy and unreason played in sleep in the soul that was by nature tyrannical, “for it attempts incest,” he says, “with its mother, and procures for itself unlawful meats, and gives itself up to the most abandoned desires, such as in daytime the law through shame and fear debars people from.” As then beasts of burden that have been well-trained do not, even if their driver let go the reins, attempt to turn aside and leave the proper road, but go forward orderly as usual, pursuing their way without stumbling, so those whose unreason has become obedient and mild and tempered by reason, will not easily wish, either in dreams or in illnesses, to deal insolently or lawlessly through their desires, but will keep to their usual habits, which acquire their power and force by attention.
xiii. Now since entire freedom from the passions is a great and divine thing, and progress in virtue seems, as we say, to consist in a certain remissness and mildness of the passions, we must observe the passions both in themselves and in reference to one another to gauge the difference…
For as it is a good sign in diseases if they turn aside from vital parts of the body, so in the case of people who are making progress in virtue, when vice seems to shift to milder passions, it is a sign it will soon die out.
WHETHER VICE IS SUFFICIENT TO CAUSE UNHAPPINESS
ii. Vice has universally an ill effect on everybody, being in itself a sufficient producer of infelicity, needing no instruments nor ministers. For tyrants, anxious to make those whom they punish wretched, keep executioners and torturers, and contrive branding-irons and other instruments of torture to inspire fear in the brute soul, whereas vice attacks the soul without any such apparatus, and crushes and dejects it, and fills a man with sorrow, and lamentation, and melancholy, and remorse. Here is a proof of what I say. Many are silent under mutilation, and endure scourging or torture at the hand of despots or tyrants without uttering a word, whenever their soul, abating the pain by reason, forcibly as it were checks and represses them: but you can never quiet anger or smother grief, or persuade a timid person not to run away, or one suffering from remorse not to cry out, nor tear his hair, nor smite his thigh. Thus vice is stronger than fire and sword.
WHETHER THE DISORDERS OF MIND OR BODY ARE WORSE
And if diseases are detected in the body by the pulse and by pallors and flushes, and are indicated by heats and sudden pains, while the diseases of the mind, bad as they are, escape the notice of most people, the latter are worse because they deprive the sufferer of the perception of them. For reason if it be sound perceives the diseases of the body, but he that is diseased in his mind cannot judge of his sufferings, for he suffers in the very seat of judgement. We ought to account therefore the first and greatest of the diseases of the mind that ignorance, whereby vice is incurable for most people, dwelling with them and living and dying with them. For the beginning of getting rid of disease is the perception of it, which leads the sufferer to the necessary relief, but he who through not believing he is ill knows not what he requires refuses the remedy even when it is close at hand.
For neither those who are out of their minds, nor the licentious, nor the unjust think themselves faulty—some even think themselves perfect. For no one ever yet called a fever health, or consumption a good condition of body, or gout swift-footedness, or paleness a good colour; but many call anger manliness, and love friendship, and envy competition, and cowardice prudence. Then again those that are ill in body send for doctors, for they are conscious of what they need to counteract their ailments; but those who are ill in mind avoid philosophers, for they think themselves excellent in the very matters in which they come short…Again he who is ill in body straightway gives up and goes to bed and remains there quietly till he is well, and if he toss and tumble about a little when the fit is on him, any of the people who are by saying to him,
“Gently, Stay in the bed, poor wretch, and take your ease,”
restrain him and check him. But those who suffer from a diseased brain are then most active and least at rest, for impulses bring about action, and the passions are vehement impulses. And so they do not let the mind rest, but when the man most requires quiet and silence and retirement, then is he dragged into the open air, and becomes the victim of anger, contentiousness, lust, and grief, and is compelled to do and say many lawless things unsuitable to the occasion.
iv. As therefore the storm which prevents one’s putting into harbour is more dangerous than the storm which will not let one sail, so those storms of the soul are more formidable which do not allow a man to take in sail, or to calm his reason when it is disturbed, but without a pilot and without ballast, in perplexity and uncertainty through contrary and confusing courses, he rushes headlong and falls into woeful shipwreck, and shatters his life. So that from these points of view it is worse to be diseased in mind than body, for the latter only suffer, but the former do ill as well as suffer ill. But why need I speak of our various passions? The very times bring them to our mind.
ON ABUNDANCE OF FRIENDS
iv. We ought not, therefore, lightly to welcome or strike up an intimate friendship with any chance comers, or love those who attach themselves to us, but attach ourselves to those who are worthy of our friendship. For what is easily got is not always desirable: and we pass over and trample upon heather and brambles that stick to us on our road to the olive and vine: so also is it good not always to make a friend of the person who is expert in twining himself around us, but after testing them to attach ourselves to those who are worthy of our affection and likely to be serviceable to us.
vi. Moreover, if all our friends want to do the same things at the same time, it will be difficult to satisfy them all…
And as the natural philosophers say of unformed and colourless matter when subjected to external change, that it is now fire, now water, now air, now solid earth, so the soul suitable for many friendships must be impressionable, and versatile, and pliant, and changeable. But friendship requires a steady constant and unchangeable character, a person that is uniform in his intimacy. And so a constant friend is a thing rare and hard to find.
HOW ONE MAY DISCERN A FLATTERER FROM A FRIEND
i. Plato says, Antiochus Philopappus, that all men pardon the man who acknowledges that he is excessively fond of himself, but that there is among many other defects this very grave one in self-love, that by it a man becomes incapable of being a just and impartial judge about himself, for love is blind in regard to the loved object, unless a person has learnt and accustomed himself to honour and pursue what is noble rather than his own selfish interests. This gives a great field for the flatterer in friendship, who finds a wonderful base of operations in our self-love, which makes each person his own first and greatest flatterer, and easily admits a flatterer from without, who will be, so he thinks and hopes, both a witness and confirmer of his good opinion of himself. For he that lies open to the reproach of being fond of flatterers is very fond of himself, and owing to his goodwill to himself wishes to possess all good qualities, and thinks he actually does; the wish is not ridiculous, but the thought is misleading and requires a good deal of caution. And if truth is a divine thing, and, according to Plato, the beginning of all good things both to the gods and men, the flatterer is likely to be an enemy to the gods, and especially to Apollo, for he always sets himself against that famous saying, “Know thyself,” implanting in everybody’s mind self-deceit and ignorance of his own good or bad qualities, thus making his good points defective and imperfect, and his bad points altogether incorrigible.
vi. Let us examine the matter then from the beginning. I said that friendship originated in most cases from a similar disposition and nature, generally inclined to the same habits and morals, and rejoicing in the same pursuits, studies, and amusements, as the following lines testify: “To old man the voice of old man is sweetest, to boy that of boy, to woman is most acceptable that of woman, to the sick person that of sick person, while he that is overtaken by misfortune is a comforter to one in trouble.”
But the flatterer having no fixed character of his own, and not seeking to lead the life suitable for him, but shaping and modelling himself after another’s pattern, is neither simple nor uniform, but complex and unstable, assuming different appearances, like water poured from vessel to vessel, ever in a state of flux and accommodating himself entirely to the fashion of those who entertain him.
xvi. Now some cannot bear to hear the assertion of the Stoics that the wise man is at once rich, and handsome, and noble, and a king…
xix. These are indeed trifling matters: but the following are more important and do mischief to foolish people, when flatterers accuse them of the very contrary vices and passions to those to which they are really addicted…
xx. Now one kind of caution against his snares is to know and ever remember that, whereas the soul contains true and noble and reasoning elements, as also unreasoning and false and emotional ones, the friend is always a counsellor and adviser to the better instincts of the soul, as the physician improves and maintains health, whereas the flatterer works upon the emotional and unreasoning ones, and tickles and titillates them and seduces them from reason, employing sensuality as his bait. As then there are some kinds of food which neither benefit the blood or spirit, nor brace up the nerves and marrow, but stir the passions, excite the lower nature, and make the flesh unsound and rotten, so the language of the flatterer adds nothing to soberness and reason, but encourages some love passion, or stirs up foolish rage, or incites to envy, or produces the empty and burdensome vanity of pride, or joins in bewailing woes, or ever by his calumnies and hints makes malignity and illiberality and suspicion sharp and timid and jealous, and cannot fail to be detected by those that closely observe him. For he is ever anchoring himself upon some passion, and fattening it, and, like a bubo, fastens himself on some unsound and inflamed parts of the soul. Are you angry? Have your revenge, says he. Do you desire anything? Get it. Are you afraid? Let us flee. Do you suspect? Entertain no doubts about it. But if he is difficult to detect in thus playing upon our passions, since they often overthrow reason by their intensity and strength, he will give a handle to find him out in smaller matters, being consistent in them too.
So great is the power of flattery, and nowhere greater, as it seems, than among the greatest people. For their thinking and wishing the best about themselves makes them credit the flatterer, and gives him courage. For lofty heights are difficult of approach and hard to reach for those who endeavour to scale them, but the highmindedness and conceit of a person thrown off his balance by good fortune or good natural parts is easily reached by mean and petty people.
xxv. And so we advised at the beginning of this discourse, and now advise again, to cut off self-love and too high an opinion of ourselves; for that flatters us first, and makes us more impressionable and prepared for external flatterers. But if we hearken to the god, and recognize the immense importance to everyone of that saying, “Know thyself,” and at the same time carefully observe our nature and education and training, with its thousand shortcomings in respect to good, and the large proportion of vice and vanity mixed up with our words and deeds and feelings, we shall not make ourselves so easy a mark for flatterers. So we, if we observe the blots, blemishes, shortcomings, and imperfections of our private selves, shall perceive clearly that we do not need a friend who shall bestow upon us praise and panegyric, but one that will reprove us, and speak plainly to us, aye, by Zeus, and censure us if we have done amiss. For it is only a few out of many that venture to speak plainly to their friends rather than gratify them…
HOW A MAN MAY BE BENEFITED BY HIS ENEMIES
ii. People in old times were well satisfied if they were not injured by strange and wild beasts, and that was the only motive of their fights with them, but those of later days have by now learnt to make use of them, for they feed on their flesh, and clothe themselves with their wool, and make medical use of their gall and beestings, and turn their hides into shields, so that we might reasonably fear, if beasts failed man, that his life would become brutish, and wild, and void of resources. Similarly since all others are satisfied with not being injured by their enemies, but the sensible will also (as Xenophon says) get profit out of them, we must not be incredulous, but seek a method and plan how to obtain this advantage, seeing that life without an enemy is impossible. The husbandman cannot cultivate every tree, nor can the hunter tame every kind of animal, so both seek means to derive profit according to their several necessities, the one from his barren trees, the other from his wild animals.
§ iv. Consider also that very philosophical and witty answer of Diogenes to the man who asked, “How shall I avenge myself on my enemy?” “By becoming a good and honest man.” Some people are terribly put about if they see their enemies’ horses in a good condition, or hear their dogs praised; if they see their farm well-tilled, their garden well-kept, they groan aloud. What a state think you then they would be in, if you were to exhibit yourself as a just man, sensible and good, in words excellent, in deeds pure, in manner of life decorous, “reaping fruit from the deep soil of the soul, where good counsels grow.” indar says “those that are conquered are reduced to complete silence:” but not absolutely, not all men, only those that see they are outdone by their enemies in industry, in goodness, in magnanimity, in humanity, in kindnesses; these, as Demosthenes says, “stop the tongue, block up the mouth, choke people, and make them silent.”
“Be better than the bad: ’tis in your power.”
If you wish to vex the man who hates you, do not abuse him by calling him a pathick, or effeminate, or intemperate, or a low fellow, or illiberal; but be yourself a man, and temperate, and truthful, and kind and just in all your dealings with those you come across. But if you are tempted to use abuse, mind that you yourself are very far from what you abuse him for, dive down into your own soul, look for any rottenness in yourself, lest someone suggest to you the line of the tragedian,
“You doctor others, all diseased yourself.”
If you say your enemy is uneducated, increase your own love of learning and industry; if you call him coward, stir up the more your own spirit and manliness; and if you say he is wanton and licentious, erase from your own soul any secret trace of the love of pleasure. For nothing is more disgraceful or more unpleasant than slander that recoils on the person who sets it in motion; for as the reflection of light seems most to injure weak eyes, so does censure when it recoils on the censurer, and is borne out by the facts. For as the north-east wind attracts clouds, so does a bad life draw upon itself rebukes.
Not more dignified and noble than this is it to keep silent when an enemy reviles you, “as one swims by a smooth and mocking cliff,” but in practice it is better. If you accustom yourself to bear silently the abuse of an enemy, you will very easily bear the attack of a scolding wife, and will remain undisturbed when you hear the sharp language of a friend or brother, and will be calm and placid when you are beaten or have something thrown at your head by your father or mother. For Socrates put up with Xanthippe, a passionate and forward woman, which made him a more easy companion with others, as being accustomed to submit to her caprices; and it is far better to train and accustom the temper to bear quietly the insults and rages and jeers and taunts of enemies and estranged persons, and not to be distressed at it.
i. Philosophy finds talkativeness a disease very difficult and hard to cure. For its remedy, conversation, requires hearers: but talkative people hear nobody, for they are ever prating. And the first evil this inability to keep silence produces is an inability to listen. It is a self-chosen deafness of people who, I take it, blame nature for giving us one tongue and two ears. If then the following advice of Euripides to a foolish hearer was good,
“I cannot fill one that can nought retain,
Pumping up wise words for an unwise man;”
one might more justly say to a talkative man, or rather about a talkative man,
“I cannot fill one that will nothing take,
Pumping up wise words for an unwise man;”
or rather deluging with words one that talks to those who don’t listen, and listens not to those who talk. Even if he does listen for a short time, talkativeness hurries off what is said like the retiring sea, and anon brings it up again multiplied with the approaching tide. The portico at Olympia that returns many echoes to one utterance is called seven-voiced, and if the slightest utterance catches the ear of talkativeness, it at once echoes it all round,
“Moving the mind’s chords all unmoved before.”
For their ears can certainly have no passages leading to the brain but only to the tongue. And so while other people retain what they hear, talkative people lose it altogether, and, being empty-headed, they resemble empty vessels, and go about making much noise.
§ ii. If however it seems that no attempt at cure has been left untried, let us say to the talkative person,
“Be silent, boy; silence has great advantages;”
two of the first and foremost of which are hearing and being heard, neither of which can happen to talkative people, for however they desire either so unhappy are they that they must desist from it. For in all other diseases of the soul, as love of money, love of glory, or love of pleasure, people at any rate attain the desired object: but it is the cruel fate of talkative people to desire hearers but not to get them…
§ viii. Zeno the philosopher, that he might not against his will divulge any secrets when put to the torture, bit off his tongue, and spit it at the tyrant. Famous also was the reward which Leæna had for her taciturnity. She was the mistress of Harmodius and Aristogiton, and, although a woman, participated in their hopes of success in the conspiracy against the tyrants: for she had revelled in the glorious cup of love, and had been initiated in their secrets through the god. When then they had failed in their attempt and been put to death, and she was examined and bidden to reveal the names of the other conspirators, she refused to do so, and held out to the end, showing that those famous men in loving such a one as her had done nothing unworthy of them. And the Athenians erected to her memory a bronze lioness without a tongue, and placed it near the entrance to the Acropolis, signifying her dauntless courage by the nobleness of that animal, and by its being without a tongue her silence and fidelity. For no spoken word has done as much good as many unspoken ones. For at some future day we can give utterance if we like to what has been not said, but a word once spoken cannot be recalled, but flies about and runs all round the world. And this is the reason, I take it, why men teach us to speak, but the gods teach us to be silent, silence being enjoined on us in the mysteries and in all religious rites. Thus Homer has described the most eloquent Odysseus, and Telemachus, and Penelope, and the nurse, as all remarkable for their taciturnity. You remember the nurse saying,
“I’ll keep it close as heart of oak or steel.”
And Odysseus sitting by Penelope,
“Though in his heart he pitied her sad grief,
His eyes like horn or steel impassive stood
Within their lids, and craft his tears repressed.”
So great control had he over all his body, and so much were all his members under the sway and rule of reason, that he commanded his eyes not to weep, his tongue not to speak, and his heart not to tremble or quake.
“So calm and passive did his heart remain,”
reason penetrating even to the irrational instincts, and making spirit and blood obedient and docile to it.
ix. So Ino in Euripides, speaking plainly about herself, says she knows “how to be silent when she should, and to speak when speech is safe.” For those who have enjoyed a truly noble and royal education learn first to be silent and then to speak.
x. But, generally speaking, who has the right to blame the person who has not kept his secret? For if it was not to be known, it was not well to tell another person of it at all, and if you divulged your secret yourself and expected another person to keep it, you had more faith in another than in yourself. And so should he be such another as yourself you are deservedly undone, and should he be a better man than yourself, your safety is more than you could have reckoned on, as it involved finding a man more to be trusted than yourself.
xvi. But all this must not be looked upon merely as an indictment against talkativeness, but an attempt to cure it: for we overcome the passions by judgement and practice, but judgement is the first step. For no one is wont to shun, and eradicate from his soul, what he does not dislike.
And withal it will be well, when we are going to say something, and the words are on our lips, to reflect and consider, “What is this word that is so eager for utterance? To what is this tongue marching? What good will come of speaking now, or what harm of silence?” For we ought not to drop words as we should a burden that pressed upon us, for the word remains still after it has been spoken just the same; but men speak either on their own behalf if they want something, or to benefit those that hear them, or, to gratify one another, they season everyday life with speech, as one seasons food with salt. But if words are neither useful to the speaker, nor necessary for the hearer, nor contain any pleasure or charm, why are they spoken? For words may be idle and useless as well as deeds.
i. Some of the things that grow on the earth are in their nature wild and barren and injurious to the growth of seeds and plants, yet those who till the ground consider them indications not of a bad soil but of a rich and fat one; so also there are passions of the soul that are not good, yet are as it were offshoots of a good disposition, and one likely to improve with good advice. Among these I class shyness, no bad sign in itself, though it affords occasion to vice. For the modest oftentimes plunge into the same excesses as the shameless, but then they are pained and grieved at them, and not pleased like the others. For the shameless person is quite apathetic at what is disgraceful, while the modest person is easily affected even at the very appearance of it. Shyness is in fact an excess of modesty. And thus it is called shamefacedness, because the face exhibits the changes of the mind. For as dejection is defined to be the grief that makes people look on the ground, so shamefacedness is that shyness that cannot look people in the face. And so the orator said the shameless person had not pupils in his eyes but harlots.
xviii. Such weakness of mind is like a temperament of body equally susceptible to heat and cold; for if such people are praised by those that importune them they are overcome and yield at once, whereas they are mortally afraid of the blame and suspicions of those whose desires they do not comply with. But we ought to be stout and resolute in either case, neither yielding to bullying nor cajolery.
ON RESTRAINING ANGER
i. Sylla. Those painters, Fundanus, seem to me to do well who, before giving the finishing touches to their paintings, lay them by for a time and then revise them; because by taking their eyes off them for a time they gain by frequent inspection a new insight, and are more apt to detect minute differences, that continuous familiarity would have hidden. Now since a human being cannot so separate himself from himself for a time, and make a break in his continuity, and then approach himself again—and that is perhaps the chief reason why a man is a worse judge of himself than of others—the next best thing will be for a man to inspect his friends after an interval, and likewise offer himself to their scrutiny, not to see whether he has aged quickly, or whether his bodily condition is better or worse, but to examine his moral character, and see whether time has added any good quality, or removed any bad one.
But anger on the contrary is much more fanned by what angry persons do and say. It is best therefore to be calm, or to flee and hide ourselves and go to a haven of quiet, when we feel the fit of temper coming upon us as an epileptic fit, that we fall not, or rather fall not on others, for it is our friends that we fall upon most and most frequently. For we do not love all, nor envy all, nor fear all men; but nothing is untouched or unassailed by anger; for we are angry with friends and enemies, parents and children, aye, and with the gods, and beasts, and even things inanimate….
They say that the sea is cleansed when agitated by the winds it throws up tangle and seaweed; but the intemperate and bitter and vain words, which the mind throws up when the soul is agitated, defile the speakers of them first of all and fill them with infamy, as always having those thoughts within their bosom and being defiled with them, but only giving vent to them in anger.
vii. Seeing and observing all this, it occurs to me to take it as a matter of fact, and record it for my own general use, that if it is good to keep the tongue soft and smooth in a fever, it is better to keep it so in anger. For if the tongue of people in a fever be unnatural, it is a bad sign, but not the cause of their malady; but the tongue of angry people, being rough and foul, and breaking out into unseemly speeches, produces insults that work irremediable mischief, and argue deep-rooted malevolence within. For wine drunk neat does not exhibit the soul in so ungovernable and hateful a condition as temper does: for the outbreaks of the one smack of laughter and fun, while those of the other are compounded with gall: and at a drinking-bout he that is silent is burdensome to the company and tiresome, whereas in anger nothing is more highly thought of than silence, as Sappho advises,
“When anger’s busy in the brain
Thy idly-barking tongue restrain.”
viii. And not only does the consideration of all this naturally arise from observing ourselves in the moments of anger, but we cannot help seeing also the other properties of rage, how ignoble it is, how unmanly, how devoid of dignity and greatness of mind! And yet to most people its noise seems vigour, its threatening confidence, and its obstinacy force of character; some even not wisely entitle its savageness magnanimity, and its implacability firmness, and its morosity hatred of what is bad.
Good temper on the other hand is useful in some circumstances, adorns and sweetens others, and gets the better of all peevishness and anger by its gentleness.
ON CONTENTEDNESS OF MIND
But just as people on the sea, timid and prone to sea-sickness, think they will suffer from it less on board a merchantman than on a boat, and for the same reason shift their quarters to a trireme, but do not attain anything by these changes, for they take with them their timidity and qualmishness, so changes of life do not remove the sorrows and troubles of the soul; which proceed from want of experience and reflection, and from inability or ignorance rightly to enjoy the present.
v. Plato compared human life to a game at dice, wherein we ought to throw according to our requirements, and, having thrown, to make the best use of whatever turns up. It is not in our power indeed to determine what the throw will be, but it is our part, if we are wise, to accept in a right spirit whatever fortune sends, and so to contrive matters that what we wish should do us most good, and what we do not wish should do us least harm. For those who live at random and without judgement, like those sickly people who can stand neither heat nor cold, are unduly elated by prosperity, and cast down by adversity; and in either case suffer from unrest, but ’tis their own fault, and perhaps they suffer most in what are called good circumstances.
So we should not overlook, but take account of everyday blessings, and rejoice that we live, and are well, and see the sun, and that no war or sedition plagues our country, but that the earth is open to cultivation, the sea secure to mariners, and that we can speak or be silent, lead a busy or an idle life, as we choose. We shall get more contentedness from the presence of all these blessings, if we fancy them as absent, and remember from time to time how people ill yearn for health, and people in war for peace, and strangers and unknown in a great city for reputation and friends, and how painful it is to be deprived of all these when one has once had them. For then each of these blessings will not appear to us only great and valuable when it is lost, and of no value while we have it. For not having it cannot add value to anything. Nor ought we to amass things we regard as valuable, and always be on the tremble and afraid of losing them as valuable things, and yet, when we have them, ignore them and think little of them; but we ought to use them for our pleasure and enjoyment, that we may bear their loss, if that should happen, with more equanimity. But most people, as Arcesilaus said, think it right to inspect minutely and in every detail, perusing them alike with the eyes of the body and mind, other people’s poems and paintings and statues, while they neglect to study their own lives, which have often many not unpleasing subjects for contemplation, looking abroad and ever admiring other people’s reputations and fortunes, as adulterers admire other men’s wives, and think cheap of their own.
Furthermore, we see that nature teaches us the same lesson. For as she provides different kinds of beasts with different kinds of food, and has not made all carnivorous, or seed-pickers, or root-diggers, so she has given to mankind various means of getting a livelihood, “one by keeping sheep, another by ploughing, another by fowling,” and another by catching the fish of the sea. We ought each therefore to select the calling appropriate for ourselves and labour energetically in it, and leave other people to theirs, and not demonstrate Hesiod as coming short of the real state of things when he said,
“Potter is wroth with potter, smith with smith.”
§ xiv. But that every man has in himself the magazines of content or discontent, and that the jars containing blessings and evils are not on the threshold of Zeus, but lie stored in the mind, is plain from the differences of men’s passions. For the foolish overlook and neglect present blessings, through their thoughts being ever intent on the future; but the wise make the past clearly present to them through memory. For the present giving only a moment of time to the touch, and then evading our grasp, does not seem to the foolish to be ours or to belong to us at all.
§ xv. This is one great hindrance to contentedness of mind, and another still greater is whenever, like flies that slide down smooth places in mirrors, but stick fast in rough places or where there are cracks, men let pleasant and agreeable things glide from their memory, and pin themselves down to the remembrance of unpleasant things; or rather, as at Olynthus they say beetles, when they get into a certain place called Destruction-to-beetles, cannot get out, but fly round and round till they die, so men will glide into the remembrance of their woes, and will not give themselves a respite from sorrow. But, as we use our brightest colours in a picture, so in the mind we ought to look at the cheerful and bright side of things, and hide and keep down the gloomy, for we cannot altogether obliterate or get rid of it. For, as the strings of the bow and lyre are alternately tightened and relaxed, so is it with the order of the world; in human affairs there is nothing pure and without alloy. But as in music there are high and low notes, and in grammar vowels and mutes, but neither the musician nor grammarian decline to use either kinds, but know how to blend and employ them both for their purpose, so in human affairs which are balanced one against another,—for, as Euripides says,
“There is no good without ill in the world, But everything is mixed in due proportion,”—
we ought not to be disheartened or despondent; but as musicians drown their worst music with the best, so should we take good and bad together, and make our chequered life one of convenience and harmony. For it is not, as Menander says,
“Directly any man is born, a genius Befriends him, a good guide to him for life,”
but it is rather, as Empedocles states, two fates or genii take hold of each of us when we are born and govern us. “There were Chthonia and far-seeing Heliope, and cruel Deris, and grave Harmonia, and Callisto, and Æschra, and Thoosa, and Denæa, and charming Nemertes, and Asaphea with the black fruit.”
§ xvi. And as at our birth we received the mingled seeds of each of these passions, which is the cause of much irregularity, the sensible person hopes for better things, but expects worse, and makes the most of either, remembering that wise maxim, Not too much of anything. For not only will he who is least solicitous about to-morrow best enjoy it when it comes, as Epicurus says, but also wealth, and renown, and power and rule, gladden most of all the hearts of those who are least afraid of the contrary. For the immoderate desire for each, implanting a most immoderate fear of losing them, makes the enjoyment of them weak and wavering, like a flame under the influence of a wind. But he whom reason enables to say to fortune without fear or trembling,
“If you bring any good I gladly welcome it, But if you fail me little does it trouble me,”
he can enjoy the present with most zest through his confidence, and absence of fear of the loss of what he has, which would be unbearable.
So that we ought not altogether to abase and lower nature, as if she had no strength or stability against fortune; but on the contrary, knowing that the rotten and perishable part of man, wherein alone he lies open to fortune, is small, while we ourselves are masters of the better part, wherein are situated our greatest blessings, as good opinions and teaching and virtuous precepts, all which things cannot be abstracted from us or perish, we ought to look on the future with invincible courage, and say to fortune, as Socrates is supposed to have said to his accusers Anytus and Melitus before the jury, “Anytus and Melitus can kill me, but they cannot hurt me.” For fortune can afflict us with disease, take away our money, calumniate us to the people or king, but cannot make a good and brave and high-souled man bad and cowardly and low and ignoble and envious, nor take away that disposition of mind, whose constant presence is of more use for the conduct of life than the presence of a pilot at sea. For the pilot cannot make calm the wild wave or wind, nor can he find a haven at his need wherever he wishes, nor can he await his fate with confidence and without trembling, but as long as he has not despaired, but uses his skill, he scuds before the gale, “lowering his big sail, till his lower mast is only just above the sea dark as Erebus,” and sits at the helm trembling and quaking. But the disposition of a wise man gives calm even to the body, mostly cutting off the causes of diseases by temperance and plain living and moderate exercise; but if some beginning of trouble arise from without, as we avoid a sunken rock, so he passes by it with furled sail, as Asclepiades puts it; but if some unexpected and tremendous gale come upon him and prove too much for him, the harbour is at hand, and he can swim away from the body, as from a leaky boat.
xviii. For it is the fear of death, and not the desire of life, that makes the foolish person to hang to the body, clinging to it, as Odysseus did to the fig-tree from fear of Charybdis that lay below,
“Where the wind neither let him stay, or sail,”
so that he was displeased at this, and afraid of that. But he who understands somehow or other the nature of the soul, and reflects that the change it will undergo at death will be either to something better or at least not worse, he has in his fearlessness of death no small help to ease of mind in life. For to one who can enjoy life when virtue and what is congenial to him have the upper hand, and that can fearlessly depart from life, when uncongenial and unnatural things are in the ascendant, with the words on his lips,
“The deity shall free me, when I will,”
what can we imagine could befall such a man as this that would vex him and wear him and harass him? For he who said, “I have anticipated you, O fortune, and cut off all your loopholes to get at me,” did not trust to bolts or keys or walls, but to determination and reason, which are within the power of all persons that choose. And we ought not to despair or disbelieve any of these sayings, but admiring them and emulating them and being enthusiastic about them, we ought to try and test ourselves in smaller matters with a view to greater, not avoiding or rejecting that self-examination, nor sheltering ourselves under the remark, “Perhaps nothing will be more difficult.” For inertia and softness are generated by that self-indulgence which ever occupies itself only with the easiest tasks, and flees from the disagreeable to what is most pleasant. But the soul that accustoms itself to face steadily sickness and grief and exile, and calls in reason to its help in each case, will find in what appears so sore and dreadful much that is false, empty, and rotten, as reason will show in each case.
xix. And yet many shudder at that line of Menander,
“No one can say, I shall not suffer this or that,”
being ignorant how much it helps us to freedom from grief to practise to be able to look fortune in the face with our eyes open, and not to entertain fine and soft fancies, like one reared in the shade on many hopes that always yield and never resist. We can, however, answer Menander’s line,
“No one can say, I shall not suffer this or that,”
for a man can say, “I will not do this or that, I will not lie, I will not play the rogue, I will not cheat, I will not scheme.” For this is in our power, and is no small but great help to ease of mind. As on the contrary
“The consciousness of having done ill deeds,”
like a sore in the flesh, leaves in the mind a regret which ever wounds it and pricks it. For reason banishes all other griefs, but itself creates regret when the soul is vexed with shame and self-tormented. For as those who shudder in ague-fits or burn in fevers feel more trouble and distress than those who externally suffer the same from cold or heat, so the grief is lighter which comes externally from chance, but that lament,
“None is to blame for this but I myself,”
coming from within on one’s own misdeeds, intensifies one’s bitterness by the shame felt. And so neither costly house, nor quantity of gold, nor pride of race, nor weighty office, nor grace of language, nor eloquence, impart so much calm and serenity to life, as a soul pure from evil acts and desires, having an imperturbable and undefiled character as the source of its life…
ON ENVY AND HATRED
i. Outwardly there seems no difference between hatred and envy, but they seem identical. For generally speaking, as vice has many hooks, and is swayed hither and thither by the passions that hang on it, there are many points of contact and entanglement between them, for as in the case of illnesses there is a sympathy between the various passions. Thus the prosperous man is equally a source of pain to hate and envy. And so we think benevolence the opposite of both these passions, being as it is a wish for our neighbour’s good, and we think hate and envy identical, for the desire of both is the very opposite of benevolence. But since their similarities are not so great as their dissimilarities, let us investigate and trace out these two passions from their origin.
ii. Hatred then is generated by the fancy that the person hated is either bad generally or bad to oneself. For those who think they are wronged naturally hate those who they think wrong them, and dislike and are on their guard against those who are injurious or bad to others; but people envy merely those they think prosperous. So envy seems illimitable, being, like ophthalmia, troubled at everything bright….
viii. Let us now look at the intent of each of these passions. The intent of the person who hates is to do as much harm as he can, so they define hatred to be a disposition and intent on the watch for an opportunity to do harm.
ON THOSE WHO ARE PUNISHED BY THE DEITY LATE
For indeed it is not fitting that the deity should be slow in anything, and least of all in the punishment of the wicked, seeing that they are not slow or sluggish in doing evil, but are hurried by their passions into crime at headlong speed.
he cantharis is said to have in itself the antidote to its own sting, but wickedness, creating its own pain and torment, pays the penalty of its misdeeds not afterwards but at the time of its ill-doing. And as every malefactor about to pay the penalty of his crime in his person bears his cross, so vice fabricates for itself each of its own torments, being the terrible author of its own misery in life, wherein in addition to shame it has frequent fears and fierce passions and endless remorse and anxiety.
WHETHER “LIVE UNKNOWN” BE A WISE PRECEPT.
i. He who uttered this precept certainly did not wish to live unknown, for he uttered it to let all the world know he was a superior thinker, and to get to himself unjust glory by exhorting others to shun glory.
“I hate the wise man for himself not wise.”
i. They say those discourses, like friends, are best and surest that come to our refuge and aid in adversity, and are useful. For many who come forward do more harm than good in the remarks they make to the unfortunate, as people unable to swim trying to rescue the drowning get entangled with them and sink to the bottom together. Now the discourse that ought to come from friends and people disposed to be helpful should be consolation, and not mere assent with a man’s sad feelings. For we do not in adverse circumstances need people to weep and wail with us like choruses in a tragedy, but people to speak plainly to us and instruct us, that grief and dejection of mind are in all cases useless and idle and senseless; and that where the circumstances themselves, when examined by the light of reason, enable a man to say to himself that his trouble is greater in fancy than in reality, it is quite ridiculous not to inquire of the body what it has suffered, nor of the mind if it is any the worse for what has happened, but to employ external sympathizers to teach us what our grief is.
ii. Therefore let us examine alone by ourselves the weight of our misfortunes, as if they were burdens. For the body is weighed down by the burden of what presses on it, but the soul often adds to the real load a burden of its own. A stone is naturally hard, and ice naturally cold, but they do not receive these properties and impressions from without; whereas with regard to exile and loss of reputation or honours, as also with regard to their opposites, as crowns and office and position, it is not their own intrinsic nature but our opinion of them that is the gauge of their real joy or sorrow, so that each person makes them for himself light or heavy, easy to bear or hard to bear. When Polynices was asked
“What is’t to be an exile? Is it grievous?”
he replied to the question,
“Most grievous, and in deed worse than in word.”
iv. As then he in the comedy that was exhorting an unfortunate friend to take courage and bear up against fortune, when he asked him “how,” answered “as a philosopher,” so may we also play the philosopher’s part and bear up against fortune manfully. How do we do when it rains, or when the North Wind doth blow? We go to the fire, or the baths, or the house, or put on another coat: we don’t sit down in the rain and cry.
For first of all, not to say out all one thinks is not the action of a slave but of a sensible man, in times and matters that require reticence and silence, as Euripides himself has said elsewhere better,
“Be silent where ’tis meet, speak where ’tis safe.”
Then as for the follies of one’s masters, one has to put up with them just as much in one’s own country as in exile.
i. “Fortune, not wisdom, rules the affairs of mortals.” And does not justice, and fairness, and sobriety, and decorum rule the affairs of mortals? Was it of fortune or owing to fortune that Aristides persevered in his poverty, when he might have been lord of much wealth? And that Scipio after taking Carthage neither saw nor received any of the spoil? Was it of fortune or owing to fortune that Philocrates spent on harlots and fish the money he had received from Philip? And that Lasthenes and Euthycrates lost Olynthus, measuring happiness by their belly and lusts? Was it of fortune that Alexander the son of Philip not only himself abstained from the captive women, but punished others that outraged them? Was it under the influence of an evil genius and fortune that Alexander, the son of Priam, intrigued with the wife of his host and ran away with her, and filled two continents with war and evils? For if all these things are due to fortune, what hinders our saying that cats and goats and apes are under the influence of fortune in respect of greediness, and lust, and ribaldry?
ii. And if there are such things as sobriety and justice and fortitude, with what reason can we deny the existence of prudence, and if prudence exists, how can we deny the existence of wisdom? For sobriety is a kind of prudence, as people say, and justice also needs the presence of prudence. Nay more, we call the wisdom and prudence that makes people good in regard to pleasure self-control and sobriety, and in dangers and hardships endurance and fortitude, and in dealings between man and man and in public life equity and justice. And so, if we are to ascribe to fortune the acts of wisdom, let us ascribe justice and sobriety to fortune also, aye, and let us put down to fortune stealing, and picking pockets, and lewdness, and let us bid farewell to argument, and throw ourselves entirely on fortune, as if we were, like dust or refuse, borne along and hurried away by a violent wind. For if there be no wisdom, it is not likely that there is any deliberation or investigation of matters, or search for expediency, but Sophocles only talked nonsense when he said,
“Whate’er is sought is found, what is neglected Escapes our notice;”
and again in dividing human affairs,
“What can be taught I learn, what can be found out Duly investigate, and of the gods I ask for what is to be got by prayer.”
For what can be found out or learnt by men, if everything is due to fortune? And what deliberative assembly of a state is not annulled, what council of a king is not abrogated, if all things are subject to fortune? whom we abuse as blind because we ourselves are blind in our dealings with her. Indeed, how can it be otherwise, seeing that we repudiate wisdom, which is like plucking out our eyes, and take a blind guide of our lives?
iii. Supposing any of us were to assert that seeing is a matter of fortune, not of eyesight, nor of the eyes that give light, as Plato says, and that hearing is a matter of fortune, and not the imbibing of a current of air through the ear and brain, it would be well for us then to be on our guard against the evidence of our senses. But indeed nature has given us sight and hearing and taste and smell, and all other parts of the body and their functions, as ministers of wisdom and prudence. For “it is the mind that sees, and the mind that hears, everything else is deaf and blind.” And just as, if there were no sun, we should have perpetual night for all the stars, as Heraclitus says, so man for all his senses, if he had no mind or reason, would be little better than the beasts. But as it is, it is not by fortune or chance that we are superior to them and masters of them, but Prometheus, that is reason, is the cause of this,
“Presenting us with bulls, horses, and asses, To ease us of our toil, and serve instead,”
as Æschylus says. For as to fortune and natural condition, most of the beasts are better off than we are. For some are armed with horns and tusks and stings, and as for the hedgehog, as Empedocles says, it has its back all rough with sharp bristles, and some are shod and protected by scales and fur and talons and hoofs worn smooth by use, whereas man alone, as Plato says, is left by nature naked, unarmed, unshod, and uncovered. But by one gift, that of reason and painstaking and forethought, nature compensates for all these deficiencies. “Small indeed is the strength of man, but by the versatility of his intellect he can tame the inhabitants of the sea, earth, and air.” Nothing is more agile and swift than horses, yet they run for man; the dog is a courageous and high-spirited creature, yet it guards man; fish is most pleasant to the taste, the pig the fattest of all animals, yet both are food and delicacies for man. What is huger or more formidable in appearance than the elephant? Yet it is man’s plaything, and a spectacle at public shows, and learns to dance and kneel. And all these things are not idly introduced, but to the end that they may teach us to what heights reason raises man, and what things it sets him above, and how it makes him master of everything.
“For we are not good boxers, nor good wrestlers, Nor yet swift runners,”
for in all these points we are less fortunate than the beasts. But by our experience and memory and wisdom and cunning, as Anaxagoras says, we make use of them, and get their honey and milk, and catch them, and drive and lead them about at our will. And there is nothing of fortune in this, it is all the result of wisdom and forethought.
And are we to suppose that the most important things which make so much for happiness do not call for wisdom, and have nothing to do with reason and forethought?
vi. So wisdom is neither gold, nor silver, nor fame, nor wealth, nor health, nor strength, nor beauty. What is it then? It is what can use all these well, and that by means of which each of these things becomes pleasant and esteemed and useful, and without which they are useless; and unprofitable and injurious, and a burden and disgrace to their possessor. So Hesiod’s Prometheus gives very good advice to Epimetheus, “not to receive gifts from Olympian Zeus but to send them back,” meaning external things and things of fortune. For as if he urged one who knew nothing of music not to play on the pipe, or one who knew nothing of letters not to read, or one who was not used to horses not to ride, so he advised him not to take office if he were foolish, nor to grow rich if he were illiberal, nor to marry if likely to be ruled by his wife. For success beyond their merit is to foolish persons a cause of folly, as Demosthenes said, and good fortune beyond their merit is to those who are not sensible a cause of misfortune.
ON LISTENING TO LECTURES
Plutarch. Moralia. Vol. I of Loeb Classical Library edition. Translated by F. C. Babbitt. 1927. Bill Thayer’s Website, Lacuscurtius. Retrieved 2019, from
The discourse which I gave on the subject of listening to lecture I have written out and sent to you, my dear Nicander, so that you may know how rightly to listen to the voice of persuasion, now that you are no longer subject to authority, having assumed the garb of a man. Now absence of control, which some of the young men, for want of education, think to be freedom, establishes the sway of a set of masters, harsher than the teachers and attendants of childhood, in the form of the desires, which are now, as it were, unchained. And just as Herodotus says that women put off their modesty along with their undergarments, so some of our young men, as soon as they lay aside the garb of childhood, lay aside also their sense of modesty and fear, and, undoing the habit that invests them, straightway become full of unruliness. But you have often heard that to follow God and to obey reason are the same thing, and so I ask you to believe that in persons of good sense the passing from childhood to manhood is not a casting off of control, but a recasting of the controlling agent, since instead of some hired person or slave purchased with money they now take as the divine guide of their life reason, whose followers alone may deservedly be considered free. For they alone, having learned to wish for what they ought, live as they wish; but in untrained and irrational impulses and actions there is something ignoble, and changing one’s mind many times involves but little freedom of will.
We may find a comparison in the case of newly naturalized citizens; those among them who were alien born and perfect strangers find fault with many of the things that are done, and are discontented; whereas those who come from the class of resident aliens, having been brought up under our laws and grown to be well acquainted with them, have no difficulty in accepting what devolves upon them and are content. And so you, who have been brought up for a long time in contact with philosophy, and have from the beginning been accustomed to philosophic reasoning as an ingredient in every portion of early instruction and information, ought to feel like an old friend and familiar when you come to philosophy, which alone can array young men in the manly and truly perfect adornment that comes from reason.
I think you may not find unwelcome some preliminary remarks about the sense of hearing, which Theophrastusasserts is the most emotional of all the senses. For nothing which can be seen or tasted or touched brings on such distractions, confusions, and excitements, as take possession of the soul when certain crashing, clashing, and roaring noises assail the hearing. Yet this sense is more rational than emotional. For while many places and parts of the body make way for vice to enter through them and fasten itself upon the soul, virtue’s only hold upon the young is afforded by the ears, if they be uncontaminated and kept from the outset unspoiled by flattery and untouched by vile words. For this reason Xenocrates advised putting ear-protectors on children rather than on athletes, on the ground that the latter have only their ears disfigured by the blows they receive, while the former have their characters disfigured by the words they hear; not that he would thus court heedlessness or deafness, but he advises vigilance against vile words, until such time as other words, of good sort, fostered in the character by philosophy, should, like watchmen, have taken under their charge the post chiefly exposed to influence and persuasion. And Bias of old, on receiving orders to send to Amasis the portion of the sacrificial animal which was at the same time the best and the worst, cut out the tongue and sent it to him, on the ground that speech contains both injuries and benefits in the largest measure. Most people in bestowing an affectionate kiss on little children not only take hold of children by the ears but bid the children to do the same by them, thus insinuating in a playful way that they must love most those who confer benefit through the ears. For surely the fact is plain, that the young man who is debarred from hearing all instruction and gets no taste of speech not only remains wholly unfruitful and makes no growth towards virtue, but may also be perverted towards vice, and the product of his mind, like that of a fallow and untilled piece of ground, will be a plentiful crop of wild oats. For if the impulses towards pleasure and the feelings of suspicion towards hard work (which are not of external origin nor imported products of the spoken word, but indigenous sources, as it were, of pestilent emotions and disorders without number) be allowed to continue unconstrained along their natural channels, and if they be not either removed or diverted another way through the agency of goodly discourse, thus putting the natural endowments in a fit condition, there is not one of the wild beasts but would be found more civilized than man.
Therefore, since listening to lectures is attended by great benefit, but by no less danger, to the young, I think it is a good thing to discuss the matter continually both with oneself and with another person. The reason for so doing is because we observe that a poor use is made of this by the great majority of persons, who practise speaking before they have acquired the habit of listening. They think that there must be study and practice in discourse, but as for hearing, benefit will come however it be used.
In all cases, then, silence is a safe adornment for the young man, and especially so, when in listening to another he does not get excited or bawl out every minute, but even if the remarks be none too agreeable, puts up with them, and waits for the speaker to pause, and, when the pause comes, does not at once interpose his objection, but, as Aeschines puts it, allows an interval to elapse, in case the speaker may desire to add something to what he has said, or to alter or unsay anything. But those who instantly interrupt with contradictions, neither hearing nor being heard, but talking while others talk, behave in an unseemly manner; whereas the man who has the habit of listening with restraint and respect, takes in and masters a useful discourse, and more readily sees through and detects a useless or false one, showing himself thus to be a lover of truth and not a lover of disputation, nor froward and contentious. Wherefore it is sometimes said not unaptly that it is even more necessary to take the wind of self-opinion and conceit out of the young, than to deflate wine-skins, if you wish to fill them with something useful; otherwise, being full of bombast and inflation, they have no room to receive it.
Let the young man, then, find pleasure when he finds profit from a discourse; but he should not hold that the pleasure derived from the lecture is an end in itself, nor would I have him hum a merry note or show a jovial face as he leaves the philosopher’s school, any more than he should seek to be sprinkled with perfume when he needs a fomentation and a hot poultice; but he should feel grateful if by pungent discourse someone has cleansed his mind teeming with fogginess and dulness, as a beehive is cleared by smoke. For even though it is quite right for a speaker not to be altogether neglectful of pleasantness and persuasion in his style, yet the young man should make least concern of this, at any rate at first.
This leads up to the matter of proposing problems. Now the person who comes to a dinner is bound to eat what is set before him and not to ask for anything else or to be critical; so he who comes to a feast of reason, if it be on a specified subject, must feel bound to listen to the speaker in silence. For those persons who lead the speaker to digress to other topics, and interject questions, and raise new difficulties, are not pleasant or agreeable company at a lecture; they get no benefit from it, and they confuse both the speaker and his speech.
And if some fit of temper, or attack of superstition, or an intense disagreement with members of our own household, or a mad desire born of love,
Stirring the heart-strings never stirred before,
brings confusion to our thoughts, we must not run away to other kinds of discourse to escape being taken to task, but we must listen to the discussion of these very matters both at the formal exercises, and after the exercises, when we approach the men privately and question them further. But save us from the contrary course, followed by the majority, who are delighted with the philosophers and admire them when they are discoursing about other people; but if the philosopher leaves the other people alone, and addresses himself frankly and freely to them, and sets them in mind of matters that much concern them, they are annoyed and think him officious. For, as a rule, they imagine that they ought to listen to the philosophers in the schools as they listen to the tragedians in the theatres; but in matters out of school they think the philosophers are no better men than themselves.
The proprieties in regard to bestowing commendation also require some caution and moderation, for the reason that neither deficiency nor excess therein befits the free man. An offensive and tiresome listener is the man who is not to be touched or moved by anything that is said… who neither moves his brow nor utters a single word to bear witness that he is glad to listen, but by means of silence and an affected gravity and pose… he feels that he is robbing himself of every bit that he bestows on another. For there are many who take that saying of Pythagoras wrongly and out of harmony with his meaning. He declared that he had gained this advantage from philosophy, to wonder at nothing; but these men think that their advantage gained is to commend nothing, to show respect for nothing, holding that immunity from wonder lies in disdain, and seeking to attain to dignity by means of contempt. Now it is true that philosophic reasoning, through knowledge and acquaintance with the cause in every case, does away with the wonder and amazement that spring from blindness and ignorance, but at the same time it does not destroy our serenity, moderation, or human interest.
Moreover, just as in learning to read and write, or in taking up music or physical training, the first lessons are attended with much confusion, hard work, and uncertainty, but later, as the learner makes progress, by slow degrees, just as in his relations with human beings, a full familiarity is engendered and knowledge which renders everything attractive, feasible, and easy, both to say and to do, so also is it with philosophy, which undoubtedly has something knotty and unfamiliar in its terms and subject matter at the outset; yet one ought not to take fright at its beginnings, and to abandon it in timorous and craven fashion; rather should he examine each point, and persist and stick to the task of getting on, while awaiting that familiarity which makes every noble thing a pleasure. For come it will without long delay, bringing with it abundant light for the subject of study; it will inspire also a passionate love for virtue; and anyone who could endure to pass the rest of his life without this passion, because he has exiled himself from philosophy for want of true manliness, brands himself either as a very presumptuous man or else a coward.
It is quite possible that the subject of philosophy contains some matter which is difficult for young and inexperienced students to apprehend at the outset. But, at the same time, they must hold themselves responsible for most of the uncertainty and misunderstanding in which they find themselves involved, since quite opposite characters come to fall into the same error.
Let us therefore put from us all such foolishness and pretension, and, as we go onward to the task of learning, let us take pains thoroughly to comprehend all profitable discourses; let us submit with patience to the laughter of those reputed to be clever, as did Cleanthes and Xenocrates, who, although they seemed to be slower than their schoolmates, yet did not try to escape learning or give it up in despair, but were the first to make jokes at themselves by comparing themselves to narrow-necked bottles and bronze tablets, as much as to say that they found great difficulty in taking in what was said, yet they kept it safely and securely.
ON THE FORTUNE OF THE ROMANS
Plutarch. Moralia. Vol. IV of Loeb Classical Library edition. Translated by F. C. Babbitt. 1936. Bill Thayer’s Website, Lacuscurtius. Retrieved 2019, from
Virtue and Fortune, who have often engaged in many great contests, are now engaging each other in the present contest, which is the greatest of all…
The poet Ion in his prose works observes that Fortune is a thing very dissimilar to Wisdom, and yet she becomes the creator of things very similar: they both bring increase and added honours to men, they lead them on to high repute, to power, to dominion. What need to be tedious by enumerating the many examples? Even Nature herself, who creates and produces all things for us, some think to be Fortune, others Wisdom.
I believe myself to be right in suspecting that, even if Fortune and Virtue are engaged in a direct and continual strife and discord with each other, yet, at least for such a welding together of dominion and power…
Plutarch. Moralia. Vol. II of Loeb Classical Library edition. Translated by F. C. Babbitt. 1928. Bill Thayer’s Website, Lacuscurtius. Retrieved 2019, from
Ignorance and blindness in regard to the gods divides itself at the very beginning into two streams, of which the one produces in hardened characters, as it were in stubborn soils, atheism, and the other in tender characters, as in moist soils, produces superstition. Every false judgement, and especially concerning these matters, is a mischievous thing; but where emotion also enters, it is most mischievous. For every emotion is likely to be a delusion that rankles; and just as dislocations of the joints accompanied by lacerations are hardest to deal with, so also is it with derangements of the soul accompanied by emotion.
A man assumes that wealth is the greatest good. This falsehood contains venom, it feeds upon his soul, distracts him, does not allow him to sleep, fills him with stinging desires, pushes him over precipices, chokes him, and takes from him his freedom of speech.
To come now to our subject: atheism, which is a sorry judgement that there is nothing blessed or incorruptible, seems, by disbelief in the Divinity, to lead finally to a kind of utter indifference, and the end which it achieves in not believing in the existence of gods is not to fear them. But, on the other hand, superstition, as the very name (dread of deities) indicates, is an emotional idea and an assumption productive of a fear which utterly humbles and crushes a man, for he thinks that there are gods, but that they are the cause of pain and injury. In fact, the atheist, apparently, is unmoved regarding the Divinity, whereas the superstitious man is moved as he ought not to be, and his mind is thus perverted. For in the one man ignorance engenders disbelief in the one who can help him, and on the other it bestows the added idea that He causes injury. Whence it follows that atheism is falsified reason, and superstition is an emotion engendered from false reason.
Clear it is that all distempers and emotions of the soul are disgraceful, but in some of them are to be found pride, loftiness, and exaltation, owing to their uplifting power; and no one of them, we might say, is destitute of an impulse to activity. But this general complaint may be made against every one of the emotions, that by their urgings to be up and doing they press hard upon the reasoning power and strain it. But fear alone, lacking no less in boldness than in power to reason, keeps its irrationality impotent, helpless, and hopeless. It is on this ground that the power of fear to tie down the soul, and at the same time to keep it awake, has come to be named both terror and awe.
Of all kinds of fear the most impotent and helpless is superstitious fear. No fear of the sea has he who does not sail upon it, nor of war he who does not serve in the army, nor of highwaymen he who stays at home, nor of a blackmailer he who is poor, nor of envy he who holds no office, nor of earthquake he who is in Gaul, nor of the lightning-stroke he who is in Ethiopia; but he who fears the gods fears all things, earth and sea, air and sky, darkness and light, sound and silence, and a dream. Slaves in their sleep forget their masters, sleep makes light the chains of prisoners, and the inflammations surrounding wounds, the savage gnawing of ulcers in the flesh, and tormenting pains are removed from those who are fallen asleep:
Dear soothing balm of sleep to help my ill,
How sweet thy coming in mine hour of need.
Superstition does not give one a right to say this; for superstition alone makes no truce with sleep, and never gives the soul a chance to recover its breath and courage by putting aside its bitter and despondent notions regarding God; but, as it were in the place of torment of the impious, so in the sleep of the superstitious their malady calls up fearful images, and horrible apparitions and divers forms of punishment, and, by keeping the unhappy soul on the rack, chases it away from sleep by its dreams, lashed and punished by its own self as if by another, and forced to comply with dreadful and extraordinary behests. When, later, such persons arise from their beds, they do not contemn nor ridicule these things, nor realize that not one of the things that agitated them was really true, but, trying to escape the shadow of a delusion that has nothing bad at the bottom, during their waking hours they delude and waste and agitate themselves, putting themselves into the hands of conjurors and impostors who say to them:
If a vision in sleep is the cause of your fear
And the troop of dire Hecate felt to be near,
then call in the old crone who performs magic purifications, dip yourself in the ocean, and sit down on the ground and spend the whole day there.
Greeks from barbarians finding evil ways!
because of superstition, such as smearing with mud, wallowing in filth, immersions, casting oneself down with face to the ground, disgraceful besieging of the gods, and uncouth prostrations.
Then again these same persons hold slavery to be a misfortune, and say,
For man or woman ’tis disaster dire
Sudden to be enslaved, and masters harsh
But how much more dire, think you, is the lot of those for whom there is no escape, no running away, no chance to revolt? For a slave there is an altar to which he can flee, and there are many of our shrines where even robbers may find sanctuary, and men who are fleeing from the enemy, if once they lay hold upon a statue of a god, or a temple, take courage again. These are the very things that most inspire a shuddering fear and dread in the superstitious man, and yet it is in them that those who in fear of the most dreadful fate place their hopes. Do not drag the superstitious man away from his shrines, for it is in them that he suffers punishment and retribution.
What need to speak at length? “In death is the end of life for all men,” but not the end of superstition; for superstition transcends the limits of life into the far beyond, making fear to endure longer than life, and connecting with death the thought of undying evils, and holding fast to the opinion, at the moment of ceasing from trouble, that now is the beginning of those that never cease. The abysmal gates of the nether world swing open, rivers of fire and offshoots of the Styx are mingled together, darkness is crowded with spectres of many fantastic shapes which beset their victim with grim visages and piteous voices, and, besides these, judges and torturers and yawning gulfs and deep recesses teeming with unnumbered woes. Thus unhappy superstition, by its excess of caution in trying to avoid everything suggestive of dread, unwittingly subjects itself to every sort of dread.
Nothing of this kind attaches to atheism, but its ignorance is distressing, and to see amiss or not to see at all in matters of such importance is a great misfortune for the soul; for it is as if the soul had suffered the extinction of the brightest and most dominant of its many eyes, the conception of God.
What then? Does it not seem to you that the feeling of the atheists compared with the superstitious presents just such a difference? The former do not see the gods at all, the latter think that they do exist and are evil. The former disregard them, the latter conceive their kindliness to be frightful, their fatherly solicitude to be despotic, their loving care to be injurious, their slowness to anger to be savage and brutal. Then again such persons give credence to workers in metal, stone, or wax, who make their images of gods in the likeness of human beings, and they have such images fashioned, and dress them up, and worship them. But they hold in contempt philosophers and statesmen, who try to prove that the majesty of God is associated with goodness, magnanimity, kindliness, and solicitude. So the atheists have more than enough of indifference and distrust of the Beings who can help them, whereas the superstitious experience equal agitation and fear towards the things that can help them. Or, in fine, atheism is an indifferent feeling toward the Deity, which has no notion of the good, and superstition is a multitude of differing feelings with an underlying notion that the good is evil. For the superstitious fear the gods, and flee to the gods for help; they flatter them and assail them with abuse, pray to them and blame them. It is the common lot of mankind not to enjoy continual good fortune in all things.
Age and illness not their lot,
Toil and labour they know not,
‘Scaped is Acheron’s loud strait,
says Pindar of the gods, but human experiences and actions are linked with chance circumstances which move now in one course and now in another.
Come now, observe the atheist in circumstances not desired by him, and take note of his attitude. If he be moderate in general, you will note that he takes his present fortune without a word, and tries to procure for himself means of help and comfort; but if he be given to impatience or violent emotion, you will note that he directs all his complaints against Fortune and Chance, and exclaims that nothing comes about according to right or as the result of providence, but that the course of all human affairs is confusion and disorder, and that they are all being turned topsy-turvy. This, however, is not the way of the superstitious man; but if even the slightest ill befall him, he sits down and proceeds to construct, on the basis of his trouble, a fabric of harsh, momentous, and practically unavoidable experiences which he must undergo, and he also loads himself with fears and frights, suspicions and trepidations, and all this he bitterly assails with every sort of lamentation and moaning. For he puts the responsibility for his lot upon no man nor upon Fortune nor upon occasion nor upon himself, but lays the responsibility for everything upon God, and says that from that source a heaven-sent stream of mischief has come upon him with full force; and he imagines that it is not because he is unlucky, but because he is hateful to the gods, that he is being punished by the gods, and that the penalty he pays and all that he is undergoing are deserved because of his own conduct.
But in the estimation of the superstitious man, every indisposition of his body, loss of property, deaths of children, or mishaps and failures in public life are classed as “afflictions of God” or “attacks of an evil spirit.” For this reason he has no heart to relieve the situation or undo its effects, or to find some remedy for it or to take a strong stand against it, lest he seem to fight against God and to rebel at his punishment; but when he is ill the physician is ejected from the house, and when he is in grief the door is shut on the philosopher who would advise and comfort him. “Oh, sir,” he says, “leave me to pay my penalty, impious wretch that I am, accursed, and hateful to the gods and all the heavenly host.”
Many ills of no great moment are made to result fatally by men’s superstition.
You see what kind of thoughts the superstitious have about the gods; they assume that the gods are rash, faithless, fickle, vengeful, cruel, and easily offended; and, as a result, the superstitious man is bound to hate and fear the gods. Why not, since he thinks that the worst of his ills are due to them, and will be due to them in the future? As he hates and fears the gods, he is an enemy to them. And yet, though he dreads them, he worships them and sacrifices to them and besieges their shrines…
The atheist thinks there are no gods; the superstitious man wishes there were none, but believes in them against his will…
But there is no infirmity comprehending such a multitude of errors and emotions, and involving opinions so contradictory, or rather antagonistic, as that of superstition. We must try, therefore, to escape it in some way which is both safe and expedient, and not be like people who incautiously and blindly run hither and thither to escape from an attack of robbers or wild beasts, or from a fire, and rush into trackless places that contain pitfalls and precipices. For thus it is that some persons, in trying to escape superstition, rush into a rough and hardened atheism, thus overleaping true religion which lies between.
Plutarch. Moralia. Vol. VII of Loeb Classical Library edition. Translated by Phillip H. De Lacey and Benedict Einarson. 1959. Bill Thayer’s Website, Lacuscurtius. Retrieved 2019, from https://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Plutarch/Moralia/De_vitioso_pudore*.html
Certain plants are in themselves wild and unproductive, and when allowed to grow are harmful to cultivated grain and vines and trees; yet the farmer takes them as signs of a soil not unfertile, but generous and rich. So too with the affections of the mind; some that are bad are nevertheless the outgrowths, as it were, of an excellent nature well able to respond to the cultivation of reason.
Now the same remedy that helps to cure all disorders of the mind is especially indicated for those who yield easily to pressure: when forced by the disorder to err against their judgement and succumb to embarrassment, they must keep it firmly in the memory and store up reminders of their remorse and regret and rehearse them and preserve them for a very long time. For as wayfarers who have stumbled over a stone, or skippers who have capsized off a headland, if they retain the circumstances in their memory, henceforth never fail to avoid with a shudder not only the occasion of their misadventure, but everything resembling it, so those who constantly hold up to their repentance and remorse the shame and loss involved in compliancy will in similar circumstances resist the feeling and not easily allow it to carry them away.
PRECEPTS OF STATECRAFT
Plutarch. Moralia. Vol. X of Loeb Classical Library edition. Translated by H. N. Fowler. 1936. Bill Thayer’s Website, Lacuscurtius. Retrieved 2019, from
If, Menemachus, it is suitable to apply to anything at all the saying
No one of all the Achaeans finds fault with the words thou hast uttered,
Nor will oppose them in speech; and yet thou hast reached no conclusion,
Bit may be applied to those philosophers who urge people to take lessons from them, but give no real instruction or advice; for they are like those who trim the lamps, but fail to pour in oil.
HOW THE YOUNG MAN SHOULD STUDY POETRY
Plutarch. Moralia. Vol. I of Loeb Classical Library edition. Translated by F. C. Babbitt. 1927. Bill Thayer’s Website, Lacuscurtius. Retrieved 2019, from
If, my dear Marcus Sedatus, it is true, as the poet Philoxenus used to say, that of meats those that are not meat, and of fish those that are not fish, have the best flavour, let us leave the expounding of this matter to those persons of whom Cato said that their palates are more sensitive than their minds. And so of philosophical discourses it is clear to us that those seemingly not at all philosophical, or even serious, are found more enjoyable by the very young, who present themselves at such lectures as willing and submissive hearers.
First of all, then, the young man should be introduced into poetry with nothing in his mind so well imprinted, or so ready at hand, as the saying, “Many the lies the poets tell,” some intentionally and some unintentionally; intentionally, because for the purpose of giving pleasure and gratification to the ear (and this is what most people look for in poetry) they feel that the truth is too stern in comparison with fiction. For the truth, because it is what actually happens, does not deviate from its course, even though the end be unpleasant; whereas fiction, being a verbal fabrication, very readily follows a roundabout route, and turns aside from the painful to what is more pleasant.
But when at another time, in his reading, he finds this line,
Zeus makes virtue in men both to increase and diminish,
Virtue and glory are attendant on riches,
let him not “sit” astounded and “amazed” at the rich, as though they were able to purchase virtue without ado for money, nor let him believe either that the increase or diminution of his own wisdom rests with Fortune, but let him consider that the poet has employed “virtue” instead of repute, or influence, or good fortune, or the like.
For it is mark of a wondrous foresight for a man whose hold on his temper is uncertain, who is naturally rough and quick-tempered, not to be blind to his own weakness, but to exercise caution, notable on his guard against possible grounds for anger, and to forestall them by reason long beforehand, so that he may not even inadvertently become involved in such emotions.
Now the bee, in accordance with nature’s laws, discovers amid the most pungent flowers and the roughest thorns the smoothest and most palatable honey; so children, if they be rightly nurtured amid poetry, will in some way or other learn to draw some wholesome and profitable doctrine even from passages that are suspect of what is base and improper.
Moreover, just as in what we have said above we felt that by setting against cheap and harmful poems the sayings and maxims of statesmen and men of repute, we were inducing a revolt and revulsion of faith from such poetry, so whenever we find any edifying sentiment neatly expressed in the poets we ought to foster and amplify it by means of proofs and testimonies from the philosophers, at the same time crediting these with the discovery. For this is right and useful, and our faith gains an added strength and dignity whenever the doctrines of Pythagoras and of Plato are in agreement with what is spoken on the stage or sung to the lyre or studied at school, and when the precepts of Chilon and of Bias lead to the same conclusions as our children’s readings in poetry.
Wherefore, both because of these considerations and because of those already adduced, the young man has need of good pilotage in the matter of reading, to the end that, forestalled with schooling rather than prejudice, in a spirit of friendship and goodwill and familiarity, he may be convoyed by poetry into the realm of philosophy.
PLUTARCH – ESSAYS
Plutarch. Essays and Miscellanies: The Complete Works Volume 3. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg, 2009. Retrieved 2019, from
The Stoics thus define the essence of a god. It is a spirit intellectual and fiery, which acknowledges no shape, but is continually changed into what it pleases, and assimilates itself to all things.
The Stoics affirm that God is a thing more common and obvious, and is a mechanic fire which every way spreads itself to produce the world; it contains in itself all seminal virtues, and by this means all things by a fatal necessity were produced. This spirit, passing through the whole world, received different names from the mutations in the matter through which it ran in its journey. God therefore is the world, the stars, the earth, and (highest of all) the mind in the heavens.
Having treated of the essence of the deities in a just order, it follows that we discourse of daemons and heroes. Thales, Pythagoras, Plato, and the Stoics do conclude that daemons are essences endowed with souls; that the heroes are the souls separated from their bodies, some are good, some are bad; the good are those whose souls are good, the evil those whose souls are wicked. All this is rejected by Epicurus.
CHAPTER V. WHAT IS THE PRINCIPAL PART OF THE SOUL, AND IN WHAT PART OF THE BODY IT RESIDES.
Plato and Democritus place its residence in the whole head. Strato, in that part of the forehead where the eyebrows are separated. Erasiatratus, in the Epikranis, or membrane which involves the brain. Herophilus, in that sinus of the brain which is the basis of it. Parmenides, in the breast; which opinion is embraced by Epicurus. The Stoics are generally of this opinion, that the seat of the soul is throughout the heart, or in the spirit about it. Diogenes, in the arterial ventricle of the heart, which is also full of vital spirit. Empedocles, in the mass of the blood. There are that say it is in the neck of the heart, others in the pericardium, others in the midriff. Certain of the Neoterics, that the seat of the soul is extended from the head to the diaphragm. Pythagoras, that the animal part of the soul resides in the heart, the intellectual in the head.
CHAPTER VI. OF THE MOTION OF THE SOUL.
Plato believes that the soul is in perpetual motion, but that it is immovable as regards motion from place to place. Aristotle, that the soul is not naturally moved, but its motion is accidental, resembling that which is in the forms of bodies.
CHAPTER VII. OF THE SOUL’S IMMORTALITY.
Plato and Pythagoras say that the soul is immortal; when it departs out of the body, it retreats to the soul of the world, which is a being of the same nature with it. The Stoics, when the souls leave the bodies, they are carried to divers places; the souls of the unlearned and ignorant descend to the coagmentation of earthly things, but the learned and vigorous last till the general fire. Epicurus and Democritus, the soul is mortal, and it perisheth with the body. Plato and Pythagoras, that part of the soul of man which is rational is eternal; for though it be not God, yet it is the product of an eternal deity; but that part of the soul which is divested of reason dies.
CHAPTER VIII. OF THE SENSES, AND OF THOSE THINGS WHICH ARE OBJECTS OF THE SENSES,
The Stoics give this definition of sense: Sense is the Apprehension or comprehension of an object by means of an organ of sensation. There are several ways of expressing what sense is; it is either a habit, a faculty, an operation, or an imagination which apprehends by means of an organ of sense,—and also the eighth principal thing, from whence the senses originate. The instruments of sense are intelligent exhalations, which from the said commanding part extend unto all the organs of the body. Epicurus, that sense is a faculty, and that which is perceived by the sense is the product of it; so that sense hath a double acceptation,—sense which is the faculty, and the thing received by the sense, which is the effect. Plato, that sense is that commerce which the soul and body have with those things that are exterior to them; the power of which is from the soul, the organ by which is from the body; but both of them apprehend external objects by means of the imagination. Leucippus and Democritus, that sense and intelligence arise from external images; so neither of them can operate without the assistance of image falling upon us.
CHAPTER IX. WHETHER WHAT APPEARS TO OUR SENSES AND IMAGINATIONS BE TRUE OR NOT.
The Stoics say that what the senses represent is true; what the imagination, is partly false, partly true. Epicurus that every impression of the sense or imagination is true, but of those things that fall under the head of opinion, some are true, some false: sense gives us a false presentation of those things only which are the objects of our understanding; but the imagination gives us a double error, both of things sensible and things intellectual. Empedocles and Heraclides, that the senses act by a just accommodation of the pores in every case; everything that is perceived by the sense being congruously adapted to its proper organ.
CHAPTER X. HOW MANY SENSES ARE THERE?
The Stoics say that there are five senses properly so called, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching. Aristotle indeed doth not add a sixth sense; but he assigns a common sense, which is the judge of all compounded species; into this each sense casts its proper representation, in which is discovered a transition of one thing into another, like as we see in figure and motion where there is a change of one into another. Democritus, that there are divers species of senses, which appertain to beings destitute of reason, to the gods, and to wise men.
CHAPTER XI. HOW THE ACTIONS OF THE SENSES, THE CONCEPTIONS OF OUR MINDS, AND THE HABIT OF OUR REASON ARE FORMED.
The Stoics affirm that every man, as soon as he is born, has a principal and commanding part of his soul, which is in him like a sheet of writing-paper, to which he commits all his notions. The first manner of his inscribing is by denoting those notions which flow from the senses. Suppose it be of a thing that is white; when the present sense of it is vanished, there is yet retained the remembrance; when many memorative notions of the same similitude do concur, then he is said to have an experience; for experience is nothing more than the abundance of notions that are of the same form met together. Some of these notions are naturally begotten according to the aforesaid manner, without the assistance of art; the others are produced by discipline, learning, and industry; these only are justly called notions, the others are prenotions. But reason, which gives us the denomination of rational, is completed by prenotions in the first seven years. The conception of the mind is the vision that the intelligence of a rational animal hath received; when that vision falls upon the rational soul, then it is called the conception of the mind, for it hath derived its name from the mind [Greek omitted] from [Greek omitted]. Therefore these visions are not to be found in any other animals; they only are appropriated to gods and to us men. If these we consider generally, they are phantasms; if specifically, they are notions. As pence or staters, if you consider them according to their own value, are simply pence and staters; but if you give them as a price for a naval voyage, they are called not merely pence, etc., but your freight.
CHAPTER XII. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN IMAGINATION [GREEK OMITTED], THE IMAGINABLE [GREEK OMITTED], FANCY [GREEK OMITTED], AND PHANTOM [GREEK OMITTED]?
Chrysippus affirms, these four are different one from another. Imagination is that passion raised in the soul which discovers itself and that which was the efficient of it; to use example, after the eye hath looked upon a thing that is white, the sight of which produceth in the mind a certain impression, this gives us reason to conclude that the object of this impression is white, which affecteth us. So with touching and smelling Phantasy or imagination is denominated from [Greek omitted] which denotes light; for as light discovers itself and all other things which it illuminates, so this imagination discovers itself and that which is the cause of it. The imaginable is the efficient cause of imagination; as anything that is white, or anything that is cold, or everything that may make an impression upon the imagination. Fancy is a vain impulse upon the mind of man, proceeding from nothing which is really conceivable; this is experienced in those that whirl about their idle hand and fight with shadows; for to the imagination there is always some real imaginable thing presented, which is the efficient cause of it; but to the fancy nothing. A phantom is that to which we are brought by such a fanciful and vain attraction; this is to be seen in melancholy and distracted persons. Of this sort was Orestes in the tragedy, pronouncing these words:
Mother, these maids with horror me affright;
Oh bring them not, I pray, into my sight!
They’re smeared with blood, and cruel, dragon-like,
Skipping about with deadly fury strike.
These rave as frantic persons, they see nothing, and yet imagine they see. Thence Electra thus returns to him:
O wretched man, securely sleep in bed;
Nothing thou seest, thy fancy’s vainly led.
(Euripides, “Orestes”, 255.)
After the same manner Theoclymenus in Homer.
CHAPTER XXI. BY WHAT MEANS THE SOUL IS SENSIBLE, AND WHAT IS THE PRINCIPAL AND COMMANDING PART OF IT.
The Stoics say that the highest part of the soul is the commanding part of it: this is the cause of sense, fancy, consents, and desires; and this we call the rational part. From this principal and commander there are produced seven parts of the soul, which are spread through the body, as the seven arms in a polypus. Of these seven parts, five are assigned to the senses, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching. Sight is a spirit which is extended from the commanding part of the eyes; hearing is that spirit which from the principle reacheth to the ears; smelling a spirit drawn from the principal to the nostrils; tasting a spirit extended from the principle to the tongue; touching is a spirit which from the principal is drawn to the extremity of those bodies which are obnoxious to a sensible touch. Of the rest, the one called the spermatical is a spirit which reacheth from the principal to the generating vessels; the other, which is the vocal and termed the voice, is a spirit extended from the principal to the throat, tongue, and other proper organs of speaking. And this principal part itself hath that place in our spherical head which God hath in the world.
CHAPTER XXIII. OF THE PASSIONS OF THE BODY, AND WHETHER THE SOUL HATH A SYMPATHETICAL CONDOLENCY WITH IT.
The Stoics say that all the passions are seated in those parts of the body which are affected, the senses have their residence in the commanding part of the soul. Epicurus, that all the passions and all the senses are in those parts which are affected, but the commanding part is subject to no passion. Strato, that all the passions and senses of the soul are in the rational or commanding part of it, and are not fixed in those places which are affected; for in this place patience takes its residence, and this is apparent in terrible and dolorous things, as also in timorous and valiant individuals.