Moral Essays


Moral Essay 10: Letter of Condolence to Apollonius


The Letter of Condolence to Apollonius, into which quotations from earlier authors have been emptied from the sack rather than scattered by hand, has in comparatively recent years fallen under suspicion as being perhaps not the work of Plutarch. The suspicion rests mainly on two grounds, the unusual length of the quotations, and certain incongruities of style. The latter may here be briefly dismissed with the remark that for every departure from accepted Plutarchean style a striking instance of conformity to his style may be cited, so that no very positive results are to be obtained in this way. Many of them are unusually long, although not longer than we find in other authors. Some of them, for example Euripides, Suppliants 1110 and 1112 (Plut. 110C), show an accuracy of MS. tradition so far superior that the reading given by Plutarch is commonly adopted by editors of Euripides in preference to the traditional reading of the MSS. of Euripides. On the other hand, the quotation from Plato, Gorgias 523A (Plut. 120E), shows many minor variations from our text of Plato; some of these are interesting in themselves, but none of them really disturbs the meaning of the passage.

We learn from the letter almost nothing about Apollonius and his departed son, and hardly more about Plutarch. It lacks the intimate touch of a similar letter which was written by Plutarch to his wife (Moralia, 608A). Indeed we cannot be wholly sure that the boy was called Apollonius after his forefather, for one stroke of the pen to change the accusative to a vocative (121E) would cause his name to disappear entirely.

The title of the letter is not found in Lamprias’ list of Plutarch’s works, nevertheless we have reference to it at a comparatively early date.

Some striking similarities between the letter and Cicero’s Tusculan Disputations are doubtless to be explained by derivation from a common source, and this source was doubtless in large part the works of the Academic philosopher Crantor.

In the absence of actual knowledge it is convenient to assume an hypothesis (as in the realm of science one speaks atoms or ions; or of the electric current). If we assume that this is the original rough draft of the letter which was to be sent to Apollonius, nearly everything can be made to square with the hypothesis. In selecting some of the quotations Plutarch had put down enough of the context, so that later the lines he might finally choose to insert could be smoothly interwoven with the text, and the text itself was no doubt to be subjected to further polish.

However, we may be profoundly grateful for the collection of extracts included in the letter, and, if the hypothesis be right, we may also be grateful for this glimpse of Plutarch’s methods of composition.

We must bear in mind that this particular form of literary composition had developed a style of its own, the earliest example perhaps being the Axiochus (of Plato?), and we have records of many more now lost. Among the Romans also this form of composition was popular, and several examples may be found in the works of Seneca.

Chapter I

101f. Even before this time, Apollonius, I felt for you in your sorrow and trouble, when I heard of the untimely passing from life of your son, who was very dear to us all — a youth who was altogether decorous and modest, and unusually observant of the demands of religion and justice both toward the gods and towards his parents and friends. 102a. In those days, close upon the time of his death, to visit you and urge you to bear your present lot as a mortal man should have been unsuitable, when you were prostrated in both body and soul by the unexpected calamity; and, besides, I could not help sharing in your feeling. For even the best of physicians do not at once apply the remedy of medicines against acute attacks of suppurating humours, but allow the painfulness of the inflammation, without the application of external medicaments, to attain some assuagement of itself.

Chapter II

Now since time, which is wont to assuage all things, has intervened since the calamity, 102b. and your present condition seems to demand the aid of your friends, I have conceived it to be proper to communicate to you some words that can give comfort, for the mitigation of grief and the termination of mournful and vain lamentations. For

Words are physicians for an ailing mind,
When at the fitting time one soothes the heart.

Since, according to the wise Euripides,

For divers ills are remedies diverse:
The kindly speech of friends for one in grief,
And admonitions when one plays the fool.

102c. Indeed, though there are many emotions that affect the soul, yet grief, from its nature, is the most cruel of all. They say:

To many there doth come because of grief
Insanity and ills incurable,
And some for grief have ended their own life.

Chapter III

The pain and pang felt at the death of a son has in itself good cause to awaken grief, which is only natural, and over it we have no control. For I, for my part, cannot concur with those who extol that harsh and callous indifference, which is both impossible and unprofitable. For this will rob us of the kindly feeling which comes from mutual affection and which above all else we must conserve. 102d. But to be carried beyond all bounds and to help in exaggerating our griefs I say is contrary to nature, and results from our depraved ideas. Therefore this also must be dismissed as injurious and depraved and most unbecoming to right-minded men, but a moderate indulgence is not to be disapproved. Pray that we be not ill, says Crantor of the Academy, but if we be ill, pray that sensation be left us, whether one of our members be cut off or torn out. For this insensibility to pain is attained by man only at a great price; for in the former case, we may suppose, it is the body which has been brutalized into such insensibility, 102e. but in the latter case the soul.

Chapter IV

Reason therefore requires that men of understanding should be neither indifferent in such calamities nor extravagantly affected; for the one course is unfeeling and brutal, the other lax and effeminate. Sensible is he who keeps within appropriate bounds and is able to bear judiciously both the agreeable and the grievous in his lot, and who has made up his mind beforehand to conform uncomplainingly and obediently to the dispensation of things; just as in a democracy there is an allotment of offices, and he who draws the lot holds office, while he who fails to do so must bear his fortune without taking offence. For those who cannot do this would be 102f. unable sensibly and soberly to abide good fortune either.

Among the felicitous utterances the following piece of advice is to the point:

Let no success be so unusual
That it excite in you too great a pride,
Nor abject be in turn, if ill betide;
But ever be the same; preserve unchanged
Your nature, like to gold when tried by fire.

It is the mark of educated and disciplined men to keep the same habit of mind toward seeming prosperity, 103a. and nobly to maintain a becoming attitude toward adversity. For it is the task of rational prudence, either to be on guard against evil as it approaches, or, if it have already happened, to rectify it or to minimize it or to provide oneself with a virile and noble patience to endure it. For wisdom deals also with the good, in a fourfold way — either acquiring a store of goods, or conserving them, or adding to them, or using them judiciously. These are the laws of wisdom and of the other virtues, and they must be followed for better fortune or for worse. For

103b. No man exists who’s blest in everything,

and truly

What thou must do cannot be made must not.

Chapter V

For as there are in plants at one time seasons of fruitage and at another time seasons of unfruitfulness, and in animals at one time fecundity and at another time barrenness, and on the sea both fair weather and storm, so also in life many diverse circumstances occur which bring about a reversal of human fortunes. As one contemplates these reversals he might say not inappropriately:

Not for good and no ill came thy life from thy sire,
103c. Agamemnon, but joy
Thou shalt find interwoven with grief;
For a mortal man thou art. Though against thy desire
Yet the plans of the gods will so have it.

and the words of Menander:

If you alone, young master, at your birth
Had gained the right to do whate’er you would
Through your life, and ever be in luck,
And if some god agreed to this with you,
Then you have right to feel aggrieved. He has
Deceived and strangely treated you. But if
Upon the selfsame terms as we, you drew
The primal breath of universal life
103d. (To speak you somewhat in the tragic style),
You must endure this better, and use sense,
To sum up all I say, you are a man,
Than which no thing that lives can swifter be
Exalted high and straight brought low again.
And rightly so; for though of puny frame,
He yet doth handle many vast affairs,
And, falling, ruins great prosperity.
But you, young master, have not forfeited
Surpassing good, and these your present ills
103e. But moderate are; so bear without excess
What Fortune may hereafter bring to you.

But, in spite of this condition of affairs, some persons, through their foolishness, are so silly and conceited, that, when only a little exalted, either because of abundance of money, or importance of office, or petty political preferments, or because of position and repute, 103f. they threaten and insult those in lower station, not bearing in mind the uncertainty and inconstancy of fortune, nor yet the fact that the lofty is easily brought low and the humble in turn is exalted, transposed by the swift-moving changes of fortune. Therefore to try to find any constancy in what is in constant is a trait of people who do not rightly reason about the circumstances of life. For

The wheel goes round, and of the rim now one
And now another part is at the top.

Chapter VI

Reason is the best remedy for the cure of grief, reason and the preparedness through reason for all the changes of life. For one ought to realize that, not merely that he himself is mortal by nature, but also that he is allotted to a life that is mortal and to conditions which readily reverse themselves. 104a. For men’s bodies are indeed mortal, lasting but a day, and mortal is all they experience and suffer, and, in a word, everything in life; and all this

May not be escaped nor avoided by mortals

at all, but

The depths of unseen Tartarus hold you fast by hard-forged necessities,

as Pindar says. Whence Demetrius of Phalerum was quite right when, in reference to a saying of Euripides:

Wealth is inconstant, lasting but a day,

and also:

Small things may cause an overthrow; one day
Puts down the mighty and exalts the low,

104b. he said that it was almost all admirably put, but it would have been better if he had said not one day, but one second of time.

Alike the cycle of earth’s fruitful plants
And mortal men. For some life grows apace,
While others perish and are gathered home.

And elsewhere Pindar says:

Somebody? Nobody? Which is which?
A dream of a shadow is man.

Very vividly and skilfully did he use this extravagance of expression in making clear the life of mankind. For what is feebler than a shadow? And a dream of it! — that is something which defies any clear description. 104c. In similar strain Crantor, endeavoring to comfort Hippocles upon the death of his children, says: All our ancient philosophy states this and urges it upon us; and though there be therein other things which we do not accept, yet at any rate the statement that life is oftentimes toilsome and hard is only too true. For even if it is not so by nature, yet through our own selves it has reached this state of corruption. From a distant time, yes from the beginning, this uncertain fortune has attended us to no good end, and even at our birth there is conjoined with us a portion of evil in everything. For the very seed of life, since it is mortal, participates in this causation, and from this there steal upon us defectiveness of soul, diseases of body, loss of friends by death, and the common portion of mortals.

104d. For what reason have we turned our thoughts in this direction? It is that we may know that misfortune is nothing novel for man, but that we all have had the same experience of it. For Theophrastus says: Fortune is heedless, and she has a wonderful power to take away the fruits of our labors and to overturn our seeming tranquility, and for doing this she has no fixed season. These matters, and others like them, it is easy for each man to reason out for himself, and to learn them from wise men of old besides; of whom the first is the divine Homer, who said:

Nothing more wretched than man doth the earth support on its bosom,
Never, he says to himself, shall he suffer from evil hereafter,
Never, so long as the gods give him strength and his knees are still nimble;
Then when the blessed gods bring upon him grievous affliction,
104e. Still he endures his misfortune, reluctant but steadfast in spirit.


Such is the mood of the men who here on the earth are abiding,
E’en as the day which the father of men and of gods brings upon them.

And in another place:

Great-hearted son of Tydeus, why do you ask of my fathers?
As is the race of the leaves, such too is that of all mortals.
Some of the leaves doth the winds scatter earthward, and others the forest
Budding puts forth in profusion, and springtime is coming upon us.
Thus is man’s race: one enters on life, and another’s life ceases.

104f. That he has admirably made use of this image of human life is clear from what he says in another place, in these words:

To fight for the sake of mortals
Wretched, who like to the leaves, at the one time all ardent
Come to their fitting perfection, and eat of the fruit of their acres;
Then again helpless they perish, nor is there aught that can help them.

105a. Pausanias, king of the Lacedaemonians, who persistently boasted of his own exploits, mockingly urged the lyric poet Simonides to rehearse for him some wise saying, whereupon the poet, being fully cognizant of his conceit, advised him to remember that he was only human.

Philip, the king of the Macedonians, happened to have three pieces of good news reported to him all at once: the first, that he was victor at the Olympic games in the race of the four-horse chariots; the second, that Parmenio, his general, had vanquished the Dardanians in battle, 105b. and the third, that Olympias had borne him a male child; whereupon, stretching out his hands toward the heavens, he said: O God, offset all this by some moderate misfortune! For he well knew that in cases of great prosperity fortune is wont to be jealous.

While Theramenes, who afterwards became one of the Thirty Tyrants at Athens, was dining with several others, the house, in which they were, collapsed, and he was the only one to escape death; but as he was being congratulated by everybody, he raised his voice and exclaimed in a loud tone, O Fortune, for what occasion are you reserving me? And not long afterward he came to his end by torture at the hands of his fellow tyrants.

Chapter VII

The Poet is regarded as extraordinarily successful in bestowing consolation, 105c. where he represents Achilles as speaking to Priam, who has come to ransom Hector, as follows:

Come then and rest on a seat; let us suffer our sorrows to slumber
Quietly now in our bosoms, in spite of our woeful afflictions;
Nothing is ever accomplished by yielding to chill lamentation.
Thus, then, the gods have spun the fate of unhappy mortals,
Ever to live in distress, but themselves are free from all trouble.
Fixed on Zeus’ floor two massive urns stand for ever,
Filled with gifts of all ills that he gives, and another of blessings;
He on whom Zeus, god of thunder, bestows their contents commingled
105d. Sometimes meets with the good, and again he meets only with evil.
Him upon whom he bestows what is baneful he makes wholly wretched;
Ravenous hunger drives him o’er the earth’s goodly bosom,
Hither and thither he goes, unhonored of gods or of mortals.

Hesiod, who, although he proclaimed himself the disciple of the Muses, is nevertheless second to Homer in reputation as well as in time, also confines the evils in a great urn and represents Pandora as opening it and scattering the host of them over the whole land and sea. His words are as follows:

Then with her hands did the woman, uplifting the urn’s massive cover,
105e. Let them go as they would; and on men she brought woeful afflictions.
Hope alone where it was, with its place of abode yet undamaged,
Under the rim of the urn still tarried; nor into the open
Winged its way forth; for before it escaped she had put on the cover.
More are the woes unnumbered among men now freely ranging.
Full is the land now of evils, and full of them too is the ocean:
Illnesses come upon men in the daytime, and others at night-time;
Hither and thither they go, of themselves bringing evils to mortals;
Silent they go, since the wisdom of Zeus has deprived them of voices.

Chapter VIII

105f. Closely allied with this are the following words of the Poet spoken with reference to those whose grief over such calamities is excessive:

If only tears were remedy for ills,
And he who weeps obtained surcease of woe,
Then we should purchase tears by giving gold.
But as it is, events that come to pass,
My master, do not mind nor heed these things,
But, whether you shed tears or not, pursue
The even tenor of their way. What then
Do we accomplish by our weeping? Naught.
106a. But as the trees have fruit, grief has these tears.

And Dictys, who is trying to console Danaë in her excessive grief, says:

Think you that Hades minds your moans at all,
And will send back your child if you groan?
Desist. By viewing close your neighbor’s ills
You might be more composed, — if you reflect
How many mortals have to toil in bonds,
How many reft of children face old age,
And others still who from a prosperous reign
106b. Sink down to nothing. This you ought to heed.

For he bids her to think of the lot of those who are equally unfortunate or even more unfortunate than herself, with the idea that her grief will be lightened.

Chapter IX

In this connection might be adduced the utterance of Socrates which suggests that if we were all to bring our misfortunes into a common store, so that each person should receive an equal share in the distribution, the majority would be glad to take up their own and depart.

The poet Antimachus, also, employed a similar method. For after the death of his wife, Lyde, whom he loved very dearly, he composed, as a consolation for his grief, the elegy called Lyde, 106c. in which he enumerated the misfortunes of the heroes, and thus made his own grief less by means of others’ ills. So it is clear that he who tries to console a person in grief, and demonstrates that the calamity is one which is common to many, and less than the calamities which have befallen others, changes the opinion of the one in grief and gives him a similar conviction — that his calamity is really less than he supposed it to be.

Chapter X

Aeschylus seems admirably to rebuke those who think that death is an evil. He says:

Men are not right in hating Death, which is
The greatest succor from our many ills.

In imitation of Aeschylus some one else has said:

106d. O Death, healing physician, come.

For it is indeed true that

A harbor from all distress is Hades.

For it is a magnificent thing to be able to say with undaunted conviction:

What man who recks not death can be a slave?


With Hades’ help shadows I do not fear.

For what is there cruel or so very distressing in being dead? It may be that the phenomenon of death, from being too familiar and natural to us, seems somehow, under changed circumstances, to be painful, though I know not why. For what wonder if the separable be separated, if the combustible be consumed, and the corruptible be corrupted? 106e. For at what time is death not existent in our very selves? As Heracleitus says: Living and dead are potentially the same thing, and so too waking and sleeping, and young and old; for the latter revert to the former, and the former in turn to the latter. For as one is able from the same clay to model figures of living things and to obliterate them, and again to model and obliterate, and alternately to repeat these operations without ceasing, so Nature, using the same material, a long time ago raised up our forefathers, 106f. and then in close succession to them created our fathers, and then ourselves, and later will create others and still others in a never-ending cycle; and the stream of generation, thus flowing onward perpetually, will never stop, and so likewise its counterpart, flowing in the opposite direction — which is the stream of destruction, whether it be designated by the poets as Acheron or as Cocytus. The same agency which at the first showed us the light of the sun brings also the darkness of Hades. May not the air surrounding us serve to symbolize this, causing as it does day and night alternately, which bring us life and death, and sleep and waking? Wherefore it is said that life is a debt to destiny, the idea being that the loan which our forefathers contracted is to be repaid by us. 107a. This debt we ought to discharge cheerfully and without bemoaning whenever the lender asks for payment; for in this way we should show ourselves to be most honorable men.

Chapter XI

I imagine also that it was because Nature saw the indefiniteness and the brevity of life that she caused the time allowed us before death to be kept from us. And it is better so; for if we knew this beforehand, some persons would be utterly wasted by griefs before their time, and would be dead long before they died. Observe too the painfulness of life, and the exhaustion caused by many cares; if we should wish to enumerate all these, we should to readily condemn life, and we should confirm the opinion which now prevails in the minds of some that it is better to be dead than to live. Simonides at any rate says:

107b. Petty indeed is men’s strength;
All their strivings are vain;
Toil upon toil in a life of no length.
Death hovers over them all,
Death which is foreordained,
Equal the share by the brave is attained
In death with the base.

And Pindar says:

A pair of miseries with each good
The deathless gods mete out to mortal man.
The foolish cannot bear them as they should.

And Sophocles says:

Mourn you a mortal if he’s passed away,
Not knowing if the future brings him gain?

And Euripides says:

Know you the nature of this mortal world?
107c. I wot not. For whence could you? But hear me,
By all mankind is owed a debt to death,
And not a single man can be assured
If he shall live throughout the coming day.
For Fortune’s movements are inscrutable.

Since, then, the life of men is such as these poets say it is, surely it is more fitting to felicitate those who have been released from their servitude in it than to pity them and bewail them, as the majority do through ignorance.

Chapter XII

107d. Socrates said that death resembles either a very deep sleep or a long and distant journey, or, thirdly, a sort of destruction and extinction of both the body and the soul, but that by no one of these possibilities is it an evil. Each of these conceptions he pursued further, and the first one first. For if death is a sleep, and there is nothing evil in the state of those who sleep, it is evident that there is likewise nothing evil in the state of those who are dead. Nay, what need is there even to state that the deepest sleep is indeed the sweetest? For the fact is of itself patent to all men, and Homer bears witness by saying regarding it:

Slumber the deepest and sweetest, and nearest to death in its semblance.

107e. In another place also he says:

Here she chanced to encounter the brother of Death, which is Slumber,


Slumber and Death, the twin brothers,

thereby indicating this similarity in appearance, for twins show most similarity. And again somewhere he says that death is a brazen sleep, in allusion to our insensibility in it. And not inelegantly did the man seem to put the case who called sleep the Lesser Mysteries of death; for sleep is really a preparatory rite for death. Very wise was the remark of the cynic Diogenes, who, when he had sunk into slumber and was about to depart this life, was roused by his physician, 107f. who inquired if anything distressed him, Nothing, he said, for the one brother merely forestalls the other.

Chapter XIII

If death indeed resembles a journey, even so it is not an evil. On the contrary, it may even be a good. For to pass one’s time unenslaved by the flesh and its emotions, by which the mind is distracted and tainted with human folly, would be a blessed piece of good fortune. 108a. For the body, says Plato, in countless ways leaves us no leisure because of its necessary care and feeding. Moreover, if any diseases invade it, they hinder our pursuit of reality, and it fills us with lusts and desires and fears and all manner of fancies and folly, so that, as the saying goes, because of it we really have no opportunity to think seriously of anything. It is a fact that wars and strifes and battles are brought about by nothing else except the body and its desires; for all wars are waged for the acquisition of property, 108b. and property we are forced to acquire because of the body, since we are slaves in its service; and the result is that, because of these things, we have no leisure for study. And the worst of all is, that even if we do gain some leisure from the demands of the body, and turn to the consideration of some subject, yet at every point in our investigation the body forces itself in, and causes tumult and confusion, and disconcerts us, so that on account of it we are unable to discern the truth. Nay, the fact has been thoroughly demonstrated to us that, if we are ever going to have any pure knowledge, we must divest ourselves of the body, and with the soul itself observe the realities. 108c. And, as it appears, we shall possess what we desire and what we profess to long for — and that is wisdom — only, as our reasoning shows, after we are dead, but not while we are alive. For if it is impossible in company with the body to have any pure knowledge, then one of two things is true: either it is not possible to attain knowledge anywhere, or else only after death. For then the soul will be quite by itself, separate from the body, but before that time never. And so, while we live, we shall, as it appears, be nearest to knowledge if, as far as possible, we have no association or communion with the body, except such as absolute necessity requires, and if we do not taint ourselves with its nature, but keep ourselves pure of it until such time as God himself shall release us. 108d. And thus, being rid of the irrationality of the body, we shall, in all likelihood, be in the company of others in like state, and we shall behold with our own eyes the pure and absolute, which is the truth; since for the impure to touch the pure may well be against the divine ordinance.

So, even if it be likely that death transports us into another place, it is not an evil; for it may possibly prove to be a good, as Plato has shown. Wherefore very wonderful were the words which Socrates uttered before his judges, to this effect: 108e. To be afraid of death, Sirs, is nothing else than to seem to be wise when one is not; for it is to seem to know what one does not know. For in regard to death nobody knows even whether it happens to be for mankind the greatest of all good things, yet they fear it as if they knew well that it is the greatest of evils. From this view it seems that the poet does not dissent who says:

Let none fear death, which is release from toils,

— ay, and from the greatest of evils as well.

Chapter XIV

It is said that the Deity also bears witness to this. For tradition tells us that many for their righteousness have gained this gift from the gods. Most of these I shall pass over, having regard to due proportion in my composition; but I shall mention the most conspicuous, whose story is on the lips of all men. 108f. First I shall relate for you the tale of Cleobis and Biton, the Argive youths. They say that their mother was priestess of Hera, and when the time had come for her to go up to the temple, and the mules that always drew her wagon were late in arriving, and the hour was pressing, these young men put themselves to the wagon and drew their mother to the temple; and she, overjoyed at the devotion of her sons, prayed that the best boon that man can receive be given them by the goddess. They then lay down to sleep and never arose again, the goddess granting them death as a reward for their devotion. 109a. Of Agamedes and Trophonius, Pindar says that after building the temple at Delphi they asked Apollo for a reward, and he promised to make payment on the seventh day, bidding them in the meantime to eat, drink, and be merry. They did what was commanded, and on the evening of the seventh day lay down to sleep and their life came to an end.

It is said that Pindar himself enjoined upon the deputies of the Boeotians who were sent to consult the god that they should inquire, 109b. What is the best thing for mankind? and the prophetic priestess made answer, that he himself could not be ignorant of it if the story which had been written about Trophonius and Agamedes were his; but if he desired to learn it by experience, it should be made manifest to him within a short time. As a result of this inquiry Pindar inferred that he should expect death, and after a short time his end came.

They say that the following incident happened to the Italian Euthynoüs. He was the son of Elysius, of Terina, a man foremost among the people there in virtue, wealth, and repute, and Euthynoüs came to his end suddenly from some unknown cause. Now it occurred to Elysius, as it might have occurred to anybody else, that his son had perhaps died of poisoning; 109c. for he was his only heir to a large property and estate. Being in perplexity as to how he might put his suspicions to the test, he visited a place where the spirits of the dead are conjured up, and having offered the preliminary sacrifice prescribed by custom, he lay down to sleep in the place, and had this vision. It seemed that his own father came to him, and that on seeing his father he related to him what had happened touching his son, and begged and besought his help to discover the man who was responsible for his son’s death. And his father said, It is for this that I am come. Take from this person here what he brings for you, and from this you will learn about everything over which you are now grieving. The person whom he indicated was a young man who followed him, 109d. resembling his son Euthynoüs and close to him in years and stature. So Elysius asked who he was; and he said, I am the ghost of your son, and with these words he handed him a paper. This Elysius opened and saw written there these three lines:

Verily somehow the minds of men in ignorance wander;
Dead now Euthynoüs lies; destiny has so decreed.
Not for himself was it good that he live, nor yet for his parents.

Such, you observe, is the purport of the tales recorded in ancient writers.

Chapter XV

109e. If, however, death is really a complete destruction and dissolution of both body and soul (for this was the third of Socrates’ conjectures), even so it is not an evil. For, according to him, there ensues a sort of insensibility and a liberation from all pain and anxiety. For just as no good can attach to us in such a state, so also can no evil; for just as the good, from its nature, can exist only in the case of that which is and has substantiality, so it is also with the evil. But in the case of that which is not, but has been removed from the sphere of being, neither of them can have any real existence. Now those who have died return to the same state in which they were before birth; therefore, as nothing was either good or evil for us before birth, even so will it be with us after death. 109f. And just as all events before our lifetime were nothing to us, even so will all events subsequent to our lifetime be nothing to us. For in reality

No suffering affects the dead,


Not to be born I count the same as death.

For the condition after the end of life is the same as that before birth. But do you imagine that there is a difference between not being born at all, and being born and then passing away? Surely not, unless you assume also that there is a difference in a house or a garment of ours after its destruction, as compared with the time when it had not yet been fashioned. 110a. If there is no difference in the case of death, either, as compared with the condition before birth. Arcesilaus puts the matter neatly: This that we call an evil, death, is the only one of the supposed evils which, when present, has never caused anybody any pain, but causes pain when it is not present but merely expected. As a matter of fact, many people, because of their utter fatuity and their false opinion regarding death, die in their effort to keep from dying. Excellently does Epicharmus put it:

To be and not to be hath been his fate;

110b. once more

Gone is he whence he came, earth back to earth,
The soul on high. What here is evil? Naught.

Cresphontes in some play of Euripides, speaking of Heracles, says:

For if he dwells beneath the depths of earth
‘Mid lifeless shades, his vigor would be naught.

This you might rewrite and say,

For if he dwells beneath the depths of earth
‘Mid lifeless shades, his dolor would be naught.

Noble also is the Spartan song:

Here now are we; before us others throve, and others still straightway,
But we shall never live to see their day;

and again:

110c. Those who have died and who counted no honor the living or dying,
Only to consummate both nobly were honor for them.

Excellently does Euripides say of those who patiently endure long illnesses:

I hate the men who would prolong their lives
By foods and drinks and charms of magic art,
Perverting nature’s course to keep off death;
They ought, when they no longer serve the land,
To quit this life, and clear the way for youth.

110d. And Merope stirs the theatres by expressing manly sentiments when she speaks the following words:

Not mine the only children who have died,
Nor I the only woman robbed of spouse;
Others as well as I have drunk life’s dregs.

With this the following might be appropriately combined:

Where now are all those things magnificent —
Great Croesus, lord of Lydia? Xerxes, too,
Who yoked the sullen neck of Hellespont?
110e. Gone all to Hades and Oblivion’s house,

and their wealth perished with their bodies.

Chapter XVI

True, it may be said, but an untimely death moves most people to mourning and lamentation. Yet, even for this, words of consolation are so readily found that they have been perceived by even uninspired poets, and comfort has been had from them. Observe what one of the Poets says on this subject to a man who is grieving for an untimely death:

Then if you knew that, had he lived this life,
Which he did not live, Fate had favoured him,
His death was not well timed; but, if again
This life had brought some ill incurable,
Then Death perhaps were kindlier than you.

110f. Since, then, it is uncertain whether or not it was profitable for him that he rested from his labors, forsaking this life and released from greater ills, we ought not to bear it so grievously as though we had lost all that we thought we should gain from him. Not ill considered, evidently, is the comfort which Amphiaraus in the poem offers to the mother of Archemorus, who is greatly affected because her son came to his end in his infancy long before his time. For he says:

There is no man that does not suffer ill;
Man buries children, and begets yet more,
And dies himself. Men are distressed at this,
Committing earth to earth. But Fate decrees
111a. That life be garnered like the ripened grain,
That one shall live and one shall pass from life.
What need to grieve at this, which Nature says
Must be the constant cycle of all life?
In what must be there’s naught that man need dread.

Chapter XVII

In general everyone ought to hold the conviction, if he seriously reviews the facts both by himself and in the company of another, that not the longest life is the best, but the most efficient. For it is not the man who has played the lyre the most, or made the most speeches, or piloted the most ships, who is commended, 111b. but he who has done these things excellently. Excellence is not to be ascribed to length of time, but to worth and timely fitness. For these have come to be regarded as tokens of good fortune and of divine favor. It is for this reason, at any rate, that the poets have traditionally represented those of the heroes who were pre-eminent and sprung from the gods as quitting this life before old age, like him

Who to the heart of great Zeus and Apollo was held to be dearest,
Loved with exceeding great love; but of eld he reached not the threshold.

For we everywhere observe that it is a happy use of opportunity, rather than a happy old age, that wins the highest place. 111c. For of trees and plants the best are those that in a brief time produce the most crops of fruit, and the best of animals are those from which in no long time we have the greatest service toward our livelihood. The terms long and short obviously appear to lose their difference if we fix our gaze on eternity. For a thousand or ten thousand years, according to Simonides, are but a vague second of time, or rather the smallest fraction of a second. Take the case of those creatures which they relate exist on the shores of the Black Sea, and have an existence of only one day, being born in the morning, reaching the prime of life at mid-day, and toward evening growing old and ending their existence; would there not be in those creatures this same feeling which prevails in us, if each of them had within him a human soul and power to reason, and would not the same relative conditions obviously obtain there, 111d. so that those who departed this life before mid-day would cause lamentation and tears, while those who lived through the day would be accounted altogether happy? The measure of life is its excellence, not its length in years.

Chapter XVIII

We must regard as vain and foolish such exclamations as these: But he ought not to have been snatched away while young! For who may say what ought to be? Many other things, of which one may say they ought not to have been done, have been done, and are done, and will be done over and over again. 111e. For we have come into this world, not to make laws for its governance, but to obey the commandments of the gods who preside over the universe, and the decrees of Fate or Providence.

Chapter XIX

But do those who mourn for the untimely dead, mourn on their own account or on account of the departed? If on their own account, because they have been cut off from some gratification or profit or comfort in old age, which they might have expected from the dead, then is their excuse for grieving wholly selfish; for it will be plain that they mourn, not for them, but for their services. But if they mourn on account of the dead, then if they will fix their attention on the fact that the dead are in no evil state, 111f. they will rid themselves of grief by following that wise and ancient admonition to magnify the good and to minimize and lessen the evil. If, then, mourning is a good, we ought to enlarge and magnify it in every way. But if, as the truth is, we admit it to be an evil, we ought to minimize and reduce it, and as far as possible to efface it.

That this is easy is plainly to be seen from the following sort of consolation. They say that one of the ancient philosophers visited Arsinoë, the queen, who was mourning for her son, 112a. and made use of this story, saying that at the time Zeus was distributing to the deities their honors, Mourning did not happen to be present, but arrived after the distribution had been made. But when she said it was only right that some honor be given to her also, Zeus, being perplexed, since all the honors had been used up, finally gave her that honor which is paid in the case of those who have died — tears and griefs. Just as the other deities, therefore, are fond of those by whom they are honored, so also is Mourning. 112b. Therefore, Madame, if you treat her with disrespect, she will not come near you; but if she is strictly honored by you with the honors which were conceded to her, namely griefs and lamentations, she will love you and affectionately will be ever with you, provided only she be constantly honored by you. Admirably, it appears, he succeeded, by this story, in convincing the woman and in alleviating her mourning and lamentations.

Chapter XX

In general one might say to the man who mourns, Shall you at some time cease to take this to heart, or shall you feel that you must grieve always every day of your life? For if you purpose to remain always in this extreme state of affliction, you will bring complete wretchedness 112c. and the most bitter misery upon yourself by the ignobleness and cowardice of your soul. But if you intend some time to change your attitude, why do you not change it at once and extricate yourself from this misfortune? Give attention now to those arguments by the use of which, as time goes on, your release shall be accomplished, and relieve yourself now of your sad condition. For in the case of bodily afflictions the quickest way of relief is the better. Therefore concede now to reason and education what you surely will later concede to time, and release yourself from your troubles.

Chapter XXI

But I cannot, he says, for I never expected or looked for this experience. 112d. But you ought to have looked for it, and to have previously pronounced judgement on human affairs for their uncertainty and fatuity, and then you would not now have been taken off your guard as by enemies suddenly come upon you. Admirably does Theseus in Euripides appear to have prepared himself for such crises, for they say:

But I have learned this from a certain sage,
And on these cares and troubles set my mind,
And on myself laid exile from my land
And early deaths and other forms of ills,
That if I suffer aught my fancy saw,
112e. It should not, coming newly, hurt the more.

But the more ignoble and untutored sometimes cannot even recall themselves to the consideration of anything seemly and profitable, but go out of their way to find extremes of wretchedness, even to punishing their innocent body and to forcing the unafflicted, as Achaeus says, to join in their grief.

Chapter XXII

Wherefore very excellently Plato appears to advise us in such misfortunes to maintain a calm demeanor, since neither the evil nor the good in them is at all plain, 112f. and since no advance is made by the man who takes things much to heart. For grief stands in the way of sane counsel about an event and prevents one from arranging his affairs with relation to what has befallen, as a player does at a throw of the dice, in whatever way reason may convince him would be best. We ought not, therefore, when we have fallen to act like children and hold on to the injured place and scream, but we should accustom our soul speedily to concern itself with curing the injury and raising up the fallen, and we should put away lamentation by remedial art.

They say that the lawgiver of the Lycians ordered his citizens, whenever they mourned, to clothe themselves first in woman’s garments and then to mourn, wishing to make it clear that mourning is womanish 113a. and unbecoming to decorous men who lay claim to the education of the free-born. Yes, mourning is verily feminine, and weak, and ignoble, since women are more given to it than men, and barbarians more than Greeks, and inferior men more than better men; and of the barbarians themselves, not the most noble, Celts and Galatians, and all who by nature are filled with a more manly spirit, but rather, if such there are, the Egyptians and Syrians and Lydians and all those who are like them. 113b. For it is recorded that some of these go down into pits and remain there for several days, not desiring even to behold the light of the sun since the deceased also is bereft of it. At any rate the tragic poet Ion, who was not without knowledge of the foolishness of these peoples, has represented a woman as saying:

The nurse of lusty children I have come,
To supplicate you, from the mourning pits.

And some of the barbarians even cut off parts of their bodies, their noses and ears, and mutilate other portions of their bodies also, thinking to gratify the dead by abandoning that moderation of feeling which Nature enjoins in such cases.

Chapter XXIII

113c. But I dare say that, in answer to this, some may assert their belief that there need not be mourning for every death, but only for untimely deaths, because of the failure of the dead to gain what are commonly held to be the advantages of life, which as marriage, education, manhood, citizenship, or public affairs (for these are the considerations, they say, which most cause grief to those who suffer misfortune through untimely deaths, since they are robbed of their hope out of due time); but they do not realize that the untimely death shows no disparity if it be considered with reference to the common lot of man. For just as when it has been decided to migrate to a new fatherland, and the journey is compulsory for all, and none by entreaty can escape it, some go on ahead and others follow after, but all come to the same place; in the same manner, of all who are journeying toward Destiny those who come more tardily have no advantage over those who arrive earlier. If it be true that untimely death is an evil, 113d. the most untimely would be that of infants and children, and still more that of the newly born. But such deaths we bear easily and cheerfully, but the deaths of those who have already lived some time with distress and mourning because of our fanciful notion, born of vain hopes, since we have come to feel quite assured of the continued tarrying with us of persons who have lived so long. But if the years of man’s life were but twenty, we should feel that he who passed away at fifteen had not died untimely, but that he had already attained an adequate measure of age, 113e. while the man who had completed the prescribed period of twenty years, or who had come close to the count of twenty years, we should assuredly deem happy as having lived through a most blessed and perfect life. But if the length of life were two hundred years, we should certainly feel that he who came to his end at one hundred was cut off untimely, and we should betake ourselves to wailing and lamentation.

Chapter XXIV

It is evident, therefore, that even the death which we call untimely readily admits of consolation, both for these reasons and for those previously given. For in fact Troilus shed fewer tears than did Priam; 113f. and if Priam had died earlier, while his kingdom and his great prosperity were at their height, he would not have used such sad words as he did in conversation with his own son Hector, when he advised him to withdraw from the battle with Achilles; he says:

Come then within the walled city, my son, so to save from destruction
All of the men and the women of Troy, nor afford a great triumph
Unto the offspring of Peleus, and forfeit the years of your lifetime.
114a. Also for me have compassion, ill-starred, while yet I have feeling;
Hapless I am; on the threshold of eld will the Father, descended from Cronus,
Make me to perish in pitiful doom, after visions of evils,
Sons being slain and our daughters as well being dragged to be captives,
Chambers of treasure all wantonly plundered and poor little children
Dashed to the earth in the terrible strife by the merciless foeman,
Wives of my sons being dragged by the ravishing hands of Achaeans.
Me, last of all, at the very front doors shall the dogs tear to pieces,
Ravening, eager for blood, when a foeman wielding his weapon,
114b. Keen-edged of bronze, by a stroke or a throw, takes the life from my body.
Yet when the dogs bring defilement on hair and on beard that is hoary,
And on the body as well of an old man slain by the foeman,
This is the saddest of sights ever seen by us unhappy mortals.

Thus did the old man speak, and his hoary locks plucked by the handful,
Tearing his hair from his head, but he moved not the spirit of Hector.

Since you have, then, so very many examples regarding this matter, bear in mind the fact that death relieves not a few persons from great and grievous ills which, if they had lived on, they would surely have experienced. 114c. But, out of regard for the due proportions of my argument, I omit these, contenting myself with what has been said touching the wrongfulness of being carried away beyond natural and moderate bounds to futile mourning and ignoble lamentation.

Chapter XXV

Crantor says that not being to blame for one’s unhappy state is no small alleviation for misfortunes; but I should say that it surpasses all others as a remedy for the cure of grief. But affection and love for the departed does not consist in distressing ourselves, but in benefiting the beloved one; and a benefit for those who have been taken away is 114d. the honor paid to them through keeping their memory green. For no good man, after he is dead, is deserving of lamentations, but of hymns and songs of joy; not of mourning, but of an honorable memory; not of sorrowing tears, but of offerings of sacrifice, — if the departed one is now a partaker in some life more divine, relieved of servitude to the body, and of these everlasting cares and misfortunes which those who have received a mortal life as their portion are constrained to undergo until such time as they shall complete their allotted earthly existence, which Nature has not given us for eternity; but she has distributed to us severally the apportioned amount in accordance with the laws of fate.

Chapter XXVI

114e. Wherefore, over those who die men of good sense ought not to be carried away by sorrow beyond the natural and moderate limit of grief, which so affects the soul, into useless and barbarian mourning, and they ought not to wait for that outcome which has already been the lot of many in the past, the result of which is that they terminate their own lives in misery because they have put off their mourning, and gain nothing but a forlorn burial in their garments of sorrow, as their woes and the ills born of their unreasonableness follow them to the grave, so that one might utter over them the verse of Homer:

While they were weeping and wailing black darkness descended upon them.

We should therefore often hold converse with ourselves after this fashion and say: 114f. What? Shall we some day cease grieving, or shall we consort with unceasing misery to the very end of our life? For to regard our mourning as unending is the mark of the most extreme foolishness, especially when we observe how those who have been in the deepest grief and greatest mourning often become most cheerful under the influence of time, and at the very tombs where they gave violent expression to their grief by wailing and beating their breasts, they arrange most elaborate banquets with musicians and all the other forms of diversion. It is accordingly the mark of a madman thus to assume that he shall keep his mourning permanently. 115a. If, however, men should reason that mourning will come to an end after some particular event, they might go on and reason that it will come to an end when time, forsooth, has produced some effect; for not even God can undo what has been done. So, then, that which in the present instance has come to pass contrary to our expectation and contrary to our opinion has only demonstrated what is wont, through the very course of events, to happen in the case of many men. What then? Are we unable, through reason, to learn this fact and draw the conclusion, that

Full is the earth now of evils, and full of them too is the ocean.

and also this:

Such woes of woes for mortal men,
And round about the Fates throng close;
115b. There is no vacant pathway for the air?

Chapter XXVII

Not merely now, but long ago, as Crantor says, the lot of man has been bewailed by many wise men, who have felt that life is a punishment and that for man to be born at all is the greatest calamity. Aristotle says that Silenus when he was captured declared this to Midas. It is better to quote the very words of the philosopher. He says, in the work which is entitled Eudemus, or Of the Soul, the following:

“‘Wherefore, O best and blessedest of all, in addition to believing that those who have ended this life are blessed and happy, 115c. we also think that to say anything false or slanderous against them is impious, from our feeling that it is directed against those who have already become our betters and superiors. And this is such an old and ancient belief with us that no one knows at all either the beginning of the time or the name of the person who first promulgated it, but it continues to be a fixed belief for all time. And in addition to this you observe how the saying, which is on the lips of all men, has been passed from mouth to mouth for many years.’ ‘What is this?’ said he. And the other, again taking up the discourse, said: ‘That not to be born is the best of all, and that to be dead is better than to live. 115d. And the proof that this is so has been given to many men by the deity. So, for example, they say that Silenus, after the hunt in which Midas of yore had captured him, when Midas questioned and inquired of him what is the best thing for mankind and what is the most preferable of all things, was at first unwilling to tell, but maintained a stubborn silence. But when at last, by employing every device, Midas induced him to say something to him, Silenus, forced to speak, said: “Ephemeral offspring of a travailing genius and of harsh fortune, why do you force me to speak what it were better for you men not to know? 115e. For a life spent in ignorance of one’s own woes is most free from grief. But for men it is utterly impossible that they should obtain the best thing of all, or even have any share in its nature (for the best thing for all men and women is not to be born); however, the next best thing to this, and the first of those to which man can attain, but nevertheless only the second best, is, after being born, to die as quickly as possible.” It is evident, therefore, that he made this declaration with the conviction that existence after death is better than that in life.’”

One might cite thousands and thousands of examples under this same head, but there is no need to be prolix.

Chapter XXVIII

115f. We ought not, therefore, to lament those who die young on the ground that they have been deprived of those things which in a long life are accounted good; for this is uncertain, as we have often said — whether the things of which they have been deprived are good or evil; for the evils are much the more numerous. And whereas we acquire the good things only with difficulty and at the expense of many anxieties, the evils we acquire very easily. For they say that the latter are compact and conjoined, and are brought together by many influences, while the good things are disjoined, and hardly manage to unite towards the very end of life. We therefore resemble men who have forgotten, 116a. not merely, as Euripides says, that

Mortals are not the owners of their wealth,

but also that they do not own a single one of human possessions. Wherefore we must say in regard to all things that

We keep and care for that which is the gods’,
And when they will they take it back again.

We ought not, therefore, to bear it with bad grace if the gods make demand upon us for what they have loaned us for a short time. For even the bankers, as we are in the habit of saying frequently, when demand is made upon them for the return of deposits, do not chafe at the repayment, if they be honorable men. To those who do not make repayment with good grace one might fairly say, 116b. Have you forgotten that you accepted this on condition that you should return it? Quite parallel is the lot of all mortals. For we hold our life, as it were, on deposit from the gods, who have compelled us to accept the account, and there is no fixed time for its return, just as with the bankers and their deposits, but it is uncertain when the depositor will demand payment. If a man, therefore, is exceedingly indignant, either when he himself is about to die, or when his children have died, must he not manifestly have forgotten that he is but human and the father of children who are mortal? For it is not characteristic of a man of sense to be unaware of the fact that man is a mortal creature, and that he is born to die. 116c. At any rate, if Niobe of the fable had had this conception ready at hand, that even the woman who,

Laden with the happy burden
Of sweet life and growing children,
Looks upon the pleasant sunlight,

must die, she would not have been so resentful as to wish to abandon life on account of the magnitude of her misfortune, and to implore the gods that she herself might be hurried to the most awful perdition.

There are two of the inscriptions at Delphi which are most indispensable to living. These are: Know thyself and Avoid extremes, 116d. for on these two commandments hang all the rest. These two are in harmony and agreement with each other, and the one seems to be made as clear as possible through the other. For in self-knowledge is included the avoidance of extremes, and in the latter is included self-knowledge. Therefore Ion speaks of the former as follows:

Not much to say is Know thyself; to do
This, Zeus alone of gods doth understand.

And, of the other, Pindar says:

The wise have lauded with exceeding praise the words Avoid extremes.

Chapter XXIX

If, then, one keeps these in mind as god-given injunctions, 116e. he will be able easily to adapt them to all the circumstances of life, and to bear with such circumstances intelligently, by being heedful of his own nature, and heedful, in whatever may befall him, not to go beyond the limit of propriety, either in being elated to boastfulness or in being humbled and cast down to wailings and lamentations, through weakness of the spirit and the fear of death which is implanted in us as a result of our ignorance of what is wont to happen in life in accordance with the decree of necessity or destiny. Excellent is the advice which the Pythagoreans gave, saying:

Whatsoe’er woes by the gods’ dispensation all mortals must suffer,
116f. What be the fate you must bear, you should bear it and not be indignant.

And the tragic poet Aeschylus says:

It is the mark of just and knowing men
In woes to feel no anger at the gods;

and Euripides:

Of mortals he who yields to fate we think
Is wise and knows the ways of Providence;

and in another place he says:

Of mortals he who bears his lot aright
117a. To me seems noblest and of soundest sense.

Chapter XXX

Most people grumble about everything, and have a feeling that everything which happens to them contrary to their expectations is brought about through the spite of Fortune and the divine powers. Therefore they wail at everything, and groan, and curse their luck. To them one might say in retort:

God is no bane to you; ‘tis you yourself,

you and your foolish and distorted notions due to your lack of education. It is because of this fallacious and deluded notion that men cry out against any sort of death. 117b If a man die while on a journey, they groan over him and say:

Wretched his fate; not for him shall his father or much revered mother
Close his dear eyelids in death.

But if he die in his own land with his parents at his bedside, they deplore his being snatched from their arms and leaving them the memory of the painful sight. If he die in silence without uttering a word about anything, they say amid their tears:

No, not a word did you say to me, which for the weight of its meaning
117c Ever might dwell in my mind.

But if he talked a little at the time of his death, they keep his words always before their mind as a sort of kindling for their grief. If he die suddenly, they deplore his death, saying, He was snatched away; but if he lingered long, they complain that he wasted away and suffered before he died. Any pretext is sufficient to arouse grief and lamentations. This movement the poets initiated, and especially the first of them, Homer, who says:

E’en as a father laments as the pyre of his dead son he kindles,
Wedded not long; by his death he brought woe to his unhappy parents.
Not to be told is the mourning and grief that he caused for his parents.

117d And yet so far it is not evident that the father is justified in bewailing thus. But note this next line:

Only and darlingest son, who is heir to his many possessions.

Chapter XXXI

For who knows but that God, having a fatherly care for the human race, and foreseeing future events, early removes some persons from life untimely? Wherefore we must believe that they undergo nothing that should be avoided. (For

In what must be, there’s naught that men need dread,

nor in any of those events which come to pass in accordance with the postulates or the logical deductions of reason), 117e both because the great majority of deaths forestall other and greater troubles and because it were better for some not to be born even, for others to die at the very moment of birth, for others after they have gone on in life a little way, and for still others while they are in their full vigor. Toward all such deaths we should maintain a cheerful frame of mind, since we know that we cannot escape destiny. It is the mark of educated men to take it for granted that those who seem to have been deprived of life untimely have but forestalled us for a brief time; for the longest life is short and momentary in comparison with eternity. 117f And we know, too, that many who have protracted their period of mourning have, after no long time, followed their lamented friends, without having gained any advantage from their mourning, but only useless torment by their misery.

Since the time of sojourn in life is very brief, we ought not, in unkempt grief and utterly wretched mourning, to ruin our lives by racking ourselves with mental anguish and bodily torments, but to turn to the better and more human course, by striving earnestly to converse with men who will not, for flattery, grieve with us and arouse our sorrows, 118a but will endeavor to dispel our griefs through noble and dignified consolation. We should hearken to Homer and keep in mind those lines of his which Hector spoke to Andromache, endeavoring, in his turn, to comfort her:

Dearest, you seem much excited; be not overtroubled in spirit;
No man beyond what is fated shall send me in death unto Hades.
For not a man among mortals, I say, has escaped what is destined,
Neither the base nor the noble, when once he has entered life’s pathway.

Of this destiny the poet elsewhere says:

118b When from his mother he came, in the thread of his life Fate entwined it.

Chapter XXXII

Keeping these things before our mind, we shall rid ourselves of the useless and vain extremes of mourning, since the time remaining of our life is altogether short. We must therefore be chary of it, so that we may live it in cheerfulness of spirit and without the disturbance of mournful griefs, by giving up the outward signs of sorrow and by bethinking ourselves of the care of our bodies and the welfare of those who live with us. It is a good thing also to call to mind the arguments which most likely we have sometimes employed with relatives or friends who found themselves in similar calamities, 118c when we tried to comfort them and to persuade them to bear the usual happenings of life in the usual way and a man’s lot like a man; and it is a good thing, too, not to put ourselves in the position of being able to help others to find relief from grief, but ourselves to have no profit in recalling the means through which we must cure the soul’s distress — by healing remedies of reason — since we should postpone anything else rather than the putting aside of grief. And yet one poet says that the man who in any matter puts off till tomorrow is wrestling with destruction — a proverb which is repeated among all men. 118d Much more, I think, is this true of the man who puts over to a future time the experiences which his soul finds so troublesome and so hard to face.

Chapter XXXIII

It is a good thing, too, to contemplate those men who nobly and high-mindedly and calmly have been resigned to the deaths which have befallen their sons — Anaxagoras of Clazomenae, Demosthenes of Athens, Dion of Syracuse, King Antigonus, and very many others among men both of earlier times and of our own day.

Of these, Anaxagoras, according to the traditional story, was talking about natural philosophy in conversation with his friends, when he heard from one of the messengers, who were sent to bring him the news, of the end which had befallen his son. He stopped for a moment and then said to those present, 118e I knew that I had begotten a son who was mortal.

Pericles, who was called the Olympian because of his surpassing power of reasoning and of understanding, learned that both his sons, Paralus and Xanthippus, had passed from life. Protagoras describes his conduct in these words: His sons were comely youths, but though they died within seven days of each other, he bore their deaths without repining. For he continued to hold to that serenity from which day by day he added greatly to his credit of being blest by Fortune and untroubled by sorrow, and to his high repute with the people at large. 118f For each and every man, as he beheld Pericles bearing his sorrows so stoutly, felt that he was high-minded and manful and his own superior, being only too well aware of what would be his own helplessness under such circumstances. For Pericles, immediately after the tidings about this two sons, none the less placed the garland upon his head, according to the time-honored custom at Athens, and, clad in garb of white, harangued the people, taking lead in good counsel, and inspiriting the Athenians to war.

Xenophon, the follower of Socrates, was once offering sacrifice when he learned from the messengers who had come from the field of battle that his son Gryllus had met his death while fighting. 119a He took the garland from his head and questioned them as to how he had died. When the messengers reported that he died nobly, displaying the greatest valor and after slaying many of the enemy, Xenophon was completely silent for a few moments while mastering his emotion by the power of reason, and then, replacing the garland, he completed the sacrifice, remarking to the messengers, I prayed to the gods, not that my son should be immortal or even long of life (for it is not clear whether it be of advantage so), but that he should be brave and patriotic; and so it has come to pass.

119b Dion of Syracuse was sitting in consultation with his friends, when there arose in the house a commotion and a great screaming, and upon inquiring the cause and hearing what had happened — that his son had fallen from the roof and been killed — he was not at all disconcerted, but commanded the corpse to be given over to the women for the usual preparation for burial, and he himself did not leave off the discussion in which he was engaged.

His example, they say, Demosthenes the orator emulated when he lost his only and much-loved daughter, of whom Aeschines, thinking to reproach Demosthenes, speaks as follows: 119c On the seventh day after his daughter’s death, before he had mourned for her or performed the customary rites, putting on a garland and resuming his white apparel, he offered a sacrifice in public and violated all custom, when he had lost, poor wretch, his only daughter, who was the first child to address him as father. So then Aeschines, purposing, after the manner of the political speaker, to reproach him, rehearsed these facts, being quite unaware that thereby he was really commending Demosthenes, who put aside his grief, and displayed his patriotism in preference to his feelings for his kindred.

Antigonus the king, on learning of the death of his son Alcyoneus, which had occurred in the line of battle, gazed proudly upon the messengers who had brought news of the calamity, and after waiting for a moment, said, bowing his head, 119d Not so very early, Alcyoneus, have you departed this life, since you always rushed so recklessly against the enemy without a thought either of your own safety or of my counsels.

The whole world wonders at these men and admires them for their nobility of mind, but others have not the ability to imitate them in practice because of that weakness of spirit which results from lack of education. But although there are so many examples, which have been handed down to us through both Greek and Roman history, of men who have behaved nobly and honorably at the deaths of their relatives, yet what has been said will suffice to induce you to put aside mourning, which is the most distressing of all things, and also the fruitless pain, 119e which serves no purpose, involved in mourning.

Chapter XXXIV

The fact that those who excel in virtues pass on to their fate while young, as though beloved of the gods, I have already called to your attention in an earlier part of my letter, and I shall endeavor at this time to touch upon it very briefly, merely adding my testimony to that which has been so well said by Menander:

Whom the gods love dies young.

But perhaps, my dearest Apollonius, you would say in retort that your young son had been placed under the special care of Apollo and the Fates, 119f and that it should have been you who, on departing this life, received the last offices from him, after he had come to full manhood; for this, you say, is in accordance with nature. Yes, in accordance with your nature, no doubt, and mine, and that of mankind in general, but not in accordance with the Providence which presides over all or with the universal dispensation. But for that boy, now among the blessed, it was not in accordance with nature that he should tarry beyond the time allotted to him for life on this earth, but that, after fulfilling this term with due obedience, he should set forth to meet his fate, which was already (to use his own words) summoning him to himself. But he died untimely. Yes, but for this very reason his lot is happier, and he is spared many evils; for Euripides says:

120a Life bears the name of life, being but toil.

But he, in the most blooming period of his years, has departed early, a perfect youth, envied and admired by all who knew him. He was fond of his father and mother and his relatives and friends, or, to put it in a word, he loved his fellow men; he respected the elderly among his friends as fathers, he was affectionate towards his companions and familiar friends, he honored his teachers, and was most kind toward strangers and citizens, 120b gentle with all and beloved of all, both because of his charm of appearance and because of his affable kindliness.

Ah well, but he, bearing with him the fair and fitting fame of your righteousness and his own conjoined, has departed early to eternity from out this mortal life, as from an evening party, before falling into any such grossness of conduct as is wont to be the concomitant of a long old age. And if the account of the ancient poets and philosophers is true, as it most likely is, and so there is for those of the departed who have been righteous a certain honor and preferment, as is said, and a place set apart in which their souls pass their existence, 120c then you ought to be of good hope for your dear departed son that he will be reckoned among their number and will be with them.

Chapter XXXV

These are the words of the melic poet Pindar regarding the righteous in the other world:

For them doth the strength of the sun shine below,
While night all the earth doth overstrow.
In meadows of roses their suburbs lie,
Roses all tinged with a crimson dye.
They are shaded by trees that incense bear,
And trees with golden fruit so far.
Some with horses and sports of might,
Others in music and draughts delight.
Happiness there grows ever apace,
Perfumes are wafted o’er the loved place,
As the incense they strew where the gods’s altars are
And the fire that consumes it is seen from afar.

120d And a little farther on, in another lament for the dead, speaking of the soul, he says:

In happy fate they all
Were freed by death from labor’s thrall,
Man’s body follows at the beck of death
O’ermastering. Alive is left
The image of the stature that he gained,
Since this alone is from the gods obtained.
It sleeps while limbs move to and fro,
But, while we sleep, in dreams doth show
The choice we cannot disregard
Between the pleasant and the hard.

Chapter XXXVI

The divine Plato has said a good deal in his treatise On the Soul about its immortality, and not a little also 120e in the Republic and Meno and Gorgias, and here and there in his other dialogues. What is said in the dialogue On the Soul I will copy, with comments, and send you separately, as you desired. But for the present occasion these words, which were spoken to Callicles the Athenian, the friend and disciple of Gorgias the orator, are timely and profitable. They say that Socrates, according to Plato’s account, says:

Listen to a very beautiful story, which you, I imagine, will regard as a myth, but which I regard as a story; for what I am going to say I shall relate as true. As Homer tells the tale, Zeus, Poseidon, and Pluto divided the kingdom when they received it from their father. 120f Now this was the custom regarding men even in the time of Cronus, and it has persisted among the gods to this day — that the man who has passed through life justly and in holiness shall, at his death, depart to the Islands of the Blest and dwell in all happiness beyond the reach of evil, while he who has lived an unjust and godless life shall go to the prison-house of justice and punishment, 121a which they call Tartarus. The judges of these men, in the time of Cronus and in the early days of Zeus’ dominion, were living, and judged the living, giving judgement on the day when the men were about to die. As time went on, for some reason the cases were not decided well. Accordingly Pluto and the supervisors in the Islands of the Blest went to Zeus and said to him that there kept coming to them at both places inadmissible persons. Very well, said Zeus, then I shall put a stop to this proceeding. The judgments are now rendered poorly; 121b for, said he, those who are judged are judged with a covering on them, since they are judged while alive, and so, he continued, a good many perhaps who have base souls are clad with beautiful bodies and ancestry and riches, and, when the judgement takes place, many come to testify for them that they have lived righteously. So not only are the judges disconcerted by these things, but at the same time they themselves sit in judgement with a covering on them, having before their own souls, like a veil, their eyes and ears and their whole body. All these things come between, both their own covering and that of those who are being judged. 121c In the first place, then, all their foreknowledge of death must be ended; for now they have foreknowledge of it. So Prometheus has been told to put an end to this. Secondly, they must be judged divested of all these things; for they must be judged after they have died. The judge also must be naked, and dead, that he may view with his very soul the very soul of every man instantly after he has died, and intimated from all his kin, having left behind on earth all earthly adornments, so that his judgment may be just. I, therefore, realizing this situation sooner than you, have made my own sons judges, two from Asia — Minos and Rhadamanthys — and one from Europe — Aeacus. 121d These, then, as soon as they have died, shall sit in judgement in the meadow at the parting of the ways whence the two roads lead, the one to the Islands of the Blest and the other to Tartarus. The people of Asia shall Rhadamanthys judge, while Aeacus shall judge the people of Europe; and to Minos I shall give the prerogative of pronouncing final judgement in case the other two be in any doubt, in order that the decision in regard to the route which men must take shall be as just as possible. This, Callicles, is what I have heard, and believe to be true; and from these words I draw the following inference — that death is, as it seems to me, nothing else than the severing of two things, 121e soul and body, from each other.

Chapter XXXVII

Having collected and put together these extracts, my dearest Apollonius, with great diligence, I have completed this letter of condolence to you, which is most needful to enable you to put aside your present grief and to put an end to mourning, which is the most distressing of all things. In it is included also for your son, Apollonius, a youth so very dear to the gods, a fitting tribute, which is much coveted by the sanctified — a tribute due to his honorable memory and to his fair fame, which will endure for time eternal. You will do well, therefore, to be persuaded by reason, and, as a favour to your dear departed son, 121f to turn from your unprofitable distress and desolation, which affect both body and soul, and to go back to your accustomed and natural course of life. Forasmuch as your son, while he was living among us, was sorry to see either you or his mother downcast, even so, now that he is with the gods and is feasting with them, he would not be well satisfied with your present course of life. Resume, therefore, the spirit of a brave-hearted and high-minded man who loves his offspring, 122a and set free from all this wretchedness both yourself, the mother of the youth, and your relatives and friends, as you may do by pursuing a more tranquil form of life, which will be most gratifying both to your son and to all of us who are concerned for you, as we rightly should be.

Moral Essay 31: On Moral Virtue


If the present essay is the work of Plutarch, we may, perhaps, be surprised at the diffuseness with which the author permits himself to wander at leisure over the preserves of Aristotelian psychology, while almost completely neglecting the promises made in such high-sounding terms in his first sentence. The purpose of the essay is apparently to refute certain tenets of Stoic psychology, and these are, to be sure, attacked with some spirit, but at such length and with so little attention to logic or to their intended meaning, that complete success is not to be expected. The point which is continually belaboured is that there are two parts of the soul, the Rational and the Irrational; for Moral Virtue to arise, the Rational must control the Irrational. So much our author has gleaned from Aristotle and to this he adds very little; nor can he apply his vast reading in poetry and philosophy with much effect to the demolition of Stoic dogma, which he appears in several points to have misunderstood. On the whole, whether from the standpoint of popular or from that of serious philosophy, this is one of the least successful of Plutarch’s works.

A word on the terminology is necessary: Aristotelian usage is probably intended throughout the greater part of the work. I have, therefore, followed most English Aristotelians in my rendering of many terms, with δύναμις capacity or faculty or power, φρόνησις prudence, and the like. ἔξις I have rendered acquired state, but πάθος and its forms and derivatives I have translated emotions, passions, experiences, according to my interpretation of the context.

It is interesting to notice that Pope in the Essay on Man (II.51 ff.) has apparently drawn his philosophy from Plutarch’s diluted Aristotelianism rather than from the fountain head.

The MS. tradition is fairly good. The work has been well edited by Mr. Pohlenz in the Teubner series; from this edition most of the critical notes and the parallel passages have been taken.

The work is No. 72 in Lamprias’ catalogue of Plutarch’s writings.

Chapter I

440d. It is my purpose to speak of that virtue which is called moral and reputed to be so, which differs from contemplative virtue chiefly in that it has as its material the emotions of the soul and as its form reason, and to inquire what its essential nature is and how, by its nature, it subsists; whether, also, that part of the soul which receives it is equipped with its own reason, or does but share in the reason of some other part; and if the latter, whether it does this after the manner of elements that are mingled with what is better than themselves, or rather, whether this portion of the soul is guided and governed by another part and in this sense may be said to share in that governing part’s power. For that it is possible for virtue also to have come into being and to remain entirely independent of matter and free from all admixture with it, 440e. I think is quite obvious. It is better, however, to run summarily through the opinions of the philosophers holding opposing views, not so much for the sake of inquiring into them as that my own opinions may become clearer and more firmly established when those of the philosophers in question have been presented.

Chapter II

In the first place, Menedemus of Eretria deprived the virtues of both plurality and differences by asserting that virtue is but one, though it goes under many names: the same thing is meant by temperance and courage and justice, as is the case with mortal and man. And Ariston of Chios himself also made virtue but one in its essential nature and called it health; 440f. but in its relative aspect he made certain distinctions and multiplied virtues, just as though one should wish to call our sight white-sight when it is applied to white objects, or black-sight when applied to black objects, or anything else of the sort. For instance virtue, when it considers what we must do or avoid, is called prudence; 441a. when it controls our desires and lays down for them the limitations of moderation and seasonableness in our pleasures, it is called temperance; when it has to do with men’s relations to one another and their commercial dealings, it is called justice — just as a knife is one and the same knife, though it cuts now one thing, now another, or as a fire retains its single nature though it operates upon different substances. Moreover it appears likely that Zeno of Citium also inclines in some measure to this opinion, for he defines prudence as justice when it is concerned with what must be rendered to others as their due, as temperance when concerned with what must be chosen or avoided, as fortitude when concerned with what must be endured; and those who defend Zeno postulate that in these definitions he uses the word prudence in the sense of knowledge. 441b. Chrysippus, however, by his opinion that corresponding to each several quality a virtue is formed by its own distinctive attribute of quality, unwittingly stirred up a swarm of virtues, as Plato has it, which were not familiar nor even known; for as from the adjective brave he derived bravery, from mild mildness, and justice from just, so from charming he derived charmingness, from virtuous virtuousnesses, from great greatnesses, from honorable honorablenesses, postlating also the other qualities of the same sort, dexterousnesses, approachablenesses, adroitnesses, as virtues, and thus filled philosophy, which needed nothing of the sort, with many uncouth names.

Chapter III

Yet all of these men agree in supposing virtue to be a certain disposition of the governing portion of the soul 441c. and a faculty engendered by reason, or rather to be itself reason which is in accord with virtue and is firm and unshaken. They also think that the passionate and irrational part of the soul is not distinguished from the rational by any difference or by its nature, but is the same part, which, indeed, they term intelligence and the governing part; it is, they say, wholly transformed and changes both during its emotional states and in the alterations brought about in accordance with an acquired disposition or condition and thus becomes both vice and virtue; it contains nothing irrational within itself, but is called irrational whenever, by the overmastering power of our impulses, which have become strong and prevail, it is hurried on to something outrageous which contravenes the convictions of reason. 441d. Passion, in fact, according to them, is a vicious and intemperate reason, formed from an evil and perverse judgment which has acquired additional violence and strength.

But it seems to have eluded all these philosophers in what way each of us is truly two-fold and composite. For that other two-fold nature of ours they have not discerned, but merely the more obvious one, the blend of soul and body. But that there is some element of composition, some two-fold nature and dissimilarity of the very soul within itself, since the irrational, as though it were another substance, is mingled and joined with reason by some compulsion of Nature — 441e. this, it is likely, was not unknown even to Pythagoras, if we may judge by the man’s enthusiasm for the study of music, which he introduced to enchant and assuage the soul, perceiving that the soul has not every part of itself in subjection to discipline and study, and that not every part can be changed from vice by reason, but that the several parts have need of some other kind of persuasion to co-operate with them, to mould them, and to tame them, if they are not to be utterly intractable and obstinate to the teaching of philosophy.

Plato, however, comprehended clearly, firmly, and without reservation both that the soul of this universe of ours 441f. is not simple nor uncompounded nor uniform, but that, being compounded of the potentialities of sameness and otherness, in one part it is ever governed in uniformity and revolves in but one and the same order, which maintains control, yet in another part it is split into movements and circles which go in contrariety to each other and wander about, thus giving rise to the beginnings of differentiation and change and dissimilarity in those things which come into being and pass away on earth; and also that the soul of man, since it is a portion or a copy of the soul of the Universe and is joined together on principles and in proportions corresponding to those which govern the Universe, 442a. is not simple nor subject to similar emotions, but has as one part the intelligent and rational, whose natural duty it is to govern and rule the individual, and as another part the passionate and irrational, the variable and disorderly, which has need of a director. This second part is again subdivided into two parts, one of which, by nature ever willing to consort with the body and to serve the body, is called the appetitive; the other, which sometimes joins forces with this part and sometimes lends strength and vigor to reason, is called the spirited part. And Plato shows this differentiation chiefly by the opposition of the reasoning and intelligent part to the appetitive part and the spirited part, since it is by the very fact that these last are different that they are frequently disobedient and quarrel with 442b. the better part.

Aristotle at first made use of these principles to a very great extent, as is obvious from his writings. But later he assigned the spirited to the appetitive part, on the ground that anger is a sort of appetite and desire to cause pain in requital; to the end, however, he continued to treat the passionate and irrational part as distinct from the rational, not because this part is wholly irrational, as is the perceptive part of the soul, or the nutritive and vegetative part (for these parts are completely unsubmissive and deaf to reason and, so to speak, mere off-shoots of our flesh and wholly attached to the body), 442c. but though the passionate part is wanting in reason and has no reason of its own, yet otherwise it is by nature fitted to heed the rational and intelligent part, to turn toward it, to yield to it, to conform itself thereto, if it is not completely corrupted by the foolish pleasure and a life of no restraint.

Chapter IV

Those who wonder how it is that this part is irrational, yet subservient to reason, do not seem to me to reflect thoroughly upon the power of reason,

How great it is, how far it penetrates,

through its mastery and guidance, not by harsh and inflexible methods, but by flexible ones, which have a quality of yielding and submitting to the rein which is more effective than any possible constraint or violence. For, to be sure, even our breathing, our sinews and bones, 442d. and the other parts of the body, though they are irrational, yet when an impulse comes, with reason shaking the reins, as it were, they all grow taut and are drawn together in ready obedience. So, when a man purposes to run, his feet are keyed for action; if he purposes to throw or to grasp, his hands fall to their business. And most excellently does the Poet portray in the following words the sympathy and conformity of the irrational with reason:

Thus were her fair cheeks wet with tears, as she
Wept for her lord, though he sat by. In heart
Odysseus pitied his lamenting wife, 442e.
But kept his eyes firm-fixed within their lids
Like horn or iron: with guile he hid his tears.

Under such subjection to his judgment did he keep his breathing and his blood and his tears.

An evident proof of this is also the shrinking and withdrawal of the private parts, which hold their peace and remain quiet in the presence of such beautiful maidens and youths as neither reason nor law allows us to touch. This is particularly the case with those who first fall in love and then hear that they have unwittingly become enamoured of a sister or a daughter; for lust cowers as reason asserts itself and, at the same time, the body brings its parts into decent conformity with the judgment. 442f. Indeed, very often with foods and meat, when men have partaken of them with gusto, if they then perceive or come to know that they have eaten something unclean or unlawful, not only is this judgment of theirs attended by displeasure and remorse, but the body itself, revolted and sharing the mind’s disgust, falls a prey to the retchings and vomitings of nausea.

But I fear that I shall be thought to be rounding out my discourse with instances which are altogether seductive and exotic, 443a. if I recount in full how harps and lyres, pipes and flutes, and all the other harmonious and consonant instruments which musical art has devised, void of soul though they be, accord in songs of both joy and grief, in stately measures and dissolute tunes, with human experiences, reproducing the judgments, the experiences, and the morals of those who use them. And yet they say that even Zeno on his way to the theatre when Amoebeus was singing to the lyre, remarked to his pupils, Come, let us observe what harmony and music gut and sinew, wood and bone, send forth when they partake of reason, proportion, and order.

But, letting these subjects pass, I would gladly learn from my opponents whether, when they see dogs, 443b. horses, and domestic birds, through habituation, breeding, and teaching, uttering intelligible sounds and moving and assuming postures in subordination to reason, and acting in a manner conformable to due proportion and our advantage; and when they hear Homer declaring that Achilles

Urged on both horses and men

to battle — whether, I say, they still wonder and are in doubt that the element in us which is spirited and appetitive and experiences pain and pleasure, does, by its very nature, harken to the intelligence, and is affected and harmoniously disposed by its agency, and does not dwell apart from the intelligence, nor is it separated therefrom, nor moulded from without the body, 443c. nor formed by any extraneous violence or blows, but that by its nature it is dependent upon the intelligence and is always in association with it and nurtured together with it and influenced by familiar intercourse.

Therefore, also, ethical, or moral, virtue (ēthos) is well named, for ethical virtue is, to but sketch the subject, a quality of the irrational, and it is so named because the irrational, being formed by reason, acquires this quality and differentiation by habit (ěthos), since reason does not wish to eradicate passion completely (for that would be neither possible nor expedient), 443d. but puts upon it some limitation and order and implants the ethical virtues, which are not the absence of passion but a due proportion and measure therein; and reason implants them by using prudence to develop the capacity for passion into a good acquired disposition. For these three things the soul is said to possess: capacity, passion, acquired state. Now capacity is the starting-point, or raw material, of passion, as, for instance, irascibility, bashfulness, temerity. And passion is a kind of stirring or movement of the capacity, as anger, shame, boldness. And finally, the acquired state is a settled force and condition being bred by habit and becoming on the one hand vice, if the passion has been educated badly, but virtue, if educated excellently by reason.

Chapter V

But inasmuch as philosophers do not make virtue as a whole a mean nor apply to it the term moral, 443e. we must discuss the difference, starting with first principles. Now in this world things are of two sorts, some of them existing absolutely, others in some relation to us. Things that exist absolutely are earth, heavens, stars, sea; things that exist in relation to us are good and evil, things desirable and to be avoided, things pleasant and painful. Now reason contemplates both of these, but when it is concerned merely with things which exist in relation to us, it is called deliberative and practical. The virtue of the latter activity is called prudence, that of the former wisdom; and prudence differs from wisdom in that when the contemplative faculty is occupied in a certain active relationship with the practical and passionate, 443f. prudence comes to subsist in accordance with reason. Therefore prudence has need of chance, but wisdom has no need of it, nor yet of deliberation, to attain its proper end; for wisdom is concerned with things that remain ever the same and unchanging. And just as the geometer does not deliberate 444a. whether the triangle has its internal angles equal to two right angles, but knows it to be true (for deliberation concerns matters that are now one way, now another, not things that are sure and immutable), just so the contemplative mind has its activity concerning first principles, things that are permanent and have ever one nature incapable of mutation, and so has no occasion for deliberation. But prudence must often come down among things that are material and are full of error and confusion; it has to move in the realm of chance; to deliberate where the case is doubtful and then at last to reduce deliberation to practice in activities in which decisions are both accompanied by and influenced by the irrational, 444b. whose impulsion they, as a matter of fact, need. The impulsion of passion springs from moral virtue; but it needs reason to keep it within moderate bounds and to prevent its exceeding or falling short of its proper season. For it is indeed true that the passionate and irrational moves sometimes too violently and swiftly, at other times more weakly and slothfully than the case demands. Therefore everything that we ever do can succeed but in one way, while it may fail in many ways: for to hit the mark there is but one single, uncomplicated, way, yet it can be missed in several ways, according to whether we exceed the mean, or fall short of it. This, then, is the natural task of practical reason: 444c. to eliminate both the defects and the excesses of the passions. For wherever, through infirmity and weakness, or fear and hesitation, the impulsion yields too soon and prematurely forsakes the good, there practical reason comes on the scene to incite and kindle the impulsion; and where, again, the impulsion is borne beyond proper bounds, flowing powerfully and in disorder, there practical reason removes its violence and checks it. And thus by limiting the movement of the passions reason implants in the irrational the moral virtues, which are means between deficiency and excess. For we must not declare that every virtue comes into being by the observance of a mean, but, on the one hand, wisdom, being without any need of the irrational and arising in the activity of the mind, pure and uncontaminated by passion, 444d. is, as it were, a self-sufficing perfection and power of reason, by which the most divine and blessed element of knowledge becomes possible for us; on the other hand, that virtue which is necessary to us because of our physical limitations, and needs, by Heaven, for its practical ends the service of the passions as its instrument, so to speak, and is not a destruction nor abolition of the irrational in the soul, but an ordering and regulation thereof, is an extreme as regards its power and quality, but as regards its quantity it is a mean, since it does away with what is excessive and deficient.

Chapter VI

But since a mean is capable of various interpretations (for that which is a compound is a mean between the simple uncompounded substances, as grey is of white and black; and that which contains and is contained is a mean between the contained and the container, 444e. as eight of twelve and four; and that which partakes of neither of the extremes is a mean, as the indifferent is a mean between good and bad), in none of these ways can virtue be called a mean, for it is not a mixture of the vices, nor, encompassing what falls short of due measure, is it encompassed by that which is in excess of it; nor is it entirely exempt from the impulses of the passions, wherein are found excess and deficiency. But it is a mean, and is said to be so, in a sense very like that which obtains in musical sounds and harmonies. For there the mean or mesê, a properly-pitched note like the netê and the hypatê, escapes the sharp highness of one and the heavy deepness of the other; 444f. so virtue, being an activity and faculty concerned with the irrational, does away with the remissions and overstrainings of the impulse and its excesses and defects altogether, 445a. and reduces each passion to moderation and faultlessness. So, for instance, they declare courage to be a mean between cowardice and rashness, of which the former is a defect, the latter is an excess, of the spirited part of the soul; so, likewise, liberality is a mean between parsimony and prodigality, and gentleness between insensibility and cruelty; and temperance itself and justice are means, the latter distributing to itself in contracts neither more nor less than what is due, the former ever regulating the desires to a mean between lack of feeling and intemperance.

In this last instance, indeed, the irrational seems, with particular clearness, to allow us to observe the difference 445b. between itself and the rational, and to show that passion is essentially quite a different thing from reason. For self-control would not differ from temperance, nor incontinence from intemperance, as regards the pleasures and desires, if it were the same part of the soul that we naturally use for desiring as for forming judgments. But the fact is that temperance belongs to the sphere where reason guides and manages the passionate element, like a gentle animal obedient to the reins, making it yielding in its desires and willingly receptive of moderation and propriety; but the self-controlled man, while he does indeed direct his desire by the strength and mastery of reason, yet does so not without pain, nor by persuasion, but as its plunges sideways and resists, 445c. as though with blow and curb, he forcibly subdues it and holds it in, being the while himself full of internal struggle and turmoil. Such a conflict Plato portrays in his simile of the horses of the soul, where the worse horse struggles against his better yoke-fellow and at the same time disconcerts the charioteer, who is ever forced to hold out against him and with might and main to rein him in,

Lest he let fall from his hands the crimson thongs,

as Simonides has it. That is the reason why they do not account self-control even a virtue in the absolute sense, but less than virtue. For it is not a mean which has been produced by the harmony of the worse with the better, nor has the excess of passion in it been eliminated, nor has the desiderative part of the soul become obedient and compliant to the intelligent part, 445d. but is vexed and causes vexation and is confined by compulsion and, though living with reason, lives as in a state of rebellion against it, hostile and inimical:

The city reeks with burning incense, rings
Alike with prayers for health and cries of woe

even so is the soul of the self-controlled man because of its lack of consistency and its conflict. And on the same grounds they hold that incontinence also is p something less than a vice, but that intemperance is a full-fledged vice. For intemperance possesses both an evil passion and an evil reason; under the influence of the former, it is incited by desire to shameful conduct; under the influence of the latter, which, since its judgment is evil, is enlisted with the desires, intemperance loses even the perception of its errors. 445e. But incontinence, with the aid of reason, preserves its power of judgment intact, yet by its passions, which are stronger than its reason, it is swept along against its judgment. That is why incontinence differs from intemperance, for in it reason is worsted by passion, whereas with intemperance reason does not even fight; in the case of incontinence reason argues against the desires as it follows them, whereas with intemperance reason guides them and is their advocate; it is characteristic of intemperance that its reason shares joyfully in the sins committed, whereas with incontinence the reason shares in them, but with reluctance; with intemperance, reason is willingly swept along into shameful conduct, whereas with incontinence, it betrays honor unwillingly.

So also the difference between them is not less manifest in their words than in their actions. 445f. These are, for instance, the sayings of intemperate persons:

What pleasure can there be, what joy, without
The golden Aphroditˆ? May I die
When things like these no longer comfort me.

And another says,

To eat, to drink, to have one’s way in love:
All other things I call accessory,

446a. as though with all his soul he were acquiescing in pleasures and were being subverted thereby. Not less than these does he who says

Leave me to die, for that is best for me,

have his judgment suffering with the same ailment as his passions.

But the sayings of incontinence are otherwise and different:

A mind I have, but Nature forces me;


Alas! from God this evil comes to men
When, knowing what is good, they do it not;


The spirit yields and can resist no more,
Like anchor-hook in sand amid the surge.

Here not inaptly the poet terms an anchor-hook in sand that which is not under the control of reason, nor firmly fixed, but surrenders its judgment to the loose and soft part of the soul. Very close to this imagery 446b. are also those famous lines:

I, like some ship, am tied by ropes to shore,
And when winds blow, our cables do not hold.

For here the poet calls cables the judgments which resist shameful conduct and then are broken by passion, as by a great gust of wind. Truly the intemperate man is swept along to his pleasures by his desires with sails full-spread and delivers himself over to them and steers his course directly thither; whereas the course of the incontinent man zigzags here and there, as he strives to emerge from his passion and to stave it off and is yet swept down and shipwrecked on the reef of shameful conduct. Just as Timon used to lampoon Anaxarchus:

The Cynic might of Anaxarchus seemed
Steadfast and bold, wherever he wished, to spring;
Well did he know the truth, they said, and yet 446c.
Was bad: for Nature smote him with desire
And led him back from truth — ‘twas Nature’s dart,
Before whom trembles many a Sophist heart.

For neither is the wise man continent, though he is temperate, nor is the fool incontinent, though he is intemperate. For the wise man takes pleasure in what is honorable, but the fool is not vexed by shamefulness. Incontinence, therefore, is the mark of a sophistic soul, which has, indeed, reason, but reason which cannot stand firm by its own just decisions.

Chapter VII

Such, then, are the differences between incontinence and intemperance; and again between continence and temperance, these differences being the counterpart of the former. For continence is not yet free from remorse and pain and indignation; but in the soul of the temperate man there is serenity on all occasions, 446d. freedom from violent changes, and sanity, by which the irrational is harmonized and blended with reason, when this is equipped with great persuasion and a wonderful gentleness. And you would say, as you looked at the man,

Then, indeed, ceased the gale; a windless calm
Arose; some god had laid the waves to rest,

since by reason the violent, raging, and furious movements of the desires had been quenched and those movements which Nature absolutely requires had been made sympathetic, submissive, friendly, and, when the man chose a course of action, willing to cooperate, so that they did not outstrip the dictates of reason, 446e. nor fall short of them, nor misbehave, nor disobey, but so that every impulse was easily led

As new-weaned foal beside his mother runs,

and confirmed the remark of Xenocrates about true philosophers, that they alone do willingly what all others do unwillingly because of the law, even as dogs by a blow and cats by a noise are turned from their pleasures and regard with suspicion the danger that threatens them.

It is quite obvious, then, that there is in the soul a perception of some such distinction and difference as regards the desires, as though some force were fighting against them and contradicting them. 446f. But some affirm that passion is not essentially different from reason, nor is there quarreling between the two and factious strife, but only a conversion of one and the same reason to its two aspects; this escapes our notice by reason of the suddenness and swiftness of the change, 447a. for we do not perceive that it is the same part of the soul with which we naturally desire and change to aversion, are angry and afraid, are swept along by pleasure to shameful conduct, and then, when the soul itself is being swept away, recover ourselves again. In fact, they say, desire and anger and fear and all such things are but perverse opinions and judgments, which do not arise in one certain part of the soul, but are inclinations and yieldings, assents and impulses of the whole directive faculty and, in a word, certain activities which may in a moment be changed this way or that, just as the sudden assaults of children have an impetuosity and violence that is precarious and inconstant because of children’s weakness.

But this doctrine is, in the first place, contrary to the clear evidence of our perceptions. 447b. For no one ever perceives in himself a change from desiring to judging, nor again a change from judging to desiring; nor does the lover cease loving when he reasons that he must restrain his love and fight against it, and then give up again the process of reasoning and judging when he is softened by desire and yields to love; but both while by reason he still continues to oppose passion, he continues in the passion, and again, when mastered by passion, he plainly sees he error by the light of reason: and neither through passion has he done away with reason, nor through reason is he rid of passion, but being borne back and forth from one or the other he lies between them and participates in both. For those who assume now that desire becomes the controlling faculty, 447c. now that it is reason which arrays itself against desire, are in the same position as those who assume the hunter and the beast to be not two, but one and the same body which, by a change, is now the beast, and now becomes the hunter. For just as those persons overlook something quite plain, so these testify against the evidence of perception, which tells us that we have in these cases, not a changing of some one thing, but two things struggling and fighting against one another.

What then? they object. Is it not true that man’s deliberative faculty also is often divided and distracted toward contrary opinions regarding what is expedient, but that it is yet one and the same? 447d. Quite so, we shall say, but the process is not parallel. For the intellectual part of the soul does not here oppose itself, but, using one and the same faculty, applies itself to different lines of reasoning; or rather, there is but one single reason, which functions on things essentially different, as though on different matters. Therefore neither is pain present in reasoning where passion is absent, nor are men forced, as it were, to choose a course contrary to reason, unless indeed some emotion is furtively attached, as it were, to one pan of the balances. This, in fact, happens often: when it is not reasoning that opposes reasoning, but ambition or contentiousness or the pursuit of favor or jealousy or fear that opposes, 447e. we think it is a difference between two reasons, as in the verse:

To refuse they were ashamed, but feared to accept;

and this:

To die is dreadful, yet it brings fair fame;
Not to die is craven, yet there’s pleasure there.

And in the judgment of suits concerning business affairs the passions rush in unawares and cause the greatest waste of time. So also in the councils of kings those who speak to obtain favor are not advocating one or the other of two decisions, but are submitting to some emotion which is contrary to their calculation of what is expedient. Therefore in aristocratic states the magistrates do not allow political speakers to make passionate harangues, for reason, if not influenced by passion, 447f. inclines to a just balance toward what is right; but if passion intervenes, the part of the soul that feels pleasure and pain fights and opposes the part which forms judgments and deliberates. Otherwise, why is it that in philosophical speculations no feeling of pain is present when, under the influence of those who hold different opinions, we change our views again and again, 448a. but that Aristotle himself and Democritus and Chrysippus have recanted without any dismay or pain, and even with pleasure, some of the dogmas they previously held? It is because passion has set up no opposition to the contemplative and scientific part of the soul and the irrational part remains quiet and does not meddle with these matters. Therefore reason, as soon as the truth appears, dismisses the false and gladly inclines toward the truth; for it is in reason, not in its opposite, that the faculty resides which yields to persuasion and, through persuasion, changes opinion. But with most people, their deliberations, judgments, and decisions which are to be converted into action are in a state of emotion and therefore offer obstructions and difficulties to the path of reason, for reason is checked and confused by the irrational, 448b. which, with some emotion of pleasure or fear, pain or desire, rises up to oppose it. In such cases the senses make the decision, since they have contact with both; and if, in fact, one gains the mastery, it does not destroy the other, but forces it to comply and drags it along resisting. For the lover who admonishes himself uses reason against his passion, since they both exist at the same time in his soul, as it were pressing with his hand the other member, which is inflamed, and clearly perceiving that there are two distinct forces and that they are at variance. On the other hand, in those deliberations and speculations where passion is absent (and these are the sort in which the contemplative faculty most commonly engages), if they be equally balanced, 448c. no judgment has taken place, but merely a perplexity has arisen, which is a rest or suspension of intellectual activity brought about by opposing probabilities; but if the inclination falls to either side, the winning opinion has cancelled the other, with the result that there is no pain nor any opposition left. In general, when it appears that reason is opposing reason, there is no perception of them as two distinct things, but as a single thing which arises in different impressions upon the senses. Yet when there is a struggle against reason on the part of the irrational, which, by its very nature, can neither conquer nor be conquered without pain, straightway the irrational splits the soul in two by its battling and makes the distinction between the two perfectly obvious.

Chapter VIII

It is not only from their dissension, however, but no less from their agreement, 448d. that one can perceive that the source of passion is essentially different from that of reason. For since it is equally possible to love a noble youth, well-formed by nature for virtue, and to love an evil and profligate one, and since it happens that one both becomes angry irrationally against one’s own children or parents, and angry justly on behalf of parents and children against enemies and despots; just as in the one case there is perception of struggle and dissension of passion against reason, so in the other there is perception of persuasion and agreement on the part of passion, which inclines the scales, as it were, in favor of reason and increases its power. Yet again, when a good man has lawfully married a wife, his intention is 448e. to treat her respectfully and consort with her honorably and soberly; but as time goes on, his intimacy with her has given birth to passion, when he perceives that his love and affection increases by the exercise of his reason. So again, when young men happen upon cultivated teachers, they follow them and admire them at first because of their usefulness; but later they come to feel affection for them also, and in place of familiar companions and pupils they are called lovers and are actually so. The same thing happens also in people’s relations to good magistrates in cities and good neighbours and relatives by marriage; for in the beginning they dutifully associate with one another from some consideration of usefulness, but later they are carried unconsciously into genuine affection, reason drawing along, 448f. and aiding in the persuasion of, the passionate element. Is it not obvious that he who said,

And modesty. Two kinds there are: the one
Not bad, the other burdening our homes,

has perceived in himself that this emotion often follows the lead of reason and is arrayed at reason’s side, but often, contrary to reason, 449a. by hesitations and delays ruins opportunities and actions?

Chapter IX

But my opponents, though forced to concede in a manner these arguments because of their obvious truth, yet persist in calling shame modesty, pleasure joy, and fears precautions. No one would blame them for this euphemism if they would but call these same emotions by these soft names when they attach themselves to reason, and call them by those harsher names when the emotions oppose and offer violence to reason. But when, convicted by their tears and tremblings and changes of colour, in place of grief and fear they call these emotions compunctions and perplexities and gloss over the desires with the term eagernesses, they seem to be devising casuistic, not philosophic, 449b. shifts and escapes from reality through the medium of fancy names.

And yet these very men, to cite another instance, call those joys, volitions, and precautions of theirs right sensibilities to emotion, not insensibilities, in this case using the terms correctly. For a right sensibility arises when reason does not destroy the emotion, but composes and sets it in order in the souls of temperate persons. But what it is that happens in the case of evil and incontinent persons when, though their judgment tells them to love father and mother in place of a favorite or mistress, they cannot do this; yet when their judgment bids them to love courtesan and flatterer, they immediately do that very thing? For if emotion and judgment were one, love and hate would follow upon our judgment 449c. of what we ought to love and hate; but as it is, the contrary happens: with some judgments the emotion joins forces, others it disregards. Therefore even those very men affirm, since the evidence forces them to do so, that not every judgment is an emotion, but only that which sets in motion a violent and excessive impulse, thereby acknowledging that in us the faculty of judging and the faculty of feeling emotion are different, in the sense that the one is that which sets in motion, the other that which is moved. And Chrysippus himself in many places, by defining endurance and continence as states which follow the convictions of reason, is obviously forced by the evidence to acknowledge that that within us which follows is different from that which it follows when persuaded, 449d. or, on the other hand, fights against when it is not persuaded.

Chapter X

Now if, by positing that all errors and faults are equal, they are in some other way overlooking the truth, this present discourse is not the proper occasion to confute them; but in the case of the emotions they certainly appear to be in opposition to reason and contrary to plain evidence. For, according to them, every emotion is an error, and every one who grieves or fears or desires is guilty of error. Yet there are seen to be great differences in the emotions according to their greater or lesser intensity. For who would declare that Dolon’s fear was no greater than that of Ajax, who often faced about and departed slowly from the midst of his enemies, scarcely changing knee for knee? 449e. Or that the grief of Alexander, who attempted to kill himself because of Cleitus, was equal to Plato’s grief for the death of Socrates? For griefs are increased immoderately by unpredictable circumstances, and an unexpected occurrence is more painful than one quite likely to happen; if, for instance, one should expect to see someone in prosperity and honor and then should learn that he had been cruelly tortured, as Parmenion did of Philotas. And who would affirm that the rage of Nicocreon against Anaxarchus was equal to that of Magas against Philemon, though they had both been reviled by their opponents? For Nicocreon with iron pestles ground Anaxarchus to powder, but Magas merely ordered the public executioner to place his naked blade on Philemon’s neck 449f. and then to let him go. That is the reason why Plato also called anger sinews of the soul on the ground that it is intensified by harshness and relaxed by gentleness.

So to elude these and similar difficulties my opponents deny that these intensities and violences of the emotions come into existence in accordance with the judgment, 450a. in which lies the liability to error; but maintain that the irritations, contractions, and diffusions admit of increase and diminution through the operations of the irrational element. Yet there obviously are differences in judgments also; for some adjudge poverty not to be an evil, others to be a great evil, still others to be the greatest evil, so that they even hurl themselves down from precipices or throw themselves into the sea. Some think death to be an evil merely because it deprives them of the good things of life, others because there are eternal torments and horrible punishments beneath the earth. By some the health of the body is cherished because it is in accordance with Nature and useful, to others it appears the greatest good in the world; for neither do they value 450b.

Joy in wealth or children.


In that kingly rule that makes man like to gods

in comparison therewith; and finally they think even virtue to be useless and unprofitable if health be not present. Hence it plainly appears that some make a greater, some a lesser, error in their judgments also.

This doctrine, however, need not be confuted at present, but that other point may be assumed from this discussion: that my opponents themselves all concede that the irrational part is essentially different from judgment, the irrational, in accordance with which they say that emotion becomes greater and more violent; their contention is concerning the name and the expression, but they really surrender the point at issue to those who assert that the passionate and irrational element is different from the reasoning and judging. 450c. In his book On the Failure to Lead a Consistent Life Chrysippus has said Anger is a blind thing: often it prevents our seeing obvious matters, and often it obscures matters which are already apprehended; and, proceeding a little further, he says, For the passions, when once raised, drive out the processes of reasoning and all things that appear otherwise than they would have them be, and push forward with violence to actions contrary to reason. He then uses as evidence the words of Menander:

Ah woe, alas for me! Where ever were
My wits awandering in my body then
When I made choice to do not this, but that?

450d. And again, Chrysippus proceeds to say that every rational creature is so disposed by nature as to use reason in all things and to be governed by it; yet often reason is rejected when we are under the impulse of some other more violent force. Thus in this passage he plainly acknowledges what conclusion is to be drawn from the difference which exists between passion and reason.

Why, it would be ridiculous, as Plato says, for a man to say that he is now better than himself and again worse than himself, and sometimes master of himself and sometimes not.

Chapter XI

For how is it possible for the same man to be both better and worse than himself, or to be master of himself and at the same time be mastered, if in some way or other each man were not by nature double and had not both the worse and the better within himself? 450e. This being the case, he who holds the worse in subjection to the better is self-controlled and better than himself, but he who permits the better part to follow and be in subjection to the intemperate and irrational part of his soul is called worse than himself and incontinent and in a state contrary to Nature.

For, in accordance with Nature, it is proper that reason, which is divine, should lead and rule the irrational, which derives its origin directly from the body to which Nature has designed that it should bear a resemblance and share in the body’s passions and be contaminated by it, since it has entered into the body and has become merged with it; that this is so is shown by our impulses, which arise and are set in motion toward corporal objects and become violent or relax in keeping with the changes of the body. 450f. For this reason young men are swift and impetuous and fiery in their appetites, and stung by madness, as it were, through the abundance and heat of their blood; but in old men the source of desire, which is seated about the liver, is in the process of being extinguished and becoming small and weak, whereas reason increases more and more in vigor as the passionate element fades away together with the body. And this, of course, is what determines the natures of wild beasts also as regards the passions. 451a. For it is not, I presume, by the rightness or wrongness of their opinions the some of them oppose apparent dangers with valor and impetuousness whereas others have helpless flutterings and fears in their souls; but the faculties which control the blood, the breath, and the body in general cause the difference in their affections, since the emotional part springs up from the flesh as from a root and carries with it its quality and composition. But that in man his body is affected and moved together with the impulses of his passions is proved by his paleness and blushing, his trembling and palpitations of the heart, and again by his cheerful and relaxed expression when in hope and expectation of pleasures. 451b. But whenever the intellect acts, not accompanied by emotion but by itself alone, the body remains in repose and at rest, neither sharing nor partaking in the activity of the mind, so long as the body does not have to deal with the emotional element or include the irrational in such activity. Consequently, this fact also makes it plain that there are two parts within us which differ from each other in their faculties.

Chapter XII

And in general, both as my opponents themselves admit and as is quite obvious, in this world some things are governed by an acquired disposition, others by a natural one, some by an irrational soul, others by a rational and intellectual one; and in practically all these things man participates and he is subject to all the differences I have mentioned. 451c. For he is controlled by his acquired disposition, nurtured by his natural disposition, and makes use of reason and intellect. He has, therefore, some portion of the spring of the irrational also and has innate within him the mainspring of emotion, not as an adventitious accessory, but as a necessary part of his being, which should never be done away with entirely, but must needs have careful tending and education. Therefore the work of reason is not Thracian, not like that of Lycurgus — to cut down and destroy the helpful elements of emotion together with the harmful — but to do as the god who watches over crops and the god who guards the vine do to lop off the wild growth and to clip away excessive luxuriance, and then to cultivate and to dispose for use the serviceable remainder. For neither do those who fear drunkenness pour out their wine upon the ground, 451d. nor do those who fear passion eradicate the disturbing element, but both temper what they fear. It is, in fact, the rebellious kicking and plunging of oxen and horses that men do away with, not their movements and activities; even so reason makes use of the emotions when they have been subdued and are tame, and does not hamstring nor altogether excise that part of the soul which should be its servant. For

The horse is meet for the chariot,

as Pindar says,

  the ox for the plough;
But if you think to slay a boar, you must find a stout-hearted hound.

Yet much more useful than these beasts are the whole brood of passions when they are present in the service of reason and help to intensify the virtues: 451e. anger, if it be moderate, will assist courage, and hatred of evil will aid justice, and righteous indignation will oppose those who are prosperous beyond their deserts when their souls are inflamed with folly and insolence and they need to be checked. For who, even if he so wished, could separate or sever from friendship a natural propensity toward affection, from humaneness pity, and from true benevolence the mutual participation in joy and grief? And if those err who discard love entirely because love may bring madness, neither are they right who blame commerce because it may beget covetousness; on the contrary, what they do is somewhat like the action of those who would abolish running because one may chance to stumble, or shooting because one may overshoot the mark, and dislike any singing at all because some sing off key. 451f. For as in the realm of sound musical art produces consonance, not by doing away with the deep low and the shrill high notes; and in the case of the body, medical art produces health, not by the removal of heat and coldness, but by the proportionately quantitative admixture of the two; so in the soul moral virtue is produced when equity and moderation are engendered by reason in the emotional faculties and activities. 452a. For a soul possessed of excessive pain or joy or fear is like a swollen and feverish body; it is not so, however, if the joy or pain or fear be moderate. And Homer in his admirable words,

A valiant man will never change his hue,
Nor will his fear be over-great,

does not abolish fear, but excessive fear, in order that the valiant man may have not foolhardiness but courage, not audacity but daring. In his pleasures, therefore, a man must rid himself of excessive desire, and in punishing wrong, of excessive hatred of evil: for in this way he will be, in the former case, not insensible but temperate, and in the latter case, just, not serving nor cruel. 452b. But if the passions could in reality be entirely done away with, in many persons reason would be too inactive and dulled, like a pilot when the wind dies down. It is surely this truth that the legislators also have perceived when they try to put into their constitutions the emotions of ambition and emulation as regards the citizens’ relations to each other, but in relation to the enemy they try to rouse and increase their spirited and fighting qualities with trumpets and pipes. For it is not in poetry only that, as Plato says, he who is inspired and possessed by the Muses renders ridiculous the man who is an artist equipped with exact knowledge of technique, but in battles also the passionate and inspired is irresistible and invincible. 452c. This quality it is that Homer says the gods instil into men:

So did he speak and he breathed great might
Into the shepherd of the people;


Not without some god does he
These deeds of madness;

as though the gods were adding passion as an incitement or a vehicle to reason.

Indeed we may see these very opponents of mine often inciting young men with praise and often chastising them with admonitions; and of these, in the first case pleasure is the consequence, in the second pain (in fact, admonition and rebuke engender repentance and shame, of which the first is a kind of pain, the second a kind of fear); and of these methods they make particular use to improve their charges. As Diogenes also remarked, when Plato was being praised, 452d. What is there so august about one who has spent so much time talking philosophy, yet has never caused anyone pain? For surely studies could not so properly be called, to use Xenocrates’ words, the grips of philosophy, as could the emotions of young men: shame, desire, repentance, pleasure, pain, ambition. On these if reason and law obtain a suitable and salutary grip, they efficaciously set the young man upon the path that he should take. Therefore the Spartan tutor was not wide of the mark when he said that he intended to make a boy entrusted to him delight in honorable and be vexed at dishonorable things. Than this saying there can be shown no greater nor fairer end of such education as befits a free-born child.

Moral Essay 39: On Being a Busybody


This essay, which was apparently written only a short time before De Garrulitate, has much the same interest and charm as that pleasant work. The essays are akin in many ways; portions of the later treatise are merely a reshaping of ideas and commonplaces which the earlier had adumbrated.

The source of much of this work has been traced to Ariston of Chios by O. Hense (Rhein. Mus., XLV.541 ff.); and F. Krauss has shown with some success the relation to diatribe literature.

The essay was already known to Aulus Gellius (XI.16), who speaks with feeling of the difficulty of rendering πολυπραγμοσύνη in Latin; nor has it been unknown to English moralists. Jeremy Taylor has again borrowed largely from it in his Holy Living, II.5.

In the translation of this and the preceding essay I am greatly indebted to Mr. Tucker’s spirited version, from which I have taken numerous phrases and sometimes whole sentences.

The work is No. 97 in the Lamprias catalogue.

Chapter I

It is perhaps best to avoid a house which has no ventilation, or is gloomy, or cold in winter, or unhealthy; yet if familiarity has made you fond of the place, it is possible to make it brighter, better ventilated, and healthier by altering the lights, shifting the stairs, and opening some doors and closing others. Even some cities have gained by such changes. 515c. So in the case of my own town, which used to face the west and receive the full force of the sun in the late afternoon from Parnassus, they say that it was turned by Chaeron to face the east. And Empedocles, the natural philosopher, by blocking up a certain mountain gorge, which permitted the south wind to blow a dire and pestilential draught down upon the plains, was thought to have shut plague out of his country.

Since, then, there are certain unhealthy and injurious states of mind which allow winter and darkness to enter the soul, it is better to thrust these out and to make a clean sweep to the foundations, thus giving to ourselves a clear sky and light and pure air; 515d. but if that is impossible, it is best at least to interchange and readjust them in some way other, turning or shifting them about.

Such a malady of the mind, to take the first instance, is curiosity, which is a desire to learn the troubles of others, a disease which is thought to be free from neither envy nor malice:

Why do you look so sharp on others’ ills,
Malignant man, yet overlook your own?

Shift your curiosity from things without and turn it inwards; if you enjoy dealing with the recital of troubles, you have much occupation at home:

Great as the water flowing down Alizon,
Many as the leaves around the oak,

so great a quantity of transgressions will you find your own life, 515e. of afflictions in your own soul, of oversights in the performance of your own obligations.

For as Xenophon says that good householders have a special place for sacrificial utensils, and a special place for dinner-ware, and that farming implements should be stored elsewhere, and apart from them the weapons of war; even so in your own case you have one store of faults arising from envy, another from jealousy, another from cowardice, another from pettiness. Assault these, examine these! Block up the windows and the side-doors of your curiosity that open on your neighbors’ property, and open up others leading to your own — to the men’s quarters, to the women’s quarters, to the living-rooms of your servants! 515f. Here this curiosity and meddlesomeness of yours will have an occupation not unhelpful or malicious, but useful and salutary if each one will but say to himself

Where did I err? And what deed have I done?
What duty neglected?

Chapter II

But as it is, like the Lamia in the fable, who, they say, when at home sleeps in blindness with her eyes stored away in a jar, 516a. but when she goes abroad puts in her eyes and can see, so each one of us, in our dealings with others abroad, puts his meddlesomeness, like an eye, into his maliciousness; but we are often tripped up by our own faults and vices by reason of our ignorance of them, since we provide ourselves with no sight or light by which to inspect them. Therefore the busybody is also more useful to his enemies than to himself, for he rebukes and drags out their faults and demonstrates to them what they should avoid or correct, but he neglects the greater part of his own domestic errors through his passionate interest in those abroad. So Odysseus refused to converse even with his mother until he had learned from the seer the matters by reason of which he had come to the House of Hades; 516b. and when he had his answer, he both turned to his mother and also made inquiries of the other women, asking who was Tyro, who the beautiful Chloris, why Epicastê met her death

Tying a noose, sheer-hung, from the high roof.

But we, while treating our own affairs with considerable laxity and ignorance and neglect, pry into the pedigrees of the rest of the world: our neighbor’s grandfather was a Syrian and his grandmother a Thracian; so-and-so owes three talents and has not paid the interest. We inquire also into such matters as where so-and-so’s wife was coming back from, 516c. and what A and B’s private conversation in the corner was about. Yet Socrates went about seeking to solve the question of what arguments Pythagoras used to carry conviction; and Aristippus, when he met Ischomachus at Olympia, asked him by what manner of conversation Socrates succeeded in so affecting the young men. And when Aristippus had gleaned a few odd seeds and samples of Socrates’ talk, he was so moved that he suffered a physical collapse and became quite pale and thin. Finally he sailed for Athens and slaked his burning thirst with draughts from the fountain-head, and engaged in a study of the man and his words and his philosophy, of which the end and aim was to come to recognize one’s own vices and so rid oneself of them.

Chapter III

Yet there are some who cannot bear to face their own lives, 516d. regarding these as a most unlovely spectacle, or to reflect and revolve up themselves, like a light, the power of reason, but their souls, being full of all manner of vices, shuddering and frightened at what is within, leap outwards and prowl about other people’s concerns and there batten and make fat their own malice. For as a domestic fowl will often, though its own food lies near at hand, slip into a corner and there scratch

Where one sole barley grain perhaps appears
In the dung-heap,

in the same way busybodies, passing over topics and narratives which are in plain view and matters concerning which no one prevents their inquiring or is vexed if inquiry is made, 516e. pick out the hidden and obscure troubles of every household. And yet it was surely a clever answer that the Egyptian gave to the man who asked him what he was carrying wrapped up: That’s why it is wrapped up. And why, if you please, are you inquisitive about what is concealed? If it were not something bad, it would not be concealed. Yet it is not customary to walk into the house of someone else without at least first knocking on the door; but nowadays there are doormen and formerly there were knockers to be struck at the door and give warning, so that the stranger might not catch the mistress of the house or the unmarried daughter unawares, or a slave being punished or the maid-servants screaming. But it is for these very things that the busybody slips in. 516f. A sober and respectable household he would not willingly enter as a spectator even if he were invited to come; but the matters to conceal which keys and bolts and street-doors are used — these are what he uncovers and communicates to outsiders. And yet the winds with which we are most vexed, as Ariston says, are those which pull up our garments, but the busybody strips off not only the mantles and tunics of those near him, but also their very walls; he flings the doors wide open and makes his way, like a piercing wind, through the maiden of tender skin, and creeps in, 517a. searching out with slanderous intent drunken revels and dances and all-night festivals.

Chapter IV

And like Cleon in the comedy,

His hands in Beggar-town, his mind on Thefton,

so the mind of the busybody is at the same time in mansions of the rich, in hovels of the poor, in royal courts, and in bridal chambers of the newly-wed. He searches out everybody’s business, that of strangers and that of rulers, nor is this search of his without danger; but just as though a man should taste aconite through curiosity about its properties, he would find that he had killed the taster before he had got his taste, so those who search out the vices of those more powerful than themselves destroy themselves before they acquire their knowledge. 517b. For instance those who scarcely glance at these sunbeams which have been poured down so lavishly upon us all, but recklessly dare to gaze upon the orb itself and to rend its radiance apart, striving to force their way within, are blinded. This is the reason why Philippides, the comic poet, made an excellent reply when King Lysimachus once said to him, Which one of my possessions may I share with you? Anything, Sire, said Philippides, except your secrets. For only the most pleasant and most decorous attributes of kings are displayed openly — their banquets and wealth and festivals and favours; but if there is anything secret, do not approach it, but let it be! 517c. The joy of a prosperous king is not concealed, nor is his laughter when he is amused, nor his outlay on entertainment and favors; but it is time for alarm when something is hidden, something dark, unsmiling, unapproachable, a storehouse of festering wrath, or the meditation of a punishment indicative of sullen anger, or jealousy of a wife, or some suspicion against a son, or distrust of a friend. Beware of this darkening and gathering cloud! That which is now hidden will be disclosed to you when the cloud bursts forth amid crashes of thunder and bolts of lightning!

Chapter V

What escape is there, then, from this vice? By a process of shifting and diverting our inquisitiveness, as has been said, and, if possible, by turning the soul to better and more pleasant objects. Direct your curiosity, to heavenly things and things on earth, in the air, in the sea. 517d. Are you by nature fond of small or of great spectacles? If of great ones, apply your curiosity to the sun: where does it set and whence does it rise? Inquire into the changes in the moon, as you would into those of a human being: what becomes of all the light she has spent and from what source did she regain it, how does it happen that

When out of darkness first she comes anew,
She shows her face increasing fair and full;
And when she reaches once her brightest sheen,
Again she wastes away and comes to naught?

And these are secrets of Nature, yet Nature is not vexed with those who find them out. Or suppose you have renounced great things. Then turn your curiosity to smaller ones: how some plants always blooming and green and rejoicing in the display of their wealth at every season, 517e. while others are sometimes like these, but at other times, like a human spendthrift, they squander all at once their abundance and are left bare and beggared? Why, again, do some plants produce elongated fruits, others angular, and still others round and globular?

But perhaps you will have no curiosity about these subjects since there is nothing evil in them. Yet if your zest for meddling must by all means be for ever feeding and dwelling on depraved things, like a maggot on dead matter, let us escort it to history and supply it with an unstinted abundance of evils. For there you will find

The deaths of men, the shufflings off of life,

517f. seductions of women, assaults of slaves, slanders of friends, compounding of poisons, envies, jealousies, shipwrecks of households, overthrow of empires. Glut and enjoy yourself and cause no trouble or pain to any of your associates!

Chapter VI

But curiosity apparently takes no pleasure in stale calamities, but wants them hot and fresh; it enjoys the spectacle of novel tragedies and has not much zest for association 518a. with the comic and more cheerful side of life. Consequently when anyone tells the tale of a wedding or a sacrifice or a complimentary escort, the busybody is a careless and inattentive listener, and declares that he has already heard most of the details and urges the narrator to cut them short or skip them. But if someone sitting near at hand narrates the seduction of a maiden or the adultery of a wife or the framing of a law-suit or a quarrel of brothers, the busybody neither dozes off to sleep nor pleads an engagement,

But asks more speech and proffers both his ears

and that saying,

How much more readily than glad events
Is mischance carried to the ears of men!

is spoken truly when applied to busybodies. 518b. For as cupping-glasses draw from the flesh what is worst in it, so the ears of busybodies attract the most evil stories. Or rather, as cities have certain unlucky and dismal gates through which they lead out condemned criminals and cast out the refuse and the scapegoats, while nothing undefiled or sacred either goes in or out through them, so also the ears of busybodies give passage and thoroughfare to nothing good or decent, but only to gruesome tales, serving, as they do, as conveyance for foul and polluted narratives.

The only song that’s heard within my house
Is wailing cries.

518c. This is the one Muse and Siren for busybodies, this is the sweetest of all music to their ears.

For curiosity is really a passion for finding out whatever is hidden and concealed, and no one conceals a good thing when he has it; why, people even pretend to have good things when they have them not. Since, then, it is the searching out of troubles that the busybody desires, he is possessed by the affliction called malignancy, brother to envy and spite. For envy is pain at another’s good, while malignancy is joy at another’s evil; and both spring from a savage and bestial affliction, a vicious nature.

Chapter VII

So painful for all of us is the revelation of our own troubles 518d. that many die rather than reveal to physicians some hidden malady. Just imagine Herophilus or Erasistratus or Asclepius himself, when he was a mortal man, carrying about their drugs and instruments, calling at one house after another, and inquiring whether a man had an abscess in the anus or a woman a cancer in the womb! And yet the inquisitiveness of this profession is a salutary thing. Yet everyone, I imagine, would have driven such a man away, because he does not wait to be sent for, but comes unsummoned to investigate others’ infirmities. And busybodies search out these very matters and others still worse, 518e. not to cure, but merely to expose them. For this reason they are hated deservedly. For example, we are annoyed and displeased with customs-officials, not when they pick up those articles which we are importing openly, but when in the search for concealed goods they pry into baggage and merchandize which are another’s property. And yet the law allows them to do this and they would lose by not doing so. But busybodies ruin and abandon their own interests in their excessive occupation with those of others. Only rarely do they visit the farm, for they cannot endure the quiet and silence of being alone. 518f. But if, after a long absence, they do chance to put in there, they have more of an eye for their neighbors’ vines than for their own, and they ask how many of their neighbors’ cattle have died, or how much of his wine has turned sour. But they are soon sated with such news and run away. Yet the true and genuine farmer does not care to hear even news that makes its own way from the city; he says 519a.

Then he will tell me while he digs
On what terms peace was made. The cursèd scamp
Now strolls around and meddles with these things.

Chapter VIII

And the busybody, shunning the country as something stale and uninteresting and undramatic, pushes into the bazaar and the market-place and the harbors: Is there any news? Weren’t you at market early this morning? Well then, do you suppose the city has changed its constitution in three hours? If, however, someone really does have something of that nature to tell him, he dismounts from his horse, grasps his informant’s hand, kisses him, and stands there listening. 519b. But if someone meets him and tells him that there is no news, he exclaims as though he were annoyed, What do you mean? Haven’t you been at market? Didn’t you pass the War Office? Didn’t you interview the new arrivals from Italy either? It is for this reason that the legislation of the Locrian magistrates was excellent. For if anyone who had been out of town came up and asked, Is there any news? they fined him. Just as cooks pray for a good crop of young animals and fishermen for a good haul of fish, in the same way busybodies pray for a good crop of calamities, a good haul of difficulties, for novelties, and changes, that they, like cooks and fishermen, may always have something to fish out or butcher.

Another good law was that of the legislator of Thurii, for he forbade the lampooning on the comic stage of all citizens except adulterers and busybodies. And indeed adultery does seem to be a sort of curiosity about another’s pleasure 519c. and a searching out and examination of matters which are closely guarded and escape general observation, while curiosity is an encroaching, a debauching and denuding of secret things.

Chapter IX

Since a natural consequence of much learning is to have much to say (and for this reason Pythagoras enjoined upon the young a five years’ silence which he called a Truce to Speech), a necessary concomitant of inquisitiveness is to speak evil. For what the curious delight to hear they delight to tell, and what they zealously collect from others they joyously reveal to everyone else. Consequently, in addition to its other evils, their disease 519d. actually impedes the fulfilment of their desires. For everyone is on his guard to hide things from them and is reluctant to do anything while a busybody is looking, or to say anything while one is listening, but defers consultation and postpones the consideration of business until such an inquisitive person is out of the way. And if, when either some secret matter is under discussion or some important business is being transacted, a busybody comes on the scene, men drop the matter from the discussion and conceal it, as one does a tidbit when a cat runs by. Consequently these persons are often the only ones to whom those matters are not told or shown which everyone else may hear and see.

For the same reason the busybody is deprived of everybody’s confidence: 519e. we should prefer, on any account, to entrust our letters and papers and seals to slaves and strangers rather than to inquisitive friends and relatives. That noble Bellerophon did not break the seal even on a letter accusing himself which he was carrying, but kept his hands from the king’s letter by reason of that same continence which kept him from the king’s wife. Inquisitiveness, in fact, is indicative of incontinence no less than is adultery, and in addition, it is indicative of terrible folly and fatuity. For to pass by so many women who are public property open to all and then to be drawn toward a woman who is kept under lock and key and is expensive, and often, if it so happens, quite ugly, is the very height of madness and insanity. 519f. And it is this same thing which busybodies do: they pass by much that is beautiful to see and to hear, many matters excellent for relaxation and amusement, and spend their time digging into other men’s trifling correspondence, gluing their ears to their neighbors’ walls, whispering with slaves and women of the streets, and often incurring danger, and always infamy.

Chapter X

For this reason the most useful means possible for turning the busybody from his vice is for him to remember what he has previously learned. 520a. For, as Simonides used to say that when he opened his boxes after some time, he always found the fee-box full, but the thanks-box empty, so if one opens from time to time the deposit-box of inquisitiveness and examines it, full as it is of many useless, futile, and unlovely things, perhaps this procedure would give sufficient offense, so completely disagreeable and silly would it appear. Suppose a man should run over the works of the ancients and pick out the worst passages in them and keep a book compiled from such things as headless lines in Homer and solecisms in the tragedians and 520b. the unbecoming and licentious language applied to women by which Archilochus makes a sorry spectacle of himself, would he not deserve that curse in the tragedy,

Be damned, compiler of men’s miseries?

And even without this curse, such a man’s treasure-house of other people’s faults is unbecoming and useless. It is like the city populated by the vilest and most intractable of men which Philip founded and called Roguesborough.

Busybodies, however, by gleaning and gathering the blunders and errors and solecisms, not of lines or poems, but of lives, carry about with them a most inelegant and unlovely record-box of evils, their own memory. 520c. Therefore just as at Rome there are some who take no account of paintings or statues or even, by Heaven, of the beauty of the boys and women for sale, but haunt the monster-market, examining those who have no calves, or are weasel-armed, or have three eyes, or ostrich-heads, and searching to learn whether there has been born some

Commingled shape and misformed prodigy,

yet if one continually conduct them to such sights, they will soon experience satiety and nausea; so let those who are curious about life’s failures, the blots on the scutcheon, the delinquencies and errors in other people’s homes, 520d. remind themselves that their former discoveries have brought them no favor or profit.

Chapter XI

The greatest factor, however, in ridding ourselves of this affliction is the habit of beginning early to train and teach ourselves to acquire this self-control. It is, in fact, by habituation that the disease has come to increase, advancing, as it does, little by little. How this habit is acquired, we shall learn when we discuss the proper training. So first let us begin with the most trifling and unimportant matters. What difficulty is there about refraining from reading the inscriptions on tombs as we journey along the roads? Or what is there arduous in just glancing at the writing on walls 520e. when we take our walks? We have only to remind ourselves that nothing useful or pleasant has been written there: merely commemorates so-and-so wishing him well, and someone else is the best of friends, and much twaddle of this sort. It may seem that no harm will come from reading these, but harm you it does by imperceptibly instilling the practice of searching out matters which do not concern you. And as hunters do not allow young hounds to turn aside and follow every scent, but pull them up and check them with the leash, keeping their sense of smell pure and untainted for their proper task in order that it may keep more keenly to the trail, 520f.

With nostrils tracking down the paths of beasts,

so one should be careful to do away with or divert to useful ends the sallies and wanderings of the busybody, directed as they are to everything that one may see and hear. For as eagles and lions draw in their claws when they walk so that they may not wear off the sharpness of the tips, so, 521a. if we consider that curiosity for learning has also a sharp and keen edge, let us not waste or blunt it upon matters of no value.

Chapter XII

In the second place, then, let us accustom ourselves not to look inside when we pass another’s door, nor with our curious gaze to clutch, as it were by main force, at what is happening within, but let us ever keep ready for use the saying of Xenocrates, that it makes no difference whether it is the feet or the eyes that we set within another’s house; for what the eyes behold is neither just nor honorable, and not even pleasant.

Unsightly, stranger, are the things within,

since the greater part of what we see inside is of this sort — kitchen utensils lying about and servant-girls sitting in idleness, 521b. and nothing important or pleasurable. And this practice of throwing sidelong and furtive glances, distorting the soul as it disease, is shameful, and the habit it implants is depraved. For instance, when Diogenes saw the Olympic victor Dioxippus making his triumphal entry in his chariot and unable to tear his eyes away from a beautiful woman who was among the spectators of the procession, but continually turning around and throwing side-glances in her direction, Do you see, said the Cynic, how a slip of a girl gets a strangle-hold on our athlete? And you may observe how every kind of spectacle alike gets a strangle-hold on busybodies and twists their necks round 521c. when they once acquire a habit and practice of scattering their glances in all directions. But, as I think, the faculty of vision should not be spinning about outside of us, like an ill-trained servant girl, but when it is sent on an errand by the soul it should quickly reach its destination and deliver its message, then return again in good order within the governance of the reason and heed its command. But as it is, the words of Sophocles come true:

Then the Aenianian’s hard-mouthed yearlings break
From his control and bolt;

that is, the senses which have not received what we called above right instruction and training run away, dragging the intellect with them, and often plunge it into deep disaster. Consequently, though that story about Democritus is false, 521d. that he deliberately destroyed his sight by fixing his eyes on a red-hot mirror and allowing its heat to be reflected on his sight, in order that his eyes might not repeatedly summon his intellect outside and disturb it, but might allow his mind to remain inside at home and occupy itself with pure thinking, blocking up as it were windows which open on the street; yet nothing is more true than this, that those who make most use of the intellect make fewest calls upon the senses. We observe, for instance, that men have built their sanctuaries of the Muses far from cities and that they have called night kindly from a belief that its quiet and absence of distraction is greatly conducive to the investigation and solution of the problems in hand.

Chapter XIII

521e. Yet truly, neither is this a difficult nor arduous task: when men are reviling and abusing each other in the market-place, not to approach them, or when a crowd is running to see something or other, to remain seated, or, if you are without self-control, to get up and go away. For you will reap no advantage from mixing yourself with busybodies, whereas you will obtain great benefit from forcibly turning aside your curiosity and curtailing it and training it to obey reason.

And after this it is well to make our training more intensive and pass by a theatre where a successful performance is in progress; and, when our friends urge us to see a certain dancer or comedian, to thrust them aside; 521f. and, when shouts are heard on the race-course or in the circus, not to turn round. For as Socrates used to advise the avoidance of such foods as tempt us to eat when we are not hungry and such drinks as tempt us to imbibe when we are not thirsty, so we also should avoid and guard against such sights and sounds as master and attract us without fulfilling any need of ours. Thus Cyrus was unwilling to see Pantheia; and when Araspes declared that the woman’s beauty was worth seeing, Cyrus said, 522a. Then this is all the more reason for keeping away from her. For if, persuaded by you, I should go to her, perhaps she herself might tempt me, when I couldn’t spare the time, to go to see her again and sit by her, to the neglect of many important matters. So too Alexander would not go to see Darius’s wife who was said to be very beautiful, but although he visited her mother, an elderly woman, he could not bring himself to see the young and beautiful daughter. Yet we peep into women’s litters and hang about their windows, and think we are doing nothing wrong 522b. in thus making our curiosity prone to slip and slide into all kinds of vice.

Chapter XIV

Since, therefore, for the attainment of justice you may sometimes forgo an honest gain that you may accustom yourself to keep clear of dishonest profit, so likewise, for the attainment of continence, you may sometimes keep aloof from your own wife in order that you may never be stirred by another’s. Then apply this habit to inquisitiveness and endeavor sometimes not to hear or see some of the things that concern you, and when someone wishes to tell you something that has happened in your house, put him off and refuse to hear words that are supposed to have been spoken about you. It was, in fact, curiosity which involved Oedipus in the greatest calamities. Believing that he was no Corinthian, but a foreigner, 522c. and seeking to discover his identity, he encountered Laïus; and when he had killed Laïus and had taken, in addition to the throne, his own mother to wife, though seeming to all to be blessed by fortune, he began again to try to discover his identity. And although his wife attempted to prevent him, all the more vigorously did he cross-examine the old man who knew the truth, bringing every form of compulsion to bear. And at last, when circumstances were already bringing him to suspect the truth and the old man cried out,

Alas! I stand on the dread brink of speech,

Oedipus was none the less so inflamed and maddened by his affliction that he replied,

And I of hearing, and yet hear I must;

so bitter-sweet, so uncontrollable is the itching of curiosity, like the itching of a sore which gets bloody whenever we scratch it. 522d. But the man who has got rid of this disease and is gentle by nature will say, if he is ignorant of something unpleasant,

Forgetfulness of evil, sovereign queen,
How wise you are!

Chapter XV

We must, therefore, also habituate ourselves to things like these: when a letter is brought to us, not to open it quickly or in a hurry, as most people do, who go so far as to bite through the fastenings if their teeth are too slow; when a messenger arrives from somewhere or other, not to rush up, or even to rise to our feet; when a friend says, I have something new to tell you, to say, I should prefer that you had something useful or profitable.

When I was once lecturing in Rome, that famous Rusticus, 522e. whom Domitian later killed through envy at his repute, was among my hearers, and a soldier came through the audience and delivered to him a letter from the emperor. There was a silence and I, too, made a pause, that he might read his letter; but he refused and did not break the seal until I had finished my lecture and the audience had dispersed. Because of this incident everyone admired the dignity of the man.

But when one nourishes his curiosity upon permissible material until he renders it vigorous and violent, he is no longer able to master it easily, since it is borne, by force of habit, toward forbidden things. And such persons pry into their friends’ correspondence, thrust themselves into secret meetings, 522f. become spectators of sacred rites which it is an impiety for them to see, tread consecrated ground, investigate the deeds and words of kings.

Chapter XVI

And yet surely in the case of despots, who have to know everything, it is the tribe of so-called Ears and Jackals that makes them most detested. It was Darius Nothus, who had no confidence in himself and regarded everyone with fear and suspicion, who first instituted Listeners; and Jackals 523a. were distributed by the Dionysii among the people of Syracuse. Consequently when the revolution came, these were the first persons whom the Syracusans arrested and crushed to death. And in fact the tribe of informers is from the same clan and family as busybodies. But while informers search to see whether anyone has planned or committed a misdemeanor, busybodies investigate and make public even the involuntary mischances of their neighbors. And it is said that the person called aliterios first acquired his name from being a busybody. For it appears that when there was a severe famine at Athens 523b. and those who possessed wheat would not contribute it to the common stock, but ground it in their houses secretly by night, some persons went about listening for the noise of the mills, and so acquired the name aliterioi. It was in the same way, they say, that the sycophant won his name. Since the export of figs was prohibited, men who revealed and gave information against those who did export them were called sycophants. So it is well worth the while of busybodies to consider this fact also, that they may be ashamed of the resemblance and relationship of their own practice to that of persons who are very cordially hated and loathed.

Moral Essay 45: On Fate


It has long been recognized that the manuscripts are mistaken in ascribing the treatise On Fate to Plutarch. There is no need to repeat here all the arguments that have been adduced against its authenticity; it is enough to point out that incidence of hiatus is far greater than in passages of comparable length in the works admittedly genuine.

The writer, evidently a Platonist, is apparently either a teacher or fellow student of the unknown Piso to whom the treatise is addressed. Doctrine very similar to his own, and doubtless derived from a common source, is found in Nemesius and in the commentary of Chalcidius on the Timaeus; echoes of this doctrine appear in Albinus and Apuleius. Nemesius alludes to the work of a certain Philopator On Fate and couples him with Chrysippus. The formulation of the doctrine presented in Nemesius can, then, be traced with some probability to the time of Philopator, and as the doctrine in Chalcidius and in the treatise On Fate is of the same origin as that of Nemesius’ Platonists, we may conjecture that it was formulated in the early part of the second century A.D., possibly by Gaius, the teacher of Albinus and the most celebrated Platonist of the day. Our treatise, then, was probably not written before the first decades of the second century.

Our author’s aim is to construct a theory of fate compatible with providence in god and free will in man. His view is opposed to the Stoic view that everything conforms to fate, and a polemic against Stoicism is implicit in the treatise. Yet in several respects the argument reveals the influence of Stoic doctrines.

Chrysippus and the Stoics maintained that the universe is governed by an immanent divine power, variously called God, providence, fate, or nature. They explained the continual change that occurs in the universe as a chain of causes, a series of situations in which an antecedent leads to a consequent, the consequent in its turn becoming the antecedent of the next consequent. In such a series, however, different kinds of causes were distinguished. In the sphere of human conduct, for example, the impression that a person receives from an external object often initiates a course of action, but the exact character of that action is in large part determined by the nature of the person, as revealed in his assent and impulse. A cause which initiates a sequence but does not determine its course is called by the Stoics a procatarctic (initiatory) cause, whereas causes that determine completely the character of their effects are called autotelê (complete in themselves). In such an analysis the continuity of fate is provided by the procatarctic causes, whereas the determination of particular events depends on the nature of the objects involved. It is in some such way as this that the Stoics reconciled fate and free will.

The Stoics used the relation of antecedent to consequent to refute the indolent argument, which maintained that what is fated to occur cannot be altered by any acts of ours. To this the Stoics replied that a consequent is co-fated with its antecedent, and that the one will not occur without the other. It is not fated simply that the patient shall recover whether he calls a physician or no; rather, his calling a physician is co-fated with his recovery.

Our author accepts the Stoic formulation of fate as a relation of antecedent to consequent, but rejects the view that the antecedent is in conformity with fate. He considers fate to be a law which states that a certain consequent will follow upon a certain antecedent, but which does not thereby determine the antecedent. He says further that fate, like human law, is hypothetical and universal, the particular being co-fated with the universal in the sense that it is an instance of the universal law.

The antecedents, which are free, include what is in our power, chance, the possible and the contingent (570e). Our author proceeds to define them and describe their relations to one and to the spontaneous (which is not expressly mentioned here, but dealt with later). As human law includes our acts, but legislates their consequences only, the acts themselves not being lawful or in conformity with law, so fate includes the possible, the contingent, what is in our power, chance, and the spontaneous, and is in its turn included in providence.

Providence is defined as the intellection or will or both of the primary God; fate is the rule or law proclaimed by him to the gods who are his offspring. These gods in turn have their own intellection and will, which singly or in combination constitute secondary providence; while the intellection and will of daemons, who are guardians of the acts of men, constitute, singly or in combination, a third kind of providence. While primary providence includes fate, tertiary providence is included in fate, and secondary providence and fate exist side by side, neither including the other. The author, however, does not insist upon this view of the relation of secondary providence to fate, but countenances another view, that secondary providence is contained in fate.

The author’s distinction between fate and providence, his interruption of the chain of causes by the introduction of antecedents that are not fated, and his assertion that fate is primarily universal serve to differentiate his view from that of the Stoics. In the final chapter he makes this difference explicit by contrasting the Stoic view with his own and listing the arguments for each in their proper order. He nevertheless shares with the Stoics the doctrine that the universe passes through recurrent cycles, the events of each cycle being repeated in all the rest; he concedes that the argument of the chain may correctly apply to celestial phenomena; and he uses in his discussion a number of Stoic terms (though often with altered meanings). He agrees with the Stoics that fate is not transgressed (aparabatos) and that it determines the course (diexagetai) of everything that comes to be. Yet he gives alternate interpretations to the Stoic view that everything conforms to fate, and in calling fate a logos he is using the term in a sense quite different from that intended by the Stoics. The latter meant by logos the reason of the supreme God, whom they identified with providence, nature, necessity, and the rationale of the universe; our author, to judge by the passages he cites from Plato, takes logos to mean statement, formula, or proposition. This recasting of Stoic language and doctrine into a form acceptable to a Platonist is one of the many causes of the notorious obscurity of the treatise. Others are the condensations and omissions inevitable in an epitome, our imperfect knowledge of the views which the author is attacking, modifying, or defending, the abstruse nature of the subject, and the corruptions and lacunas in the text.

There are translations by Adrian Turnebus and Hugo Grotius.

The treatise does not appear in the catalogue of Lamprias, which mentions instead a lost work On Fate, in two books (No. 58).

The text is based on α and χ. Conjectures are occasionally quoted from descendants of α: ΑγβmμσΕης, and from αερ, an epitome, breaking off at 569e, on folios 273ν and 275r of α.

On Fate

I shall endeavor to send you my views on fate in as clear and concise a form as possible, 568c. dear Piso, since you have asked this of me although not unaware of my scruple about writing.

The two senses of fate

Chapter I

You must know, then, to begin with, that the term fate is used and understood in two senses: one fate is an activity, the other, a substance.

Active fate: its substance

In the first place, Plato has roughly indicated an activity (a) in the Phaedrus with these words: This is the ordinance of Adrasteia: if a soul have accompanied a god … and (b) in the Timaeus, when he speaks of the laws, applying to the nature of the universe, which God proclaimed to the immortal soul; 568d. while (c) in the Republic he calls fate the word of Lachesis, maiden daughter of Necessity, expressing his view not in high tragic style, but in the language of theology. Should one wish to recast these descriptions and phrase them in more ordinary language, fate as described in the Phaedrus might be called a divine formula which, owing to a cause from which there is no escape, is not transgressed; as described in the Timaeus it would be a law conforming to the nature of the universe, determining the course of everything that comes to pass; while as described in the Republic it is a divine law determining the linking of future events to events past and present. For this is what Lachesis, in very truth the daughter of Necessity, performs, as we learned before, and as later, in the lectures in the school, we shall know yet better. This, then, is fate in the sense of activity.

Substantial fate

Chapter II

568e. Fate as a substance appears to be the entire soul of the universe in all three of its subdivisions, the fixed portion, the portion supposed to wander, and third, the portion below the heavens in the region of the earth; of these the highest is called Clotho, the next Atropos, and the lowest Lachesis, who is receptive to the celestial activities of her sisters, and combines and transmits them to the terrestrial regions subject to her authority.

What needs to be said, then, about substantial fate has been implicitly stated, 568f. as an abridged account has been given of its substance, quantity, quality, order, and relation both to itself and to us; the full account of these matters is well presented in the imagery of the second myth, that of the Republic, and I have done my best to give you an exposition of that account.

Active fate

Chapter III

But let us once more turn our attention to active fate, as the greater number of problems — physical, ethical, and dialectical — are concerned with it. Its substance has been adequately defined; we must next tell its quality, strange though it may appear to many.

Its quality

569a. Although events are infinite, extending infinitely into the past and future, fate, which encloses them all in a cycle, is nevertheless not infinite but finite, as neither a law nor a formula nor anything divine can be infinite. Further, you would understand what is meant if you should apprehend the entire revolution and the complete sum of time, when, as Timaeus says, the speeds of the eight revolutions, completing their courses relatively to one another, are measured by the circuit of the Same and Uniformly moving and come to a head. For in this time, which is definite and knowable, everything in the heavens and everything on earth 569b. whose production is necessary and due to celestial influences, will once again be restored to the same state and once more be produced anew in the same way and manner. Then the arrangement of the heavenly bodies, the only one in all respects ordered both in relation to itself and to the earth and all things terrestrial, will eventually return, at intervals composed of long revolutions; and those arrangements that come after it in a series and are contiguous to one another, will occur in contiguous fashion, each bringing with itself of necessity its own set of events. (Be it noted, however, to make our present situation clear, 569c. that my writing these words at this moment as I write them, and your doing what you happen to be doing as you happen to be doing it are not events brought about by the agency of the heavenly bodies alone as causes of everything.) And so, when the same cause returns again, we shall, once more becoming the same persons, do the same things and in the same way, and so will all men besides; and what comes next in order will come into existence and be done in accordance with the cause that comes next in order, and everything that is found in a single entire revolution will be repeated in a similar fashion in each of the entire revolutions as well. And so it is now plain what we meant by our statement that fate, although in a way infinite, is not infinite; and our remark that it is a sort of cycle has, I take it, been adequately understood; for just as the movement of a cycle and the time which measures that movement of a cycle and the time which measures that movement are cycles, so too the formula of cyclical events would be considered a cycle.

Chapter IV

569d. Even this treatment, then, I venture to say, shows the quality of fate, except that it does not tell of that fate which is particular or individual. What, then, is the quality of this fate, considered in turn as this kind of formula? It is, we may conjecture, of the quality of the law of a state, which in the first place promulgates most, if not all, of its commands as consequents of hypotheses, and secondly, so far as it can, embraces all the concerns of a state in the form of universal statements.

Let us go on to examine in turn the meaning of these two points.

The universality of fate

The law of a state uses the form of a supposition and its conclusion to speak of a soldier distinguishing himself in action and of a deserter, and so with the rest; it does not lay down the law for this or that individual, 569e. but speaks primarily of the general case, and only secondarily of what comes under it. Thus we should say that it is lawful to honor this particular man who has distinguished himself in action, and to punish this other who has deserted the post, on the ground that the law has potentially provided for them, just as the law (if one may use the expression) of medicine and of gymnastics embraces the particular cases potentially in its general provisions; so also the law of nature, while dealing with universals primarily, deals secondarily with particulars. 569f. The latter too are all fated after a fashion, since they are co-fated with the former. Perhaps a stickler for precision in such matters might insist that on the contrary it is the particulars that have priority, and that the universal exists for their sake — the end being prior to what serves it. But these questions have their place elsewhere, whereas the statement that fate does not contain everything plainly or expressly, but only universals, when made at this point, is properly placed both in respect of the point made shortly before and of the one that is now to be made: 570a. the determinate, which is appropriate to divine wisdom, is seen rather in the universal — and the divine law and the political are of this description — while the unlimited is seen in the particular.

The hypothetical character of fate

Let us next determine the character of what is consequent of an hypothesis, and show that fate is of that character.

We meant by consequent of an hypothesis that which is not laid down independently, but in some fashion is really subjoined to something else, wherever there is an expression implying that if one thing is true, another follows: this is the ordinance of Adrasteia: if a soul have accompanied a god and beheld aught of reality, it shall suffer nought until the next revolution, and if able to do so ever, it shall ever go unscathed. 570b. What is both consequent upon an hypothesis and universal is, then, of the description given above. That fate is actually of this description is evident from its substance alone and from its name: it is called fate (heimarmenê) as being a thing concatenated (eiromenê); and it is an ordinance and a law because it has laid down the consequences which follow upon occurrences, as in the legislation of a state.

The relations of active fate

Chapter V

We must next examine what comes under the heading of relation — how fate stands in relation to providence on the one hand, and on the other to chance, to what is in our power and the contingent, and to the like; we must moreover distinguish in what way the dictum everything conforms to fate is true, and in what way false.

Examination of the dictum Everything conforms to fate

570c. Now (a) if the statement means that everything is contained in fate, we must grant that it is true (whether it is in all human events, or all terrestrial or all celestial events one wishes to place in fate, let us for the present grant these points too); but (b) if the expression conforming to fate, as would rather seem to be its implication, designates not everything, but only the consequences of fate, we must not say that everything conforms to fate, even if everything conforms to fate. For neither is everything included in law lawful or in conformity with law; for law includes treason, desertion, adultery, and a good many other things of the sort, 570d. none of which one would term lawful; indeed I should not even call an act of valor, the slaying of a tyrant, or the performance of any other right action lawful. For the lawful is what the law enjoins; but if the law enjoins such conduct, how then can we deny that persons who display no valor, slay no tyrant, and perform no such right action, disobey and violate it? Or how, if such persons are lawbreakers, is it not right to punish them? If, however, all this is unreasonable, we must call lawful and in conformity with law only what the law determines as applicable to any action performed, whatever its character; and we must call fated and in conformity with fate 570e. only the consequents of antecedents in the divine appointment of things. Fate, then, includes everything that occurs, but much of what is thus included, and I might say all antecedents, could not rightly be said to be in conformity with fate.

Chapter VI

Such being the case with these matters, we must next discuss how it is that what is in our power and chance, the possible and the contingent, and what is akin to these, by being classed among antecedents, might find a place themselves and leave a place in turn for fate. For fate contains them all, as indeed it is held to do; yet these things will not occur necessarily, 570f. but each will follow its own nature in its manner of occurrence.

The possible

It is the nature of the possible, as genus, to be prior in reality to the contingent; of the contingent, as matter, to be prior as substrate to the things which are in our power; of what lies in our power, as sovereign, to make use of the contingent; and chance is incidental to what is in our power because of the variation of the contingent in either direction. You will apprehend my meaning clearly if you reflect that everything that comes to pass, as well as the process itself of coming to pass, is always accompanied with potency, and potency with a substance. 571a. For example, what comes about through the agency of man, whether we take the process or the thing which has been brought to pass, is never found without the potency which produces it; this is found in man; and man is a substance. It is owing to the potency, which is intermediate, that the substance is potent, and the process of coming to pass and the thing which comes to pass are both possible. Of these three, then, potency, the potent, and the possible, the potent, in its quality of substance, is prior as substrate to potency, while potency is prior in reality to the possible. It is plain, then, even from this statement, what the possible is; it might, however, be roughly defined in two ways: in a looser fashion as that whose nature it is to occur in conformity with potency, while we might define it more strictly by adding the clause when there is nothing outside it 571b. interfering with its occurrence.

The contingent

Of things possible some can never be prevented, as celestial phenomena — risings and settings and the like — whereas others are preventible, as for example much of what pertains to man and many meteorological phenomena as well. The former sort, as occurring necessarily, are termed necessary; while those things which in addition allow (epidechetai) their contrary are contingent (endechomena). They might also be defined as follows: the necessary is the possible whose opposite is impossible; whereas the contingent is the possible whose opposite is also possible. 571c. Thus, that the sun should set is necessary as well as possible — it has an opposite, its not setting, which is impossible; whereas the falling and not falling of rain after sunset are both of them possible and contingent.

What is in our power

Again, in the case of the contingent, one form occurs usually, another is unusual, and another is as usual as its opposite and an even chance. This last is evidently opposed to itself, whereas the usual and the unusual are for the most part determined by nature, while the form which is as usual as its opposite is in our power. Thus, that during the dog days there should be hot weather or cold weather, the former of which is usual, the latter, unusual, is in both cases under the control of nature; whereas walking and not walking and the like, 571d. either of which is as usual as its opposite, are under the control of human impulse, and what is under its control is said to lie in our power and be a matter of choice. Of these what is in our power is the more general, as it has two species, the one comprising actions proceeding from passion — anger or desire, the other, actions that proceed from calculation or thought, in which last case we may now speak of a matter of choice. It is reasonable that the form of the possible and contingent which has been said to conform to our impulse and lie in our power should, in a different connection, be spoken of under a different name; for in connection with the future it is called possible and contingent, in connection with the present, in our power and in conformity with our impulse. They might be defined as follows: the contingent is that which is both possible itself and has a possible opposite, whereas what is in our power is one of the two parts of the contingent, 571e. namely, the one that is already occurring in conformity with our impulse.

Our discussion of the natural priority of the possible to the contingent, of the real priority of the contingent to what is in our power, of their respective characters, of the sources of their names, and of related matters, is now, I trust, complete.

Chapter VII

We must now speak of chance and the spontaneous and matters the theory of which depends on these.


Chance is a kind of cause. Of causes some are essential, some accidental; thus skill in housebuilding and skill in shipbuilding are essential causes of a house or of a ship, 571f. whereas skill in music or in geometry, and everything accidental, whether in the body, in the soul, or in externals, to the housebuilding or shipbuilding form, is an accidental cause. Hence it is evident that the essential is determinate and one, whereas the accidental is not one and is indeterminate; 572a. for a single thing has a multiplicity, indeed an infinity, of attributes that are quite different from one another. The accidental, however, when found not simply in things directed toward an end, but further in those among them in which choice is found, is then called by chance as well; examples are: discovering a sum of gold when one is digging for the purpose of planting, or doing or undergoing something unusual when one is pursuing or being pursued or proceeding on foot in some other way, or merely turning around with some other end in view than the actual result. Hence some of the ancients described chance as a cause unforeseen and not evident to human calculation. But according to the Platonists, 572b. who formulate it yet more closely, chance is defined as follows: chance is an accidental cause found in the class of things directed toward an end which take place in conformity with choice, and only then do they add unforeseen and not evident to human calculation. (For that matter, rare and unexpected are also similarly implied in the term accidental.) What sort of thing chance is, if not evident from the preceding remarks, is to be seen very clearly in the words of the Phaedo. The passage runs as follows: — And did you not hear of the course of the trial either? — Yes; a report came to us about that; and we were astonished that he was evidently put to death long after the trial had taken place. What was the reason, Phaedo? — 572c. There was a certain chance coincidence, Echecrates; the stern of the ship which the Athenians send to Delos chanced to have been garlanded on the day before the trial. In this passage we are not to take coincidence as equivalent to occurrence; the meaning is rather that the outcome resulted from a concourse of causes, each of them having a different end. Thus the priest placed a garland on the ship for some other purpose, and not for Socrates’ sake; and the court condemned him with a different end in view; while the actual outcome was unexpected and fell out as if it had occurred as a result of forethought, whether human or that of some still higher power. 572d. So much, then, will suffice for our discussion of chance.

The spontaneous

We must next speak of the things with which it necessarily co-exists. The contingent, we said, is the pre-existent substrate of what, by an expression derived from chance, is said to be by chance, and of what is in our power, whereas the spontaneous has a greater extension than chance, since it comprises both the latter and moreover many of the things whose nature it is to fall out differently at different times. What is meant by the term spontaneous (automaton), as the very name shows, is that which has a certain natural end when it does not accomplish that natural end. An example is held to be cold weather during the dog days; for at some times cold weather is not purposeless (matên), and does not occur in isolation (auto) from its end. To put the matter generally, 572e. as what is in our power is a part of the contingent, so chance is a part of the spontaneous. Taken two by two, the one set is identical to the other, the spontaneous to the contingent, and chance to what is in our power — not to all of the latter, but to that part of it which is also a matter of choice, as has been previously stated. Hence the spontaneous is common both to living things and things without life, whereas chance is peculiar to a man who has reached the stage of being able to act. A sign of this is the belief that enjoying good fortune and enjoying happiness are the same; now happiness is a kind of doing well, and doing well is found in man alone when he has reached his full development.

Chapter VIII

What is included in fate — the contingent and the possible, choice and what is in our power, chance and the spontaneous, as well as matters associated with these, 572f. such as what is designated by the words perhaps and peradventure — is of the description we have given above; and fate contains them all, although none of them conforms to fate. It remains to speak of providence, as it in turn includes fate.

Primary providence

Chapter IX

The highest and primary providence is the intellection or will, beneficent to all things, of the primary God; and in conformity with it all things divine are primordially arranged throughout, each as is best and most excellent. Secondary providence belongs to secondary gods, who move in heaven, 573a. and in conformity with it all mortal things come into being in orderly fashion, together with all that is requisite to the survival and preservation of the several genera. The providence and forethought which belongs to the daemons stationed in the terrestrial regions as watchers and overseers of the actions of man would reasonably be called tertiary. As providence, then, is seen to be threefold, and as primary providence is providence in the strictest sense and to the highest degree, I should not hesitate to say, even at the cost of appearing to contradict certain philosophers, that while all that conforms to fate conforms to providence (though not to nature as well), 573b. yet some things conform to providence (some to one, some to another), some to fate. And whereas fate most certainly conforms to providence, providence most certainly does not conform to fate (here it is to be understood that we are speaking of the primary and highest providence): for what is said to conform to a thing is posterior to that, whatever it may be, to which it is said to conform (for example, “what conforms to law” is posterior to law and “what conforms to nature” to nature); thus “what conforms to fate” is younger than fate, while the highest providence is eldest of all, save the one whose will or intellection or both it is, and it is that, as has been previously stated, of the Father and Artisan of all things. 573c. Timaeus says: “Let us state for what reason the realm of events and this universe were framed by him who framed them. He was good; and in the good no grudging ever arises about aught; and being exempt from this, he wished all things to become as similar as might be to himself. To accept from men of wisdom this, rather than any other, as the foremost principle of Coming into being and of Order, is to accept most rightly. For God, wishing that all things should be good, and naught, so far as possible, evil, took over all that was visible, which was in no state of rest, but in discordant and disordered motion, and brought it into order out of its disorder, deeming the former in all ways better than the latter. It neither was nor is right for him who is best to do aught 573d. save that which is most excellent. These matters and what is mentioned after them, as far as and including the souls of men, we must take to have been framed in conformity with providence — primary providence; but the words that follow (“and when he had compounded the whole, he divided it into souls equal in number to the stars and assigned to every star a soul, and mounting them thereon as on a vehicle, showed them the nature of the universe and proclaimed to them the laws of fate”), who would not suppose to indicate fate, explicitly and in the plainest of terms, as a sort of foundation and political legislation appropriate to the souls of men, the very legislation for which he next proceeds to state the reason?

Secondary providence

He indicates secondary providence in the following words: 573e. “Having prescribed all these ordinances to them, to the end that he might not be chargeable for the future wickedness of which they would be severally guilty, he sowed some on the earth, some on the moon, and others on the remaining instruments of time. After the sowing he delegated to the new-made gods the task of modeling mortal bodies, and, when they had completed all the rest of the human soul that it was necessary to add and all that this involved, of ruling and guiding the mortal animal, so far as lay within their powers, 573f. in the fairest and best fashion possible, except for those evils which it should incur from its own guilt.” In this passage the phrase “to the end that he might not be chargeable for the future wickedness of which they would be severally guilty” indicates in the plainest language the reason for fate, while the government and creation which is in the hands of the new-made gods refers to secondary providence.

Tertiary providence

He appears, moreover, to allude to a third providence as well, inasmuch as the enactment of ordinances is “to the end that he might not be chargeable for the future wickedness of which they would be severally guilty”; a god, having no part in evil, can stand in no need of either laws or fate, but each of them fulfills his own office as the providence of his begetter draws him along in its train. 574a. The words of the Lawgiver in the Laws are, I think, clear testimony that this is true and the doctrine held by Plato. They are to this effect: “Since if ever any man, gifted by nature, born under a divine dispensation, should be capable of apprehending this, he would need no laws to govern him, for no law or ordinance is mightier than understanding, nor is it permitted that intelligence should be subject or slave to aught; it must rather be ruler in all things, if it be genuine and really free in conformity with its nature.”

The three providences and fate

Chapter X

Now I take Plato’s meaning to be as described or very near it: 574b. as providence is threefold, the first, since it has begotten fate, includes it in a sense; the second, having been begotten together with fate, is most certainly included together with it; and the third, since it is begotten later than fate, is contained in it in the same way as what is in our power and chance were said to be contained in fate. For, “those persons with whom the daemonic power encourages me to associate,” as Socrates says in recounting to Theages what is all but an ordinance, although not that of Adrasteia, “are the ones you have remarked; for their progress is immediate and rapid.” 574c. In this passage we must posit that the encouragement given to association with certain persons by the daemonic power conforms to tertiary providence, while their immediate and rapid progress conforms to fate; and the whole complex is plainly enough none other than a form of fate.

On this view, however, it might appear much more credible that secondary providence also, and indeed all things, without any limitation, that come to pass, are contained in fate, if we were right in dividing substantial fate into the three portions and if the argument of the “chain” brings the revolutions in heaven into the class of consequences of an hypothesis. Yet with regard to this question 574d. I for one would not pursue the quarrel further whether these matters are to be termed consequences of an hypothesis, the initiatory cause of fate itself being fated, or, as I rather take to be the case, they exist side by side with fate.

The order of points in the present argument

Chapter XI

Our argument, then, presented under its main heads, would be as described; the contrary argument, on the other hand, posits that everything is not only in fate but also conforms to it. But everything is consistent with the former contention, and what is consistent with the latter is evidently consistent with the former as well.

In our argument the contingent is placed first; what is in our power, second; third come chance and the spontaneous and all that conforms to them; fourth, praise and blame and whatever is related to them; while the fifth and final place must be given to prayers to the gods and worship of them. 574e. But the “indolent argument,” that of the “reaper,” and that termed “contrary to fate” turn out on this view to be sophisms indeed.

The order of points in the Stoic argument

According to the opposing argument the chief and first point would appear to be that nothing occurs without cause, and that instead everything occurs in conformity with antecedent causes; the second, that this universe, at one with itself in spirit and in affections, is governed by nature; and in the third place comes what would rather seem to be evidence added to these points in contention: the good repute in which the art of divination is held by all mankind, in the belief that its existence and that of God are in fact involved in one another; 574f. the acquiescence of the wise in whatever befalls, in the belief that everything that occurs is in order, in the second place; and third, that oft repeated dictum, that every proposition is either true or false.

I have dealt with these matters thus briefly in order to present the main headings of the topic of fate in a compendious form; these we must investigate when we subject the two arguments to exact scrutiny. The details that come under these headings we shall enter into at some later time.

Moral Essay 72: On Stoic Self-Contradictions

Chapter I

Firstly I require that the consistency of men’s doctrines be observed in their way of living, for it is even more necessary that the philosopher’s life be in accord with his theory 1033b. than that the orator’s language, as Aeschines says, be identical with that of the law. The reason is that the philosopher’s theory is a law freely chosen for his own — at least it is if they believe philosophy to be not a game of verbal ingenuity played for the sake of glory but, as it really is, an activity worthy of the utmost earnestness.

Chapter II

Well then, it happens that Zeno, his conciseness considered, himself wrote quite a bit, Cleanthes much, and Chrysippus a very great deal about government, ruling and being ruled, and judging and pleading cases; and yet in the career of none of them can there be found any military command or legislation or attendance in council or advocacy at the bar or military service in defence of country or diplomatic mission or public benefaction, but in a foreign land they tasted the lotus of leisure and spent all their lives, and very long lives too, with talk and books and strolling in the schools. Consequently it is not unevident that they lived consistently with the writings and sayings of others rather than with their own, since their lives were passed altogether in that tranquility which is commended by Epicurus and Hieronymus. Chrysippus himself at least in his fourth book on Ways of Living thinks that the scholastic life is no different from the life of pleasure. I shall quote him verbatim: “All who suppose that the scholastic life is especially incumbent upon philosophers seem to me to make a serious mistake from the beginning by presuming that one should engage in this for the sake of some activity or some other similar purpose and drag out one’s whole life in some such fashion — which, if accurately examined, means ‘pleasantly,’ for we ought not to miss their underlying meaning, since many make this assertion openly and not a few more obscurely.” Who, then, grew old in this scholastic life if not Chrysippus and Cleanthes and Diogenes and Zeno and Antipater? 1033e. They even forsook their own countries not because they had any grievance but in order to pass the time tranquilly lecturing and conversing in the Odeum and at Zoster. Aristocreon at any rate, the pupil and kinsman of Chrysippus, set up the latter’s likeness in bronze and inscribed the following distich:

Of uncle Chrysippus Aristocreon this likeness erected:
The knots the Academy tied the cleaver, Chrysippus, dissected.

So that’s Chrysippus, the elder, the philosopher, the one who commends the life of king and statesman and thinks the scholastic life no different from the life of pleasure.

Chapter III

As many as do enter government, however, are contradicting their own doctrines still more sharply, 1033f. for in holding administrative and judicial offices, in acting as councillors and legislators, and in meting out punishments and rewards they imply that they are taking part in the government of genuine states and that those really are councillors and judges who are at any time so designated by lot, those really generals who are at any time so elected, and those really laws which were instituted by Cleisthenes, Lycurgus, and Solon, men whom they declare to have been base and stupid. So when they take part in government they are inconsistent too.

Chapter IV

1034a. Moreover, Antipater in his book on the difference between Cleanthes and Chrysippus has reported that Zeno and Cleanthes declined to become Athenians lest they appear to wrong their own countries. If they did well in this, Chrysippus did not do right in having himself naturalized. But let that pass. There is, however, a violent and irrational inconsistency in their preserving their names for their countries when they had removed their persons and their careers so far from home. It is as if a man who had abandoned his wife and was living and sleeping with another woman and begetting children on her should refrain from contracting marriage with her for fear that he might appear to wrong the former woman.

Chapter V

1034b. Chrysippus, again, by writing in his treatise on Rhetoric that the sage will speak in public and participate in government just as if he considered wealth to be a good and reputation and health likewise admits that the Stoic theories are impracticable and antisocial and their doctrines unfit for use and action.

Chapter VI

Moreover, it is a doctrine of Zeno’s not to build temples of the gods, because a temple not worth much is also not sacred and no work of builders or mechanics is worth much. The Stoics, while applauding this as correct, attend the mysteries in temples, go up to the Acropolis, do reverence to statues, 1034c. and place wreaths upon the shrines, though these are works of builders and mechanics. Yet they think that the Epicureans are confuted by the fact that they sacrifice to the gods, whereas they are themselves worse confuted by sacrificing at altars and temples which they hold do not exist and should not be built.

Chapter VII

Zeno, like Plato, admits a plurality of specifically different virtues, namely prudence, courage, sobriety, justice, which he takes to be inseparable but yet distinct and different from one another. On the other hand, when defining each one of them, he says that courage is prudence <in things to be endured, sobriety is prudence in things to be chosen, prudence in the specific sense is prudence> in things to be performed, and justice is prudence in things to be distributed, 1034d. the implication being that virtue is really single but in its operations appears to vary with its relations to its objects. Not only does Zeno manifestly contradict himself on this subject; but Chrysippus does so too, arraigning Ariston for asserting that virtue is single and the rest are its relative states and yet defending Zeno for defining each of the virtues in this way. Cleanthes too in his Physical Treatises, after saying that tension is impact of fire and that, if in the soul it becomes adequate for the accomplishment of what is incumbent, it is called strength and power, continues in so many words: “This strength and power, when present in the case of things manifestly to be adhered to, is continence and, when in the case of things that are to be endured, is courage; 1034e. concerned with deserts it is justice, and concerned with choices and avoidances it is sobriety.”

Chapter VIII

Against him who said

Nor give your verdict till you’ve heard both sides

Zeno asserted the contrary with an argument something like this: The second speaker must not be heard whether the former speaker proved his case (for then the inquiry is at an end) or did not prove it (for that is tantamount to his not having appeared when summoned or to having responded to the summons with mere gibberish); but either he proved his case or he did not prove it; therefore, the second speaker must not be heard. After he had propounded this argument, however, he continued to write against Plato’s Republic, to refute sophisms, and to bid his pupils learn dialectic on the ground that it enables one to do this. 1034f. Yet either Plato proved or did not prove what is in the Republic, and either way it was not necessary but was utterly superfluous and vain to write against it. The same thing can be said about sophisms also.

Chapter IX

1035a. Chrysippus thinks that young men should hear lectures on logic first, on ethics next, and after that on physics and should get theology last as the termination for these studies. He says this in many places, but it will suffice to quote the statement in the fourth book on Ways of Living, which runs word for word as follows: “Now I believe in the first place, conformably with the correct statements of the ancients, that the philosopher’s speculations are of three kinds, logical, ethical, and physical; then that of these the logical must be put first, the ethical second, and the physical third; and that of physical speculations theology must be last, which is why its transmission has also been called ‘confirmation.’” Yet this very doctrine, theology, which he says must be put last he habitually puts first and makes the preface to every ethical inquiry, for it is plain to see that, be the subject goals or justice or good and evil or marriage and child-rearing or law and government, he makes no remark about it at all unless in the same fashion in which the movers of public decrees prefix the phrase “Good Fortune” he has prefixed Zeus, Destiny, Providence, and the statement that the universe, being one and finite, is held together by a single power, a — none of which can carry any conviction for anyone who has not been thoroughly steeped in physical theory. 1035c. Hear what he says about this in the third book on the Gods: “It is not possible to discover any other beginning of justice or any source for it other than that from Zeus and from the universal nature, for thence everything of the kind must have its beginning if we are going to have anything to say about good and evil.” Again in his Physical Propositions he says: “For there is no other or more suitable way of approaching the theory of good and evil or the virtues or happiness <than> from the universal nature and from the dispensation of the universe.” And further on once more: 1035d. “For the theory of good and evil must be connected with these, since good and evil have no better beginning or point of reference and physical speculation is to be undertaken for no other purpose than for the discrimination of good and evil.” According to Chrysippus, then, physical theory turns out to be “at once before and behind” ethics, or rather the whirligig of the arrangement is utterly bewildering if the former must be placed after the latter, no part of which can be grasped without it; and the inconsistency is obvious in the man who, while asserting that physics is the beginning of the theory about good and evil, still orders it to be taught not before but after the latter. 1035e. Still, Chrysippus, it may be said, in the treatise on Use of Discourse has written that one taking up logic as the first subject is not to abstain altogether from the rest but is to take such part of them also as opportunity offers. If anyone say this, his assertion will be true but will confirm the accusation, for Chrysippus is at odds with himself in here ordering theology to be taken up as last and terminal, on the ground that for this reason it is called “confirmation” also, and elsewhere again saying that part of this too should be taken along with the first subjects. In fact, there is nothing left of the arrangement, if in all subjects part of all will have to be taken; but, what is more, after having taken theology to be the beginning of the theory of good and evil, his order is not that people begin with the former and thence proceed to take up ethical theory but that in taking up the latter they take such part of the former as opportunity offers and then pass to the former from the latter, though to the latter he says there is no beginning at all or any access apart from the former.

Chapter X

He says that he does not absolutely reject the practice of arguing the opposite sides of a question, but he recommends that this be used cautiously as it is in the courtroom not by way of putting the case for them 1036a. but by way of destroying their plausibility. “For,” he says, “while that practice is incumbent upon those who in all matters observe suspension of judgment and is conducive to their purpose, it is, on the contrary, incumbent upon those who inculcate knowledge in accordance with which we shall live consistently to instruct their pupils in the principles and to fortify them from beginning to end by destroying the plausibility of the opposite arguments, just as is done in the courtroom too, when an opportunity arises to mention them also.” This he has said in so many words. Now, that it is monstrous of him to believe it necessary for philosophers to state the opposite argument without putting the case for it but after the fashion of barristers maltreating it like contenders for victory and not strivers after the truth, this retort has been made to him in other writings; but that he has himself in not a few but in many places maintained arguments the opposite of those which he approves and has done so with such vigor, zeal, and contentiousness that to discern his opinion is not within the competence of everyone, — this surely is what the Stoics themselves mean by their admiration of the man’s cleverness and by their belief that Carneades says nothing original but attacks the arguments of Chrysippus by basing himself upon those to the contrary which Chrysippus devised and that in the aside which Carneades often utters, “Hapless thou art and thy strength will destroy thee,” he refers to Chrysippus as giving to those who wish to upset and discredit his doctrines large means with which to attack him. On the subject of his publications against common experience a they go so far in their vainglory and boastfulness as to assert that the arguments of all the Academics together rolled into one are not worth comparing with those that Chrysippus composed to discredit the senses. While that is another sign of the ignorance or the self-conceit of those who say so, this is true, that, when later he desired to speak on the side of common experience and the senses, he fell short of his own achievement and the second treatise was feebler than the first. So he is in conflict with himself: while prescribing that the opposite side always be cited along with an indictment of its falsity and without putting the case for it, yet he is more clever as a prosecutor than as a defender of his own doctrines; and, while exhorting others to beware of arguments for opposite sides of a question on the ground that they divert the apprehension, yet he does himself more eagerly construct arguments that destroy apprehension than arguments that confirm it. That he does fear this very thing, however, he clearly shows himself in the fourth book on Ways of Living, where he writes as follows: “The opposite arguments and the plausibilities on opposite sides are to be exhibited not at random but with care lest the hearers be diverted by them and actually lose hold of their apprehensions because they cannot understand the solutions adequately and have their apprehensions insecurely, since the very people who apprehend in accordance with common experience both sensible objects and the other things that depend on the senses easily give these up when diverted by the dialectical questions of the Megarians or by others more numerous and more cogent.” Well then, I should like to have the Stoics tell me whether they consider the Megarian questions to be more cogent than those against common experience which Chrysippus composed in six books. Or should this question be put to Chrysippus himself? For look at the kind of things he has written about the Megarian reasoning in his treatise on Use of Discourse, to wit: “Something of the kind has happened also in the case of Stilpo’s reasoning and that of Menedemus, for, though they had become very highly esteemed for skill, their reasoning has now redounded to their disgrace, some parts of it being considered clumsy and others manifest sophistry.” 1037a. What, my dear sir, these arguments, which you deride and for their glaring defectiveness call the disgrace of their propounders, these you still fear may divert people from their apprehension but that you would yourself disturb any of your readers by writing against common experience so many books, where in your ambition to outdo Arcesilaus you added whatever you had invented, this you did not expect? Of course not, for it is not merely the dialectical arguments against common experience that he employs either, but as if carried away by emotion in a law-suit he frequently exclaims with a kind of passion that it talks nonsense and is idle chatter. 1037b. Then, to leave no possibility of denying that he contradicts himself, he has in his Physical Propositions written this: “Even when they have a definite apprehension it will be possible to argue to the contrary by making out such a case as the subject permits and sometimes to state the possibilities on either side, though they have an apprehension of neither”; and yet in his treatise on the Use of Discourse, after having said that the faculty of reason must not be used for inappropriate ends just as weapons must not either, he has added this statement: “It must be used for the discovery of truths and for their organization, not for the opposite ends, though this is what many people do.” By “many people” he probably means those who suspend judgment. They frame arguments on either side, however, without having an apprehension of either, their notion being that, if anything is apprehensible, only or especially in this way would the truth yield an apprehension of itself; but you who denounce them, when on the subject of common experience you write the opposite to what you apprehend and exhort others to do this with a show of making out a case, you do yourself confess that from ambition you are showing off by using the faculty of reason in ways unprofitable and harmful.

Chapter XI

Right action, they say, is what law prescribes and wrong what it prohibits; 1037d. that is why the law has many prohibitions for the base but no prescriptions, for they are incapable of right action. And who does not know, then, that for one incapable of right action it is impossible not to go wrong? So they reduce the law to the inconsistency of prescribing what people are incapable of doing and prohibiting what they cannot avoid, for the man who cannot be sober cannot help being intemperate and the man who cannot be sensible cannot help being foolish. Yet they themselves say that those who pronounce a prohibition say one thing, prohibit another, and prescribe a third: for example, he who says “do not steal” says just this, “do not steal,” 1037e. but he prohibits <stealing and prescribes> not stealing. The law, then, would not be prohibiting the base anything without also prescribing. Furthermore, they say that the physician’s prescription to his pupil to cut and cauterize is given with ellipsis of the phrase “in due time and measure” and the musician’s to play the lyre and sing with ellipsis of the phrase “in tune and in time”; that is why the pupils who have performed inartistically and poorly are chastised, for “correctly” was implied in the prescription and they performed incorrectly. Well then, the sage also in prescribing some word or action to his servant whom he chastises if it is not performed at the right time and as it should be is clearly prescribing intermediate action and not right action; but, if sages prescribe intermediate actions to the base, what prevents the contents of the law too from being prescriptions of that kind? What is more, he holds, as he has written in his treatise on Law, that impulse in man is reason prescriptive of action for him. Well then, repulsion is prohibitive reason and so is avoidance <, at least when it is rational (for it is opposite to conation); and caution is according to him> rational avoidance. 1038a. And consequently caution is prohibitive reason for the sage, since to be cautious is characteristic of sages and not of the base. If, then, the sage’s reason is one thing and the law another, the caution that sages have is reason in conflict with law; but, if law is nothing other than the sage’s reason, it turns out that law does prohibit sages from doing things of which they are cautious.

Chapter XII

Chrysippus says that to the base nothing is serviceable and that there is nothing for which the base man has any use or need. After stating this in the first book concerning Right Actions he says later on that both utility and gratification extend to the intermediates, none of which according to the Stoics is serviceable. 1038b. Moreover, that nothing is either congenial or appropriate to the base man he states in these words: “As nothing is repugnant to the decent man, in the same way nothing is congenial to the base, since the latter property is good and the former bad.” Why then again in every book of physics, yes and of morals too, does he keep writing ad nauseam that from the moment of birth we have a natural congeniality to ourselves, to our members, and to our own offspring? In the first book concerning Justice he says that even the beasts have been endowed with congeniality to their offspring in proportion to its need, except in the case of fishes, for their spawn is nourished of itself. 1038c. Yet there is neither sensation in subjects for which no object is sensible nor congeniality in those to which nothing is congenial, for congeniality seems to be sensation or perception of what is congenial.

Chapter XIII

This doctrine is a consequence, however, of their fundamental principles; and Chrysippus, though he has written much to the contrary, clearly adheres to the proposition that there is no greater and less either in vice and wrong-doing or in virtue and right action. In fact, he says in the third book concerning Nature: “As it befits Zeus to glory in himself and in his way of life and to be haughty and, if it must be said, to carry his head high and plume himself and boast, since he lives in a way worth boasting about, 1038d. so does this befit all good men, since they are in no wise surpassed by Zeus.” Yet again in the third book concerning Justice he says himself that justice is annulled by those who set up pleasure as a goal but not by those who call it only a good. Here is his statement verbatim: “For, if it is held to be a good but not a goal and if the fair too is among the things that are of themselves objects of choice, we could perhaps preserve justice by maintaining that the fair and just is a greater good than pleasure.” If, however, only the fair is good, the man who declares pleasure to be good errs, to be sure, but errs less than the one who makes it a goal as well, for the latter annuls justice but the former preserves it and by the doctrine of the latter society is over and done for but the former leaves room for goodness and humaneness. Further, while I pass over his remark in the treatise on Zeus that “the virtues wax and expand” — for I would not give the impression of cavilling at words, although Chrysippus attacks Plato and the rest tooth and nail in this way —, yet by his injunction not to praise every act performed in accordance with virtue he indicates that there is some difference in right actions. This is what he says in the treatise on Zeus: 1038f. “For, although deeds done in accordance with the virtues are congenial, even among these there are those that are <not> cited as examples, such as courageously extending one’s finger and continently abstaining from an old crone with one foot in the grave and hearing without precipitate assent that three is exactly four; — one who undertakes to praise and eulogize people by means of such examples gives evidence of a kind of insipidity.” 1039a. A similar statement is made in the third book on the Gods. “For furthermore I think,” he says, “that there would be repugnance in praising what comes about in such ways as incidental results of virtue, for example abstaining from an old crone with one foot in the grave and enduring the bite of a fly.” Whom else does he wait for, then, to denounce his own doctrines? If one who praises these actions is insipid, surely he would be far more insipid who supposes each of them to be right action in a high, nay the highest degree. For, if to bear the bite of a fly courageously and soberly to abstain from the old crone is equal to the <courageous endurance of scalpel and cautery and the sober abstention from Lais or Phryne>, it makes no difference, I think, whether the good man is praised for those actions or for these. 1039b. Furthermore, in the second book on Friendship in explaining that not all wrong actions should be taken as grounds for dissolving friendships he has used these words: “For it is fitting that some be passed over entirely, that some receive slight attention and others still more, and that some be judged to merit complete dissolution of friendship.” What is more than this, he says in the same work that we shall have converse with some men to a greater extent and with others to a lesser with the result that some are more our friends and others less so and that as this kind of variation has a wide range (for some deserve friend ship of one degree and others of another) some will also be held to merit one degree of confidence and the like <and others another>. 1039c. This is important, for what has he done here but maintain that in these things too there are great differences? Moreover, in the treatise on the Fair to demonstrate that only the fair is good he has employed arguments like this: “What is good is chosen, what is chosen is approved, what is approved is admired, what is admired is fair” and again “what is good is gratifying, what is gratifying is grand, what is grand is fair.” These arguments, however, are in conflict with that other, for either everything good is admired, in which case sober abstention from the old crone would be admired as well, or <this is not admired as well, in which case it would not be true either that> everything good <is fair> or grand or gratifying and nothing is left of the argument. 1039d. How, in fact, can it be insipid to praise others for such things and yet not ridiculous to make them reason for one’s own gratification and glorification?

Chapter XIV

There are many places where he acts this way, but it is when disputing others that he is least concerned to avoid self-contradiction and inconsistency. Anyway, in the books on Exhortation where he attacks Plato for saying that one who has not learned or does not know how to live had better not be alive a he has the following statement word for word: “Such an assertion is self-contradictory and also least effective as exhortation. For in the first place by indicating that it is best for us not to be alive and in a sense requiring us to die it would exhort us to do something other than philosophize, 1039e. for it is not possible to philosophize without being alive nor possible either to have become prudent without having survived a long time in vice and ignorance.” Further on he also says that even the base ought to remain alive, and then in so many words: “For in the first place virtue all by itself is no reason for our living, and so neither is vice any reason why we need to depart this life.” And now for an exhibition of Chrysippus in conflict with himself there is no need to go through other books; here in these books themselves he now quotes with approval the saying of Antisthenes that one needs to get intelligence or a halter and that of Tyrtaeus,

Ere reaching the narrow divide ’twixt virtuous living and dying

1039f. (though what do these intend to show except that not being alive is for the vicious and stupid more advantageous than living?), and again he says in correction of Theognis: “he ought not to have said ‘From want you must flee’ but rather

From vice you must flee, oh my friend, though headlong you plunge in the motion
Down cliffs sharp and sheer or below the yawning abyss of the ocean.”

1040a. So what would he apparently be doing but himself writing in the same prescriptions and doctrines that he erases when others write them, objecting to Plato for showing that not to be alive is more advantageous than to be living viciously and ignorantly but advising Theognis to plunge over a precipice or to drown himself in order to flee vice? In fact, by praising Antisthenes for trying to force to the halter those who have no intelligence he was censuring <himself> for saying that vice is no reason for us to take leave of life.

Chapter XV

At the very beginning of the books concerning Justice directed against Plato himself he pounces 1040b. upon the argument about the gods and says that Cephalus was wrong in trying to make fear of the gods a deterrent from injustice and that the argument about divine chastisements is easily discredited and, <as it produces> many distractions and conflicting plausibilities, is an inducement in the opposite direction, being in fact no different from the Bogy and Hobgoblin with which women try to keep little children from mischief. Yet, having thus disparaged Plato’s words, in other places again he praises and frequently quotes these lines of Euripides:

In fact there are, though one deride the words,
Zeus and the gods, who mark our mortal woes;

and similarly in the first book concerning Justice he quotes these verses of Hesiod’s,

Zeus from the heavens inflicted a grievous calamity on them,
Plague and famine at once; and the populace utterly perished,

and then says that the gods do these things in order that from the chastisement of the wicked the rest of mankind may take warning and be less inclined to attempt any similar misdeed. Again in the books concerning Justice after suggesting that for those who regard pleasure as a good but not a goal it is possible to preserve justice as well he has affirmed this position and said in so many words: “For, if it is held to be a good and not a goal and if the fair too is among the things that are of themselves objects of choice, we could perhaps preserve justice by maintaining that the fair and just is a greater good than pleasure.” 1040d. This is what he says there about pleasure; but in the books against Plato he denounces him for appearing to hold that health is good and says that not only justice but magnanimity too and sobriety and all the other virtues are annulled if we hold that pleasure or health or anything else that is not fair is good. Now, for what is to be said in Plato’s defense, that rejoinder has been given elsewhere; but here is manifest the inconsistency of his accuser, who in one place asserts that justice is preserved if it be assumed that along with the fair pleasure too is good but elsewhere again charges with annihilation of all the virtues those who do not hold that only the fair is <good>. 1040e. In order to leave his self-contradictions not even a plea of defense, when writing against Aristotle concerning Justice he declares a him to be wrong in asserting that, if pleasure is a goal, justice is annulled and along with justice each of the other virtues also. This is wrong according to him because, while justice is in truth annulled by them (who so treat pleasure), nothing prevents the other virtues from existing, since they would at any rate be good and approved even though not per se objects of choice; and then he gives each of them by name. It is better, however, to repeat his own words: 1040f. “For, while pleasure is indicated as a goal in such a theory, that does not, I think, have all this kind of implication. That is why it must be stated that neither is any of the virtues an object of choice per se nor any of the vices an object of avoidance but all these must be referred to the aim one has assumed. Nothing in their theory, however, would prevent courage, prudence, continence, endurance, and the virtues similar to these from being classified as goods and the contrary <vices> from being objects of avoidance.” 1041a. Now, who has ever been more reckless in argument than this man? He has lodged complaints against two of the best philosophers, against the one for annulling all virtue by not maintaining that only the fair is good and against the other for not believing that all virtue save justice is preserved if pleasure is a goal. The arrogance he displays is in fact amazing when, the same subject being under discussion, what he affirms himself in objecting to Aristotle he in turn denies in denouncing Plato. Moreover, in the Demonstrations concerning Justice he says expressly: “Every right action is a lawful act and an act of justice; but what is done in accordance with continence or endurance or prudence or courage is right action; consequently it is also an act of justice.” 1041b. How, then, can he deny justice to those to whom he grants prudence and courage and continence, when whatever right actions they perform with the virtues just mentioned they ipso facto perform justly as well?

Chapter XVI

Since Plato had said of injustice that, being discord of the soul and intestine strife, it does not lose its force within those who themselves harbour it either but sets the wicked man at variance with himself, Chrysippus objects and says that to speak of doing oneself injustice is absurd, for injustice exists in relation to another and not to oneself; but this he forgot, 1041c. and later in the Demonstrations concerning Justice he says that the wrong-doer is wronged by himself and does himself injustice whenever he wrongs another, for he has become a cause of transgression for himself and is injuring himself undeservedly. In the books against Plato this is what he has said concerning injustice as a term used in relation not to oneself but to another: “For isolated individuals <are not unjust nor are> unjust men composites of several such individuals contradicting one another, injustice being understood anyhow as obtaining in the case of several persons so disposed to one another and no such condition pertaining to the individual save in so far as he stands in such relation to his neighbors.” In the Demonstrations, however, he has propounded arguments like the following concerning the unjust man’s doing injustice to himself as well: 1041d. “The law prohibits one from becoming accessory to a trangression; and to do injustice is a trangression. Now, he who has become his own accessory in doing injustice transgresses in regard to himself; and he who transgresses in regard to an individual also does that individual injustice. Therefore, he who does anyone at all injustice does himself injustice too.” Again he argues: “Wrong action is a kind of injury, and everyone in doing wrong does wrong in violation of himself. Therefore, every wrong-doer injures himself undeservedly; and, if so, he also does himself injustice.” Furthermore he argues as follows: “He who is injured by another injures himself and injures himself undeservedly. This, however, is to do injustice. 1041e. Therefore, everyone who is done injustice by anyone at all does himself injustice.”

Chapter XVII

He says that the doctrine of goods and evils proposed and approved by himself is most consistent with life and most closely coincides with the inbred preconceptions. This is what he has said in the third book of his Exhortations; but in the first he says that this doctrine abstracts a man from all else as being of no concern to us and contributing nothing to happiness. So consider the way in which he is consistent with himself, declaring most consistent with life and the common preconceptions the doctrine that abstracts us from living and health and painlessness 1041f. and soundness of the senses and asserts that these things which we beg of the gods are of no concern to us. Lest there be any denying that he contradicts himself, however, here is what he has said in the third book concerning Justice: “That is why also because of its exceeding sublimity and beauty what we say seems like fiction and not on the level of man and human nature.” 1042a. Is there, then, any way for one to acknowledge more clearly that one is contradicting oneself than this man’s assertion that that is consistent with life and most closely coincides with the inbred preconceptions which because of its excess he says seems to be fiction and a formulation transcending man and human nature?

Chapter XVIII

He declares that vice is the essence of unhappiness, stoutly maintaining in every book of physics and of morals the proposition that to live viciously is the same as to live unhappily; but in the third book concerning Nature, after having remarked that to live a fool is better than <not> to be alive even if one is never going to be sensible, he adds the statement, 1042b. “for to human beings goods are of such a nature that in a way <even> evils have the advantage over intermediates.” Now, though he has elsewhere said that for fools nothing is advantageous, he here says that there is advantage in living foolishly; but I let that pass. Since, however, what the Stoics call intermediates are neither evil nor good, a in saying that evils have the advantage he says nothing else than that evils have the advantage over what are not evils and to be unhappy is more advantageous than not to be unhappy, that is he holds that not to be unhappy is more disadvantageous than to be unhappy and, if more disadvantageous, more injurious also and therefore that not to be unhappy is more injurious than to be unhappy. In his desire, then, to mitigate this absurdity he adds this statement on the subject of evils: 1042c. “It is not these that have the advantage but reason, and it is incumbent upon us rather to be alive with reason even if we are to be fools.” Now in the first place he asserts that evils are vice and what partakes of vice and are nothing else; but vice is rational or rather is reason gone astray, and consequently to be alive with reason as fools is nothing else than to be alive with vice. In the next place to be alive as fools is to be alive as unhappy wretches. In what respect, then, does this have the advantage over intermediates? For surely it is not in respect of being happy that he would say being unhappy has the advantage. But Chrysippus, they say, thinks a that the standard of measurement for remaining alive 1042d. or taking leave of life should be not at all goods for the former and evils for the latter but for both the intermediates conforming with nature, which is why it sometimes becomes proper both for the happy to commit suicide and for the unhappy again to continue living. Why then, what self-contradiction in respect of choice and avoidance is greater than this, that for those who are in the highest degree happy it is proper to withdraw from the goods they have because they lack things that are indifferent? Yet they (the Stoics) hold that of indifferent things none is an object of choice or of avoidance but that good is alone an object of choice and evil alone an object of avoidance. Consequently it turns out that by their own assertions they make their practical calculations not with regard to the objects of choice 1042e. nor yet with regard to the objects of avoidance but the aim of their endeavor in living and in dying is other things, which they neither avoid nor choose.

Chapter XIX

Chrysippus admits that good things are entirely different from evil, and it must be so if by the presence of the latter men are straightway made utterly unhappy and by that of the former happy in the highest degree; but good and evil things are perceptible, he says, writing as follows in the first book of the two concerning the Goal: “For even with the following one has enough to assert that good and evil things are perceptible. For not only are the affections along with their species, that is to say grief and fear and the like, perceptible but also it is possible to perceive theft and adultery and similar things and, 1042f. in general, folly and cowardice and not a few other vices and not only joy and benefactions and many other right activities but also prudence and courage and the rest of the virtues.” Let us pass over whatever else is absurd in this statement; but who would not admit that it is in conflict with the assertions made about the man who is a sage without being aware of it ? For, if good is perceptible and far different from evil, 1043a. how is it not the utmost absurdity that one have changed from being base to being good without knowing it and without perceiving the presence of virtue but thinking that vice is residing in him? Either no one who has all the virtues can be ignorant of the fact or disbelieve it, or else the difference between virtue and vice, between happiness and unhappiness, and between the fairest life and the ugliest is minute and scarcely discernible at all if anyone has acquired the former in place of the latter without noticing it.

Chapter XX

The work on Ways of Living is a single treatise in four books. In the fourth of these he says that the sage is unmeddlesome and retiring and minds his own business. 1043b. These are his words: “For I think that the prudent man is unmeddlesome and unofficious and that he minds his own business, minding one’s own business and unofficiousness being alike matters of decency.” In the work concerning Objects of Choice Per Se, he has said very nearly the same thing in these words: For in fact there seems to be something secure and certain about the life of tranquility, though most men are not really able to perceive this.” For Epicurus this is clearly not out of keeping, since he by the doctrine that god does not meddle does away with providence; but Chrysippus himself in the first book on Ways of Living says that the sage will voluntarily assume kingship and make a profit from it and, 1043c. if he cannot reign himself, will dwell with a king and go campaigning with a king of the kind that Idanthyrsus the Scythian was or Leuco of Pontus. I shall cite this too in his own language, in order that we may know whether as the highest and lowest tones produce concord so there is consistency in the life of a man who chooses to be unmeddlesome and unofficious and then from some necessity or other goes riding with Scythians and minding the business of the tyrants in the Bosporus: “For,” says he, “holding fast to this let us again consider the proposition that he will go campaigning and dwell with princes, 1043d. since we have maintained this too for reasons much like the very considerations which have caused some not even to suspect it.” After a bit he adds: “and not only with those who have made some progress by having been engaged in certain kinds of discipline and habituation, for example at the courts of Leuco and Idanthyrsus.” Some arraign Callisthenes for having sailed to Alexander in the hope of restoring Olynthus as Aristotle restored Stagira and praise Ephorus and Xenocrates and Menedemus for having declined Alexander’s invitation; but Chrysippus thrusts the sage headlong into Panticapaeum and the Scythian wilderness in order to make a profit, 1043e. for that the purpose intended is trade and profit he has made clear even before this by prescribing three sources of profit particularly appropriate to the sage: kingship, friends, and, third after these, lecturing. Yet in place after place he praises ad nauseam the verses:

For what need mortals save two things alone,
Demeter’s grain and draughts of water clear?

and in the books concerning Nature he says that the sage, if he should lose the greatest fortune, would reckon his loss at a single drachma. After having thus exalted and inflated him there, however, he here reduces him again to wage-earning and schoolmastering, for he says that the sage will both demand a fee and collect it in advance, 1043f. in some cases at the beginning of the pupil’s term and in others after some time has elapsed, the latter being the more courteous procedure but collection in advance the more certain, since the situation admits of fraudulent practices. His statement runs as follows: “Those who are intelligent do not exact their fee of all in the same manner but, otherwise <than the> majority, as occasion requires, promising not to produce virtuous men and that too within a year but so far as in them lies to produce these results at the time agreed upon.” 1044a. Further on he says again: “He will know what is the appropriate time, whether he should take his fee straightway upon the entrance of his pupils, as has been the practice of a majority, or should also grant them time, the latter being a situation which is more open to fraudulent practices, to be sure, but which would seem to be more courteous.” How is the sage, then, either disdainful of wealth, contracting as he does to transmit virtue for money and, even if he does not transmit it, exacting his pittance on the ground that he has done what in him lies, or superior to injury, taking precautions as lie does against being defrauded of his pittance? No one is defrauded without being injured. Chrysippus, who on that ground elsewhere declared the sage not to be subject to fraud, 1044b. here says that the situation admits of fraudulent practices.

Chapter XXI

In his work on Commonwealth he says that the citizens will not do or contrive anything for the purpose of pleasure; and he praises Euripides, quoting these verses of his:

For what need mortals save two things alone,
Demeter’s grain and draughts of water clear?

Then a little further on he praises Diogenes for saying to the bystanders as he masturbated in public, “Would that I could thus rub the hunger too out of my belly.” Now, what sense does it make to praise in the same work at once the man who repudiates pleasure and the man who for the sake of pleasure does things like this and engages in such obscenity? 1044c. Furthermore, after he had written in the books concerning Nature that beauty is the purpose for which many of the animals have been produced by nature, since she loves the beautiful and delights in diversity, and had appended a most irrational argument, namely that the peacock’s tail on account of its beauty is the purpose for which the peacock has come to be, in his work on Commonwealth again he has vehemently censured people who keep peacocks and nightingales. It is as if he were legislating in competition with the lawgiver of the universe and deriding nature for bestowing her love of the beautiful upon animals of a kind to which the sage denies room in his city. Is it not clearly absurd to object to those who keep the creatures that he praises providence for creating? Well, in the fifth book concerning Nature after having said that bugs are useful in waking us up and mice in making us attentive about putting things away carefully and that nature probably loves the beautiful as she delights in diversity he has stated the following in so many words: “The tail of the peacock would be an especially impressive example of this, for here nature makes it evident that the creature has come to be for the sake of the tail and not contrariwise, <and> the existence of the male, which had this origin, implied the existence of the female.” Yet in his work on Commonwealth he says that we are almost at the point of painting pictures on the privies too and a little later that some people embellish their farm-lands with tree-climbing vines and myrtles “and they keep peacocks and doves and partridges 1044e. for their cackling and nightingales.” I should like to have asked him what he thinks about bees and honey, for it would have been consistent with the assertion that the existence of bugs is useful to say that that of bees is useless; and, if he gives room in his city to the latter, for what reason does he debar the citizens from the things that are pleasing to eye and ear? To put it generally: as the man is absurd who rebukes his table-companions for taking desserts and wine and relishes but praises the host who has had these things prepared and has invited guests to share them just so does he seem to have no scruple about contradicting himself who extols providence for having provided fishes and birds and honey and wine but objects to those who do not forgo these things and content themselves with Demeter’s grain and draughts of water clear, things ready to hand and our natural sustenance.

Chapter XXII

Moreover, in the <…> book of his Exhortations after stating that cohabitation with mothers or daughters or sisters, eating certain things, and going directly from childbed or death-bed to a holy place have been condemned without reason he says that we must look to the beasts and from their behavior infer that no such act is extraordinary or unnatural, since here it is apposite to cite the case of the other animals as evidence against the divinity’s being polluted by their coupling, giving birth, or dying in holy places. On the other hand, in the fifth book concerning Nature he states that Hesiod’s prohibition against urinating into rivers and fountains is good but all the more must one refrain from urinating against an altar or the shrine of a god, for, if dogs and asses and little children do it, that is not relevant, since they are without any regard or understanding for such things. It is extraordinary then to say in the former case that it is apposite to consider the example of the irrational animals but in the latter that it is irrelevant.

Chapter XXIII

Some philosophers, thinking to provide the impulses with release from the constraint of external causes, contrive within the ruling faculty a kind of adventitious motion which becomes manifest especially in the case of indistinguishable alternatives. They argue that, when it is necessary to accept one of two things that are alike and of equal import, there being no cause directing us to one of the two, 1045c. since it is no different at all from the other, this adventitious force in the soul takes a swerve of itself and resolves the perplexity. Disputing them as men who constrain nature with no cause, Chrysippus in many places cites as evidence dice and scales and many of the things that cannot fall or incline now one way and now another without the occurrence of some cause, that is of some variation either entirely in the things themselves or in their environment, it being his contention that the uncaused is altogether non-existent and so is the spontaneous and that in these movements which some people imagine and call adventitious obscure causes insinuate themselves and without our notice direct our impulse in one way or the other. Now, these are among the most familiar of the assertions that he has frequently made; but he has himself again made statements contrary to these, and, since they are not similarly accessible to everyone, I shall quote them in his very words. So, for one, in his work concerning Decision he supposes that two racers have run a dead heat and raises the question what the umpire ought to do. “Is it permissible,” he says, “that the umpire award the palm to whichever he pleases depending upon their comparative intimacy with him considering it in this case to be one of his own possessions which he would be giving away <or> that in a way rather considering the palm to have become the common property of both he give it, as if by casting a lot, 1045e. according to his chance inclination? By ‘chance inclination’ I mean the kind that occurs when two drachmas that are for the rest alike have been set before us and we incline to one of them and take it.” Again, in the sixth book concerning Duty he says that some matters are not worth much trouble or attention at all, and he holds that in these we should make a random cast and leave the choice to the chance inclination of the mind: “for example,” he says, “if of those assaying two given drachmas some should say that one is a sound drachma a and some that the other is and if we should have to take one of them, we would at that point give over further investigation 1045f. and choosing from them at random according to some other principle would take whichever we chanced to, even at the risk of taking the bad one.” With these notions, then, “random choice” and “the chance inclination of the mind,” he introduces acceptance entirely without cause of the things that are indifferent.

Chapter XXIV

In his third book concerning Dialectic after remarking that dialectic was treated as a subject of serious concern by Plato and Aristotle and their successors down to 1046a. Polemon and Strato a and especially by Socrates and after exclaiming that one would be willing even to go wrong with so many men of such stature as these he continues in so many words: “For, if it had been in passing that they spoke of the matter, one might perhaps have disparaged this subject; but, since they have taken such care to speak as if dialectic is among the greatest and most indispensable of capacities, it is not plausible that they, being on the whole such men as we surmise, are so utterly mistaken.” Why then, one might say, will you never yourself stop quarreling with so many men of such stature and convicting them, 1046b. as you believe, of being utterly mistaken in the greatest and most important matters ? It is not the case, I presume, that, while they wrote of dialectic with serious concern, they wrote in passing and in jest of principle and goal and gods and justice, matters in which you stigmatize their discourse as being obscure, self-contradictory, and full of countless other faults.

Chapter XXV

In one place he says that spiteful joy is nonexistent since no decent man has joy in another’s ills <and no base man has joy> at all; but in the second book concerning Good he explains envy as grief for another’s goods, 1046c. taking it to be felt by people who desire their neighbors’ abasement in order to be superior themselves, and then (with this grief) he connects spiteful joy: “And conjoined with this grief spiteful joy occurs when people through similar causes desire their neighbors to be abased; and, when they are diverted along the line of other natural tendencies, there occurs pity.” Here, then, he has clearly admitted that like envy and pity spiteful joy has existence, though in other places he says that like hatred of evil and covetousness it is non-existent.

Chapter XXVI

Although in many passages he has said that the happyiare no more happy for being longer happy but are happy in the same manner and degree as those who have had happiness for an instant, 1046d. yet again in many places he has said that one ought not even to extend a finger for the sake of prudence that is momentary like a fleeting flash of lightning. It will suffice to cite what he has written on this matter in the sixth book of the Moral Questions, for after remarking that neither does joy apply to every good in the same degree nor glorification to every right action he has proceeded as follows: “For in fact, if it should be that a man would get prudence for only an instant or for his final moment, it would not behoove him even to stretch out his finger on account of such possession of prudence,” — and yet the happy are supposedly no more happy for being longer happy and everlasting happiness when compared with that which is momentary turns out not to be more an object of choice. 1046e. Now, if he had held prudence to be a good productive of happiness, as Epicurus did, only the mere absurdity and paradoxically of the doctrine would have had to be attacked; but, since prudence according to him is not different from happiness but is happiness, how is it other than inconsistent to say that momentary happiness is an object of choice in the same degree as that which is everlasting and yet that momentary happiness is worthless?

Chapter XXVII

They say that the virtues imply one another not only in the sense that he who has one has all but also in the sense that he who performs any act in accordance with one doek so in accordance with all, for they say that neither is a man perfect if he have not all the virtues nor a deed perfect which is not done in accordance with all the virtues. 1046f. But now in the sixth book of the Moral Questions Chrysippus says that the decent man is not always being courageous or the base man cowardly, the necessary condition being that when there are certain presentations in mental images the former abide by his resolutions and the latter recoil; 1047a. and it is plausible, he says, that the base man is not always being intemperate either. If then being courageous amounts to exerting courage and being cowardly to exerting cowardice, they make conflicting statements when they say that he who has virtues or vices acts in accordance with all of them at once and yet that the decent man is not always being courageous and the base bnan cowardly.

Chapter XXVIII

Rhetoric he defines as an art concerned with the order or arrangement of continuous speech; and in his first book, moreover, he has even written as follows: “I think that attention must be given not only to unconstrained and smooth order <but> also besides the speech even to the kinds of delivery suitable according to the appropriate modulations of the voice 1047b. and expressions or gestures of the countenance and hands.” Yet, after having thus been a zealot for speech in this passage, in the same book again, when he has mentioned the matter of hiatus, he says that we must hold fast to what is better and disregard not only this matter but also certain kinds of obscurities and ellipses and — yes, by heaven — solecisms, of which not a few other people would be ashamed. Now really, at one time to concede to speakers the orderly disposition of their speech even as far as the decorum of hands and mouth and at another to concede neither attention to ellipses and obscurities nor shame for the commission of solecisms, this is the mark of a man who says absolutely anything that may come into his head.

Chapter XXIX

1047c. In the Physical Propositions he has exhorted us to be quiet about matters requiring scientific experience and research if we have not something of greater force and clarity to say, “in order,” he says, “not to make surmises either like Plato’s that the liquid nourishment goes to the lungs and the dry to the belly or other errors that there have been like this.” Well really I think that to lodge complaints against others and then to fall oneself into the errors of which one complains and not to be on one’s guard is the height of self-contradiction and the most shameful of errors. But now he says himself that the number of conjunctions produced by means of ten propositions exceeds a million, 1047d. though he had neither investigated the matter carefully by himself nor sought out the truth with the help of experts. Yet, while Plato has testifying for him the most renowned of physicians — Hippocrates, Philistion, Dioxippus the Hippocratic — and among the poets Euripides, Alcaeus, Eupolis, Eratosthenes, who say that what is drunk passes through the lungs, Chrysippus is refuted by all the arithmeticians, among them Hipparchus himself who proves that his error in calculation is enormous if in fact affirmation gives 103,049 conjoined propositions 1047e. and negation 310,952.

Chapter XXX

It was said by some in earlier times that Zeno was in the predicament of the man with wine gone sour which he could sell neither as vinegar nor as wine, for there is no disposing of Zeno’s “promoted” either as good or as indifferent. Chrysippus, however, has made the disposition of the matter still more difficult. For at one time he says that they are raving mad who set at nought wealth and health and painlessness and soundness of body and do not hold on to such things and, quoting the words of Hesiod, “Perses, noble of race, keep laboring,” 1047f. he has exclaimed that it is mad to recommend the contrary, “Labor not, Perses, noble of race”; in the books on Ways of Living he says that the sage will both live with kings for the sake of profit and give lectures for money, from some of his pupils collecting his fee in advance and with others making a contract for it, and in the seventh book of Duty that the sage will even turn three somersaults if he gets a talent for it; and in the first book concerning Goods he gives way in a sense to those who wish to call the “promoted” things goods and their contraries evils and grants the point in these words: “If one in conformity with such distinctions wishes to use the designation ‘good’ for the one class of them and the designation ‘evil’ for the other, provided that these are the objects intended by his reference and it is not a random aberration, <it must be accepted on the ground that> in the matter of the significates he is not in error and for the rest is aiming at the customary linguistic usage.” Yet, after having thus in this passage closely united and combined with the good class “promoted,” elsewhere again he says that none of these is of any concern to us at all but reason pulls us back and turns us aside from all such matters. This, in fact, is what he has written in the first book on Exhortation; and in the third book concerning Nature he says that some men are felicitated upon their royal position and their wealth much as if they were being felicitated for using golden chamber-pots and wearing golden tassels but that to the virtuous man the loss of his fortune is like the loss of a drachma and falling ill is like having stumbled. Consequently he has infected with these self-contradictions not only virtue but providence as well. For, while virtue will look utterly petty and stupid busying herself about these matters and bidding the sage for their sake sail to the Bosporus and turn somersaults, 1048c. Zeus will look ridiculous if he delights in being addressed as Steward of the Household and Guardian of Harvests and Giver of Joy for the reason, no doubt, that lie bestows golden chamber-pots and golden tassels upon the base and upon the virtuous things worth a drachma when in the course of his providence they get rich; and Apollo will look still more ridiculous if he sits giving oracles about golden tassels and chamber-pots and about deliverance from bruises on the shin.

Chapter XXXI

Moreover, by the demonstration they give they make their self-contradiction still more manifest. For what can be put to good use and to bad, this, they say, is neither good nor bad; but wealth and health and bodily strength are put to bad use by all who are stupid; consequently none of these things is good. If, then, god does not give men virtue but what is fair is an object of free choice and does give wealth and health without virtue, he gives these to men who will put them not to good use but to bad, that is to injurious, shameful, and pernicious use. Yet, if the gods are able to grant virtue, they are not benignant if they do not grant it; and, if they are not able to make men virtuous, they are not able to benefit them either, if in fact nothing else is good or beneficial. Their judging by the criterion of virtue or of strength men who have become virtuous otherwise (than by their aid) amounts to nothing, for virtuous men judge the gods too by the criteria of virtue and strength, 1048e. the result being that the gods confer benefit no more than they receive it from men. What is more, Chrysippus does not represent as a good man either himself or any of his own acquaintances or teachers. What, then, do they think of the rest of mankind ? Or do they think just what they say, that all are madmen and fools, impious and lawless, at the extremity of misfortune and utter unhappiness? And yet that our state, thus wretched as it is, is ordered by the providence of the gods? At any rate, if the gods should change and wish to injure, maltreat, torment, and finally crush us, they could not make our condition worse than now it is, as Chrysippus declares that life admits no higher degree 1048f. either of vice or of unhappiness, so that, if it should get the power of speech, it would recite the line of Heracles:

I’m now replete with woes, and there’s no room.

What more inconsistent assertions, then, could one find than the two about gods and about men made by Chrysippus saying that the former exercise providence in the best possible fashion 1049a. and that the latter are in the worst plight possible?

Chapter XXXII

Some of the Pythagoreans object to him for writing of cocks in the books concerning Justice that “they have come into being for a useful purpose, for they wake us up and pluck out scorpions and arouse us for battle by inducing an eagerness for valor; but all the same they too must be eaten, in order that the number of chicks may not exceed what is useful.” Those who make these remarks ground for objection he so far laughs to scorn, however, as to write the following in the third book on the Gods about Zeus the Saviour and Sire, the father of Right, of Order, and of Peace: 1049b. “as states, when they have become too populous, move the masses off into colonies or begin wars against someone, so god gives occasions for destruction to begin”; and he calls Euripides to witness and the rest who say that the Trojan war was brought about by the gods for the purpose of draining off the surplus population. Never mind the other absurdities in these remarks (for the subject of our examination is not whether the Stoics say anything wrong but only how much they say in disagreement with themselves); but observe that, while his epithets for god are always fair and humane, the deeds which he imputes to god are harsh, barbarous, and Galatian. For there is no resemblance to colonization 1049c. in the destruction and annihilation of human beings to the extent wrought by the Trojan war and again by the Persian and Peloponnesian, unless the Stoics know of some cities colonized in Hades and beneath the earth. No, it is the Galatian Deiotarus a that Chrysippus makes god resemble, Deiotarus who, since he had got many sons and wished to bequeath his realm and household to one, slaughtered all the rest just as if he had pruned and cut back the shoots of a vine in order that one, the one he had spared, might grow large and strong. The vine-dresser, however, does this while the twigs are still small and weak, and we out of consideration for the bitch make away with the majority of her puppies when they are newly born and blind; 1049d. but Zeus after he has not merely from inadvertence let men grow up but has himself created them and caused them to grow then tortures them to death, contriving pretexts for their ruin and destruction whereas he ought to have disallowed the causes and origins of their coming to be.

Chapter XXXIII

This is a minor point, to be sure. It is the former that is the more serious, for no war springs up <among> men without vice but one breaks out from lust for pleasure, another from greed, and still another from a lust for glory or for power. Well then, if god induces wars, he induces vices too by inciting and perverting human beings. And yet Chrysippus himself states in his work concerning Decision 1049e. and again in the second book on the Gods that for the divinity to become an accessory to shameful things is not reasonable, for just as law could not become accessory to illegality or the gods to ungodliness so it is reasonable for them not to be accessories to anything shameful either. What, then, is more shameful for human beings than their destruction of one another, for the beginning of which Chrysippus says god presents the occasions? “Yes, but by heaven,” someone will say, “he applauds again when Euripides asserts

If gods do something shameful, they’re not gods


You’ve made the easiest plea, to blame the gods,”

as if we are now engaged in anything else but citing the utterances and notions of his that are contrary to one another.

Chapter XXXIV

1049f. All the same, there would be countless occasions and not just one or two or three for addressing to Chrysippus this very remark which is here the object of applause:

You’ve made the easiest plea, to blame the gods.

In the first place, in the first book concerning Nature, a after having likened the perpetuity of motion to a posset turning and jumbling in different ways the different things that come to be, he has made this statement: 1050a. “Since the organization of the universe as a whole proceeds in this way, it is necessarily in conformity with this organization that we are in whatever state we may be, whether contrary to our individual nature we are ill or are maimed or have become grammarians or musicians.” Again a little later: “We shall on this principle make similar statements both about our virtue and about our vice and generally about skills and the lack of them, as I have said.” And a little later, removing all ambiguity: “For no particular thing, not even the slightest, can have come about otherwise than in conformity with the universal nature and its reason.” Now, that the universal nature 1050b. and the universal reason of nature are destiny and providence and Zeus, of this not even the Antipodes are unaware, for the Stoics keep harping on this everywhere and Chrysippus declares that Homer was right in his statement, “and Zeus’s design was maturing,” since he was there referring to destiny and the nature of the universe as a whole, in conformity with which all things are ordered. How, then, can it be that god is not accessory to anything shameful and at the same time that not even the slightest thing can come about otherwise than in conformity with the universal nature and its reason? For among all the things that come about are included, I presume, the shameful also. Yet, while Epicurus, in order not to leave vice free from blame, 1050c. squirms this way and that and resorts to artifices in devising the liberation of volition and its release from the everlasting motion, Chrysippus gives bare-faced license to vice as having been caused not merely of necessity or according to destiny but also in conformity with god’s reason and with the best nature. This too, moreover, is seen put word for word as follows: “For, since the universal nature extends to all things, everything that comes about in any way whatever in the whole universe and in any of its parts will necessarily have come about conformably with that nature and its reason in due and unimpeded sequence, for neither is there anything to obstruct the organization from without nor is any of its parts susceptible of being moved 1050d. or of assuming any state save in conformity with the universal nature.” What, then, are the states and movements of its parts ? Obviously the vices and disorders — the lusts for riches, for pleasures, for glories, the forms of cowardice and of injustice — are states; and acts of adultery, thefts, betrayals, homicides, and parricides are movements. Of these Chrysippus thinks that none either great or small is contrary to the reason and law and right and providence of Zeus — with the consequence that illegality does not occur contrary to law or wrong-doing contrary to right or knavery contrary to providence.

Chapter XXXV

Nevertheless, he says that god chastises vice 1050e. and does many things with a view to chastisement of the wicked. For instance, in the second book on the Gods he says that inconvenient things do sometimes happen to the virtuous not as they do to the base for their chastisement but in the course of other arrangements, as happens in cities; and again he puts it in these words: “First, evils are to be understood after the fashion of what has been said before; and then it must be understood that these things are dispensed according to the reason of Zeus either with a view to chastisement or in the course of other arrangements the nature of which is relative to the universe as a whole.” Now, this is itself dreadful, that the origin and the chastisement of vice are both in accord with the reason of Zeus; but Chrysippus intensifies the contradiction by writing as follows in the second book concerning Nature: 1050f. “Vice is peculiarly distinguished from dreadful accidents, for even taken in itself it does in a sense come about in accordance with the reason of nature and, if I may put it so, its genesis is not useless in relation to the universe as a whole, since otherwise the good would not exist either.” And this man censures those who impartially argue the opposite sides of a question, 1051a. this man who from a desire at all costs and on every subject to say something original and extraordinary asserts that purse-snatching, blackmail, and folly are not useless, that it is not useless for there to be men who are useless, injurious, and wretched. What kind of being, then, is Zeus, I mean the Zeus of Chrysippus, who chastises a thing that comes about neither of itself nor without use? For, while vice according to the reasoning of Chrysippus is entirely free from blame, Zeus must be blamed whether he has created vice which is without use or having created it not without use chastises it.

Chapter XXXVI

Again, in the first book concerning Justice after having spoken of the gods as opposing some wrongful acts he says: 1051b. “To abolish vice completely, however, is not possible; nor is its abolition a good thing.” The present treatise is not concerned with the investigation <whether the abolition of> lawlessness, injustice, and stupidity <is not a good thing>; but, as by philosophizing he is engaged in abolishing so far as it is in his power to do so the vice which it is not a good thing to abolish, he is himself doing something that conflicts both with his doctrine and with god. Besides, in saying that god opposes some wrongful acts, he suggests in turn that there is inequality among wrong actions.

Chapter XXXVII

Moreover, although he lias often written on the theme that there is nothing reprehensible or blameworthy <in the> universe since all things are accomplished in conformity with the best nature, yet again there are places where he does admit instances of reprehensible negligence about matters which are not trivial or paltry. 1051c. At any rate, in the third book concerning Substance he mentions the fact that things of this kind do happen to upright and virtuous men and then says: Is it because some things are neglected, just as in larger households some husks get lost and a certain quantity of wheat also though affairs as a whole are well managed, or is it because base spirits have been appointed over matters of the sort in which there really do occur instances of negligence that must in fact be reprehended?” And he says that necessity also is involved in large measure. Now, I say nothing about the degree of insensibility manifested in likening to husks that get lost the accidents to upright and virtuous men such as were the sentence passed upon Socrates and the burning alive of Pythagoras by the Cyloneans and the torturing to death of Zeno by the tyrant Demylus and of Antiphon by Dionysius; but to say that base spirits have been providentially appointed to such offices of charge, how can this be anything but an accusation of god as of a king who entrusts provinces to evil and demented governors and generals and pays no attention to their neglect and abuse of the most virtuous men? Moreover, if in events necessity is involved in large measure, then god does not control all things nor are all things ordered in conformity with his reason.


He fights especially against Epicurus and against those who do away with providence, 1051e. basing his attack upon the conceptions that we have of the gods in thinking of them as beneficent and humane. Since this occurs frequently in what the Stoics write and say, there was no need to give quotations. And yet the likelihood is that not all men have preconceptions of the gods as benignant, for look at the kind of notions Jews and Syrians have about gods and see how full of superstition the notions of the poets are. One may say, however, that no one supposes god to be subject to destruction and generation. Not to mention any of the others, Antipater of Tarsus in his book on the Gods writes word for word as follows: “As a preliminary to the whole discourse we shall take a concise reckoning of the clear apprehension which we have of god. 1051f. Well then, we conceive god to be an animate being, blessed and indestructible and beneficent toward men.” Then, explaining each of these predicates, he says: “Moreover, all men hold them to be indestructible.” In that case, Chrysippus is not one of Antipater’s “all men,” 1052a. for he thinks that in the gods there is nothing indestructible except fire but that all of them alike have come into being and are going to be destroyed. This he states practically everywhere; but I shall give a quotation from his third book on the Gods: “Corresponding to a difference of constituent principle some, therefore, are said to be subject to generation and to destruction and others to be unsubject to generation. An exposition of this from the beginning is rather a topic for physics, for sun and moon and the rest of the gods, since they have a similar principle of constitution, are subject to generation, but Zeus is everlasting.” And again further on: “Similar assertions will be made about decaying and having come to be in regard to Zeus and the rest of the gods, for the latter are subject to destruction but the parts of the former are indestructible.” Beside these statements 1052b. I wish to set a few more words by Antipater: “Those who divest the gods of beneficence are in partial conflict with the preconception of them in the same sense as are those who believe them to partake of generation and destruction.” If, then, he who holds that the gods are subject to destruction is as absurd as is he who believes that they are not provident and humane, Chrysippus has erred as much as has Epicurus, for the latter eliminates the beneficence of the gods and the former their indestructibility.

Chapter XXXIX

Moreover, in the third book on the Gods Chrysippus makes the following statement about the nourishment of the rest of the gods: “Nourishment is used in a similar way by the rest of the gods — it is through it that they are sustained, but Zeus and the universe 1052c. <sustain themselves> in a different way <from those that periodically> are absorbed <into fire> and arise out of fire.” Here, then, he declares that there is nourishment of all the gods except the universe and Zeus, but in the first book on Providence he says that Zeus goes on growing until all things have been consumed in his growth: “For, since death is the separation of soul from body and the soul of the universe is not separated but goes on growing continually until it has completely absorbed its matter, the universe must not be said to die.” Now, who could more plainly contradict himself than the man who says of one and the same god now that he grows and again that he does not take nourishment? And inference is not needed to reach this conclusion, for in the same book he has himself clearly written: “The universe alone is said to be self-sufficient because it alone has within itself everything it needs, 1052d. and it gets from itself its nourishment and growth by the interchange of its different parts into one another.” So he is in conflict with himself not only because in the former passages he declares that except for the universe and Zeus there is nourishment of the rest of the gods and in the latter he states that there is nourishment of the universe also but even more because he says that the universe grows by getting nourishment from itself. The likelihood was just the contrary, that this alone does not grow, since it has its own decay for nourishment, whereas the rest of the gods, since they get nourishment from without, do have increase and growth and that it is rather the universe that is consumed in their growth if it is a fact that, 1052e. while it is its own source, they are always drawing upon it for their nourishment.

Chapter XL

A second factor included in the conception of the gods, 1052f. moreover, is happiness, blessedness, and independence. That is the reason why they applaud Euripides too for having said:

God wants for nothing if he’s truly god;
It’s poets who contrived these wretched tales.

Chrysippus, however, in what I have quoted says that the universe alone is self-sufficient because it alone has within itself everything it needs. What, then, is the consequence of the assertion that the universe alone is self-sufficient? That neither the sun nor the moon is self-sufficient nor any other of the gods. And, not being self-sufficient, they would not be happy or blessed either.

Chapter XLI

He believes that the foetus in the womb is nourished by nature like a plant but that at birth the vital spirit, being chilled and tempered by the air, changes and becomes animal and that hence soul has not inappropriately been named after this process. 1053a. On the other hand, he holds soul to be vital spirit in a more rarefied and subtile state than nature; and so he contradicts himself, for how can a subtile and rarefied state have been produced from density in the process of chilling and condensation? What is more, how is it that, while declaring animation to be the result of chilling, he holds the sun to be animate, when it is igneous and the product of vaporous exhalation which has changed to fire ? For he says in the first book concerning Nature: “The transformation of fire is like this: by way of air it turns into water; and from this, as earth is precipitated, air evaporates; and, as the air is subtilized, ether is diffused round about, and the stars along with the sun are kindled from the sea.” Now, what is more opposed to kindling than chilling or to diffusion than condensation? 1053b. The latter produce water and earth from fire and air, and the former turn into fire and air what is liquid and earthy; but nevertheless in one place he makes kindling and in another chilling the origin of animation. Moreover, he says that, when conflagration has become thorough, <the universe is thoroughly> alive and animal but, as it burns out again and condenses, it turns into water and earth and what is corporeal. In the first book on Providence he says: “For the universe, being thoroughly fiery, is ipso facto both its own soul and its own ruling faculty; but when, having changed into liquid and the residual soul, it has in a way changed into body and soul so as to be a composite of these, it has got a different constituent principle.” 1053c. Here, surely, he plainly says that even the inanimate parts of the universe are by the conflagration turned into what is animate and that by the burning out again even the soul is slackened and liquefied, changing into what is corporeal. So his absurdity is manifest in that by the process ofchilling he now makes animate beings out of insensible objects and now changes into insensible and inanimate objects the largest part of the soul of the universe. Apart from this, however, in his account of the generation of soul the demonstration is in conflict with the doctrine, for, while he says that the soul comes to be when the foetus has been brought to birth, 1053d. the vital spirit having changed under chilling as if under tempering, yet as proof that the soul has come to be and is junior to body he uses mainly the argument that the offspring closely resemble their parents both in bent and in character. The discrepancy of these assertions is obvious: it is not possible for the soul, coming to be after the birth, to have its character formed before the birth or else it will turn out that before soul has come to be it is similar to a soul, i.e. both exists, in that it has similarity, and, because it has not yet come to be, does not exist; but, if one should say that, the similarity originating in the blends of the bodies, the souls change after they have come to be, the argument for the generation of the soul is ruined, 1053e. since in this way the soul may also be ungenerated and upon entering the body may change under influence of the blend that constitutes the similarity.

Chapter XLII

Sometimes he says that air has an upward tendency and is light and sometimes that it is neither heavy nor light. Thus in the second book concerning Motion he states that fire, being weightless, has an upward tendency and that the case of air is much the same as this, since water is more closely associated with earth and air with fire; but in the Arts of Physics he leans to the other opinion, assuming that of itself air has neither weight nor lightness.

Chapter XLIII

Moreover, he states that air is naturally murky; and this he uses as an argument for its being primarily cold also, 1053f. saying that its murkiness is opposed to the brilliance and its coldness to the heat of fire. This argument he advances in the first book of the Physical Questions, but in the books on Habitudes again he says that habitudes are nothing but quantities of air: “For it is these that produce the cohesion in bodies; and each of the things that habitude makes cohesive owes its particular quality to the cohibiting air, which in iron is called hardness, in stone solidity, and in silver whiteness.” 1054a. These assertions are full of absurdity and inconsistency, for, if air remains such as it naturally is, how does what is dark become whiteness in what is not white and what is soft become hardness in what is not hard and what is subtile become solidity in what is not solid? If, on the other hand, by being mixed in these things, it alters its character and conforms to them, how is it a habitude or a power or a cause of the things that dominate it? Change of a kind that makes anything lose its own qualities is characteristic of a patient, not of an agent, and not of something that cohibits but of something too feeble for resistance. Yet everywhere they declare that matter is of itself the inert and immobile substrate of qualities and that qualities, being vital spirits or aeriform tensions, give character and shape to the various parts of matter in which they come to be. To say this, however, is not possible for them, supposing air to be naturally the kind of thing they do, for as a habitude and tension it would make every several body conform entirely to itself so as to be dark and soft; but, if by blending with them it acquires characteristics contrary to those which it naturally has, it is in a way the matter’s matter and not cause or power.

Chapter XLIV

It is frequently asserted by Chrysippus that outside of the universe there is infinite void and that what is infinite has no beginning, middle, or end; and this the Stoies use especially to annihilate the downward motion which Epicurus says the atom has of itself, 1054c. their contention being that in an infinite there is no difference by which to distinguish one part as being up and the other as down. In the fourth book on Possibilities, however, he assumes that there is some middle place and midmost space and says that here the universe is situated. These are his words: “Consequently, even in the case of the universe the question whether it should be said to be subject to destruction requires deliberation, I think. All the same, to me the case seems rather to be as follows: to its virtual indestructibility a good deal is contributed even by the position that it has occupied in space, that is to say through its being in the middle, since, if it should be imagined to be elsewhere, destruction would most certainly attach to it.” And again after a bit: 1054d. “For it has also in some such way been an accident of substance, from the very fact that it is the kind of thing it is, to have occupied everlastingly the middle place, so that otherwise but also accidentally it does not admit of destruction <and> in this very way is everlasting.” There is in these statements one discrepancy which is manifest and glaring, the admission of some middle place and midmost space in an infinite; but there is a second, which, while less evident, is more irrational than this, for in thinking that the universe could not be remaining indestructible if by accident it has got situated in another part of the void he is evidently afraid lest the universe be dissolved and destroyed because the parts of substance move toward the middle. This he would not fear, however, did he not hold that bodies naturally move from all points toward the middle — the middle not of substance but of space that encompasses substance. Yet of this he has very frequently said that it is impossible and contrary to nature because in the void there exists no difference by which bodies are drawn in one direction rather than another but the structure of the universe is responsible for the motion <of all the parts> moving from all points and tending toward its center or middle. For this it is sufficient to give a quotation from the second book concerning Motion, for after remarking that the universe is a perfect body whereas the parts of the universe are not perfect, since their existence is not independent but is their particular relation to the whole, and after explaining its motion as that of something which by means of all its parts is naturally moving toward its own continuance and cohesion, not its dissolution and dispersion, he has added this statement: “Since the tension and motion of the whole have thus a single direction 1055a. and its parts have this motion as a result of the nature of body, it is plausible that motion toward the middle of the universe is the primary natural motion for all bodies, for the universe, which thus is in motion toward itself, and for its parts, inasmuch as they are parts.” Why then, sir, one might say, what made you so far forget these arguments as to declare the universe subject to dissolution and destruction if it had not by chance occupied the midmost space? If, in fact, it is always natural for it to tend itself toward its own middle and for its parts to strive toward this from all points, then by cohibiting and compressing itself in this way it will remain indestructible and undispersible in any part of the void to which it may be transferred, 1055b. for what happens to things that are dispersed and dissipated is the separation and dissolution of their parts, each of which glides away toward its proper place from that which is unnatural to it. But you, in thinking that for the universe to be put anywhere else in the void is tantamount to its being involved in utter destruction and in asserting this and for this reason seeking out a middle in the infinite, which by its nature has no middle, you abandoned, as affording no assurance of preservation, those “tensions” and “cohesions” and “tendencies” of yours and attributed the entire cause of its persisting to its having occupied the place it has. Yet to the aforesaid you subjoin the following like a man ambitious to refute himself: “It is reasonable that the way in which each of the parts moves when cohering with the rest is also the way in which it moves by itself, 1055c. even if for the sake of argument we should in imagination suppose it to be in a void within this universe, for as it would be moving to the middle when cohibited from all sides so will it continue in this motion even if for the sake of argument all about it suddenly comes to be void.” Then in that case, while no part whatever, though encompassed by void, loses the inclination that draws it to the middle of the universe, yet the universe itself, unless accident provide it with the midmost space, will lose its cohibiting tension with the various parts of its substance all moving in different directions.

Chapter XLV

Moreover, while his physical theory is involved in serious contradictions by these statements, 1055d. his theory of god and providence too was already so involved by that in which he attributes to them the most trivial of causes and takes from them the greatest and most important. For what is more important than that the universe persist and that its substance by unification with its parts be cohesive with itself? Yet according to Chrysippus this has happened accidentally, for, if its having occupied the place it has is responsible for its indestructibility and that has come about by accident, the preservation of the universe as a whole is obviously the work of accident, not of destiny and providence.

Chapter XLVI

And how does his theory of possibilities not conflict with his theory of destiny? 1055e. For, if “possible” is not defined in the manner of Diodorus as that which either is or will be true but if everything is possible that is susceptible of coming about, even if it is not going to come about, many of the things that are not in accordance with destiny will be possible. <Consequently, either> destiny loses her invincible and ineluctable and all-prevailing force; or, if she is what Chrysippus maintains, that which is susceptible of coming about will often fall into the category of the impossible, and everything true will be necessary, being constrained by the most sovereign necessity of all, and everything false impossible, since the mightiest cause is adverse to its becoming true. For how can he whose death at sea has been determined by destiny be susceptible of dying on land, 1055f. and why is it possible for the man at Megara to go to Athens when he is prevented by destiny from doing so?

Chapter XLVII

But furthermore what he says about mental images is in violent contradiction to the doctrine of destiny. For in his desire to prove that the mental image is not of itself a sufficient cause of assent he has said that, if mental images suffice of themselves to produce acts of assent, sages will be doing injury when they induce false mental images, 1056a. as in dealing with base men sages do often employ falsehood and suggest a specious mental image, which is not, however, responsible for the assent, since in that case it would be responsible also for the false assumption and the deception. Then, if one transfers to destiny this statement about the sage and says that not because of destiny do acts of assent occur, since in that case erroneous assents and assumptions and deceptions would be due to destiny too and men would be injured because of destiny, the argument that exempts the sage from doing injury proves at the same time that destiny is not cause of all things. For, if it is not because of destiny that men get fancies and suffer injuries, 1056b. obviously it is not because of destiny either that they perform right actions or are sensible or have steadfast conceptions or are benefited; and there is nothing left of the doctrine that destiny is cause of all things. One who says that for these things Chrysippus considered destiny to be not a cause sufficient of itself but only a predisposing cause will show him to be again at odds with himself there where he gives Homer extravagant praise for saying of Zeus

Therefore accept, each and all, whatsoe’er he may send you of evil

or of good and Euripides for saying

O Zeus, why should I say that wretched men
Take thought at all? For from thee we depend
And act such deeds as thou may’st chance to think.

1056c. He writes at length himself in agreement with these sentiments and finally says that nothing at all, not even the slightest, stays or moves otherwise than in conformity with the reason of Zeus, which is identical with destiny. Furthermore, the predisposing cause is feebler than that which is of itself sufficient, and it falls short when dominated by others that obstruct it but Chrysippus himself, declaring destiny to be an invincible and unimpedible and inflexible cause, calls her Swerveless and Inescapable and Indomitable and, as setting a term for all things, Determination. So then, shall we say that we do not have control over acts of assent or over virtues or vices or right action or wrong-doing; or shall we say that destiny is deficient and Determination is indeterminate and the motions and stations of Zeus are frustrate? For the former is the consequence if destiny is a cause sufficient of itself, and the latter if it is only a predisposing cause, since, if it is of itself sufficient cause of all things, it abolishes the sphere of our control and volition and, if a predisposing cause, loses the character of being unimpedible and fully effective. Not once or twice but everywhere, in fact, or rather in all his Physical Works he has written that to particular natural entities and motions many obstacles and impediments present themselves but none at all to that of the universe as a whole. 1056e. Now, how does the motion of the universe as a whole, extending as it does to the particular motions, itself remain without hindrance or impediment when those motions are being hindered and impeded? The nature of a man is not free of hindrance if that of his foot or his hand is not unhindered too, nor could the motion of a ship be free of impediment if there be any impediment to the operation of its sails or its oarage. All this apart, however, if it is not in conformity with destiny that the mental images occur, <destiny need not be responsible either> for the acts of assent; but, if because she produces mental images conducive to assent the acts of assent are said to occur in conformity with destiny, how is it that she is not in conflict with herself when often in matters of the greatest moment she produces mental images which differ from one another and drag the mind off in contrary directions? When this happens, the Stoics say that they err who instead of suspending judgment adhere to one of the images, that they are precipitate if the images to which they yield are obscure, deceived if the images are false, and fanciful if the images are commonly inapprehensible. And yet of three things one must be true: it must be that not every mental image is the work of destiny or that every acceptance of a mental image, 1057a. i.e. every act of assent, is faultless or that destiny herself is not inculpable either, for I do not understand how she is free from blame for producing the kind of mental images that it is reprehensible to yield to and follow and not to struggle against and resist. Look you, what is the subject to which Chrysippus himself and Antipater in their contentions with the Academics have devoted the most extensive argument? The thesis that there is neither action nor impulsion without assent and that they are talking fiction and making idle assumptions who maintain that upon the occurrence of an appropriate mental image impulsion follows immediately without any prior yielding or assent. Again Chrysippus says, however, that both god and the sage induce false mental images, 1057b. wanting of us not assent or yielding but only action and impulsion toward the presentation, but that we because we are base are led by our weakness to assent to such mental images. It is not very difficult to discern the confusion and mutual discord of these statements. He who wants not assent but only action of those to whom he presents mental images knows, be he god or sage, that the mental images suffice for action and that the acts of assent are superfluous, just as, if he knows that an effective impulse is not prompted by a mental image without assent and yet he induces in men false and specious mental images, 1057c. he is by intention responsible for their precipitate and erroneous behavior in assenting to images that are inapprehensible.

Moral Essay 73: The Stoics Speak More Paradoxically than the Poets

Chapter I

The Caeneus of Pindar used to be taken to task for being an implausible fiction with his invulnerability to iron 1057d. and his physical insensitivity and his having at last sunk down underground unwounded “as erect on his feet he split the earth asunder”; but the Lapith of the Stoics, whom they have made out of insensitivity as if they had forged him of steel, is not immune from wounds or disease or pain but remains fearless and undistressed and invincible and unconstrained while wounded, in pain, on the rack, in the midst of his country’s destruction, in the midst of his own private calamities. And, while the Caeneus of Pindar is not wounded when he is hit, the sage of the Stoics is not impeded when confined and under no compulsion when flung down a precipice 1057e. and not in torture when on the rack and not injured when mutilated and is invincible when thrown in wrestling and is not blockaded by circumvallation and is uncaptured while his enemies are selling him into slavery; he is just like the boats that are tempest-tossed and shattered and capsized while they bear inscribed upon them the names Bon Voyage and Providence <and> Protectress and Escort.

Chapter II

The Iolaus of Euripides makes a prayer, and all of a sudden his superannuated impotence has become youthfulness and martial might; but the sage of the Stoics, though yesterday he was most ugly and at the same time most vicious, today all of a sudden has been transformed into virtue 1057f. and from being a wrinkled and sallow and, as Aeschylus says,

Lumbago-ridden, wretched, pain-distraught

has become a man of comely bearing, divine aspect, and beauteous form.

Chapter III

1058a.Moreover, that Odysseus might appear handsome, Athena removed his wrinkles and baldness and unshapeliness; but without the body’s having been quitted by old age, which on the contrary has heaped and piled additional <ills> upon it, the sage of these Stoics, though remaining hunchbacked, if so he chance to be, and toothless and one-eyed, is not ugly or misshapen or unhandsome of face. <…> The reason is that as beetles are said to leave perfume and to pursue foul-smelling things so the Stoic love consorts with the ugliest and most unshapely and turns away when by wisdom these are transformed into shapeliness and beauty.

Chapter IV

Among the Stoics the man who is most vicious in the morning, 1058b. if so it chance to be, is in the afternoon most virtuous. Having fallen asleep demented and stupid and unjust and licentious and even, by heaven, a slave and a drudge and a pauper, he gets up the very same day changed into a blessed and opulent king, sober and just and steadfast and un-deluded by fancies. He has not sprouted a beard or the token of puberty in a body young and soft but in a soul that is feeble and soft and unmanly and unstable has got perfect intelligence, consummate prudence, a godlike disposition, knowledge free from fancy, and an unalterable habitude and this not by any previous abatement of his depravity but by having changed instantaneously from the most vicious of wild beasts into what may almost be called a kind of hero or spirit or god. 1058c. For, if one has got virtue from the Stoa, it is possible to say

Ask, if there’s aught you wish; all will be yours.

It brings wealth, it comprises kingship, it gives luck, it makes men prosperous and free from all other wants and self-sufficient, though they have not a single drachma of their own.

Chapter V

The poetic fable, preserving its consistency, nowhere leaves Heracles in want of the necessities of life, but on him and his companions stream as from a fountain <all things without stint from the Horn of Plenty>; but he who has got the Stoic Cornucopia, though he has become opulent, begs his bread from others and, though he is a king, analyzes logical arguments for pay and, though he alone has everything, pays rent for his lodgings and buys his bread and cheese, 1058d. often doing so by borrowing or by asking alms of those who have nothing.

Chapter VI

Furthermore, whereas the king of the Ithacans sues for alms because he wishes to escape recognition and is trying to make himself as nearly as possible “like in mien to a pitiful mendicant,” he who comes from the Stoa loudly shouting and bawling “I alone am king, I alone am opulent” often is seen at other men’s doors saying

Oh please, a cloak, for Hipponax is freezing cold.
My teeth are chattering.

Moral Essay 74: On Common Conceptions Against the Stoics

Chapter I

Comrade. You are in all likelihood quite unconcerned, Diadumenus, if anyone thinks that the speculations of your school are at odds with common conceptions. After all, you admit that you disdain the senses themselves; 1059a. and from them have come just about most of our conceptions, the secure foundation of which is, of course, confidence in phenomena. But here am I, full of tumult which, as it seems to me, is great and strange. Hurry and treat me either with arguments of some kind or with spells or if you know some other way of assuagement. I have been thrown into such confusion as you see and so distraught by Stoics who, though otherwise excellent gentlemen and intimates, by heaven, and friends of mine, are bitterly and spitefully vehement against the Academy. To my remarks, which were few and respectfully made, they kept objecting in a sober (for I will not falsify the facts) and mild manner; but of the older Academics they spoke in anger, calling them sophists and corrupters of philosophers and subverters of methodical doctrines and many things still more monstrous, and finally they swept in a torrent upon the conceptions, talking as if the men of the Academy were moving to nullify and to rescind them. Then one of them gave it as his belief that not by chance but by providence of the gods had Chrysippus come after Arcesilaus and before Carneades, the former of whom had initiated the outrage and transgression against common experience and the latter of whom was the fairest flower of the Academics. At any rate, by coming between the two Chrysippus with his rejoinders to Arcesilaus had intercepted the cleverness of Carneades as well, for he had left to sense-perception many succours, as it were, against siege and had entirely eliminated the confusion about preconceptions and conceptions 1059c. both by his differentiation of each one from the rest and by his assignment of each to its proper place; and the result is that even those who thereafter wish to evade the facts or to do violence to them get nowhere but are exposed in their captiousness and sophistry. I have been overheated by such talk since early morning, and I want febrifuges that clear the mind of bewilderment as of an inflammation.

Chapter II

Diadumenus. What has happened to you is probably like the experience of many. Well, if you are persuaded by the poets when they say that the overthrow of ancient Sipylus proceeded from the providence of the gods in their chastising of Tantalus, believe what your comrades from the Stoa say, that nature brought forth Chrysippus too not by chance 1059d. but providentially when she wanted to turn life bottom side up and upside down. Certainly there has not arisen any being with greater natural aptitude for this; but, as Cato said that save for the famous Caesar no one while sober and of sound mind had entered upon public affairs for the purpose of ruining the commonwealth, so it seems to me that this man exerts the utmost diligence and cleverness in subverting and overthrowing common experience. So on occasion anyway even the man’s devotees themselves testify when they quarrel with him about “the liar,” for what kind of conception of demonstration or what preconception of proof is not subverted by denying that a conjunction formed of contradictories without qualification is patently false 1059e. and again by asserting on the contrary that some arguments the premises of which are true and the inferences of which are valid still have the contradictories of their conclusions true as well? The octopus is said to gnaw off its own tentacles in winter-time; but the dialectic of Chrysippus docks and destroys its own most important parts, its very principles, and what conception among the rest has it then left free of suspicion? For surely they do not think that what is in fact the superstructure rests steady and solid if the foundations are not stable but are in such great bewilderment and confusion. 1059f. Yet just as people with mud or dust on their bodies when they are touched or brushed against by someone think that he has struck them with the thing that irritates them and not that he has just disturbed it, so these men blame the Academics in the belief that they are causing what they are proving them to be denied with, — as they are defiled, since what men distort the common conceptions more than they? 1060a. But, if you please, let us give over denouncing them and make our defense on the charge that they bring against us.

Chapter III

Comrade. It seems to me, Diadumenus, that I have today become a man of protean form and color. It was just now that cast down and put to rout I came to you in want of a defense; and here I am going over to the prosecution and wishing to enjoy the revenge of looking on as the gentlemen are convicted of the very same thing, speculation at odds with the common conceptions and preconceptions, the very things whence, they believe, their system <grew> up as from seed and is alone, they maintain, in agreement with nature.

Diadumenus. Well then, should the first objects of our proceedings be the common and notorious notions 1060b. which even, they in easy-going admission of the absurdity themselves entitle paradoxes, their notions as to who alone are kings and alone are opulent and fair and alone are citizens and judges, or would you rather have us let these go to the market for stale and wilted goods and direct our examination of their doctrine to the parts that are as material as is possible for them and are earnestly meant?

Comrade. For my part, I prefer the latter course. For who has not already had his fill of the arguments in refutation of those paradoxes?

Chapter IV

Diadumenus. Consider straight away, then, this very question first. 1060c. Is it in accord with the common conceptions to say that they are in agreement with nature who believe indifferent the things that are in conformity with nature and who hold health and vigor and beauty and strength not to be objects of choice or beneficial or advantageous or constitutive of natural perfection and their opposites — mutilations, pains, deformities, diseases — not to be injurious and objects of avoidance? The Stoics themselves say that nature endows us with repugnance against these latter things and with congeniality to the former; and this too is sharply at odds with the common conception, to say that nature induces congeniality to the things that are not useful or good and repugnance against the things that are not bad or injurious, congeniality and repugnance so intense, moreover, 1060d. as to make suicide and the renunciation of life a reasonable course for those who miss the former things and fall in with the latter.

Chapter V

This too I believe to be at odds with the common conception, the assertion that, while nature itself is indifferent, to be in agreement with nature is the greatest good, for it is not good either to comply with the law or to listen to reason if the law and the reason be not good and decent. This is a minor point; but, if as Chrysippus has written in the first book on Exhortation living happily consists solely “in living virtuously, all other things,” in his words, “being nothing to us and contributing nothing to this end,” not only is nature not indifferent, 1060e. but she is stupid and silly in endowing us with congeniality to things that are nothing to us, and we too are stupid in holding that happiness is to be in agreement with nature which attracts us to the things that contribute nothing to happiness. Yet what is more in accord with the common conception than for the things that are in conformity with nature to be related to living in conformity with nature as the objects of choice are to living beneficially? The Stoics do not talk this way, however; but, while making life in conformity with nature a goal, they believe the things that are in conformity with nature to be indifferent.

Chapter VI

It is not less than this at odds with the common conception to say that <the> sensible and prudent man is not impartial to equally good things but holds some in no esteem and for the sake of others would endure and suffer anything whatever, 1060f. though they do not differ from one another in magnitude at all. They say themselves that for this man it is the same <soberly to abstain from Lais or Phryne or courageously to endure scalpel and cautery and courageously to bear the bite of a fly or> soberly to repulse an old woman with one foot in the grave, 1061a. for they who do either are alike performing right action; but for the former, as being great and illustrious actions, they would even suffer death, whereas to glory in the latter actions is a shame and a mockery. In fact, Chrysippus says in the treatise on Zeus and in the third book on the Gods that it is insipid and absurd and repugnant to praise such incidental results of virtue as the courageous endurance of the bite of a fly and the sober abstention from an old crone with one foot in the grave. Aren’t their speculations at odds with the common conception, then, when they acknowledge nothing to be more fair than those actions that they are ashamed to praise? For where or how is that an object of choice or acceptance which deserves neither praise nor admiration and of which the commenders or admirers, moreover, are believed by the Stoics to be absurd and insipid?

Chapter VII

1061b. It will, I think, appear to you to be still more at odds with the common conception for the prudent man to be unconcerned about the presence or absence of the greatest goods but in their case too to be just as he is in that of indifferent matters and their treatment and management. For surely all

Those of us who as men take the fruit of the spacious earth

think that that is beneficial and good and an object of choice the presence of which is accompanied by advantage and the absence by a kind of want and yearning and that that is indifferent which one would take no trouble about, not even for the sake of amusement or recreation. In fact, we use no other criterion than this in distinguishing from the industrious man the frivolous bustler, 1061c. busily at work as he often is: while the latter labors at useless things and without discrimination, the former labors for the sake of something useful and advantageous. These Stoics, however, think the contrary, for their sage and prudent man holds that few of the many apprehensions and memories of apprehensions which he has experienced have anything to do with him and, unconcerned for the rest, thinks himself to be neither better nor worse off for remembering that last year he had an apprehension of Tom sneezing or of Dick playing ball. Yet in the sage every apprehension or memory, being certain and steadfast as it is, is ipso facto knowledge and a great, in fact the greatest, good. 1061d. Is the sage, then, similarly without concern about failing health, the affliction of a sense-organ, the ruin of his substance and similarly of the belief that none of these has anything to do with him? Or does he pay fees to physicians when he is ill and to make money sail to Leuco, the prince in the Bosporus, and go abroad to Idanthyrsus the Scythian, as Chrysippus says, and even refuse to endure life if certain of his senses be lost? How, then, do they avoid acknowledging that their speculations are at odds with the common conceptions when they give themselves so much trouble and concern about indifferent matters and are indifferent to the presence or absence of great goods?

Chapter VIII

1061e. Yet this is also at odds with the common conceptions, that one be human and not rejoice at having got out of the greatest evils into the greatest goods. So it is with the sage of these Stoics, however, for after his change from consummate vice to consummate virtue and after his escape from the most wretched life and simultaneous acquisition of the most blessed one lie showed no sign of joy and was not exalted or even stirred by such a great change as this, a though he had left utter depravity and unhappiness and had arrived at a sure and steadfast culmination of goods. It is at odds with the common conception to hold that to be unalterable and steadfast in one’s judgments is the greatest of goods and yet that the man who is progressing toward the summit doesn’t want this and is not concerned about it when it has come to him and in many cases didn’t even extend a finger for the sake of this certainty and steadfastness which they believe to be a great and perfect good. Now, it is not only these assertions that the gentlemen make but besides these the following also: a good is not augmented by addition of time; but, if one be prudent even for a moment, one will not be at all inferior in happiness to him who exercises virtue for ever and blissfully lives out his life in it. But then again, after they have so vehemently insisted upon this, they say that there is no use in virtue of brief duration: “For what’s the use if prudence come to one who is straightway going to be shipwrecked or flung down a precipice? Or what’s the use if Lichas change from vice to virtue while being hurled to his death by Heracles?” These are assertions, then, of men who in their speculations are not only at odds with the common conceptions but are making a muddle of their own as well if they believe that to have got virtue for a little while is nothing short of consummate happiness 1062b. and at the same time is absolutely worthless.

Chapter IX

What would most amaze you about them, however, is not this but their belief that frequently the man who has got the virtue and happiness in question does not even perceive their presence but is unaware of having now become both prudent and blissful when a little earlier he was most wretched and most foolish. In fact, not only is it ludicrous to say that the only thing not understood or known by anyone who has prudence is this, that he does understand and has escaped from ignorance; but also, generally speaking, they make a slight and faint thing of the good if it does not even make itself felt when it has come to one, for according to them it is not by nature imperceptible to sense. 1062c. To the contrary, Chrysippus in the books concerning the Goal even states a expressly that the good is perceptible and, as he thinks, also proves it to be so. The only way left, then, is to suppose that its weakness and minuteness cause it to elude sense-perception whenever those who have it are ignorant of its presence and unaware of it. Furthermore, absurd as is the notion that the sense of sight which perceives slightly or moderately white things is eluded by things white in the highest degree and the sense of touch which apprehends tepid or mildly hot things is insensible to those that are extremely hot, yet it is more absurd if one, while apprehending what is in the usual way in conformity with nature, such as health is and vigor, does not recognize the presence of virtue, which they suppose to be especially and supremely in conformity with nature. For how is it not at odds with the common conception for one to apprehend a difference between health and disease <and not to apprehend any between prudence> and folly but to think that the latter is present after it has been removed and not to recognize that the former is present after one has got it? And, since it is from the summit of progress that men change to happiness and virtue, one of two things must be true: either progress is not a state of vice and unhappiness or else virtue is not far removed from vice nor is happiness from unhappiness but the difference between the evil things and the good is minute and imperceptible, 1062e. for otherwise men would not have the latter instead of the former without noticing it.

Chapter X

10. Well then, when the Stoics refuse to abandon any of the conflicting propositions but wish to assert and maintain all of them together — that men who are making progress are stupid and vicious, that when they have become prudent and virtuous they do not notice it, that there is a great difference between prudence and folly —, does it perhaps seem to you that they are in an amazing way confirming the consistency in their doctrines? And still more so in their deeds, when declaring that those who are not sages are all in the same degree vicious and unjust and unreliable and foolish they then again, while avoiding and abominating some and to some not even speaking when they meet, to others entrust money, hand over offices, and give daughters in marriage? If it is in jest that they say these things, let them unbend their solemn brows; but, if it is in earnest and by way of philosophizing, it is at odds with the common conceptions to deal with some men as tolerable and with others as extremely vicious while subjecting all alike to blame and reproach and, while marvelling at Chrysippus and deriding Alexinus, to think that the men are not a bit more or less foolish one than the other. “Yes,” they say, a “but just as in the sea the man a cubit from the surface is drowning no less than the one who has sunk 500 fathoms, so neither are they any the less in vice who are approaching virtue than they who are a long way from it; and just as the blind are blind even if they are going to recover their sight a little later, so those who are making progress continue to be stupid and depraved until they have attained virtue.” 1063b. That those who are making progress resemble neither blind nor drowning men, however, but men whose sight is less than clear or men who are swimming and near to haven too, to this the Stoics by their deeds testify themselves. For they would not be using councilors and generals and legislators as blind leaders and they would not be emulating the works and actions and words and lives of some men either if in their eyes all men were in the same way drowning in folly and depravity. But let this pass, and be amazed at the former point that the gentlemen are not taught even by their own examples to give up these men who are sages without being aware of it and who do not understand or even perceive that they have stopped drowning and are seeing daylight and, 1063c. risen above vice, have drawn breath again.

Chapter XI

It is at odds with the common conception to hold that, unless there befall a man to boot some one of the things that are — yes, by heaven — indifferent, he who is attended by all the goods and lacks nothing that makes for happiness and bliss ought to commit suicide but — and this is still more at odds with it — he who has not and will not have anything good but is attended and will be perpetually attended by all things dreadful and vexatious and evil ought not to renounce his life. These, then, are the laws enacted in the Stoa; and the Stoics speed many sages from life on the ground that it is better for them to have done being happy and restrain many base men from dying on the ground that they ought to live on in unhappiness. 1063d. Although for them the sage is blessed, blissful, supremely happy, unliable to lapse or peril and the base and stupid man one fit to say

I’m now replete with woes, and there’s no room,

nevertheless they think that it behooves the latter to abide and the former to take leave of life. “And this is reasonable,” says Chrysippus, “for the standard by which life must be measured is not goods and evils but the things in conformity with nature and contrary to it.” This is the way in which they save common experience a for men and philosophize with a view to the common conceptions. What do you say? The man who deliberates about life and death must not consider

Whatsoe’er hath been wrought both evil and good in the palace

and must not as it were test in the balance the minted coins that are of greater use in respect to happiness and unhappiness 1063e. but must take the things that are neither beneficial nor injurious as the basis of his calculations about the necessity of living or not living? On such premises and principles will one not properly choose the life from which is absent none of the objects of avoidance and avoid that in which are present all the objects of choice? Yet, irrational as it is, comrade, for men to flee life when nothing evil has befallen them, it is more irrational if one resigns the good because he misses that which is indifferent; 1063f. and that is precisely what these men do in giving up the happiness and the virtue which they have for the sake of physical health and soundness which they miss.

Then was Glaucus bereft by Cronian Zeus of his reason,

in that he was about to exchange golden arms worth a hundred oxen for brazen arms worth nine. Yet for men in combat brazen arms were no less useful than golden ones, whereas the Stoics find bodily comeliness and health neither useful nor advantageous for happiness at all; but nevertheless these Stoics accept health in exchange for prudence. 1064a. That is clear from their statements that it would have behooved Heraclitus and Pherecydes, if they could have done so, to resign their virtue and prudence so as to be quit of their pediculosis and dropsy and that, if the philtres poured by Circe were two, one making fools of prudent men and the other <asses of human beings but asses with prudence, it would be right> for Odysseus to have drunk the philtre of folly rather than to have changed his form to the shape of a beast though thereby keeping his prudence — and with his prudence obviously his happiness —; and this, they say, is the precept and prescription of prudence herself: 1064b. “Let me go and regard me not, for I am being undone and perverted into an ass’s head.” But the prudence that gives such orders, one would say, is the prudence of an ass, if in fact to be prudent and happy is good and to wear a <misshapen> face indifferent. There is said to be a tribe of Ethiopians among whom a dog reigns and is addressed as king and lias the perquisites and honors of a king, but the functions of political leadership and government are performed by men. Do not the Stoics in like manner give the title and rank of the good to virtue and call virtue alone an object of choice and beneficial and useful but perform all their actions and do their philosophizing and live and die as it were at the command of the things that are indifferent? While that dog, however, is slain by none of the Ethiopians but sits in majesty receiving their obeisance, these Stoics undo their own virtue and destroy it by their attachment to health and painlessness.

Chapter XII

It seems that the finishing touch which Chrysippus has put to his doctrines itself absolves us from saying still more on this subject. For, there being in nature some things that are good and some that are evil and some also that are intermediate and are called indifferent, 1064d. there is no human being who does not wish to have the good rather than the indifferent <and the indifferent> rather than the evil. Nay, of this we make the very gods our witnesses, I take it, as in our prayers we beg them first of all for the possession of good things and, if this may not be, for deliverance from evils, being unwilling to have what is neither good nor evil instead of what is good but willing to have it instead of what is evil. This man, however, by a transposition of nature and an inversion of order transfers the middle from the midmost space to the last and, just as tyrants give evil men precedence, removes what is last and elevates it to the midmost space, 1064e. making it the law to seek first the good and second the evil and to regard as last and worst what is neither good nor evil, as if one would place after celestial things the infernal realm and expel the earth and earthly things to the nether world

Far and afar, where lies under earth the profoundest of chasms.

So in the third book concerning Nature after he has said that to live a fool is better than <not> to be alive even if one is never going to be sensible he continues in so many words: “for to human beings goods are of such a nature that in a way even evils have the advantage over intermediates; but it is not these that have the advantage but reason, and it is incumbent upon us rather to be alive with reason although we are to be fools” — obviously, then, although unjust and lawless and hateful to the gods and although wretched, for those who are foolishly alive are without none of these characteristics. It is incumbent upon us, then, to be wretched rather than not to be wretched and to suffer injuries rather than not to suffer injuries and to do wrong rather than not to do wrong and to transgress the law rather than not to transgress it; that is it is incumbent upon us to do things incumbent upon us <not> to do, and it is a duty to live even in violation of duty? “Yes, for to be without rationality and sensibility is worse than to be a fool.” Then <what> makes them refuse to admit that there is evil which is worse than evil? For <what> reason do they declare that only folly is an object of avoidance 1065a. if it is not less incumbent upon us but even more to avoid the state which does not admit of folly?

Chapter XIII

13. But why would this annoy anyone who remembers what he has written in the second book concerning Nature, where he declares that the genesis of vice has not been useless in relation to the universe as a whole? It’s worth repeating the doctrine in his own words, in order that you may in a way understand what position is given to vice and what theories concerning it are developed by the very men who denounce Xenocrates and Speusippus for holding that health is not indifferent and that wealth is not useless. “Vice is <peculiarly> distinguished from dreadful accidents, 1065b. for in itself it does in a sense come about in accordance with the reason of nature and, if I may put it so, its genesis is not useless in relation to the universe as a whole, since otherwise the good would not exist either.” So then, among the gods there is nothing good, since there is nothing evil either; and, whenever Zeus, having reduced all matter to himself, becomes one and abolishes all difference else, then, there being nothing evil present, there is nothing good either. While in a chorus there is harmony if no member of it is out of tune and in a body health if no part of it is ill, for virtue, however, there is no coming to be without vice; but just as snake’s venom or hyena’s bile is a requisite for some medical prescriptions 1065c. so the depravity of Meletus is in its way suited to the justice of Socrates and the vulgarity of Cleon to the nobility of Pericles. How would Zeus have found the way of creating Heracles and Lycurgus if he had not also created Sardanapalus for us and Phalaris? Here it is time for them to assert that mankind has been given consumption with a view to his vigor and gout with a view to his fleetness of foot and that Achilles would not have had long hair if Thersites had not been bald. For what is the difference between those who talk this silly nonsense and the Stoics, who say that the genesis of licentiousness has not been without use for continence or that of injustice without use for justice? Let us take care, then, 1065d. to pray the gods that there may always be depravity

Falsehoods and blandishing speeches and character tricky and thievish

if the abolition of these involves the disappearance and destruction of virtue.

Chapter XIV

14. Or would you like to examine the most delightful specimen of his smoothness and plausibility? “For just as comedies,” he says, “contain funny lines which, while vulgar in themselves, add a certain charm to the piece as a whole, so vice all by itself you could censure, but for the universe as a whole it is not useless.” Now in the first place, for the origin of vice to have been due to the providence of god as that of the vulgar line was to the purpose of the poet is a notion that exceeds all imaginable absurdity. 1065e. For then why would the gods be dispensers of good rather than of evil, and how is vice still hateful to the gods and god-detested, or what shall we have to say to such blasphemies as

In men god makes a fault to grow
Whene’er he wills a house’s overthrow


Which of the gods brought together the twain in contention to quarrel?

In the second place, the vulgar line embellishes the comedy and contributes to its goal, the aim of comedy being what is funny or pleasing to the spectators; but Zeus the paternal and supreme and righteous and, as Pindar calls him, master-craftsman fashioned the universe not, I take it, 1065f. as a grand and intricate and sensational drama but as a town common to gods and men who should live lawful partners in right and virtue concordantly and blissfully, and for the attainment of this most fair and most majestic goal what need had he of pirates and murderers and parricides and tyrants? For it is not as a clever interlude pleasant to the divinity that vice has come to be, nor is it by way of drollery and jest and ribaldry that human affairs have been sullied by injustice, vice and injustice having made it impossible to see even a phantom of the concord they harp upon. Moreover, while the vulgar line is a small fraction of the piece and occupies very little room in the comedy and while such lines neither outnumber the rest nor undo and spoil the charm of the passages that are thought to have been well written, human affairs are all defiled by vice, and all of life, being from the very entrance or beginning to the final flourish a indecent and degenerate and disordered and without any part undefiled and irreprehensible, 1066b. as these Stoics say, is of all dramas whatever most ugly and most unpleasant.

Chapter XV

Wherefore I should like to inquire what it is for which vice has proved to be useful to the universe as a whole. Surely he would not say that it is for the things that are celestial and divine, for it is a ridiculous notion that, if in human beings there had not been or were not vice and greed and falsehood or we did not ravage and blackmail and murder one another, the sun would not be following his appointed course or the universe keeping its times and seasonal periods or the earth occupying the midmost space of the sum of things and giving rise to winds and rains. What remains, then, is that for us and our affairs the existence of vice has proved to be useful; and this perhaps is what the gentlemen mean. Are we more healthy, then, for being vicious or any the better provided with the necessities of life? Has vice proved to be useful to us for beauty or for strength? They deny it. So finally where in the world is <the utility of vice? Or is it> “only a name of nothing and a darkling specter of benighted” sophists not <so clear even for them to see in a dream themselves> as vice stands forth for all awake to see and clear to all as useful for getting a share in nothing and least of all, by heaven, in virtue, to which we owe our origin? And then is it not awful that, while the things useful to a farmer and a pilot and a charioteer are favorable to the proper goal of each and contribute to it, what god has produced for virtue has undone virtue and ruined it? 1066d. But perhaps it is already time to let this subject go and turn to another.

Chapter XVI

Comrade. By no means, friend, on my account, for I am eager to learn how in the world the gentlemen give evil things precedence of good and vice precedence of virtue.

Diadumenus. And worth hearing, comrade, too, no doubt. They stammer at great length, but in the end what they say is that prudence, since it is knowledge of things good and evil, is utterly abolished too <if evils are abolished>; and they think that as it is impossible for there to be truths without there being also some things which are false similarly it is fitting, if goods exist, for evils to exist also.

1066e. Comrade. Nay, the one part of this statement is not trivial; but I think that even I am not eluded by the other, for I discern a distinction in that, whereas what is not true is eo ipso false, the non-good is not, however, eo ipso evil. Hence, while nothing is intermediate between things true and false, the indifferent is intermediate between things good and evil; and it is not necessary that the latter coexist with the former, for it sufficed that nature have the good without needing the evil but comprising what is neither good nor evil. If to the former argument, however, you people do make any reply, it ought to be heard.

Chapter XVII

Diadumenus. Why, many replies are made; but for the present we must do with the indispensable minimum. Well then, in the first place, it is silly to think that the generation of evil things and good came about for the sake of prudence. 1066f. In fact, prudence follows upon the existence of goods and evils just as medicine does upon the prior existence of things unhealthy and salubrious, for the good and the evil do not subsist in order that there may be prudence, but prudence is the name given to our means of distinguishing the good and evil which exist and are subsistent. Just so sight is the sense that perceives white and black objects, though these did not come to be in order that we might have sight but it was rather that we needed sight for distinguishing such objects. In the second place, whenever the universe has been turned to fire by these Stoics, no evil whatever remains, but the whole is at that time prudent and sage. So, then, there is prudence though evil does not exist, and it is not necessary that there be evil for prudence to be possible. Even supposing, however, that prudence must be knowledge of things good and evil, what’s to dread if because of the abolition of evils prudence would not exist and we should have instead of it another virtue, which is knowledge not of things good and evil but of things good alone? Just so, if black should utterly vanish from among the colors and then someone should insist that the sense of sight had vanished too because sense-perception of things white and black does not exist, what is to prevent one from replying to him that there’s nothing dreadful about our not having what you call the sense of sight and having instead of it another sense or faculty with which we perceive white colors and those not white? For my part, I think that the sense of taste would not have disappeared if bitter things had been lacking or the sense of touch if pain had been abolished or prudence if evil were not present but that they would remain, the former as senses perceiving sweet things and pleasant and those that are not so and this last as the prudence which is knowledge of things good and not good. 1067c. As for those who think that this is not so, let them take the name and leave us the thing.

Chapter XVIII

Apart from this, what was to prevent there being a conception of evil while the good in addition has real existence? Just so the gods, I think, though they have health as a reality, have yet a conception of fever and pleurisy, since even for us, though all have real ills aplenty and nothing good, as these men say, yet at least to conceive of prudence, of the good, of happiness, is not beyond our capacity. This is amazing too that, whereas there are those who teach what sort of thing virtue is and who induce an apprehension of it although they do not really have it, yet of vice, if it had not come to be, it would not be possible to get a conception. 1067d. For see what sort of thing we are asked to believe by the men whose speculations are in accord with the common conceptions: that, while by means of folly we apprehend prudence, prudence without folly naturally apprehends neither itself <nor> folly.

Chapter XIX

Even supposing, however, that generation of evil was required by nature, one example of vice was surely enough, or two; or, if you will, there had to be brought forth ten base men or a thousand or ten thousand and not such a multitudinous crop of vice

Not sand or dust or the plumage of birds with their down parti-colored
Could be heaped in such profusion

with not even a phantom of virtue. 1067e. The curators of the common messes in Sparta, for example, by purposely <bringing in> two or three helots gorged with neat wine and drunk give the young men a public demonstration of the nature of drunkenness, in order that they may beware and keep sober; but most of the things here in our life have turned out to be examples of vice, for in respect of virtue not a single man is sober but all of us are staggering about in an indecent and unhappy condition. Thus the reason intoxicates us and fills us full of confusion and delirium no less than were the bitches which, Aesop says, 1067f. started to drink up the sea in their craving for some hides afloat upon it and burst before they had laid hold on the hides. For we too, expecting by means of reason to attain virtue and be happy, before we arrive at virtue are ruined and undone by reason, overloaded as we have been with much neat and bitter vice, if in fact, as these Stoics say, even those at the summit of progress have no alleviation or abatement or respite in their stupidity and unhappiness.

Chapter XX

1068a. Well then again, the man who asserts that the genesis of vice has not been useless look what a useful possession he shows vice to be for those who have it. He writes in his work concerning Right Actions that the base man has need of nothing, has use for nothing, that to him nothing is serviceable, nothing congenial, nothing appropriate. So how is it then that vice is useful, vice in conjunction with which not even health is serviceable or opulence or progress? And does one not have need of the things which are, as the Stoics themselves call them, some “promoted” and “acceptable” and, yes by heaven, “useful” and others “in conformity with nature”? And then, no one has use for these things unless he has become a sage. 1068b. Consequently the base man has no use for becoming a sage. And before having become sages men are not thirsty or hungry; at any rate, if thirsty, they have no use for water or, if hungry, for bread.

Like mild and modest guests you are whose wants
Are shelter only and the warmth of fire.

Did this man have no use for hospitality? Or for a cloak either that man who says

Oh please, a cloak, for Hipponax is freezing cold?

But you wish to say something paradoxical and extraordinary and original? Say that the sage has use for nothing and has no need of anything: it is he who is blessed, he who is free from all other wants, he who is self-sufficient, blissful, perfect. 1068c. But now what is this state of vertigo in which he who is in want of nothing is in need of the goods which he has but the base man, while in want of many things, is in need of nothing? For this is what Chrysippus says, that the base are not in need but are in want, thus shifting the common conceptions about like pieces in a game of draughts. All men, in fact, believe that being in need is prior to being in want, holding that he who needs what is not at hand and not easily procurable is in want of it. At any rate, no man is in want of horns and wings, because no man is in need of these either; but we speak of them as being in want of weapons and money and clothes whenever they have got a use for these things without having or obtaining them. The Stoics, however, 1068d. are always so eager to be openly saying something at odds with the common conceptions that they often abandon their own too in their desire for novel expression; and so it is in this case.

Chapter XXI

Fall back to a point a little above and consider. Among the assertions that are at odds with the common conceptions one is that nobody who is base receives any benefit. Yet there are many men who make progress by being educated and who are liberated from slavery and who are rescued from sieges and who in their blindness are led by the hand and who in illness get medical treatment. “Yes, but by getting these things they do not get any benefit or have any good done to them and they don’t have benefactors or disregard for benefactors.” The base, then, are not ungrateful either; and neither are the men with intelligence. 1068e. Consequently, ingratitude is non-existent, for the latter do not withhold gratitude when gratified and the former are naturally incapable of being gratified. Now see what they say to this: that gratification extends to the intermediates and that, while to confer and receive benefit is characteristic of sages, even base men get gratification. In that case, do those who partake of gratification have no use for it? And does nothing serviceable or congenial come within the extension of gratification? But what else makes the service rendered a gratification except the provider’s having been in some respect serviceable to the one in need of it?

Chapter XXII

Comrade. Well, let these questions go. 1068f. But what is the highly prized benefit that they reserve as something grand exclusively for the sages, leaving not even its empty name to those who are <not> wise?

Diadumenus. If a single sage anywhere at all extends his finger prudently, all the sages throughout the inhabited world are benefited. This is their amity’s work; this is the end in which for their common benefits the virtues of the sages issue. 1069a. It was silly of Aristotle and silly of Xenocrates to declare that men are benefited by gods and benefited by parents and benefited by teachers and yet not to recognize the amazing benefit which sages receive <from> the virtuous motions of one another even if they are not together and happen not even to be acquainted. Moreover, all men suppose that selecting and safeguarding and managing are serviceable and beneficial actions when their objects are serviceable and beneficial, 1069b. and a moneyed man buys keys and guards his stores

Wealth’s lovely closet opening with his hand;

but to select and safeguard with care and toil things that are of no benefit for anything is not grand or fair but ridiculous. At any rate, if Odysseus with that knot which he had learned from Circe had sealed up not the gifts given him by Alcinous, tripods and basins and garments and gold, but litter and stones and, when he had got together <things of this kind>, had regarded the trouble taken about them and their acquisition and safeguarding as a work of happiness and bliss, 1069c. who would have coveted this stupid foresight and frivolous diligence? Nevertheless, in the Stoic doctrine of consistency this is what is fair and grand and blissful: it is nothing but selection and safeguarding of things that are useless and indifferent, for such is the character of the things that are in conformity with nature and still more of the externals, if the greatest riches are in fact placed by the Stoics on a level with tassels and golden chamber-pots and, yes by heaven, as they sometimes are, with oil-flasks. Then, as those who have meant arrogantly to insult and revile shrines of certain gods or spirits straightway repent and then cower and abase themselves, extolling and exalting the divinity, 1069d. just so these Stoics have met with a kind of retribution for this arrogance and vainglory of theirs and again in the case of these things that are indifferent and of no concern to them show their metal by shouting mightily that a single thing is good and fair and grand, the selection of these things and their management, and that, if men don’t obtain them, it’s not worth being alive but they should bid a long farewell to virtue and cut their own throats or starve themselves to death. So then, by these very people Theognis is held to be utterly mean and petty for saying

From want you must flee, oh my friend, though headlong you plunge in the motion
Down cliffs sharp and sheer or below the yawning abyss of the ocean,

1069e. thus playing the coward in the face of poverty, a thing which is indifferent; but they give the same prescription themselves in prose and say that, if sword or hemlock be not at hand, one must cast oneself into the sea or hurl oneself down from rocks in flight from severe disease and intense pain, neither of which (according to them) is injurious or evil or inconvenient or makes unhappy those who meet with it.

Chapter XXIII

“What, then,” says he, “will be my point of departure and what shall I take as duty’s principle and virtue’s matter, once I have abandoned nature and what is in conformity with nature?” Why, my good sir, what is the point of departure for Aristotle and for Theophrastus; and what do Xenocrates and Polemon take as principles? And has not Zeno too followed them in their assumption 1069f. that nature and what is in conformity with nature are basic elements of happiness? Those former men, however, held by these things as beneficial and good and objects of choice; and, having taken virtue in addition as operating <among> them by making proper use of each, they thought that with these constituents they were filling out and finishing off a perfect and integrated life by presenting the consistency that is truly in conformity and harmony with nature. For they were not in the state of confusion of those who are leaping from the ground and tumbling down on it again, calling the same things acceptable and not objects of choice and congenial and not good and unbeneficial but yet useful and of no concern to us but yet principles of our duties; but as was the doctrine such was the way of life of those former men, who in their conduct exhibited actions congenial and consistent with the statements that they made. The system of these Stoics, however, like the woman of whom Archilochus says

In one of her hands there was water,
A crafty lure, for fire the other <bore>,

calls in nature for some doctrines and for others thrusts it out, or rather the Stoics in their works and acts cling to the things that are in conformity with nature as good things and objects of choice, but in word and speech they reject and spurn them <as> indifferent 1070b. and useless and insignificant for happiness.

Chapter XXIV

Now, since the good as universally conceived by all men is gratifying, desirable, fortunate, of the highest value, sufficient in itself, and wanting nothing else, look at the good of these Stoics in comparison. Do you consider the prudent extension of a finger gratifying? What? Is prudent torture desirable? Is he being fortunate who with good reason plunges over a precipice? Is that of the highest value which reason often requires them to give up for the sake of what is not good? And is that perfect and sufficient in itself which they can have and still not endure or desire to live unless they get the things that are indifferent? Has there ever been another doctrine which did greater outrage to common experience, itself snatching away and abducting the genuine conceptions like babes from her breast while substituting other spurious ones, brutish and uncouth, and constraining her to nurse and to cherish these in place of those — and this too in matters concerning good things and evil and objects of choice and avoidance and things congenial and repugnant,” the clarity of which ought to be more manifest than that of things hot and cold and white and black, since the mental images of these are incidental to the sense-perceptions entering from without whereas the former are generated intrinsically from the principles within us? The Stoics, however, charging with their dialectic upon the topic of happiness as they did upon “the liar” or “the dominator” resolved none of the ambiguities in it but created myriads of them.

Chapter XXV

Moreover, there is no one who does not recognize that, if one of two goods is the goal and the other subserves the goal, the goal is a greater and more perfect good. Even Chrysippus recognizes the difference, as is clear in the third book concerning Goods, for he disagrees with those who hold knowledge to be the goal and maintains <that it is a good subserving the goal and for this very reason maintains that it is not the goal.> Also in the books concerning Justice he thinks that, while justice could not be preserved if one should set up pleasure as the goal, it could be if one should take pleasure to be not a goal but simply a good. I don’t think you need to hear me now recite the passage word for word, for the third book concerning Justice can be had everywhere. So, my friend, whenever the Stoics assert on the other hand that no good is more or less good than any other but that which is not the goal is equal to the goal, they are obviously in conflict not only with the common conceptions but with their own doctrines as well. Again, if there are two evils, from one of which when it befalls us we become worse men while the other injures but does not make us worse, it is at odds with the common conception to deny that the one from which when it befalls us we become worse men is a greater evil than the one which injures but does not make us worse and so to deny that the injury which renders us more evil is more evil. Yet Chrysippus does admit that there are certain fears and griefs and deceptions which injure us but do not make us worse. Read the first of his books concerning Justice written against Plato, 1070f. for it is worth while for other reasons also to observe the man’s verbal ingenuity there sparing absolutely no fact or doctrine at all, either his own or another’s.

Chapter XXVI

It is at odds with the common conception that life have two goals or aims set up for it and that the point of reference for all our actions be not some single thing, 1071a. but it is still further at odds with the common conception that one thing be the goal and each particular action be referred to another. Yet in one of these alternatives they (the Stoics) must acquiesce. For, if it is not <the> primary things conforming with nature that are themselves good but the rational selection and acceptance of them, that is each man’s doing all that in him lies for the purpose of obtaining the primary things conforming with nature, it is to this that all actions performed must have their reference, to the obtaining of the primary things conforming with nature; and, if then they think that men achieve the goal not by desiring or aiming at the possession of those things, the selection of these must be referred <to> another purpose and not to the same one, 1071b. for the prudent selection and acceptance of those things is the goal, whereas the things themselves and the obtaining of them are not the goal but are given as a kind of matter having “selective value” — for this, I think, is the very expression by which in their talk and their writing they indicate the distinction.

Comrade. You have done nobly in recalling both what they say and their way of saying it.

Diadumenus. Observe, however, that the same thing happens to them as to those who long to out-leap their own shadow: the absurdity which is furthest removed from the common conceptions is not outdistanced by their reasoning but is carried along with it. For, if someone should say that an archer in shooting does all that in him lies not for the purpose of hitting the mark but for the purpose of doing all that in him lies, it would be thought that he was spinning some monstrous and enigmatic yarns; and just so the babbling dotards who insist that in aiming at the things conforming with nature the goal is not the obtaining of the things conforming with nature but the accepting and selecting and that being healthy is not the end in which issue for each individual his desire and pursuit of health but on the contrary being healthy has reference to the desire and pursuit of it, who consider walks of a certain kind and vocal exercises and, yes by heaven, surgical operations and rational uses of drugs to be the goals of health, not this the goal of those, they are talking foolishness like that of the character who says

Let’s feast that we may sacrifice, that we may bathe.

1071d. Or rather that character alters something customary and conventional in that he upsets its order, <whereas> what these people say involves the utter overthrow and ruin of the facts: “Our concern is not to take a walk at the right time for the purpose of digesting our food but <to digest our food> for the purpose of taking a walk at the right time.” Nature also, no doubt, has created health for the sake of hellebore, not hellebore for the sake of health. In fact, to achieve the ultimate paradoxically what else remains for them except to make such silly statements? For what is the difference between one who asserts that health has come to be for the sake of drugs, not drugs for the sake of health and one who more than health makes the selection of the drugs 1071e. and their composition and use an object of choice or rather holds that health is not an object of choice at all but supposes the goal to reside in occupation with the drugs and declares desire to be <the goal> of attainment, not attainment that of desire? “Yes, by heaven,” (they say) “for desire has as its attribute ‘rationally,’ that is ‘prudently.’” By all means, we shall say, if it regards the attainment and possession of what it pursues as related to the goal; but otherwise its rationality is annulled, for it does anything and everything for the purpose of obtaining what it is neither grand nor blissful to obtain.

Chapter XXVII

1071f. <And since> we have come to this point in the argument, what would you say is more at odds with the common conception than the proposition that men, without having grasped or got a conception of good, desire the good and pursue it? Because you see that this is rather the perplexity to which Chrysippus also reduces Ariston, on the ground that the objects <do not provide> for getting the notion of indifference to what is neither good nor evil if there has not been a prior notion of the good and the evil, for thus the state of indifference would obviously have subsistence prior to itself, 1072a. if a conception of it cannot be had without prior conception of the good but only itself and nothing else is the good. Come now and consider this that the Stoa denies is indifference and calls consistency. How and whence did it ever come to provide the conception that it is itself good? For, if apart from the good it is not possible to conceive indifference to what is not good, a fortiori prudence about things good does not provide a notion of itself for those who have not had a prior conception of good; but just as a conception of skill about things salubrious and unhealthy does not occur to men to whom there has not previously occurred a conception of these things themselves so it is not possible for men to get a conception of knowledge about things good and evil without having had a prior conception of the things that are good 1072b. and the things that are evil.

Comrade. What, then, is good?

Diadumenus. Nothing but prudence.

Comrade. And what is prudence?

Diadumenus. Nothing but knowledge of goods.

Comrade. So “Corinthus, Zeus’s son,” has come with a rush upon their doctrine.

Diadumenus. Yes, for, lest you seem to scoff, leave out “the pestle’s endless roundabout,” although it is a condition like that in which their doctrine is involved, since it is obvious that for the conception of the good it needs to conceive prudence itself <but> seeks <prudence again> in the conception of the good and that it is compelled always to pursue the one before the other and falls short of either by needing that conceived before it which cannot be conceived apart from it. There is another way also of discerning in their doctrine that which goes beyond distortion and is dislocation and complete reduction of it to nullity. They suppose the rational selection of the things that are in conformity with nature to be the essence of the good; but, as was said before, a selection is not rational which has <not> been made relative to some goal. What, then, is this? Nothing else, they say, but rational behavior in the acts of selecting the things that are in conformity with nature. Well then, in the first place the conception of the good has gone and fled, for rational behavior in the acts of selecting is, I presume, an occurrence proceeding from a habitude, rationality. Consequently, since in conceiving this we are compelled to start from the goal and in conceiving the goal not to leave this out, we fall short of the conception of both. Then, what is more, in strict reason the rational selection ought to be a selection of things good and beneficial and conducive to the goal, for what is rational about selecting things that are not useful or valuable or objects of choice at all? For grant that it is, as they say themselves, rational selection of the things that have value for being happy; then observe that the sum total reached by their calculation is something exceedingly fair and grand, for what is the goal according to them, it seems, is rational behavior in the selection of the things that have value for rational behavior.

Comrade. Nay, at first hearing of the words, comrade, the formulation does strike one as something terribly strange; 1072e. but I still need to learn how this result comes about.

Diadumenus. You must attend more closely, then, for it is a riddle not to be read by just anybody. Listen now, and answer. Isn’t the goal according to them rational behavior in the acts of selecting the things that are in conformity with nature?

Comrade. So they say. Diadumenus. And the things that are in conformity with nature, do they select them on the ground that they are good or on the ground that they have certain values or advantages <and> that relative to the goal or to some entity other than the goal?

Comrade. Not to anything else, I believe, but to the goal.

Diadumenus. Well then, look at their predicament, for you have already revealed it: the goal is rational behavior in the acts of selecting the things that have value for rational behavior, for the gentlemen deny having or conceiving any essence of the good or happiness other than this highly prized rationality about the acts of selecting the things that have value. 1072f. But there are those who think that this argument is directed against Antipater and not against the Stoic system, for, they say, it is he who under pressure from Carneades takes cover in these verbal ingenuities.

Chapter XXVIII

All members of the school, however, are involved in the absurdity of the philosophical tenets of the Stoa that are at odds with the common conceptions on the subject of love. 1073a. For their position is that, while the young are ugly, since they are base and stupid, and the sages are fair, none of these who are fair is either loved or worth loving. And this is not yet the awful part. They say further that, when the ugly have become fair, those who have been in love with them stop. Now, who recognizes love like this, which at the sight of <depravity> of soul together with depravity of body is kindled and sustained and at the birth in them of beauty together with prudence accompanied by justice and sobriety wastes away and is extinguished? Lovers like that, I think, do not differ at all from gnats, for they delight in scum and vinegar but palatable and fine wine they fly from and avoid. 1073b. And in the first place there is no plausibility in their assertion that love is incited by what in their terminology they call a semblance of beauty, for in the very ugly and very vicious a semblance of beauty could not appear if in fact, as they say, depravity of character defiles the outward form. In the second place, it is utterly at odds with the common conception for the ugly person to be worth loving because he is going to have beauty some day and is expected to get it but to be loved by no one once he has got it and has become handsome and virtuous.

Comrade. Yes, for love, they say, is a kind of chase after a stripling who is undeveloped but naturally apt for virtue.

Diadumenus. Why then, my dear sir, 1073c. are we now trying to do anything else but convict their system of doing violence to our common conceptions and turning them inside out with implausible facts and unfamiliar terms? For there was nobody trying to keep the zeal of sages about young men from being called a “chase” or “making friends” if passion is not part of it; but one <ought> to call “love” what all men and women understand and call by the name:

<All of them hotly desired> to be couched <by her side> in the bride-bed


Come, for never before> hath desire <of a goddess> or woman
Thus overwhelmed the <heart> in my breast and reduced it to bondage.

Chapter XXIX

29. Yet, while casting the theory of morals off upon troubles like this

Twisted, unsound, and all circuitous,

Twisted,they belittle and disparage <the rest of us> as if they alone uphold nature and common experience as it must be done 1073d. and alone put reason in a position to avert all else and to bring each man by his desires and pursuits and impulses to that which is naturally congenial. Common experience, however, in becoming a funnel for their dialectic has made no sound or useful gain but like a sickly ear has been filled by senseless noises with uncertainty and hardness of hearing. Later on, if you wish, we shall make a fresh start and discuss that subject; but now let us run through the fundamental principles of their physical theory, which confounds the common preconceptions no less than does their theory of goals.

Chapter XXX

While in general it is absurd and at odds with the common conception to say that something is but is non-existent, a <these men>, asserting <that many things are something> but are not existent, 1073e. reach the height of absurdity in what they say about the sum of things. For, after enveloping the universe on the outside in infinite void, they assert that the sum of things is neither body nor incorporeal. The consequence of this is that the sum of things is non-existent, for they call bodies alone existent since it is the property of an existent to be subject and object of action; but the sum of things is not existent, so that the sum of things would be neither subject nor object of any action. But it would not be in place either, for it is body surely that occupies place; and the sum of things is not body, so that the sum of things is nowhere. Moreover, <what> has happened to occupy the same place, this is what is at rest; consequently the sum of things is not at rest, for it does not occupy place. Yet it is not in motion either, first because what is in motion also must have a place and space underlying it and then because what is [not] in motion is naturally either moving itself or being acted upon by another. Now, what is moved by itself has of itself certain tendencies and inclinations according to its weight or lightness, and lightness and weight are either some kind of relative states or forces or at all events differentiae of body; but the sum of things is not body, so that of necessity the sum of things is neither heavy nor light and does not have of itself a principle of motion. But furthermore the sum of things would not be in motion by the agency of another either, for there is nothing other than the sum of things. Consequently it is necessary for them to say, as in fact they do, that the sum of things is neither at rest nor in motion. Quite generally, since according to them there is not even a possibility of saying that the sum of things is body but heaven and earth and animals and plants and men and stones are body, what is not body will have bodies as its parts and of the non-existent there will be parts that are existent and what is not heavy will possess heavy members and what is not light light ones. One could not find even dreams that are more at odds with the common conceptions than this. 1074b. Moreover, nothing is so clear and so coherent with the common conceptions as the notion that, if something is not animate, it is inanimate and contrariwise, if something is not inanimate, it is animate. Well, this clear apprehension too these men subvert when they acknowledge that the sum of things is neither animate nor inanimate. All this apart, while no one thinks incomplete the sum total, which of course lacks none of its parts, these men deny that the sum of things is complete because what is complete is something determinate and the sum of things is made indefinite by its infinitude. Well then, according to them there is something that is neither incomplete nor complete. But furthermore the sum of things is neither a part — for nothing is larger than it — nor a whole, 1074c. as they say themselves, for it is of orderly arrangement that wholeness is predicated and the sum of things by reason of its infinitude is both indefinite and without arrangement. As to cause, furthermore, neither does the sum of things have another as cause, since there is nothing other besides the sum of things, nor is the sum of things cause of anything else or of itself either, for to produce is not in its nature and producing is implied in the conception of cause. Well then, suppose all men are asked what they conceive nothing to be, that is what notion they get of nothing. Would they not say that what neither is a cause nor has a cause, is neither whole nor part, neither complete nor incomplete, neither animate nor inanimate, neither in motion nor at rest anywhere, and is not either body or incorporeal, this and not anything else is nothing? So, since all that for the rest of mankind are predicates of nothing are by these Stoics alone predicated of the sum of things, it seems that they are clearly making the sum of things identical with nothing. Nothing must, then, be meant moreover by time, predicate, proposition, conditional, conjunction, of which they among philosophers make most use but which they say are not existent. Yet to hold that what is true is not existent and does not subsist but that that is apprehended and apprehensible and credible which has no part in the reality of what exists, how can there be any absurdity unsurpassed by this?

Chapter XXXI

Lest the difficulty involved in these matters seem to be too much of a logical one, 1074e. however, let us take up those of a more physical character. Since, then, as they say themselves,

Zeus is beginning and middle and Zeus the fulfilment of all things,

they ought above all to have straightened out and set to rights the conceptions about the gods by repairing <anything> in them that may have become confused or have gone astray but otherwise ought to have let people persuaded by the law and common experience be each as he is in his relation to the divinity —

For these things live not now and yesterday
But always, and none knows when they appeared;

but instead they began to upset from the very hearth and foundation, as it were, the established traditions in the belief about the gods and, generally speaking, have left no conception intact and unscathed. 1074f. For what other human being is there or has there been in whose conception the divinity is not indestructible and everlasting? <No>thing has ever been uttered that is more consistent with the common preconceptions about the gods than words like these:

There in delight dwell days without end the divinities blessed


Gods, who are proof against death, and the treaders of earth, who are mortal,

1075a. and the verse

These are ageless and proof against all disease,
Immune from labors, having been spared
Woe’s Acherontical flood of wailing.

One might perhaps chance upon barbaric and savage tribes that have no conception of god, but not a single man has there been who having a conception of god did not conceive him to be indestructible and everlasting. At any rate, those who have been called atheists, Theodorus and Diagoras and Hippo and their like, did not venture to say of divinity that it is subject to destruction but did not believe that there is anything indestructible, preserving the preconception of god while not admitting the existence of what is indestructible. Chrysippus and Cleanthes, however, who in theory have, so to speak, filled full of gods heaven, earth, air, and sea, have held that none of all these many is indestructible or everlasting except Zeus alone, in whom they consume all the rest. The result is that he too has the attribute of destruction, which is not more fitting than that of being destroyed, for some weakness is the reason both why what changes into a different thing is destroyed and why that is preserved which is nourished on the destruction of others that it absorbs. These absurdities unlike many of the others we do not infer as involved in their premises and as consequences of their doctrines; but they shout aloud themselves in the writings on the Gods and Providence, on Destiny and Nature and state expressly that all the other gods have come into being and will be destroyed by fire, being in their opinion capable of melting as if made of wax or of tin. Now, as the notion that man is immortal is at odds with the common conception so also is the notion that god is mortal, or rather I do not see what difference there would be between god and man if god too is an animal rational and subject to destruction. For, if they retort with this fine subtlety that man is mortal whereas god is not mortal but is subject to destruction, look at their predicament: they would be saying either that god is at once immortal and subject to destruction or that he is neither mortal nor immortal. Not even by purposely inventing fictions at odds with the common conception is it possible to surpass the absurdity of this. I mean it is not possible for others, since there is nothing, however absurd, that these Stoics have left unsaid or untried. Cleanthes, furthermore, in his championship of the conflagration asserts that the sun <as ruling faculty> assimilates to itself and transforms into itself the moon and all the rest of the stars. <If> the stars, however, while being gods, contribute to their own destruction by giving the sun some cooperation toward the conflagration, would it not be highly ridiculous for us to address prayers for our safety to them and to believe them to be saviours of men, 1075e. when what is natural to them is eagerness for their own destruction and abolition?

Chapter XXXII

Moreover, the Stoics themselves make no end of fuss crying woe and shame upon Epicurus for violating the preconception of the gods because he does away with providence, for they say that god is preconceived and conceived to be not only immortal and blessed but also humane and protective and beneficent. This is true. If, however, the preconception about god is annulled by those who do not admit providence, what are they doing who assert that the gods do provide for us, to be sure, but do not benefit us and are dispensers of things not good but indifferent, since they do not give virtue but give wealth and health and the birth of offspring and the like, none of which is beneficial or advantageous or useful or an object of choice ? Or do the former not annul the conceptions about the gods, to be sure, while the latter in addition insult and make a mock of them by asserting that there is a god Guardian of Harvests and Guardian of Births and Healer and Oracular though health or birth is not a good nor is abundant harvest either but they are indifferent and of no benefit to those who get them?

Chapter XXXIII

The third feature of the conception about gods is the notion that the gods differ from men in nothing so much as they do in happiness and virtue. According to Chrysippus, however, they have not even this advantage, for Zeus does not excel Tom in virtue and Zeus and Tom, being sages, are benefited alike by each other whenever the one encounters a movement of the other. For this, not anything else, is the good that men get of the gods and the gods also of men, once these have become sages. They assert that not being deficient in virtue man has no lack of happiness but the unfortunate who commits suicide because of bodily disease and mutilation is blissful, if he be a sage, in the same degree as Zeus the Savior. This sage does not exist, however, and has not existed anywhere on earth; but there are countless myriads of human beings at the extremity of unhappiness in Zeus’s commonwealth or realm which has the very best administration. Yet what could be more at odds with the common conception than the notion that with Zeus administering affairs in the best possible fashion we are in the worst possible plight ? At any rate, if — what is illicit even to mention — he should wish not to be Savior or Gracious or Averter of Evil but the contrary of these fair appellations, any evil in addition to the number or magnitude of the evils there are is impossible, according to the assertion of these Stoics, since all human beings are living in extremity of wretchedness and depravity, and vice does not admit of increment or unhappiness of augmentation.

Chapter XXXIV

The most dreadful part about it is not this, however, but that, while they are cross with Menander for his theatrical pronouncement

Of human ills the chiefest origin
Is things exceeding good

— for this, they say, is at odds with the common conception —, yet they do themselves make god, though good, the origin of things evil. For matter has not of itself brought forth what is evil, 1076d. for matter is without quality and all the variations that it takes on it has got from that which moves and fashions it. That which moves and fashions it, however, is the reason existing in it, since its nature is not to move or fashion itself. The necessary result is that what is evil, if it has no cause, is a product of what is non-existent but, if its cause is the moving principle, is a product of god. For, if they think that Zeus does not have control of his own parts and does not use each of them in conformity with his own reason, their assertion is also at odds with the common conception and they are imagining a living being many of whose parts elude its will in performing their own private operations and actions without impulse given or motion initiated by the whole organism. For, in fact, 1076e. <nothing> that has life has been so badly organized that against its will its feet move forward or its tongue gives utterance or its horns butt or its teeth bite; but most of this must be what happens to god if, contrary to his will, the base, while being parts of him, deceive and cheat and rob and kill one another. If, however, as Chrysippus says, it is not possible for even the slightest of his parts to be otherwise than in conformity with the will of Zeus but it is the nature of every animate thing to stay and to move as Zeus guides it and as he turns and stops and arranges it,

This has a more pernicious sound than that.

1076f. For it was ten thousand times more fitting to think that owing to the weakness and impotence of Zeus his parts break out and do many monstrous deeds contrary to his nature and his will than to say that there is neither incontinence nor villainy for which Zeus is not responsible. But furthermore the thesis that the universe is a city and the stars citizens and, if so, obviously fellow-tribesmen too and officers of state and the sun a senator and the evening-star presiding magistrate or chief of police — 1077a. I know not <whether> notions like this do not show those who try to refute them to be more absurd than the people who assert and maintain them.

Chapter XXXV

Of their more strictly physical assertions, however, isn’t it at odds with the common conception to say that a seed is ampler and bigger than what is produced from it? At any rate, we see that nature for all things, both animals and plants<, both cultivated> and wild, takes as origins for the generation of the biggest what are little and petty and scarcely visible. For it is not only that she sends up an ear of wheat from a grain or a vine from a grape-seed; but from the pip of a fruit or some acorn missed by a bird, from a tiny spark, as it were, she kindles generation and fans it into flame and sends up a lofty shoot of bramble or of oak or of palm or of pine, wherefore they say <themselves> that the seed has been named sperm <after> the spiralmg of a large mass into a little one and nature has been named physis because it is diffusion or expansion of the formulae or factors which it explicates or resolves. On the other hand, however, they assert that fire is as the seed of the universe and that in the course of the conflagration the universe changes into seed, having its lesser corporeal mass greatly diffused and taking over from the void an immense additional space upon which it encroaches by its growth, but that when the universe is being generated again the magnitude shrinks and dwindles, the matter subsiding and contracting into itself in the process of generation.

Chapter XXXVI

Furthermore, they can be heard and in many writings can be seen quarrelling with the Academics and crying out that the latter confuse all things with their indistinguishable likenesses by insisting upon the existence of a single qualification in the case of two substances. Yet there is no human being who does not make this supposition and think that on the contrary it is amazing and paradoxical if in all of time there have not been two doves or two bees or two grains of wheat or the proverbial two figs indistinguishably like each other. What’s really at odds with the common conception are those assertions made by these Stoics and their fictions about a single substance’s having got two individual qualifications, which is to say that one and the same substance with a single individual qualification takes on a second when it supervenes and continues to keep both of them alike. For, if two, there could also be three and four and five and more than could be told in a single substance — I mean not in different parts of it but all the countless qualifications alike in the whole of it. At any rate, Chrysippus asserts that Zeus, that is the universe, is like the human being and his providence is like its soul, that consequently, when the conflagration has taken place, Zeus, who alone of the gods is indestructible, withdraws to his providence, and then both, having come together, 1077e. persist in the single substance of the ether.

Chapter XXXVII

So, leaving the gods at last with a prayer for the gift of common sense and common intelligence, let us see how the Stoics treat the subject of the elements. It is at odds with the common conception for one body to be place for another and for one to pass through another if void is contained in neither but plenum enters into plenum and the admixture is received by that which because of its continuity has not interval or space within itself. These men, however, compressing into one thing not one other and not even two or even three or ten but stuffing all parts of the finely shredded universe into any single thing they find and denying that the slightest perceptible thing would be inadequate for the largest that encounters it, recklessly make themselves a doctrine of the objection advanced to refute them just as they do in many other cases, inasmuch as they make assumptions that are in conflict with the common conceptions. 1078a. It is <a consequence> of this reasoning, for example, that many prodigiously strange things are admitted by those who blend bodies with bodies in their entirety. Among them is even the proposition, “three are four,” for, while others use this expression by way of hyperbole as an example of things that are inconceivable, for these men it does turn out that, if the single ladleful of wine being blended with two of water is not to fall short of the water but is to match it, in dispersing the ladleful over all the water and dissolving it throughout they make it two, though it is one, by the equalization of blending it with two. For to remain one ladleful and to make <itself> coextensive with two and equal to them <would be to make what is half equal> to its double; but, if in order to suffice for blending with the two it does acquire in the diffusion a measurement of two ladles, this is at the same time a measurement both of three and of four — of three because one ladleful has been mixed with the two and of four because, once having been mixed with two, it is equal in amount to those with which it is mixed. This pretty pass they come to, then, by stuffing bodies into body — and to the inconceivability of encompassment. For it is necessarily not the case that of bodies permeating each other in being blended one encompass and the other be encompassed or one be the receptacle and the other be in it, since in that case there would be not blending but contact, that is contiguity of the surfaces, the one within subjacent and the one without encompassing it and the rest of the parts unmixed and pure and severally distinct too. If blending occurs in the way they require, however, 1078c. it is necessary that the things being mixed get into each other and the same thing be at once encompassed by being in the other and encompass it by being its receptacle; and on the other hand again it follows that neither condition is possible, since the blending constrains both things to penetrate each other and no part to lack any part but <every part> to be filled full of all. Here, I presume, is where the leg too that Arcesilaus made a commonplace in his discourses enters trampling in mockery upon their absurdities. In fact, if blends are thorough, what is to prevent not only the fleet of Antigonus, as Arcesilaus said, from sailing through the leg that has been amputated, decayed, flung into the sea, and dissolved but the 1200 triremes of Xerxes together with the 300 of the Greeks from fighting a naval battle within the leg? For surely the lesser spreading in what is greater would not run short and would not stop either; otherwise the blend would have a limit, and its extremity, having made contact at the point where it terminates, would not penetrate the whole but would leave off being mixed. If it should be, however, that the mixture has been thorough, it is not the leg, by heaven, that would be affording the Greeks room for a naval battle; but, while this does require decay, that is a transformation, a single ladleful or just a single drop once fallen into the Aegean or the Cretan sea would reach the Ocean and the Atlantic, 1078e. not in superficial contact with the surface but everyway diffused from top to bottom throughout both breadth and length at once. And this Chrysippus straightway admits in the first book of the Physical Questions, where he says that nothing keeps a single drop of wine from tempering the sea; and, no doubt in order that this may not amaze us, he says that the drop in the blending will extend to the whole universe. What could be manifestly more absurd than this I do not know.


Moreover, it is at odds with the common conception that <there be> in the nature of bodies neither extremity nor any first or last <part> in which the magnitude of the body terminates but that, whatever be taken, the invariable appearance <of something> beyond it reduce the object to infinity and indefinitude. For it would not be possible to conceive one magnitude as greater or less than another if for the parts of both alike it is characteristic to proceed to infinity; but the nature of inequality is abolished, for, when things are conceived as unequal, it is by the ultimate parts that the one leaves off before the other and the other passes it by and is in excess of it. And, if inequality does not exist, it follows that unevenness does not exist or roughness of body either, for unevenness is inequality of a single surface with itself and roughness is unevenness along with hardness, none of which is left by those who bring no body to an end in an ultimate part but in number of parts extend all bodies to infinity. Yet is it not completely clear that a man consists of more parts than the man’s finger does and the universe again of more parts than does the man? This all men know and have in mind if they have not become Stoics; but, once they have become Stoics, their statements and opinions are to the contrary effect a that the man is not made up of more parts than the finger is or the universe of more parts than the man, for by division bodies are triturated to infinity and among infinites none is more or less and none exceeds another in multitude at all or else the parts of the one exceeded would stop being divided and making multitudes of themselves.

Comrade. What then? Don’t they grapple with these difficulties?

Diadumenus. Oh, quite ingeniously and manfully. For Chrysippus says that, when asked whether we have any parts and how many and of what parts they are composed and how many, we shall make a distinction, in the large sense affirming that we are composed of head and trunk and limbs — for this was all there is to the difficulty in question —; “but,” he says, “if they press their questioning on to the ultimate parts, nothing like these is to be taken up in response but one must say neither of what ultimate parts one consists nor — in like manner too — of how many, neither infinitely nor finitely many. I think it well to have made use of his very words, in order that you may behold the way in which he kept watch and ward over the common conceptions, bidding us conceive each several body as composed neither of any particular parts nor of any number of them whatever, neither an infinite nor a finite number. For, if there is something intermediate between finite and infinite as the indifferent is between good and evil, he ought to have resolved the difficulty by saying what this is; but, if we conceive what is not-finite to be infinite in the way we do what is not-equal to be eo ipso unequal and what is not subject to destruction to be indestructible, then to say that a body is made up of parts neither finite nor infinite is, I think, like saying that an argument is made up of premises that are neither true nor false, neither <atomic nor molecular.>

Chapter XXXIX

In addition he has the audacity to say that the pyramid, being composed of triangles, has its faces unequal, to be sure, as they are inclined along the juncture but without exceeding where they are larger. This was his way of preserving the common conceptions. For, if there is something larger without exceeding there will be something smaller without falling short, so that there will also be something unequal without either exceeding or falling short, that is what is unequal will be equal and what is larger will not be larger or what is smaller smaller. 1079e. Furthermore, look at the way in which he met the difficulty raised by Democritus scientifically and vividly with the question, if a cone should be cut by a plane parallel to its base, what one must suppose the surfaces of the segments prove to be, equal or unequal: — for, if unequal, they will make the cone uneven by giving it many step-like notches and asperities; and, if they are equal, the segments will be equal, and the cone, being composed of circles that are equal and not unequal, will manifestly have got the properties of the cylinder — which is the height of absurdity. Here is just where Chrysippus declares Democritus to be in ignorance 1079f. and says that the surfaces are neither equal nor unequal but the bodies are unequal in that the surfaces are neither equal nor unequal. Now really, to ordain that, the surfaces being neither equal <nor unequal>, the bodies are consequently unequal is the mark of a man who gives himself amazing license to write whatever comes into his head, for what reason together with clear apprehension a provides is the contrary conception that of unequal bodies the surfaces are unequal and the surface of the larger body is larger, unless, of course, this body is to have the excess by which it is larger deprived of a surface. For, if the surfaces of the larger bodies do not exceed those of the lesser but leave off before doing so, there will be of body that has a limit a part that is without limit and so limitless. For, if he says that by insisting upon such <a conception of these surfaces he saves the cone, he is confuted by his own remark:> “for the nicks in the cone about which he has misgivings are produced by the inequality of the bodies, surely, and not by that of the surfaces.” It is ridiculous, then, to exclude the surfaces and in the bodies leave unevenness confirmed. If, however, we adhere to the assumption, what is more at odds with the common conception than to imagine things like this? For, if we do affirm that surface is neither equal nor unequal to surface, it will be possible also to say of magnitude in relation to magnitude and of number in relation to number that it is neither equal nor unequal, and that too though we are unable to mention and cannot even conceive an intermediate between equal and unequal which is neither one nor the other. Moreover, given surfaces neither equal nor unequal, what’s to prevent the conception of circles also neither equal nor unequal? For the surfaces of the conic segments are themselves, I presume, circles. And, if circles, one must affirm that diameters of circles too are neither equal nor unequal; and, if so, angles also and triangles and parallelograms and parallelepipeds and bodies, for, if lengths are neither equal nor unequal to one another, so will it also be in the case of depth and breadths and so of bodies. Then how do the Stoics dare to censure those who adduce the common characteristics and who suppose certain indivisible movements to be self-contradictorily neither in motion nor at rest, when they say themselves that propositions like the following are false: “if certain things aren’t equal to each other, those things are unequal to each other” and “it is not so that these things are equal to each other and are not-unequal to each other”? And, when Chrysippus says that there is something larger without, however, exceeding, it is proper to raise the question whether these things will coincide with each other. For, if they will coincide, how is one larger; 1080d. and, if they won’t, how can it fail to be necessary for one to exceed and the other to fall short? <Or> will it both not coincide and coincide with the larger, the former in that neither exceeds and the latter in that the other is larger? For such are the difficulties into which those who do not observe the common conceptions necessarily get themselves.

Chapter XL

Moreover, the proposition that nothing touches anything is at odds with the common conception; and not less so is this, that bodies do touch one another but touch one another with nothing. Yet this must be accepted by those who do not admit minimal parts of body but are always taking some part before that which seems to be touching and never cease from going on beyond it. At any rate, their own chief objection to the advocates of indivisibles is this, that there is contact neither of wholes with wholes nor of parts with parts, for the result of the former is not contact but blending and the latter is not possible, since indivisibles do not have parts. How is it, then, that they do not fall into this trap themselves, since they admit no last part and no first either? Because they say, by heaven, that bodies are in contact with one another at a limit, not at a part; and the limit is not body. Well then, body will touch body with an incorporeal and, again, will not touch it, since an incorporeal is between them. And, if it does touch, it will be by what is incorporeal that the body produces an effect and is affected, for it is by touching that bodies naturally produce an effect and are affected by one another. And, if body gets contact by what is incorporeal, so will it also have conjunction and blending and coalescence. Then it is necessary that in the conjunctions and blendings the limits of the bodies either remain or not remain but have been destroyed; but either alternative is at odds with the common conception, for not even the Stoics themselves allow destruction and generation of incorporeals and there could not be blending and conjunction of bodies possessed of their own limits. For the limit bounds and fixes the nature of the body; and, if blendings are not the juxtapositions of parts to parts <but>, as these men say, fuse with one another in their entirety the things being blended, one must admit destruction of the limits in the minglings and then their generation in the segregations, and these processes no one could easily conceive. But, furthermore, it is where bodies touch each other that they are also pressed and squeezed and crushed by each other; and for an incorporeal to do these things or have them done to it is not possible, — nay, it is not even thinkable. Yet this is the conception that they force upon us. For, if the sphere touches the plane at a point, it is also obviously drawn over the plane on a point; and, if its surface has been smeared with ruddle, it will tinge the plane with a red line <and, if> it has been heated, it will make the plane hot. But for body to be tinged by an incorporeal and to be made hot by an incorporeal is at odds with the common conception. And, finally, if we imagine a sphere of earthenware or of crystal falling from a height on a plane of stone, it is unreasonable that it will not be crushed at its impact upon a resistant object but more absurd for it to be crushed by impinging on a limit, that is an incorporeal point. The result is that the preconceptions about incorporeals and bodies are everyway upset 1081c. or rather are annihilated by the Stoics’ associating with them many of their impossible notions.

Chapter XLI

It is at odds with the common conception to hold that there is future and past time and not present time but that, while recently and the other day subsist, now is nothing at all. And yet this is what it comes to for the Stoics who do not admit a minimal time or wish the now to be indivisible but say that whatever one may think one has grasped and has in mind as present is in part future and in part past, so that there is left and remains co-incident with now no part of actual time if the time said to be actual be divided into parts that are future and parts that are past. What happens, then, is one of two things: either in making the affirmation “time was and time will be” they deny the proposition “time is” or <in making the affirmation> “there is time present,” which in part was and in part will be present, they also assert that what exists is in part future and in part past and what is now is in part before and in part after, so that now is what is not yet now and what is no longer now, for what is past is no longer now and what is future is not yet now. In dividing <this way, however, they must> assert that even <today is in part yesterday and in part tomorrow> and this year is in part last year and in part next year and what is simultaneous is in part before and in part after. For they make muddles no more reasonable than these when they identify “not yet” and “already” and “no longer” and “now” and “not now.” All other men suppose and conceive and believe both “recently” and “soon” to be parts of time different from “now” and the latter to be after now but the former before now. Of these Stoics, however, Archedemus for one asserts that “now” is a kind of juncture and connection of what is past and of what is coming on; and by this assertion he has unwittingly, as it seems, annihilated the whole of time, for, if now is not time but a limit of time and if every part of time is such as now is, 1081f. all time in its entirety obviously has no constituent part at all but is wholly resolved into limits and connections and junctures. Chrysippus, on the other hand, wishing to treat the division with finesse says in his treatise on the Void and in some others that the part of time that is past and the part that is future subsist but do not exist and only what is present exists; but in the third and fourth and fifth books on Parts he affirms that of present time part is future and part has gone by. 1082a. Consequently it turns out that he divides the existing part of time into parts that are non-existent and what does exist, or rather that he leaves absolutely nothing of time existing if what is present has no part that is not future or past.

Chapter XLII

The conception of time for them, then, is like clutching water, which falls away and slips through one’s grasp the tighter one squeezes it, while as to actions and motions it involves the utter ruin of clear apprehension. For, if now is divided partly into what is past and partly into what is future, it is necessary also that of what at the moment now is in motion part have moved and the rest be about to move and that terminus and initiation of motion have been abolished 1082b. <and> that there be no part of any deed that has been first or will be last, since actions are divided in correspondence with time. For, as the Stoics say that of the present time part has gone by and the rest is to come, so it must be that part of what is being done has been done and the rest will be done. When, then, did lunching, writing, walking commence and when will they have an end if everyone lunching lunched and will be lunching and everyone walking walked and will be walking? And, what is, as people say, most outrageous of outrages, if it is characteristic of one who is living that he has been living and will be living, his living neither had initiation nor will have a terminus; but each of us, as it seems, has come to be, though he did not begin living, and will die, though he will not stop living. For, if no part is last but some of the living being’s actuality always extends into the future, it never becomes false that “Socrates will be living <if he is living.” And> as often as <it will be> true to say “Socrates is living” so far will it be false to say “Socrates is dead.” Consequently, if in infinitely many parts of time it is true to say “Socrates will be living,” in no part of time will it be true to say “Socrates is dead.” And yet what terminus could a deed have and where could that terminate which is being done if as often as it is true to say “it is being done it is true also to say” it will be done”? For one who says of Plato writing and arguing that Plato will at some time stop <writing and> arguing will be making a false statement 1082d. if it is never false to say of him who is arguing “he will be arguing” and of him who is writing “he will be writing.” Furthermore, <if> of what is occurring no part is such as not either to have occurred or to be about to occur, i.e. to have gone by or to be coming on, and what has occurred and will be occurring, i.e. past and future, are not objects of sensation, absolutely nothing is an object of sensation. For neither do we see what is past or what is future nor do we hear or get any other sensation of things that have occurred or will be occurring. Nothing<, then,> is perceptible, not even if anything is actual, if always of what is actual part is to come and the rest has gone by, i.e. part has occurred and the rest will be occurring.

Chapter XLIII

1082e. Moreover, the Stoics themselves say that Epicurus does a shocking thing and violates the common conceptions by making the velocity of moving bodies equal and denying that any is swifter than any other; but it is much more shocking than this and further removed from the common conceptions for nothing to be overtaken by anything not even if a tortoise, as the saying goes, should from behind be pursued by the swift steed of Adrastus. Yet it is necessary that this be the consequence if, while the moving bodies <move antecedently> over the antecedent part, the distances which they traverse are, as these men maintain, divisible ad infinitum. For, if the tortoise <have got the start> of the horse by only half a dozen rods, those who divide this distance ad infinitum 1082f. and make each of the two things move in sequence over the antecedent and subsequent parts will never bring what is swiftest up to what is slowest, since the slower is always getting ahead by some distance which is divided into an infinite number of distances. And the notion that water being poured out of a bowl or a cup will never be all poured out, how is this not at odds with the common conception or how not a consequence of their assertions? 1083a. For motion <antecedent> over the antecedent part of parts a that are divisible ad infinitum could not be conceived as getting through the sum of the parts, but by always leaving some divisible part remaining it would render incomplete all effusion and all sliding and flowing of a liquid and locomotion of a solid and falling of a weight that has been released.

Chapter XLIV

44. I pass over many of the Stoic absurdities and hold to those that are at odds with the common conception. Well then, the argument about growth is certainly ancient, for, as Chrysippus says, it was propounded by Epicharmus; and yet the members of the Academy, because they think that the question is not a very easy one and not to be disposed of out of hand, have been severely accused <by the Stoics and> decried on the ground that they annihilate the preconceptions 1083b. and are at odds with the common conceptions <in their speculations, whereas by the Stoics themselves not only are the common conceptions not> observed but even sense-perception is distorted to boot. For the argument is simple, and the Stoics admit the premises: that all particular substances are in flux and motion, sending off from themselves some parts and receiving others that come to them from elsewhere, that the numbers or amounts which such parts join and leave do not remain the same but become different, the substance undergoing transformation with the aforesaid accessions <and withdrawals>, and that by customary usage it has become the fashion for these changes to be incorrectly called cases of growth and decay, although the appropriate names for them are rather generation and destruction because they make a thing pass out of its existing state into another, whereas growth and diminution are modifications of a body that persists and is their substrate. Something like this being the position taken (by the Academics) and the way in which it is stated, what, then, do the Stoics maintain, these advocates of clear apprehension and standards of the common conceptions? That each of us is a pair of twins and biform and double not as the poets think the Molionidae are, unified in some parts but separated in others, but two bodies with color the same and shape the same and weight the same and place <the same a but nevertheless duplicates, although> discerned by no human being before; but these men alone caught sight of this combination and duplication and ambiguity, that each of us is two subjects, 1083d. the one substance and the other <quality>, the former being always in flux and motion, neither growing nor diminishing nor remaining of any character at all, and the latter persisting and growing and diminishing and being affected in all respects contrary to the other, though coalescent with it and conjoined and commingled and nowhere affording sensation a perception of the difference. Yet it is said that the famous Lynceus would see through rock and tree, and someone from a look-out in Sicily where he sat saw the ships of the Carthaginians distant a run of a day and a night sailing out of their harbor, and 1083e. Callicrates and Myrmecides and their fellows are said to fashion carriages canopied with the wings of a fly and to engrave in letters on a sesame-seed lines of Homer’s poems; but this diversity and difference within us none determined or distinguished, and we did not perceive either that we had come to be double and are ever in flux in one part but in the other remain the same from birth to death. I am simplifying the theory, since they postulate four subjects in the case of each one or rather make each of us four; but even the two suffice to show the absurdity. If, in fact, when we hear Pentheus in the tragedy stating that two suns he sees 1083f. and double Thebes we say that he is not seeing but, being deranged and out of his wits, is seeing amiss, shall we not dismiss these Stoics as forcing us into misconception rather than conception with their supposition that not just a single city but all human beings and all animals and trees and furniture and instruments and clothes are double and biform? Well, in this case perhaps it is excusable 1084a. for them to fabricate diverse kinds of subjects, for no other contrivance presents itself to their ambition to save and maintain the phenomena of growth.

Chapter XLV

What made them manufacture within the soul, however, differences and kinds of body infinite, I had almost said, in number or what other assumptions in turn they are dressing up thereby, this one could not say but could say that they evict or rather altogether abolish and destroy the common and customary conceptions and import in their place others that are strange and foreign. For it’s pretty absurd of them to take the virtues and the vices and all the skills and memories besides and mental images, moreover, 1084b. and affections and impulses and acts of assent for bodies and say that they do not reside or subsist in any subject <but> to have left these things a single place no bigger than a point, the duct in the heart, into which they cramp the soul’s ruling faculty. filled with so many bodies that their great multitude has eluded those who are highly reputed for distinguishing and separating one thing from another. But to make these things not merely bodies but rational animals as well and by confining <in> our hearts not a tame or friendly hive but an adverse and hostile mob of so many animals to make each of us out to be a game-preserve or byre or wooden horse — or what thought and name could one give the fictions of these Stoics? —, this is about the last degree in scorning and outraging clear apprehension and common experience. They assert, however, that not only are the virtues and the vices animals and not only the affections, cases of anger and envy and grief and spiteful joy, or apprehensions and mental images and cases of ignorance or the skills shoemaking and smithing — animals but besides these they further make the activities bodies and animals — taking a walk an animal, dancing, putting on one’s shoes, greeting, reviling. It follows that laughing is an animal and weeping; and, if these, coughing is also and sneezing and groaning and, certainly, spitting and blowing the nose and the rest, for they are manifest. And let them not be vexed about being led to these things by the argument which advances little by little but remember that Chrysippus in the first book 1084d. of the Physical Questions draws to his conclusion in this fashion: “It is not so that the night is a body and the evening and the dawn and midnight are not bodies; and it is not so that the day is a body and not the first day of the month and the tenth and the fifteenth and the thirtieth and the month and the summer and the autumn and the year.”

Chapter XLVI

46. But, while in their insistence upon these notions they are at odds with the common preconceptions, they are already at odds with their own as well when they insist upon those others, generating what is hottest by a process of chilling and what is most subtile by a process of condensation. So they do, for the soul is surely most hot and most subtile and they produce it by the chilling and condensation of the body which by tempering, 1084e. as it were, changes the vital spirit that out of vegetable is become animal. But they also say that the sun has become animate by the change of liquid into intellectual fire. Then it’s time to think of the sun too as being generated by a process of chilling. Now, Xenophanes, when someone told of having seen eels living in hot water, said: “Well then, we’ll boil them in cold”; and it would be consequent for these Stoics, if they generate the hottest things by chilling and the lightest things by condensation, conversely to generate by heat the things that are cold and by diffusion the things that are solid and by rarefaction the things that are heavy, thus preserving in their irrationality some ratio and <consistency.>

Chapter XLVII

1084f. And in what they suppose to be the essence and genesis of conception itself are they not at odds with the common conceptions? For conception is a kind of mental image, and a mental image is an impression in the soul; but the nature of soul is vaporous exhalation, on which it is difficult to make an impression on account of its subtility and for which to receive and retain an impression is impossible. Liquids being the source of its nourishment, 1085a. i.e. of its genesis, this is in process of continual accretion and consumption; and its mixture with the air of respiration is for ever making a new thing of the vaporous exhalation as this is altered and transformed by the current which rushes in from without and withdraws again. For one could more easily suppose shapes and imprints and forms being kept by a stream of running water than by a moving breath a which is perpetually being blended with vapours and moistures within and with another, an inert and alien breath as it were, from without. The Stoics, however, are so heedless themselves as to define conceptions as a kind of conserved notions 1085b. and memories as abiding and stable impressions and to fix absolutely firm the forms of knowledge as being unalterable and steadfast and then to place beneath these things as base and foundation a substance that slides and scatters and is always in motion and flux.

Chapter XLVIII

Well anyway, of element or principle there has been bred in practically all men a common conception, that it is simple and unmixed and incomposite, for element or principle is not what has resulted from mixing but the ingredients of the mixture. Yet these Stoics by making god, while a principle, an intellectual body, that is intelligence in matter, make him out to be not pure or simple or incomposite but from something else and because of something else. Matter, however, being in itself without rationality and without quality, has simplicity and so the characteristic of a principle; 1085c. but god, if in fact he is not incorporeal and not immaterial, has got a share of matter as a participant in a principle. For, if matter and rationality are one and the same thing, the Stoics have done ill in defining matter to be without rationality; and, if they are different things, god would also have both on deposit as a kind of trustee and would be not a simple but a composite object with corporeality from matter added to intellectuality.

Chapter XLIX

49. In any case, the Stoics, while calling the four bodies — earth and water and air and fire — primary elements, make some of them, I know not how, simple and pure and the others composite and mixed, for they say that earth and water cohibit neither themselves nor other things but maintain their unity by virtue of participation in a pneumatic and fiery power, whereas air and fire because of their intensity are self-sustaining and to the former two, when blended with them, impart tension and permanence and substantiality. How, then, is earth still an element — or water — if it is not simple or primary or self-sufficient but for ever in want of something external to itself that cohibits it and preserves it in being? For not even a notion of their substance has been left by the Stoics; but there is great confusion and obscurity in the account thus given of earth <as being> of itself a definite <body, though not substance>. And then, how is it that, being of itself earth, 1085e. it has need of air to consolidate and cohibit it? But in fact it is not of itself earth or water either, but matter is made earth when air has constricted and condensed it in a certain way and water when again in a certain way it has been softened and dissolved. Neither of these is an element, then, since something else has imparted substance and generation to both of them.

Chapter L

50. Moreover, while they say that substance, that is matter, underlies the qualities, so as practically to define them in this way, on the other hand again they make the qualities substances, that is bodies. This involves great confusion. For, if qualities have their own substance, in virtue of which they are called and are bodies, they do not have need of another substance, for they have their own. But, if what underlies them is only this common thing that these Stoics call substance and matter, it is clear that they participate in body but are not bodies, for what is substrate and receptacle must be different from the things that it receives and underlies. These men, however, see by halves, for they give matter the epithet “without quality” but will not go on and call qualities “immaterial.” Yet how is it possible to conceive body without quality if they do not conceive quality without body? For the reasoning that implicates body in every quality permits the mind to grasp no body unconnected with some quality. It seems, then, either that its opposition to quality’s being without body is also opposition to matter’s being without quality or that in severing the one from the other it also separates both from each other. The reasoning advanced by some of them, as giving substance the epithet “without quality ” not because it is devoid of every quality but because it has all qualities/ is most especially at odds with the common conception, for no one conceives as without quality what is without part in no quality or as impassive what is naturally always being affected in all respects nor as immobile what is everyway movable. And, even if matter is always conceived along with quality, the former statement has not thereby been refuted, that it is conceived as other than quality and different from it.


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