Cicero - On Ends
First Book Of The Treatise On The Chief Good And Evil.¶
Source: The Academic Questions, Treatise De Finibus, and Tusculan Disputations Of M. T. Cicero With A Sketch of the Greek Philosophers Mentioned by Cicero. Literally Translated by C. D. Yonge, B.A. London: George Bell and Sons; York Street Covent Garden Printed by William Clowes and Sons, Stamford Street and Charing Cross. 1875 Gutenberg Edition
I. I was not ignorant, Brutus, when I was endeavouring to add to Latin literature the same things which philosophers of the most sublime genius and the most profound and accurate learning had previously handled in the Greek language, that my labours would be found fault with on various grounds. For some, and those too, far from unlearned men, are disinclined to philosophy altogether; some, on the other hand, do not blame a moderate degree of attention being given to it, but do not approve of so much study and labour being devoted to it. There will be others again, learned in Greek literature and despising Latin compositions, who will say that they would rather spend their time in reading Greek; and, lastly, I suspect that there will be some people who will insist upon it that I ought to apply myself to other studies, and will urge that, although this style of writing may be an elegant accomplishment, it is still beneath my character and dignity. And to all these objections I think I ought to make a brief reply; although, indeed, I have already given a sufficient answer to the enemies of philosophy in that book in which philosophy is defended and extolled by me after having been attacked and disparaged by Hortensius.13 And as both you and others whom I considered competent judges approved highly of that book, I have undertaken a larger work, fearing to appear able only to excite the desires of men, but incapable of retaining their attention. But those who, though they have a very good opinion of philosophy, still think it should be followed in a moderate degree only, require a temperance which is very difficult in a thing which, when once it has the reins given it, cannot be checked or repressed; so that I almost think those men more reasonable who altogether forbid us to apply ourselves to philosophy at all, than they who fix a limit to things which are in their [pg 096] nature boundless, and who require mediocrity in a thing which is excellent exactly in proportion to its intensity.
For, if it be possible that men should arrive at wisdom, then it must not only be acquired by us, but even enjoyed. Or if this be difficult, still there is no limit to the way in which one is to seek for truth except one has found it; and it is base to be wearied in seeking a thing, when what we do seek for is the most honourable thing possible. In truth, if we are amused when we are writing, who is so envious as to wish to deny us that pleasure? If it is a labour to us, who will fix a limit to another person's industry? For as the Chremes14 of Terence does not speak from a disregard of what is due to men when he does not wish his new neighbour
To dig, or plough, or any toil endure:
for he is not in this dissuading him from industry, but only from such labour as is beneath a gentleman; so, on the other hand those men are over scrupulous who are offended by my devoting myself to a labour which is far from irksome to myself.
II. It is more difficult to satisfy those men who allege that they despise Latin writings. But, first of all, I may express my wonder at their not being pleased with their native language in matters of the highest importance, when they are fond enough of reading fables in Latin, translated word for word from the Greek. For what man is such an enemy (as I may almost call it) to the Roman name, as to despise or reject the Medea of Ennius, or the Antiope of Pacuvius? and to express a dislike of Latin literature, while at the same time he speaks of being pleased with the plays of Euripides? “What,” says such an one, “shall I rather read the Synephebi of Cæcilius,15 or the Andria of Terence, than either of these plays in the original of Menander?” But I disagree with men of these opinions so entirely, that though [pg 097] Sophocles has composed an Electra in the most admirable manner possible, still I think the indifferent translation of it by Atilius16 worth reading too, though Licinius calls him an iron writer; with much truth in my opinion; still he is a writer whom it is worth while to read. For to be wholly unacquainted with our own poets is a proof either of the laziest indolence, or else of a very superfluous fastidiousness.
My own opinion is, that no one is sufficiently learned who is not well versed in the works written in our own language. Shall we not be as willing to read—
Would that the pine, the pride of Pelion's brow,
as the same idea when expressed in Greek? And is there any objection to having the discussions which have been set out by Plato, on the subject of living well and happily, arrayed in a Latin dress? And if we do not limit ourselves to the office of translators, but maintain those arguments which have been advanced by people with whom we argue, and add to them the exposition of our own sentiments, and clothe the whole in our own language, why then should people prefer the writings of the Greeks to those things which are written by us in an elegant style, without being translated from the works of Greek philosophers? For if they say that these matters have been discussed by those foreign writers, then there surely is no necessity for their reading such a number of those Greeks as they do. For what article of Stoic doctrine has been passed over by Chrysippus? And yet we read also Diogenes,17 Antipater,18 Mnesarchus,19 Panætius,20 and many others, and [pg 098] especially the works of my own personal friend Posidonius.21 What shall we say of Theophrastus? Is it but a moderate pleasure which he imparts to us while he is handling the topics which had been previously dilated on by Aristotle? What shall we say of the Epicureans? Do they pass over the subjects on which Epicurus himself and other ancient writers have previously written, and forbear to deliver their sentiments respecting them? But if Greek authors are read by the Greeks, though discussing the same subjects over and over again, because they deal with them in different manners, why should not the writings of Roman authors be also read by our own countrymen?
III. Although if I were to translate Plato or Aristotle in as bold a manner as our poets have translated the Greek plays, then, I suppose, I should not deserve well at the hands of my fellow-countrymen, for having brought those divine geniuses within their reach. However, that is not what I have hitherto done, though I do not consider myself interdicted from doing so. Some particular passages, if I think it desirable, I shall translate, especially from those authors whom I have just named, when there is an opportunity of doing so with propriety; just as Ennius often translates passages from Homer, and Afranius22 from Menander. Nor will I, like Lucilius, make any objection to everybody reading my writings. I should be glad to have that Persius23 for one of my readers; and still more to have Scipio and Rutilius; [pg 099] men whose criticism he professed to fear, saying that he wrote for the people of Tarentum, and Consentia, and Sicily. That was all very witty of him, and in his usual style; but still, people at that time were not so learned as to give him cause to labour much before he could encounter their judgment, and his writings are of a lightish character, showing indeed, a high degree of good breeding, but only a moderate quantity of learning. But whom can I fear to have read my works when I ventured to address a book to you, who are not inferior to the Greeks themselves in philosophical knowledge? Although I have this excuse for what I am doing, that I have been challenged by you, in that to me most acceptable book which you sent me “On Virtue.”
But I imagine that some people have become accustomed to feel a repugnance to Latin writing because they have fallen in with some unpolished and inelegant treatises translated from bad Greek into worse Latin. And with those men I agree, provided they will not think it worth while to read the Greek books written on the same subject. But who would object to read works on important subjects expressed in well-selected diction, with dignity and elegance; unless, indeed, he wishes to be taken absolutely for a Greek, as Albucius was saluted at Athens by Scævola, when he was prætor? And this topic has been handled by that same Lucilius with great elegance and abundant wit; where he represents Scævola as saying—
You have preferr'd, Albucius, to be call'd
A Greek much rather than a Roman citizen
Or Sabine, countryman of Pontius,
Tritannius, and the brave centurions
And standard-bearers of immortal fame.
So now at Athens, I, the prætor, thus
Salute you as you wish, whene'er I see you,
With Greek address, ὦ χαῖρε noble Titus,
Ye lictors, and attendants χαίρετε.
ὦ χαῖρε noble Titus. From this day
The great Albucius was my enemy.
But surely Scævola was right. However, I can never sufficiently express my wonder whence this arrogant disdain of everything national arose among us. This is not exactly the place for lecturing on the subject; but my own feelings are, and I have constantly urged them, that the Latin language is not only not deficient, so as to deserve to be generally [pg 100] disparaged; but that it is even more copious than the Greek. For when have either we ourselves, or when has any good orator or noble poet, at least after there was any one for him to imitate, found himself at a loss for any richness or ornament of diction with which to set off his sentiments?
IV. And I myself (as I do not think that I can be accused of having, in my forensic exertions, and labours, and dangers, deserted the post in which I was stationed by the Roman people,) am bound, forsooth, to exert myself as much as I can to render my fellow-countrymen more learned by my labours and studies and diligence, and not so much to contend with those men who prefer reading Greek works, provided that they really do read them, and do not only pretend to do so; and to fall in also with the wishes of those men who are desirous either to avail themselves of both languages, or who, as long as they have good works in their own, do not care very much about similar ones in a foreign tongue. But those men who would rather that I would write on other topics should be reasonable, because I have already composed so many works that no one of my countrymen has ever published more, and perhaps I shall write even more if my life is prolonged so as to allow me to do so. And yet, whoever accustoms himself to read with care these things which I am now writing on the subject of philosophy, will come to the conclusion that no works are better worth reading than these. For what is there in life which deserves to be investigated so diligently as every subject which belongs to philosophy, and especially that which is discussed in this treatise, namely, what is the end, the object, the standard to which all the ideas of living well and acting rightly are to be referred? What it is that nature follows as the chief of all desirable things? what she avoids as the principal of all evils?
And as on this subject there is great difference of opinion among the most learned men, who can think it inconsistent with that dignity which every one allows to belong to me, to examine what is in every situation in life the best and truest good? Shall the chief men of the city, Publius Scævola and Marcus Manilius argue whether the offspring of a female slave ought to be considered the gain of the master of the slave; and shall Marcus Brutus express his dissent from their opinion, (and this is a kind of discussion giving great room [pg 101] for the display of acuteness, and one too that is of importance as regards the citizens,) and do we read, and shall we continue to read, with pleasure their writings on this subject, and the others of the same sort, and at the same time neglect these subjects, which embrace the whole of human life? There may, perhaps, be more money affected by discussions on that legal point, but beyond all question, this of ours is the more important subject: that, however, is a point which the readers may be left to decide upon. But we now think that this whole question about the ends of good and evil is, I may almost say, thoroughly explained in this treatise, in which we have endeavoured to set forth as far as we could, not only what our own opinion was, but also everything which has been advanced by each separate school of philosophy.
V. To begin, however, with that which is easiest, we will first of all take the doctrine of Epicurus, which is well known to most people; and you shall see that it is laid down by us in such a way that it cannot be explained more accurately even by the adherents of that sect themselves. For we are desirous of ascertaining the truth; not of convicting some adversary.
But the opinion of Epicurus about pleasure was formerly defended with great precision by Lucius Torquatus, a man accomplished in every kind of learning; and I myself replied to him, while Caius Triarius, a most learned and worthy young man, was present at the discussion. For as it happened that both of them had come to my villa near Cumæ to pay me a visit, first of all we conversed a little about literature, to which they were both of them greatly devoted; and after a while Torquatus said—Since we have found you in some degree at leisure, I should like much to hear from you why it is that you, I will not say hate our master Epicurus—as most men do who differ from him in opinion—but still why you disagree with him whom I consider as the only man who has discerned the real truth, and who I think has delivered the minds of men from the greatest errors, and has handed down every precept which can have any influence on making men live well and happily. But I imagine that you, like my friend Triarius here, like him the less because he neglected the ornaments of diction in which Plato, and Aristotle, and Theophrastus indulged. For I can hardly be persuaded to [pg 102] believe that the opinions which he entertained do not appear to you to be correct. See now, said I, how far you are mistaken, Torquatus. I am not offended with the language of that philosopher; for he expresses his meaning openly and speaks in plain language, so that I can understand him. Not, however, that I should object to eloquence in a philosopher, if he were to think fit to employ it; though if he were not possessed of it I should not require it. But I am not so well satisfied with his matter, and that too on many topics. But there are as many different opinions as there are men; and therefore we may be in error ourselves. What is it, said he, in which you are dissatisfied with him? For I consider you a candid judge; provided only that you are accurately acquainted with what he has really said. Unless, said I, you think that Phædrus or Zeno have spoken falsely (and I have heard them both lecture, though they gave me a high opinion of nothing but their own diligence,) all the doctrines of Epicurus are quite sufficiently known to me. And I have repeatedly, in company with my friend Atticus, attended the lectures of those men whom I have named; as he had a great admiration for both of them, and an especial affection even for Phædrus. And every day we used to talk over what we heard, nor was there ever any dispute between us as to whether I understood the scope of their arguments; but only whether I approved of them.
VI. What is it, then, said he, which you do not approve of in them, for I am very anxious to hear? In the first place, said I, he is utterly wrong in natural philosophy, which is his principal boast. He only makes some additions to the doctrine of Democritus, altering very little, and that in such a way that he seems to me to make those points worse which he endeavours to correct. He believes that atoms, as he calls them, that is to say bodies which by reason of their solidity are indivisible, are borne about in an interminable vacuum, destitute of any highest, or lowest, or middle, or furthest, or nearest boundary, in such a manner that by their concourse they cohere together; by which cohesion everything which exists and which is seen is formed. And he thinks that motion of atoms should be understood never to have had a beginning, but to have subsisted from all eternity.
But in those matters in which Epicurus follows Democritus, he is usually not very wrong. Although there are many [pg 103] assertions of each with which I disagree, and especially with this—that as in the nature of things there are two points which must be inquired into,—one, what the material out of which everything is made, is; the other, what the power is which makes everything,—they discussed only the material, and omitted all consideration of the efficient power and cause. However, that is a fault common to both of them; but these blunders which I am going to mention are Epicurus's own.
For he thinks that those indivisible and solid bodies are borne downwards by their own weight in a straight line; and that this is the natural motion of all bodies. After this assertion, that shrewd man,—as it occurred to him, that if everything were borne downwards in a straight line, as I have just said, it would be quite impossible for one atom ever to touch another,—on this account he introduced another purely imaginary idea, and said that the atoms diverged a little from the straight line, which is the most impossible thing in the world. And he asserted that it is in this way that all those embraces, and conjunctions, and unions of the atoms with one another took place, by which the world was made, and all the parts of the world, and all that is in the world. And not only is all this idea perfectly childish, but it fails in effecting its object. For this very divergence is invented in a most capricious manner, (for he says that each atom diverges without any cause,) though nothing can be more discreditable to a natural philosopher than to say that anything takes place without a cause; and also, without any reason, he deprives atoms of that motion which is natural to every body of any weight (as he himself lays it down) which goes downwards from the upper regions; and at the same time he does not obtain the end for the sake of which he invented all these theories.
For if every atom diverges equally, still none will ever meet with one another so as to cohere; but if some diverge, and others are borne straight down by their natural inclination, in the first place this will be distributing provinces as it were among the atoms, and dividing them so that some are borne down straight, and others obliquely; and in the next place, this turbulent concourse of atoms, which is a blunder of Democritus also, will never be able to produce this beautifully ornamented world which we see around us. Even this, [pg 104] too, is inconsistent with the principles of natural philosophy, to believe that there is such a thing as a minimum; a thing which he indeed never would have fancied, if he had been willing to learn geometry from his friend Polyænus,24 instead of seeking to persuade him to give it up himself.
The sun appears to Democritus to be of vast size, as he is a man of learning and of a profound knowledge of geometry. Epicurus perhaps thinks that it is two feet across, for he thinks it of just that size which it appears to be, or perhaps a little larger or smaller. So what he changes he spoils; what he accepts comes entirely from Democritus,—the atoms, the vacuum, the appearances, which they call εἴδωλα, to the inroads of which it is owing not only that we see, but also that we think; and all that infiniteness, which they call ἀπειρία, is borrowed from Democritus; and also the innumerable worlds which are produced and perish every day. And although I cannot possibly agree myself with all those fancies, still I should not like to see Democritus, who is praised by every one else, blamed by this man who has followed him alone.
VII. And as for the second part of philosophy, which belongs to investigating and discussing, and which is called λογικὴ, there your master as it seems to me is wholly unarmed and defenceless. He abolishes definitions; he lays down no rules for division and partition; he gives no method for drawing conclusions or establishing principles; he does not point out how captious objections may be refuted, or ambiguous terms explained. He places all our judgments of things in our senses; and if they are once led to approve of anything false as if it were true, then he thinks that there is an end to all our power of distinguishing between truth and falsehood.
But in the third part, which relates to life and manners, with respect to establishing the end of our actions, he utters not one single generous or noble sentiment. He lays down above all others the principle, that nature has but two things as objects of adoption and aversion, namely, pleasure and pain: [pg 105] and he refers all our pursuits, and all our desires to avoid anything, to one of these two heads. And although this is the doctrine of Aristippus, and is maintained in a better manner and with more freedom by the Cyrenaics, still I think it a principle of such a kind that nothing can appear more unworthy of a man. For, in my opinion, nature has produced and formed us for greater and higher purposes. It is possible, indeed, that I may be mistaken; but my opinion is decided that that Torquatus, who first acquired that name, did not tear the chain from off his enemy for the purpose of procuring any corporeal pleasure to himself; and that he did not, in his third consulship, fight with the Latins at the foot of Mount Vesuvius for the sake of any personal pleasure. And when he caused his son to be executed, he appears to have even deprived himself of many pleasures, by thus preferring the claims of his dignity and command to nature herself and the dictates of fatherly affection. What need I say more? Take Titus Torquatus, him I mean who was consul with Cnæus Octavius; when he behaved with such severity towards that son whom he had allowed Decimus Silanus to adopt as his own, as to command him, when the ambassadors of the Macedonians accused him of having taken bribes in his province while he was prætor, to plead his cause before his tribunal: and, when he had heard the cause on both sides, to pronounce that he had not in his command behaved after the fashion of his forefathers, and to forbid him ever to appear in his sight again; does he seem to you to have given a thought to his own pleasure?
However, to say nothing of the dangers, and labours, and even of the pain which every virtuous man willingly encounters on behalf of his country, or of his family, to such a degree that he not only does not seek for, but even disregards all pleasures, and prefers even to endure any pain whatever rather than to forsake any part of his duty; let us come to those things which show this equally, but which appear of less importance. What pleasure do you, O Torquatus, what pleasure does this Triarius derive from literature, and history, and the knowledge of events, and the reading of poets, and his wonderful recollection of such numbers of verses? And do not say to me, Why all these things are a pleasure to me. So, too, were those noble actions to the Torquati. [pg 106] Epicurus never asserts this in this manner; nor would you, O Triarius, nor any man who had any wisdom, or who had ever imbibed those principles. And as to the question which is often asked, why there are so many Epicureans—there are several reasons; but this is the one which is most seductive to the multitude, namely, that people imagine that what he asserts is that those things which are right and honourable do of themselves produce joy, that is, pleasure. Those excellent men do not perceive that the whole system is overturned if that is the case. For if it were once granted, even although there were no reference whatever to the body, that these things were naturally and intrinsically pleasant; then virtue and knowledge would be intrinsically desirable. And this is the last thing which he would choose to admit.
These principles, then, of Epicurus, I say, I do not approve of. As for other matters, I wish either that he himself had been a greater master of learning, (for he is, as you yourself cannot help seeing, not sufficiently accomplished in those branches of knowledge which men possess who are accounted learned,) or at all events that he had not deterred others from the study of literature: although I see that you yourself have not been at all deterred from such pursuits by him.
VIII. And when I had said this, more for the purpose of exciting him than of speaking myself, Triarius, smiling gently, said,—You, indeed, have almost entirely expelled Epicurus from the number of philosophers. For what have you left him except the assertion that, whatever his language might he, you understood what he meant? He has in natural philosophy said nothing but what is borrowed from others, and even then nothing which you approved of. If he has tried to amend anything he has made it worse. He had no skill whatever in disputing. When he laid down the rule that pleasure was the chief good, in the first place he was very short-sighted in making such an assertion; and secondly, even this very doctrine was a borrowed one; for Aristippus had said the same thing before, and better too. You added, at last, that he was also destitute of learning.
It is quite impossible, O Triarius, I replied, for a person not to state what he disapproves of in the theory of a man with whom he disagrees. For what could hinder me from being an Epicurean if I approved of what Epicurus says? especially [pg 107] when it would be an amusement to learn his doctrines. Wherefore, a man is not to be blamed for reproving those who differ from one another; but evil speaking, contumely, ill-temper, contention, and pertinacious violence in disputing, generally appear to me quite unworthy of philosophy.
I quite agree with you, said Torquatus; for one cannot dispute at all without finding fault with your antagonist; but on the other hand you cannot dispute properly if you do so with ill-temper or with pertinacity. But, if you have no objection, I have an answer to make to these assertions of yours. Do you suppose, said I, that I should have said what I have said if I did not desire to hear what you had to say too? Would you like then, says he, that I should go through the whole theory of Epicurus, or that we should limit our present inquiry to pleasure by itself; which is what the whole of the present dispute relates to? We will do, said I, whichever you please. That then, said he, shall be my present course. I will explain one matter only, being the most important one. At another time I will discuss the question of natural philosophy; and I will prove to you the theory of the divergence of the atoms, and of the magnitude of the sun, and that Democritus committed many errors which were found fault with and corrected by Epicurus. At present, I will confine myself to pleasure; not that I am saying anything new, but still I will adduce arguments which I feel sure that even you yourself will approve of. Undoubtedly, said I, I will not be obstinate; and I will willingly agree with you if you will only prove your assertions to my satisfaction. I will prove them, said he, provided only that you are as impartial as you profess yourself: but I would rather employ a connected discourse than keep on asking or being asked questions. As you please, said I.
On this he began to speak;—
IX. First of all then, said he, I will proceed in the manner which is sanctioned by the founder of this school: I will lay down what that is which is the subject of our inquiry, and what its character is: not that I imagine that you do not know, but in order that my discourse may proceed in a systematic and orderly manner. We are inquiring, then, what is the end,—what is the extreme point of good, which, in the opinion of all philosophers, ought to be such that everything [pg 108] can be referred to it, but that it itself can be referred to nothing. This Epicurus places in pleasure, which he argues is the chief good, and that pain is the chief evil; and he proceeds to prove his assertion thus. He says that every animal the moment that it is born seeks for pleasure, and rejoices in it as the chief good; and rejects pain as the chief evil, and wards it off from itself as far as it can; and that it acts in this manner, without having been corrupted by anything, under the promptings of nature herself, who forms this uncorrupt and upright judgment. Therefore, he affirms that there is no need of argument or of discussion as to why pleasure is to be sought for, and pain to be avoided. This he thinks a matter of sense, just as much as that fire is hot, snow white, honey sweet; none of which propositions he thinks require to be confirmed by laboriously sought reasons, but that it is sufficient merely to state them. For that there is a difference between arguments and conclusions arrived at by ratiocination, and ordinary observations and statements:—by the first, secret and obscure principles are explained; by the second, matters which are plain and easy are brought to decision. For since, if you take away sense from a man, there is nothing left to him, it follows of necessity that what is contrary to nature, or what agrees with it, must be left to nature herself to decide. Now what does she perceive, or what does she determine on as her guide to seek or to avoid anything, except pleasure and pain? But there are some of our school who seek to carry out this doctrine with more acuteness, and who will not allow that it is sufficient that it should be decided by sense what is good and what is bad, but who assert that these points can be ascertained by intellect and reason also, and that pleasure is to be sought for on its own account, and that pain also is to be avoided for the same reason.
Therefore, they say that this notion is implanted in our minds naturally and instinctively, as it were; so that we feel that the one is to be sought for, and the other to be avoided. Others, however, (and this is my own opinion too,) assert that, as many reasons are alleged by many philosophers why pleasure ought not to be reckoned among goods, nor pain among evils, we ought not to rely too much on the goodness of our cause, but that we should use arguments, and discuss [pg 109] the point with precision, and argue, by the help of carefully collected reasons, about pleasure and about pain.
X. But that you may come to an accurate perception of the source whence all this error originated of those people who attack pleasure and extol pain, I will unfold the whole matter; and I will lay before you the very statements which have been made by that discoverer of the truth, and architect, as it were, of a happy life. For no one either despises, or hates, or avoids pleasure itself merely because it is pleasure, but because great pains overtake those men who do not understand how to pursue pleasure in a reasonable manner. Nor is there any one who loves, or pursues, or wishes to acquire pain because it is pain, but because sometimes such occasions arise that a man attains to some great pleasure through labour and pain. For, to descend to trifles, who of us ever undertakes any laborious exertion of body except in order to gain some advantage by so doing? and who is there who could fairly blame a man who should wish to be in that state of pleasure which no annoyance can interrupt, or one who shuns that pain by which no subsequent pleasure is procured? But we do accuse those men, and think them entirely worthy of the greatest hatred, who, being made effeminate and corrupted by the allurements of present pleasure, are so blinded by passion that they do not foresee what pains and annoyances they will hereafter be subject to; and who are equally guilty with those who, through weakness of mind, that is to say, from eagerness to avoid labour and pain, desert their duty.
And the distinction between these things is quick and easy. For at a time when we are free, when the option of choice is in our own power, and when there is nothing to prevent our being able to do whatever we choose, then every pleasure may be enjoyed, and every pain repelled. But on particular occasions it will often happen, owing either to the obligations of duty or the necessities of business, that pleasures must be declined and annoyances must not be shirked. Therefore the wise man holds to this principle of choice in those matters, that he rejects some pleasures, so as, by the rejection, to obtain others which are greater, and encounters some pains, so as by that means to escape others which are more formidable.
Now, as these are my sentiments, what reason can I have for fearing that I may not be able to accommodate our Torquati to them—men whose examples you just now quoted from memory, with a kind and friendly feeling towards us? However, you have not bribed me by praising my ancestors, nor made me less prompt in replying to you. But I should like to know from you how you interpret their actions? Do you think that they attacked the enemy with such feelings, or that they were so severe to their children and to their own blood as to have no thought of their own advantage, or of what might be useful to themselves? But even wild beasts do not do that, and do not rush about and cause confusion in such a way that we cannot understand what is the object of their motions. And do you think that such illustrious men performed such great actions without a reason? What their reason was I will examine presently; in the meantime I will lay down this rule,—If there was any reason which instigated them to do those things which are undoubtedly splendid exploits, then virtue by herself was not the sole cause of their conduct. One man tore a chain from off his enemy, and at the same time he defended himself from being slain; but he encountered great danger. Yes, but it was before the eyes of the whole army. What did he get by that? Glory, and the affection of his countrymen, which are the surest bulwarks to enable a man to pass his life without fear. He put his son to death by the hand of the executioner. If he did so without any reason, then I should be sorry to be descended from so inhuman and merciless a man. But if his object was to establish military discipline and obedience to command, at the price of his own anguish, and at a time of a most formidable war to restrain his army by the fear of punishment, then he was providing for the safety of his fellow-citizens, which he was well aware embraced his own. And this principle is one of extensive application. For the very point respecting which your whole school, and yourself most especially, who are such a diligent investigator of ancient instances, are in the habit of vaunting yourself and using high-flown language, namely, the mention of brave and illustrious men, and the extolling of their actions, as proceeding not from any regard to advantage, but from pure principles of honour and a love of glory, is entirely upset, when once that [pg 111] rule in the choice of things is established which I mentioned just now,—namely, that pleasures are passed over for the sake of obtaining other greater pleasures, or that pains are encountered with a view to escape greater pains.
XI. But, however, for the present we have said enough about the illustrious and glorious actions of celebrated men; for there will be, hereafter, a very appropriate place for discussing the tendency of all the virtues to procure pleasure.
But, at present, I will explain what pleasure itself is, and what its character is; so as to do away with all the mistakes of ignorant people, and in order that it may be clearly understood how dignified, and temperate, and virtuous that system is, which is often accounted voluptuous, effeminate, and delicate. For we are not at present pursuing that pleasure alone which moves nature itself by a certain sweetness, and which is perceived by the senses with a certain pleasurable feeling; but we consider that the greatest of all pleasures which is felt when all pain is removed. For since, when we are free from pain, we rejoice in that very freedom itself, and in the absence of all annoyance,—but everything which is a cause of our rejoicing is pleasure, just as everything that gives us offence is pain,—accordingly, the absence of all pain is rightly denominated pleasure. For, as when hunger and thirst are driven away by meat and drink, the very removal of the annoyance brings with it the attainment of pleasure, so, in every case, the removal of pain produces the succession of pleasure. And therefore Epicurus would not admit that there was any intermediate state between pleasure and pain; for he insisted that that very state which seems to some people the intermediate one, when a man is free from every sort of pain, is not only pleasure, but the highest sort of pleasure. For whoever feels how he is affected must inevitably be either in a state of pleasure or in a state of pain. But Epicurus thinks that the highest pleasure consists in an absence of all pains; so that pleasure may afterwards be varied, and may be of different kinds, but cannot be increased or amplified.
And even at Athens, as I have heard my father say, when he was jesting in a good-humoured and facetious way upon the Stoics, there is a statue in the Ceramicus of Chrysippus, sitting down with his hand stretched out; and this attitude [pg 112] of the hand intimates that he is amusing himself with this brief question, “Does your hand, while in that condition in which it is at present, want anything?”—Nothing at all. But if pleasure were a good, would it want it? I suppose so. Pleasure, then, is not a good. And my father used to say that even a statue would not say this if it could speak. For the conclusion was drawn as against the Stoics with sufficient acuteness, but it did not concern Epicurus. For if that were the only pleasure which tickled the senses, as it were, if I may say so, and which overflowed and penetrated them with a certain agreeable feeling, then even a hand could not be content with freedom from pain without some pleasing motion of pleasure. But if the highest pleasure is, as Epicurus asserts, to be free from pain, then, O Chrysippus, the first admission was correctly made to you, that the hand, when it was in that condition, was in want of nothing; but the second admission was not equally correct, that if pleasure were a good it would wish for it. For it would not wish for it for this reason, inasmuch as whatever is free from pain is in pleasure.
XII. But that pleasure is the boundary of all good things may be easily seen from this consideration. Let us imagine a person enjoying pleasures great, numerous, and perpetual, both of mind and body, with no pain either interrupting him at present or impending over him; what condition can we call superior to or more desirable than this? For it is inevitable that there must be in a man who is in this condition a firmness of mind which fears neither death nor pain, because death is void of all sensation; and pain, if it is of long duration, is a trifle, while if severe it is usually of brief duration; so that its brevity is a consolation if it is violent, and its trifling nature if it is enduring. And when there is added to these circumstances that such a man has no fear of the deity of the gods, and does not suffer past pleasures to be entirely lost, but delights himself with the continued recollection of them, what can be added to this which will be any improvement to it?
Imagine, on the other hand, any one worn out with the greatest pains of mind and body which can possibly befal a man, without any hope being held out to him that they will hereafter be lighter, when, besides, he has no pleasure whatever [pg 113] either present or expected; what can be spoken of or imagined more miserable than this? But if a life entirely filled with pains is above all things to be avoided, then certainly that is the greatest of evils to live in pain. And akin to this sentiment is the other, that it is the most extreme good to live with pleasure. For our mind has no other point where it can stop as at a boundary; and all fears and distresses are referable to pain: nor is there anything whatever besides, which of its own intrinsic nature can make us anxious or grieve us. Moreover, the beginnings of desiring and avoiding, and indeed altogether of everything which we do, take their rise either in pleasure or pain. And as this is the case, it is plain that everything which is right and laudable has reference to this one object of living with pleasure. And since that is the highest, or extreme, or greatest good, which the Greeks call τέλος, because it is referred to nothing else itself, but everything is referred to it, we must confess that the highest good is to live agreeably.
XIII. And those who place this in virtue alone, and, being caught by the splendour of a name, do not understand what nature requires, will be delivered from the greatest blunder imaginable if they will listen to Epicurus. For unless those excellent and beautiful virtues which your school talks about produced pleasure, who would think them either praiseworthy or desirable? For as we esteem the skill of physicians not for the sake of the art itself, but from our desire for good health,—and as the skill of the pilot, who has the knowledge how to navigate a vessel well, is praised with reference to its utility, and not to his ability,—so wisdom, which should be considered the art of living, would not be sought after if it effected nothing; but at present it is sought after because it is, as it were, the efficient cause of pleasure, which is a legitimate object of desire and acquisition. And now you understand what pleasure I mean, so that what I say may not be brought into odium from my using an unpopular word. For as the chief annoyances to human life proceed from ignorance of what things are good and what bad, and as by reason of that mistake men are often deprived of the greatest pleasures, and tortured by the most bitter grief of mind, we have need to exercise wisdom, which, by removing groundless alarms and vain desires, and by banishing the rashness of all erroneous [pg 114] opinions, offers herself to us as the surest guide to pleasure. For it is wisdom alone which expels sorrow from our minds, and prevents our shuddering with fear: she is the instructress who enables us to live in tranquillity, by extinguishing in us all vehemence of desire. For desires are insatiable, and ruin not only individuals but entire families, and often overturn the whole state. From desires arise hatred, dissensions, quarrels, seditions, wars. Nor is it only out of doors that these passions vent themselves, nor is it only against others that they run with blind violence; but they are often shut up, as it were, in the mind, and throw that into confusion with their disagreements.
And the consequence of this is, to make life thoroughly wretched; so that the wise man is the only one who, having cut away all vanity and error, and removed it from him, can live contented within the boundaries of nature, without melancholy and without fear. For what diversion can be either more useful or more adapted for human life than that which Epicurus employed? For he laid it down that there were three kinds of desires; the first, such as were natural and necessary; the second, such as were natural but not necessary; the third, such as were neither natural nor necessary. And these are all such, that those which are necessary are satisfied without much trouble or expense: even those which are natural and not necessary, do not require a great deal, because nature itself makes the riches, which are sufficient to content it, easy of acquisition and of limited quantity: but as for vain desires, it is impossible to find any limit to, or any moderation in them.
XIV. But if we see that the whole life of man is thrown into disorder by error and ignorance; and that wisdom is the only thing which can relieve us from the sway of the passions and the fear of danger, and which can teach us to bear the injuries of fortune itself with moderation, and which shows us all the ways which lead to tranquillity and peace; what reason is there that we should hesitate to say that wisdom is to be sought for the sake of pleasure, and that folly is to be avoided on account of its annoyances? And on the same principle we shall say that even temperance is not to be sought for its own sake, but because it brings peace to the mind, and soothes and tranquillizes them by what I may call a kind of [pg 115] concord. For temperance is that which warns us to follow reason in desiring or avoiding anything. Nor is it sufficient to decide what ought to be done, and what ought not; but we must adhere to what has been decided. But many men, because they are enfeebled and subdued the moment pleasure comes in sight, and so are unable to keep and adhere to the determination they have formed, give themselves up to be bound hand and foot by their lusts, and do not foresee what will happen to them; and in that way, on account of some pleasure which is trivial and unnecessary, and which might be procured in some other manner, and which they could dispense with without annoyance, incur terrible diseases, and injuries, and disgrace, and are often even involved in the penalties of the legal tribunals of their country.
But these men who wish to enjoy pleasure in such a way that no grief shall ever overtake them in consequence, and who retain their judgment so as never to be overcome by pleasure as to do what they feel ought not to be done; these men, I say, obtain the greatest pleasure by passing pleasure by. They often even endure pain, in order to avoid encountering greater pain hereafter by their shunning it at present. From which consideration it is perceived that intemperance is not to be avoided for its own sake; and that temperance is to be sought for, not because it avoids pleasures, but because it attains to greater ones.
XV. The same principle will be found to hold good with respect to courage. For the discharge of labours and the endurance of pain are neither of them intrinsically tempting; nor is patience, nor diligence, nor watchfulness, nor industry which is so much extolled, nor even courage itself: but we cultivate these habits in order that we may live without care and fear, and may be able, as far as is in our power, to release our minds and bodies from annoyance. For as the whole condition of tranquil life is thrown into confusion by the fear of death, and as it is a miserable thing to yield to pain and to bear it with a humble and imbecile mind; and as on account of that weakness of mind many men have ruined their parents, many men their friends, some their country, and very many indeed have utterly undone themselves; so a vigorous and lofty mind is free from all care and pain, since it despises death, which only places those who encounter it in [pg 116] the same condition as that in which they were before they were born; and it is so prepared for pain that it recollects that the very greatest are terminated by death, and that slight pains have many intervals of rest, and that we can master moderate ones, so as to bear them if they are tolerable, and if not, we can depart with equanimity out of life, just as out of a theatre, when it no longer pleases us. By all which considerations it is understood that cowardice and idleness are not blamed, and that courage and patience are not praised, for their own sakes; but that the one line of conduct is rejected as the parent of pain, and the other desired as the author of pleasure.
XVI. Justice remains to be mentioned, that I may not omit any virtue whatever; but nearly the same things may be said respecting that. For, as I have already shown that wisdom, temperance, and fortitude are connected with pleasure in such a way that they cannot possibly be separated or divided from it, so also we must consider that it is the case with justice. Which not only never injures any one; but on the contrary always nourishes something which tranquillizes the mind, partly by its own power and nature, and partly by the hopes that nothing will be wanting of those things which a nature not depraved may fairly derive.
Since rashness and lust and idleness always torture the mind, always make it anxious, and are of a turbulent character, so too, wherever injustice settles in any man's mind, it is turbulent from the mere fact of its existence and presence there; and if it forms any plan, although it executes it ever so secretly, still it never believes that what has been done will be concealed for ever. For generally, when wicked men do anything, first of all suspicion overtakes their actions; then the common conversation and report of men; then the prosecutor and the judge; and many even, as was the case when you were consul, have given information against themselves. But if any men appear to themselves to be sufficiently fenced round and protected from the consciousness of men, still they dread the knowledge of the Gods, and think that those very anxieties by which their minds are eaten up night and day, are inflicted upon them by the immortal Gods for the sake of punishment. And how is it possible that wicked actions can ever have as much influence towards alleviating [pg 117] the annoyances of life, as they must have towards increasing them from the consciousness of our actions, and also from the punishments inflicted by the laws and the hatred of the citizens? And yet, in some people, there is no moderation in their passion for money and for honour and for command, or in their lusts and greediness and other desires, which acquisitions, however wickedly made, do not at all diminish, but rather inflame, so that it seems we ought rather to restrain such men than to think that we can teach them better. Therefore sound wisdom invites sensible men to justice, equity, and good faith. And unjust actions are not advantageous even to that man who has no abilities or resources; inasmuch as he cannot easily do what he endeavours to do, nor obtain his objects if he does succeed in his endeavours. And the gifts of fortune and of genius are better suited to liberality; and those who practise this virtue gain themselves goodwill, and affection, which is the most powerful of all things to enable a man to live with tranquillity; especially when he has absolutely no motive at all for doing wrong.
For those desires which proceed from nature are easily satisfied without any injustice; but those which are vain ought not to be complied with. For they desire nothing which is really desirable; and there is more disadvantage in the mere fact of injustice than there is advantage in what is acquired by the injustice. Therefore a person would not be right who should pronounce even justice intrinsically desirable for its own sake; but because it brings the greatest amount of what is agreeable. For to be loved and to be dear to others is agreeable because it makes life safer, and pleasure more abundant. Therefore we think dishonesty should be avoided, not only on account of those disadvantages which befall the wicked, but even much more because it never permits the man in whose mind it abides to breathe freely, and never lets him rest.
But if the praise of those identical virtues in which the discourse of all other philosophers so especially exults, cannot find any end unless it be directed towards pleasure, and if pleasure be the only thing which calls and allures us to itself by its own nature; then it cannot be doubtful that that is the highest and greatest of all goods, and that to live happily is nothing else except to live with pleasure.
XVII. And I will now explain in a few words the things which are inseparably connected with this sure and solid opinion.
There is no mistake with respect to the ends themselves of good and evil, that is to say, with respect to pleasure and pain; but men err in these points when they do not know what they are caused by. But we admit that the pleasures and pains of the mind are caused by the pleasures and pains of the body. Therefore I grant what you were saying just now, that if any philosophers of our school think differently (and I see that many men do so, but they are ignorant people) they must be convicted of error. But although pleasure of mind brings us joy, and pain causes us grief, it is still true that each of these feelings originates in the body, and is referred to the body; and it does not follow on that account that both the pleasures and pains of the mind are not much more important than those of the body. For with the body we are unable to feel anything which is not actually existent and present; but with our mind we feel things past and things to come. For although when we are suffering bodily pain, we are equally in pain in our minds, still a very great addition may be made to that if we believe that any endless and boundless evil is impending over us. And we may transfer this assertion to pleasure, so that that will be greater if we have no such fear.
This now is entirely evident, that the very greatest pleasure or annoyance of the mind contributes more to making life happy or miserable than either of these feelings can do if it is in the body for an equal length of time. But we do not agree that, if pleasure be taken away, grief follows immediately, unless by chance it happens that pain has succeeded and taken the place of pleasure; but, on the other hand, we affirm that men do rejoice at getting rid of pain even if no pleasure which can affect the senses succeeds. And from this it may be understood how great a pleasure it is not to be in pain. But as we are roused by those good things which we are in expectation of, so we rejoice at those which we recollect. But foolish men are tortured by the recollection of past evils; wise men are delighted by the memory of past good things, which are thus renewed by the agreeable recollection. But there is a feeling implanted in us by which we [pg 119] bury adversity as it were in a perpetual oblivion, but dwell with pleasure and delight on the recollection of good fortune. But when with eager and attentive minds we dwell on what is past, the consequence is, that melancholy ensues, if the past has been unprosperous; but joy, if it has been fortunate.
XVIII. Oh what a splendid, and manifest, and simple, and plain way of living well! For as certainly nothing could be better for man than to be free from all pain and annoyance, and to enjoy the greatest pleasures of both mind and body, do you not see how nothing is omitted which can aid life, so as to enable men more easily to arrive at that chief good which is their object! Epicurus cries out—the very man whom you pronounce to be too devoted to pleasure—that man cannot live agreeably, unless he lives honourably, justly, and wisely; and that, if he lives wisely, honourably, and justly, it is impossible that he should not live agreeably. For a city in sedition cannot be happy, nor can a house in which the masters are quarrelling. So that a mind which disagrees and quarrels with itself, cannot taste any portion of clear and unrestrained pleasure. And a man who is always giving in to pursuits and plans which are inconsistent with and contrary to one another, can never know any quiet or tranquillity.
But if the pleasure of life is hindered by the graver diseases of the body, how much more must it be so by those of the mind? But the diseases of the mind are boundless and vain desires of riches, or glory, or domination, or even of lustful pleasures. Besides these there are melancholy, annoyance, sorrow, which eat up and destroy with anxiety the minds of those men who do not understand that the mind ought not to grieve about anything which is unconnected with some present or future pain of body. Nor is there any fool who does not suffer under some one of these diseases. Therefore there is no fool who is not miserable. Besides these things there is death, which is always hanging over us as his rock is over Tantalus; and superstition, a feeling which prevents any one who is imbued with it from ever enjoying tranquillity. Besides, such men as they do not recollect their past good fortune, do not enjoy what is present, but do nothing but expect what is to come; and as that cannot be certain, they wear themselves out with grief and apprehension, and are tormented most especially when they find out, after it is too [pg 120] late, that they have devoted themselves to the pursuit of money, or authority, or power, or glory, to no purpose. For they have acquired no pleasures, by the hope of enjoying which it was that they were inflamed to undertake so many great labours. There are others, of little and narrow minds, either always despairing of everything, or else malcontent, envious, ill-tempered, churlish, calumnious, and morose; others devoted to amatory pleasures, others petulant, others audacious, wanton, intemperate, or idle, never continuing in the same opinion; on which account there is never any interruption to the annoyances to which their life is exposed.
Therefore, there is no fool who is happy, and no wise man who is not. And we put this much more forcibly and truly than the Stoics: for they assert that there is no good whatever, but some imaginary shadow which they call τὸ καλὸν, a name showy rather than substantial; and they insist upon it, that virtue relying on this principle of honour stands in need of no pleasure, and is content with its own resources as adequate to secure a happy life.
XIX. However, these assertions may be to a certain extent made not only without our objecting to them, but even with our concurrence and agreement. For in this way the wise man is represented by Epicurus as always happy. He has limited desires; he disregards death; he has a true opinion concerning the immortal Gods without any fear; he does not hesitate, if it is better for him, to depart from life. Being prepared in this manner, and armed with these principles, he is always in the enjoyment of pleasure; nor is there any period when he does not feel more pleasure than pain. For he remembers the past with gratitude, and he enjoys the present so as to notice how important and how delightful the joys which it supplies are; nor does he depend on future good, but he waits for that and enjoys the present; and is as far removed as possible from those vices which I have enumerated; and when he compares the life of fools to his own he feels great pleasure. And pain, if any does attack him, has never such power that the wise man has not more to rejoice at than to be grieved at.
But Epicurus does admirably in saying that fortune has but little power over the wise man, and that the greatest and most important events of such a man's life are managed [pg 121] by his own wisdom and prudence; and that greater pleasure cannot be derived from an eternity of life than such a man enjoys from this life which we see to be limited.
But in your dialectics he thought that there was no power which could contribute either to enable men to live better, or argue more conveniently. To natural philosophy he attributed a great deal of importance. For by the one science it is only the meaning of words and the character of a speech, and the way in which arguments follow from or are inconsistent with one another, that can be seen; but if the nature of all things is known, we are by that knowledge relieved from superstition, released from the fear of death, exempted from being perplexed by our ignorance of things, from which ignorance horrible fears often arise. Lastly, we shall be improved in our morals when we have learnt what nature requires. Moreover, if we have an accurate knowledge of things, preserving that rule which has fallen from heaven as it were for the knowledge of all things, by which all our judgments of things are to be regulated, we shall never abandon our opinions because of being overcome by any one's eloquence.
For unless the nature of things is thoroughly known, we shall have no means by which we can defend the judgments formed by our senses. Moreover, whatever we discern by our intellect, all arises from the senses. And if our senses are all correct, as the theory of Epicurus affirms, then something may be discerned and understood accurately; but as to those men who deny the power of the senses, and say that nothing can be known by them, those very men, if the senses are discarded, will be unable to explain that very point which they are arguing about. Besides, if all knowledge and science is put out of the question, then there is an end also of all settled principles of living and of doing anything.
Thus, by means of natural philosophy, courage is desired to withstand the fear of death, and constancy to put aside the claims engendered by superstition; and by removing ignorance of all secret things, tranquillity of mind is produced; and by explaining the nature of desires and their different kinds, we get moderation: and (as I just now explained) by means of this rule of knowledge, and of the judgment which is established and corrected by it, the power of distinguishing truth from falsehood is put into man's hands.
XX. There remains a topic necessary above all others to this discussion, that of friendship, namely: which you, if pleasure is the chief good, affirm to have no existence at all. Concerning which Epicurus speaks thus: "That of all the things which wisdom has collected to enable man to live happily, nothing is more important, more influential, or more delightful than friendship." Nor did he prove this assertion by words only, but still more by his life, and conduct, and actions. And how important a thing it is, the fables of the ancients abundantly intimate, in which, many and varied as they are, and traced back to the remotest antiquity, scarcely three pairs of friends are found, even if you begin as far back as Theseus, and come down to Orestes. But in one single house, and that a small one, what great crowds of friends did Epicurus collect, and how strong was the bond of affection that held them together! And this is the case even now among the Epicureans. However, let us return to our subject: it is not necessary for us to be discussing men.
I see, then, that the philosophers of our school have treated the question of friendship in three ways. Some, as they denied that those pleasures which concerned our friends were to be sought with as much eagerness for their own sake, as we display in seeking our own, (by pressing which topic some people think that the stability of friendship is endangered,) maintain that doctrine resolutely, and, as I think, easily explain it. For, as in the case of the virtues which I have already mentioned, so too they deny that friendship can ever be separated from pleasure. For, as a life which is solitary and destitute of friends is full of treachery and alarm, reason itself warns us to form friendships. And when such are formed, then our minds are strengthened, and cannot be drawn away from the hope of attaining pleasure. And as hatred, envy, and contempt are all opposed to pleasures, so friendships are not only the most faithful favourers, but also are the efficient causes of pleasures to one's friends as well as to oneself; and men not only enjoy those pleasures at the moment, but are also roused by hopes of subsequent and future time. And as we cannot possibly maintain a lasting and continued happiness of life without friendship, nor maintain friendship itself unless we love our friends and ourselves equally, therefore this very effect is produced in friendship, and friendship is combined with pleasure.
For we rejoice in the joy of our friends as much as we do in our own, and we are equally grieved at their sorrows. Wherefore the wise man will feel towards his friend as he does towards himself, and whatever labour he would encounter with a view to his own pleasure, he will encounter also for the sake of that of his friend. And all that has been said of the virtues as to the way in which they are invariably combined with pleasure, should also be said of friendship. For admirably does Epicurus say, in almost these exact words: “The same science has strengthened the mind so that it should not fear any eternal or long lasting evil, inasmuch as in this very period of human life, it has clearly seen that the surest bulwark against evil is that of friendship.”
There are, however, some Epicureans who are rather intimidated by the reproaches of your school, but still men of sufficient acuteness, and they are afraid lest, if we think that friendship is only to be sought after with a view to our own pleasure, all friendships should, as it were, appear to be crippled. Therefore they admit that the first meetings, and unions, and desires to establish intimacy, do arise from a desire of pleasure; but, they say, that when progressive habit has engendered familiarity, then such great affection is ripened, that friends are loved by one another for their own sake, even without any idea of advantage intermingling with such love. In truth, if we are in the habit of feeling affection for places, and temples, and cities, and gymnasia, and the Campus Martius, and for dogs, and horses, and sports, in consequence of our habit of exercising ourselves, and hunting, and so on, how much more easily and reasonably may such a feeling be produced in us by our intimacy with men!
But some people say that there is a sort of agreement entered into by wise men not to love their friends less than themselves; which we both imagine to be possible, and indeed see to be often the case; and it is evident that nothing can be found having any influence on living agreeably, which is better suited to it than such a union. From all which considerations it may be inferred, not only that the principle of friendship is not hindered by our placing the chief good in pleasure, but that without such a principle it is quite impossible that any friendship should be established.
XXI. Wherefore, if the things which I have been saying [pg 124] are clearer and plainer than the sun itself; if all that I have said is derived from the fountain of nature; if the whole of my discourse forces assent to itself by its accordance with the senses, that is to say, with the most incorruptible and honest of all witnesses; if infant children, and even brute beasts, declare almost in words, under the teaching and guidance of nature, that nothing is prosperous but pleasure, nothing hateful but pain—a matter as to which their decision is neither erroneous nor corrupt—ought we not to feel the greatest gratitude to that man who, having heard this voice of nature, as I may call it, has embraced it with such firmness and steadiness, that he has led all sensible men into the path of a peaceful, tranquil, and happy life? And as for his appearing to you to be a man of but little learning, the reason of that is, that he thought no learning deserving of the name except such as assisted in the attainment of a happy life. Was he a man to waste his time in reading poets, as Triarius and I do at your instigation? men in whose works there is no solid utility, but only a childish sort of amusement; or to devote himself, like Plato, to music, geometry, arithmetic, and astronomy? studies which, starting from erroneous principles, cannot possibly be true; and which, if they were true, would constitute nothing to our living more agreeably, that is to say, better. Should he, then, pursue such occupations as those, and abandon the task of laying down principles of living, laborious, but, at the same time, useful as they are?
Epicurus, then, was not destitute of learning; but those persons are ignorant who think that those studies which it is discreditable for boys not to have learnt, are to be continued till old age.
And when he had spoken thus,—I have now, said he, explained my opinions, and have done so with the design of learning your judgment of them. But the opportunity of doing so, as I wished, has never been offered me before to-day.
9.6 Second Book Of The Treatise On The Chief Good And Evil.¶
I. On this, when both of them fixed their eyes on me, and showed that they were ready to listen to me:—In the first place, said I, I intreat you not to fancy that I, like a professed philosopher, am going to explain to you the doctrines of some particular school; a course which I have never much approved of when adopted by philosophers themselves. For when did Socrates, who may fairly be called the parent of philosophy, ever do anything of the sort? That custom was patronized by those who at that time were called Sophists, of which number Georgias of Leontium was the first who ventured in an assembly to demand a question,—that is to say, to desire any one in the company to say what he wished to hear discussed. It was a bold proceeding; I should call it an impudent one, if this fashion had not subsequently been borrowed by our own philosophers. But we see that he whom I have just mentioned, and all the other Sophists, (as may be gathered from Plato,) were all turned into ridicule by Socrates; for he, by questioning and interrogating them, was in the habit of eliciting the opinions of those with whom he was arguing, and then, if he thought it necessary, of replying to the answers which they had given him. And as that custom had not been preserved by those who came after him, Arcesilaus re-introduced it, and established the custom, that those who wished to become his pupils were not to ask him questions, but themselves to state their opinions; and then, when they had stated them, he replied to what they had advanced; but those who came to him for instruction defended their own opinions as well as they could.
But with all the rest of the philosophers the man who asks the question says no more; and this practice prevails in the Academy to this day. For when he who wishes to receive instruction has spoken thus, “Pleasure appears to me to be the [pg 126] chief good,” they argue against this proposition in an uninterrupted discourse; so that it may be easily understood that they who say that they entertain such and such an opinion, do not of necessity really entertain it, but wish to hear the arguments which may be brought against it. We follow a more convenient method, for not only has Torquatus explained what his opinions are, but also why he entertains them: but I myself think, although I was exceedingly delighted with his uninterrupted discourse, that still, when you stop at each point that arises, and come to an understanding what each party grants, and what he denies, you draw the conclusion you desire from what is admitted with more convenience, and come to an end of the discussion more readily. For when a discourse is borne on uninterruptedly, like a torrent, although it hurries along in its course many things of every kind, you still can take hold of nothing, and put your hand on nothing, and can find no means of restraining that rapid discourse.
II. But every discourse which is concerned in the investigation of any matter, and which proceeds on any system and principle, ought first to establish the rule (as is done in lawsuits, where one proceeds according to set formulas), in order that it may be agreed between the parties to the discussion, what the subject of the discussion really is. This rule was approved by Epicurus, as it was laid down by Plato in his “Phædrus,” and he considered that it ought to be adopted in every controversy. But he did not perceive what was the necessary consequence of it, for he asserts that the subject ought not to be defined; but if this be not done, it is sometimes impossible that the disputants should agree what the matter is that is the subject of discussion, as in this very case which we are discussing now, for we are inquiring into the End of Good. How can we know what the character of this is, if, when we have used the expression the End of Good, we do not compare with one another our ideas of what is meant by the End, and of what the Good itself is?
And this laying open of things covered up, as it were, when it is once explained what each thing is, is the definition of it; which you sometimes used without being aware of it; for you defined this very thing, whether it is to be called the End, or the extremity, or the limit, to be that to which everything which was done rightly was referred, and which was itself [pg 127] never referred to anything. So far was very well said; and, perhaps, if it had been necessary, you would also have defined the Good itself, and told us what that was; making it to be that which is desirable by nature, or that which is profitable, or that which is useful, or that which is pleasant: and now, since you have no general objections to giving definitions, and do it when you please, if it is not too much trouble, I should be glad if you would define what is pleasure, for that is what all this discussion relates to.
As if, said he, there were any one who is ignorant what pleasure is, or who is in need of any definition to enable him to understand it better.
I should say, I replied, that I myself am such a man, if I did not seem to myself to have a thorough acquaintance with, and an accurate idea and notion of, pleasure firmly implanted in my mind. But, at present, I say that Epicurus himself does not know, and that he is greatly in error on this subject; and that he who mentions the subject so often ought to explain carefully what the meaning of the words he uses is, but that he sometimes does not understand what the meaning of this word pleasure is, that is to say, what the idea is which is contained under this word.
III. Then he laughed, and said,—This is a capital idea, indeed, that he who says that pleasure is the end of all things which are to be desired, the very extreme point and limit of Good, should be ignorant of what it is, and of what is its character. But, I replied, either Epicurus is ignorant of what pleasure is, or else all the rest of the world are. How so? said he.
Because all men feel that this is pleasure which moves the senses when they receive it, and which has a certain agreeableness pervading it throughout. What then, said he, is Epicurus ignorant of that kind of pleasure? Not always, I replied; for sometimes he is even too well acquainted with it, inasmuch as he declares that he is unable even to understand where it is, or what any good is, except that which is enjoyed by the instrumentality of meat or drink, or the pleasure of the ears, or sensual enjoyment: is not this what he says? As if, said he, I were ashamed of these things, or as if I were unable to explain in what sense these things are said. I do not doubt, I replied, that you can do so easily; nor is there any reason why you need be ashamed of arguing with a wise [pg 128] man, who is the only man, as far as I know, who has ever ventured to profess himself a wise man. For they do not think that Metrodorus himself professed this, but only that, when he was called wise by Epicurus, he was unwilling to reject such an expression of his goodwill. But the Seven had this name given to them, not by themselves, but by the universal suffrage of all nations. However, in this place, I will assume that Epicurus, by these expressions, certainly meant to intimate the same kind of pleasure that the rest do; for all men call that pleasing motion by which the senses are rendered cheerful, ἡδονὴ in Greek, and voluptas in Latin.
What is it, then, that you ask? I will tell you, said I, and that for the sake of learning rather than of finding fault with either you or Epicurus. I too, said he, should be more desirous to learn of you, if you can impart anything worth learning, than to find fault with you.
Well, then, said I, you are aware of what Hieronymus25 of Rhodes says is the chief good, to which he thinks that everything ought to be referred? I know, said he, that he thinks that the great end is freedom from pain. Well, what are his sentiments respecting pleasure? He affirms, he replied, that it is not to be sought for its own sake; for he thinks that rejoicing is one thing, and being free from pain another. And indeed, continued he, he is in this point greatly mistaken, for, as I proved a little while ago, the end of increasing pleasure is the removal of all pain. I will examine, said I, presently, what the meaning of the expression, freedom from pain, is; but unless you are very obstinate, you must admit that pleasure is a perfectly distinct thing from mere freedom from pain. You will, however, said he, find that I am obstinate in this; for nothing can be more real than the identity between the two. Is there, now, said I, any pleasure felt by a thirsty man in drinking? Who can deny it? said he. Is it, asked I, the same pleasure that he feels after his thirst is extinguished? It is, replied he, another kind of pleasure; for the state of extinguished thirst has in it a certain stability of pleasure, but the pleasure of extinguishing it is pleasure in motion. Why, then, said I, do you call things so unlike one another by the same name? Do not [pg 129] you recollect, he rejoined, what I said just now,—that when all pain is banished, pleasure is varied, not extinguished? I recollect, said I; but you spoke in admirable Latin, indeed, but yet not very intelligibly; for varietas is a Latin word, and properly applicable to a difference of colour, but it is applied metaphorically to many differences: we apply the adjective, varias, to poems, orations, manners, and changes of fortune; it is occasionally predicated also of pleasure, when it is derived from many things unlike one another, which cause pleasures which are similarly unlike. Now, if that is the variety you mean, I should understand you, as, in fact, I do understand you, without your saying so: but still, I do not see clearly what that variety is, because you say, that when we are free from pain we are then in the enjoyment of the greatest pleasure; but when we are eating those things which cause a pleasing motion to the senses, then there is a pleasure in the emotion which causes a variety in the pleasure; but still, that that pleasure which arises from the freedom from pain is not increased;—and why you call that pleasure I do not know.
IV. Is it possible, said he, for anything to be more delightful than freedom from pain? Well, said I, but grant that nothing is preferable to that, (for that is not the point which I am inquiring about at present,) does it follow on that account, that pleasure is identical with what I may call painlessness? Undoubtedly it is identical with it, said he; and that painlessness is the greatest of pleasures which no other can possibly exceed. Why, then, said I, do you hesitate, after you have defined the chief good in this manner, to uphold, and defend, and maintain the proposition, that the whole of pleasure consists in freedom from pain? For what necessity for your introducing pleasure among the council of the virtues, any more than for bringing in a courtezan to an assembly of matrons? The very name of pleasure is odious, infamous, and a just object of suspicion: therefore, you are all in the constant habit of saying that we do not understand what Epicurus means when he speaks of pleasure. And whenever such an assertion is made to me,—and I hear it advanced pretty often,—although I am usually a very peaceful arguer, still I do on such occasions get a little angry. Am I to be told that I do not know what that is which the Greeks [pg 130] call ἡδονὴ, and the Latins voluptas? Which language is it, then, that I do not understand? Then, too, how comes it about that I do not understand, though every one else does, who chooses to call himself an Epicurean? when the disciples of your school argue most excellently, that there is no need whatever for a man, who wishes to become a philosopher, to be acquainted with literature. Therefore, just as our ancestors tore Cincinnatus away from his plough to make him Dictator, in like manner you collect from among the Greeks all those men, who may in truth be respectable men enough, but who are certainly not over-learned.
Do they then understand what Epicurus means, and do I not understand it? However, that you may know that I do understand, first of all I tell you that voluptas is the same thing that he calls ἡδονὴ. And, indeed, we often have to seek for a Latin word equivalent to, and exactly equipollent to a Greek one; but here we had nothing to seek for: for no word can be found which will more exactly express in Latin what ἡδονὴ does in Greek, than voluptas. Now every man in the world who understands Latin, comprehends under this word two things,—joy in the mind, and an agreeable emotion of pleasantness in the body. For when the man in Trabea26 calls an excessive pleasure of the mind joy, (lætitia,) he says much the same as the other character in Cæcilius's play, who says that he is joyful with every sort of joy.
However, there is this difference, that pleasure is also spoken of as affecting the mind; which is wrong, as the Stoics think, who define it thus: “An elation of the mind without reason, when the mind has an idea that it is enjoying some great good.” But the words lætitia (gladness), and gaudium (joy), do not properly apply to the body. But the word voluptas (pleasure) is applied to the body by the usage of all people who speak Latin, whenever that pleasantness is felt which moves any one of the senses. Now transfer this pleasantness, if you please, to the mind; for the verb juvo (to please) is applied both to body and mind, and the word jucundus is derived from it; provided you understand that between the man who says,
I am transported with gladness now
That I am scarce myself....
and him who says,
Now then at length my mind's on fire, ...
one of whom is beside himself with joy, and the other is being tormented with anguish, there is this intermediate person, whose language is,
Although this our acquaintance is so new,
who feels neither gladness nor anguish. And, in the same manner, between the man who is in the enjoyment of the pleasures of the body, which he has been wishing for, and him who is being tormented with extreme anguish, there is a third man, who is free alike from pleasure and from pain.
V. Do I not, then, seem to you sufficiently to understand the meaning of words, or must I at this time of life be taught how to speak Greek, and even Latin? And yet I would have you consider, whether if I, who, as I think, understand Greek very fairly, do still not understand what Epicurus means, it it may not be owing to some fault of his for speaking so as not to be intelligible. And this sometimes happens in two ways, without any blame; either if you do so on purpose, as Heraclitus did, who got the surname of σκοτεινὸς,27 because he spoke with too much obscurity about natural philosophy; or when the obscurity of the subject itself, not of the language, prevents what is said from being clearly understood, as is the case in the Timæus of Plato. But Epicurus, as I imagine, is both willing, if it is in his power, to speak intelligibly, and is also speaking, not of an obscure subject like the natural philosophers, nor of one depending on precise rules, as the mathematicians are, but he is discussing a plain and simple matter, which is a subject of common conversation among the common people. Although you do not deny that we understand the usual meaning of the word voluptas, but only what he means by it: from which it follows, not that we do not understand what is the meaning of that word, but that he follows his own fashion, and neglects our usual one; for if he means the same thing that Hieronymus does, who thinks that the chief good is to live without any annoyance, why does he prefer using the term “pleasure” rather than freedom from pain, as Hieronymus does, who is quite aware of the force of the words which he employs? But, if he thinks that he ought to add, that pleasure which consists in [pg 132] motion, (for this is the distinction he draws, that this agreeable pleasure is pleasure in motion, but the pleasure of him who is free from pain is a state of pleasure,) then why does he appear to aim at what is impossible, namely, to make any one who knows himself—that is to say, who has any proper comprehension of his own nature and sensations—think freedom from pain, and pleasure, the same thing?
This, O Torquatus, is doing violence to one's senses; it is wresting out of our minds the understanding of words with which we are imbued; for who can avoid seeing that these three states exist in the nature of things: first, the state of being in pleasure; secondly, that of being in pain; thirdly, that of being in such a condition as we are at this moment, and you too, I imagine, that is to say, neither in pleasure nor in pain; in such pleasure, I mean, as a man who is at a banquet, or in such pain as a man who is being tortured. What! do you not see a vast multitude of men who are neither rejoicing nor suffering, but in an intermediate state between these two conditions? No, indeed, said he; I say that all men who are free from pain are in pleasure, and in the greatest pleasure too. Do you, then, say that the man who, not being thirsty himself, mingles some wine for another, and the thirsty man who drinks it when mixed, are both enjoying the same pleasure?
VI. Then, said he, a truce, if you please, to all your questions; and, indeed, I said at the beginning that I would rather have none of them, for I had a provident dread of these captious dialectics. Would you rather, then, said I, that we should argue rhetorically than dialectically? As if, said he, a continuous discourse belonged solely to orators, and not to philosophers also! I will tell you, said I, what Zeno the Stoic said; he said, as Aristotle had said before him, that all speaking was divided into two kinds, and that rhetoric resembled the open palm, dialectics the closed fist, because orators usually spoke in a rather diffuse, and dialecticians in a somewhat compressed style. I will comply, then, with your desires, and will speak, if I can, in an oratorical style, but still with the oratory of the philosophers, and not that which we use in the forum; which is forced at times, when it is speaking so as to suit the multitude, to submit to a very ordinary style. But while Epicurus, O Torquatus, is [pg 133] expressing his contempt for dialectics, an art which by itself contains the whole science both of perceiving what the real subject is in every question, and also of judging what the character of each thing is, by its system and method of conducting the argument, he goes on too fast, as it seems to me, and does not distinguish with any skill at all the different points which he is intent upon proving, as in this very instance which we were just now speaking of.
Pleasure is pronounced to be the chief good. We must then open the question, What is pleasure? for otherwise, the thing which we are seeking for cannot be explained. But, if he had explained it, he would not hesitate; for either he would maintain that same definition of pleasure which Aristippus did, namely, that it is that feeling by which the senses are agreeably and pleasantly moved, which even cattle, if they could speak, would call pleasure; or else, if he chose rather to speak in his own style, than like
All the Greeks from high Mycenæ,
All Minerva's Attic youth,
and the rest of the Greeks who are spoken of in these anapæsts, then he would call this freedom from pain alone by the name of pleasure, and would despise the definition of Aristippus; or, if he thought both definitions good, as in fact he does, he would combine freedom from pain with pleasure, and would employ the two extremes in his own definition: for many, and they, too, great philosophers, have combined these extremities of goods, as, for instance, Aristotle, who united in his idea the practice of virtue with the prosperity of an entire life. Callipho28 added pleasure to what is honourable. Diodorus, in his definition, added to the same honourableness, freedom from pain. Epicurus would have done so too, if he had combined the opinion which was held by Hieronymus, with the ancient theory of Aristippus. For those two men disagree with one another, and on this account they employ separate definitions; and, while they both write the most beautiful Greek, still, neither does Aristippus, who calls pleasure the chief good, ever speak of freedom from pain as pleasure; nor does Hieronymus, who lays it down that freedom from pain is the chief good, ever use the word “pleasure” [pg 134] for that painlessness, inasmuch as he never even reckons pleasure at all among the things which are desirable.
VII. They are also two distinct things, that you may not think that the difference consists only in words and names. One is to be without pain, the other to be with pleasure. But your school not only attempt to make one name for these two things which are so exceedingly unlike, (for I would not mind that so much,) but you endeavour also to make one thing out of the two, which is utterly impossible. But Epicurus, who admits both things, ought to use both expressions, and in fact he does divide them in reality, but still he does not distinguish between them in words. For though he in many places praises that very pleasure which we all call by the same name, he ventures to say that he does not even suspect that there is any good whatever unconnected with that kind of pleasure which Aristippus means; and he makes this statement in the very place where his whole discourse is about the chief good. But in another book, in which he utters opinions of the greatest weight in a concise form of words, and in which he is said to have delivered oracles of wisdom, he writes in those words which you are well acquainted with, O Torquatus. For who is there of you who has not learnt the κύριαι δόξαι of Epicurus, that is to say, his fundamental maxims? because they are sentiments of the greatest gravity intended to guide men to a happy life, and enunciated with suitable brevity. Consider, therefore, whether I am not translating this maxim of his correctly. “If those things which are the efficient causes of pleasures to luxurious men were to release them from all fear of the gods, and of death, and of pain, and to show them what are the proper limits to their desires, we should have nothing to find fault with; as men would then be filled with pleasures from all quarters, and have on no side anything painful or melancholy, for all such things are evil.”
On this Triarius could restrain himself no longer. I beg of you, Torquatus, said he, to tell me, is this what Epicurus says?—because he appeared to me, although he knew it himself, still to wish to hear Torquatus admit it. But he was not at all put out, and said with great confidence, Indeed, he does, and in these identical words; but you do not perceive what he means. If, said I, he says one thing and means another, then I never shall understand what he means, but [pg 135] he speaks plainly enough for me to see what he says. And if what he says is that luxurious men are not to be blamed if they are wise men, he talks absurdly; just as if he were to say that parricides are not to be found fault with if they are not covetous, and if they fear neither gods, nor death, nor pain. And yet, what is the object of making any exception as to the luxurious, or of supposing any people, who, while living luxuriously, would not be reproved by that consummate philosopher, provided only they guard against all other vices. Still, would not you, Epicurus, blame luxurious men for the mere fact of their living in such a manner as to pursue every sort of pleasure; especially when, as you say, the chief pleasure of all is to be free from pain? But yet we find some debauched men so far from having any religious scruples, that they will eat even out of the sacred vessels; and so far from fearing death that they are constantly repeating that passage out of the Hymnis,29—
Six months of life for me are quite sufficient,
The seventh may be for the shades below,—
and bringing up that Epicurean remedy for pain, as if they were taking it out of a medicine chest: “If it is bitter, it is of short duration; if it lasts a long time, it must be slight in degree.” There is one thing which I do not understand, namely, how a man who is devoted to luxury can possibly have his appetites under restraint.
VIII. What then is the use of saying, I should have nothing to reproach them with if they only set bounds to their appetites? This is the same as saying, I should not blame debauched men if they were not debauched men. In the same way one might say, I should not blame even wicked men if they were virtuous. This man of strict morality does not think luxury of itself a thing to be blamed. And, indeed, O Torquatus, to speak the truth, if pleasure is the chief good, he is quite right not to think so. For I should be sorry to picture to myself, (as you are in the habit of doing,) men so debauched as to vomit over the table and be carried away from banquets, and then the next day, while still suffering from indigestion, gorge themselves again; men who, as they say, have never in their lives seen the sun set or rise, and who, having devoured their patrimony, are reduced to indigence. [pg 136] None of us imagine that debauched men of that sort live pleasantly. You, however, rather mean to speak of refined and elegant bons vivans, men who, by the employment of the most skilful cooks and bakers, and by carefully culling the choicest products of fishermen, fowlers, and hunters, avoid all indigestion—
Men who draw richer wines from foaming casks.
As Lucilius says, men who
So strain, so cool the rosy wine with snow,
That all the flavour still remains uninjured—
and so on—men in the enjoyment of luxuries such that, if they are taken away, Epicurus says that he does not know what there is that can be called good. Let them also have beautiful boys to attend upon them; let their clothes, their plate, their articles of Corinthian vertu, the banqueting-room itself, all correspond, still I should never be induced to say that these men so devoted to luxury were living either well or happily. From which it follows, not indeed that pleasure is not pleasure, but that pleasure is not the chief good. Nor was Lælius, who, when a young man, was a pupil of Diogenes the Stoic, and afterwards of Panætius, called a wise man because he did not understand what was most pleasant to the taste, (for it does not follow that the man who has a discerning heart must necessarily have a palate destitute of discernment,) but because he thought it of but small importance.
O sorrel, how that man may boast himself,
By whom you're known and valued! Proud of you,
That wise man Lælius would loudly shout,
Addressing all our epicures in order.
And it was well said by Lælius, and he may be truly called a wise man,—
You Publius, Gallonius, you whirlpool,
You are a miserable man; you never
In all your life have really feasted well,
Though spending all your substance on those prawns,
And overgrown huge sturgeons.
The man who says this is one who, as he attributes no importance to pleasure himself, denies that the man feasts well who refers everything to pleasure. And yet he does not deny that Gallonius has at times feasted as he wished: for that would [pg 137] be speaking untruly: he only denies that he has ever feasted well. With such dignity and severe principle does he distinguish between pleasure and good. And the natural inference is, that all who feast well feast as they wish, but that it does not follow that all who feast as they wish do therefore feast well. Lælius always feasted well. How so? Lucilius shall tell you—
He feasted on well season'd, well arranged—
what? What was the chief part of his supper?
Converse of prudent men,—
Well, and what else?
with cheerful mind.
For he came to a banquet with a tranquil mind, desirous only of appeasing the wants of nature. Lælius then is quite right to deny that Gallonius had ever feasted well; he is quite right to call him miserable; especially as he devoted the whole of his attention to that point. And yet no one affirms that he did not sup as he wished. Why then did he not feast well? Because feasting well is feasting with propriety, frugality, and good order; but this man was in the habit of feasting badly, that is, in a dissolute, profligate, gluttonous, unseemly manner. Lælius, then, was not preferring the flavour of sorrel to Gallonius's sturgeon, but merely treating the taste of the sturgeon with indifference; which he would not have done if he had placed the chief good in pleasure.
IX. We must then discard pleasure, not only in order to follow what is right, but even to be able to talk becomingly. Can we then call that the chief good in life, which we see cannot possibly be so even in a banquet?
But how is it that this philosopher speaks of three kinds of appetites,—some natural and necessary, some natural but not necessary, and others neither natural nor necessary? In the first place, he has not made a neat division; for out of two kinds he has made three. Now this is not dividing, but breaking in pieces. If he had said that there are two kinds of appetites, natural and superfluous ones, and that the natural appetites might be also subdivided into two kinds, necessary and not necessary, he would have been all right. And those who have learnt what he despises do usually say so. For it is a vicious division to reckon a part as a genus. However, let us pass over this, for he despises elegance in arguing; he [pg 138] speaks confusedly. We must submit to this as long as his sentiments are right. I do not, however, approve, and it is as much as I can do to endure, a philosopher speaking of the necessity of setting bounds to the desires. Is it possible to set bounds to the desires? I say that they must be banished, eradicated by the roots. For what man is there in whom appetites30 dwell, who can deny that he may with propriety be called appetitive? If so, he will be avaricious, though to a limited extent; and an adulterer, but only in moderation; and he will be luxurious in the same manner. Now what sort of a philosophy is that which does not bring with it the destruction of depravity, but is content with a moderate degree of vice? Although in this division I am altogether on his side as to the facts, only I wish he would express himself better. Let him call these feelings the wishes of nature; and let him keep the name of desire for other objects, so as, when speaking of avarice, of intemperance, and of the greatest vices, to be able to indict it as it were on a capital charge. However, all this is said by him with a good deal of freedom, and is often repeated; and I do not blame him, for it is becoming in so great a philosopher, and one of such a great reputation, to defend his own degrees fearlessly.
But still, from the fact of his often appearing to embrace that pleasure, (I mean that which all nations call by this name,) with a good deal of eagerness, he is at times in great difficulties, so that, if he could only pass undetected, there is nothing so shameful that it does not seem likely that he would do it for the sake of pleasure. And then, when he has been put to the blush, (for the power of nature is very great,) he takes refuge in denying that any addition can possibly be made to the pleasure of the man who is free from pain. But that state of freedom from pain is not called pleasure. I do not care, says he, about the name. But what do you say about the thing being utterly different?—I will find you many men, or I may say an innumerable host, not so curious nor so embarrassing as you are, whom I can easily convince of whatever I choose. Why then do we hesitate to say that, [pg 139] if to be free from pain is the highest degree of pleasure, to be destitute of pleasure is the highest degree of pain? Because it is not pleasure which is the contrary to pain, but the absence of pain.
X. But this he does not see, that it is a great proof that at the very moment when he says that if pleasure be once taken away he has no idea at all what remaining thing can be called good, (and he follows up this assertion with the statement that he means such pleasure as is perceptible by the palate and by the ears, and adds other things which decency ought to forbid him to mention,) he is, like a strict and worthy philosopher, aware that this which he calls the chief good is not even a thing which is worth desiring for its own sake, that he himself informs us that we have no reason to wish for pleasure at all, if we are free from pain. How inconsistent are these statements! If he had learnt to make correct divisions or definitions of his subject, if he had a proper regard to the usages of speaking and the common meaning of words, he would never have fallen into such difficulties. But as it is, you see what it is he is doing. That which no one has ever called pleasure at all, and that also which is real active pleasure, which are two distinct things, he makes but one. For he calls them agreeable and, as I may say, sweet-tasted pleasures. At times he speaks so lightly of them that you might fancy you were listening to Marcus Curius. At times he extols them so highly that he says he cannot form even the slightest idea of what else is good—a sentiment which deserves not the reproof of a philosopher, but the brand of the censor. For vice does not confine itself to language, but penetrates also into the manners. He does not find fault with luxury provided it to be free from boundless desires and from fear. While speaking in this way he appears to be fishing for disciples, that men who wish to become debauchees may become philosophers first.
Now, in my opinion, the origin of the chief good is to be sought in the first origin of living animals. As soon as an animal is born it rejoices in pleasure, and seeks it as a good; it shuns pain as an evil. And Epicurus says that excellent decisions on the subject of the good and the evil are come to by those animals which are not yet depraved. You, too, have laid down the same position, and these are your own [pg 140] words. How many errors are there in them! For by reference to which kind of pleasure will a puling infant judge of the chief good; pleasure in stability or pleasure in motion?—since, if the gods so will, we are learning how to speak from Epicurus. If it is from pleasure as a state, then certainly nature desires to be exempt from evil herself; which we grant; if it is from pleasure in motion, which, however, is what you say, then there will be no pleasure so discreditable as to deserve to be passed over. And at the same time that just-born animal you are speaking of does not begin with the highest pleasure; which has been defined by you to consist in not being in pain.
However, Epicurus did not seek to derive this argument from infants, or even from beasts, which he looks upon as mirrors of nature as it were; so as to say that they, under the guidance of nature, seek only this pleasure of being free from pain. For this sort of pleasure cannot excite the desires of the mind; nor has this state of freedom from pain any impulse by which it can act upon the mind. Therefore Hieronymus blunders in this same thing. For that pleasure only acts upon the mind which has the power of alluring the senses. Therefore Epicurus always has recourse to this pleasure when wishing to prove that pleasure is sought for naturally; because that pleasure which consists in motion both allures infants to itself, and beasts; and this is not done by that pleasure which is a state in which there is no other ingredient but freedom from pain. How then can it be proper to say that nature begins with one kind of pleasure, and yet to put the chief good in another?
XI. But as for beasts, I do not consider that they can pronounce any judgment at all. For although they are not depraved, it is still possible for them to be wrong. Just as one stick may be bent and crooked by having been made so on purpose, and another may be so naturally; so the nature of beasts is not indeed depraved by evil education, but is wrong naturally. Nor is it correct to say that nature excites the infant to desire pleasure, but only to love itself and to desire to preserve itself safe and unhurt. For every animal the moment that it is born loves itself, and every part of itself, and above all does it love its two principal parts, namely its mind and body, and afterwards it proceeds to love the separate [pg 141] parts of each. For there are in the mind and also in the body some parts of especial consequence; and as soon as it has got a slight perception of this fact, it then begins to make distinctions, so as to desire those things which are by nature given to it as its principal goods, and to reject the contrary. Now it is a great question whether among these primary natural goods, pleasure has any place or not. But to think that there is nothing beyond pleasure, no limbs, no sensations, no emotions of the mind, no integrity of the body, no health, appears to me to be a token of the greatest ignorance. And on this the whole question of good and evil turns. Now Polemo and also Aristotle thought those things which I mentioned just now the greatest of goods. And from this originated that opinion of the Old Academy and of the Peripatetic School, which led them to say that the greatest good was to live in accordance with nature—that is to say, to enjoy the chief good things which are given by nature, with the accompaniment of virtue. Callipho added nothing to virtue except pleasure; Diodorus nothing except freedom from pain. And all these men attach the idea of the greatest good to some one of these things which I have mentioned. Aristippus thought it was simple pleasure. The Stoics defined it to be agreeing with nature, which they say can only be living virtuously, living honourably. And they interpret it further thus—to live with an understanding of those things which happen naturally, selecting those which are in accordance with nature, and rejecting the contrary. So there are three definitions, all of which exclude honesty:—one, that of Aristippus or Epicurus; the second, that of Hieronymus; the third, that of Carneades: three in which honesty is admitted with some qualifying additions; those, namely, of Polemo, Callipho, and Diodorus: one single one, of which Zeno is the author, which is wholly referred to what is becoming; that is to say, to honesty. For Pyrrho, Aristo, and Herillus, have long since sunk into oblivion. The rest have been consistent with themselves, so as to make their ends agree with their beginnings; so that Aristippus has defined it to be pleasure; Hieronymus, freedom from pain; and Carneades, the enjoyment of what are pointed out by nature as the principal goods.
XII. But when Epicurus had given pleasure the highest [pg 142] rank, if he meant the same pleasure that Aristippus did he ought to have adopted the same thing as the chief good that he did; if he meant the same that Hieronymus did, he would then have been assigning the first rank to Hieronymus's pleasure, and not to that of Aristippus.
For, as to what he says, that it is decided by the senses themselves that pleasure is a good and that pain is an evil, he has attributed more weight to the senses than the laws allow them. We are the judges of private actions, but we cannot decide anything which does not legally come under the cognisance of our tribunal; and, in such a case, it is to no purpose that judges are in the habit, when they pronounce sentence, of adding, “if the question belongs to my jurisdiction;” for, if the matter did not come under their jurisdiction, this additional form of words would not any the more give validity to their decision. Now, what is it that the senses are judges of? Whether a thing is sweet or bitter, soft or hard, near or far off; whether it is standing still or moving; whether it is square or round. What sentence, then, will reason pronounce, having first of all called in the aid of the knowledge of divine and human affairs, which is properly called wisdom; and having, after that, associated to itself the virtues which reason points out as the mistresses of all things, but which you make out to be only the satellites and handmaidens of pleasures? The sentence, however, of all these qualities, will pronounce first of all, respecting pleasure, that there is no room for it; not only no room for its being placed by itself in the rank of the chief good, which is what we are looking for, but no room even for its being placed in connexion even with what is honourable.
The same sentence will be passed upon freedom from pain; Carneades also will be disregarded; nor will any definition of the chief good be approved of, which has any close connexion with pleasure, or freedom from pain, or which is devoid of what is honourable. And so it will leave two, which it will consider over and over again; for it will either lay down the maxim, that nothing is good except what is honourable, nothing evil except what is disgraceful; that everything else is either of no consequence at all, or, at all events, of only so much, that it is neither to be sought after nor avoided, but only selected or rejected; or else, it will prefer that which it [pg 143] shall perceive to be the most richly endowed with what is honourable, and enriched, at the same time, with the primary good things of nature, and with the perfection of the whole life; and it will do so all the more clearly, if it comes to a right understanding whether the controversy between them is one of facts, or only of words.
XIII. I now, following the authority of this man, will do the same as he has done; for, as far as I can, I will diminish the disputes, and will regard all their simple opinions in which there is no association of virtue, as judgments which ought to be utterly removed to a distance from philosophy. First of all, I will discard the principles of Aristippus, and of all the Cyrenaics,—men who were not afraid to place the chief good in that pleasure which especially excited the senses with its sweetness, disregarding that freedom from pain. These men did not perceive that, as a horse is born for galloping, and an ox for ploughing, and a dog for hunting, so man, also, is born for two objects, as Aristotle says, namely, for understanding and for acting as if he were a kind of mortal god. But, on the other hand, as a slow moving and languid sheep is born to feed, and to take pleasure in propagating his species, they fancied also that this divine animal was born for the same purposes; than which nothing can appear to me more absurd; and all this is in opposition to Aristippus, who considers that pleasure not only the highest, but also the only one, which all the rest of us consider as only one of the pleasures.
You, however, think differently; but he, as I have already said, is egregiously wrong,—for neither does the figure of the human body, nor the admirable reasoning powers of the human mind, intimate that man was born for no other end than the mere enjoyment of pleasure; nor must we listen to Hieronymus, whose chief good is the same which you sometimes, or, I might say, too often call so, namely, freedom from pain; for it does not follow, because pain is an evil, that to be free from that evil is sufficient for living well. Ennius speaks more correctly, when he says,—
The man who feels no evil, does
Enjoy too great a good.
Let us define a happy life as consisting, not in the repelling of evil, but in the acquisition of good; and let us seek to procure it, not by doing nothing, whether one is feeling pleasure, [pg 144] as Aristippus says, or feeling no pain, as Hieronymus insists, but by doing something, and giving our mind to thought. And all these same things may be said against that chief good which Carneades calls such; which he, however, brought forward, not so much for the purpose of proving his position, as of contradicting the Stoics, with whom he was at variance: and this good of his is such, that, when added to virtue, it appears likely to have some authority, and to be able to perfect a happy life in a most complete manner, and it is this that the whole of this present discussion is about; for they who add to virtue pleasure, which is the thing which above all others virtue thinks of small importance, or freedom from pain, which, even if it be a freedom from evil, is nevertheless not the chief good, make use of an addition which is not very easily recommended to men in general, and yet I do not understand why they do it in such a niggardly and restricted manner: for, as if they had to bring something to add to virtue, first of all they add things of the least possible value; afterwards they add things one by one, instead of uniting everything which nature had approved of as the highest goods, to pleasure. And as all these things appeared to Aristo and to Pyrrho absolutely of no consequence at all, so that they said that there was literally no difference whatever between being in a most perfect state of health, and in a most terrible condition of disease, people rightly enough have long ago given up arguing against them; for, while they insisted upon it that everything was comprised in virtue alone, to such a degree as to deprive it of all power of making any selection of external circumstances, and while they gave it nothing from which it could originate, or on which it could rely, they in reality destroyed virtue itself, which they were professing to embrace. But Herillus, who sought to refer everything to knowledge, saw, indeed, that there was one good, but what he saw was not the greatest possible good, nor such an one that life could be regulated by it; therefore, he also has been discarded a long time ago, for, indeed, there has been no one who has argued against him since Chrysippus.
XIV. Your school, then, is now the only one remaining to be combated; for the contest with the Academicians is an uncertain one, for they affirm nothing, and, as if they despaired of arriving at any certain knowledge, wish to follow [pg 145] whatever is probable. But we have more trouble with Epicurus, because he combines two kinds of pleasure, and because he and his friends, and many others since, have been advocates of that opinion; and somehow or other, the people, who, though they have the least authority, have nevertheless the greatest power, are on his side; and, unless we refute them, all virtue, and all reputation, and all true glory, must be abandoned. And so, having put aside the opinions of all the rest, there remains a contest, not between Torquatus and me, but between virtue and pleasure; and this contest Chrysippus, a man of great acuteness and great industry, is far from despising; and he thinks that the whole question as to the chief good is at stake in this controversy: but I think, if I show the reality of what is honourable, and that it is a thing to be sought for by reason of its own intrinsic excellence, and for its own sake, that all your arguments are at once overthrown; therefore, when I have once established what its character is, speaking briefly, as the time requires, I shall approach all your arguments, O Torquatus, unless my memory fails me.
We understand, then, that to be honourable which is such that, leaving all advantage out of the question, it can be deservedly praised by itself, without thinking of any reward or profit derived from it. And what its character is may be understood, not so much by the definition which I have employed, (although that may help in some degree,) as by the common sentiments of all men, and by the zeal and conduct of every virtuous man; for such do many things for this sole reason, because they are becoming, because they are right, because they are honourable, even though they do not perceive any advantage likely to result from them: for men differ from beasts in many other things indeed, but especially in this one particular, that they have reason and intellect given to them by nature, and a mind, active, vigorous, revolving many things at the same time with the greatest rapidity, and, if I may so say, sagacious to perceive the causes of things, and their consequences and connexions, and to use metaphors, and to combine things which are unconnected, and to connect the future with the present, and to embrace in its view the whole course of a consistent life. The same reason has also made man desirous of the society of men, and inclined to agree with [pg 146] them by nature, and conversation, and custom; so that, setting out with affection for his friends and relations, he proceeds further, and unites himself in a society, first of all of his fellow-countrymen, and subsequently of all mortals; and as Plato wrote to Archytas, recollects that he has been born, not for himself alone, but for his country and his family; so that there is but a small portion of himself left for himself. And since the same nature has implanted in man a desire of ascertaining the truth, which is most easily visible when, being free from all cares, we wish to know what is taking place, even in the heavens; led on from these beginnings we love everything that is true, that is to say, that is faithful, simple, consistent, and we hate what is vain, false and deceitful, such as fraud, perjury, cunning and injustice.
The same reason has in itself something large and magnificent, suited for command rather than for obedience; thinking all events which can befal a man not only endurable, but insignificant; something lofty and sublime, fearing nothing, yielding to no one, always invincible. And, when these three kinds of the honourable have been noticed, a fourth follows, of the same beauty and suited to the other three, in which order and moderation exist; and when the likeness of it to the others is perceived in the beauty and dignity of all their separate forms, we are transported across to what is honourable in words and actions; for, in consequence of these three virtues which I have already mentioned, a man avoids rashness, and does not venture to injure any one by any wanton word or action, and is afraid either to do or to say anything which may appear at all unsuited to the dignity of a man.
XV. Here, now, O Torquatus, you have a picture of what is honourable completely filled in and finished; and it is contained wholly in these four virtues which you also mentioned. But your master Epicurus says that he knows nothing whatever of it, and does not understand what, or what sort of quality those people assert it to be, who profess to measure the chief good by the standard of what is honourable. For if everything is referred to that, and if they say that pleasure has no part in it, then he says that they are talking idly, (these are his very words,) and do not understand or see what real meaning ought to be conveyed under this word honourable; for, as custom has it, he says that that alone is honourable [pg 147] which is accounted glorious by common report; and that, says he, although it is often more pleasant than some pleasures, still is sought for the sake of pleasure. Do you not see how greatly these two parties differ? A noble philosopher, by whom not only Greece and Italy, but all the countries of the barbarians are influenced, says that he does not understand what honourableness is, if it be not in pleasure, unless, perchance, it is that thing which is praised by the common conversation of the populace. But my opinion is, that this is often even dishonourable, and that real honourableness is not called so from the circumstance of its being praised by the many, but because it is such a thing that even if men were unacquainted with it, or if they said nothing about it, it would still be praiseworthy by reason of its own intrinsic beauty and excellence.
And so he again, being forced to yield to the power of nature, which is always irresistible, says in another place what you also said a little while ago,—that a man cannot live pleasantly unless he also lives honourably. Now then, what is the meaning of honourably? does it mean the same as pleasantly? If so, this statement will come to this, that a man cannot live honourably unless he lives honourably. Is it honourably according to public report? Therefore he affirms that a man cannot live pleasantly without he has public report in his favour. What can be more shameful than for the life of a wise man to depend on the conversation of fools? What is it, then, that in this place he understands by the word honourable? Certainly nothing except what can be deservedly praised for its own sake; for if it be praised for the sake of pleasure, then what sort of praise, I should like to know, is that which can be sought for in the shambles? He is not a man, while he places honourableness in such a rank that he affirms it to be impossible to live pleasantly without it, to think that honourable which is popular, and to affirm that one cannot live pleasantly without popularity; or to understand by the word honourable anything except what is right, and deservedly to be praised by itself and for itself, from a regard to its own power and influence and intrinsic nature.
XVI. Therefore, Torquatus, when you said that Epicurus asserted loudly that a man could not live pleasantly if he did not also live honourably, and wisely, and justly, you [pg 148] appeared to me to be boasting yourself. There was such energy in your words, on account of the dignity of those things which were indicated by those words, that you became taller, that you rose up, and fixed your eyes upon us as if you were giving a solemn testimony that honourableness and justice are sometimes praised by Epicurus. How becoming was it to you to use that language, which is so necessary for philosophers, that if they did not use it we should have no great need of philosophy at all! For it is out of love for those words, which are very seldom employed by Epicurus—I mean wisdom, fortitude, justice, and temperance—that men of the most admirable powers of mind have betaken themselves to the study of philosophy.
“The sense of our eyes,” says Plato, “is most acute in us; but yet we do not see wisdom with them. What a vehement passion for itself would it excite if it could be beheld by the eyes!” Why so? Because it is so ingenious as to be able to devise pleasures in the most skilful manner. Why is justice extolled? or what is it that has given rise to that old and much-worn proverb, “He is a man with whom you may play31 in the dark.” This, though applied to only one thing, has a very extensive application; so that in every case we are influenced by the facts, and not by the witness.
For those things which you were saying were very weak and powerless arguments,—when you urged that the wicked were tormented by their own consciences, and also by fear of punishment, which is either inflicted on them, or keeps them in constant fear that it will be inflicted. One ought not to imagine a man timid, or weak in his mind, nor a good man, who, whatever he has done, keeps tormenting himself, and dreads everything; but rather let us fancy one, who with great shrewdness refers everything to usefulness—an acute, crafty, wary man, able with ease to devise plans for deceiving any one secretly, without any witness, or any one being privy to it. Do you think that I am speaking of Lucius Tubulus?—who, when as prætor he had been sitting as judge upon the [pg 149] trial of some assassins, took money to influence his decision so undisguisedly, that the next year Publius Scævola, being tribune of the people, made a motion before the people, that an inquiry should be made into the case. In accordance with which decree of the people, Cnæus Cæpio, the consul, was ordered by the senate to investigate the affair. Tubulus immediately went into banishment, and did not dare to make any reply to the charge, for the matter was notorious.
XVII. We are not, therefore, inquiring about a man who is merely wicked, but about one who mingles cunning with his wickedness, (as Quintus Pompeius32 did when he repudiated the treaty of Numantia,) and yet who is not afraid of everything, but who has rather no regard for the stings of conscience, which it costs him no trouble at all to stifle; for a man who is called close and secret is so far from informing against himself, that he will even pretend to grieve at what is done wrong by another; for what else is the meaning of the word crafty (versutus)? I recollect on one occasion being present at a consultation held by Publius Sextilius Rufus, when he reported the case on which he asked advice to his friends in this manner: That he had been left heir to Quintus Fadius Gallus; in whose will it had been written that he had entreated Sextilius to take care that what he left behind him should come to his daughter. Sextilius denied that he had done so. He could deny it with impunity, for who was there to convict him? None of us believed him; and it was more likely that he should tell a lie whose interest it was to do so, than he who had set down in his will that he had made the request which he ought to have made. He added, moreover, that having sworn to comply with the Voconian33 law, he did [pg 150] not dare to violate it, unless his friends were of a contrary opinion. I myself was very young when I was present on this occasion, but there were present also many men of the highest character, not one of whom thought that more ought to be given to Fadia than could come to her under the provisions of the Voconian law. Sextilius retained a very large inheritance; of which, if he had followed the opinion of those men who preferred what was right and honourable to all profit and advantage, he would never have touched a single penny. Do you think that he was afterwards anxious and uneasy in his mind on that account? Not a bit of it: on the contrary, he was a rich man, owing to that inheritance, and he rejoiced in his riches, for he set a great value on money which was acquired not only without violating the laws, but even by the law. And money is what you also think worth seeking for, even with great risk, for it is the efficient cause of many and great pleasures. As, therefore, every danger appears fit to be encountered for the sake of what is becoming and honourable, by those who decide that what is right and honourable is to be sought for its own sake; so the men of your school, who measure everything by pleasure, must encounter every danger in order to acquire great pleasures, if any great property or any important inheritance is at stake, since numerous pleasures are procured by money. And your master Epicurus must, if he wishes to pursue what he himself considers the chief of all good things, do the same that Scipio did, who had a prospect of great glory before him if he could compel Hannibal to return into Africa. And with this view, what great dangers did he encounter! for he measured the whole of his enterprise by the standard of honour, not of pleasure. And in like manner, your wise man, being excited by the prospect of some advantage, will fight34 courageously, if it should be necessary. If his exploits [pg 151] are undiscovered, he will rejoice; if he is taken, he will despise every kind of punishment, for he will be thoroughly armed for a contempt of death, banishment, and even of pain, which you indeed represent as intolerable when you hold it out to wicked men as a punishment, but as endurable when you argue that a wise man has always more good than evil in his fortune.
XVIII. But picture to yourself a man not only cunning, so as to be prepared to act dishonestly in any circumstances that may arise, but also exceedingly powerful; as, for instance, Marcus Crassus was, who, however, always exercised his own natural good disposition; or as at this day our friend Pompeius is, to whom we ought to feel grateful for his virtuous conduct; for, although he is inclined to act justly, he could be unjust with perfect impunity. But how many unjust actions can be committed which nevertheless no one could find any ground for attacking! Suppose your friend, when dying, has entreated you to restore his inheritance to his daughter, and yet has never set it down in his will, as Fadius did, and has never mentioned to any one that he has done so, what will you do? You indeed will restore it. Perhaps Epicurus himself would have restored it; just as Sextus Peducæus the son of Sextus did; he who has left behind him a son, our intimate friend, a living image of his own virtue and honesty, a learned person, and the most virtuous and upright of all men; for he, though no one was aware that he had been entreated by Caius Plotius, a Roman knight of high character and great fortune, of the district of Nursia, to do so, came of his own accord to his widow, and, though she had no notion of the fact, detailed to her the commission which he had received from her husband, and made over the inheritance to her. But I ask you (since you would certainly have acted in the same manner yourself), do you not understand that the power of nature is all the greater, inasmuch as you yourselves, who refer everything to your own advantage, and, as you yourselves say, to pleasure, still perform actions from which it is evident that you are guided not by pleasure, but by principles of duty, and that your own upright nature has more influence over you than any vicious reasoning?
If you knew, says Carneades, that a snake was lying hid in any place, and that some one was going ignorantly to sit [pg 152] down upon it whose death would bring you some advantage, you would be acting wickedly if you did not warn him not to sit down there; and yet you could not be punished, for who could possibly convict you? However, I am dwelling too long on this point; for it is evident, unless equity, good faith and justice proceed from nature, and if all these things are referred to advantage, that a good man cannot possibly be found. But on this subject we have put a sufficient number of arguments into the mouth of Lælius, in our books on a Republic.
XIX. Now apply the same arguments to modesty, or temperance, which is a moderation of the appetites, in subordination to reason. Can we say that a man pays sufficient regard to the dictates of modesty, who indulges his lusts in such a manner as to have no witnesses of his conduct? or is there anything which is intrinsically flagitious, even if no loss of reputation ensues? What do brave men do? Do they enter into an exact calculation of pleasure, and so enter the battle, and shed their blood for their country? or are they excited rather by a certain ardour and impetuosity of courage? Do you think, O Torquatus, that that imperious ancestor of yours, if he could hear what we are now saying, would rather listen to your sentiments concerning him, or to mine, when I said that he had done nothing for his own sake, but everything for that of the republic; and you, on the contrary, affirm that he did nothing except with a view to his own advantage? But if you were to wish to explain yourself further, and were to say openly that he did nothing except for the sake of pleasure, how do you think that he would bear such an assertion?
Be it so. Let Torquatus, if you will, have acted solely with a view to his own advantage, for I would rather employ that expression than pleasure, especially when speaking of so eminent a man,—did his colleague too, Publius Decius, the first man who ever was consul in that family, did he, I say, when he was devoting himself, and rushing at the full speed of his horse into the middle of the army of the Latins, think at all of his own pleasures? For where or when was he to find any, when he knew that he should perish immediately, and when he was seeking that death with more eager zeal than Epicurus thinks even pleasure deserving to be sought [pg 153] with? And unless this exploit of his had been deservedly extolled, his son would not have imitated it in his fourth consulship; nor, again, would his son, when fighting against Pyrrhus, have fallen in battle when he was consul, and so offered himself up for the sake of the republic as a third victim in an uninterrupted succession from the same family. I will forbear giving any more examples. I might get a few from the Greeks, such as Leonidas, Epaminondas, and three or four more perhaps. And if I were to begin hunting up our own annals for such instances, I should soon establish my point, and compel Pleasure to give herself up, bound hand and foot, to virtue. But the day would be too short for me. And as Aulus Varius, who was considered a rather severe judge, was in the habit of saying to his colleague, when, after some witnesses had been produced, others were still being summoned, “Either we have had witnesses enough, or I do not know what is enough;” so I think that I have now brought forward witnesses enough.
For, what will you say? Was it pleasure that worked upon you, a man thoroughly worthy of your ancestors, while still a young man, to rob Publius Sylla of the consulship? And when you had succeeded in procuring it for your father, a most gallant man, what a consul did he prove, and what a citizen at all times, and most especially after his consulship! And, indeed, it was by his advice that we ourselves behaved in such a manner as to consult the advantage of the whole body of the citizens rather than our own.
But how admirably did you seem to speak, when on the one side you drew a picture of a man loaded with the most numerous and excessive pleasures, with no pain, either present or future; and on the other, of a man surrounded with the greatest torments affecting his whole body, with no pleasure, either present or hoped for; and asked who could be more miserable than the one, or more happy than the other? and then concluded, that pain was the greatest evil, and pleasure the greatest good.
XX. There was a man of Lanuvium, called Lucius Thorius Balbus, whom you cannot remember; he lived in such a way that no pleasure could be imagined so exquisite, that he had not a superfluity of it. He was greedy of pleasure, a critical judge of every species of it, and very rich. So far removed [pg 154] from all superstition, as to despise the numerous sacrifices which take place, and temples which exist in his country; so far from fearing death, that he was slain in battle fighting for the republic. He bounded his appetites, not according to the division of Epicurus, but by his own feelings of satiety. He took sufficient exercise always to come to supper both thirsty and hungry. He ate such food as was at the same time nicest in taste and most easy of digestion; and selected such wine as gave him pleasure, and was, at the same time, free from hurtful qualities. He had all those other means and appliances which Epicurus thinks so necessary, that he says that if they are denied, he cannot understand what is good. He was free from every sort of pain; and if he had felt any, he would not have borne it impatiently, though he would have been more inclined to consult a physician than a philosopher. He was a man of a beautiful complexion, of perfect health, of the greatest influence, in short, his whole life was one uninterrupted scene of every possible variety of pleasures. Now, you call this man happy. Your principles compel you to do so. But as for me, I will not, indeed, venture to name the man whom I prefer to him—Virtue herself shall speak for me, and she will not hesitate to rank Marcus Regulus before this happy man of yours. For Virtue asserts loudly that this man, when, of his own accord, under no compulsion, except that of the pledge which he had given to the enemy, he had returned to Carthage, was, at the very moment when he was being tortured with sleeplessness and hunger, more happy than Thorius while drinking on a bed of roses.
Regulus had had the conduct of great wars; he had been twice consul; he had had a triumph; and yet he did not think those previous exploits of his so great or so glorious as that last misfortune which he incurred, because of his own good faith and constancy; a misfortune which appears pitiable to us who hear of it, but was actually pleasant to him who endured it. For men are happy, not because of hilarity, or lasciviousness, or laughter, or jesting, the companion of levity, but often even through sorrow endured with firmness and constancy. Lucretia, having been ravished by force by the king's son, called her fellow-citizens to witness, and slew herself. This grief of hers, Brutus being the leader and mover of the Roman people, was the cause of liberty to the [pg 155] whole state. And out of regard for the memory of that woman, her husband and her father were made consuls35 the first year of the republic. Lucius Virginius, a man of small property and one of the people, sixty years after the reestablishment of liberty, slew his virgin daughter with his own hand, rather than allow her to be surrendered to the lust of Appius Claudius, who was at that time invested with the supreme power.
XXI. Now you, O Torquatus, must either blame all these actions, or else you must abandon the defence of pleasure. And what a cause is that, and what a task does the man undertake who comes forward as the advocate of pleasure, who is unable to call any one illustrious man as evidence in her favour or as a witness to her character? For as we have awakened those men from the records of our annals as witnesses, whose whole life has been consumed in glorious labours; men who cannot bear to hear the very name of pleasure: so on your side of the argument history is dumb. I have never heard of Lycurgus, or Solon, Miltiades, or Themistocles, or Epaminondas being mentioned in the school of Epicurus; men whose names are constantly in the mouth of all the other philosophers. But now, since we have begun to deal with this part of the question, our friend Atticus, out of his treasures, will supply us with the names of as many great men as may be sufficient for us to bring forward as witnesses. Is it not better to say a little of these men, than so many volumes about Themista?36 Let these things be confined to the Greeks: although we have derived philosophy and all the liberal sciences from them, still there are things which may be allowable for them to do, but not for us. The Stoics are at variance with the Peripatetics. One sect denies that anything is good which is not also honourable: the other asserts that it allows great weight, indeed, by far the most weight, to what is honourable, but still affirms that there are in the body also, and around the body, certain positive goods. It is an honourable contest and a splendid [pg 156] discussion. For the whole question is about the dignity of virtue.
But when one is arguing with philosophers of your school, one is forced to hear a great deal about even the obscure pleasures which Epicurus himself continually mentions. You cannot then, Torquatus, believe me, you cannot uphold those principles, if you examine into yourself, and your own thoughts and studies. You will, I say, be ashamed of that picture which Cleanthes was in the habit of drawing with such accuracy in his description. He used to desire those who came to him as his pupils, to think of Pleasure painted in a picture, clad in beautiful robes, with royal ornaments, and sitting on a throne. He represented all the Virtues around her, as her handmaidens, doing nothing else, and thinking nothing else their duty, but to minister to Pleasure, and only just to whisper in her ear (if, indeed, that could be made intelligible in a picture) a warning to be on her guard to do nothing imprudent, nothing to offend the minds of men, nothing from which any pain could ensue. We, indeed, they would say, we Virtues are only born to act as your slaves; we have no other business.
XXII. But Epicurus (for this is your great point) denies that any man who does not live honourably can live agreeably; as if I cared what he denies or what he affirms. What I inquire is, what it is consistent for that man to say who places the chief good in pleasure. What reason do you allege why Thorius, why Chius, why Postumius, why the master of all these men, Orata, did not live most agreeably? He himself, as I have already said, asserts that the life of men devoted to luxury is not deserving of blame, unless they are absolute fools, that is to say, unless they abandon themselves to become slaves to their desires or to their fears. And when he promises them a remedy for both these things, he, in so doing, offers them a licence for luxury. For if you take away these things, then he says that he cannot find anything in the life of debauched men which deserves blame. You then, who regulate everything by the standard of pleasure, cannot either defend or maintain virtue. For he does not deserve to be accounted a virtuous or a just man who abstains from injustice in order to avoid suffering evil. You know the line, I suppose—
He's not a pious man whom fear constrains
To acts of piety ... a man—
And nothing can be more true. For a man is not just while he is in a state of alarm. And certainly when he ceases to be in fear, he will not be just. But he will not be afraid if he is able to conceal his actions, or if he is able, by means of his great riches and power, to support what he has done. And he will certainly prefer being regarded as a good man, though he is not one, to being a good man and not being thought one. And so, beyond all question, instead of genuine and active justice, you give us only an effigy of justice, and you teach us, as it were, to disregard our own unvarying conscience, and to go hunting after the fleeting vagabond opinions of others.
And the same may be said of the other virtues also; the foundation of all which you place in pleasure, which is like building on water. For what are we to say? Can we call that same Torquatus a brave man? For I am delighted, though I cannot, as you say, bribe you; I am delighted with your family and with your name. And, in truth, I have before my eyes Aulus Torquatus,37 a most excellent man, and one greatly attached to me; and both of you must certainly be aware how great and how eminent his zeal in my behalf was in those times which are well known to every one. And that conduct of his would not have been delightful to me, who wish both to be, and to be considered, grateful, if I did not see clearly that he was friendly to me for my own sake, not for his own; unless, indeed, you say, it was for his own sake, because it is for the interest of every one to act rightly. If you say that, we have gained our point. For what we are aiming at, what we are contending for, is, that duty itself is the reward of duty. But that master of yours will not admit this, and requires pleasure to result from every action as a sort of wages.
However, I return to him. If it was for the sake of pleasure that Torquatus, when challenged, fought with the Gaul on the Anio, and out of his spoils took his chain and earned his surname, or if it was for any other reason but that he thought such exploits worthy of a man, then I do not [pg 158] account him brave. And, indeed, if modesty, and decency, and chastity, and, in one word, temperance, is only upheld by the fear of punishment or infamy, and not out of regard to their own sanctity, then what lengths will adultery and debauchery and lust shrink from proceeding to, if there is a hope either of escaping detection, or of obtaining impunity or licence?
What shall I say more? What is your idea, O Torquatus, of this?—that you, a man of your name, of your abilities, of your high reputation, should not dare to allege in a public assembly what you do, what you think, what you contend for, the standard to which you refer everything, the object for the sake of which you wish to accomplish what you attempt, and what you think best in life. For what can you claim to deserve, when you have entered upon your magistracy, and come forward to the assembly, (for then you will have to announce what principles you intend to observe in administering the law, and perhaps, too, if you think fit, you will, as is the ancient custom, say something about your ancestors and yourself,)—what, I say, can you claim as your just desert, if you say that in that magistracy you will do everything for the sake of pleasure? and that you have never done anything all your life except with a view to pleasure? Do you think, say you, that I am so mad as to speak in that way before ignorant people? Well, say it then in the court of justice, or if you are afraid of the surrounding audience, say it in the senate: you will never do so. Why not, except that such language is disgraceful? Do you then think Triarius and me fit people for you to speak before in a disgraceful manner?
XXIII. However, be it so. The name of pleasure certainly has no dignity in it, and perhaps we do not exactly understand what is meant by it; for you are constantly saying that we do not understand what you mean by the word pleasure: no doubt it is a very difficult and obscure matter. When you speak of atoms, and spaces between worlds, things which do not exist, and which cannot possibly exist, then we understand you; and cannot we understand what pleasure is, a thing which is known to every sparrow? What will you say if I compel you to confess that I not only do know what pleasure is (for it is a pleasant emotion affecting the senses), but also what you mean by the word? For at one time you [pg 159] mean by the word the very same thing which I have just said, and you give it the description of consisting in motion, and of causing some variety: at another time you speak of some other highest pleasure, which is susceptible of no addition whatever, but that it is present when every sort of pain is absent, and you call it then a state, not a motion: let that, then, be pleasure. Say, in any assembly you please, that you do everything with a view to avoid suffering pain: if you do not think that even this language is sufficiently dignified, or sufficiently honourable, say that you will do everything during your year of office, and during your whole life, for the sake of your own advantage; that you will do nothing except what is profitable to yourself, nothing which is not prompted by a view to your own interest. What an uproar do you not suppose such a declaration would excite in the assembly, and what hope do you think you would have of the consulship which is ready for you? And can you follow these principles, which, when by yourself, or in conversation with your dearest friends, you do not dare to profess and avow openly? But you have those maxims constantly in your mouth which the Peripatetics and Stoics profess. In the courts of justice and in the senate you speak of duty, equity, dignity, good faith, uprightness, honourable actions, conduct worthy of power, worthy of the Roman people; you talk of encountering every imaginable danger in the cause of the republic—of dying for one's country. When you speak in this manner we are all amazed, like a pack of blockheads, and you are laughing in your sleeve: for, among all those high-sounding and admirable expressions, pleasure has no place, not only that pleasure which you say consists in motion, and which all men, whether living in cities or in the country, all men, in short, who speak Latin, call pleasure, but even that stationary pleasure, which no one but your sect calls pleasure at all.
XXIV. Take care lest you find yourselves obliged to use our language, though adhering to your own opinions. But if you were to put on a feigned countenance or gait, with the object of appearing more dignified, you would not then be like yourself; and yet are you to use fictitious language, and to say things which you do not think, or, as you have one dress to wear at home, and another in which you appear in court, [pg 160] are you to disguise your opinions in a similar manner, so as to make a parade with your countenance, while you are keeping the truth hidden within? Consider, I intreat you, whether this is proper. My opinion is that those are genuine sentiments which are honourable, which are praiseworthy, which are creditable; which a man is not ashamed to avow in the senate, before the people, in every company and every assembly, so that he will be ashamed to think what he is ashamed to say.
But what room can there be for friendship, or who can be a friend to any one whom he does not love for his own sake? And what is loving, from which verb (amo) the very name of friendship (amicitia) is derived, but wishing a certain person to enjoy the greatest possible good fortune, even if none of it accrues to oneself? Still, you say, it is a good thing for me to be of such a disposition. Perhaps it may be so; but you cannot be so if it is not really your disposition; and how can you be so unless love itself has seized hold of you? which is not usually generated by any accurate computation of advantage, but is self-produced, and born spontaneously from itself. But, you will say, I am guided by prospects of advantage. Friendship, then, will remain just as long as any advantage ensues from it; and if it be a principle of advantage which is the foundation of friendship, the same will be its destruction. But what will you do, if, as is often the case, advantage takes the opposite side to friendship? Will you abandon it? what sort of friendship is that? Will you preserve it? how will that be expedient for you? For you see what the rules are which you lay down respecting friendship which is desirable only for the sake of one's own advantage:—I must take care that I do not incur odium if I cease to uphold my friend. Now, in the first place, why should such conduct incur odium, except because it is disgraceful? But, if you will not desert your friend lest you should incur any disadvantage from so doing, still you will wish that he was dead, to release you from being bound to a man from whom you get no advantage. But suppose he not only brings you no advantage, but you even incur loss of property for his sake, and have to undertake labours, and to encounter danger of your life; will you not, even then, show some regard for yourself, and recollect that every one is born for himself and for his own pleasures? Will you go bail to a [pg 161] tyrant for your friend in a case which may affect your life, as that Pythagorean38 did when he became surety to the Tyrant of Sicily? or, when you are Pylades, will you affirm that you are Orestes, that you may die for your friend? or, if you were Orestes, would you contradict Pylades, and give yourself up? and, if you could not succeed then, would you intreat that you might be both put to death together?
XXV. You, indeed, O Torquatus, would do all these things. For I do not think that there is anything deserving of great praise, which you would be likely to shrink from out of fear of death or pain: nor is it the question what is consistent with your nature, but with the doctrines of your school—that philosophy which you defend, those precepts which you have learnt, and which you profess to approve of, utterly overthrow friendship—even though Epicurus should, as indeed he does, extol it to the skies. Oh, you will say, but he himself cultivated friendship. As if any one denied that he was a good, and courteous, and kind-hearted man; the question in these discussions turns on his genius, and not on his morals. Grant that there is such perversity in the levity of the Greeks, who attack those men with evil speaking with whom they disagree as to the truth of a proposition. But, although he may have been courteous in maintaining friendships, still, if all this is true, (for I do not affirm anything myself), he was not a very acute arguer. Oh, but he convinced many people. And perhaps it was quite right that he should; still, the testimony of the multitude is not of the greatest possible weight; for in every art, or study, or science, as in virtue itself, whatever is most excellent is also most rare. And to me, indeed, the very fact of he himself having been a good man, and of many Epicureans having also been such, and being to this day faithful in their friendships, and consistent throughout their whole lives, and men of dignified conduct, regulating their lives, not by pleasure, but by their duty, appears to show that the power of what is honourable is greater, and that of pleasure smaller. For some men live in such a manner that their language is refuted by their lives; and as others are considered [pg 162] to speak better than they act, so these men seem to me to act better than they speak.
XXVI. However, all this is nothing to the purpose. Let us just consider those things which have been said by you about friendship, and among them I fancied that I recognized one thing as having been said by Epicurus himself, namely, that friendship cannot be separated from pleasure, and that it ought on that account to be cultivated, because without it men could not live in safety, and without fear, nor even with any kind of pleasantness. Answer enough has been given to this argument. You also brought forward another more humane one, invented by these more modern philosophers, and never, as far as I know, advanced by the master himself, that at first, indeed, a friend is sought out with a view to one's own advantage, but that when intimacy has sprung up, then the man is loved for himself, all hope or idea of pleasure being put out of the question. Now, although this argument is open to attack on many accounts, still I will accept what they grant; for it is enough for me, though not enough for them: for they admit that it is possible for men to act rightly at times, without any expectation of, or desire to acquire pleasure.
You also affirmed that some people say that wise men make a kind of treaty among themselves, that they shall have the same feelings towards their friends that they entertain for themselves, and that that is possible, and is often the case, and that it has especial reference to the enjoyment of pleasures. If they could make this treaty, they at the same time make that other to love equity, moderation, and all the virtues for their own sake, without any consideration of advantage. But if we cultivate friendships for the sake of their profits, emoluments, and advantages which may be derived from them, if there is to be no affection which may make the friendship desirable for its own sake, on its own account, by its own influences, by itself and for itself, is there any doubt at all that in such a case we must prefer our farms and estates to our friends? And here you may again quote those panegyrics which have been uttered in most eloquent language by Epicurus himself, on the subject of friendship. I am not asking what he says, but what he can possibly say which shall be consistent with his own system and sentiments.
Friendship has been sought for the sake of advantage; do you, then, think that my friend Triarius, here, will be more useful to you than your granaries at Puteol? Think of all the circumstances which you are in the habit of recollecting; the protection which friends are to a man. You have sufficient protection in yourself, sufficient in the laws, sufficient also in moderate friendships. As it is, you cannot be looked upon with contempt; but you will easily avoid odium and unpopularity, for precepts on that subject are given by Epicurus. And yet you, by employing such large revenues in purposes of liberality, even without any Pyladean friendship, will admirably defend and protect yourself by the goodwill of numbers. But with whom, then, is a man to share his jests, his serious thoughts, as people say, and all his secrets and hidden wishes? With you, above all men; but if that cannot be, why with some tolerably intimate friend. However, grant that all these circumstances are not unreasonable; what comparison can there be between them and the utility of such large sums of money? You see, then, if you measure friendship by the affection which it engenders, that nothing is more excellent; if by the advantage that is derived from it, then you see that the closest intimacies are surpassed by the value of a productive farm. You must therefore love me, myself, and not my circumstances, if we are to be real friends.
XXVII. But we are getting too prolix in the most self-evident matters; for, as it has been concluded and established that there is no room anywhere for either virtues or friendships if everything is referred to pleasure, there is nothing more which it is of any great importance should be said. And yet, that I may not appear to have passed over any topic without a reply, I will, even now, say a few words on the remainder of your argument.
Since, then, the whole sum of philosophy is directed to ensure living happily, and since men, from a desire of this one thing, have devoted themselves to this study; but different people make happiness of life to consist in different circumstances; you, for instance, place it in pleasure; and, in the same manner you, on the other hand, make all unhappiness to consist in pain: let us consider, in the first place, what sort of thing this happy life of yours is. But you will grant this, I think, that if there is really any such thing as happiness, [pg 164] it ought to be wholly in the power of a wise man to secure it; for, if a happy life can be lost, it cannot be happy. For who can feel confident that a thing will always remain firm and enduring in his case, which is in reality fleeting and perishable? But the man who distrusts the permanence of his good things, must necessarily fear that some day or other, when he has lost them, he will become miserable; and no man can be happy who is in fear about most important matters. No one, then, can be happy; for a happy life is usually called so, not in some part only, but in perpetuity of time; and, in fact, life is not said to be happy at all till it is completed and finished. Nor is it possible for any man to be sometimes happy and sometimes miserable; for he who thinks it possible that he may become miserable, is certainly not happy. For, when a happy life is once attained, it remains as long as the maker of the happy life herself, namely, wisdom; nor does it wait till the last period of a man's existence, as Herodotus says that Crœsus was warned by Solon.
But, as you yourself were saying, Epicurus denies that length of time has any influence on making life happy, and that no less pleasure can be felt in a short time than would be the case if the pleasure were everlasting. Now these statements are most inconsistent. For, when he places the chief good in pleasure, he denies that pleasure can be greater in infinite time, than it can in a finite and moderate period. The man who places all good in virtue, has it in his power to say that a happy life is made so by the perfection of virtue; for he consistently denies that time can bring any increase to his chief good. But he who thinks that life is made happy by pleasure, must surely be inconsistent with himself if he denies that pleasure is increased by length of time: if so, then pain is not either. Shall we, then, say that all pain is most miserable in proportion as it is most lasting, and yet that duration does not make pleasure more desirable? Why, then, is it that Epicurus always speaks of God as happy and eternal? For, if you only take away his eternity, Jupiter is in no respect more happy than Epicurus; for each of them is in the enjoyment of the chief good, namely, pleasure. Oh, but Epicurus is also liable to pain. That does not affect him at all; for he says that if he were being burnt, he would say, “How pleasant it is.” In what respect, then, is he surpassed [pg 165] by the God, if he is not surpassed by him because of his eternity? For what good has the God, except the highest degree of pleasure, and that, too, everlasting! What, then, is the good of speaking so pompously, if one does not speak consistently? Happiness of life is placed in pleasure of body, (I will add of mind also, if you please, as long as that pleasure of the mind is derived from the pleasure of the body.) What? who can secure this pleasure to a wise man in perpetuity? For the circumstances by which pleasures are generated are not in the power of a wise man; for happiness does not consist in wisdom itself, but in those things which wisdom provides for the production of pleasure. And all these circumstances are external; and what is external is liable to accident. And thus fortune is made the mistress of happiness in life,—Fortune, which, Epicurus says, has but little to do with a wise man.
XXVIII. But you will say, Come, these things are trifles. Nature by herself enriches the wise man; and, indeed, Epicurus has taught us that the riches of nature are such as can be acquired. This is well said, and I do not object to it; but still these same assertions are inconsistent with one another. For Epicurus denies there is less pleasure derived from the poorest food, from the most despised kinds of meat and drink, than from feasting on the most delicious dishes. Now if he were to assert that it makes no difference as to the happiness of life what food a man ate, I would grant it, I would even praise him for saying so; for he would be speaking the truth; and I know that Socrates, who ranked pleasure as nothing at all, said the same thing, namely, that hunger was the best seasoning for meat, and thirst for drink. But I do not comprehend how a man who refers everything to pleasure, lives like Gallonius, and yet talks like that great man Frugi Piso; nor, indeed, do I believe that what he says is his real opinion. He has said that natural riches can be acquired, because nature is contented with a little. Certainly, unless you estimate pleasure at a great value. No less pleasure, says he, is derived from the most ordinary things than from the most valuable. Now to say this, is not only not to have a heart, but not to have even a palate. For they who despise pleasure itself, may be allowed to say that they do not prefer a sturgeon to a herring. But the man who places his chief [pg 166] good in pleasure, must judge of everything by his sensations, not by his reason, and must pronounce those things best which are most pleasant.
However, be it so. Let him acquire the greatest possible pleasures, not only at a cheap rate, but, as far as I am concerned, for nothing at all, if he can manage it. Let there be no less pleasure in eating a nasturtium, which Xenophon tells us the Persians used to eat, than in those Syracusan banquets which are so severely blamed by Plato. Let, I say, the acquisition of pleasure be as easy as you say it is. What shall we say of pain? the torments of which are so great that, if at least pain is the greatest of evils, a happy life cannot possibly exist in company with it. For Metrodorus himself, who is almost a second Epicurus, describes a happy man in these words. When his body is in good order, and when he is quite certain that it it will be so for the future. Is it possible for any one to be certain in what condition his body will be, I do not say a year hence, but even this evening? Pain, therefore, which is the greatest of evils, will always be dreaded even if it is not present. For it will always be possible that it may be present. But how can any fear of the greatest possible evil exist in a happy life?
Oh, says he, Epicurus has handed down maxims according to which we may disregard pain. Surely, it is an absurdity to suppose that the greatest possible evil can be disregarded. However, what is the maxim? The greatest pain, says he, is short-lived. Now, first of all, what do you call short-lived? And, secondly, what do you call the greatest pain? For what do you mean? Cannot extreme pain last for many days? Aye, and for many months? Unless, indeed, you intend to assert that you mean such pain as kills a man the moment it seizes on him. Who is afraid of that pain? I would rather you would lessen that pain by which I have seen that most excellent and kind-hearted man, Cnæus Octavius, the son of Marcus Octavius, my own intimate friend, worn out, and that not once, or for a short time, but very often, and for a long period at once. What agonies, O ye immortal gods, did that man use to bear, when all his limbs seemed as if they were on fire. And yet he did not appear to be miserable, (because in truth pain was not the greatest of evils,) but only afflicted. But if he had been immersed in [pg 167] continued pleasure, passing at the same time a vicious and infamous life, then he would have been miserable.
XXIX. But when you say that great pains last but a short time, and that if they last long they are always light, I do not understand the meaning of your assertion. For I see that some pains are very great, and also very durable. And there is a better principle which may enable one to endure them, which however you cannot adopt, who do not love what is honourable for its own sake. There are some precepts for, and I may almost say laws of, fortitude, which forbid a man to behave effeminately in pain. Wherefore it should be accounted disgraceful, I do not say to grieve, (for that is at times unavoidable,) but to make those rocks of Lemnos melancholy with such outcries as those of Philoctetes—
Who utters many a tearful note aloud,
With ceaseless groaning, howling, and complaint.
Now let Epicurus, if he can, put himself in the place of that man—
Whose veins and entrails thus are racked with pain
And horrid agony, while the serpent's bite
Spreads its black venom through his shuddering frame.
Let Epicurus become Philoctetes. If his pain is sharp it is short. But in fact he has been lying in his cave for ten years. If it lasts long it is light, for it grants him intervals of relaxation. In the first place it does not do so often; and in the second place what sort of relaxation is it when the memory of past agony is still fresh, and the fear of further agony coming and impending is constantly tormenting him. Let him die, says he. Perhaps that would be the best thing for him; but then what becomes of the argument, that the wise man has always more pleasure than pain? For if that be the case I would have you think whether you are not recommending him a crime, when you advise him to die. Say to him rather, that it is a disgraceful thing for a man to allow his spirit to be crushed and broken by pain, that it is shameful to yield to it. For as for your maxim, if it is violent it is short, if it lasts long it is slight, that is mere empty verbiage. The only real way to mitigate pain is by the application of virtue, of magnanimity, of patience, of courage.
XXX. Listen, that I may not make too wide a digression, to the words of Epicurus when dying; and take notice how [pg 168] inconsistent his conduct is with his language. “Epicurus to Hermarchus greeting. I write this letter,” says he, “while passing a happy day, which is also the last day of my life. And the pains of my bladder and bowels are so intense that nothing can be added to them which can make them greater.” Here is a man miserable, if pain is the greatest possible evil. It cannot possibly be denied. However, let us see how he proceeds. “But still I have to balance this a joy in my mind, which I derive from the recollection of my philosophical principles and discoveries. But do you, as becomes the goodwill which from your youth upwards you have constantly discovered for me and for philosophy, protect the children of Metrodorus.” After reading this, I do not consider the death of Epaminondas or Leonidas preferable to his. One of whom defeated the Lacedæmonians at Mantinea,39 and finding that he had been rendered insensible by a mortal wound, when he first came to himself, asked whether his shield was safe? When his weeping friends had answered him that it was, he then asked whether the enemy was defeated? And when he received to this question also the answer which he wished, he then ordered the spear which was sticking in him to be pulled out. And so, losing quantities of blood, he died in the hour of joy and victory.
But Leonidas, the king of the Lacedæmonians, put himself and those three hundred men, whom he had led from Sparta, in the way of the enemy of Thermopylæ,40 when the alternative was a base flight, or a glorious death. The deaths of generals are glorious, but philosophers usually die in their beds. But still Epicurus here mentions what, when dying, he considered great credit to himself. “I have,” says he, “a joy to counterbalance these pains.” I recognise in these words, O Epicurus, the sentiments of a philosopher, but still you forgot what you ought to have said. For, in the first place, if those things be true, in the recollection of which you say you rejoice, that is to say, if your writings and discoveries are true, then you cannot rejoice. For you have no pleasure here which you can refer to the body. But you have constantly asserted that no one ever feels joy or pain except with reference to his body. “I rejoice,” says he, “in the past.” In what that is past? If you mean such past things as refer to [pg 169] the body, then I see that you are counterbalancing your agonies with your reason, and not with your recollection of pleasures which you have felt in the body. But if you are referring to your mind, then your denial of there being any joy of the mind which cannot be referred to some pleasure of the body, must be false. Why, then, do you recommend the children of Metrodorus to Hermarchus? In that admirable exercise of duty, in that excellent display of your good faith, for that is how I look upon it, what is there that you refer to the body?
XXXI. You may twist yourself about in every direction as you please, Torquatus, but you will not find in this excellent letter anything written by Epicurus which is in harmony and consistent with the rules he laid down. And so he is convicted by himself, and his writings are upset by his own virtue and goodness. For that recommendation of those children, that recollection of them, and affectionate friendship for them, that attention to the most important duties at the last gasp, indicates that honesty without any thought of personal advantage was innate in the man; that it did not require the invitation of pleasure, or the allurements of mercenary rewards. For what greater evidence can we require that those things which are honourable and right are desirable of themselves for their own sake, than the sight of a dying man so anxious in the discharge of such important duties? But, as I think that letter deserving of all commendation of which I have just given you a literal translation, (although it was in no respect consistent with the general system of that philosopher,) so also I think that his will is inconsistent not only with the dignity of a philosopher, but even with his own sentiments. For he wrote often, and at great length, and sometimes with brevity and suitable language, in that book which I have just named, that death had nothing to do with us; for that whatever was dissolved was void of sensation, and whatever was void of sensation had nothing whatever to do with us. Even this might have been expressed better and more elegantly. For when he lays down the position that what has been dissolved is void of sensation, that is such an expression that it is not very plain what he means by the word dissolved. However, I understand what he really does mean. But still I ask why, when every sensation is extinguished [pg 170] by dissolution, that is to say, by death, and when there is nothing else whatever that has any connexion with us, he should still take such minute and diligent care to enjoin Amynomachus and Timocrates, his heirs, to furnish every year what in the opinion of Hermarchus shall be enough to keep his birthday in the month Gamelion, with all proper solemnity. And also, shall every month, on the twentieth day of the month, supply money enough to furnish a banquet for those men who have studied philosophy with him, in order that his memory, and that of Metrodorus, may be duly honoured. Now I cannot deny that these injunctions are in keeping with the character of a thoroughly accomplished and amiable man; but still I utterly deny that it is inconsistent with the wisdom of a philosopher, especially of a natural philosopher, which is the character he claims for himself, to think that there is such a day as the birthday of any one. What? Can any day which has once passed recur over again frequently. Most indubitably not; or can any day like it recur? Even that is impossible, unless it may happen after an interval of many thousand years, that there may be a return of all the stars at the same moment to the point from which they set out. There is, therefore, no such thing as anybody's birthday. But still it is considered that there is. As if I did not know that. But even if there be, is it to be regarded after a man's death? And is a man to give injunctions in his will that it shall be so, after he has told you all, as if with the voice of an oracle, that there is nothing which concerns us at all after death? These things are very inconsistent in a man who, in his mind, had travelled over innumerable worlds and boundless regions, which were destitute of all limits and boundaries. Did Democritus ever say such a thing as this? I will pass over every one else, and call him only as a witness whom Epicurus himself followed to the exclusion of others.
But if a day did deserve to be kept, which was it more fitting to observe, the day on which a man was born, or that on which he became wise? A man, you will say, could not have become wise unless he had been born. And, on the same principle, he could not if his grandmother had never been born. The whole business, Torquatus, is quite out of character for a learned man to wish to have the recollection [pg 171] of his name celebrated with banquets after his death. I say nothing of the way in which you keep these days, and to how many jokes from witty men you expose yourselves. There is no need of quarrelling. I only say that it would have been more becoming in you to keep Epicurus's birthday, than in him to leave injunctions in his will that it should be kept.
XXXII. However, to return to our subject, (for while we were talking of pain we digressed to that letter of his,) we may now fairly come to this conclusion. The man who is in the greatest evil, while he is in it, is not happy. But the wise man is always happy, and is also occasionally in pain. Therefore, pain is not the greatest evil. What kind of doctrine, then, is this, that goods which are past are not lost to a wise man, but that he ought not to remember past evils. First of all, is it in our power to decide what we will remember. When Simonides, or some one else, offered to Themistocles to teach him the art of memory, “I would rather,” said he, “that you would teach me that of forgetfulness; for I even now recollect what I would rather not; but I cannot forget what I should like to.” This was a very sensible answer. But still the fact is that it is the act of a very arbitrary philosopher to forbid a man to recollect. It seems to me a command very much in the spirit of your ancestor, Manlius, or even worse, to command what it is impossible for me to do. What will you say if the recollection of past evils is even pleasant? For some proverbs are more true than your dogmas. Nor does Euripides speak all when he says, I will give it you in Latin, if I can, but you all know the Greek line—
Sweet is the memory of sorrows past.41
However, let us return to the consideration of past goods. And if you were to utter such maxims as might be capable of consoling Caius Marius, and enabling him when banished, indigent, and up to his neck in a marsh, to relieve his anguish by the recollection of his past trophies, I would listen to you, and approve of all you could say. Nor, indeed, can the happiness of a philosopher be complete or continue to the end, if all the admirable discoveries which he has made, and all his virtuous actions, are to be lost by his own forgetfulness. But, in your case, you assert that the recollection of pleasures which have been felt makes life happy, and of such pleasures too, as affect the body. For if there are any other pleasures, then it is incorrect to say that all the pleasures of the mind originate in its connexion with the body.
But if pleasures felt by the body, even when they are past, can give pleasure, then I do not understand why Aristotle should turn the inscription on the tomb of Sardanapalus into so much ridicule; in which the king of Assyria boasts that he has taken with him all his lascivious pleasures. For, says Aristotle, how could those things which even while he was alive he could not feel a moment longer than while he was actually enjoying them, possibly remain to him after he was dead? The pleasure, then, of the body is lost, and flies away at the first moment, and oftener leaves behind reasons for repenting of it than for recollecting it. Therefore, Africanus is happier when addressing his country in this manner—
Cease, Rome, to dread your foes....
And in the rest of his admirable boast—
For you have trophies by my labour raised.
He is rejoicing here in his labours which are past. But you would bid him exult in past pleasures. He traces back his feelings to things which had never had any reference to his body. You cling to the body to the exclusion of everything else.
XXXIII. But how can that proposition possibly be maintained which you urge, namely, that all the pleasures and pains of the mind are connected inseparably with the pleasures and pains of the body? Is there, then, nothing which ever delights you, (I know whom I am addressing,) is there nothing, O Torquatus, which ever delights you for its own sake? I say nothing about dignity, honourableness, the beauty of virtue, which I have mentioned before. I will put [pg 173] all these things aside as of less consequence. But is there anything when you are writing, or reading a poem, or an oration, when you are investigating the history of exploits or countries, or anything in a statue, or picture, or pleasant place; in sports, in hunting, or in a villa of Lucullus, (for if I were to say of your own, you would have a loophole to escape through, saying that that had connexion with your body,) is there any of all these things, I say, which you can refer to your body, or do they not please you, if they please you at all, for their own sake?
You must either be the most obstinate of men, if you persist in referring these things, which I have just mentioned, to the body, or else you must abandon Epicurus's whole theory of pleasure, if you admit that they have no connexion with it.
But as for your argument, that the pleasures and pains of the mind are greater than those of the body, because the mind is a partaker of three times,42 but nothing but what is present is felt by the body; how can it possibly be allowed that a man who rejoices for my sake rejoices more than I do myself? The pleasure of the mind originates in the pleasure of the body, and the pleasure of the mind is greater than that of the body. The result, then, is, that the party who congratulates the other is more rejoiced than he whom he congratulates. But while you are trying to make out the wise man to be happy, because he is sensible of the greatest pleasures in his mind, and, indeed, of pleasures which are in all their parts greater than those which he is sensible of in his body, you do not see what really happens. For he will also feel the pains of the mind to be in every respect greater than those of the body. And so he must occasionally be miserable, whom you endeavour to represent as being always happy. Nor, indeed, will it be possible for you ever to fill up the idea of perfect and uninterrupted happiness while you refer everything to pleasure and pain.
On which account, O Torquatus, we must find out something else which is the chief good of man. Let us grant pleasure to the beasts, to whom you often appeal as witnesses on the subject of the chief good. What will you say, if even the beasts do many things under the guidance of their various [pg 174] natures, partly out of indulgence to other beasts, and at the cost of their own labour, as, for instance, it is very visible in bringing forth and rearing their young, that they have some other object in view besides their own pleasure? and partly, too, when they rejoice in running about and travelling; and some assemble in herds, in such a manner as to imitate in some degree a human state. In some species of birds we see certain indications of affection, knowledge, and memory; in many we see what even looks like a regular system of action. Shall there, then, be in beasts some images of human virtues, quite unconnected with pleasure, and shall there be no virtue in man except for the sake of pleasure? and though he is as superior as can be to all the other animals, shall we still affirm that he has no peculiar attributes given to him by nature?
XXXIV. But we, if indeed all things depend on pleasure, are greatly surpassed by beasts, for which the earth, of her own accord, produces various sorts of food, in every kind of abundance, without their taking any trouble about it; while the same necessaries are scarcely (sometimes I may even use stronger language still) supplied to us, when we seek them with great labour. Nor is it possible that I should ever think that the chief good was the same in the case of a beast and a man. For what can be the use of having so many means and appliances for the carrying out of the most excellent arts,—what can be the use of such an assemblage of most honourable pursuits, of such a crowd of virtues, if they are all got together for no other end but pleasure? As if, when Xerxes, with such vast fleets, such countless troops of both cavalry and infantry, had bridged over the Hellespont and dug through Mount Athos, had walked across the sea, and sailed43 over the land, if, when he had invaded Greece with such [pg 175] irresistible violence, any one had asked him for the cause of collecting so vast an army, and waging so formidable a war, and he had replied that he wished to get some honey from Hymettus, certainly he would have been thought to have undertaken such an enterprise for an insufficient cause. And in like manner, if we were to say that a wise man, furnished and provided with numerous and important virtues and accomplishments, not, indeed, travelling like him over sea on foot, and over mountains with his fleet, but embracing the whole heaven, all the earth, and the universal sea with his mind, had nothing in view but pleasure, we might say that he, too, was taking a great deal of trouble for a little honey.
Believe me, Torquatus, we were born for more lofty and noble ends; and you may see this, not only by considering the parts of the mind, in which there is the recollection of a countless number of things, (and from thence proceed infinite conjectures as to the consequences of them, not very far differing from divination; there is also in them shame, which is the regulator of desire, and the faithful guardianship of justice, so necessary to human society, and a firm enduring contempt for pain and death, shown in the enduring of labours and the encountering of dangers.) All these things, I say, are in the mind. But I would have you consider also the limbs and the senses, which, like the other parts of the body, will appear to you to be not only the companions of the virtues, but also their slaves. What will you say, if many things in the body itself appear to deserve to be preferred to pleasure? such as strength, health, activity, beauty? And if this is the case, how many qualities of the mind will likewise seem so? For in the mind, the old philosophers—those most learned men—thought that there was something heavenly and divine. But if the chief good consisted in pleasure, as you say, then it would be natural that we should wish to live day and night in the midst of pleasure, without any interval or interruption, while all our senses were, as it were, steeped in and influenced wholly by pleasure. But who is there, who is worthy of the name of a man, who would like to spend even the whole of one day in that kind of pleasure? The Cyrenaic philosophers, indeed, would not object. Your sect is more modest in this respect, though their's is perhaps the more sincere.
However, let us contemplate with our minds, not, indeed, these most important arts, which are so valuable, that those who were ignorant of them were accounted useless by our ancestors; but I ask you whether you think that (I will not say Homer, or Archilochus, or Pindar, but) Phidias, or Polycletus, or Zeuxis directed the whole of their skill to cause more pleasure. Shall, then, an artist propose to himself a higher aim, with reference to the beauty of figures, than a virtuous citizen with reference to the nobleness of action? But what other cause can there be for such a blunder being so widely and extensively diffused, except that he who determines that pleasure is the chief good, deliberates not with that part of his mind in which reason and wisdom dwell, but with his desires, that is to say, with the most trifling portion of his mind. For I put the question to you yourself, if there are gods, as you think that there are, how have they the power of being happy, when they are not able to feel any pleasure in their bodies? or if they are happy, though destitute of that kind of pleasure, why do you refuse to recognize the possibility of a similar exertion of intellect on the part of a wise man?
XXXV. Read, O Torquatus, the panegyrics, not of those men who have been praised by Homer, not the encomiums passed on Cyrus, or Agesilaus, or Aristides, or Themistocles, or Philip, or Alexander; but read the praises of our own fellow-countrymen, of the heroes of your own family. You will not find any one praised on the ground of having been a cunning contriver, or procurer, of pleasure. The eulogies on their monuments signify no such thing; like this one which is at one of our gates, “In whose favour many nations unanimously agree that he was the noblest man of the nation.” Do we think that many nations judged of Calatinus, that he was the noblest man of the nation, because he was the most skilful in the devising of pleasures? Shall we, then, say that there is great hope and an excellent disposition in those young men whom we think likely to consult their own advantage, and to see what will be profitable to themselves? Do we not see what a great confusion of everything would ensue? what great disorder? Such a doctrine puts an end to all beneficence, to all gratitude, which are the great bonds of agreement. For if you do good to any one for your own sake, [pg 177] that is not to be considered a kindness, but only usury; nor does any gratitude appear due to the man who has benefited another for his own sake.
But if pleasure is the dominant power, it is inevitable that all the virtues must be trampled under foot. For there are many kinds of base conduct, which, unless honourableness is naturally to have the most influence, must, or at least it is not easy to explain why they should not, overcome a wise man; and, not to go hunting for too many instances, it is quite clear, that virtue deservedly praised, must cut off all the approaches of pleasure.
Do not, now, expect any more arguments from me. Look, Torquatus, yourself, into your own mind; turn the question over in all your thoughts; examine yourself, whether you would prefer to pass your life in the enjoyment of perpetual pleasure, in that tranquillity which you have often felt, free from all pain, with the addition also of that blessing which you often speak of as an addition, but which is, in fact, an impossible one, the absence of all fear; or, while deserving well of all nations, and bearing assistance and safety to all who are in need of it, to encounter even the distresses of Hercules. For so our ancestors, even in the case of a god, called labours which were unavoidable by the most melancholy name, distresses.44 I would require you, and compel you to answer me, if I were not afraid that you might say that Hercules himself performed those exploits, which he performed with the greatest labour for the safety of nations, for the sake of pleasure.
And when I had said this,—I know, said Torquatus, who it is that I have to thank for this; and although I might be able to do something myself, yet I am still more glad to find my friends better prepared than I am.
I suppose you mean Syro and Philodemus, excellent citizens and most learned men. You are right, said he. Come, then, said I. But it would be more fair for Triarius to give [pg 178] some opinion on this discussion of ours. Indeed, said he smiling, it would be very unfair, at least on this subject: for you manage the question more gently; but this man attacks us after the fashion of the Stoics. Then Triarius said, Hereafter I will speak more boldly still: for I shall have all these arguments which I have just heard ready to my hand; and I will not begin before I see you equipped by those philosophers whom you mention.
And when this had been said, we made an end both of our walk and of our discussion.
9.7 Third Book Of The Treatise On The Chief Good and Evil¶
I. I think, Brutus, that Pleasure, if she were to speak for herself, and had not such pertinacious advocates, would yield to Virtue, as having been vanquished in the preceding book. In truth, she would be destitute of shame if she were to resist Virtue any longer, or persist in preferring what is pleasant to what is honourable, or were to contend that a tickling pleasure, as it were, of the body, and the joy arising out of it, is of more importance than dignity of mind and consistency. So that we may dismiss Pleasure, and desire her to confine herself within her own boundaries, so that the strictness of our discussions may not be hindered by her allurements and blandishments. For we have now to inquire what that chief good is which we are anxious to discover; since pleasure is quite unconnected with it, and since nearly the same arguments can be urged against those who have considered freedom from pain as the greatest of goods.
Nor, indeed, can anything be admitted to be the chief good which is destitute of virtue, to which nothing can be superior. Therefore, although in that discourse which was held with Torquatus we were not remiss, still we have now a much sharper contest before us with the Stoics. For the statements which are made about pleasure are not expressed with any great acuteness or refinement. For they who defend it are not skilful in arguing, nor have those who take the opposite side a very difficult cause to oppose. Even [pg 179] Epicurus himself says, that one ought not even to argue about pleasure, because the decision respecting it depends on the sensations, so that it is sufficient for us to be warned respecting it, and quite unnecessary for us to be instructed. And on this account, that previous discussion of ours was a simple one on both sides; for there was nothing involved or intricate in the discourse of Torquatus, and my own language, as it seems to me, was very clear. But you are not ignorant what a subtle, or I might rather say, thorny kind of arguing it is which is employed by the Stoics. And if it is so among the Greeks, much more so is it among us, who are forced even to invent words, and to give new names to new things. And this is what no one who is even moderately learned will wonder at, when he considers that in every art which is not in common and ordinary use, there is a great variety of new names, as appellations are forced to be given to everything about which each art is conversant. Therefore, both dialecticians and natural philosophers use those words which are not common in the ordinary conversation of the Greeks; and geometricians, musicians, and grammarians, all speak after a peculiar fashion of their own. And even the rhetoricians, whose art is a forensic one, and wholly directed to the people, still in giving their lessons use words which are, as it were, their peculiar private property.
II. And, without dwelling on the case of these liberal and gentlemanly professions, even artisans would not be capable of exercising their trades properly if they did not use technical words, which are not understood by us, though in common use among them. Agriculture, also, which is as distant as can be from all polite refinement, still marks those matters with which it is conversant by new names. And much more is this course allowable in a philosopher; for philosophy is the art of life, and a man who is discussing that cannot borrow his language from the forum,—although there is no school of philosophers which has made so many innovations as the Stoics. Zeno too, their chief, was not so much a discoverer of new things as of new words. But if, even in that language which most people consider richer than our own, Greece has permitted the most learned men to use words not in ordinary use about subjects which are equally unusual, how much more ought the same licence to be granted to us, [pg 180] who are now venturing to be the very first of our countrymen to touch on such matters? And though we have often said,—and that, too, in spite of some complaints not only of the Greeks, but of those men also who would prefer being accounted Greeks to being thought our own countrymen,—that we are so far from being surpassed by the Greeks in the richness and copiousness of our language, that we are even superior to them in that particular; we must labour to establish this point, not only in our own national arts, but in those too which we have derived from them. Although, since they have become established by habit, we may fairly consider those words as our own which, in accordance with ancient custom, we use as Latin words; such as philosophia itself, rhetorica, dialectica, grammatica, geometria, musica,—although they could, no doubt, be translated into more genuine Latin.
Enough, however, of the names of things. But with respect to the things themselves, I am often afraid, Brutus, that I may be blamed when I am writing to you, who have made so much progress, not only in philosophy, but in the most excellent kind of philosophy. And if I wrote as if I were giving you any instruction, I should deserve to be blamed; but such conceit is far from me. Nor do I send letters to you under the idea of making you acquainted with what is thoroughly known to you before; but because I am fond of supporting myself by your name, and because also I consider you the most candid critic and judge of those studies which both you and I apply ourselves to in common. I know, therefore, that you will pay careful attention to what I write, as is your wont, and that you will decide on the dispute which took place between your uncle—a most heavenly-minded and admirable man—and myself.
For when I was at my villa near Tusculum, and was desirous to make use of some books in the library of the young Lucullus, I went one day to his house, in order to take away (as I was in the habit of doing) the books which I wanted. And when I had arrived there, I found Marcus Cato, whom I did not know to be there, sitting in the library, surrounded by a number of the books of the Stoics. For he had, as you know, a boundless desire for reading, one which was quite insatiable,—so much so, indeed, that he was not [pg 181] afraid of the causeless reproaches of the common people, but was accustomed to continue reading even in the senate-house itself, while the senate was assembling, without, however, at all relaxing in his attention to the affairs of the republic. And now, being in the enjoyment of complete leisure, and being surrounded by a great abundance of such treasures, he appeared to be completely gorging himself with books, if I may use such an expression about so respectable a subject. And as it so happened that neither of us expected to see the other, he at once rose up on my entrance; and, after the first salutations which are usual at such a meeting, What object has brought you here? said he; for I presume you are come from your own villa, and if I had known that you had been there, I should have come myself to see you. I only, said I, left the city yesterday after the commencement of the games, and got home in the evening. But my object in coming here was to take some books away with me; and it will be a pity, Cato, if our friend Lucullus does not some day or other become acquainted with all these treasures; for I would rather have him take delight in these books than in all the rest of the furniture of the villa. For he is a youth I am very anxious about; although, indeed, it is more peculiarly your business to take care that he shall be so educated as to do credit to his father, and to our friend Cæpio, and to you who are such a near relation of his.45 But I myself have some right to feel an interest in him; for I am influenced by my recollection of his grandfather,—and you well know what a regard I had for Cæpio, who, in my opinion, would now be one of the first men of the city if he were alive; and I also have Lucullus himself always before my eyes,—a man not only excelling in every virtue, but connected with me both by friendship and a general resemblance of inclination and sentiment. You do well, said he, to retain a recollection of those persons, both of whom recommended their children to your care by their wills, and you are right too to be attached to this youth. And as for your calling it my peculiar [pg 182] business, I will not decline the office, but I claim you for my partner in the duty. I will say this also, that the boy has already shown me many indications both of modesty and of ability; but you see how young he is as yet. To be sure I do, said I; but even now he ought to receive a tincture of those accomplishments which, if he drinks of them now while he is young, will hereafter make him more ready for more important business. And so we will often talk over this matter anxiously together, and we will act in concert. However, let us sit down, says he, if you please. So we sat down.
III. Then Cato said: But now, what books in the world are they that you are looking for here, when you have such a library at home? I want, said I, some of the Aristotelian Commentaries, which I know are here; and I came to carry them off, to read when I have leisure, which is not, as you know, very often the case with me. How I wish, said he, that you had an inclination towards our Stoic sect; for certainly it is natural for you, if it ever was so for any one, to think nothing a good except virtue. May I not, I replied, rejoin that it would be natural for you, as your opinion in reality is the same as mine, to forbear giving new names to things? for our principles are the same,—it is only our language that is at variance. Indeed, said he, our principles are not the same at all; for I can never agree to your calling anything desirable except what is honourable, and to your reckoning such things among the goods,—and, by so doing, extinguishing honourableness, which is, as it were, the light of virtue, and utterly upsetting virtue herself. Those are all very fine words, said I, O Cato; but do you not see that all those pompous expressions are shared by you in common with Pyrrho and Aristo, who think all things equal? And I should like to know what your opinion of them is. Mine? said he; do you want to know what I think of them? I think that those men whom we have either heard of from our ancestors, or seen ourselves, to be good, brave, just, and moderate in the republic,—those who, following nature herself, without any particular learning or system, have done many praiseworthy actions, have been educated by nature herself better than they could have been educated by philosophy, if they had adopted any other philosophy except that which ranks nothing whatever among the goods except what [pg 183] is honourable, and nothing among the evils except what is disgraceful. As for all other systems of philosophy, they differ entirely in their estimate of good and evil; but still I consider no one of them which classes anything destitute of virtue among either the goods or the evils, as being of any use to men, or as uttering any sentiment by which we may become better; but I think that they all tend rather to deprave nature herself. For if this point be not conceded, that that alone is good which is honourable, it follows that it must be impossible to prove that life is made happy by virtue. And if that be the case, then I do not see why any attention should be bestowed on philosophy; for if a wise man can be miserable, then of a truth I do not consider that virtue, which is accounted so glorious and memorable a thing, of any great value.
IV. All that you have been saying, Cato, I replied, you might say if you agreed with Pyrrho or Aristo; for you are not ignorant that they consider that honourableness not only the chief good, but also (as you yourself maintain) the only good. And if this is the case, the consequence which I see you aim at follows necessarily, that all wise men are always happy. Do you then praise these men, and do you think that we ought to follow their opinion? By no means, said he; for as this is a peculiar attribute of virtue to make its selection of those things which are in accordance with nature, those who have made all things equal in such a manner as to consider all things on either side perfectly indifferent, so as to leave no room for any selection, have utterly put an end to virtue. You say right, said I; but I ask you whether you, too, must not do the same thing, when you say that there is nothing good which is not right and honourable, and so put an end to all the difference between other things? That would be the case, said he, if I did put an end to it; but I deny the fact—I leave it. How so, said I? If virtue alone,—if that thing alone which you call honourable, right, praiseworthy, and creditable, (for it will be more easily seen what is the character that you ascribe to it, if it be pointed out by many words tending to the same point,)—if, I say, that is the sole good, what else will there be for you to follow? And, on the other hand, if nothing is evil except what is disgraceful, dishonourable, unbecoming, wrong, flagitious, and base, (to make [pg 184] this also manifest by giving it many names,) what else will there be which you can say ought to be avoided?
I will not, said he, reply to each point of your question, as you are not, as I suspect, ignorant of what I am going to say, but seeking rather to find something to carp at in my brief answer: I will rather, since we have plenty of time, explain to you, unless you think it foreign to the subject, the whole opinion of Zeno and the Stoics on the matter. Very far from foreign to the subject, said I; indeed, your explanations will be of great service in elucidating to me the points about which I am inquiring. Let us try, then, said he, although this system of the Stoics has in it something rather difficult and obscure; for, as formerly, when these matters were discussed in the Greek language, the very names of things appeared strange which have now become sanctioned by daily use, what do you think will be the case when we are discussing them in Latin? Still, said I, we must do so; for if Zeno might take the liberty when he had discovered anything not previously common, to fix on it a name that was likewise unprecedented, why may not Cato take the same? Nor will it be necessary for you to render what he has said word for word, as translators are in the habit of doing who have no command of language of their own, whenever there is a word in more ordinary use which has the same meaning. I indeed myself am in the habit, if I cannot manage it any other way, of using many words to express what the Greeks have expressed in one; and yet I think that we ought to be allowed to use a Greek word on occasions when we cannot find a Latin one, and to employ such terms as proegmena and apoproegmena, just as freely as we say ephippia and acratophori, though it may be sufficient to translate these two particular words by preferred and rejected. I am much obliged to you, said he, for your hint; and I will in preference use those Latin terms which you have just mentioned; and in other cases, too, you shall come to my assistance if you see me in difficulties. I will do so, said I, with great goodwill; but fortune favours the bold. So make the attempt, I beg of you; for what more divine occupation can we have?
V. Those philosophers, said he, whose system I approve of, consider that as soon as an animal is born, (for this is where we must begin,) he is instinctively induced and excited to [pg 185] preserve himself and his existing condition, and to feel attachment to those things which have a tendency to preserve that condition; and to feel an abhorrence of dissolution, and of those circumstances which appear to be pregnant with dissolution. And they prove that this is the case, because, before either pleasure or pain has affected it, even while it is very little, it seeks what is salutary, and shuns the contrary: and this would not be the case if they were not fond of their condition, and afraid of dissolution; and it would not be possible for them to seek any particular thing if they had not some sense of themselves, and if that did not influence them to love themselves and what belongs to them. From which it ought to be understood that it is from the animal itself that the principle of self-love in it is derived. But among these natural principles of self-love most of the Stoics do not admit that pleasure ought to be classed; and I entirely agree with them, to avoid the many discreditable things which must ensue if nature should appear to have placed pleasure among those things which are the first objects of desire. But it appears to be proof enough why we naturally love those things which are by nature placed in the first rank, that there is no one, who, when either alternative is equally in his power, would not prefer to have all the parts of his body in a suitable and entire condition, rather than impaired by use, or in any particular distorted or depraved.
But as for the knowledge of things—or if you do not so much approve of this word cognitio, or find it less intelligible, we will call it κατάληψις—that we think is naturally to be acquired for its own sake, because it contains something which has, as it were, embraced and seized upon truth. And this is perceptible even in infants; whom we see amused if they have succeeded in finding out anything themselves by reason, even though it may be of no service whatever to them. And moreover, we consider arts worth attending to on their own account, both because there is in them something worth acceptance, and also because they depend upon knowledge, and contain in themselves something which proceeds on system and method. But I think that we are more averse to assent on false grounds than to anything else which is contrary to nature. Now of the limbs, that is to say, of the parts of the body, some appear to have been given to us [pg 186] by nature because of the use which, they are of to us, as, for instance, the hands, legs, and feet, and also those internal organs of the body, of which I may leave it to the physicians to explain the exceeding usefulness; but others with no view to utility, but for ornament as it were, as the tail is given to the peacock, plumage of many colours to the dove, breasts and a beard to man. Perhaps you will say this is but a dry enumeration; for these things are, as it were, the first elements of nature, which cannot well have any richness of language employed upon them; nor indeed am I thinking of displaying any; but when one is speaking of more important matters, then the subject itself hurries on the language: and then one's discourse is at the same time more impressive and more ornate. It is as you say, said I; but still everything which is said in a lucid manner about a good subject appears to me to be said well. And to wish to speak of subjects of that kind in a florid style is childish; but to be able to explain them with clearness and perspicuity, is a token of a learned and intelligent man.
VI. Let us then proceed, said he, since we have digressed from these first principles of nature, which everything which follows ought to be in harmony with. But this is the first division of the subject. A thing is said to be estimable: for so we may, I think, call that which is either itself in accordance with nature, or else which is the efficient cause of something of such a character that it is worthy of being selected because it has in it some weight worth appreciating, which he calls ἀχία; and, on the other hand, something not estimable, which is the contrary of the preceding. The first principles, therefore, being laid down, that those things which are according to nature are to be chosen for their own sakes, and those which are contrary to it are in like manner to be rejected; the first duty (for that is how I translate the word καθῆκον) is, for a man to preserve himself in his natural condition; next to that, to maintain those things which are in accordance with nature, and reject what is opposite to it; and when this principle of selection and rejection has been discovered, then follows selection in accordance with duty; and then that third kind, which is perpetual, and consistent to the end, and corresponding to nature, in which there first begins to be a proper understanding [pg 187] of what there is which can be truly called good. For the first attraction of man is to those things which are according to nature. But as soon as he has received that intelligence, or perhaps I should say, notion, which they call ἔννοια, and has seen the order and, if I may so say, the harmony in which things are to be done, he then estimates it at a higher value than all the things which he loved at first; and by this knowledge, and by reasoning, he comes to such a conclusion that he decides that the chief good of man, which deserves to be praised and desired for its own sake, is placed in what the Stoics call ὁμολογία, and we agreement, if you approve of this translation of the term; as therefore it is in this that that good is placed to which all things [which are done honourably] are to be referred, and honour itself, which is reckoned among the goods, although it is only produced subsequently, still this alone deserves to be sought for on account of its intrinsic power and worth; but of those things which are the principal natural goods there is not one which is to be sought for its own sake.
But as those things which I have called duties proceed from the first principles of nature, they must necessarily be referred to them; so that it may be fairly said that all duties are referred to this end, of arriving at the principles of nature; not, however, that this is the highest of all goods, because there is no such thing as honourable action in the first attractions of nature; for that is what follows, and arises subsequently, as I have said before. But still it is according to nature, and encourages us to desire itself much more than all those things which have been previously mentioned. But, first of all, we must remove a mistake, that no one may think that it follows that there are two supreme goods. For as, if it were the purpose of any one to direct an arrow or a spear straight at any object, just as we have said that there is an especial point to be aimed at in goods,—the archer ought to do all in his power to aim straight at the target, and the other man ought also to do his endeavour to hit the mark, and gain the end which he has proposed to himself: let this then which we call the chief good in life be, as it were, his mark; and his endeavour to hit it must be furthered by careful selection, not by mere desire.
VII. But as all duties proceed from the first principles of nature, it follows inevitably that wisdom itself must proceed [pg 188] from the same source. But as it often happens, that he who has been recommended to any one considers him to whom he has been recommended of more importance than him who recommended him; so it is not at all strange that in the first instance we are recommended to wisdom by the principles of nature, but that subsequently wisdom herself becomes dearer to us than the starting place from which we arrive at it. And as limbs have been given to us in such a way that it is plain they have been given for some purpose of life; so that appetite of the mind which in Greek is called ὁρμὴ, appears to have been given to us, not for any particular kind of life, but rather for some especial manner of living: and so too is system and perfect method. For as an actor employs gestures, and a dancer motions, not practising any random movement, but a regular systematic action; so life must be passed according to a certain fixed kind, and not any promiscuous way, and that certain kind we call a suitable and harmonious one. Nor do we think wisdom similar to the art of navigation or medicine, but rather to that kind of action which I have spoken of, and to dancing; I mean, inasmuch as the ultimate point, that is to say, the production of the art, lies in the art itself, and is not sought for from foreign sources. And yet there are other points in which there is a difference between wisdom and those arts; because in those arts those things which are done properly do nevertheless not comprise all the parts of the arts of which they consist. But the things which we call right, or rightly done, if you will allow the expression, and which they call κατορθώματα, contain in them the whole completeness of virtue. For wisdom is the only thing which is contained wholly in itself; and this is not the case with the other arts.
And it is only out of ignorance that the object of the art of medicine or navigation is compared with the object of wisdom; for wisdom embraces greatness of mind and justice, and judges all the accidents which befal mankind beneath itself: and this too is not the case in the other arts. But no one will be able to maintain those very virtues of which I have just made mention, unless he lays down a rule that there is nothing which is of any importance, nothing which differs from anything else, except what is honourable or disgraceful.
VIII. Let us see now how admirably these rules follow from [pg 189] those principles which I have already laid down. For as this is the ultimate (extremum) point, (for you have noticed, I dare say, that I translate what the Greek philosopher calls τέλος, sometimes by the word extremum, sometimes by ultimum, and sometimes by summum, and instead of extremum or ultimum, I may also use the word finis,)—as, then, this is the ultimate point, to live in a manner suitable to and harmonising with nature; it follows of necessity that all wise men do always live happily, perfectly, and fortunately; that they are hindered by nothing, embarrassed by nothing; that they are in want of nothing. And that which holds together not more that school of which I am speaking than our lives and fortunes, that is to say, the principle of accounting what is honourable to be the sole good, may indeed easily be embellished and enlarged upon at great length, with great richness of illustration, with great variety of carefully chosen expressions, and with the most pompous sentiments in a rhetorical manner; but I prefer the brief, acute, conclusive arguments of the Stoics. Now their conclusions are arrived at in this manner: “Everything which is good is praiseworthy; but everything which is praiseworthy is honourable;—therefore, everything which is good is honourable.” Does not this appear properly deduced? Undoubtedly;—for the result which was obtained from the two premises which were assumed, you see was contained in them. But of the two premises from which the conclusion was inferred it is only the major one which can be contradicted—if you say that it is not the case, that everything which is good is praiseworthy: for it is granted that whatever is praiseworthy is honourable. But it is utterly absurd to say, that there is anything good which is not to be sought for; or, that there is anything which ought to be sought for which is not pleasing; or, that if it is pleasing it ought not likewise to be loved. Then it ought also to be approved of. Then it is praiseworthy. But what is praiseworthy is honourable. And so the result is, that whatever is good is also honourable. In the next place, I ask, who can boast of a life which is miserable; or avoid boasting of one which is happy?—therefore men boast only of a life which is happy. From which the consequence follows, that a happy life deserves to be boasted of; but this cannot properly be predicated of any life which is not an honourable [pg 190] one. From this it follows, that a happy life must be an honourable one. And since the man to whom it happens to be deservedly praised has some eminent qualities tending to credit and glory, so that he may rightly be called happy on account of such important qualities; the same thing is properly predicated of the life of such a man. And so, if a happy life is discerned by its honourableness, then what is honourable ought to be considered the sole good. And, as this cannot possibly be denied, what man do we say can ever exist of a stable and firm and great mind,—whom, in fact, can we ever call brave,—unless the point is established, that pain is not an evil? For as it is impossible that the man who ranks death among evils should not fear it, so in every case it is impossible for a man to disregard what he judges to be an evil, and to despise it. And when this point has been laid down, and ratified by universal assent, this is assumed next, that the man who is of a brave and magnanimous spirit despises and utterly disregards every accident which can befal a man. And as this is the case, the consequence is, that there is nothing evil which is not disgraceful. And that man of lofty and excellent spirit,—that magnanimous and truly brave man, who considers all human accidents beneath his notice,—the man I mean whom we wish to make so, whom at all events we are looking for,—ought to confide in himself, and in his own life both past and to come, and to form a favourable judgment of himself, laying down as a principle, that no evil can happen to a wise man. From which again the same result follows, that the sole good is that which is honourable; and that to live happily is to live honourably, that is, virtuously.
IX. Not that I am ignorant that the opinions of philosophers have been various, of those I mean who have placed the chief good, that which I call the end, in the mind. And although some people have followed them very incorrectly, still I prefer their theory, not only to that of the three sects who have separated virtue from the chief good, while ranking either pleasure, or freedom from pain, or the original gifts of nature among goods, but also to the other three who have thought that virtue would be crippled without some reinforcement, and on that account have each added to it one of those other particulars which I have just enumerated. I, [pg 191] however, as I said, prefer to all these the men, whoever they may be, who have described the chief good as consisting in the mind and in virtue. But nevertheless, those also are extremely absurd who have said that to live with knowledge is the highest good, and who have asserted that there is no difference between things, and so, that a wise man will surely be a happy one, never at any moment of his life preferring one thing to another: as some of the Academics are said to have laid it down, that the highest good and the chief duty of a wise man is to resist appearances, and firmly to withhold his assent from them.
Now people often make very lengthy replies to each of these assertions; yet what is very clear ought not to be long. But what is more evident than, if there be no selection made, discarding those things which are contrary to nature, and selecting those which are according to nature, all that prudence which is so much sought after and extolled would be done away with? If, then, we discard those sentiments which I have mentioned, and all others which resemble them, it remains that the chief good must be to live, exercising a knowledge of those things which happen by nature, selecting what is according to nature, and rejecting any which are contrary to nature; that is to say, to live in a manner suitable and corresponding to nature.
But in other arts, when anything is said to have been done according to the rules of art, there is something to be considered which is subsequent and follows upon such compliance; which they call ἐπιγεννηματικόν. But when we say in any matter that a thing has been done wisely, that same thing is from the first said also to have been done most properly; for whatever proceeds from a wise man must at once be perfect in all its parts: for in him is placed that quality which we say is to be desired. For as it is a sin to betray one's country, to injure one's parents, to plunder temples, which are all sins of commission; so it is likewise a sin to be afraid, to grieve, to be under the dominion of lust, even if no overt act follows these feelings. But, as these are sins, not in their later periods and consequences, but at once from the first moment; so those actions which proceed from virtue are to be considered right at the first moment that they are undertaken, and not only when they are accomplished.
X. But it may be as well to give an explanation and definition of the word good, which, has been so often employed in this discourse. But the definitions of those philosophers differ a good deal from one another, and yet have all reference to the same facts. I myself agree with Diogenes, who has defined good to be that which in its nature is perfect. But that which follows, that which is profitable (for so we may translate his ὼφέλημα), he considered to be a motion, or a state, arising out of the nature of the perfect. And as the notions of things arise in the mind, if anything has become known either by practice, or by combination, or by similitude, or by the comparison of reason; then by this fourth means, which I have placed last, the knowledge of good is arrived at. For when, by a comparison of the reason, the mind ascends from those things which are according to reason, then it arrives at a notion of good. And this good we are speaking of, we both feel to be and call good, not because of any addition made to it, nor from its growth, nor from comparing it with other things, but because of its own proper power. For as honey, although it is very sweet, is still perceived to be sweet by its own peculiar kind of taste, and not by comparison with other things; so this good, which we are now treating of, is indeed to be esteemed of great value; but that valuation depends on kind and not on magnitude. For as estimation, which is called ἀξί, is not reckoned among goods, nor, on the other hand, among evils, whatever you add to it will remain in its kind. There is, therefore, another kind of estimation proper to virtue, which is of weight from its character, and not because of its increasing. Nor, indeed, are the perturbations of the mind, which make the lives of the unwise bitter and miserable, and which the Greeks call πάθη, (I might translate the word itself by the Latin morbi, but it would not suit all the meanings of the Greek word; for who ever calls pity, or even anger, a disease—morbus)? but the Greeks do call such a feeling πάθος. Let us then translate it perturbation, which is by its very name pointed out to be something vicious. Nor are these perturbations, I say, excited by any natural force; and they are altogether in kind four, but as to their divisions they are more numerous. There is melancholy, fear, lust, and that feeling which the Stoics call by the common name which they apply to both mind and body, ἡδονὴ, and which I prefer translating [pg 193] joy (lætitia), rather than a pleasurable elation of an exulting mind. But perturbations are not excited by any force of nature; and all those feelings are judgments and opinions proceeding from light-mindedness; and, therefore, the wise man will always be free from them.
XI. But that everything which is honourable is to be sought for its own sake, is an opinion common to us with many other schools of philosophers. For, except the three sects which exclude virtue from the chief good, this opinion must be maintained by all philosophers, and above all by us, who do not rank anything whatever among goods except what is honourable. But the defence of this opinion is very easy and simple indeed; for who is there, or who ever was there, of such violent avarice, or of such unbridled desires as not infinitely to prefer that anything which he wishes to acquire, even at the expense of any conceivable wickedness, should come into his power without crime, (even though he had a prospect of perfect impunity,) than through crime? and what utility, or what personal advantage do we hope for, when we are anxious to know whether those bodies are moving whose movements are concealed from us, and owing to what causes they revolve through the heavens? And who is there that lives according to such clownish maxims, or who has so rigorously hardened himself against the study of nature, as to be averse to things worthy of being understood, and to be indifferent to and disregard such knowledge, merely because there is no exact usefulness or pleasure likely to result from it? or, who is there who—when he comes to know the exploits, and sayings, and wise counsels of our forefathers, of the Africani, or of that ancestor of mine whom you are always talking of, and of other brave men, and citizens of pre-eminent virtue—does not feel his mind affected with pleasure? and who that has been brought up in a respectable family, and educated as becomes a freeman, is not offended with baseness as such, though it may not be likely to injure him personally? Who can keep his equanimity while looking on a man who, he thinks, lives in an impure and wicked manner? Who does not hate sordid, fickle, unstable, worthless men? But what shall we be able to say, (if we do not lay it down that baseness is to be avoided for its own sake), is the reason why men do not seek darkness and solitude, and then give the rein [pg 194] to every possible infamy, except that baseness of itself detects them by reason of its own intrinsic foulness? Innumerable arguments may be brought forward to support this opinion; but it is needless, for there is nothing which can be less a matter of doubt than that what is honourable ought to be sought for its own sake; and, in the same manner, what is disgraceful ought to be avoided.
But after that point is established, which we have previously mentioned, that what is honourable is the sole good; it must unavoidably be understood that that which is honourable, is to be valued more highly than those intermediate goods which we derive from it. But when we say that folly, and rashness, and injustice, and intemperance are to be avoided on account of those things which result from them, we do not speak in such a manner that our language is at all inconsistent with the position which has been laid down, that that alone is evil which is dishonourable. Because those things are not referred to any inconvenience of the body, but to dishonourable actions, which arise out of vicious propensities (vitia). For what the Greeks call κακία I prefer translating by vitium rather than by malitia.
XII. Certainly; Cato, said I, you are employing very admirable language, and such as expresses clearly what you mean; and, therefore, you seem to me to be teaching philosophy in Latin, and, as it were, to be presenting it with the freedom of the city. For up to this time she has seemed like a stranger at Rome, and has not put herself in the way of our conversation; and that, too, chiefly because of a certain highly polished thinness of things and words. For I am aware that there are some men who are able to philosophise in any language, but who still employ no divisions and no definitions; and who say themselves that they approve of those things alone to which nature silently assents. Therefore, they discuss, without any great degree of labour, matters which are not very obscure. And, on this account, I am now prepared to listen eagerly to you, and to commit to memory all the names which you give to those matters to which this discussion refers. For, perhaps, I myself may some day have reason to employ them too.
You, then, appear to me to be perfectly right, and to be acting in strict accordance with our usual way of speaking, [pg 195] when you lay it down that there are vices the exact opposites of virtues; for that which is blameable (vituperabile) for its own sake, I think ought, from that very fact, to be called a vice; and perhaps this verb, vitupero, is derived from vitium. But if you had translated κακία by malitia,46 then the usage of the Latin language would have limited us to one particular vice; but, as it is, all vice is opposed to all virtue by one generic opposite name.
XIII. Then he proceeded:—After these things, therefore, are thus laid down, there follows a great contest, which has been handled by the Peripatetics somewhat too gently, (for their method of arguing is not sufficiently acute, owing to their ignorance of dialectics;) but your Carneades has pressed the matter with great vigour and effect, displaying in reference to it a most admirable skill in dialectics, and the most consummate eloquence; because he has never ceased to contend throughout the whole of this discussion, which turns upon what is good and what is bad, that the controversy between the Stoics and Peripatetics is not one of things, but only of names. But, to me, nothing appears so evident as that the opinions of these two schools differ from one another far more as to facts than to names; I mean to say, that there is much greater difference between the Stoics and Peripatetics in principle than in language. Forasmuch as the Peripatetics assert that everything which they themselves call good, has a reference to living happily; but our school does not think that a happy life necessarily embraces everything which is worthy of any esteem.
But can anything be more certain than that, according to the principles of those men who rank pain among the evils, a wise man cannot be happy when he is tormented on the rack? While the principles of those who do not consider pain among the evils, certainly compels us to allow that a happy life is preserved to a wise man among all torments. In truth, if those men endure pain with greater fortitude who suffer it in the cause of their country, than those who do so for any slighter object; then it is plain that it is opinion, and not nature, which makes the force of pain greater or less. Even that opinion of the Peripatetics is more than I can [pg 196] agree to, that, as there are three kinds of goods, as they say, each individual is the happier in proportion as he is richer in the goods of the body or external goods, so that we must be forced also to approve of this doctrine, that that man is happier who has a greater quantity of those things which are accounted of great value as affecting the body. For they think that a happy life is made complete by bodily advantages; but there is nothing which our philosophers can so little agree to. For, as our opinion is that life is not even made in the least more happy by an abundance of those goods which we call goods of nature, nor more desirable, nor deserving of being more highly valued, then certainly a multitude of bodily advantages can have still less effect on making life happy. In truth, if to be wise be a desirable thing, and to be well be so too, then both together must be more desirable than wisdom by itself; but it does not follow, if each quality deserves to be esteemed, that therefore, the two taken together deserve to be esteemed more highly than wisdom does by itself. For we who consider good health worthy of any esteem, and yet do not rank it among the goods, think, at the same time, that the esteem to which it is entitled is by no means such as that it ought to be preferred to virtue. But this is not the doctrine of the Peripatetics; and they ought to tell us, that that which is an honourable action and unaccompanied by pain, is more to be desired than the same action would be if it were attended with pain. We think not: whether we are right or wrong may be discussed hereafter; but can there possibly be a greater disagreement respecting facts and principles?
XIV. For as the light of a candle is obscured and put out by the light of the sun; and as a drop of brine is lost in the magnitude of the Ægæan sea; or an addition of a penny amid the riches of Crœsus; or as one step is of no account in a march from here to India; so, if that is the chief good which the Stoics affirm is so, then, all the goods which depend on the body must inevitably be obscured and overwhelmed by, and come to nothing when placed by the side of the splendour and importance of virtue. And since opportunity, (for that is how we may translate εὐκαιρία,) is not made greater by extending the time, (for whatever is said to be opportune has its own peculiar limit;) so a right action, (for [pg 197] that is how I translate κατόρθωσις, and a right deed I call κατόρθωμα,)—a right action, I say, and suitableness, and, in short, the good itself, which depends on the fact of its being in accordance with nature, has no possibility of receiving any addition or growth. For as that opportunity is not made greater by the extension of time, so neither are these things which I have mentioned. And, on that account, a happy life does not seem to the Stoics more desirable or more deserving of being sought after, if it is long than if it is short; and they prove this by a simile:—As the praise of a buskin is to fit the foot exactly, and as many buskins are not considered to fit better than few, and large ones are not thought better than small ones; so, in the case of those the whole good of which depends upon its suitableness and fitness; many are not preferred to few, nor what is durable to what is short-lived. Nor do they exhibit sufficient acuteness when they say, if good health is more to be esteemed when it lasts long than when it lasts only a short time, then the longest possible enjoyment of wisdom must clearly be of the greatest value. They do not understand that the estimate of good health is formed expressly with reference to its duration; of virtue with reference to its fitness of time; so that men who argue in this manner, seem as if they would speak of a good death, or a good labour, and call one which lasted long, better than a short one. They do not perceive that some things are reckoned of more value in proportion to their brevity; and some in proportion to their length. Therefore, it is quite consistent with what has been said, that according to the principles of those who think that that end of goods which we call the extreme or chief good, is susceptible of growth, they may also think that one man can be wiser than another; and, in like manner then, one man may sin more, or act more rightly than another. But such an assertion is not allowable to us, who do not think the end of goods susceptible of growth. For as men who have been submerged under the water, cannot breathe any more because they are at no great depth below the surface, (though they may on this account be able at times to emerge,) than if they were at the bottom, nor can the puppy who is nearly old enough to see, as yet see any more than one who is but this moment born; so the man who has made some progress towards the approach to virtue, [pg 198] is no less in a state of misery than he who has made no such advance at all.
XV. I am aware that all this seems very strange. But as unquestionably the previous propositions are true and uncontrovertible, and as these others are in harmony with, and are the direct consequences of them; we cannot question their truth also. But although some people deny that either virtues or vices are susceptible of growth, still they believe that each of them is in some degree diffused, and as it were extended. But Diogenes thinks that riches have not only such power, that they are, as it were, guides to pleasure and to good health, but that they even contain them: but that they have not the same power with regard to virtue, or to the other arts to which money may indeed be a guide, but which it cannot contain. Therefore, if pleasure or if good health be among the goods, riches also must be classed among the goods; but if wisdom be a good, it does not follow that we are also to call riches a good; nor can that which is classed among the goods be contained by anything which is not placed in the same classification. And on that account, because the knowledge and comprehension of those things by which arts are produced, excite a desire for them, as riches are not among the goods, therefore no art can be contained in riches.
But if we grant this to be true with respect to arts, still it is not to follow that the same rule holds good with respect to virtue; because virtue requires a great deal of meditation and practice, and this is not always the case with arts; and also because virtue embraces the stability, firmness, and consistency of the entire life; and we do not see that the same is the case with arts.
After this, we come to explain the differences between things. And if we were to say that there is none, then all life would be thrown into confusion, as it is by Aristo. Nor could any office or work be found for wisdom, if there were actually no difference between one thing and another, and if there were no power of selection at all requisite to be exerted. Therefore, after it had been sufficiently established that that alone was good which was honourable, and that alone evil which was disgraceful, they asserted that there were some particulars in which those things which had no influence on [pg 199] the misery or happiness of life, differed from one another, so that some of them deserved to be esteemed, some to be despised, and others were indifferent. But as to those things which deserved to be esteemed, some of them had in themselves sufficient reason for being preferred to others, as good health, soundness of the senses, freedom from pain, glory, riches, and similar things. But others were not of this kind. And in like manner, as to those things which were worthy of no esteem at all, some had cause enough in themselves why they should be rejected, such as pain, disease, loss of senses, poverty, ignominy, and things like them, and some had not. And thus, from this distinction, came what Zeno called προηγμένον, and on the other hand what he called ἀποπροηγμένον, as though writing in so copious a language, he chose to employ new terms of his own invention; a license which is not allowed to us in this barren language of ours; although you often insist that it is richer than the Greek. But it is not foreign to our present subject, in order that the meaning of the word may be more easily understood, to explain the principle on which Zeno invented these terms.
XVI. For as, says he, no one in a king's palace says that the king is, as it were, led forward towards his dignity (for that is the real meaning of the word προηγμένον, but the term is applied to those who are of some rank whose order comes next to his, so as to be second to the kingly dignity); so in life too, it is not those things which are in the first rank, but those which are in the second which are called προηγμένα, or led forward. And we may translate the Greek by productum (this will be a strictly literal translation), or we may call it and its opposite promotum and remotum, or as we have said before, we may call προηγμένον, præpositum or præcipuum, and its opposite rejectum. For when the thing is understood, we ought to be very ductile as to the words which we employ.
But since we say that everything which is good holds the first rank, it follows inevitably that this which we call præcipuum or præpositum, must be neither good nor bad. And therefore we define it as something indifferent, attended with a moderate esteem. For that which they call ἀδιάφορον, it occurs to me to translate indifferens. Nor, indeed, was it at all possible that there should be nothing left intermediate, [pg 200] which was either according to nature or contrary to it; nor, when that was left, that there should be nothing ranked in this class which was tolerably estimable; nor, if this position were once established, that there should not be some things which are preferred. This distinction, then, has been made with perfect propriety, and this simile is employed by them to make the truth more easily seen. For as, say they, if we were to suppose this to be, as it were, the end and greatest of goods, to throw a die in such a manner that it should stand upright, then the die which is thrown in such a manner as to fall upright, will have some particular thing preferred as its end, and vice versâ. And yet that preference of the die will have no reference to the end of which I have been speaking. So those things which have been preferred are referred indeed to the end, but have no reference at all to its force or nature.
Next comes that division, that of goods some have reference to that end (for so I express those which they call τελικὰ, for we must here, as we have said before, endure to express in many words, what we cannot express by one so as to be thoroughly intelligible,) some are efficient causes, and some are both together. But of those which have reference to that end, nothing is good except honourable actions; of those which are efficient causes, nothing is good except a friend. But they assert that wisdom is both a referential and an efficient good. For, because wisdom is suitable action, it is of that referential character which I have mentioned; but inasmuch as it brings and causes honourable actions, it may be so far called efficient.
XVII. Now these things which we have spoken of as preferred, are preferred some for their own sake, some because they effect something else, and some for both reasons. Some are preferred for their own sake, such as some particular appearance or expression of countenance, some particular kind of gait, or motion, in which there are some things which may well be preferred, and some which may be rejected. Others are said to be preferred because they produce something, as money; and others for a combination of both reasons, as soundness of the senses, or good health. But respecting good reputation, (for what they call εὐδοξία is more properly called, in this place, good reputation than glory,) [pg 201] Chrysippus and Diogenes denied its whole utility, and used to say that one ought not even to put forth a finger for the sake of it, with whom I entirely and heartily agree. But those who came after them, being unable to withstand the arguments of Carneades, said that this good reputation, as I call it, was preferred for its own sake, and ought to be chosen for its own sake, and that it was natural for a man of good family, who had been properly brought up, to wish to be praised by his parents, his relations, and by good men in general, and that too for the sake of the praise itself, and not of any advantage which might ensue from it. And they say, too, that as we wish to provide for our children, even for such as may be posthumous children, for their own sake, so we ought also to show a regard for posthumous fame after our death, for its own sake, without any thought of gain or advantage.
But as we assert that what is honourable is the only good, still it is consistent with this assertion to discharge one's duty, though we do not class duty among either the goods or the evils. For there is in these things some likelihood, and that of such a nature that reasons can be alleged for there being such; and therefore of such a nature, that probable reasons may be adduced for adopting such a line of conduct. From which it follows that duty is a sort of neutral thing, which is not to be classed either among the goods or among the opposites of goods. And since, in those things which are neither ranked among the virtues nor among the vices, there is still something which may be of use; that is not to be destroyed. For there is a certain action of that sort, and that too of such a character that reason requires one to do and perform it. But that which is done in obedience to reason we call duty; duty, then, is a thing of that sort, that it must not be ranked either among the goods or among the opposites of goods.
XVIII. And this also is evident, that in these natural things the wise man is not altogether inactive. He therefore, when he acts, judges that that is his duty; and because he is never deceived in forming his judgment, duty must be classed among neutral things; and this is proved also by this conclusion of reason. For since we see that there is something which we pronounce to have been rightly done (for that is duty when accomplished), there must also be something which is rightly begun: as, if to restore what has been justly [pg 202] deposited belongs to the class of right actions, then it must be classed among the duties to restore a deposit; and the addition of the word “justly” makes the duty to be rightly performed: but the mere fact of restoring is classed as a duty. And since it is not doubtful, that in those things which we call intermediate or neutral, some ought to be chosen and others rejected, whatever is done or said in this manner comes under the head of ordinary duty. And from this it is understood, since all men naturally love themselves, that a fool is as sure as a wise man to choose what is in accordance with nature, and to reject what is contrary to it; and so there is one duty in common both to wise men and to fools; from which it follows that duty is conversant about those things which we call neutral. But since all duties proceed from these things, it is not without reason that it is said that all our thoughts are referred to these things, and among them our departure from life, and our remaining in life.
For he in whom there are many things which are in accordance with nature, his duty it is to remain in life; but as to the man in whom there either is or appears likely to be a preponderance of things contrary to nature, that man's duty is to depart from life. From which consideration it is evident, that it is sometimes the duty of a wise man to depart from life when he is happy, and sometimes the duty of a fool to remain in life though he is miserable. For that good and that evil, as has been often said, comes afterwards. But those principal natural goods, and those which hold the second rank, and those things which are opposite to them, all come under the decision of, and are matters for the reflection of the wise man; and are, as it were, the subject matter of wisdom. Therefore the question of remaining in life, or of emigrating from it, is to be measured by all those circumstances which I have mentioned above; for death is not to be sought for by those men who are retained in life by virtue, nor by those who are destitute of virtue. But it is often the duty of a wise man to depart from life, when he is thoroughly happy, if it is in his power to do so opportunely; and that is living in a manner suitable to nature, for their maxim is, that living happily depends upon opportunity. Therefore a rule is laid down by wisdom, that if it be necessary a wise man is even to leave her herself.
Wherefore, as vice has not such power as to afford a justifying cause for voluntary death, it is evident that it is the duty even of fools, and of those too who are miserable, to remain in life, if they are surrounded by a preponderance of those things which we call according to nature. And since such a man is equally miserable, whether departing from life, or abiding in it, and since the duration of misery is not any the more a cause for fleeing from life, therefore it is not a causeless assertion, that those men who have the power of enjoying the greatest number of natural goods, ought to abide in life.
XIX. But they think it is very important with reference to this subject, that it should be understood that it is the work of nature, that children are beloved by their parents; and that this is the first principle from which we may trace the whole progress of the common society of the human race. And that this may be inferred, in the first place, from the figure and members of the body, which of themselves declare that a due regard for everything connected with generation has been exhibited by nature; nor can these two things possibly be consistent with one another, that nature should desire that offspring should be propagated, and yet take no care that what is propagated should be loved. But even in beasts the power of nature may be discerned; for when we see such labour bestowed upon the bringing forth and bearing of their offspring, we seem to be hearing the voice of nature herself. Wherefore, as it is evident that we are by nature averse to pain; so also it is clear that we are impelled by nature herself to love those whose existence we have caused. And from this it arises that there is such a recommendation by nature of one man to another, that one man ought never to appear unfriendly to another, for the simple reason that he is a man.
For as among the limbs some appear to be created for themselves as it were, as the eyes and ears; others assist the rest of the limbs, as the legs and hands; so there are some monstrous beasts born for themselves alone: but that fish which floats in an open shell and is called the pinna, and that other which swims out of the shell, and, because it is a guard to the other, is called the pinnoteres, and when it has withdrawn within the shell again, is shut up in it, so that it [pg 204] appears that it has given it warning to be on its guard; and also ants, and bees, and storks, do something for the sake of others. Much more is this the case with reference to the union of men. And therefore we are by nature adapted for companionship, for taking counsel together, for forming states. But they think that this world is regulated by the wisdom of the gods, and that it is, as it were, a common city and state of men and gods, and that every individual of us is a part of the world. From which that appears to follow by nature, that we should prefer the general advantage to our own. For as the laws prefer the general safety to that of individuals, so a good and wise man, and one who obeys the laws and who is not ignorant of his duty as a citizen, consults the general advantage rather than that of any particular individual, or even than his own. Nor is a betrayer of his country more to be blamed, than one who deserts the general advantage or the general safety on account of his own private advantage or safety. From which it also follows, that that man deserves to be praised who encounters death voluntarily for the sake of the republic, because it is right that the republic should be dearer to us than ourselves. And since it is said to be a wicked thing, and contrary to human nature, for a man to say that he would not care if, after his own death, a general conflagration of the whole world were to happen, which is often uttered in a Greek47 verse; so it is certainly true that we ought to consult the interests of those who are to come after us, for the sake of the love which we bear them.
XX. It is in this disposition of mind that wills, and the recommendations of dying persons, have originated. And because no one would like to pass his life in solitude, not even if surrounded with an infinite abundance of pleasures, it is easily perceived that we are born for communion and fellowship with man, and for natural associations. But we are impelled by nature to wish to benefit as many persons as possible, especially by instructing them and delivering them precepts of prudence. Therefore, it is not easy to find a man who does not communicate to some other what he knows himself; so prone are we not only to learn, but also to teach. And as the principle is by nature implanted in bulls to fight [pg 205] in behalf of their calves with the greatest vigour and earnestness, even against lions; so those who are rich or powerful, and are able to do so, are excited by nature to preserve the race of mankind, as we have heard by tradition was the case with Hercules and Libera. And also when we call Jupiter all-powerful and all-good, and likewise when we speak of him as the salutary god, the hospitable god, or as Stator, we mean it to be understood that the safety of men is under his protection. But it is very inconsistent, when we are disregarded and despised by one another, to entreat, that we may be dear to and beloved by the immortal gods. As, therefore, we make use of our limbs before we have learnt the exact advantage with a view to which we are endowed with them, so also we are united and associated by nature in a community of fellow-citizens. And if this were not the case, there would be no room for either justice or benevolence.
And as men think that there are bonds of right which connect man with man, so also there is no law which connects man with the beasts. For well did Chrysippus say, that all other animals have been born for the sake of men and of the gods; but that men and gods have been born only for the sake of their own mutual communion and society, so that men might be able to use beasts for their own advantage without any violation of law or right. And since the nature of man is such that he has, as it were, a sort of right of citizenship connecting him with the whole human race, a man who maintains that right is just, and he who departs from it is unjust.
But as, although a theatre is publicly open, still it may be fairly said that the place which each individual has occupied belongs to him; so in a city, or in the world, which is likewise common to all, there is no principle of right which hinders each individual from having his own private property. But since we see that man has been born for the purpose of defending and preserving men, so it is consistent with this nature that a wise man should wish to manage and regulate the republic; and, in order to live in compliance with nature, to marry a wife and beget children. Nor do philosophers think virtuous love inconsistent with a wise man. But others say that the principles and life of the Cynics are more suited to a wise man; if, indeed, any chance should befal him which [pg 206] might compel him to act in such a manner; while others wholly deny it.
XXI. But in order that the society, and union, and affection between man and man may be completely preserved, they have laid it down that all benefits and injuries, which they call ὠφελήματα and βλάμματα, are likewise common; of which the former are advantageous, and the latter injurious. Nor have they been contented with calling them common, but they have also asserted their equality. But as for disadvantages and advantages, (by which words I translate εὐχρηστήματα and δυσχρηστήματα,) those they assert to be common, but they deny that they are equal. For those things which profit or which injure are either good or evil; and they must necessarily be equal. But advantages and disadvantages are of that kind which we have already called things preferred or rejected; and they cannot be equal. But advantages are said to be common; but things done rightly, and sins, are not considered common. But they think that friendship is to be cultivated because it is one of that class of things which is profitable. But although, in friendship, some people assert that the interest of a man's friend is as dear to him as his own; others, on the other hand, contend that every man has a greater regard for his own. Yet these latter confess that it is inconsistent with justice, for which we seem to be born, to take anything from another for the purpose of appropriating it to oneself. But philosophers of this school which I am speaking of, never approve of either friendship or justice being exercised or sanctioned for the sake of its usefulness: for they say that the same principles of usefulness may, at times, undermine or overturn them. In truth, neither justice nor friendship can have any existence at all, unless they be sought for their own sake. They contend also that all right, which has any pretence to the name and appellation, is so by nature; and that it is inconsistent with the character of a wise man, not only to do any injustice to any one, but even to do him any damage. Nor is it right to make such a league with one's friends as to share in all their good deeds, or to become a partner in every act of injustice; and they argue, with the greatest dignity and truth, that justice can never be separated from usefulness: and that whatever is just and equitable is also honourable; and, reciprocally, [pg 207] that whatever is honourable must be also just and equitable.
And to those virtues which we have discussed, they also add dialectics and natural philosophy; and they call both these sciences by the name of virtues: one, because it has reason, so as to prevent our assenting to any false proposition, or being even deceived by any plausible probability; and to enable us to maintain and defend what we were saying about good and evil. For without this act they think that any one may be led away from the truth and deceived; accordingly, if rashness and ignorance is in every case vicious, this power which removes them is properly named virtue.
XXII. The same honour is also attributed to natural philosophy, and not without reason, because the man who wishes to live in a manner suitable to nature, must begin by studying the universal world, and the laws which govern it. Nor can any one form a correct judgment of good and evil without being acquainted with the whole system of nature, and of the life of the gods also, and without knowing whether or not the nature of man agrees with universal nature. He must also have learnt the ancient rules of those wise men who bid men yield to the times, and obey God, and know oneself, and shun every kind of excess. Now, without a knowledge of natural philosophy, no man can see what great power these rules have; and it is as great as can be: and also this is the only knowledge which can teach a man how greatly nature assists in the cultivation of justice, in the maintenance of friendship and the rest of the affections. Nor can piety towards the Gods, nor the gratitude which is due to them, be properly understood and appreciated without a correct understanding of the laws of nature.
But I feel now that I have advanced further than I had intended, or than the subject before me required. But the admirable arrangement of the Stoic doctrine, and the incredible beauty of the system, drew me on. And, in the name of the immortal gods! can you forbear to admire it? For what is there in all nature—though nothing is better or more accurately adapted to its ends than that—or what can be found in any work made by the hand, so well arranged, and united, and put together? What is there which is posterior, which does not agree with what has preceded it? What is there [pg 208] which follows, and does not correspond to what has gone before? What is there which is not connected with something else in such a manner, that if you only move one letter the whole will fall to pieces? Nor, indeed, is there anything which can be moved.
But what a grand and magnificent and consistent character is that of the wise man which is drawn by them! For he, after reason has taught him that that which is honourable is alone good, must inevitably be always happy, and must have a genuine right to those names which are often ridiculed by the ignorant. For he will be more properly called king than Tarquin, who was able to govern neither himself nor his family; he will deserve to be called the master of the people more than Sylla, who was only the master of three pestiferous vices, luxury, avarice, and cruelty; he will be called rich more properly than Crassus, who would never have desired to cross the Euphrates without any legitimate cause for war, if he had not been in want of something. Everything will be properly said to belong to that man, who alone knows how to make use of everything. He will also rightly be called beautiful, for the features of the mind are more beautiful than those of the body: he will deservedly be called the only free man, who is neither subject to the domination of any one, nor subservient to his own passions. He will fairly be called invincible, on whose mind, even though his body be bound with chains, no fetters can ever be imposed. Nor will he wait till the last period of his life, so as to have it decided whether he has been happy or not, after he has come to the last day of life and closed his eyes in death, in the spirit of the warning which one of the wise men gave to Crœsus, without showing much wisdom in so doing. For if he had ever been happy, then he would have borne his happy life with him, even as far as the funeral pile built for him by Cyrus.
But if it be true that no one except a good man is happy, and that all good men are happy, then what deserves to be cultivated more than philosophy, or what is more divine than virtue?
9.8Fourth Book Of The Treatise On The Chief Good And Evil.¶
I. And when he had made an end of saying these things, I replied, Truly, O Cato, you have displayed a wonderful memory in explaining to us such a number of things, and in laying such obscure things so clearly before us. So that we must either give up having any meaning or wish contrary to what you have said, or else we must take time to deliberate: for it is not easy to learn thoroughly the principles of a school which has not only had its foundation laid, but which has even been built up with such diligence, although perhaps with some errors as to its truth, (which, however, I will not as yet dare to affirm,) but at all events with such care and accuracy. Then, said he, is that what you say, when I have seen you, in obedience to this new law, reply to the prosecutor on the same day on which he has brought forward his charge, and sum up for three hours; and then do you think that I am going to allow an adjournment in this cause? which, however, will not be conducted by you better than those which are at times entrusted to you. Wherefore, I desire that you will now apply yourself to this one, especially as it has been handled by others, and also by yourself several times; so that you cannot be at a loss for arguments or language.
I replied, I do not, in truth, venture to argue inconsiderately against the Stoics, not because I agree with them in any great degree, but I am hindered by shame; because they say so much that I hardly understand. I confess, said he, that some of our arguments are obscure; not that we make them so on purpose, but because there is some obscurity in the subjects themselves. Why, then, said I, when the Peripatetics discuss the same subjects, does not a single word occur which is not well understood? Do they discuss the same subjects? said he; or have I failed to prove to you that the Stoics differ from the Peripatetics, not in words only, but in the whole of the subject, and in every one of their opinions? But, said [pg 210] I, if, O Cato, you can establish that, I will allow you to carry me over, body and soul, to your school. I did think, said he, that I had said enough on that point; wherefore answer me on that head first, if you please; and afterwards you can advance what arguments you please. I do not think it too much, said I, if I claim to answer you on that topic as I myself please. As you will, said he; for although the other way would have been more common, yet it is only fair to allow every one to adopt his own method.
II. I think, then, said I, O Cato, that those ancient pupils of Plato, Speusippus, Aristotle and Xenocrates, and afterwards their pupils, Polemo and Theophrastus, had a system laid down with sufficient richness and eloquence of language; so that Zeno had no reason, after having been a pupil of Polemo, for deserting him and his predecessors who had established this school. And in this school I should like you to observe what you think ought to be changed, and not to wait while I am replying to everything which has been said by you. For I think that I must contend with the whole of their system, against the whole of yours.
And as these men said that we are born with the view of being generally well adapted to those virtues which are well known and conspicuous, I mean justice and temperance, and others of the same kind, all which resemble the other arts, and differ only for the better in their subject matter and way of handling;—and as they saw that we desired those very virtues in a somewhat magnificent and ardent spirit; and that we had also a certain instruction, or, I should rather say, innate desire of knowledge; and that we were born for companionship with men, and for society and communion with the human race, and that these qualities are most conspicuous in the greatest geniuses;—they divided all philosophy into three parts; and we see that this same division was retained by Zeno: and as one of these parts is that by which the manners are thought to be formed, I postpone the consideration of that part, which is, as it were, the foundation of this question. For what is the chief good I will discuss presently; but at this moment I only say that that topic which I think we shall be right in calling the civil one, and which the Greeks call πολιτικὸς, has been treated of in a dignified and copious manner by the ancient Peripatetics and Academicians [pg 211] who, agreeing in parts, differed from one another only in words.
II. How many books have these men written on the republic! how many on laws! How many precepts in art, and, more than that, how many instances of good speaking in orations have they bequeathed to us! For, in the first place, they said with the greatest degree of polish and fitness those very things which were to be argued in a subtle manner, laying down both definitions and divisions: as your friends have also done: but you have done it in a more shabby manner; while you see how brilliant their language is. In the second place, with what splendid language have they adorned that part of the subject which required ornate and impressive eloquence! how gloriously have they illustrated it! discussing justice, and fortitude, and friendship, and the method of passing life, and philosophy, and the government of the state, and temperance, not like men picking out thorns, like the Stoics, or laying bare the bones, but like men who knew how to handle great subjects elegantly, and lesser ones clearly. What, therefore, are their consolations? What are their exhortations? What also are their warnings and advice written to the most eminent men? For their practice in speaking was, like the nature of the things themselves, of a two-fold character. For whatever is made a question of, contains a controversy either as to the genus itself, without reference to persons or times; or else, with these additions, a dispute as to the fact, or the right, or the name. And therefore, they exercised themselves in both kinds; and that discipline it was which produced that great copiousness of eloquence among them in both kinds of argumentation. Now Zeno, and those who imitated him, were either unable to do much in this kind of argument, or else were unwilling, or at all events they did not do it. Although Cleanthes wrote a treatise on the art of rhetoric, and so too did Chrysippus, but still in such a manner, that if any one were to wish to be silent, he ought to read nothing else. Therefore you see how they speak. They invent new words—they abandon old established terms.
But what great attempts do they make? They say that this universal world is our town; accordingly, this excites those who hear such a statement. You see, now, how great [pg 212] a business you are undertaking; to make a man who lives at Circeii believe that this universal world is merely a town for himself to live in. What will be the end of this? Shall he set fire to it? He will rather extinguish it, if he has received it on fire. The next thing said is that list of titles which you briefly enumerated,—king, dictator, rich man, the only wise man; words poured out by you decorously and roundly: they well might be, for you have learnt them from the orators. But how vague and unsubstantial are those speeches about the power of virtue! which they make out to be so great that it can, by itself, secure the happiness of man. They prick us with narrow little bits of questions as with pins; and those who assent to them are not at all changed in their minds, and go away the same as they came: for matters which are perhaps true, and which certainly are important, are not handled as they ought to be, but in a more minute and petty manner.
IV. The next thing is the principle of arguing, and the knowledge of nature. For we will examine the chief good presently, as I said before, and apply the whole discussion to the explanation of it. There was, then, in those two parts nothing which Zeno wished to alter. For the whole thing, in both its divisions, is in an excellent state; for what has been omitted by the ancients in that kind of argument which is of influence in discussion? For they have both given many definitions, and have bequeathed to us titles for defining; and that important addition to definition, I mean the dividing of the subject into parts, is both done by them, and they have also left us rules to enable us to do so too; and I may say the same of contraries; from which they came to genera, and to the forms of genera. Now, they make those things which they call evident, the beginning of an argument concluded by reason: then they follow an orderly arrangement; and the conclusion at last shows what is true in the separate propositions. But what a great variety of arguments, which lead to conclusions according to reason, do they give us, and how dissimilar are they to captious questions! What shall we say of their denouncing, as it were, in many places, that we ought neither entirely to trust our senses when unsupported by reason, nor reason when unsupported by our senses; but that, at the same time, we ought to keep the line between [pg 213] the two clearly marked? What shall I say more? Were not all the precepts which the dialecticians now deliver and teach, originally discovered and established by them? And although they were very much elaborated by Chrysippus, still they were much less practised by Zeno than by the ancients. And there were several things in which he did not improve on the ancients; and some which he never touched at all. And as there are two arts by which reason and oratory are brought to complete perfection, one that of discovering, the other that of arguing,—both the Stoics and Peripatetics have handed us down this latter, but the Peripatetics alone have given us rules for the former, while the Stoics have altogether avoided it. For the men of your school never even suspected the places from which arguments might be drawn as out of magazines; but the Peripatetics taught a regular system and method.
And the consequence is, that it is not necessary for one now to be always repeating a sort of dictated lesson on the same subject, or to be afraid to go beyond one's note-books: for he who knows where everything is placed, and how he can arrive at it, even if anything be completely buried, will be able to dig it up, and will always have his wits about him in every discussion. And although men who are endowed with great abilities, attain to a certain copiousness of eloquence without any definite principles of oratory, still art is a surer guide than nature. For it is one thing to pour out words after the fashion of poets, and another to distinguish on settled principles and rules all that you say.
V. Similar things may be said about the explanation of natural philosophy, which both the Peripatetics and Stoics apply themselves to; and that not on two accounts only, as Epicurus thinks, namely, to get rid of the fears of death and of religion; but besides this, the knowledge of heavenly things imparts some degree of modesty to those who see what great moderation and what admirable order there is likewise among the gods: it inspires them also with magnanimity when they contemplate the arts and works of the gods; and justice, too, when they come to know how great is the power and wisdom, and what the will is also, of the supreme ruler and master of the world, whose reason, in accordance with nature, is called by philosophers the true and supreme law. There is in the same study of nature, an insatiable kind of [pg 214] pleasure derived from the knowledge of things; the only pleasure in which, when all our necessary actions are performed, and when we are free from business, we can live honourably, and as becomes free men. Therefore, in the whole of this ratiocination on subjects of the very highest importance, the Stoics have for the most part followed the Peripatetics; so far at all events as to admit that there are gods, and to assert that everything consists of one of four elements. But when an exceedingly difficult question was proposed, namely, whether there did not seem to be a sort of fifth nature from which reason and intelligence sprang; (in which question another was involved respecting the mind, as to what class that belonged to;) Zeno said that it was fire; and then he said a few more things—very few, in a novel manner; but concerning the most important point of all, he spoke in the same way, asserting that the universal world, and all its most important parts, were regulated by the divine intellect and nature of the gods. But as for the matter and richness of facts, we shall find the Stoics very poorly off, but the Peripatetics very rich.
What numbers of facts have been investigated and accumulated by them with respect to the genus, and birth, and limbs, and age of all kinds of animals! and in like manner with respect to those things which are produced out of the earth! How many causes have they developed, and in what numerous cases, why everything is done, and what numerous demonstrations have they laid open how everything is done! And from this copiousness of theirs most abundant and undeniable arguments are derived for the explanation of the nature of everything. Therefore, as far as I understand, there is no necessity at all for any change of name. For it does not follow that, though he may have differed from the Peripatetics in some points, he did not arise out of them. And I, indeed, consider Epicurus, as far as his natural philosophy is concerned, as only another Democritus: he alters very few of his doctrines; and I should think him so even if he had changed more: but in numerous instances, and certainly on all the most important points, he coincides with him exactly. And though the men of your school do this, they do not show sufficient gratitude to the original discoverers.
VI. But enough of this. Let us now, I beg, consider the [pg 215] chief good, which contains all philosophy, and see whether Zeno has brought forward any reason for dissenting from the original discoverers and parents of it, as I may call them. While speaking, then, on this topic—although, Cato, this summit of goods, which contains all philosophy, has been carefully explained by you, and though you have told us what is considered so by the Stoics, and in what sense it is called so—yet I also will give my explanation, in order that we may see clearly, if we can, what new doctrine has been introduced into the question by Zeno. For as preceding philosophers, and Polemo most explicitly of all, had said that the chief good was to live according to nature, the Stoics say that three things are signified by these words: one, that a man should live exercising a knowledge of those things which happen by nature; and they say that this is the chief good of Zeno, who declares, as has been said by you, that it consists in living in a manner suitable to nature: the second meaning is much the same as if it were said that a man ought to live attending to all, or nearly all, the natural and intermediate duties. But this, when explained in this manner, is different from the former. For the former is right, which you called κατόρθωμα, and it happens to the wise man alone; but this is only a duty which is begun and not perfected, and this may happen to some who are far from being wise: the third is that a man should live, enjoying all things, or at least all the most important things which are according to nature; but this does not always depend on ourselves, for it is perfected both out of that kind of life which is bounded by virtue, and out of those things which are according to nature, and which are not in our own power.
But this chief good, which is understood in the third signification of the definition, and that life which is passed in conformity with that good, can happen to the wise man alone, because virtue is connected with it. And that summit of good, as we see it expressed by the Stoics themselves, was laid down by Xenocrates and by Aristotle; and so that first arrangement of the principles of nature, with which you also began, is explained by them in almost these very words.
VII. All nature desires to be a preserver of itself, in order that it may be both safe itself, and that it may be preserved in its kind. They say that for this end arts have been invented [pg 216] to assist nature, among which that is accounted one of the most important which is the art of living so as to defend what has been given by nature, and to acquire what is wanting; and, at the same time, they have divided the nature of man into mind and body. And, as they said that each of these things was desirable for its own sake, so also they said that the virtues of each of them were desirable for their own sake. But when they extolled the mind with boundless praises, and preferred it to the body, they at the same time preferred the virtues of the mind to the goods of the body.
But, as they asserted that wisdom was the guardian and regulator of the entire man, being the companion and assistant of nature, they said that the especial office of wisdom was to defend the being who consisted of mind and body,—to assist him and support him in each particular. And so, the matter being first laid down simply, pursuing the rest of the argument with more subtlety, they thought that the goods of the body admitted of an easy explanation, but they inquired more accurately into those of the mind. And, first of all, they found out that they contained the seeds of justice; and they were the first of all philosophers to teach that the principle that those which were the offspring should be beloved by their parents, was implanted in all animals by nature; and they said, also, that that which precedes the birth of offspring, in point of time,—namely, the marriage of men and women,—was a bond of union suggested by nature, and that this was the root from which the friendships between relations sprang. And, beginning with these first principles, they proceeded to investigate the origin and progress of all the virtues; by which course a great magnanimity was engendered, enabling them easily to resist and withstand fortune, because the most important events were in the power of the wise man; and a life conducted according to the precepts of the ancient philosophers was easily superior to all the changes and injuries of fortune.
But when these foundations had been laid by nature, certain great increases of good were produced,—some arising from the contemplation of more secret things, because there is a love of knowledge innate in the mind, in which also the fondness for explaining principles and for discussing them originates; and because man is the only animal which has [pg 217] any share of shame or modesty; and because he also covets union and society with other men, and takes pains in everything which he does or says, that he may do nothing which is not honourable and becoming;—these foundations being, as I have said, implanted in us by nature like so many seeds, temperance, and modesty, and justice, and all virtue, was brought to complete perfection.
VIII. You here, O Cato, have a sketch of the philosophers of whom I am speaking; and, now that I have given you this, I wish to know what reason there is why Zeno departed from their established system; and which of all their doctrines it was that he disapproved of? Did he object to their calling all nature a preserver of itself?—or to their saying that every animal was naturally fond of itself, so as to wish to be safe and uninjured in its kind?—or, as the end of all arts is to arrive at what nature especially requires, did he think that the same principle ought to be laid down with respect to the art of the entire life?—or, since we consist of mind and body, did he think that these and their excellences ought to be chosen for their own sakes?—or was he displeased with the preeminence which is attributed by the Peripatetics to the virtue of the mind?—or did he object to what they said about prudence, and the knowledge of things, and the union of the human race, and temperance, and modesty, and magnanimity, and honourableness in general? The Stoics must confess that all these things were excellently explained by the others, and that they gave no reason to Zeno for deserting their school. They must allege some other excuse.
I suppose they will say that the errors of the ancients were very great, and that he, being desirous of investigating the truth, could by no means endure them. For what can be more perverse—what can be more intolerable, or more stupid, than to place good health, and freedom from all pain, and soundness of the eyes and the rest of the senses, among the goods, instead of saying that there is no difference at all between them and their contraries? For that all those things which the Peripatetics called goods, were only things preferable, not good. And also that the ancients had been very foolish when they said that these excellences of the body were desirable for their own sake: they were to be accepted, but not to be desired. And the same might be said of all the [pg 218] other circumstances of life, which consists of nothing but virtue alone,—that that life which is rich also in the other things which are according to nature is not more to be desired on that account, but only more to be accepted; and, though virtue itself makes life so happy that a man cannot be happier, still something is wanting to wise men, even when they are most completely happy; and that they labour to repel pain, disease, and debility.
IX. Oh, what a splendid force is there in such genius, and what an excellent reason is this for setting up a new school! Go on; for it will follow,—and, indeed, you have most learnedly adopted the principle,—that all folly, and all injustice, and all other vices are alike, and that all errors are equal; and that those who have made great progress, through natural philosophy and learning, towards virtue, if they have not arrived at absolute perfection in it, are completely miserable, and that there is no difference between their life and that of the most worthless of men,—as Plato, that greatest of men, if he was not thoroughly wise, lived no better, and in no respect more happily, than the most worthless of men. This is, forsooth, the Stoic correction and improvement of the old philosophy; but it can never find any entrance into the city, or the forum, or the senate-house. For who could endure to hear a man, who professed to be a teacher of how to pass life with dignity and wisdom, speaking in such a manner—altering the names of things; and though he was in reality of the same opinion as every one else, still giving new names to the things to which he attributed just the same force that others did, without proposing the least alteration in the ideas to be entertained of them? Would the advocate of a cause, when summing up for a defendant, deny that exile or the confiscation of his client's property was an evil?—that these things were to be rejected, though not to be fled from?—or would he say that a judge ought not to be merciful?
But if he were speaking in the public assembly,—if Hannibal had arrived at the gates and had driven his javelin into the wall, would he deny that it was an evil to be taken prisoner, to be sold, to be slain, to lose one's country? Or could the senate, when it was voting a triumph to Africanus, have expressed itself,—Because by his virtue and good fortune ... if there could not properly be said to be any virtue or any [pg 219] good fortune except in a wise man? What sort of a philosophy, then, is that which speaks in the ordinary manner in the forum, but in a peculiar style of its own in books? especially when, as they intimate themselves in all they say, no innovations are made by them in the facts,—none of the things themselves are changed, but they remain exactly the same, though in another manner. For what difference does it make whether you call riches, and power, and health goods, or only things preferred, as long as the man who calls them goods attributes no more to them than you do who call them things preferred? Therefore, Panætius—a noble and dignified man, worthy of the intimacy which he enjoyed with Scipio and Lælius—when he was writing to Quintus Tubero on the subject of bearing pain, never once asserted, what ought to have been his main argument, if it could have been proved, that pain was not an evil; but he explained what it was, and what its character was, and what amount of disagreeableness there was in it, and what was the proper method of enduring it; and (for he, too, was a Stoic) all that preposterous language of the school appears to me to be condemned by these sentiments of his.
X. But, however, to come, O Cato, more closely to what you have been saying, let us treat this question more narrowly, and compare what you have just said with those assertions which I prefer to yours. Now, those arguments which you employ in common with the ancients, we may make use of as admitted. But let us, if you please, confine our discussion to those which are disputed. I do please, said he: I am very glad to have the question argued with more subtlety, and, as you call it, more closely; for what you have hitherto advanced are mere popular assertions, but from you I expect something more elegant. From me? said I. However, I will try; and, if I cannot find arguments enough, I will not be above having recourse to those which you call popular.
But let me first lay down this position, that we are so recommended to ourselves by nature, and that we have this principal desire implanted in us by nature, that our first wish is to preserve ourselves. This is agreed. It follows, that we must take notice what we are, that so we may preserve ourselves in that character of which we ought to be. We are, therefore, men: we consist of mind and body,—which are [pg 220] things of a particular description,—and we ought, as our first natural desire requires, to love these parts of ourselves, and from them to establish this summit of the chief and highest good, which, if our first principles are true, must be established in such a way as to acquire as many as possible of those things which are in accordance with nature, and especially all the most important of them. This, then, is the chief good which they aimed at. I have expressed it more diffusely,—they call it briefly, living according to nature. This is what appears to them to be the chief good.
XI. Come, now let them teach us, or rather do so yourself, (for who is better able?) in what way you proceed from these principles, and prove that to live honourably (for that is the meaning of living according to virtue, or in a manner suitable to nature) is the chief good; and in what manner, or in what place, you on a sudden get rid of the body, and leave all those things which, as they are according to nature, are out of our own power; and, lastly, how you get rid of duty itself.
I ask, therefore, how it is that all these recommendations, having proceeded from nature, are suddenly abandoned by wisdom? But if it were not the chief good of man that we were inquiring into, but only that of some animal, and if he were nothing except mind (for we may make such a supposition as that, in order more easily to discover the truth), still this chief good of yours would not belong to that mind. For it would wish for good health, for freedom from pain; it would also desire the preservation of itself, and the guardianship of these qualities, and it would appoint as its own end to live according to nature, which is, as I have said, to have those things which are according to nature, either all of them, or most of them, and all the most important ones. For whatever kind of animal you make him out, it is necessary, even though he be incorporeal, as we are supposing him, still that there must be in the mind something like those qualities which exist in the body; so that the chief good cannot possibly be defined in any other manner but that which I have mentioned.
But Chrysippus, when explaining the differences between living creatures, says, that some excel in their bodies, others in their minds, some in both. And then he argues that [pg 221] there ought to be a separate chief good for each description of creature. But as he had placed man in such a class that he attributed to him excellence of mind, he determined that his chief good was not that he appeared to excel in mind, but that he appeared to be nothing else but mind.
XII. But in one case the chief good might rightly be placed in virtue alone, if there were any animal which consisted wholly of mind; and that, too, in such a manner that that mind had in itself nothing that was according to nature, as health is. But it cannot even be imagined what kind of thing that is, so as not to be inconsistent with itself. But if he says that some things are obscure, and are not visible because they are very small, we also admit that; as Epicurus says of pleasure, that those pleasures which are very small are often obscured and overwhelmed. But that kind has not so many advantages of body, nor any which last so long, or are so great. Therefore, in those in which obscuration follows because of their littleness, it often happens that we confess that it makes no difference to us whether they exist at all or not; just as when the sun is out, as you yourself said, it is of no consequence to add the light of a candle, or to add a penny to the riches of Crœsus. But in those matters in which so great an obscuration does not take place, it may still be the case, that the matter which makes a difference is of no great consequence. As if, when a man had lived ten years agreeably, an additional month's life of equal pleasantness were given to him, it would be good, because any addition has some power to produce what is agreeable; but if that is not admitted, it does not follow that a happiness of life is at once put an end to.
But the goods of the body are more like this instance which I have just mentioned. For they admit of additions worthy of having pains taken about them; so that on this point the Stoics appear to me sometimes to be joking, when they say that, if a bottle or a comb were given as an addition to a life which is being passed with virtue, a wise man would rather choose that life, because these additions were given to it, but yet that he would not be happier on that account. Now, is not this simile to be upset by ridicule rather than by serious discourse? For who would not be deservedly ridiculed, if he were anxious whether he had another bottle or [pg 222] not? But if any one relieves a person from any affection of the limbs, or from the pain of any disease, he will receive great gratitude. And if that wise man of yours is put on the rack of torture by a tyrant, he will not display the same countenance as if he had lost his bottle; but, as entering upon a serious and difficult contest, seeing that he will have to fight with a capital enemy, namely, pain, he will summon up all his principles of fortitude and patience, by whose assistance he will proceed to face that difficult and important battle, as I have called it.
We will not inquire, then, what is obscured, or what is destroyed, because it is something very small; but what is of such a character as to complete the whole sum of happiness. One pleasure out of many may be obscured in that life of pleasure; but still, however small an one it may be, it is a part of that life which consists wholly of pleasure. One coin is lost of the riches of Crœsus, still it is a part of his riches. Wherefore those things, too, which we say are according to nature, may be obscured in a happy life, still they must be parts of the happy life.
XIII. But if, as we ought to agree, there is a certain natural desire which longs for those things which are according to nature, then, when taken altogether, they must be considerable in amount. And if this point is established, then we may be allowed to inquire about those things at our leisure, and to investigate the greatness of them, and their excellence, and to examine what influence each has on living happily, and also to consider the very obscurations themselves, which, on account of their smallness, are scarcely ever, or I may say never, visible.
What should I say about that as to which there is no dispute? For there is no one who denies that that which is the standard to which everything is referred resembles every nature, and that is the chief thing which is to be desired. For every nature is attached to itself. For what nature is there which ever deserts itself, or any portion of itself, or any one of its parts or faculties, or, in short, any one of those things, or motions, or states which are in accordance with nature? And what nature has ever been forgetful of its original purpose and establishment? There has never been one which does not observe this law from first to last. How, [pg 223] then, does it happen that the nature of man is the only one which ever abandons man, which forgets the body, which places the chief good, not in the whole man, but in a part of man? And how, as they themselves admit, and as is agreed upon by all, will it be preserved, so that that ultimate good of nature, which is the subject of our inquiry, shall resemble every nature? For it would resemble them, if in other natures also there were some ultimate point of excellence. For then that would seem to be the chief good of the Stoics. Why, then, do you hesitate to alter the principles of nature? For why do you say that every animal, the moment that it is born, is prone to feel love for itself, and is occupied in its own preservation? Why do you not rather say that every animal is inclined to that which is most excellent in itself, and is occupied in the guardianship of that one thing, and that the other natures do nothing else but preserve that quality which is the best in each of them? But how can it be the best, if there is nothing at all good besides? But if the other things are to be desired, why, then, is not that which is the chief of all desirable things inferred from the desire of all those things, or of the most numerous and important of them? as Phidias can either begin a statue from the beginning, and finish it, or he can take one which has been begun by another, and complete that.
Now wisdom is like this: for wisdom is not herself the parent of man, but she has received him after he has been commenced by nature. And without regard to her, she ought to complete that work of her's, as an artist would complete a statue. What kind of man, then, is it that nature has commenced? and what is the office and task of wisdom? What is it that ought to be finished and completed by her? If there is nothing to be made further in man, except some kind of motion of the mind, that is to say, reason, then it follows, that the ultimate object is to mould the life according to virtue. For the perfection of reason is virtue. If there is nothing but body, then the chief goods must be good health, freedom from pain, beauty, and so on. The question at this moment is about the chief good of man.
XIV. Why do we hesitate, then, to inquire as to his whole nature, what has been done? For as it is agreed by all, that the whole duty and office of wisdom is to be occupied about [pg 224] the cultivation of man, some (that you may not think that I am arguing against none but the Stoics) bring forward opinions in which they place the chief good among things of a kind which are wholly out of our own power, just as if they were speaking of one of the brute beasts; others, on the contrary, as if man had no body at all, so entirely exclude everything from their consideration except the mind, (and this, too, while the mind itself, in their philosophy, is not some unintelligible kind of vacuum, but something which exists in some particular species of body,) that even that is not content with virtue alone, but requires freedom from pain. So that both these classes do the same thing, as if they neglected the left side of a man, and took care only of the right; or as if they (as Herillus did) attended only to the knowledge of the mind itself, and passed over all action. For it is but a crippled system which all those men set up who pass over many things, and select some one in particular to adhere to. But that is a perfect and full system which those adopt who, while inquiring about the chief good of man, pass over in their inquiry no part either of his mind or body, so as to leave it unprotected. But your school, O Cato, because virtue holds, as we all admit, the highest and most excellent place in man, and because we think those who are wise men, perfect and admirable men, seeks entirely to dazzle the eyes of our minds with the splendour of virtue. For in every living creature there is some one principal and most excellent thing, as, for instance, in horses and dogs; but those must be free from pain and in good health. Therefore, you do not seem to me to pay sufficient attention to what the general path and progress of nature is. For it does not pursue the same course in man that it does in corn, (which, when it has advanced it from the blade to the ear, it leaves and considers the stubble as nothing,) and leave him as soon as it has conducted him to a state of reason. For it is always taking something additional, without ever abandoning what it has previously given. Therefore, it has added reason to the senses; and when it has perfected his reason, it still does not abandon the senses.
As if the culture of the vine, the object of which is to cause the vine, with all its parts, to be in the best possible condition, (however that is what we understand it to be, for [pg 225] one may, as you often do yourselves, suppose anything for the purpose of illustration,) if, then, that culture of the vine be in the vine itself, it would, I presume, desire everything else which concerns the cultivation of the vine, to be as it has been before. But it would prefer itself to every separate part of the vine, and it would feel sure that nothing in the vine was better than itself. In like manner sense, when it has been added to nature, protects it indeed, but it also protects itself. But when reason is also added, then it is placed in a position of such predominant power, that all those first principles of nature are put under its guardianship. Therefore it does not abandon the care of those things over which it is so set, that its duty is to regulate the entire life: so that we cannot sufficiently marvel at their inconsistency. For they assert that the natural appetite, which they call ὁρμὴ, and also duty, and even virtue herself, are all protectors of those things which are according to nature. But when they wish to arrive at the chief good, they overleap everything, and leave us two tasks instead of one—namely, to choose some things and desire others, instead of including both under one head.
XV. But now you say that virtue cannot properly be established, if those things which are external to virtue have any influence on living happily. But the exact contrary is the case. For virtue cannot possibly be introduced, unless everything which it chooses and which it neglects is all referred to one general end. For if we entirely neglect ourselves, we then fall into the vices and errors of Ariston, and shall forget the principles which we have attributed to virtue itself. But if we do not neglect those things, and yet do not refer them to the chief good, we shall not be very far removed from the trivialities of Herillus. For we shall have to adopt two different plans of conduct in life: for he makes out that there are two chief goods unconnected with each other; but if they were real goods, they ought to be united; but at present they are separated, so that they never can be united. But nothing can be more perverse than this. Therefore, the fact is exactly contrary to your assertion: for virtue cannot possibly be established firmly, unless it maintains those things which are the principles of nature as having an influence on the object. For we have been looking [pg 226] for a virtue which should preserve nature, not for one which should abandon it. But that of yours, as you represent it, preserves only one part, and abandons the rest.
And, indeed, if the custom of man could speak, this would be its language. That its first beginnings were, as it were, beginnings of desire that it might preserve itself in that nature in which it had been born. For it had not yet been sufficiently explained what nature desired above all things. Let it therefore be explained. What else then will be understood but that no part of nature is to be neglected? And if there is nothing in it besides reason, then the chief good must be in virtue alone. But if there is also body, then will that explanation of nature have caused us to abandon the belief which we held before the explanation. Is it, then, being in a manner suitable to nature to abandon nature? As some philosophers do, when having begun with the senses they have seen something more important and divine, and then abandoned the senses; so, too, these men, when they had beheld the beauty of virtue developed in its desire for particular things, abandoned everything which they had seen for the sake of virtue herself, forgetting that the whole nature of desirable things was so extensive that it remained from beginning to end; and they do not understand that they are taking away the very foundations of these beautiful and admirable things.
XVI. Therefore, all those men appear to me to have made a blunder who have pronounced the chief good to be to live honourably. But some have erred more than others,—Pyrrho above all, who, having fixed on virtue as the chief good, refuses to allow that there is anything else in the world deserving of being desired; and, next to him, Aristo, who did not, indeed, venture to leave nothing else to be desired, but who introduced influence, by which a wise man might be excited, and desire whatever occurred to his mind, and whatever even appeared so to occur. He was more right than Pyrrho, inasmuch as he left man some kind of desire; but worse than the rest, inasmuch as he departed wholly from nature: but the Stoics, because they place the chief good in virtue alone, resemble these men: but inasmuch as they seek for a principle of duty, they are superior to Pyrrho; and as they do not admit the desire of those objects which offer [pg 227] themselves to the imagination, they are more correct than Aristo; but, inasmuch as they do not add the things which they admit to be adopted by nature, and to be worthy of being chosen for their own sakes, to the chief good, they here desert nature, and are in some degree not different from Aristo: for he invented some strange kinds of occurrences; but these men recognise, indeed, the principles of nature, but still they disconnect them from the perfect and chief good; and when they put them forward, so that there may be some selection of things, they appear to follow nature; but when they deny that they have any influence in making life happy, they again abandon nature.
And hitherto I have been showing how destitute Zeno was of any good reason for abandoning the authority of previous philosophers: now let us consider the rest of his arguments; unless, indeed, O Cato, you wish to make any reply to what I have been saying, or unless we are getting tedious. Neither, said he; for I wish this side of the question to be completely argued by you; nor does your discourse seem to me to be at all tedious. I am glad to hear it, I replied; for what can be more desirable for me than to discuss the subject of virtue with Cato, who is the most virtuous of men in every point? But, first of all, remark that that imposing sentiment of yours, which brings a whole family after it, namely, that what is honourable is the only good, and that to live honourably is the chief good, will be shared in common with you by all who define the chief good as consisting in virtue alone; and, as to what you say, that virtue cannot be formed if anything except what is honourable is included in the account, the same statement will be made by those whom I have just named. But it appeared to me to be fairer, advancing from one common beginning, to see where Zeno, while disputing with Polemo, from whom he had learnt what the principles of nature were, first took his stand, and what the original cause of the controversy was; and not to stand on their side, who did not even allow that their own chief good was derived from nature, and to employ the same arguments which they did, and to maintain the same sentiments.
XVII. But I am very far from approving this conduct of yours, that when you have proved, as you imagine, that that [pg 228] alone is good which is honourable, then say again that it is necessary that beginnings should be put forward which are suitable and adapted to nature; by a selection from which virtue might be called into existence. For virtue ought not to have been stated to consist in selection, so that that very thing which was itself the chief good, was to acquire something besides itself; for all things which are to be taken, or chosen, or desired, ought to exist in the chief good, so that he who has attained that may want nothing more. Do you not see how evident it is to those men whose chief good consists in pleasure, what they ought to do and what they ought not? so that no one of them doubts what all their duties ought to regard, what they ought to pursue, or avoid. Let this, then, be the chief good which is now defended by me; it will be evident in a moment what are the necessary duties and actions. But you, who set before yourselves another end except what is right and honourable, will not be able to find out where your principle of duty and action is to originate.
Therefore you are all of you seeking for this, and so are those who say that they pursue whatever comes into their mind and occurs to them; and you return to nature. But nature will fairly reply to you, that it is not true that the chief happiness of life is to be sought in another quarter, but the principles of action in herself: for that there is one system only, in which both the principles of action and the chief good too is contained; and that, as the opinion of Aristo is exploded, when he says that one thing does not differ from another, and that there is nothing except virtue and vice in which there was any difference whatever; so, too, Zeno was in the wrong, who affirmed that there was no influence in anything, except virtue or vice, of the very least power to assist in the attainment of the chief good: and as that had no influence on making life happy, but only in creating a desire for things, he said that there was some power of attraction in them: just as if this desire had no reference to the acquisition of the chief good. But what can be less consistent than what they say, namely, that when they have obtained the knowledge of the chief good they then return to nature, in order to seek in it the principle of action, that is to say, of duty? For it is not the principle of action or duty which impels them to desire those things which are [pg 229] according to nature; but desire and action are both set in motion by those things.
XVIII. Now I come to those brief statements of yours which you call conclusions; and first of all to that—than which, certainly, nothing can be more brief—that "everything good is praiseworthy; but everything praiseworthy is honourable; therefore everything good is honourable." Oh, what a leaden dagger!—for who will grant you your first premises? And if it should be granted to you, then you have no need of the second: for if everything good is praiseworthy, so is everything honourable; who, then, will grant you this, except Pyrrho, Aristo, and men like them?—whom you do not approve of. Aristotle, Xenocrates, and all that school, will not grant it; inasmuch as they call health, strength, riches, glory, and many other things good, but not praiseworthy; and they therefore do not think that the chief good is contained in virtue alone, though still they do prefer virtue to everything else. What do you think that those men will do who have utterly separated virtue from the chief good, Epicurus, Hieronymus, and those too, if indeed there are any such, who wish to defend the definition of the chief good given by Carneades? And how will Callipho and Diodorus be able to grant you what you ask, men who join to honourableness something else which is not of the same genus?—Do you, then, think it proper, Cato, after you have assumed premises which no one will grant to you, to derive whatever conclusion you please from them? Take this sorites, than which you think nothing can be more faulty: “That which is good is desirable; that which is desirable ought to be sought for; that which ought to be sought for is praiseworthy,” and so on through all the steps. But I will stop here, for in the same manner no one will grant to you that whatever ought to be sought is therefore praiseworthy; and that other argument of theirs is far from a legitimate conclusion, but a most stupid assertion, “that a happy life is one worthy of being boasted of.” For it can never happen that a person may reasonably boast, without something honourable in the circumstances. Polemo will grant this to Zeno; and so will his master, and the whole of that school, and all the rest who, preferring virtue by far to everything else, still add something besides to it in their definition of the chief good. For, [pg 230] if virtue be a thing worthy of being boasted of, as it is, and if it is so far superior to all other things that it can scarcely be expressed how much better it is; then a man may, possibly, be happy if endowed with virtue alone, and destitute of everything else; and yet he will never grant to you that nothing whatever is to be classed among goods, except virtue.
But those men whose chief good has no virtue in it, will perhaps not grant to you that a happy life has anything in it of which a man can rightly boast, although they also, at times, represent virtues as subjects for boasting. You see, therefore, that you are either assuming propositions which are not admitted, or else such as, even if they are granted, will do you no good.
XIX. In truth, in all these conclusions, I should think this worthy both of philosophy and of ourselves,—and that, too, most especially so when we were inquiring into the chief good,—that our lives, and designs, and wishes should be corrected, and not our expressions. For who, when he has heard those brief and acute arguments of yours which, as you say, give you so much pleasure, can ever have his opinion changed by them? For when men fix their attention on them, and wish to hear why pain is not an evil, they tell him that to be in pain is a bitter, annoying, odious, unnatural condition, and one difficult to be borne; but, because there is in pain no fraud, or dishonesty, or malice, or fault, or baseness, therefore it is not an evil. Now, the man who hears this said, even if he does not care to laugh, will still depart without being a bit more courageous as to bearing pain than he was when he came. But you affirm that no one can be courageous who thinks pain an evil. Why should he be more courageous if he thinks it—what you yourself admit it to be—bitter and scarcely endurable? For timidity is generated by things, and not by words. And you say, that if one letter is moved, the whole system of the school will be undermined. Do I seem, then, to you to be moving a letter, or rather whole pages? For although the order of things, which is what you so especially extol, may be preserved among them, and although everything may be well joined and connected together, (for that is what you said,) still we ought not to follow them too far, if arguments, having set out from false principles, are consistent with themselves, and do not wander from the end they propose to themselves.
Accordingly, in his first establishment of his system, your master, Zeno, departed from nature; and as he had placed the chief good on that superiority of disposition which we call virtue, and had affirmed that there was nothing whatever good which was not honourable, and that virtue could have no real existence if in other things there were things of which one was better or worse than another; having laid down these premises, he naturally maintained the conclusions. You say truly; for I cannot deny it. But the conclusions which follow from his premises are so false that the premises from which they are deduced cannot be true. For the dialecticians, you know, teach us that if the conclusions which follow from any premises are false, the premises from which they follow cannot be true. And so that conclusion is not only true, but so evident that even the dialecticians do not think it necessary that any reasons should be given for it—“If that is the case, this is; but this is not; therefore that is not.” And so, by denying your consequence, your premise is contradicted. What follows, then?—“All who are not wise are equally miserable; all wise men are perfectly happy: all actions done rightly are equal to one another; all offences are equal.” But, though all these propositions at first appear to be admirably laid down, after a little consideration they are not so much approved of. For every man's own senses, and the nature of things, and truth itself, cried out, after a fashion, that they could never be induced to believe that there was no difference between those things which Zeno asserted to be equal.
XX. Afterwards that little Phœnician of yours (for you know that the people of Citium, your clients, came from Phœnicia), a shrewd man, as he was not succeeding in his case, since nature herself contradicted him, began to withdraw his words; and first of all he granted in favour of those things which we consider good, that they might be considered fit, and useful, and adapted to nature; and he began to confess that it was more advantageous for a wise—that is to say for a perfectly happy—man, to have those things which he does not venture indeed to call goods, but yet allows to be well adapted to nature. And he denies that Plato, if he were not a wise man, would be in the same circumstances as the tyrant Dionysius; for that to die was better for the one, [pg 232] because he despaired of attaining wisdom, but to live was better for the other, because of his hope of doing so. And he asserts that of offences some are tolerable, and some by no means so, because many men passed by some offences, and there are others which very few people pass by, on account of the number of duties violated. Again, he said that some men are so foolish as to be utterly unable ever to arrive at wisdom; but that there are others who, if they had taken pains, might have attained to it. Now, in this he expressed himself differently from any one else, but he thought just the same as all the rest. Nor did he think those things deserving of being valued less which he himself denied to be goods, than they did who considered them as goods. What, then, did he wish to effect by having altered these names? At least he would have taken something from their weight, and would have valued them at rather less than the Peripatetics, in order to appear to think in some respects differently from them, and not merely to speak so.
What more need I say? What do you say about the happy life to which everything is referred? You affirm that it is not that life which is filled with everything which nature requires; and you place it entirely in virtue alone. And as every controversy is usually either about a fact or a name, both kinds of dispute arise if either the fact is not understood or if a mistake is made as to the name; and if neither of these is the case, we must take care to use the most ordinary language possible, and words as suitable as can be,—that is, such as make the subject plain. Is it, then, doubtful that if the former philosophers have not erred at all as to the fact itself, they certainly express themselves more conveniently? Let us, then, examine their opinions, and then return to the question of names.
XXI. They say that the desire of the mind is excited when anything appears to it to be according to nature; and that all things which are according to nature are worthy of some esteem; and that they deserve to be esteemed in proportion to the weight that there is in each of them: and that of those things which are according to nature, some have in themselves nothing of that appetite of which we have already frequently spoken, being neither called honourable nor praiseworthy; and some, again, are accompanied by pleasure in the [pg 233] case of every animal, and in the case of man also with reason. And those of them which are suitable are honourable, beautiful, and praiseworthy; but the others, mentioned before, are natural, and, when combined with those which are honourable, make up and complete a perfectly happy life. But they say, too, that of all these advantages—to which those people do not attribute more importance who say that they are goods, than Zeno does, who denies it—by far the most excellent is that which is honourable and praiseworthy; but that if two honourable things are both set before one, one accompanied with good health and the other with sickness, it is not doubtful to which of them nature herself will conduct us: but, nevertheless, that the power of honourableness is so great, and that it is so far better than, and superior to, everything else, that it can never be moved by any punishments or by any bribes from that which it has decided to be right; and that everything which appears hard, difficult, or unfortunate, can be dissipated by those virtues with which we have been adorned by nature; not because they are trivial or contemptible—or else where would be the merit of the virtues?—but that we might infer from such an event, that it was not in them that the main question of living happily or unhappily depended.
In short, the things which Zeno has called estimable, and worth choosing, and suitable to nature, they call goods; but they call that a happy life which consists of those things which I have mentioned, or, if not of all, at least of the greatest number of them, and of the most important. But Zeno calls that the only good which has some peculiar beauty of its own to make it desirable; and he calls that life alone happy which is passed with virtue.
XXII. If we are to discuss the reality of the case, then there cannot possibly, Cato, be any disagreement between you and me: for there is nothing on which you and I have different opinions; let us only compare the real circumstances, after changing the names. Nor, indeed, did he fail to see this; but he was delighted with the magnificence and splendour of the language: and if he really felt what he said, and what his words intimate, then what would be the difference between him and Pyrrho or Aristo? But if he did not approve of them, then what was his object in differing in language with those men with whom he agreed in reality?
What would you do if these Platonic philosophers, and those, too, who were their pupils, were to come to life again, and address you thus:—“As, O Marcus Cato, we heard that you were a man exceedingly devoted to philosophy, a most just citizen, an excellent judge, and a most conscientious witness, we marvelled what the reason was why you preferred the Stoics to us; for they, on the subject of good and evil things, entertain those opinions which Zeno learnt from Polemo; and use those names which, when they are first heard, excite wonder, but when they are explained, move only ridicule. But if you approved those doctrines so much, why did you not maintain them in their own proper language? If authority had influence with you, how was it that you preferred some stranger to all of us and to Plato himself? especially while you were desirous to be a chief man in the republic, and might have been accomplished and equipped by us in a way to enable you to defend it to your own great increase of dignity. For the means to such an end have been investigated, described, marked down, and enjoined by us; and we have written detailed accounts of the government of all republics, and their descriptions, and constitutions, and changes,—and even of the laws, and customs, and manners of all states. Moreover, how much eloquence, which is the greatest ornament to leading men,—in which, indeed, we have heard that you are very eminent,—might you have learnt, in addition to that which is natural to you, from our records!” When they had said this, what answer could you have made to such men? I would have entreated you, said he, who had dictated their speech to them, to speak likewise for me, or else rather to give me a little room to answer them myself, only that now I prefer listening to you; and yet at another time I should be likely to reply to them at the same time that I answer you.
XXIII. But if you were to answer truly, Cato, you would be forced to say this—That you do not approve of those men, men of great genius and great authority as they are. But that you have noticed that the things which, by reason of their antiquity they have failed to see, have been thoroughly comprehended by the Stoics, and that these latter have discussed the same matters with more acuteness, and have also entertained more dignified and courageous sentiments, [pg 235] inasmuch as, in the first place, they deny that good health is to be desired, though they admit that it may be chosen; not because to be well is a good, but because it is not to be utterly disregarded, and yet that it does not appear to them of more value that it does to those who do not hesitate to call it a good. And that you could not endure that those ancients, those bearded men (as we are in the habit of calling our own ancestors), should believe that the life of that man who lived honourably, if he had also good health and a good reputation, and was rich, was more desirable, better, and more to be sought for, than that of him who was equally a good man in many respects, like the Alcmæon of Ennius—
Surrounded by disease, and exile sad,
And cruel want.
Those ancients, then, must have been far from clever, to think that life more desirable, better, and happier. But the Stoics think it only to be preferred if one has a choice; not because this life is happier, but because it is better adapted to nature; and they think that all who are not wise are equally miserable. The Stoics, forsooth, thought this; but it had entirely escaped the perception of those philosophers who preceded them, for they thought that men stained with all sorts of parricide and wickedness were not at all more miserable than those who, though they lived purely and uprightly, had not yet attained complete wisdom.
And while on this topic, you brought forth those similes which they are in the habit of employing, which are, in truth, no similes at all. For who is ignorant that, if many men should choose to emerge from the deep, those would be nearer breathing who came close to the surface, but still would not be actually able to breathe any more than those who are at the bottom? Therefore, on your principles, it is of no avail to make progress and advancement in virtue, in order to be less utterly miserable before you have actually arrived at it, since it is of no use in the case of men in the water. And since puppies who are on the point of opening their eyes, are just as blind as those that are but this moment born; it is plain also that Plato, as he had not yet seen wisdom, was as blind in his intellect as Phalaris.
XXIV. These cases are not alike, Cato. For in these [pg 236] instances, though you may have made a good deal of progress, still you are in exactly the same evil from which you wish to be free, till you have entirely escaped. For a man does not breathe till he has entirely emerged, and puppies are just as blind till they have opened their eyes, as if they were never going to open them. I will give you some instances that really are like. One man's eyes are bad, another is weak in his body; these men are both gradually relieved by the daily application of remedies. The one gets better every day, and the other sees better. Now these men resemble all those who study virtue. They are relieved of their vices; they are relieved of their errors. Unless, perchance, you think that Tiberius Gracchus, the father, was not happier than his son, when the one laboured to establish the republic, and the other to subvert it. And yet he was not a wise man. For who taught him wisdom? or when? or where? or whence did he learn it? Still, because he consulted his twin glory and dignity, he had made great progress in virtue.
But I will compare your grandfather, Drusus, with Caius Gracchus, who was nearly his contemporary. He healed the wounds which the other inflicted on the republic. But there is nothing which makes men so miserable as impiety and wickedness. Grant that all those who are unwise are miserable, as, in fact, they are; still he is not equally miserable who consults the interest of his country with him who wishes for its destruction. Therefore, those men are already a great deal relieved from their vices who have made any considerable advance towards virtue. But the men of your school admit that advance towards virtue can be made, but yet assert that no relief from vices takes place in consequence.
But it is worth while to consider on what arguments acute men rely for proving this point. Those arts, say they, of which the perfection can be increased, show that the completeness of their contraries can likewise be increased. But no addition can be made to the perfection of virtue. Therefore, also, vices will not be susceptible of any increase, for they are the contraries of virtues. Shall we say, then, that things which are doubtful are made plain by things which are evident, or that things which are evident are obscured by things that are doubtful? But this is evident, that different vices are greater in different people. This is doubtful, whether [pg 237] any addition can be made to that which you call the chief good. But you, while what you ought to do is to try and illustrate what is doubtful by what is evident, endeavour to get rid of what is evident by what is doubtful. And, therefore, you will find yourself hampered by the same reasoning which I used just now. For if it follows that some vices are not greater than others, because no addition can be made to that chief good which you describe, since it is quite evident that the vices of all men are not equal, you must change your definition of the chief good. For we must inevitably maintain this rule, that when a consequence is false, the premises from which the consequence proceeds cannot be true.
XXV. What, then, is the cause of these difficulties? A vain-glorious parade in defining the chief good. For when it is positively asserted that what is honourable is the sole good, all care for one's health, all attention to one's estate, all regard for the government of the republic, all regularity in transacting business, all the duties of life, in short, are put an end to. Even that very honourableness, in which alone you assert that everything is comprised, must be abandoned. All which arguments are carefully urged against Ariston by Chrysippus. And from that embarrassment it is that all those fallaciously speaking wiles, as Attius calls them, have arisen. For because wisdom had no ground on which to rest her foot, when all the duties were taken away, (and duties were taken away when all power of selection and discrimination was denied; for what choice, or what discrimination could there be when all things were so completely equal that there was no difference whatever between them?) from these difficulties there arose worse errors than even those of Aristo. For his arguments were at all events simple; those of your school are full of craft.
For suppose you were to ask Aristo whether these things, freedom from pain, riches, and good health, appear to him to be goods? He would deny it. What next? Suppose you ask him whether the contraries of these things are bad? He would deny that equally. Suppose you were to ask Zeno the same question? He would give you the same answer, word for word. Suppose further, that we, being full of astonishment, were to ask them both how it will be possible for us to live, if we think that it makes not the least difference to [pg 238] us whether we are well or sick; whether we are free from pain or tormented by it; whether we are able or unable to endure cold and hunger? You will live, says Aristo, magnificently and excellently, doing whatever seems good to you. You will never be vexed, you will never desire anything, you will never fear anything. What will Zeno say? He says that all these ideas are monstrous, and that it is totally impossible for any one to live on these principles; but that there is some extravagant, some immense difference between what is honourable and what is base; that between other things, indeed, there is no difference at all. He will also say—(listen to what follows, and do not laugh, if you can help it)—all those intermediate things, between which there is no difference, are nevertheless such that some of them are to be chosen, others rejected, and others utterly disregarded; that is to say, that you may wish for some, wish to avoid others, and be totally indifferent about others. But you said just now, O Zeno, that there was no difference whatever between these things. And now I say the same, he replies; and that there is no difference whatever as respects virtues and vices. Well, I should like to know who did not know that?
XXVI. However, let us hear a little more. Those things, says he, which you have mentioned, to be well, to be rich, to be free from pain, I do not call goods; but I will call them in Greek προηγμένα (which you may translate by the Latin producta, though I prefer præposita or præcipua, for they are more easily comprehended and more applicable terms). And again, the contraries, want, sickness, and pain, I do not call evils, though I have no objection to styling them (if you wish) things to be rejected. And, therefore, I do not say that I seek for them first, but that I choose them; not that I wish for them, but that I accept them. And so, too, I do not say that I flee from the contraries; but that I, as it were, keep aloof from them. What says Aristotle and the rest of the disciples of Plato? Why, that they call everything good which is according to nature; and that whatever is contrary to nature they call evil.
Do you not see, then, that your master Zeno agrees with Aristo in words, but differs from him as to facts; but that he agrees with Aristotle and those other philosophers as to facts, but differs from them only in words? Why, then, when we [pg 239] are agreed as to facts, do we not prefer speaking in the ordinary manner? Let him teach me either that I shall be more prepared to despise money, if I reckon it only among things preferred, than if I count it among goods; and that I shall have more fortitude to endure pain if I call it bitter, and difficult to bear, and contrary to nature, than if I pronounce it an evil. Marcus Piso, my intimate, also was a very witty man, and used to ridicule the Stoics for their language on this topic: for what was he used to say? “You deny that riches are a good, but call them something to be preferred. What good do you do by that? do you diminish avarice? But if we mind words, then, in the first place, your expression, to be preferred, is longer than good.” “That has nothing to do with the matter.” “I dare say it has not, but still it is a more difficult expression. For I do not know what the word good is derived from; but the word preferred I suppose means that it is preferred to other things. That appears to me to be important.” Therefore, he insisted upon it, that more consequence was attributed to riches by Zeno, who placed them among things preferred, than by Aristotle, who admitted that they were a good. Still he did not say that they were a great good, but rather such an one as was to be despised and scorned in comparison of what was right and honourable, and never one to be greatly sought after. And altogether, he argued in this way, about all those expressions which had been altered by Zeno, both as to what he denied to be goods, and as to those things to which he referred the name of evil; saying that the first received from him a more joyful title than they did from us; and the latter a more gloomy one.
XXVII. Piso, then—a most excellent man, and, as you well know, a great friend of yours—used to argue in this manner. And now let us make an end of this, after we have just said a few additional words. For it would take a long time to reply to all your assertions.
For from the same tricks with words, originate all those kingdoms, and commands, and riches, and universal dominion which you say belong to the wise man. You say besides, that he alone is handsome, he alone is free, he alone is a citizen; and that everything which is the contrary of all these things belongs to the foolish man, who is also insane, as you assert [pg 240] they call these assertions παράδοξα; we may call them marvellous. And yet what marvel is there in them when you come nearer to them? I will just examine the matter with you, and see what meaning you affix to each word; there shall be no dispute between us. You say that all offences are equal. I will not speak to you now, as I spoke on the same subject when I was defending Lucius Murena, whom you prosecuted; then I was addressing an unphilosophical audience; something too was to be directed to the bystanders in court; at present, we must proceed more precisely. In what way can all offences be called equal? Because nothing is more honourable than what is honourable; nothing more base than what is base. Go on a little further, for there is a great dispute as to this point; let us examine those arguments, which are especially your own, why all offences are equal. As, says he, in many lyres, if not one of them is so well in tune as to be able to preserve the harmony, all are equally out of tune; so because offences differ from what is right, they will differ equally; therefore they are equal: now here we are being mocked with an ambiguous expression. For it equally happens to all the lyres to be out of tune, but not to them all to be equally out of tune. Therefore, that comparison does not help you at all. For it would not follow if we were to say that every avarice is equally avarice, that therefore every case of avarice was equal. Here is another simile which is no simile; for as, says he, a pilot blunders equally if he wrecks a ship loaded with straw, as if he wrecks one loaded with gold; so, too, he sins equally who beats his parent, with him who beats a slave unjustly. This is not seeing that it has no connexion with the art of the pilot what cargo the ship carries: and therefore that it makes no difference with respect to his steering well or ill, whether his freight is straw or gold. But it can and ought to be understood what the difference is between a parent and a slave; therefore it makes no difference with respect to navigation, but a great deal with respect to duty, what the description of thing may be which is affected by the blunder. And if, in navigation, a ship has been wrecked through carelessness, the offence then becomes more serious if gold is lost, than if it is only straw. For in all arts we insist upon the exercise of what is called common prudence; which all men who have the management of any [pg 241] business entrusted to them are bound to possess. And so even in this instance offences are not equal.
XXVIII. However, they press on, and relax nothing. Since, say they, every offence is one of imbecility and inconsistency, and since these vices are equally great in all fools, it follows necessarily that offences are equal: as if it were admitted that vices are equally great in all fools, and that Lucius Tubulus was a man of the same imbecility and inconsistency as Publius Scævola, on whose motion he was condemned; and as if there were no difference at all between the things themselves which are the subject of the offences; so that, in proportion as they are more or less important, the offences committed in respect of them are so too.
Therefore, for I may now bring this discourse to an end, your Stoics seem to me to be most especially open to this charge, that they fancy they can support two opposite propositions. For what is so inconsistent as for the same person to say that what is honourable is the only good, and also that the desire of things adapted for human life proceeds from nature? But when they wish to maintain the arguments which are suitable for the former propositions, they agree with Aristo; when they avoid that, they in reality are upholding the same doctrines as the Peripatetics; they cling to words with great tenacity; and as they cannot bear to have them taken from them one after another, they become more fierce, and rough, and harsher both in their language and manners. But Panætius, wishing to avoid their moroseness and asperity, would not approve of either the bitterness of their sentiments, or their captious way of arguing: and so in one respect he was more gentle, and in the other more intelligible. And he was always quoting Plato, and Aristotle, and Xenocrates, and Theophrastus, and Dicæarchus, as his own writings show. And indeed, I feel very sure that it would do you a great deal of good if you too were to study those authors with care and diligence.
But since it is getting towards evening, and I must return to my villa, we will stop this discussion at this point, but we will often return to it on other occasions. Indeed we will, said he, for what can we do better? And indeed I shall require of you to give me a hearing while I refute what you have said; but recollect that you approve of all our opinions, [pg 242] charging us only with using words incorrectly; but that we do not approve of one single one of your ideas. You are throwing a stone at me as I depart, said I; however, we shall see. And when we had thus spoken we separated.
9.9Fifth Book Of The Treatise On The Chief Good and Evil¶
I. One day when I had been hearing Antiochus lecture, as I was in the habit of doing, O Brutus, in company with Marcus Piso, in that gymnasium which is called Ptolemy's, my brother Quintus being with me, and Titus Pomponius, and Lucius Cicero, our cousin on the father's side as to relationship, but our own brother as to affection, we determined to take our afternoon's walk in the Academy, principally because at that time of day that place was free from any crowd. Accordingly, at the appointed time we all met at Piso's house, and from thence we walked half-a-dozen furlongs from the Dipylus to the Academy, beguiling the road with discourse on various subjects; and when we had arrived at the deservedly celebrated space of the Academy, we there found the solitude which we desired. Then said Piso—Shall I say that this is implanted in us by nature, or by some mistake, that when we see those places which we have heard that men who deserve to be had in recollection have much frequented, we are more moved than when we hear even of their actual deeds, or than when we read some one of their writings?—just as I am affected now. For the remembrance of Plato comes into my mind, whom we understand to have been the first person who was accustomed to dispute in this place; and whose neighbouring gardens not only recal him vividly to my recollection, but seem even to place the man himself before my eyes. Here Speusippus, here Xenocrates, here his pupil Polemo used to walk; and the latter used to sit in the very spot which is now before us. There is our senate-house (I mean the Curia [pg 243] Hostilia,48 not this new one, which always seems to me smaller, though in fact it is larger): whenever I have looked upon that I have always thought of Scipio, and Cato, and Lælius, and more especially of my own grandfather. So great a power of reminding one of circumstances exists in the places themselves, that it is not without reason that some people have built up a system of memory in them. Then Quintus said—It is just as you say, Piso: for as I was coming here just now, that district of Colonos drew my attention to itself, whose inhabitant, Sophocles, was brought at once before my eyes: for you know how I admire, and how I delight in him: and accordingly a sort of appearance moved me, an unsubstantial one indeed, but still it did move me to a more vivid recollection of Œdipus coming hither, and asking in most melodious verse what all these places were. Then Pomponius said—I whom you all are always attacking as devoted to Epicurus, am often with Phædrus, who is a particular friend of mine, as you know, in the gardens of Epicurus, which we passed by just this moment; but, according to the warning of the old proverb, I remember the living; still I may not forget Epicurus, even if were to wish to do so, whose likeness our friends have not only in pictures, but even on their goblets and rings.
II. On this I chimed in:—Our friend Pomponius, said I, appears to be joking, and perhaps he has a right to do so; for he has established himself at Athens in such a way that he has almost become an Athenian, and indeed so as to seem likely to earn such a surname. But I, Piso, agree with you that we do get into a habit of thinking a good deal more earnestly and deeply on illustrious men in consequence of the warnings of place. For you know that once I went with you to Metapontum, and did not turn into the house of my entertainer until I had seen the very place where Pythagoras passed his life, and his house; and at this present time, although all over Athens there are many traces of eminent men in the places themselves, still I am greatly affected by this seat which is before me. For here Charmadas lately sat,—a man [pg 244] whom I seem to see, for his likeness is well known to me, and I can fancy that his voice is regretted by the very seat itself, deprived as it is now of such a brilliant genius. Then Piso said—Since, now, we have all said something, what does our friend Lucius think? is he glad to visit that spot where Demosthenes and Æschines used to contend together? for every one is chiefly attracted by his own particular study. And he blushed, and answered—Do not ask me, who went down even to the harbour of Phalerum, where they say that Demosthenes used to declaim to the waves, in order to accustom himself to outvoice the roaring of the sea. I turned aside also out of the road, a little to the right, to approach the tomb of Pericles; although, indeed, such records are countless in this city, for wherever we step we place our foot on some history.
Then Piso continued:—But, Cicero, said he, those inclinations are the inclinations of clever men, if they lead to the imitation of great men; but if they only tend to bringing up again the traces of ancient recollections, that is mere curiosity. But we all exhort you,—though you of your own accord, as I hope, are running that way,—to imitate those men whom you wish that you had known. Although, I replied, our friend Piso here does, as you see, what you recommended, still your exhortation is pleasing to me. Then said he, in a most friendly manner, as was his wont,—Let all of us, then, contribute every assistance to his youth, especially urging him to devote some of his studies to philosophy, either for the sake of imitating you whom he loves, or else of being able to do what he is desirous to do with more elegance. But do you, O Lucius, said he, require to be exhorted by us, or are you inclined that way of your own accord? You appear, indeed, to me to be very assiduous in your attendance on Antiochus, whose pupil you are. Then replied he, timidly,—or, I ought rather to say, modestly,—I am indeed; but did you not just now hear Charmadas's name mentioned? I am attracted in that direction, but Antiochus drags me back again; nor is there any one else whose lectures it would be possible to attend.
III. Piso replied—Although, while our friend here (meaning me) is present, this matter will perhaps not be quite so easy; yet I will endeavour to call you back from this New [pg 245] Academy to that ancient one, in which (as you used to hear Antiochus say) those men are not alone reckoned who are called Academics,—Speusippus, Xenocrates, Polemo, Crantor, and the rest; but the old Peripatetics also, the chief of whom was Aristotle, whom, next to Plato, I think I may fairly call the prince of philosophers. Turn yourself, therefore, I entreat you, to those men; for from their writings and systems all liberal learning, all history, all elegance of language, may be derived; and also, so great is the variety of arts of which they were masters, that no one can come properly armed for any business of importance and credit without being tolerably versed in their writings. It is owing to them that men have turned out orators, generals, and statesmen; and, to descend to less important matters, it is from this Academy, as from a regular magazine of all the arts, that mathematicians, poets, musicians, aye, and physicians too, have proceeded.
I replied—You know well, O Piso, that my opinion is the same: but still the mention of it by you was very seasonable; for my relation Cicero is anxious to hear what was the doctrine of that Old Academy which you have been speaking of, and of the Peripatetics, about the chief good; and we think that you can very easily explain it to us, because you entertained Staseas the Neapolitan in your house for many years, and because, too, we are aware that you have been many months at Athens, investigating these very things, as a pupil of Antiochus. And he said, with a laugh, Come, come,—for you have very cleverly drawn me in to begin the discussion,—let us explain it to the young man if we can; for this solitude gives us the opportunity: but, even if a god had told me so, I would never have believed that I should be disputing in the Academy, like a philosopher. However, I hope I shall not annoy the rest of you while complying with his request. Annoy me, said I, who asked you? Quintus and Pomponius also said that they entertained the same wish; so he began. And I beg of you, Brutus, to consider whether what he said appears to you to sufficiently embrace the doctrines of Antiochus, which I know you, who were a constant attendant on the lectures of his brother Aristus, approve of highly. Thus he spoke:—
IV. What great elegance there is in the Peripatetic system I have explained a little time ago, as briefly as I could. But [pg 246] the form of the system, as is the case with most of the other schools, is threefold: one division being that of nature; the second, that of arguing; the third, that of living. Nature has been investigated by them so thoroughly that there is no part of heaven, or earth, or sea (to speak like a poet), which they have passed over. Moreover, after having treated of the origin of things, and of the universal world, so as to prove many points not only by probable arguments, but even by the inscrutable demonstrations of mathematicians, they brought from the subjects which they had investigated abundant materials to assist in attaining to the knowledge of secret things. Aristotle investigated the birth, and way of living, and figure of every animal; Theophrastus examined the causes, and principles, and natures of plants, and of almost everything which is produced out of the earth; by which knowledge the investigation of the most secret things is rendered easier. Also, they have given rules for arguing, not only logically, but oratorically; and a system of speaking in both these manners, on every subject, has been laid down by Aristotle, their chief; so that he did not always argue against everything, as Arcesilas did; and yet he furnished one on every subject with arguments to be used on both sides of it.
But, as the third division was occupied about the rules of living well, it was also brought back by those same people, not only to the system of private life, but also to the direction of affairs of state. For from Aristotle we have acquired a knowledge of the manners, and customs, and institutions of almost every state, not of Greece only, but also of the Barbarians; and from Theophrastus we have learnt even their laws: and each of them taught what sort of man a leader in a state ought to be, and also wrote at great length to explain what was the best constitution for a state. But Theophrastus also detailed very copiously what were the natural inclinations of affairs, and what the influences of opportunities which required regulating as occasion might demand. And as for living, a quiet method of life appeared to them to be the best, passed in the contemplation and knowledge of things; which, inasmuch as it had the greatest resemblance to the life of the gods, appeared to them to be most worthy of a wise man; and on these subjects they held very lofty and dignified language.
V. But respecting the chief good, because there are two kinds of books,—one addressed to the people, which they used to call ἐξωτερικὸν, the other written in a more polished style, which they left behind in commentaries,—they appear not always to say the same thing; and yet in their ultimate conclusion there is no variety in the language of the men whom I have named, nor is there any disagreement between them. But, as a happy life is the object of search, and as that is the only thing which philosophy ought to pursue and regard, there never appears to be the least difference or doubt in their writings, as to whether happiness is wholly in the power of the wise man, or whether it can be undermined or taken from him by adversity. And this point is the especial subject of the book of Theophrastus, on a Happy Life; in which a great deal is attributed to fortune: and if that theory is correct, then wisdom cannot make life happy. Now, this seems to me rather too tender (if I may say so) and delicate a doctrine, more so than the power and importance of virtue can sanction. Wherefore let us rather hold with Aristotle, and his son Nicomachus,—whose admirably written books on Morals are said, indeed, to be Aristotle's; but I do not see why the son may not have been like his father; but, in most cases, let us apply to Theophrastus, as long as we attribute a little more firmness and strength to virtue than he did.
Let us, then, be content with these guides; for their successors are wiser men, indeed, in my opinion, than the philosophers of other schools: but still they degenerate so from these great men, that they seem to me rather to have arisen from themselves than from them. In the first place, Strato, the pupil of Theophrastus, called himself a natural philosopher: and though, in truth, he is an eminent man in that line, still most of what he said was novel; and he said very little about morals. His pupil Lyco was rich in eloquence, but very meagre in matter. Then his pupil Aristo was a neat and elegant writer, but still he had not that dignity which we look for in a great philosopher: he wrote a great deal, certainly, and in a polished style; but, somehow or other, his writings do not carry any weight. I pass over several, and among them that learned man and pleasant writer, Hieronymus; and I do not know why I should call him a Peripatetic, for he defined the chief good to be freedom from pain: and [pg 248] he who disagrees with me about the chief good, disagrees with me about the whole principle of philosophy. Critolaus wished to copy the ancients; and, indeed, he comes nearest to them in dignity, and his eloquence is preeminent: still he adheres to the ancient doctrine. Diodorus, his pupil, adds to honourableness freedom from pain: he, too, clings to a theory of his own; and, as he disagrees from them about the chief good, he is hardly entitled to be called a Peripatetic. But my friend Antiochus seems to me to pursue the opinions of the ancients with the greatest care; and he shows that they coincided with the doctrines of Aristotle and Polemo.
VI. My young friend Lucius, therefore, acts prudently when he wishes chiefly to be instructed about the chief good; for when this point is once settled in philosophy, everything is settled. For in other matters, if anything is passed over, or if we are ignorant of anything, the inconvenience thus produced is no greater than the importance the matter is of in which the omission has taken place; but if one is ignorant of what is the chief good, one must necessarily be ignorant of the true principles of life; and from this ignorance such great errors ensue that they cannot tell to what port to betake themselves. But when one has acquired a knowledge of the chief ends,—when one knows what is the chief good and the chief evil,—then a proper path of life, and a proper regulation of all the duties of life, is found out.
There is, therefore, an object to which everything may be referred; from which a system of living happily, which is what every one desires, may be discovered and adopted. But since there is a great division of opinion as to what that consists in, we had better employ the division of Carneades, which our friend Antiochus prefers, and usually adopts. He therefore saw not only how many different opinions of philosophers on the subject of the chief good there were, but how many there could be. Accordingly, he asserted that there was no art which proceeded from itself; for, in truth, that which is comprehended by an art is always exterior to the art. There is no need of prolonging this argument by adducing instances; for it is evident that no art is conversant about itself, but that the art itself is one thing, and the object which is proposed to be attained by the art another. Since, therefore, prudence is the art of living, just as medicine is of health, or [pg 249] steering of navigation, it follows unavoidably that that also must have been established by, and must proceed from, something else. But it is agreed among almost all people, that that object with which prudence is conversant, and which it wishes to arrive at, ought to be fitted and suited to nature, and to be of such a character as by itself to invite and attract that desire of the mind which the Greeks call ὁρμή. But as to what it is which causes this excitement, and which is so greatly desired by nature from its first existence, it is not agreed; and, indeed, there is a great dissension on the subject among philosophers whenever the chief good is the subject of investigation: for the source of this whole question which is agitated as to the chief good and evil, when men inquire what is the extreme and highest point of either, must be traced back, and in that will be found the primitive inducements of nature; and when it is found, then the whole discussion about the chief good and evil proceeds from it as from a spring.
VII. Some people consider the first desire to be a desire of pleasure, and the first thing which men seek to ward off to be pain: others think that the first thing wished for is freedom from pain, and the first thing shunned, pain; and from these men others proceed, who call the first goods natural ones; among which they reckon the safety and integrity of all one's parts, good health, the senses unimpaired, freedom from pain, strength, beauty, and other things of the same sort, the images of which are the first things in the mind, like the sparks and seeds of the virtues. And of these three, as there is some one thing by which nature is originally moved to feel desire, or to repel something, and as it is impossible that there should be anything except these three things, it follows unavoidably that every duty, whether of avoiding or of pursuing anything, is referred to some one of these things; so that that prudence, which we have called the art of life, is always conversant about some one of these three things from which it derives the beginning of the whole life: and from that which it has pronounced to be the original cause by which nature is excited, the principle of what is right and honourable arises; which can agree with some one of these three divisions; so that it is honourable to do everything for the sake of pleasure, even if you do not obtain it; or else for the [pg 250] sake of avoiding pain, though you may not be able to compass that; or else of getting some one of those things which are according to nature. And thus it comes about that there is as much difference between the chief good and the chief evil as there is in their natural principles. Others again, starting from the same beginning, refer everything either to pleasure or to freedom from pain, or else to the attainment of those primary goods which are according to nature.
Now then that we have detailed six opinions about the chief good, these are the chief advocates of the three last-mentioned opinions,—Aristippus, the advocate of pleasure; Hieronymus, of freedom from pain; and Carneades, of the enjoyment of those things which we have called the principal things in accordance with nature (though he, indeed, was not the author of this theory, but only its advocate, for the sake of maintaining a debate). Now, the three former were such as might possibly be true, though only one of them was defended, and that was vehemently maintained. For no one says, that to do everything for the sake of pleasure, or that, even though we obtain nothing, still the very design of acting so is of itself desirable, and honourable, and the only good; no one ever even placed the avoidance of pain (not even if it could be avoided) among things intrinsically desirable; but to do everything with a view to obtain the things which are according to nature, even though we do not succeed in obtaining them, the Stoics do affirm to be honourable, and the only thing to be desired for its own sake, and the only good.
VIII. These, then, are six plain opinions about the chief good and the chief evil,—two having no advocate, but four being defended. But of united and twofold explanations of the chief good there were in all three; nor could there be more if you examine the nature of things thoroughly. For either pleasure can be added to honourableness, as Callipho and Dinomachus thought; or freedom from pain, as Diodorus asserted; or the first gifts of nature, as the ancients said, whom we call at the same time Academics and Peripatetics. But, since everything cannot be said at once, at present these things ought to be known, that pleasure ought to be excluded; since, as it will presently appear, we have been born for higher purposes; and nearly the same may be said of freedom from [pg 251] pain as of pleasure. Since then we have discussed pleasure with Torquatus, and honourableness (in which alone every good was to consist) with Cato; in the first place, the arguments which were urged against pleasure are nearly equally applicable to freedom from pain. Nor, indeed, need we seek for any others to reply to that opinion of Carneades; for in whatever manner the chief good is explained, so as to be unconnected with honourableness, in that system duty, and virtue, and friendship, can have no place. But the union of either pleasure or freedom from pain with honourableness, makes that very honourableness which it wishes to embrace dishonourable; for to refer what you do to those things, one of which asserts the man who is free from evil to be in the enjoyment of the chief good, while the other is conversant with the most trifling part of our nature, is rather the conduct of a man who would obscure the whole brilliancy of honourableness—I might almost say, who would pollute it.
The Stoics remain, who after they had borrowed everything from the Peripatetics and Academics, pursued the same objects under different names. It is better to reply to them all separately. But let us stick to our present subject; we can deal with those men at a more convenient season. But the “security” of Democritus, which is as it were a sort of tranquillity of the mind which they all εὐθυμία, deserved to be separated from this discussion, because that tranquillity of the mind is of itself a happy life. What we are inquiring, however, is not what it is, but whence it is derived. The opinions of Pyrrho, Aristo, and Herillus, have long ago been exploded and discarded, as what can never be applicable to this circle of discussion to which we limit ourselves, and which had no need to have been ever mentioned; for as the whole of this inquiry is about the chief, and what I may call the highest good and evil, it ought to start from that point which we call suitable and adapted to nature, and which is sought of itself for itself. Now this is wholly put out of the question by those who deny that in those things in which there is nothing either honourable or dishonourable, there is any reason why one thing should be preferred to another, and who think that there is actually no difference whatever between those things. And Herillus, if he thought that nothing was good except knowledge, put an end to all reason for taking counsel, and to [pg 252] all inquiry about duty. Thus, after we have got rid of the opinions of the rest, as there can be no other, this doctrine of the ancients must inevitably prevail.
IX. Therefore, after the fashion of the ancients, which the Stoics also adopt, let us make this beginning:—Every animal loves itself, and as soon as it is born labours to preserve itself, because this is the first desire given to it by nature, to regulate its whole life, to preserve itself, and to be so disposed as it best may in accordance with nature. At the beginning it has such a confused and uncertain kind of organization that it can only just take care of itself, whatever it is; but it does not understand either what it is, or what its powers are, or what its nature is. But when it has advanced a little, and begins to perceive how far anything touches it, or has reference to it, then it begins gradually to improve, and to comprehend itself, and to understand for what cause it has that appetite of the mind which I have spoken of; and begins also to desire those things which it feels to be suited to its nature, and to keep off the contrary. Therefore, in the case of every animal, what it wishes is placed in that thing which is adapted to its nature. And so the chief good is to live according to nature, with the best disposition and the most suitable to nature that can be engendered.
But since every animal has his own peculiar nature, it is plain that the object of each must be to have his nature satisfied. For there is no hindrance to there being some things in common to all other animals, and some common both to men and beasts, since the nature of all is common. But that highest and chief good and evil which we are in search of, is distributed and divided among the different kinds of animals, each having its own peculiar good and evil, adapted to that end which the nature of each class of animal requires. Wherefore, when we say that the chief good to all animals is to live according to nature, this must be understood as if we said that they had all the same chief good. But as it may truly be said to be common to all arts to be conversant about some science, and that there is a separate science belonging to each art, so we may say that it is common to all animals to live according to nature, but that there are different natures; so that the horse has by nature one chief good, the ox another, man another; and yet in all there is one common end; and [pg 253] that is the case too, not only in animals, but also in all those things which nature nourishes, causes to grow, and protects; in which we see that those things which are produced out of the earth, somehow or other by their own energy create many things for themselves which have influence on their life and growth, and so each in their own kind they arrive at the chief good. So that we may now embrace all such in one comprehensive statement; and I need not hesitate to say, that every nature is its own preserver; and has for its object, as its end and chief good, to protect itself in the best possible condition that its kind admits of; so that it follows inevitably that all things which flourish by nature have a similar but still not the same end. And from this it should be understood, that the chief and highest good to man is to live according to nature which we may interpret thus,—to live according to that nature of a man which is made perfect on all sides, and is in need of nothing. These things then we must explain; and if our explanation is rather minute, you will excuse it; for we are bound to consider the youth of our hearer, and the fact that he is now perhaps listening to such a discourse for the first time. Certainly, said I; although what you have said hitherto might be very properly addressed to hearers of any age.
X. Since then, said he, we have explained the limit of those things which are to be desired, we must next show why the facts are as I have stated them. Wherefore, let us set out from the position which I first laid down, which is also in reality the first, so that we may understand that every animal loves itself. And though there is no doubt of this, (for it is a principle fixed deep in nature itself, and is comprehended by the sense of every one, in such a degree that if any one wished to argue against it, he would not be listened to,) yet, that I may not pass over anything, I think it as well to adduce some reasons why this is the case. Although, how can any one either understand or fancy that there is any animal which hates itself? It would be a contradiction of facts; for when that appetite of the mind has begun designedly to attract anything to itself which is an hindrance to it, because it is an enemy to itself,—when it does that for its own sake, it will both hate itself and love itself, which is impossible. It is unavoidable that, if any one is an enemy to himself, he must [pg 254] think those things bad which are good, and, on the other hand, those things good which are bad; that he must avoid those things which he ought to seek, and seek what he ought to avoid; all which habits are indubitably the overturning of life. For even if some people are found who seek for halters or other modes of destruction, or, like the man in Terence, who determined “for such a length of time to do less injury to his son,” (as he says himself,) “until he becomes miserable,” it does not follow that they are to be thought enemies to themselves. But some are influenced by pain, others by desire; many again are carried away by passion, and while they knowingly run into evils, still fancy that they are consulting their own interests most excellently; and, therefore, they unhesitatingly say—
That is my way; do you whate'er you must—
like men who have declared war against themselves, who like to be tortured all day and tormented all night, and who yet do not accuse themselves of having omitted to consult their own interests; for this is a complaint made by those men who are dear to and who love themselves.
Wherefore, whenever a man is said to be but little obliged to himself, to be a foe and enemy to himself, and in short to flee from life, it should be understood that there is some cause of that kind lying beneath the surface; so that it may be understood from that very instance that every one is dear to himself. Nor is it sufficient that there has never been any one who hated himself; but we must understand also that there is no one who thinks that it is a matter of indifference to him in what condition he is; for all desire of the mind will be put an end to if, as in those things between which there is no difference we are not more inclined to either side, so also, in the case of our own selves, we think it makes no difference to us in what way we are affected.
XI. And this also would be a very absurd thing if any one were to say it, namely, that a man is loved by himself in such a manner that that vehement love is referred to some other thing, and not to that very man who loves himself. Now when this is said in the case of friendship, of duty, or of virtue, however it is said, it is still intelligible what is meant by it; but in regard to our own selves, it cannot even be understood that we should love ourselves for the sake of [pg 255] something else, or in a word, for the sake of pleasure. For it is for our sakes that we love pleasure, and not for the sake of pleasure that we love ourselves; although what can be more evident than that every one is not only dear, but excessively dear to himself? For who is there, or at all events how few are there, who when death approaches, does not find
His heart's blood chill'd with sudden fear,
His cheek grow pale?
and if it is a vice to dread the dissolution of nature so excessively, (and the same thing on the same principle may be asserted of our aversion to pain,) still the fact that nearly every one is affected in this manner, is a sufficient proof that nature abhors destruction. And though some men show this dread or aversion to such a degree that they are deservedly blamed for it, still this may show us that such feelings would not be so excessive in some people, if a moderate degree of them were not implanted in mankind by nature.
Nor, indeed, do I mean that fear of death which is shown by those men who, because they think that they are being deprived of the goods of life, or because they fear some terrible events after death, or who, because they are afraid of dying in pain, therefore shun death; for in the case of children, who can have no such ideas or apprehensions, they often show fear if, when playing with them, we threaten to throw them down from any place; and even beasts, as Pacuvius says,
Who have no cunning, or prophetic craft
To ward off danger ere it come,
shudder when the fear of death comes before them. And, indeed, who entertains a different opinion of the wise man himself? who, even when he has decided that he must die, still is affected by the departure from his family, and by the fact that he must leave the light of day. And above all is the power of nature visible in the human race, since many endure beggary to preserve life, and men worn out with old age are tortured with the idea of the approach of death, and endure such things as we see Philoctetes in the play suffer, who, while he was kept in torture by intolerable pains, nevertheless preserved his life by the game which he could kill with his arrows.
He, though slow, o'ertook the swift,
He stood and slew the flying—
as Attius says, and made himself coverings for his body by plaiting the feathers together. I am speaking of mankind, and, indeed, generally of all animals, though plants and trees have nearly the same nature, whether, as is the opinion of some most learned men, because some predominant and divine cause has implanted this power in them, or whether it is accidental. We see those things which the earth produces preserved in vigour by their bark and roots, which happens to animals by the arrangement of their senses, and a certain compact conformation of limb. And with reference to this subject, although I agree with those men who think that all these things are regulated by nature, and that if nature neglected to regulate them, the animals themselves could not exist, still I grant that those who differ on this subject may think what they please, and may either understand that when I say the nature of man I mean man (for it makes no difference); for a man will be able to depart from himself sooner than he can lose the desire of those things which are advantageous to him. Rightly, therefore, have the most learned philosophers sought the principle of the chief good in nature, and thought that that appetite for things adapted to nature is implanted in all men, for they are kept together by that recommendation of nature in obedience to which they love themselves.
XII. The next thing which we must examine is, what is the nature of man, since it is sufficiently evident that every one is dear to himself by nature; for that is the thing which we are really inquiring about. But it is evident that man consists of mind and body, and that the first rank belongs to the mind, and the second to the body. In the next place we see, also, that his body is so formed as to excel that of other animals, and that his mind is so constituted as to be furnished with senses, and to have excellence of intellect which the whole nature of man obeys, in which there is a certain admirable force of reason, and knowledge, and science, and all kinds of virtues; for the things which are parts of the body have no authority to be compared with that possessed by the parts of the mind; and they are more easily known. Therefore, let us begin with them.
It is evident, now, how suitable to nature are the parts of our body, and the whole general figure, form, and stature of [pg 257] it; nor is there any doubt what kind of face, eyes, ears and other features are peculiar to man. But certainly it is necessary for them to be in good health and vigorous, and to have all their natural movements and uses; so that no part of them shall be absent, or disordered, or enfeebled; for nature requires soundness. For there is a certain action of the body which has all its motions and its general condition in a state of harmony with nature, in which if anything goes wrong through any distortion or depravity, either by any irregular motion or disordered condition,—as if, for instance, a person were to walk on his hands, or to walk not forwards but backwards,—then he would evidently appear to be flying from himself, and to be putting off his manhood, and to hate his own nature. On which account, also, some ways of sitting down, and some contorted and abrupt movements, such as wanton or effeminate men at times indulge in, are contrary to nature. So that even if that should happen through any fault of the mind, still the nature of the man would seem to be changed in his body. Therefore, on the contrary, moderate and equal conditions, and affections, and habits of the body, seem to be suitable to nature. But now the mind must not only exist, but must exist in a peculiar manner, so as to have all its parts sound, and to have no virtue wanting: but each sense has its own peculiar virtue, so that nothing may hinder each sense from performing its office in the quick and ready perception of those things which come under the senses.
XIII. But there are many virtues of the mind, and of that part of the mind which is the chief, and which is called the intellect; but these virtues are divided into two principal classes: one, consisting of those which are implanted by nature, and are called involuntary; the other, of those which depend on the will, and are more often spoken of by their proper name of virtues; whose great excellence is attributed to the mind as a subject of praise. Now in the former class are docility, memory, and others, nearly all of which are called by the one name of ingenium, and those who possess them are called ingeniosi. The other class consists of those which are great and real virtues; which we call voluntary, such as prudence, temperance, fortitude, justice, and others of the same kind. And this was what might be said briefly of both mind and body; and this statement supplies a sort of sketch of what the [pg 258] nature of man requires:—and from this it is evident, since we are beloved by ourselves, and since we wish everything both in our minds and bodies to be perfect, that those qualities are dear to us for their own sakes, and that they are of the greatest influence towards our living well. For he to whom self-preservation is proposed as an object, must necessarily feel an affection for all the separate parts of himself; and a greater affection in proportion as they are more perfect and more praiseworthy in their separate kinds. For that kind of life is desired which is full of the virtues of the mind and body; and in that the chief good must unavoidably be placed, since it ought to be of such a character as to be the highest of all desirable things. And when we have ascertained that, there ought to be no doubt entertained, that as men are dear to themselves for their own sake, and of their own accord, so, also, the parts of the body and mind, and of those things which are in the motion and condition of each, are cultivated with a deserved regard, and are sought for their own sakes. And when this principle has been laid down, it is easy to conjecture that those parts of us are most desirable which have the most dignity; so that the virtue of each most excellent part which is sought for its own sake, is also deserving of being principally sought after. And the consequence will be, that the virtue of the mind is preferred to the virtue of the body, and that the voluntary virtues of the mind are superior to the involuntary; for it is the voluntary ones which are properly called virtues, and which are much superior to the others, as being the offspring of reason; than which there is nothing more divine in man. In truth, the chief good of all those qualities which nature creates and maintains, and which are either unconnected or nearly so with the body, is placed in the mind; so that it appears to have been a tolerably acute observation which was made respecting the sow, that that animal had a soul given it instead of salt to keep it from getting rotten.
XIV. But there are some beasts in which there is something resembling virtue, such as lions, dogs, and horses; in which we see movements not of the body only, as we do in pigs, but to a certain extent we may discern some movements of mind. But in man the whole dominant power lies in the mind; and the dominant power of the mind is reason: [pg 259] and from this proceeds virtue, which is defined as the perfection of reason: which they think is to be gradually developed day by day. Those things, too, which the earth produces have a sort of gradual growth towards perfection, not very unlike what we see in animals. Therefore we say that a vine lives, and dies; we speak of a tree as young, or old; being in its prime, or growing old. And it is therefore not inconsistent to speak, as in the case of animals, of some things in plants, too, being conformable to nature, and some not: and to say that there is a certain cultivation of them, nourishing, and causing them to grow, which is the science and art of the farmer, which prunes them, cuts them in, raises them, trains them, props them, so that they may be able to extend themselves in the direction which nature points out; in such a manner that the vines themselves, if they could speak, would confess that they ought to be managed and protected in the way they are. And now indeed that which protects it (that I may continue to speak chiefly of the vine) is external to the vine: for it has but very little power in itself to keep itself in the best possible condition, unless cultivation is applied to it. But if sense were added to the vine, so that it could feel desire and be moved by itself, what do you think it would do? Would it do those things which were formerly done to it by the vine-dresser, and of itself attend to itself? Do you not see that it would also have the additional care of preserving its senses, and its desire for all those things, and its limbs, if any were added to it? And so too, to all that it had before, it will unite those things which have been added to it since: nor will it have the same object that its dresser had, but it will desire to live according to that nature which has been subsequently added to it: and so its chief good will resemble that which it had before, but will not be identical with it; for it will be no longer seeking the good of a plant, but that of an animal. And suppose that not only the senses are given it, but also the mind of a man, does it not follow inevitably that those former things will remain and require to be protected, and that among them these additions will be far more dear to it than its original qualities? and that each portion of the mind which is best is also the dearest? and that its chief good must now consist in satisfying its nature, since intellect and reason are by far the most excellent parts [pg 260] of it? And so the chief of all the things which it has to desire, and that which is derived from the original recommendation of nature, ascends by several steps, so as at last to reach the summit; because it is made up of the integrity of the body, and the perfect reason of the intellect.
XV. As, therefore, the form of nature is such as I have described it, if, as I said at the beginning, each individual as soon as he is born could know himself, and form a correct estimate of what is the power both of his entire nature and of its separate parts, he would see immediately what this was which we are in search of, namely, the highest and best of all the things which we desire: nor would it be possible for him to make a mistake in anything. But now nature is from the very beginning concealed in a wonderful manner, nor can it be perceived nor comprehended. But as our age advances, we gradually, or I should rather say slowly, come to a kind of knowledge of ourselves. Therefore, that original recommendation which is given to us by our nature, is obscure and uncertain; and that first appetite of the mind only goes the length of wishing to secure our own safety and soundness. But when we begin to look around us, and to feel what we are, and in what we differ from all the other animals, then we begin to pursue the objects for which we were born. And we see a similar thing take place in beasts, who at first do not move from the place in which they were born; but afterwards all move, influenced by some desire of their own. And so we see snakes crawl, ducks swim, blackbirds fly, oxen use their horns, scorpions their stings; and we see nature a guide to each animal in its path of life.
And the case is similar with the human race. For infants at their first birth lie as if they were utterly devoid of mind; but when a little strength has been added to them, they use both their mind and their senses, and endeavour to raise themselves up and to use their hands; and they recognise those by whom they are being brought up; and afterwards they are amused with those of their own age, and gladly associate with them, and give themselves up to play, and are attracted by hearing stories, and are fond of pleasing others with their own superfluities; and take curious notice of what is done at home, and begin to make remarks, and to learn; and do not like to be ignorant of the names of those whom [pg 261] they see; and in their sports and contests with their fellows, they are delighted if they win, and if they are beaten they are dejected and lose their spirits. And we must not think that any of these things happen without reason; for the power of man is produced in such a way by nature, that it seems made for a perception of all excellence: and on that account children, even without being taught, are influenced by likeness of those virtues of which they have the seeds in themselves; for they are the original elements of nature: and when they have acquired growth, then the whole work of nature is accomplished. For as we have been born and created so as to contain in ourselves the principles of doing something, and of loving somebody, and of liberality, and of gratitude; and so as to have minds adapted for knowledge, prudence, and fortitude, and averse to their opposites; it is not without cause that we see in children those sparks, as it were, of virtue which I have mentioned, by which the reason of a philosopher ought to be kindled to follow that guide as if it were a god, and so to arrive at the knowledge of the object of nature.
For, as I have often said already, the power of nature is discerned through a cloud while we are of a weak age and feeble intellect; but when our mind has made progress and acquired strength, then it recognises the power of nature, but still in such a way that it can make more progress still, and that it must derive the beginning of that progress from itself.
XVI. We must therefore enter into the nature of things, and see thoroughly what it demands; for otherwise we cannot arrive at the knowledge of ourselves. And because this precept was too important an one to be discerned by a man, it has on that account been attributed to God. The Pythian Apollo, then, enjoins us to know ourselves: but this knowledge is to know the power of our mind and body, and to follow that course of life which enjoys the circumstances in which it is placed. And since that desire of the mind to have all the things which I have mentioned in the most perfect manner in which nature could provide them, existed from the beginning, we must admit, when we have obtained what we desired, that nature consists in that as its extreme point, and that that is the chief good: which certainly must in every case be sought for spontaneously for its own sake, since it has already been proved, that even all its separate parts [pg 262] are to be desired for their own sake. But if, in enumerating the advantages of the body, any one should think that we have passed over pleasure, that question may be postponed till another opportunity; for it makes no difference with regard to the present subject of our discussion, whether pleasure consists in those things which we have called the chief things in accordance with nature, or whether it does not. For if, as I indeed think, pleasure is not the crowning good of nature, it has been properly passed over: but if that crowning good does exist in pleasure, as some assert, then the fact does not at all hinder this idea of ours of the chief good from being the right one. For, if to those things which are the principal goods of nature, pleasure is added, then there will have been added just one advantage of the body; but no change will have been made in the original definition of the chief good which was laid down at first.
XVII. And hitherto, indeed, reason has advanced with us in such a way as to be wholly derived from the original recommendation of nature. But now we must pursue another kind of argument, namely, that we are moved in these matters of our own exceeding goodwill, not only because we love ourselves, but because there is both in the body and in the mind a peculiar power belonging to each part of nature. And, (to begin with the body,) do you not see that if there is anything in their limbs deformed, or weak, or deficient, men conceal it? and take pains, and labour earnestly, if they can possibly contrive it, to prevent that defect of the body from being visible, or else to render it as little visible as possible? and that they submit to great pain for the sake of curing any such defect? in order that, even though the actual use of the limb, after the application of the remedy, be likely to be not greater, but even less, still the appearance of the limb may be restored to the ordinary course of nature. In truth, as all men fancy that they are altogether desirable by nature, and that too, not on any other account, but for their own sakes, it follows inevitably that each part of them should be desired for its own sake, because the whole body is sought for its own sake. What more need I say? Is there nothing in the motion and condition of the body which nature herself decides ought to be noticed? for instance, how a person walks or sits, what the expression of his countenance is, what [pg 263] his features are; is there nothing in all these things which we think worthy or unworthy of a free man, as the case may be? Do we not think many men deserving of hatred, who appear by some motion or condition to have despised the laws and moderation of nature? And since these things are derived from the body, what is the reason why beauty also may not fairly be said to be a thing to be desired for its own sake?
For if we consider distortion or disfigurement of the body a thing to be avoided for its own sake, why should we not also, and perhaps still more, cultivate dignity of form for its own sake? And if we avoid what is unseemly, both in the condition and motion of the body, why may we not on the other hand pursue beauty? And we also desire health, strength, and freedom from pain, not merely because of their utility, but also for their own sakes. For since nature wishes to be made complete in all her parts, she desires this condition of the body, which is most according to nature, for its own sake: but nature is put into complete confusion if the body is either sick, or in pain, or destitute of strength.
XVIII. Let us consider the parts of the mind, the appearance of which is more noble; for in proportion as they are more sublime, they give a more clear indication of their nature. So vehement a love, then, of knowledge and science is innate in us, that no one can doubt that the nature of man is drawn to them without being attracted by any external gain. Do we not see how boys cannot be deterred even by stripes from the consideration and investigation of such and such things? how, though they may be beaten, they still pursue their inquiries, and rejoice in having acquired some knowledge? how they delight in telling others what they have learnt? how they are attracted by processions, and games, and spectacles of that kind, and will endure even hunger and thirst for such an object? Can I say no more? Do we not see those who are fond of liberal studies and arts regard neither their health nor their estate? and endure everything because they are charmed with the intrinsic beauty of knowledge and science? and that they put the pleasures which they derive from learning in the scale against the greatest care and labour? And Homer himself appears to me to have had some such feeling as this, which he has developed in what he has said about the songs of the Sirens: for they do [pg 264] not seem to have been accustomed to attract those who were sailing by with the sweetness of their voices, or with any novelty or variety in their song, but the profession which they made of possessing great knowledge; so that men clung to their rocks from a desire of learning. For thus they invite Ulysses, (for I have translated several passages of Homer, and this among them)—
Oh stay, O pride of Greece! Ulysses, stay!
Oh, cease thy course, and listen to our lay!
Blest is the man ordain'd our voice to hear:
Our song instructs the soul and charms the ear.
Approach, thy soul shall into raptures rise;
Approach, and learn new wisdom from the wise.
We know whate'er the kings of mighty name
Achieved at Ilium in the field of fame;
Whate'er beneath the sun's bright journey lies—
Oh stay, and learn new wisdom from the wise.49
Homer saw that the story would not be probable if he represented so great a man as caught by mere songs; so they promise him knowledge, which it was not strange that a man desirous of wisdom should consider dearer than his country. And, indeed, to wish to know everything of every kind, is natural to the curious; but, to be attracted by the contemplation of greater objects, to entertain a general desire for knowledge, ought to be considered a proof of a great man.
XIX. What ardour for study do you not suppose there must have been in Archimedes, who was so occupied in drawing some mathematical figures in the sand, that he was not aware that his city was taken? And what a mighty genius was that of Aristoxenus which, we see, was devoted to music? What fondness, too, for study, must have inspired Aristophanes, to dedicate his whole life to literature! What shall we say of Pythagoras? Why should I speak of Plato and of Democritus, by whom, we see, that the most distant countries were travelled over, on account of their desire for learning? And those who are blind to this have never loved anything very worthy of being known. And here I may say, that those who say that those studies which I have mentioned are cultivated for the sake of the pleasures of the mind, do not understand that they are desirable for their own sakes, because the mind is delighted by them, without the interruption of any ideas of utility, and rejoices in the mere fact of [pg 265] knowledge, even though it may possibly produce inconvenience. But why need we seek for more instances to prove what is so evident? For let us examine our own selves, and inquire how the motions of the stars, and the contemplation of the heavenly bodies, and the knowledge of all those things which are hidden from us by the obscurity of nature, affect us; and why history, which we are accustomed to trace back as far as possible, delights us; in the investigation of which we go over again all that has been omitted, and follow up all that we have begun. Nor, indeed, am I ignorant that there is a use, and not merely pleasure, in history. What, however, will be said, with reference to our reading with pleasure imaginary fables, from which no utility can possibly be derived? Or to our wishing that the names of those who have performed any great exploits, and their family, and their country, and many circumstances besides, which are not at all necessary, should be known to us? How shall we explain the fact, that men of the lowest rank, who have no hope of ever performing great deeds themselves, artisans in short, are fond of history; and that we may see that those persons also are especially fond of hearing and reading of great achievements, who are removed from all hope of ever performing any, being worn out with old age?
It must, therefore, be understood, that the allurements are in the things themselves which are learnt and known, and that it is they themselves which excite us to learning and to the acquisition of information. And, indeed, the old philosophers, in their fictitious descriptions of the islands of the blessed, intimate the kind of life which the wise pass, whom they imagine to be free from all care, requiring no cultivation or appointments of life as necessary, and doing, and about to do nothing else but devote their whole time to inquiring and learning and arriving at a knowledge of nature. But we see that that is not only the delight of a happy life, but also a relief from misery. Therefore, many men while in the power of enemies or tyrants, many while in prison or in exile, have relieved their sorrow by the study of literature. A great man of this city, Demetrius Phalereus, when he had been unjustly banished from his country, fled to Alexandria, to king Ptolemy; and, as he was very eminent for his knowledge of this philosophy to which we are exhorting you, and had been [pg 266] a pupil of Theophrastus, he wrote many admirable treatises during the time of that unfortunate leisure of his, not, indeed, for any utility to himself, for that was out of his reach, but the cultivation of his mind was to him a sort of sustenance for his human nature.
I, indeed, have often heard Cnæus Aufidius, a man of prætorian rank, of great learning, but blind, say that he was affected more by a regret for the loss of light, than of any actual benefit which he derived from his eyes. Lastly, if sleep did not bring us rest to our bodies, and a sort of medicine after labour, we should think it contrary to nature, for it deprives us of our senses, and takes away our power of action. Therefore, if either nature were in no need of rest, or if it could obtain it by any other means, we should be glad, since even now we are in the habit of doing without sleep, in a manner almost contrary to nature, when we want to do or to learn something.
XX. But there are tokens supplied by nature, still clearer, or, I may say, entirely evident and indubitable,—more especially, indeed, in man, but also in every animal,—that the mind is always desirous to be doing something, and can in no condition endure perpetual rest. It is easy to see this in the earliest age of children; for although I fear that I may appear prolix on this subject, still all the ancient philosophers, and especially those of our own country, have recourse to the cradle for illustrations, because they think that in childhood they can most easily detect the will of nature. We see, then, that even infants cannot rest; but, when they have advanced a little, then they are delighted with even laborious sports, so that they cannot be deterred from them even by beating: and that desire for action grows with their growth. Therefore, we should not like to have the slumber of Endymion given to us, not even if we expected to enjoy the most delicious dreams; and if it were, we should think it like death. Moreover, we see that even the most indolent men, men of a singular worthlessness, are still always in motion both in mind and body; and when they are not hindered by some unavoidable circumstance, that they demand a dice-box or some game of some kind, or conversation; and, as they have none of the liberal delights of learning, seek circles and assemblies. Even beasts, which we shut up for our own [pg 267] amusement, though they are better fed than if they were free, still do not willingly endure being imprisoned, but pine for the free and unrestrained movements given to them by nature. Therefore, in proportion as every one is born and prepared for the best objects, he would be unwilling to live at all if, being excluded from action, he were able only to enjoy the most abundant pleasures.
For men wish either to do something as individuals, or those who have loftier souls undertake the affairs of the state, and devote themselves to the attainment of honours and commands, or else wholly addict themselves to the study of learning; in which path of life they are so far from getting pleasures, that they even endure care, anxiety and sleeplessness, enjoying only that most excellent portion of man which may be accounted divine in us, I mean the acuteness of the genius and intellect, and they neither seek for pleasure nor shun labour. Nor do they intermit either their admiration of the discoveries of the ancients, or their search after new ones; and, as they are insatiable in their pursuit of such, they forget everything else, and admit no low or grovelling thoughts; and such great power is there in those studies, that we see even those who have proposed to themselves other chief goods, which they measure by advantage or pleasure, still devote their lives to the investigation of things, and to the explanation of the mysteries of nature.
XXI. This, then, is evident, that we were born for action. But there are several kinds of action, so that the lesser are thrown into the shade by those more important. But those of most consequence are, first of all, as it appears to me, and to those philosophers whose system we are at present discussing, the consideration and knowledge of the heavens, and of those things which are hidden and concealed by nature, but into which reason can still penetrate. And, next to them, the management of state affairs, or a prudent, temperate, courageous principle of government and knowledge, and the other virtues, and such actions as are in harmony with those virtues, which we, embracing them all in one word, call honourable; to the knowledge and practice of which we are led by nature herself, who goes before us as our guide, we having been already encouraged to pursue it. For the beginnings of all things are small, but, as they proceed, they [pg 268] increase in magnitude, and that naturally: for, at their first birth, there is in them a certain tenderness and softness, so that they cannot see or do what is best. For the light of virtue and of a happy life, which are the two principal things to be desired, appears rather later; and much later still in such a way that it can be plainly perceived of what character they are.
For, admirably does Plato say, “That man is happy to whom, even in his old age, it is allowed to arrive at wisdom and correctness of judgment.” Wherefore, since we have said enough of the first advantages of nature, we will now examine those which are more important, and which are later in point of time.
Nature, then, has made and fashioned the body of man in such a manner, that it makes some parts of him perfect at his first birth, and forms others as he advances in age; and, at the same time, does not employ many external or adventitious aids. But she has filled up the perfection of the mind in the same way as that of the body; for she has adorned it with senses suitable for the effecting of its purposes, so that it is not in the least, or not much, in want of any assistance for strengthening itself. But that which is most excellent and important in man it has abandoned: although it has given him an intellect able to receive every kind of virtue, and has implanted in him, even without instruction, a slight knowledge of the most important things, and has begun, as it were, to teach him, and has led him on to those elements as I may call them, of virtue which existed in him. But it has only begun virtue itself, nothing more. Therefore it belongs to us,—when I say to us, I mean to our art,—to trace back the consequences to those principles which we have received, until we have accomplished our object, which is indeed of a good deal more consequence, and a good deal more to be desired for its own sake, than either the senses, or those parts of the body which we have mentioned; which the excellent perfection of the mind is so far superior to, that it can scarcely be imagined how great the difference is. Therefore, all honour, all admiration, all study is referred to virtue, and to those actions which are consistent with virtue; and all those things which are either in our minds in that state, or are done in that manner, are called by one common name—honourable. And we shall presently see what knowledge we [pg 269] have of all these things, and what is meant by the different names, and what the power and nature of each is.
XXII. But at present we need only explain that these things which I call honourable, (besides the fact of our living ourselves on their account,) are also by their own nature deserving of being sought for their own sake. Children show this, in whom nature is perceived as in a mirror. What eagerness is there in them when contending together! how vigorous are their contests! how elated are those who win! how ashamed those who are beaten! how unwilling are they to be blamed! how eager to be praised! what labours will they not endure to surpass their fellows! what a recollection have they of those who are kind to them! how anxious are they to prove their gratitude! and these qualities are most visible in the best dispositions; in which all these honourable qualities which we appreciate are filled up as it were by nature. But in children they are only sketched.
Again, in more mature age, who is so unlike a man as not to be moved to a dislike of baseness and approval of what is honourable? Who is there who does not loathe a libidinous and licentious youth? who, on the contrary, does not love modesty and constancy in that age, even though his own interest is not at all concerned? Who does not detest Pullus Numitorius, of Fregellæ, the traitor, although he was of use to our own republic? who does not praise Codrus, the saviour of his city, and the daughters of Erectheus? Who does not detest the name of Tubulus? and love the dead Aristides? Do we forget how much we are affected at hearing or reading when we are brought to the knowledge of anything which has been done in a pious, or friendly, or magnanimous spirit? Why should I speak of men like ourselves, who have been born and brought up and trained to praise and glory? What shouts of the common people and of the unlettered crowd are excited in the theatres when this sentence is uttered—
I am Orestes:
and when, on the other hand, the other actor says—
No; it is I, 'tis I who am Orestes.
But when one of them is allowed to depart by the perplexed and bewildered king, and they demand to die together, is this [pg 270] scene ever acted without being accompanied by the most violent expressions of admiration? There is no one, then, who does not approve of and praise this disposition of mind; by which not only no advantage is sought, but good faith is preserved even at the expense of one's advantage. And not only are imaginary fables, but true histories also, and especially those of our country, full of such instances: for we selected our most virtuous citizen to receive the Idæan sacred vessels; we have sent guardians to kings; our generals have devoted their lives for the safety of the republic; our consuls have warned a king who was our greatest enemy, when he was actually approaching our walls, to beware of poison. In our republic, a woman has been found to expiate, by a voluntary death, a violation which was inflicted on her by force; and a man to kill his daughter to save her from being ravished. All which instances, and a countless host of others, prove to the comprehension of every one that those who performed those deeds were induced to do so by the brilliancy of virtue, forgetful of their own advantage, and that we, when we praise those actions, are influenced by nothing but their honourable character.
XXIII. And having briefly explained these matters, (for I have not sought to adduce the number of examples which I might have done, because there was no doubt on the subject,) it is shown sufficiently by these facts that all the virtues, and that honourableness which arises from these virtues, and clings to them, are worthy to be sought for their own sake. But in the whole of this honourableness of which we are speaking, there is nothing so eminent, nor so extensive in its operation, as the union of man with man, and a certain partnership in and communication of advantages, and the affection itself of the human race; which originating in that first feeling according to which the offspring is loved by the parent, and the whole house united by the bonds of wedlock and descent, creeps gradually out of doors, first of all to one's relations, then to one's connexions, then to one's friends and neighbours, then to one's fellow-countrymen, and to the public friends and allies of one's country; then it embraces the whole human race: and this disposition of mind, giving every one his due, and protecting with liberality and equity this union of human society which I have spoken of, is called [pg 271] justice, akin to which are piety, kindness, liberality, benevolence, courtesy, and all other qualities of the same kind. But these, though peculiarly belonging to justice, are also common to the other virtues.
For as the nature of man has been created such that it has a sort of innate principle of society and citizenship, which the Greeks call πολιτικὸν, whatever each virtue does will not be inconsistent with that principle of common union, and that human affection and society which I have spoken of; and justice, as she founds herself in practice on the other virtues, will also require them, for justice cannot be maintained except by a courageous and wise man. Honourableness itself, then, is a thing of the same character as all this conspiracy and agreement of the virtues which I have been speaking of; since it is either virtue itself, or an action virtuously performed. And a life acting in harmony and consistency with this system, and with virtue, may fairly be thought upright and honourable, and consistent, and natural. And this union and combination of virtues is nevertheless divided by philosophers on some principle of their own. For though they are so joined and connected as to be all partners with one another, and to be unable to be separated from one another, yet each has its peculiar sphere of duty; as, for instance, fortitude is discerned in labour and danger; temperance, in the disregard of pleasures; prudence, in the choice of good and evil; justice, in giving every one his due. Since, then, there is in every virtue a certain care which turns its eyes abroad, as it were, and which is anxious about and embraces others, the conclusion is, that friends, and brothers, and relations, and connexions, and fellow-countrymen, and in short everybody, since we wish the society of all mankind to be one, are to be sought after for their own sakes. But still, of all these things and people there is nothing of such a kind that it can be accounted the chief good. And from this it follows, that there are found to be two kinds of goods which are to be sought for their own sake. One kind which exists in those things in which that chief good is brought to perfection: and they are qualities of either the mind or body. But these things which are external, that is to say, which are in neither mind nor body, such as friends, parents, children, relations, or one's country, are indeed dear to me for their [pg 272] own sake, but still are not of the same class as the other kind. Nor, indeed, could any one ever arrive at the chief good, if all those things which are external, although desirable, were contained in the chief good.
XXIV. How then, you will say, can it be true that everything is referred to the chief good, if friendship, and relationship, and all other external things are not contained in the chief good? Why, on this principle,—because we protect those things which are external with those duties which arise from their respective kinds of virtue. For the cultivation of the regard of a friend or a parent, which is the discharge of a duty, is advantageous in the actual fact of its being such, inasmuch as to discharge a duty is a good action; and good actions spring from virtues; and wise men attend to them, using nature as a kind of guide.
But men who are not perfect, though endued with admirable talents and dispositions, are often excited by glory, which has the form and likeness of honourableness. But if they were to be thoroughly acquainted with the nature of that honourableness which is wholly complete and perfect, that one thing which is the most admirable of all things, and the most praiseworthy, with what joy would they be filled, when they are so greatly delighted at its outline and bare idea! For who that is given up to pleasure, and inflamed with the conflagration of desire in the enjoyment of those things which he has most eagerly wished for, can we imagine to be full of such joy as the elder Africanus after he had conquered Hannibal, or the younger one after he had destroyed Carthage? What man was there who was so much elated with the way in which all the people flocked to the Tiber on that day of festivity as Lucius Paullus, when he was leading in triumph king Perses as his prisoner, who was conveyed down on the same river?
Come now, my friend Lucius, build up in your mind the lofty excellence of virtue, and you will not doubt that the men who are possessed of it, and who live with a magnanimous and upright spirit, are always happy; men who are aware that all the movements of fortune, all the changes of affairs and circumstances, must be insignificant and powerless if ever they come to a contest with virtue. For those things which are considered by us as goods of the body, do indeed [pg 273] make up a happy life, but still not without leaving it possible for a life to be happy without them. For so slight and inconsiderable are those additions of goods, that as stars in the orbit of the sun are not seen, so neither are those qualities, but they are lost in the brilliancy of virtue. And as it is said with truth that the influence of the advantages of the body have but little weight in making life happy, so on the other hand it is too strong an assertion to say that they have no weight at all: for those who argue thus appear to me to forget the principles of nature which they themselves have contended for.
We must, therefore, allow these things some influence: provided only that we understand how much we ought to allow them. It is, however, the part of a philosopher, who seeks not so much for what is specious as for what is true, neither utterly to disregard those things which those very boastful men used to admit to be in accordance with nature; and at the same time to see that the power of virtue, and the authority, if I may say so, of honourableness, is so great that all those other things appear to be, I will not say nothing, but so trivial as to be little better than nothing. This is the language natural to a man who, on the one hand, does not despise everything except virtue, and who, at the same time, honours virtue with the praises which it deserves. This, in short, is a full and perfect explanation of the chief good; and as the others have attempted to detach different portions from the main body of it, each individual among them has wished to appear to have established his own theory as the victorious one.
XXV. The knowledge of things has been often extolled in a wonderful manner by Aristotle and Theophrastus for its own sake. And Herillus, being allured by this single fact, maintained that knowledge was the chief good, and that there was no other thing whatever that deserved to be sought for its own sake. Many things have been said by the ancients on the subject of despising and contemning all human affairs. This was the one principle of Aristo; he declared that there was nothing which ought to be avoided or desired except vice and virtue. And our school has placed freedom from pain among those things which are in accordance with nature. Hieronymus has said that this is the chief good: but Callipho, [pg 274] and Diodorus after him, one of whom was devoted to pleasure, and the other to freedom from pain, could neither of them allow honourableness to be left out, which has been especially praised by our countrymen. Moreover, even the advocates of pleasure seek for subterfuges, and are talking of virtue whole days together; and say that pleasure is at first only wished for; that afterwards it, through custom, becomes a second nature, by which men are excited to do many things without at all seeking pleasure.
The Stoics remain to be mentioned. They, indeed, have borrowed not one idea or another from us, but have appropriated our whole system of philosophy. And as other thieves alter the marks on the things which they have stolen, so they, in order to be able to use our opinions as their own, have changed the names which are like the private marks on things. And so this school alone remains worthy of those men who study the liberal arts, worthy of the learned, worthy of eminent men, worthy of princes, worthy of kings.
And when he had said this, and then stopped to take breath for a while; What is the matter? said he; do I not seem to have said enough in your presence for my own defence? I replied,—Indeed, O Piso, as has often been the case before, you have seemed to-day to have so thorough an acquaintance with all these things, that, if we could always have the advantage of your company, I should not think that we had much reason to have recourse to the Greeks. Which, indeed, I have been the more pleased with, because I recollect that Staseas, the Neapolitan, your preceptor, a very illustrious Peripatetic, was at times accustomed to discuss these points differently, agreeing with those men who attributed a great deal of weight to prosperity and adversity, and to the good or evil qualities of the body. It is as you say, he replied: but these points are argued with much more accuracy and impressiveness by my friend Antiochus than they used to be by Staseas. Although I do not ask what I have proved to your satisfaction, but what I have proved to the satisfaction of this friend of mine, the young Cicero, a pupil whom I wish to seduce from you.
XXVI. Then Lucius said,—Indeed, I quite agree with what you have said, and I think my brother does too. Then said Piso to me: Is it so? Do you pardon the youth? or would [pg 275] you rather that he should learn these things which, when he has learnt thoroughly, he will know nothing at all? I give him leave, said I. But do not you recollect that I am allowed to express my approval or disapproval of what has been said by you? For who can avoid approving of what appears to him to be probable? Can any, we said, approve of anything of which he has not a thorough perception, comprehension, and knowledge? There is, said I, no great dispute between us, Piso; for there is no other reason why it appears to me that nothing can be perceived except that the faculty of perceiving is defined in such a manner by the Stoics that they affirm that nothing can be perceived except what is so true that it cannot possibly be false. Therefore there is a dispute between us and the Stoics, but none between us and the Peripatetics. However, we may pass over this, for it would open the door to a long and sufficiently bitter dispute.
It seemed to me that it was too hasty an assertion of yours that all wise men were always happy. I know not how such a sentence escaped you; but unless it is proved, I fear that the assertion which Theophrastus made with respect to fortune, and pain, and bodily torture be true, with which he did not consider that a happy life could possibly be joined, must be true. For it is exceedingly inconsistent that the same person should be happy, and afflicted with many misfortunes; and how these things can be reconciled, I do not at all understand. Which assertion then, said he, is it that you object to? Do you deny that the power of virtue is so great that she can by herself be sufficient for happiness? or, if you admit that, do you think it impossible that those persons who are possessed of virtue may be happy, even if they are afflicted with some evils? I, indeed, I replied, wish to attribute as much power as possible to virtue; however, we may discuss at another time how great her power is; at present the only question is, whether she has so much power as this, if anything external to virtue is reckoned among the goods. But, said he, if you grant to the Stoics that virtue alone, if it be present, makes life happy, you grant it also to the Peripatetics; for those things which they do not venture to call evils, but which they admit to be unpleasant and inconvenient, and to be rejected, and odious to nature [pg 276] we call evils, but slight, and, indeed, exceedingly trifling ones. Wherefore, if that man can be happy who is among disagreeable things which ought to be rejected, he also may be so who is among slight evils. And I say, O Piso, if there is any one who in causes is used to have a clear insight into what the real question is, you are the man: wherefore I beg of you to take notice; for, hitherto, owing perhaps to my fault, you do not perceive what it is that I am seeking. I am attending, said he; and I am waiting to see what answer you will make to the questions that I ask.
XXVII. I will answer, said I, that I am not inquiring at present what virtue can effect, but what is said consistently on the subject, and why the assertions are at variance with one another. How so? said he. Because, said I, when this pompous assertion is uttered by Zeno, as if he were an oracle,—“Virtue requires nothing beyond herself to enable a man to live happily”—why? said he—“Because there is no other good except what is honourable.” I do not ask now whether that is true; I only say that what he says is admirably consistent. Epicurus will say the same thing—“that the wise man is always happy;” which, indeed, he is in the habit of spouting out sometimes. And he says that this wise man, when he is being torn to pieces with the most exquisite pains, will say, “How pleasant it is! how I disregard it!” I will not argue with the man as to why there is so much power in nature; I will only urge that he does not understand what he ought to say, after he has said that pain is the greatest evil.
Now I will address the same language to you. You say that all the goods and evils are the same that those men pronounce them to be who have never even seen a philosopher in a picture, as the saying is—namely, health, strength, stature, beauty, the soundness of all a man's nails, you call good—deformity, disease, weakness you call evils. These are all externals; do not go on any more; but at all events you will reckon these things among the goods, as the goods of the body which help to compose them, namely, friends, children, relations, riches, honour, power. Take notice that I say nothing against this. If those are evils into which a wise man can fall, then it follows that to be a wise man is not sufficient to secure a happy life. Indeed, said he, it is very [pg 277] little towards securing a perfectly happy one, but enough for securing a tolerably happy one.
I have noticed, said he, that you made this distinction a little while ago, and I know that our friend Antiochus used to speak in this manner. But what can be less approved of than the idea of a person being happy, and yet not happy enough? For when anything is enough, then whatever is added to that is excess: and no one is too happy: and no one is happier than a happy man. Therefore, said he, was not Quintus Metellus, who saw three of his sons consuls, one of whom was also censor and celebrated a triumph, and a fourth prætor; and who left them all in safety behind him, and who saw his three daughters married, having been himself consul, censor and augur, and having celebrated a triumph; was he not, I say, in your opinion, (supposing him to have been a wise man,) happier than Regulus, who being in the power of the enemy, was put to death by sleeplessness and hunger, though he may have been equally wise?
XXVIII. Why do you ask me that? said I; ask the Stoics. What answer, then, said he, do you suppose they will make? They will say that Metellus was in no respect more happy than Regulus. Let us, then, said he, hear what they have got to say. But, said I, we are wandering from our subject; for I am not asking what is true, but what each person ought to say. I wish, indeed, that they would say that one man is happier than another: you should see the ruin I would make of them. For, as the chief good consists in virtue alone, and in honourableness; and as neither virtue, as they say, nor honourableness is capable of growth, and as that alone is good which makes him who enjoys it necessarily happy, as that in which alone happiness is placed cannot be increased, how is it possible that one person can be happier than another? Do you not see how all these things agree together? And, in truth, (for I must avow what I feel,) the mutual dependence of all these things on one another is marvellous: the last part corresponds to the first, the middle to each extremity, and each extremity to the other. They see all that follows from, or is inconsistent with them. In geometry, if you grant the premises the conclusion follows. Grant that there is nothing good except what is honourable, and you must grant that happiness is placed in virtue alone. Try it the other [pg 278] way. If you grant this conclusion, you must grant the premises; but this is not the case with the arguments of your school. There are three kinds of goods. The assertions go trippingly on: he comes to the conclusion: he sticks fast: he is in a difficulty; for he wishes to say, that nothing can be wanting to a wise man to complete his happiness—a very honourable sentiment, one worthy of Socrates, or even of Plato. Well, I do venture to assert that, says he. It is impossible, unless you remodel your premises: if poverty is an evil, no beggar can be happy be he ever so wise. But Zeno ventured to call such a man not only happy, but also rich.
To be in pain is an evil; the man who is fastened to a cross cannot be happy. Children are a good; childlessness is an evil. One's country is a good; exile is an evil. Health is a good; disease is an evil. Vigour of body is a good; feebleness is an evil. Clear sight is a good; blindness is an evil. But, though a man may be able to alleviate any single one of these evils by consolation, how will he be able to endure them all? For, suppose one person were blind, feeble, afflicted with grievous sickness, banished, childless, in indigence, and put to the torture; what will you call him, Zeno? Happy, says he. Will you call him most perfectly happy? To be sure I will, says he, when I have taught him that happiness does not admit of degrees any more than virtue, the mere possession of which makes him happy. This seems to you incredible that he can call him perfectly happy. What is your own doctrine? is that credible? For if you appeal to the people, you will never convince them that a man in such a condition is happy. If you appeal to prudent men, perhaps they will doubt as to one point, namely, whether there is so much force in virtue that men endued with that can be happy, even in Phalaris's bull; but they will not doubt at all that the Stoic language is consistent with itself and that yours is not.
Do you then, says he, approve of the book of Theophrastus on a happy life? We are wandering from our subject; and that I may not be too tedious—if, said I, Piso, those things are evils, I wholly approve of it. Do not they then, said he, seem to you to be evils? Do you ask that? said I; whatever answer I give you, you will find yourself in embarrassment. How so? said he. Because, if they are evils, a man [pg 279] who is affected with them cannot be happy. If they are not evils, there is an end to the whole system of the Peripatetics. And he laughing replied, I see what you are at; you are afraid I shall carry off your pupil. You may carry him off, said I, if he likes to follow you; for he will still be with me if he is with you.
XXIX. Listen then, said he, O Lucius; for, as Theophrastus says, I must direct my discourse to you,—the whole authority of philosophy consists in making life happy; for we are all inflamed with a desire of living happily. This, both your brother and I agree upon. Wherefore we must see whether the system of the philosophers can give us this. It promises to do so certainly: for, unless it made that promise, why did Plato travel over Egypt, to learn numbers and knowledge of the heavenly mysteries from barbarian priests? Why afterwards did he go to Tarentum to Archytas; and to the other Pythagoreans of Locri, Echecrates, Timæus, and Acrion; in order, after he had drained Socrates to the dregs, to add the doctrine of the Pythagoreans to his, and to learn in addition those things which Socrates rejected? Why did Pythagoras himself travel over Egypt, and visit the Persian Magi; why did he go on foot over so many countries of the barbarians, and make so many voyages? Why did Democritus do the same? who, (whether it is true or false, we will not stop to inquire,) is said to have put out his own eyes; certainly, in order that his mind might be abstracted from contemplation as little as possible; he neglected his patrimony, and left his lands uncultivated, and what other object could he have had except a happy life? And if he placed that in the knowledge of things, still from that investigation of natural philosophy he sought to acquire equanimity; for he called the summum bonum εὐθυμία, and very often ἀθαμβία, that is to say, a mind free from alarm. But, although this was well said, it was not very elegantly expressed; for he said very little about virtue, and even what he did say, he did not express very clearly. For it was not till after his death that these subjects were discussed in this city, first by Socrates, and from Socrates they got entrance into the Academy. Nor was there any doubt that all hope of living well and also happily was placed in virtue: and when Zeno had learnt this from our school, he began to express himself on the same [pg 280] subject in another manner, as lawyers do on trials. And now you approve of this conduct in him. Will you then say that he by changing the names of things escaped the charge of inconsistency, and yet not allow us to do so too?
He asserts that the life of Metellus was not happier than that of Regulus, but admits that it was preferable to it; he says it was not more to be sought after, but still to be taken in preference; and that if one had a choice, one would choose the life of Metellus, and reject that of Regulus. What then he calls preferable, and worthy to be chosen in preference, I call happier; and yet I do not attribute more importance to that sort of life than the Stoics do. For what difference is there between us, except that I call well-known things by well-known names, and that they seek for new terms to express the same ideas? And so, as there is always some one in the senate who wants an interpreter, we, too, must listen to them with an interpreter. I call that good which is in accordance with nature; and whatever is contrary to nature I call evil. Nor do I alone use the definition; you do also, O Chrysippus, in the forum and at home; but in the school you discard it. What then? Do you think that men in general ought to speak in one way, and philosophers in another, as to the importance of which everything is? that learned men should hold one language, and unlearned ones another? But as learned men are agreed of how much importance everything is, (if they were men, they would speak in the usual fashion,) why, as long as they leave the facts alone, they are welcome to mould the names according to their fancy.
XXX. But I come now to the charge of inconsistency, that you may not repeat that I am making digressions; which you think exist only in language, but which I used to consider depended on the subject of which one was speaking. If it is sufficiently perceived (and here we have most excellent assistance from the Stoics), that the power of virtue is so great, that if everything else were put on the opposite side, it would not be even visible, when all things which they admit at least to be advantages, and to deserve to be taken, and chosen, and preferred, and which they define as worthy of being highly estimated; when, I say, I call these things goods which have so many names given them by the Stoics, [pg 281] some of which are new, and invented expressly for them, such as producta and reducta, and some of which are merely synonymous; (for what difference can it make whether you wish for a thing or choose it? that which is chosen, and on which deliberate choice is exercised, appears to me to be the better) still, when I have called all these things goods, the question is merely how great goods I call them; when I say they deserved to be wished for, the question is,—how eagerly?
But, if I do not attribute more importance to them when I say that they deserve to be wished for, than you do who say they only deserve to be chosen, and if I do not value them more highly when I call them bona, than you, when you speak of them as producta; then all these things must inevitably be involved in obscurity, and put out of sight, and lost amid the rays of virtue like stars in the sunbeams. But that life in which there is any evil cannot be happy. Then a corn-field full of thick and heavy ears of corn is not a corn-field if you see any tares anywhere; nor is traffic gainful if, amid the greatest gains, you incur the most trifling loss. Do we ever act on different principles in any circumstances of life; and will you not judge of the whole from its greatest part? or is there any doubt that virtue is so much the most important thing in all human affairs, that it throws all the rest into the shade?
I will venture, then, to call the rest of the things which are in accordance with nature, goods, and not to cheat them of their ancient title, rather than go and hunt for some new name for them; and the dignity of virtue I will put, as it were, in the other scale of the balance. Believe me, that scale will outweigh both earth and sea; for the whole always has its name from that which embraces its largest part, and is the most widely diffused. We say that one man lives merrily. Is there, then, an end of this merry life of his if he is for a moment a little poor?
But, in the case of that Marcus Crassus, who, Lucilius says, laughed once in his life, the fact of his having done so did not deliver him from being called ἀγέλαστος. They call Polycrates of Samos happy. Nothing had ever happened to him which he did not like, except that he had thrown into the sea a ring which he valued greatly; therefore he was unhappy as to that one annoyance; but subsequently he was [pg 282] happy again when that same ring was found in the belly of a fish. But he, if he was unwise (which he certainly was, since he was a tyrant), was never happy; if he was wise he was not miserable, even at the time when he was crucified by Orœtes, the lieutenant of Darius. But he had great evils inflicted on him. Who denies that?—but those evils were overcome by the greatness of his virtue.
XXXI. Do you not grant even this to the Peripatetics, that they may say that the life of all good, that is, of all wise men, and of men adorned with every virtue, has in all its parts more good than evil? Who says this? The Stoics may say so. By no means. But do not those very men who measure everything by pleasure and pain, say loudly that the wise man has always more things which he likes than dislikes? When, then, these men attribute so much to virtue, who confess that they would not even lift a finger for the sake of virtue, if it did not bring pleasure with it, what ought we to do, who say that ever so inconsiderable an excellence of mind is so superior to all the goods of the body, that they are put wholly out of sight by it? For who is there who can venture to say, that it can happen to a wise man (even if such a thing were possible) to discard virtue for ever, with a view of being released from all pain? Who of our school, who are not ashamed to call those things evils which the Stoics call only bitter, would say that it was better to do anything dishonourably with pleasure than honourably with pain? To us, indeed, Dionysius of Heraclea appears to have deserted the Stoics in a shameful manner, on account of the pain of his eyes; as if he had learnt from Zeno not to be in pain when he was in pain. He had heard, but he had not learnt, that it was not an evil, because it was not dishonourable, and because it might be borne by a man. If he had been a Peripatetic he would, I suppose, have adhered to his opinion, since they say that pain is an evil. And with respect to bearing its bitterness, they give the same precepts as the Stoics; and, indeed, your friend Arcesilas, although he was a rather pertinacious arguer, was still on our side; for he was a pupil of Polemo; and when he was suffering under the pain of the gout, and Carneades, a most intimate friend of Epicurus, had come to see him, and was going away very melancholy, said, “Stay awhile, I entreat you, friend [pg 283] Carneades; for the pain does not reach here,” showing his feet and his breast. Still he would have preferred being out of pain.
XXXII. This, then, is our doctrine, which appears to you to be inconsistent, since, by reason of a certain heavenly, divine, and inexpressible excellence of virtue, so great, that wherever virtue and great, desirable, and praiseworthy exploits done by virtue are, there misery and grief cannot be, but nevertheless labour and annoyance can be, I do not hesitate to affirm that all wise men are always happy, but still, that it is possible that one man may be more happy than another.
But this is exactly the assertion, Piso, said I, which you are bound to prove over and over again; and if you establish it, then you may take with you not only my young Cicero here, but me too. Then, said Quintus, it appears to me that this has been sufficiently proved. I am glad, indeed, that philosophy, the treasures of which I have been used to value above the possession of everything else (so rich did it appear to me, that I could ask of it whatever I desired to know in our studies),—I rejoice, therefore, that it has been found more acute than all other arts, for it was in acuteness that some people asserted that it was deficient. Not a mite more so than ours, surely, said Pomponius, jestingly. But, seriously, I have been very much pleased with what you have said; for what I did not think could be expressed in Latin has been expressed by you, and that no less clearly than by the Greeks, and in not less well adapted language. But it is time to depart, if you please; and let us go to my house.
And when he had said this, as it appeared that we had discussed the subject sufficiently, we all went into the town to the house of Pomponius.