Abstract: The title
The Academics (Latin: Academica) entails both
Lucullus or Prior Academics (Latin: Academica Priora) and
Varro or Posterior Academics (Latin: Academica Posteriora). It is a philosophical work by the Roman orator, politician and philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 BCE – 43 BCE). It consists of two books. The goal of this work was to give an account of the rise and progress of the Academic Philosophy, to point out the various modifications introduced by successive professors, and to demonstrate the superiority of the principles of the New Academy, as taught by Philo, over those of the old, as advocated by Antiochus.
The following account of the two Books of the Academics is extracted from the Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography, edited by Dr. W. Smith: —
“The history of this work, before it finally quitted the hands of its author, is exceedingly curious and somewhat obscure; but must be clearly understood before we can explain the relative position of those portions of it which have been transmitted to modern times. By comparing carefully a series of letters written to Atticus, in the course of 45 BCE (Ep. ad Att. xiii. 32; 12, 13, 14, 16, 18, 19, 21, 22, 23, 25, 35, 44), we find that Cicero had drawn up a treatise upon the Academic Philosophy, in the form of a dialogue between Catulus, Lucullus, and Hortensius; and that it was comprised in two books, the first bearing the name of Catulus, the second that of Lucullus. A copy was sent to Atticus; and, soon after it reached him, two new Introductions were composed, the one in praise of Catulus, the other in praise of Lucullus. Scarcely had this been done, when Cicero, from a conviction that Catulus, Lucullus, and Hortensius, although men of highly cultivated minds, and well acquainted with general literature, were known to have been little conversant with the subtle arguments of abstruse philosophy, determined to withdraw them altogether, and accordingly substituted Cato and Brutus in their place. Immediately after this change had been introduced, he received a communication from Atticus, representing that Varro was much offended by being passed over in the discussion of topics in which he was so deeply versed. Thereupon Cicero, catching eagerly at the idea thus suggested, resolved to recast the whole piece, and quickly produced, under the old title, a new and highly improved edition, divided into four books instead of two, dedicating the whole to Varro, to whom was assigned the task of defending the tenets of Antiochus; while Cicero himself undertook to support the views of Philo, Atticus also taking a share in the conversation.
“But, although these alterations had been effected with extreme rapidity, the copy originally sent to Atticus had in the meantime been repeatedly transcribed; hence both editions passed into circulation, and a part of each has been preserved. One section, containing twelve chapters, is a short fragment of the second or Varronian edition. The other, containing forty-nine chapters, is the entire second book of the first edition; to which is prefixed the new introduction, together with the proper title of Lucullus. The scene of the Catulus was the villa of that statesman, at Cumae; while the Lucullus is supposed to have been held at the mansion of Hortensius, near Bauli.
The object proposed was to give an account of the rise and progress of the Academic Philosophy, to point out the various modifications introduced by successive professors, and to demonstrate the superiority of the principles of the New Academy, as taught by Philo, over those of the old, as advocated by Antiochus.
1. When a short time ago my friend Atticus was with me at my villa in the district of Cumae, news was sent us by Marcus Varro, that he had arrived in Rome the day before in the evening, and that if he had not found himself too tired after his journey he should have proceeded at once to see us. But when we heard this, we thought that we ought not to suffer anything to delay our seeing a man so intimately connected with us by an identity of studies, and by a very long standing intimacy and friendship. And so we set out at once to go to see him; and when we were no great distance from his villa we saw him coming towards us; and when we had embraced him, as the manner of friends is, after some time we accompanied him back to his villa. And as I was asking a few questions, and inquiring what was the news at Rome, Never mind those things, said Atticus, which we can neither inquire about nor hear of without vexation, but ask him rather whether he has written anything new; for the muse of Varro has been silent much longer than usual; though I rather suppose he is suppressing for a time what he has written, than that he has been really idle. You are quite wrong, said he; for I think it very foolish conduct in a man to write what he wishes to have concealed. But I have a great work on hand; for I have been a long time preparing a treatise which I have dedicated to my friend here, (he meant me,) which is of great importance, and is being polished up by me with a good deal of care.
I have been waiting to see it a long time, Varro, said I, but still I have not ventured to ask for it. For I heard from our friend Libo, with whose zeal you are well acquainted, (for I can never conceal anything of that kind,) that you have not been slackening in the business, but are expending a great deal of care on it, and in fact never put it out of your hands. But it has never hitherto come into my mind to ask you about it; however now, since I have begun to commit to a durable record those things which I learnt in your company, and to illustrate in the Latin language that ancient philosophy which originated with Socrates, I must ask you why it is that, while you write on so many subjects, you pass over this one, especially when you yourself are very eminent in it; and when that study, and indeed the whole subject, is far superior in importance to all other studies and arts.
4. You are asking me, he replied, about a matter on which I have often deliberated and frequently revolved in my mind. And, therefore, I will answer you without any hesitation; still, however, speaking quite off-hand, because I have, as I said just now, thought over the subject both deeply and frequently. For as I saw that philosophy had been explained with great care in the Greek language, I thought that if any of our countrymen were engrossed by the study of it, who were well versed in Greek literature, they would be more likely to read Greek treatises than Latin ones: but that those men who were averse to Greek science and to the schools of the Greek philosophers would not care the least for such matters as these, which could not be understood at all without some acquaintance with Greek literature. And, therefore, I did not choose to write treatises which unlearned men could not understand, and learned men would not be at the trouble of reading. And you yourself are aware of this. For you have learnt that we cannot resemble Amafanius or Rabirius, who without any art discuss matters which come before the eyes of every one in plain ordinary language, giving no accurate definitions, making no divisions, drawing no inferences by well-directed questions, and who appear to think that there is no such thing as any art of speaking or disputing. But we, in obedience to the precepts of the logicians and of orators also, as if they were positive laws, (since our countrymen consider skill in each of these branches to be a virtue,) are compelled to use words although they may be new ones; which learned men, as I have said before, will prefer taking from the Greeks, and which unlearned men will not receive even from us; so that all our labor may be undertaken in vain. But now, if I approved of the doctrines of Epicurus, that is to say, of Democritus, I could write of natural philosophy in as plain a style as Amafanius. For what is the great difficulty when you have put an end to all efficient causes, in speaking of the fortuitous concourse of corpuscules, for this is the name he gives to atoms. You know our system of natural philosophy, which depends upon the two principles, the efficient cause, and the subject matter out of which the efficient cause forms and produces what it does produce. For we must have recourse to geometry, since, if we do not, in what words will any one be able to enunciate the principles he wishes, or whom will he be able to cause to comprehend those assertions about life, and manners, and desiring and avoiding such and such things?
For those men are so simple as to think the good of a sheep and of a man the same thing. While you know the character and extent of the accuracy which philosophers of our school profess. Again, if you follow Zeno, it is a hard thing to make any one understand what that genuine and simple good is which cannot be separated from honesty; while Epicurus asserts that he is wholly unable to comprehend what the character of that good may be which is unconnected with pleasures which affect the senses. But if we follow the doctrines of the Old Academy which, as you know, we prefer, then with what accuracy must we apply ourselves to explain it; with what shrewdness and even with what obscurity must we argue against the Stoics! The whole, therefore, of that eagerness for philosophy I claim for myself, both for the purpose of strengthening my firmness of conduct as far as I can, and also for the delight of my mind. Nor do I think, as Plato says, that any more important or more valuable gift has been given to men by the gods. But I send all my friends who have any zeal for philosophy into Greece; that is to say, I bid them study the Greek writers, in order to draw their precepts from the fountain-head, rather than follow little streams. But those things which no one had previously taught, and which could not be learnt in any quarter by those who were eager on the subject, I have labored as far as I could (for I have no great opinion of anything which I have done in this line) to explain to our fellow-countrymen. For this knowledge could not be sought for among the Greeks, nor, after the death of our friend Lucius Ælius, among the Latins either. And yet in those old works of ours which we composed in imitation of Menippus, not translating him, sprinkling a little mirth and sportiveness over the whole subject, there are many things mingled which are drawn from the most recondite philosophy, and many points argued according to the rules of strict logic; but I added these lighter matters in order to make the whole more easy for people of moderate learning to comprehend, if they were invited to read those essays by a pleasing style, displayed in panegyrics, and in the very prefaces of my books of antiquities. And this was my object in adopting this style, however I may have succeeded in it.
9. The fact, I replied, is just as you say, Varro. For while we were sojourners, as it were, in our own city, and wandering about like strangers, your books have conducted us, as it were, home again, so as to enable us at last to recognise who and where we were. You have discussed the antiquity of our country, and the variety of dates and chronology relating to it. You have explained the laws which regulate sacrifices and priests; you have unfolded the customs of the city both in war and peace; you have described the various quarters and districts; you have omitted mentioning none of the names, or kinds, or functions, or causes of divine or human things; you have thrown a great deal of light on our poets, and altogether on Latin literature and on Latin expressions; you have yourself composed a poem of varied beauties, and elegant in almost every point; and you have in many places touched upon philosophy in a manner sufficient to excite our curiosity, though inadequate to instruct us.
You allege, indeed, a very plausible reason for this. For, you say, those who are learned men will prefer reading philosophical treatises in Greek, and those who are ignorant of Greek will not read them even in Latin. However, tell me now, do you really agree with your own argument? I would rather say, those who are unable to read them in the one language will read them in the other; and even those who can read them in Greek will not despise their own language. For what reason can be imagined why men learned in Greek literature should read the Latin poets, and not read the Latin philosophers? Or again, if Ennius, Pacuvius, Accius, and many others who have given us, I will not say the exact expressions, but the meaning of the Greeks, delight their readers; how much more will the philosophers delight them, if, as the poets have imitated Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, they in like manner imitate Plato, Aristotle, and Theophrastus? I see, too, that any orators among us are praised who imitate Hyperides or Demosthenes.
But I, (for I will speak the plain truth,) as long as ambition and the pursuit of public honors and the pleading of causes, and not a mere regard for the republic, but even a certain degree of concern in its government, entangled me in and hampered me with the numerous duties in which those occupations involved me; I kept, I say, all these matters to myself, and brushed them up, when I could, by reading, to prevent their getting rusty. But now, having been stricken to the ground by a most severe blow of fortune, and being discharged from all concern in the republic, I seek a medicine for my sorrow in philosophy, and consider this study the most honorable pastime for my leisure. For I may look upon it as most suitable to my age, and most especially consistent with any memorable exploits which I may have performed, and inferior to no other occupation in its usefulness for the purpose of educating my fellow-countrymen. Or even if this be too high a view to take of it, at all events I see nothing else which I can do. My friend Brutus, indeed, a man eminent for every kind of virtue, has illustrated philosophy in the Latin language in such a way that he has left Greece nothing to wish for on those subjects. And he adopts the same opinions that you do. For he was for some time a pupil of Aristus, at Athens, whose brother Antiochus was your own preceptor. And therefore do you also, I entreat you, apply yourself to this kind of literature.
13. Then he replied. I will indeed consider of these matters, but only in your company. But still, said he, what is this which I hear about you yourself? On what subject? said I. Why, that the old system is deserted by you, and that you have espoused the principles of the new school. What of that? said I. Why should Antiochus, my own intimate friend, be more at liberty to return back again from the new school to the old, than I myself to migrate to the new from the old? For certainly everything that is most recent is corrected and amended in the highest degree; although Philo, the master of Antiochus, a great man, as you yourself consider him, used to deny in his books that there were two Academies (and we ourselves have heard him assert the same things in his lectures); and he convicts those who say that there are, of palpable mistake. It is as you say, said he, but I do not imagine that you are ignorant of what Antiochus has written in reply to the arguments of Philo. Certainly, said I, I am not, and I should like to hear the whole cause of the Old Academy, from which I have been so long absent, recapitulated by you, if it is not giving you too much trouble; and let us sit down now, if you have no objection. That will suit me very well, said he, for I am not at all strong. But let us consider whether Atticus will be pleased with that compliance of mine, which I see that you yourself are desirous of. Indeed I shall, said he; for what could I prefer to being reminded of what I long ago heard from Antiochus, and seeing at the same time whether those ideas can be expressed with sufficient suitableness in Latin? So after this preface we all sat down looking at one another. And Varro began as follows: —
Socrates appears to me, and indeed it is the universal opinion, to have been the first person who drew philosophy away from matters of an abstruse character, which had been shrouded in mystery by nature herself, and in which all the philosophers before his time had been wholly occupied, and to have diverted it to the objects of ordinary life; directing its speculations to virtues and vices, and generally to whatever was good or bad. And he thought that the heavenly bodies were either far out of the reach of our knowledge, or that, even if we became ever so intimately acquainted with them, they had no influence on living well. In nearly all his discourses, which have been reported in great variety and very fully by those who were his pupils, he argues in such a manner that he affirms nothing himself, but refutes the assertions of others. He says that he knows nothing, except that one fact, that he is ignorant; and that he is superior to others in this particular, that they believe that they do know what they do not, while he knows this one thing alone, that he knows nothing. And it is on that account that he imagines he was pronounced by Apollo the wisest of all men, because this alone is the whole of wisdom, for a man not to think that he knows what he does not know. And as he was always saying this, and persisting in the maintenance of this opinion, his discourse was entirely devoted to the praise of virtue, and to encouraging all men to the study of virtue; as may be plainly seen in the books of the disciples of Socrates, and above all in those of Plato. But by the influence of Plato, a man of vast and varied and eloquent genius, a system of philosophy was established which was one and identical, though under two names; the system namely of the Academics and Peripatetics. For these two schools agreed in reality, and differed only in name. For when Plato had left Speusippus, his sister’s son, the inheritor as it were of his philosophy, and also two pupils most eminent for industry and genius, Xenocrates of Chalcedon, and Aristotle the Stagirite; those who adhered to Aristotle were called Peripatetics, because they disputed while walking in the Lyceum. And the others, who according to the fashion of Plato himself were accustomed to hold their meetings and discussions in the Academy, which is a second Gymnasium, took their name from the place where they used to meet. But both these schools, being impregnated with the copiousness of Plato, arranged a certain definite system of doctrine, which was itself copious and luxuriant; but abandoned the Socratic plan of doubting on every subject, and of discussing everything without ever venturing on the assertion of a positive opinion. And thus there arose what Socrates would have been far from approving of, a certain art of philosophy, and methodical arrangement, and division of the school, which at first, as I have already said, was one under two names. For there was no real difference between the Peripatetics and the old Academy. Aristotle, at least such is my opinion, was superior in a certain luxuriance of genius; but both schools had the same source, and adopted the same division of things which were to be desired and avoided. But what am I about? said he, interrupting himself; am I in my senses while I am explaining these things to you? for although it may not be exactly a case of the pig teaching Minerva, still it is not very wise of any one to attempt to impart instruction to that goddess.
I entreat you however, said Atticus, I entreat you to go on, Varro. For I am greatly attached to my own countrymen and to their works; and those subjects delight me beyond measure when they are treated in Latin, and in such a manner as you treat them. And what, said I, do you think that I must feel, who have already engaged to display philosophy to our nation? Let us then, said he, continue the subject, since it is agreeable to you.
A threefold system of philosophizing, then, was already received from Plato. One, on the subject of life and morals. A second, on nature and abstruse matters. The third, on discussion, and on what is true or false; what is right or wrong in a discourse; what is consistent or inconsistent in forming a decision.
And that first division of the subject, that namely of living well, they sought in nature herself, and said that it was necessary to obey her; and that that chief good to which everything was referred was not to be sought in anything whatever except in nature. And they laid it down that the crowning point of all desirable things, and the chief good, was to have received from nature everything which is requisite for the mind, or the body, or for life. But of the goods of the body, they placed some in the whole, and others in the parts. Health, strength, and beauty in the whole. In the parts, soundness of the senses, and a certain excellence of the individual parts. As in the feet, swiftness; in the hands, strength; in the voice, clearness; in the tongue, a distinct articulation of words. The excellences of the mind they considered those which were suitable to the comprehension of virtue by the disposition. And those they divided under the separate heads of nature and morals. Quickness in learning and memory they attributed to nature; each of which was described as a property of the mind and genius. Under the head of
morals they classed our studies, and, I may say, our habits, which they formed, partly by a continuity of practice, partly by reason. And in these two things was contained philosophy itself, in which that which is begun and not brought to its completion, is called a sort of advance towards virtue; but that which is brought to completion is virtue, being a sort of perfection of nature and of all things which they place in the mind; the one most excellent thing. These things then are qualities of the mind.
The third division was that of life. And they said that those things which had influence in facilitating the practice of virtue were connected with this division. For virtue is discerned in some good qualities of the mind and body, which are added not so much to nature as to a happy life. They thought that a man was as it were a certain part of the state, and of the whole human race, and that he was connected with other men by a sort of human society. And this is the way in which they deal with the chief and natural good. But they think that everything else is connected with it, either in the way of increasing or of maintaining it; as riches, power, glory, and influence. And thus a threefold division of goods is inferred by them.
22. And these are those three kinds which most people believe the Peripatetics speak of: and so far they are not wrong; for this division is the work of that school. But they are mistaken if they think that the Academicians — those at least who bore this name at that time — are different from the Peripatetics. The principle, and the chief good asserted by both appeared to be the same — namely, to attain those things which were in the first class by nature, and which were intrinsically desirable; the whole of them, if possible, or, at all events, the most important of them. But those are the most important which exist in the mind itself, and are conversant about virtue itself. Therefore, all that ancient philosophy perceived that a happy life was placed in virtue alone; and yet that it was not the happiest life possible, unless the good qualities of the body were added to it, and all the other things which have been already mentioned, which are serviceable towards acquiring a habit of virtue. From this definition of theirs, a certain principle of action in life, and of duty itself, was discovered, which consisted in the preservation of those things which nature might prescribe. Hence arose the avoidance of sloth, and contempt of pleasures; from which proceeded the willingness to encounter many and great labors and pains, for the sake of what was right and honorable, and of those things which are conformable to the objects of nature. Hence was generated friendship, and justice, and equity; and these things were preferred to pleasure and to many of the advantages of life. This was the system of morals recommended in their school, and the method and design of that division which I have placed first.
But concerning nature (for that came next), they spoke in such a manner that they divided it into two parts, — making one efficient, and the other lending itself, as it were, to the first, as subject matter to be worked upon. For that part which was efficient they thought there was power; and in that which was made something by it they thought there was some matter; and something of both in each. For they considered that matter itself could have no cohesion, unless it were held together by some power; and that power could have none without some matter to work upon; for that is nothing which is not necessarily somewhere. But that which exists from a combination of the two they called at once body, and a sort of quality, as it were. For you will give me leave, in speaking of subjects which have not previously been in fashion, to use at times words which have never been heard of (which, indeed, is no more than the Greeks themselves do, who have been long in the habit of discussing these subjects).
25. To be sure we will, said Atticus. Moreover, you may even use Greek words when you wish, if by chance you should be at a loss for Latin ones. You are very kind; but I will endeavor to express myself in Latin, except in the case of such words as these — philosophia, rhetorica, physica, or dialectica, which, like many others, fashion already sanctions, as if they were Latin. I therefore have called those things qualitates (qualities), which the Greeks call poiotētes — a word which, even among the Greeks, is not one in ordinary use, but is confined to philosophers. And the same rule applies to many other expressions. As for the Dialecticians, they have no terms in common use: they use technical terms entirely. And the case is the same with nearly every art; for men must either invent new names for new things, or else borrow them from other subjects. And if the Greeks do this, who have now been engaged in such matters for so many ages, how much more ought this licence to be allowed to us, who are now endeavoring to deal with these subjects for the first time? But, said I, O Varro, it appears to me that you will deserve well of your fellow-countrymen, if you enrich them, not only with an abundance of new things, as you have done, but also of words. We will venture, then, said he, to employ new terms, if it be necessary, armed with your authority and sanction.
Of these qualities, then, said he, some are principal ones, and others arise out of them. The principal ones are of one character and simple; but those which arise out of them are various, and, as it were, multiform. Therefore, air (we use the Greek word as Latin), fire, water, and earth are principal ones; and out of them there arise the forms of living creatures, and of those things which are produced out of the earth. Therefore, those first are called principles and (to translate the Greek word) elements: from which air and fire have the power of movement and efficiency: the other divisions — I mean, water and the earth — have the power of receiving, and, as it were, of suffering. The fifth class, from which the stars and winds were formed, Aristotle considered to be a separate essence, and different from those four which I have mentioned above.
But they think that there is placed under all of these a certain matter without any form, and destitute of all quality (for we may as well, by constant use, make this word more usual and notorious), from which all things are sketched out and made; which can receive everything in its entirety, and can be changed in every manner and in every part. And also that it perishes, not so as to become nothing, but so as to be dissolved with its component parts, which again are able to be cut up and divided, ad infinitum; since there is absolutely nothing in the whole nature of things which cannot be divided: and those things which are moved, are all moved at intervals, which intervals again are capable of being infinitely divided. And, since that power which we have called quality is moved in this way, and is agitated in every direction, they think also that the whole of matter is itself entirely changed, and so that those things are produced which they call qualities, from which the world is made, in universal nature, cohering together and connected with all its divisions; and, out of the world, there is no such thing as any portion of matter or any body.
And they say that the parts of the world are all the things which exist in it, and which are maintained by sentient nature; in which perfect reason is placed, which is also everlasting: for that there is nothing more powerful which can be the cause of its dissolution. And this power they call the soul of the world, and also its intellect and perfect wisdom. And they call it God, a providence watching over everything subject to its dominion, and, above all, over the heavenly bodies; and, next to them, over those things on earth which concern men: which also they sometimes call necessity, because nothing can be done in a manner different from that in which it has been arranged by it in a destined (if I may so say) and inevitable continuation of eternal order. Sometimes, too, they call it fortune, because it brings about many unforeseen things, which have never been expected by us, on account of the obscurity of their causes, and our ignorance of them.
30. The third part of philosophy, which is next in order, being conversant about reason and discussion, was thus handled by both schools. They said that, although it originated in the senses, still the power of judging of the truth was not in the senses. They insisted upon it that intellect was the judge of things. They thought that the only thing deserving of belief, because it alone discerned that which was always simple and uniform, and which perceived its real character. This they call idea, having already received this name from Plato; and we properly entitle it species.
But they thought that all the senses were dull and slow, and that they did not by any means perceive those things which appeared subjected to the senses; which were either so small as to be unable to come under the notice of sense, or so moveable and rapid that none of them was ever one consistent thing, nor even the same thing, because everything was in a continual state of transition and disappearance. And therefore they called all this division of things one resting wholly on opinion. But they thought that science had no existence anywhere except in the notions and reasonings of the mind; on which account they approved of the definitions of things, and employed them on everything which was brought under discussion. The explanation of words also was approved of — that is to say, the explanation of the cause why everything was named as it was; and that they called etymology. Afterwards they used arguments, and, as it were, marks of things, for the proof and conclusion of what they wished to have explained; in which the whole system of dialectics — that is to say, of an oration brought to its conclusion by ratiocination, was handed down. And to this there was added, as a kind of second part, the oratorical power of speaking, which consists in developing a continued discourse, composed in a manner adapted to produce conviction.
33. This was the first philosophy handed down to them by Plato. And if you like I will explain to you those discussions which have originated in it. Indeed, said I, we shall be glad if you will; and I can answer for Atticus as well as for myself. You are quite right, said he; for the doctrine both of the Peripatetics and of the old Academy is most admirably explained.
Aristotle, then, was the first to undermine the doctrine of species, which I have just now mentioned, and which Plato had embraced in a wonderful manner; so that he even affirmed that there was something divine in it. But Theophrastus, a man of very delightful eloquence, and of such purity of morals that his probity and integrity were notorious to all men, broke down more vigorously still the authority of the old school; for he stripped virtue of its beauty, and made it powerless, by denying that to live happily depended solely on it. 34. For Strato, his pupil, although a man of brilliant abilities, must still be excluded entirely from that school; for, having deserted that most indispensable part of philosophy which is placed in virtue and morals, and having devoted himself wholly to the investigation of nature, he by that very conduct departs as widely as possible from his companions. But Speusippus and Xenocrates, who were the earliest supporters of the system and authority of Plato, — and, after them, Polemo and Crates, and at the same time Crantor, — being all collected together in the Academy, diligently maintained those doctrines which they had received from their predecessors. Zeno and Arcesilas had been diligent attenders on Polemo; but Zeno, who preceded Arcesilas in point of time, and argued with more subtilty, and was a man of the greatest acuteness, attempted to correct the system of that school. And, if you like, I will explain to you the way in which he set about that correction, as Antiochus used to explain it. Indeed, said I, I shall be very glad to hear you do so; and you see that Pomponius intimates the same wish.
Zeno, then, was not at all a man like Theophrastus, to cut through the sinews of virtue; but, on the other hand, he was one who placed everything which could have any effect in producing a happy life in virtue alone, and who reckoned nothing else a good at all, and who called that honorable which was single in its nature, and the sole and only good. But as for all other things, although they were neither good nor bad, he divided them, calling some according to, and others contrary to nature. There were others which he looked upon as placed between these two classes, and which he called intermediate. Those which were according to nature, he taught his disciples, deserved to be taken, and to be considered worthy of a certain esteem. To those which were contrary to nature, he assigned a contrary character; and those of the intermediate class he left as neutrals, and attributed to them no importance whatever. But of those which he said ought to be taken, he considered some worthy of a higher estimation and others of a less. Those which were worthy of a higher esteem, he called preferred; those which were only worthy of a lower degree, he called rejected. And as he had altered all these things, not so much in fact as in name, so too he defined some actions as intermediate, lying between good deeds and sins, between duty and a violation of duty; — classing things done rightly as good actions, and things done wrongly (that is to say, sins) as bad actions. And several duties, whether discharged or neglected, he considered of an intermediate character, as I have already said. And whereas his predecessors had not placed every virtue in reason, but had said that some virtues were perfected by nature, or by habit, he placed them all in reason; and while they thought that those kinds of virtues which I have mentioned above could be separated, he asserted that that could not be done in any manner, and affirmed that not only the practice of virtue (which was the doctrine of his predecessors), but the very disposition to it, was intrinsically beautiful; and that virtue could not possibly be present to any one without his continually practicing it.
And while they did not entirely remove all perturbation of mind from man, (for they admitted that man did by nature grieve, and desire, and fear, and become elated by joy,) but only contracted it, and reduced it to narrow bounds; he maintained that the wise man was wholly free from all these diseases as they might be called. 39. And as the ancients said that those perturbations were natural, and devoid of reason, and placed desire in one part of the mind and reason in another, he did not agree with them either; for he thought that all perturbations were voluntary, and were admitted by the judgment of the opinion, and that a certain unrestrained intemperance was the mother of all of them. And this is nearly what he laid down about morals.
But about natures he held these opinions. In the first place, he did not connect this fifth nature, out of which his predecessors thought that sense and intellect were produced, with those four principles of things. For he laid it down that fire is that nature which produces everything, and intellect, and sense. But he differed from them again, inasmuch as he thought it absolutely impossible for anything to be produced from that nature which was destitute of body; which was the character attributed by Xenocrates and his predecessors to the mind, and he would not allow that that which produced anything, or which was produced by anything, could possibly be anything except body.
But he made a great many alterations in that third part of his philosophy, in which, first of all, he said some new things of the senses themselves: which he considered to be united by some impulse as it were, acting upon them from without, which he called phantasia, and which we may term perception. And let us recollect this word, for we shall have frequent occasion to employ it in the remainder of our discourse; but to these things which are perceived, and as it were accepted by the senses, he adds the assent of the mind, which he considers to be placed in ourselves and voluntary. He did not give credit to everything which is perceived, but only to those which contain some especial character of those things which are seen; but he pronounced what was seen, when it was discerned on account of its own power, comprehensible — will you allow me this word? Certainly, said Atticus, for how else are you to express catalēpton? But after it had been received and approved, then he called it comprehension, resembling those things which are taken up (prehenduntur) in the hand; from which verb also he derived this noun, though no one else had ever used this verb with reference to such matters; and he also used many new words, for he was speaking of new things. But that which was comprehended by sense he called felt (sensum), and if it was so comprehended that it could not be eradicated by reason, he called it knowledge; otherwise he called it ignorance: from which also was engendered opinion, which was weak, and compatible with what was false or unknown. But between knowledge and ignorance he placed that comprehension which I have spoken of, and reckoned it neither among what was right or what was wrong, but said that it alone deserved to be trusted.
And from this he attributed credit also to the senses, because, as I have said above, comprehension made by the senses appeared to him to be true and trustworthy. Not because it comprehended all that existed in a thing, but because it left out nothing which could affect it, and because nature had given it to us to be as it were a rule of knowledge, and a principle from which subsequently all notions of things might be impressed on our minds, from which not only principles, but some broader paths to the discovery of reason are found out. But error, and rashness, and ignorance, and opinion, and suspicion, and in a word everything which was inconsistent with a firm and consistent assent, he discarded from virtue and wisdom. And it is in these things that nearly all the disagreement between Zeno and his predecessors, and all his alteration of their system consists.
43. And when he had spoken thus — You have, said I, O Varro, explained the principles both of the Old Academy and of the Stoics with brevity, but also with great clearness. But I think it to be true, as Antiochus, a great friend of mine, used to assert, that it is to be considered rather as a corrected edition of the Old Academy, than as any new sect. Then Varro replied — It is your part now, who revolt from the principles of the ancients, and who approve of the innovations which have been made by Arcesilas, to explain what that division of the two schools which he made was, and why he made it; so that we may see whether that revolt of his was justifiable. Then I replied — Arcesilas, as we understand, directed all his attacks against Zeno, not out of obstinacy or any desire of gaining the victory, as it appears to me, but by reason of the obscurity of those things which had brought Socrates to the confession of ignorance, and even before Socrates, Democritus, Anaxagoras, Empedocles, and nearly all the ancients; who asserted that nothing could be ascertained, or perceived, or known: that the senses of man were narrow, his mind feeble, the course of his life short, and that truth, as Democritus said, was sunk in the deep; that everything depended on opinions and established customs; that nothing was left to truth. They said in short, that everything was enveloped in darkness; 45. therefore Arcesilas asserted that there was nothing which could be known, not even that very piece of knowledge which Socrates had left himself. Thus he thought that everything lay hid in secret, and that there was nothing which could be discerned or understood; for which reasons it was not right for any one to profess or affirm anything, or sanction anything by his assent, but men ought always to restrain their rashness and to keep it in check so as to guard it against every fall. For rashness would be very remarkable when anything unknown or false was approved of; and nothing could be more discreditable than for a man’s assent and approbation to precede his knowledge and perception of a fact. And he used to act consistently with these principles, so as to pass most of his days in arguing against every one’s opinion, in order that when equally important reasons were found for both sides of the same question, the judgment might more naturally be suspended, and prevented from giving assent to either.
This they call the New Academy, which however appears to me to be the old one, if, at least, we reckon Plato as one of that Old Academy. For in his books nothing is affirmed positively, and many arguments are allowed on both sides of a question; everything is investigated, and nothing positive affirmed. Still let the school whose principles I have explained, be called the Old Academy, and this other the New; which, having continued to the time of Carneades, who was the fourth in succession after Arcesilas, continued in the same principles and system as Arcesilas. But Carneades, being a man ignorant of no part of philosophy, and, as I have learnt from those who had been his pupils, and particularly from Zeno the Epicurean, who, though he greatly differed from him in opinion, still admired him above all other men, was also a person of incredible abilities …
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1. Lucius Lucullus was a man of great genius, and very much devoted to the study of the most important arts; every branch of liberal learning worthy of a man of high birth, was thoroughly understood by him; but at the time when he might have made the greatest figure in the forum, he was wholly removed from all participation in the business of the city. For while he was very young, he, uniting with his brother, a man of equal sense of duty and diligence with himself, followed up the quarrel bequeathed to him by his father to his own exceeding credit; afterwards having gone as quæstor into Asia, he there governed the province for many years with great reputation. Subsequently he was made ædile in his absence, and immediately after that he was elected praetor; for his services had been rewarded by an express law authorizing his election at a period earlier than usual. After that he was sent into Africa; from thence he proceeded to the consulship, the duties of which he discharged in such a manner, that every one admired his diligence, and recognised his genius. Afterwards he was sent by the Senate to conduct the war against Mithridates, and there he not only surpassed the universal expectation which every one had formed of his valor, but even the glory of his predecessors. 2. And that was the more admirable in him, because great skill as a general was not very much looked for in one who had spent his youth in the occupations of the forum, and the duration of his quaestorship in peace in Asia, while Murena was carrying on the war in Pontus. But the incredible greatness of his genius did not require the aid of experience, which can never be taught by precepts. Therefore, having devoted the whole time occupied in his march and his voyage, partly to making inquiries of those who were skillful in such matters, and partly in reading the accounts of great achievements, he arrived in Asia a perfect general, though he had left Rome entirely ignorant of military affairs. For he had an almost divine memory for facts, though Hortensius had a better one for words. But as in performing great deeds, facts are of more consequence than words, this memory of his was the more serviceable of the two; and they say, that the same quality was conspicuous in Themistocles, whom we consider beyond all comparison the first man in Greece. And a story is told of him, that, when some one promised to teach him the art of memory, which was then beginning to be cultivated, he answered, that he should much prefer learning to forget; I suppose, because everything which he had either heard or seen stuck in his memory.
Lucullus having this great genius, added to it that study which Themistocles had despised: therefore, as we write down in letters what we wish to commit to monuments, he, in like manner, had the facts engraved in his mind. Therefore, he was a general of such perfect skill in every kind of war, in battles, and sieges, and naval fights, and in the whole equipment and management of war, that that king, the greatest that has ever lived since the time of Alexander, confessed, that he considered him a greater general than any one of whom he had ever read. He also displayed such great prudence in arranging and regulating the affairs of the different cities, and such great justice too, that to this very day, Asia is preserved by the careful maintenance of the regulations, and by following as it were in the footsteps of Lucullus. But although it was greatly to the advantage of the republic, still that great virtue and genius was kept abroad at a distance from the eyes both of the forum and the senate-house, for a longer time than I could have wished. Moreover, when he had returned victorious from the war against Mithridates, owing to the calumnies of his adversaries, he did not celebrate his triumph till three years later than he ought to have done. For I may almost say, that I myself when consul led into the city the chariot of that most illustrious man, and I might enlarge upon the great advantage that his counsel and authority were to me, in the most critical circumstances, if it were not that to do so would compel me to speak of myself, which at this moment is not necessary. Therefore, I will rather deprive him of the testimony due to him, than mix it up now with a commendation of myself.
4. But as for those exploits of Lucullus, which were entitled to be celebrated by the praises of the nation, they have been extolled both in Greek and Latin writings. For those outward exploits of his are known to us in common with the multitude; but his interior excellences (if I may so call them) we and a few of his friends have learnt from himself. For Lucullus used to apply himself to every kind of literature, and especially to philosophy, with greater eagerness than those who were not acquainted with him believed. And he did so, not only at his first entrance into life, but also when he was proquaestor, as he was for several years, and even during the time of war itself, a time when men are usually so fully occupied with their military business, that very little leisure is left to the general, even in his own tent. And as of all the philosophers of that day, Antiochus, who had been a pupil of Philo, was thought to excel in genius and learning, he kept him about him while he was quaestor, and some years afterwards when he was general. And as he had that extraordinary memory which I have mentioned already, by hearing frequently of things, he arrived at a thorough acquaintance with them; as he recollected everything that he had heard of only once. And he was wonderfully delighted in the reading books of which he heard any one speak.
5. And I sometimes fear lest I may even diminish the glory of such characters as his, even while wishing to enhance it; for there are many people who are altogether averse to Greek literature, still more who have a dislike to philosophy, and men in general, even though they do not positively disapprove of them, still think the discussion of such matters not altogether suitable for the chiefs of the state. But I, having heard that Marcus Cato learnt Greek in his old age, and learning from history that Panætius was above all other men the chosen companion of Publius Africanus, in that noble embassy which he was employed on before he entered on the censorship, think I have no need of any other instance to justify his study of Greek literature or of philosophy.
6. It remains for me to reply to those men who disapprove of such dignified characters being mixed up in discussions of this sort; as if the meetings of illustrious men were bound to be passed in silence, or their conversation to be confined to jesting, and all the topics to be drawn from trifling subjects. In truth, if in any one of my writings I have given philosophy its due praise, then surely its discussion is thoroughly worthy of every excellent and honorable man; nor is anything else necessary to be taken care of by us, whom the Roman people has placed in our present rank, except that we do not devote to our private pursuits, the time which ought to be bestowed on the affairs of the public. But if, while we are bound to discharge our duties, we still not only never omit to give our assistance in all public meetings, but never even write a single word unconnected with the forum, who then will blame our leisure, because even in that moment we are unwilling to allow ourselves to grow rusty and stupid, but take pains rather to benefit as many people as possible?
And I think, that not only is the glory of those men not diminished, but that it is even increased by our adding to their popular and notorious praises these also which are less known and less spoken of. Some people also deny that those men who are introduced in our writings as disputants had any knowledge of those affairs which are the subjects of discussion. But they appear to me to be showing their envy, not only of the living but also of the dead.
There remains one class of critics who disapprove of the general principles of the Academy. Which we should be more concerned at if any one approved of any school of philosophy except that which he himself followed. But we, since we are in the habit of arguing against every one who appears to himself to know anything, cannot object to others also dissenting from us. Although our side of the question is an easier one, since we wish to discover the truth without any dispute, and we seek for that with the greatest anxiety and diligence. For although all knowledge is beset with many difficulties, and there is that obscurity in the things themselves and that infirmity in our own judgment, that it is not without reason that the most learned and ancient philosophers have distrusted their power of discovering what they wished; yet they have not been deficient in any respect, nor do we allow ourselves to abandon the pursuit of truth through fatigue; nor have our discussions ever any other object except that of, by arguing on each side, eliciting, and as it were, squeezing out something which may either be the truth itself, or may at least come as near as possible to it. Nor is there any difference between us and those people who fancy that they know something, except that they do not doubt at all that those doctrines which they uphold are the truth, while we account many things as probable which we can adopt as our belief, but can hardly positively affirm.
And in this we are more free and unfettered than they are, because our power of judging is unimpeached, and because we are not compelled by any necessity to defend theories which are laid upon as injunctions, and, if I may say so, as commands. For in the first place, those of the other schools have been bound hand and foot before they were able to judge what was best; and, secondly, before their age or their understanding had come to maturity, they have either followed the opinion of some friend, or been charmed by the eloquence of some one who was the first arguer whom they ever heard, and so have been led to form a judgment on what they did not understand, and now they cling to whatever school they were, as it were, dashed against in a tempest, like sailors clinging to a rock. For as to their statement that they are wholly trusting to one whom they judge to have been a wise man, I should approve of that if that were a point which they, while ignorant and unlearned, were able to judge of, (for to decide who is a wise man appears to me most especially the task of one who is himself wise.) But they have either formed their opinion as well as they could from a hearing of all the circumstances, and also from a knowledge of the opinions of philosophers of all the other schools; or else, having heard the matter mentioned once, they have surrendered themselves to the guidance of some one individual. But, I know not how it is, most people prefer being in error, and defending with the utmost pugnacity that opinion which they have taken a fancy to, to inquiring without any obstinacy what is said with the greatest consistency.
And these subjects were very frequently and very copiously discussed by us at other times, and once also in the villa of Hortensius, which is at Bauli, when Catulus, and Lucullus, and I myself had arrived there the day after we had been staying with Catulus. And we had come thither rather early in the day, because we had intended, if the wind was fair, to set sail, Lucullus for his villa near Naples, and I myself towards mine, in the district of Pompeii. When, therefore, we had had a short conversation on the terrace, we sat down where we were.
10. Then Catulus said, — Although what we were inquiring into yesterday was almost wholly explained in such a manner that nearly the whole question appears to have been discussed, still I long to hear what you promised to tell us, Lucullus, as being what you had learnt from Antiochus. I, indeed, said Hortensius, did more than I intended, for the whole matter ought to have been left untouched for Lucullus, and indeed, perhaps it was: for I only said such things as occurred to me at the moment; but I hope to hear something more recondite from Lucullus.
Lucullus rejoined, I am not much troubled, Hortensius, at your expectation, although there is nothing so unfavorable for those who wish to give pleasure; but still, as I am not very anxious about how far I can prove to your satisfaction the arguments which I advance, I am the less disturbed. For the arguments which I am going to repeat are not my own, nor such that, if they are incorrect, I should not prefer being defeated to gaining the victory; but, in truth, as the case stands at present, although the doctrines of my school were somewhat shaken in yesterday’s discussion, still they do seem to me to be wholly true. I will therefore argue as Antiochus used to argue; for the subject is one with which I am well acquainted. For I used to listen to his lectures with a mind quite unengaged, and with great pleasure, and, moreover, he frequently discussed the same subject over again; so that you have some grounds for expecting more from me than you had from Hortensius a little while ago. 11. When he had begun in this manner we prepared to listen with great attention.
And he spoke thus: — When I was at Alexandria, as proquaestor, Antiochus was with me, and before my arrival, Heraclitus, of Tyre, a friend of Antiochus, had already settled in Alexandria, a man who had been for many years a pupil of Clitomachus and of Philo, and who had a great and deserved reputation in that school, which having been almost utterly discarded, is now coming again into fashion; and I used often to hear Antiochus arguing with him; but they both conducted their discussions with great gentleness. And just at that time those two books of Philo which were yesterday mentioned by Catulus had been brought to Alexandria, and had for the first time come under the notice of Antiochus; and he, though naturally a man of the mildest disposition, (nor indeed was it possible for any one to be more peaceable than he was,) was nevertheless a little provoked. I was surprised, for I had never seen him so before: but he, appealing to the recollection of Heraclitus, began to inquire of him whether he had seen those works of Philo, or whether he had heard the doctrines contained in them, either from Philo or from any one else of the Academic school? And he said that he had not; however, he recognised the style of Philo, nor, indeed, could there be any doubt about it; for some friends of mine, men of great learning, Publius and Caius Setilius, and Tetrilius Rogus were present, who said that they heard Philo advance such operations at Rome; and who said that they had written out those two books from his dictation. 12. Then Antiochus repeated what Catulus mentioned yesterday, as having been said to Philo by his father, and many other things besides; nor did he forbear even to publish a book against his own master, which is called
I therefore, then, as I was much interested in hearing Heraclitus arguing against Antiochus, and Antiochus against the Academicians, paid great attention to Antiochus, in order to learn the whole matter from him. Accordingly, for many days, collecting together Heraclitus and several learned men, and among them Aristus, the brother of Antiochus, and also Ariston and Dion, men whom he considered only second to his brother in genius, we devoted a great deal of time to that single discussion.
But we must pass over that part of it which was bestowed on refuting the doctrines of Philo; for he is a less formidable adversary, who altogether denies that the Academicians advance those arguments which were maintained yesterday. For although he is quite wrong as to the fact, still he is a less invincible adversary. Let us speak of Arcesilas and Carneades.
13. And having said this, he began again: — You appear to me, in the first place, (and he addressed me by name,) when you speak of the old natural philosophers, to do the same thing that seditious citizens are in the habit of doing when they bring forward some illustrious men of the ancients, who they say were friends of the people, in the hope of being themselves considered like them. They go back to Publius Valerius, who was consul the first year after the expulsion of the kings. They enumerate all the other men who have passed laws for the advantage of the people concerning appeals when they were consuls; and then they come down to these better known men, Caius Flaminius, who, as tribune of the people, passed an Agrarian law some years before the second Punic war, against the will of the senate, and who was afterwards twice elected consul; to Lucius Cassius and Quintus Pompeius; they are also in the habit of classing Publius Africanus in the same list; and they assert that those two brothers of infinite wisdom and exceeding glory, Publius Crassus and Publius Scaevola, were the advisers of Tiberius Gracchus, in the matter of the laws which he proposed; the one, indeed, as we see, openly; the other, as we suspect, in a more concealed manner. They add also Caius Marius; and with respect to him they speak truly enough: then, having recounted the names of so many illustrious men, they say that they are acting up to their principles.
14. In like manner, you, when you are seeking to overturn a well-established system of philosophy, in the same way as those men endeavored to overturn the republic, bring forward the names of Empedocles, Anaxagoras, Democritus, Parmenides, Xenophanes, and even Plato and Socrates. But Saturninus, (that I may name my own enemy rather than any one else,) had nothing in him resembling those ancient men; nor are the ungrounded accusations of Arcesilas to be compared to the modesty of Democritus. And yet those natural philosophers, though very seldom, when they have any very great difficulty, make loud and violent outcries, as if under the influence of some great excitement, Empedocles, indeed, does so to such a degree, that he appears to me at times to be mad, crying out that all things are hidden, that we feel nothing, see nothing, and cannot find out the true character of anything whatever. But for the most part all those men appear to me to affirm some things rather too positively, and to profess that they know more than they really do know. But if they then hesitated while discussing new subjects, like children lately born, are we for that reason to think that nothing has been explained in so many ages by the greatest genius and the most untiring industry? May we not say that, after the establishment of some wise and important schools of philosophy, then, as Tiberius Gracchus arose in an excellent constitution, for the purpose of throwing everything into confusion, so Arcesilas rose up to overturn the established philosophy, and to shelter himself under the authority of those men who asserted that nothing could be known or perceived; in which number we ought not to include Plato or Socrates; the one because he left behind him a most perfect school, namely, the Peripatetics and Academics, differing in name, but agreeing in all substantial matters: and from whom the Stoics themselves differ in words rather than in opinions. But Socrates, who always disparaged himself in arguing, attributed more knowledge to those whom he wished to refute. So, as he was speaking differently from what he really thought, he was fond of using that kind of dissimulation which the Greeks call irony; which Fannius says Africanus also was in the habit of indulging in, and that that ought not be considered a bad habit in him, as it was a favorite practice of Socrates.
16. But, however, we will allow, if you like, that all those things were unknown to the ancients: — was nothing effected then, by their being thoroughly investigated, after that Arcesilas, disparaging Zeno, (for that is supposed to have been his object,) as discovering nothing new, but only correcting previous changes of names, while seeking to upset his definitions, had attempted to envelop the clearest possible matters in darkness? And his system, which was at first not at all approved of, although it was illustrated both by acute genius and by an admirable wittiness of language, was in the next generation adopted by no one but Lacydes; but subsequently it was perfected by Carneades, who was the fourth in succession from Arcesilas; for he was the pupil of Hegesinus, who had been the pupil of Evander, the disciple of Lacydes, and Lacydes himself had been the pupil of Arcesilas; but Carneades maintained it for a long time, for he lived ninety years; and those who had been his pupils had a very high reputation, of whom Clitomachus displayed the most industry, as the number of books which he composed testifies; nor was there less brilliancy of genius in him than there was of eloquence in Charmadas, or of sweetness in Melanthius of Rhodes. But Metrodorus of Stratonice was thought to be the one who had the most thorough understanding of Carneades. 17. And your friend Philo attended the lectures of Clitomachus for many years; but as long as Philo was alive the Academy was never in want of a head.
But the business that we now propose to ourselves, of arguing against the Academicians, appears to some philosophers, and those, too, men of no ordinary calibre, to be a thing that ought not to be done at all; and they think that there is no sense at all in, and no method of disputing with men who approve of nothing; and they blame Antipater, the Stoic, who was very fond of doing so, and say that there is no need of laying down exact definitions of what knowledge is, or perception, or, if we want to render word for word, comprehension, which they call catalēpsis; and they say that those who wish to persuade men that there is anything which can be comprehended and perceived, are acting ignorantly; because there is nothing clearer than enargeia, as the Greeks call it, and which we may call perspicuity, or evidentness if you like, — coining words, if you will permit us to do so, that this fellow (meaning me) may not think that he is the only person to whom such liberties are permitted. Still they thought that no discourse could be found which should be more intelligible than evidentness itself; and they thought that there was no need of defining things which were so clear.
But others declared that they would never be the first to speak in behalf of this evidentness; but they thought that a reply ought to be made to those arguments which were advanced against it, to prevent any one being deceived by them. There are also many men who do not disapprove of the definitions of the evident things themselves, and who think the subject one worthy of being inquired into, and the men worthy of being argued with.
But Philo, while he raises some new questions, because he was scarcely able to withstand the things which were said against the obstinacy of the Academicians, speaks falsely, without disguise, as he was reproached for doing by the elder Catulus; and also, as Antiochus told him, falls into the very trap of which he was afraid. For as he asserted that there was nothing which could be comprehended, (for that is what we conceive to be meant by acatalēpon,) if that was, as Zeno defined it, such a perception, (for we have already spent time enough yesterday in beating out a word for phantasia,) then a perception was extracted and produced out of that from which it originated, such as could be produced from that from which it did not originate. And we say that this matter was most excellently defined by Zeno; for how can anything be comprehended, so that you may feel absolutely sure that it has been perceived and known, which is of such a character that it is even possible that it may be false? Now when Philo upsets and denies this, he takes away also all distinction between what is known and unknown; from which it follows that nothing can be comprehended; and so, without intending it, he is brought back to the point he least intended. Wherefore, all this discourse against the Academy is undertaken by us in order that we may retain that definition which Philo wished to overturn; and unless we succeed in that, we grant that nothing can be perceived.
19. Let us begin then with the senses — the judgments of which are so clear and certain, that if an option were given to our nature, and if some god were to ask of it whether it is content with its own unimpaired and uncorrupted senses, or whether it desires something better, I do not see what more it could ask for. Nor while speaking on this topic need you wait while I reply to the illustration drawn from a bent oar, or the neck of a dove; for I am not a man to say that everything which seems is exactly of that character of which it seems to be. Epicurus may deal with this idea, and with many others; but in my opinion there is the very greatest truth in the senses, if they are in sound and healthy order, and if everything is removed which could impede or hinder them. Therefore we often wish the light to be changed, or the situation of those things which we are looking at; and we either narrow or enlarge distances; and we do many things until our sight causes us to feel confidence in our judgment. And the same thing takes place with respect to sounds, and smell, and taste, so that there is not one of us who, in each one of his senses, requires a more acute judgment as to each sort of thing.
But when practice and skill are added, so that one’s eyes are charmed by a picture, and one’s ears by songs, who is there who can fail to see what great power there is in the senses? How many things do painters see in shadows and in projections which we do not see? How many beauties which escape us in music are perceived by those who are practiced in that kind of accomplishment? men who, at the first note of the flute-player, say, — That is the Antiope, or the Andromache, when we have not even a suspicion of it. There is no need for me to speak of the faculties of taste or smell; organs in which there is a degree of intelligence, however faulty it may be. Why should I speak of touch, and of that kind of touch which philosophers call the inner one, I mean the touch of pleasure or pain? in which alone the Cyrenaics think that there is any judgment of the truth, because pleasure or pain are felt. Can any one then say that there is no difference between a man who is in pain and a man who is in pleasure? or can any one think that a man who entertains this opinion is not flagrantly mad?
But such as those things are which we say are perceived by the senses, such also are those things which are said to be perceived, not by the senses themselves, but by the senses after a fashion; as these things — that is white, this is sweet, that is tuneful, this is fragrant, that is rough. We have these ideas already comprehended by the mind, not by the senses. Again, this is a house, that is a dog. Then the rest of the series follows, connecting the more important links; such as these, which embrace, as it were, the full comprehension of things; — If he is a man, he is a mortal animal partaking of reason: — from which class of arguments the notions of things are impressed upon us, without which nothing can be understood, nor inquired into, nor discussed. But if those notions were false, (for you seemed to me to translate ennoiai notions,) if, I say, they were false, or impressed, or perceptions of such a kind as not to be able to be distinguished from false ones; then I should like to know how we were to use them? and how we were to see what was consistent with each thing and what was inconsistent with it? Certainly no room at all is here left for memory, which of all qualities is the one that most completely contains, not only philosophy, but the whole practice of life, and all the arts. For what memory can there be of what is false? or what does any one remember which he does not comprehend and hold in his mind? And what art can there be except that which consists not of one, nor of two, but of many perceptions of the mind? and if you take these away, how are you to distinguish the artist from the ignorant man? For we must not say at random that this man is an artist, and deny that that man is; but we must only do so when we see that the one retains the things which he has perceived and comprehended, and that the other does not. And as some arts are of that kind that one can only see the fact in one’s mind, others such that one can design and effect something, how can a geometrician perceive those things which have no existence, or which cannot be distinguished from what is false? or how can he who plays on the lyre complete his rhythm, and finish verses? And the same will be the case with respect to similar arts, whose whole work consists in acting and in effecting something. For what is there that can be effected by art, unless the man who exercises the art has many perceptions?
23. And most especially does the knowledge of virtues confirm the assertion that many things can be perceived and comprehended. And in those things alone do we say that science exists; which we consider to be not a mere comprehension of things, but one that is firm and unchangeable; and we consider it also to be wisdom, the art of living which, by itself, derives consistency from itself. But if that consistency has no perception or knowledge about it, then I ask whence it has originated and how? I ask also, why that good man who has made up his mind to endure every kind of torture, to be torn by intolerable pain, rather than to betray his duty or his faith, has imposed on himself such bitter conditions, when he has nothing comprehended, perceived, known, or established, to lead him to think that he is bound to do so? It cannot, then, by any possibility be the case that any one should estimate equity and good faith so highly as to shrink from no punishment for the sake of preserving them, unless he has assented to those facts which cannot be false. 24. But as to wisdom itself, if it be ignorant of its own character, and if it does not know whether it be wisdom or not, in the first place, how is it to obtain its name of wisdom? Secondly, how will it venture to undertake any exploit, or to perform it with confidence, when it has nothing certain to follow? But when it doubts what is the chief and highest good, being ignorant to what everything is referred, how can it be wisdom?
And that also is manifest, that it is necessary that there should be laid down in the first place a principle which wisdom may follow when it begins to act; and that principle must be adapted to nature. For otherwise, the desire, (for that is how I translate hormē,) by which we are impelled to act, and by which we desire what has been seen, cannot be set in motion. 25. But that which sets anything in motion must first be seen and trusted, which cannot be the case if that which is seen cannot be distinguished from what is false. But how can the mind be moved to desire anything, if it cannot be perceived whether that which is seen is adapted to nature or inconsistent with it?
And again, if it does not occur to a man’s mind what his duty is, he will actually never do anything, he will never be excited to any action, he will never be moved. But if he ever is about to do anything, then it is necessary that that which occurs to him must appear to him to be true. What! But if those things are true, is the whole of reason, which is, as it were, the light and illumination of life, put an end to? And still will you persist in that wrong-headedness? For it is reason which has brought men the beginning of inquiry, which has perfected virtue, after reason herself had been confirmed by inquiry. But inquiry is the desire of knowledge; and the end of inquiry is discovery. But no one can discover what is false; nor can those things which continue uncertain be discovered. But when those things which have, as it were, been under a veil, are laid open, then they are said to be discovered; and so reason contains the beginning of inquiry, and the end of perceiving and comprehending. Therefore the conclusion of an argument, which in Greek is called apodeixis, is thus defined: — Reason, which leads one from facts which are perceived, to that which was not perceived.
27. But if all things which are seen were of that sort that those men say they are, so that they either could possibly be false, or that no discernment could distinguish whether they were false or not, then how could we say that any one had either formed any conclusion, or discovered anything? Or what trust could be placed in an argument when brought to a conclusion? And what end will philosophy itself have, which is bound to proceed according to reason? And what will become of wisdom? which ought not to doubt about its own character, nor about its decrees, which philosophers call dogmata; none of which can be betrayed without wickedness. For when a decree is betrayed, the law of truth and right is betrayed too. From which fault betrayals of friendships and of republics often originate. It cannot, therefore be doubted, that no rule of wisdom can possibly be false; and it ought not to be enough for the wise man that it is not false, but it ought also to be steady, durable, and lasting; such as no arguments can shake. But none can either be, or appear such, according to the principle of those men who deny that those perceptions in which all rules originate are in any respect different from false ones; 28. and from this assertion arose the demand which was repeated by Hortensius, that you would at least allow that the fact that nothing can be perceived has been perceived by the wise man. But when Antipater made the same demand, and argued that it was unavoidable that the man who affirmed that nothing could be perceived should nevertheless admit that this one thing could be perceived, — namely, that nothing else could, — Carneades resisted him with great shrewdness. For he said that this admission was so far from being consistent with the doctrine asserted, that it was above all others incompatible with it: for that a man who denied that there was anything which could be perceived excepted nothing. And so it followed of necessity, that even that very thing which was not excepted, could not be comprehended and perceived in any possible manner.
Antiochus, on this topic, seems to press his antagonist more closely. For since the Academicians adopted that rule, (for you understand that I am translating by this word what they call dogma,) that nothing can be perceived, he urged that they ought not to waver in their rule as in other matters, especially as the whole of their philosophy consisted in it: for that the fixing of what is true and false, known and unknown, is the supreme law of all philosophy. And since they adopted this principle, and wished to teach what ought to be received by each individual, and what rejected, undoubtedly, said he, they ought to perceive this very thing from which the whole judgment of what is true and false arises. He urged, in short, that there were these two principal objects in philosophy, the knowledge of truth, and the attainment of the chief good; and that a man could not be wise who was ignorant of either the beginning of knowledge, or of the end of desire, so as not to know either where to start from, or whither to seek to arrive at. But that to feel in doubt on these points, and not to have such confidence respecting them as to be unable to be shaken, is utterly incompatible with wisdom.
In this manner, therefore, it was more fitting to demand of them that they should at least admit that this fact was perceived, namely, that nothing could be perceived. But enough, I imagine, has been said of the inconsistency of their whole opinion, if, indeed, you can say that a man who approves of nothing has any opinion at all.
30. The next point for discussion is one which is copious enough, but rather abstruse; for it touches in some points on natural philosophy, so that I am afraid that I may be giving the man who will reply to me too much liberty and licence. For what can I think that he will do about abstruse and obscure matters, who seeks to deprive us of all light? But one might argue with great refinement the question, — with how much artificial skill, as it were, nature has made, first of all, every animal; secondly, man most especially; — how great the power of the senses is; in what manner things seen first affect us; then, how the desires, moved by these things, followed; and, lastly, in what manner we direct our senses to the perception of things. For the mind itself, which is the source of the senses, and which itself is sense, has a natural power, which it directs towards those things by which it is moved. Therefore it seizes on other things which are seen in such a manner as to use them at once; others it stores up; and from these memory arises: but all other things it arranges by similitudes, from which notions of things are engendered; which the Greeks call, at one time ennoiai, and at another prolēpseis. And when to this there is added reason and the conclusion of the argument, and a multitude of countless circumstances, then the perception of all those things is manifest, and the same reason, being made perfect by these steps, arrives at wisdom.
31. As, therefore, the mind of man is admirably calculated for the science of things and the consistency of life, it embraces knowledge most especially. And it loves that catalēpsis, (which we, as I have said, will call comprehension, translating the word literally,) for its own sake, (for there is nothing more sweet than the light of truth,) and also because of its use; on which account also it uses the senses, and creates arts, which are, as it were, second senses; and it strengthens philosophy itself to such a degree that it creates virtue, to which single thing all life is subordinate. Therefore, those men who affirm that nothing can be comprehended, take away by their assertion all these instruments or ornaments of life; or rather, I should say, utterly overturn the whole of life, and deprive the animal itself of mind (animo), so that it is difficult to speak of their rashness as the merits of the case require.
32. Nor can I sufficiently make out what their ideas or intentions really are. For sometimes, when we address them with this argument, — that if the doctrines which we are upholding are not true, then everything must be uncertain: they reply, — Well, what is that to us? is that our fault? blame nature, who, as Democritus says, has buried truth deep in the bottom of the sea.
But others defend themselves more elegantly, who complain also that we accuse them of calling everything uncertain; and they endeavor to explain how much difference there is between what is uncertain and what cannot be perceived, and to make a distinction between them. Let us, then, now deal with those who draw this distinction, and let us abandon, as incurable and desperate, those who say that everything is as uncertain as whether the number of the stars be odd or even. For they contend, (and I noticed that you were especially moved by this,) that there is something probable, and, as I may say, likely; and that they adopt that likelihood as a rule in steering their course of life, and in making inquiries and conducting discussions.
33. But what rule can there be, if we have no notion whatever of true or false, because it is impossible to distinguish one from the other? For, if we have such a notion, then there must be a difference between what is true and what is false, as there is between what is right and what is wrong. If there is no difference, then there is no rule; nor can a man to whom what is true and what is false appear under one common aspect, have any means of judging of, or any mark at all by which he can know the truth. For when they say, that they take away nothing but the idea of anything being able to appear in such a manner that it cannot possibly appear false in the same manner but that they admit everything else, they are acting childishly. For though they have taken away that by which everything is judged of, they deny that they take away the rest; just as if a person were to deprive a man of his eyes, and then say that he has not taken away from him those things which can be seen. For just as those things are known by the eyes, so are the other things known by the perceptions; but by a mark belonging peculiarly to truth, and not common to what is true and false.
Wherefore, whether you bring forward a perception which is merely probable, or one which is at once probable and free from all hindrance, as Carneades contended, or anything else that you may follow, you will still have to return to that perception of which we are treating. But in it, if there be but one common characteristic of what is false and true, there will be no judgment possible, because nothing peculiar can be noted in one sign common to two things: but if there be no such community, then I have got what I want; for I am seeking what appears to me to be so true, that it cannot possibly appear false.
They are equally mistaken when, being convicted and overpowered by the force of truth, they wish to distinguish between what is evident and what is perceived, and endeavor to prove that there is something evident, — being a truth impressed on the mind and intellect, — and yet that it cannot be perceived and comprehended. For how can you say distinctly that anything is white, when it may happen that that which is black may appear white? Or how are we to call those things evident, or to say that they are impressed faithfully on the mind, when it is uncertain whether it is really moved or only in an illusory manner? And so there is neither color, nor body, nor truth, nor argument, nor sense, nor anything certain left us. And, owing to this, it frequently happens that, whatever they say, they are asked by some people, — Do you, then, perceive that? But they who put this question to them are laughed at by them; for they do not press them hard enough so as to prove that no one can insist upon any point, or make any positive assertion, without some certain and peculiar mark to distinguish that thing which each individual says that he is persuaded of.
What, then, is this probability of yours? For if that which occurs to every one, and which, at its first look, as it were, appears probable, is asserted positively, what can be more trifling? But if your philosophers say that they, after a certain degree of circumspection and careful consideration, adopt what they have seen as such, still they will not be able to escape from us. First of all, because credit is equally taken from all these things which are seen, but between which there is no difference; secondly, when they say that it can happen to a wise man, that after he has done everything, and exercised the most diligent circumspection, there may still be something which appears probable, and which yet is very far removed from being true, — how can they then trust themselves, even if they (to use their own expression) approach truth for the most part, or even if they come as near to it as possible? For, in order to trust themselves, the distinctive mark of truth ought to be thoroughly known to them; and if that be obscure or concealed, what truth is there which they can seem to themselves to arrive at? And what can be so absurd a thing to say as, — This indeed is a sign of that thing, or a proof of it, and on that account I follow it; but it is possible that that which is indicated may either be false, or may actually have no existence at all?
However, we have said enough about perception. For if any one wishes to invalidate what has been said, truth will easily defend itself, even if we are absent.
37. These things, then, which have now been explained, being sufficiently understood, we will proceed to say a little on the subject of assent and approbation, which the Greeks call syncatathesis. Not that the subject itself is not an extensive one, but because the foundations have been already laid a little while ago. For when we were explaining what power there was in the senses, this point was at the same time established, that many things were comprehended and perceived by the senses, which is a thing which cannot take place without assent. Secondly, as this is the principal difference between an inanimate and an animated being, that the inanimate being does nothing, but the animated one does something (for it is impossible even to imagine what kind of animal that can be which does nothing) — either sense must be taken from it, or else assent (which is wholly in our own power) must be given. But mind is in some degree denied to those beings whom they will not allow either to feel or to assent. For as it is inevitable that one scale of a balance must be depressed when a weight is put in it, so the mind, too, must yield to what is evident; for just as it is impossible for any animal to forbear discerning what is manifestly suited to its nature (the Greeks call that oikeion), so it is equally impossible for it to withhold its assent to a manifest fact which is brought under its notice.
Although, if those principles which we have been maintaining are true, there is no advantage whatever in discussing assent. For he who perceives anything, assents immediately. But these inferences also follow, — that memory can have no existence without assent, no more can notions of things or arts. And what is most important of all is, that, although some things may be in our power, yet they will not be in the power of that man who assents to nothing. Where, then, is virtue, if nothing depends on ourselves? But it is above all things absurd that vices should be in the power of the agents, and that no one should do wrong except by deliberate consent to do so, and yet that this should not be the case with virtue; all the consistency and firmness of which depends on the things to which it has assented, and which it has approved. And altogether it is necessary that something should be perceived before we act, and before we assent to what is perceived; wherefore, he who denies the existence of perception or assent, puts an end to all action in life.
40. Now let us examine the arguments which are commonly advanced by this school in opposition to these principles. But, first of all, you have it in your power to become acquainted with what I may call the foundations of their system. They then, first of all, compound a sort of art of those things which we call perceptions, and define their power and kinds; and at the same time they explain what the character of that thing which can be perceived and comprehended is, in the very same words as the Stoics. In the next place, they explain those two principles, which contain, as it were, the whole of this question; and which appear in such a manner that even others may appear in the same, nor is there any difference between them, so that it is impossible that some of them should be perceived, and that others should not be perceived; but that it makes no difference, not only if they are in every part of the same character, but even if they cannot be distinguished.
And when these principles are laid down, then these men comprehend the whole cause in the conclusion of one argument. But this conclusion, thus compounded, runs in this way:
Of the things which are seen, some are true and some are false; and what is false cannot be perceived, but that which appears to be true is all of such a character that a thing of the same sort may seem to be also false. And as to those things which are perceived being of such a sort that there is no difference between them, it cannot possibly happen that some of them can be perceived, and that others cannot; there is, then, nothing seen which can really be perceived.
But of the axioms which they assume, in order to draw the conclusions which they desire, they think that two ought to be granted to them; for no one objects to them. They are these:
That those perceptions which are false, cannot really be perceived; and the second is —
Of those perceptions between which there is no difference, it is impossible that some should be of such a character that they can be perceived, and others of such a character that they cannot.
But their other propositions they defend by numerous and varied arguments, and they likewise are two in number. One is —
Of those things which appear, some are true and others false; the other is —
Every perception which originates in the truth, is of such a character as it might be of, though originating in what is false. And these two propositions they do not pass by, but they expand in such a manner as to show no slight degree of care and diligence. For they divide them into parts, and those also large parts; first of all into the senses, then into those things which are derived from the senses, and from universal custom, the authority of which they wish to invalidate. Then they come to the point of laying it down that nothing can be perceived even by reason and conjecture. And these universal propositions they cut up into more minute parts. For as in our yesterday’s discussion you saw that they acted with respect to the senses, so do they also act with respect to everything else. And in each separate thing which they divide into the most minute parts, they wish to make out that all these true perceptions have often false ones added to them, which are in no respect different from the true ones; and that, as they are of such a character, nothing can be comprehended.
43. Now all this subtlety I consider indeed thoroughly worthy of philosophy, but still wholly unconnected with the case which they advocate who argue thus. For definitions, and divisions, and a discourse which employs these ornaments, and also similarities and dissimilarities, and the subtle and fine-drawn distinctions between them, belong to men who are confident that those arguments which they are upholding are true, and firm, and certain; and not to men who assert loudly that those things are no more true than false. For what would they do if, after they had defined anything, some one were to ask them whether that definition could be transferred to something else? If they said it could, then what reason could they give why it should be a true definition? If they said no, — then it must be confessed, since that definition of what is true cannot be transferred to what is false, that that which is explained by that definition can be perceived; which is the last thing they mean.
The same thing may be said on every article of the division. For if they say that they see clearly the things about which they are arguing, and they cannot be hindered by any similarity of appearance, then they will confess that they are able to comprehend those things. But if they affirm that true perceptions cannot be distinguished from false ones, how can they go any further? For the same objections will be made to them which have been made already; for an argument cannot be concluded, unless the premises which are taken to deduce the conclusion from are so established that nothing of the same kind can be false.
Therefore, if reason, relying on things comprehended and perceived, and advancing in reliance on them, establishes the point that nothing can be comprehended, what can be found which can be more inconsistent with itself? And as the very nature of an accurate discourse professes that it will develop something which is not apparent, and that, in order the more easily to succeed in its object, it will employ the senses and those things which are evident, what sort of discourse is that which is uttered by those men who insist upon it that everything has not so much an existence as a mere appearance?
But they are convicted most of all when they assume, as consistent with each other, these two propositions which are so utterly incompatible: first of all, — That there are some false perceptions; — and in asserting this they declare also that there are some which are true: and secondly, they add at the same time, — That there is no difference between true perceptions and false ones. But you assumed the first proposition as if there were some difference; and so the latter proposition is inconsistent with the former, and the former with the latter.
45. But let us proceed further, and act so as in no respect to seem to be flattering ourselves; and let us follow up what is said by them, in such a manner as to allow nothing to be passed over.
In the first place, then, that evidentness which we have mentioned has sufficiently great power of itself to point out to us the things which are just as they are. But still, in order that we may remain with firmness and constancy in our trust in what is evident, we have need of a greater degree of either skill or diligence, in order not, by some sort of juggling or trick, to be driven away from those things which are clear of themselves. For Epicurus, who wished to remedy those errors, which seem to perplex one’s knowledge of the truth, and who said that it was the duty of a wise man to separate opinion from evident knowledge, did no good at all; for he did not in the least remove the errors of opinion itself.
46. Wherefore, as there are two causes which oppose what is manifest and evident, it is necessary also to provide oneself with an equal number of aids. For this is the first obstacle, that men do not sufficiently exert and fix their minds upon those things which are evident, so as to be able to understand how great the light is with which they are surrounded. The second is, that some men, being deluded and deceived by fallacious and captious interrogatories, when they cannot clear them up, abandon the truth. It is right, therefore, for us to have those answers ready which may be given in defense of the evidentness of a thing, — and we have already spoken of them, — and to be armed, in order to be able to encounter the questions of those people, and to scatter their captious objections to the winds: and this is what I propose to do next.
I will, therefore, explain their arguments one by one; since even they themselves are in the habit of speaking in a sufficiently lucid manner.
In the first place, they endeavor to show that many things can appear to exist, which in reality have no existence; when minds are moved to no purpose by things which do not exist, in the same manner as by things that do. For when you say (say they) that some visions are sent by God, as those, for instance, which are seen during sleep, and those also which are revealed by oracles, and auspices, and the entrails of victims, (for they say that the Stoics, against whom they are arguing, admit all these things,) they ask how God can make those things probable which appear to be false; and how it is that He cannot make those appear so which plainly come as near as possible to truth? Or if He can likewise make those appear probable, why He cannot make the others appear so too, which are only with great difficulty distinguished from them? And if He can make these appear so, then why He cannot also make those things appear so which are absolutely different in no respect whatever?
In the next place, since the mind is moved by itself, — as those things which we picture to ourselves in thought, and those which present themselves to the sight of madmen or sleeping men declare, — is it not, say they, probable that the mind is also moved in such a manner, that not only it does not distinguish between the perceptions, as to whether they be true or false, but that there really is no difference between them? As, for instance, if any men of their own accord trembled and grew pale, on account of some agitation of mind, or because some terrible object came upon them from without, there would be no means of distinguishing one trembling and paleness from the other, nor indeed would there be any difference between the external and internal alarm which caused them.
Lastly, if no perceptions are probable which are false, then we must seek for other principles; but if they are probable, then why may not one say the same of such as are not easily distinguished from one another? Why not also of such as have actually no difference at all between them? Especially when you yourselves say that the wise man when enraged withholds himself from all assent, because there is no distinction between his perceptions which is visible to him.
49. Now on all these empty perceptions Antiochus brought forward a great many arguments, and one whole day was occupied in the discussion of this subject. But I do not think that I ought to adopt the same course, but merely to give the heads of what he said.
And in the first place, they are blameable in this, that they use a most captious kind of interrogation. And the system of adding or taking away, step by step, minute items from a proposition, is a kind of argument very little to be approved of in philosophy. They call it sōrites, when they make up a heap by adding grain after grain; a very vicious and captious style of arguing. For you mount up in this way: — If a vision is brought by God before a man asleep of such a nature as to be probable (probabile), why may not one also be brought of such a nature as to be very like truth (verisimile)? If so, then why may not one be brought which can hardly be distinguished from truth? If so, then why may there not be one which cannot be distinguished at all? If so, then why may there not be such that there is actually no difference between them? — If you come to this point because I have granted you all the previous propositions, it will be my fault; but if you advance thither of your own accord, it will be yours. For who will grant to you either that God can do everything, or that even if He could He would act in that manner? And how do you assume that if one thing may be like another, it follows that it may also be difficult to distinguish between them? And then, that one cannot distinguish between them at all? And lastly, that they are identical? So that if wolves are like dogs, you will come at last to asserting that they are the same animals. And indeed there are some things not honorable, which are like things that are honorable; some things not good, like those that are good; some things proceeding on no system, like others which are regulated by system. Why then do we hesitate to affirm that there is no difference between all these things? Do we not even see that they are inconsistent? For there is nothing that can be transferred from its own genus to another. But if such a conclusion did follow, as that there was no difference between perceptions of different genera, but that some could be found which were both in their own genus and in one which did not belong to them, how could that be possible?
There is then one means of getting rid of all unreal perceptions, whether they be formed in the ideas, which we grant to be usually the case, or whether they be owing to idleness, or to wine, or to madness. For we say that clearness, which we ought to hold with the greatest tenacity, is absent from all visions of that kind. For who is there who, when he imagines something and pictures it to himself in his thoughts, does not, as soon as he has stirred up himself, and recovered himself, feel how much difference there is between what is evident and what is unreal? The case of dreams is the same. Do you think that Ennius, when he had been walking in his garden with Sergius Galba, his neighbor, said to himself, — I have seemed to myself to be walking with Galba? But when he had a dream, he related it in this way, —
The poet Homer seem’d to stand before me.
And again in his Epicharmus he says —
For I seem’d to be dreaming, and laid in the tomb.
Therefore, as soon as we are awakened, we despise those things which we have seen, and do not regard them as we do the things which we have done in the forum.
52. But while these visions are being beheld, they assume the same appearance as those things which we see while awake. There is a good deal of real difference between them; but we may pass over that. For what we assert is, that there is not the same power or soundness in people when asleep that there is in them while waking, either in intellect or in sensation. What even drunken men do, they do not do with the same deliberate approbation as sober men. They doubt, they hesitate, they check themselves at times, and give but a feeble assent to what they see or agree too. And when they have slept off their drunkenness, then they understand how unreal their perceptions were. And the same thing is the case with madmen; that when their madness is beginning, they both feel and say that something appears to them to exist that has no real existence. And when their frenzy abates, they feel and speak like Alcmaeon; —
But now my heart does not agree
With that which with my eyes I see.
53. But even in madness the wise man puts restraint upon himself, so far as not to approve of what is false as if it were true. And he does so often at other times, if there is by chance any heaviness or slowness in his senses, or if those things which are seen by him are rather obscure, or if he is prevented from thoroughly examining them by the shortness of the time. Although the whole of this fact, that the wise man sometimes suspends his assent, makes against you. For if there were no difference between his perceptions, he would either suspend it always or never.
But from the whole character of this discussion we may see the worthless nature of the argument of those men who wish to throw everything into confusion. We want judgment, marked with gravity, consistency, firmness, and wisdom: and we use the examples of men dreaming, mad, or drunk. I press this point, that in all this discussion we are speaking with great inconsistency. For we should not bring forward men sunk in wine or sleep, or deprived of sense, in such an absurd manner as at one time to say there is a difference between the perceptions of men awake and sober and sensible, and those of men in a different condition, and at other times that there was no difference at all.
54. They do not even perceive that by this kind of argument they are making out everything to be uncertain, which they do not wish to do. I call that uncertain which the Greeks call adēla. For if the fact be that there is no difference between the appearance that a thing presents to a madman and to a person in his senses, then who can feel quite sure of his own sanity? And to wish to produce such an effect as that is a proof of no ordinary madness. But they follow up in a childish manner the likenesses of twins, or of impressions of rings. For who of us denies that there are such things as likenesses, when they are visible in numbers of things? But if the fact of many things being like many other things is sufficient to take away knowledge, why are you not content with that, especially as we admit it? And why do you rather insist upon that assertion which the nature of things will not suffer, that everything is not in its own kind of that character of which it really is? and that there is a conformity without any difference whatever in two or more things; so that eggs are entirely like eggs, and bees like bees? What then are you contending for? or what do you seek to gain by talking about twins? For it is granted that they are alike; and you might be content with that. But you try to make them out to be actually the same, and not merely alike; and that is quite impossible.
55. Then you have recourse to those natural philosophers who are so greatly ridiculed in the Academy, but whom you will not even now desist from quoting. And you tell us that Democritus says that there are a countless number of worlds, and that there are some which are not only so like one another, but so completely and absolutely equal in every point, that there is no difference whatever between them, and that they are quite innumerable; and so also are men. Then you require that, if the world be so entirely equal to another world that there is absolutely not the slightest difference between them, we should grant to you that in this world of ours also there must be something exactly equal to something else, so that there is no difference whatever or distinction between them. For why, you will say, since there not only can be, but actually are innumerable Quinti Lutatii Catuli formed out of those atoms, from which Democritus affirms that everything is produced, in all the other worlds, which are likewise innumerable, — why may not there be a second Catulus formed in this identical world of ours, since it is of such a size as we see it?
56. First of all I reply, that you are bringing me to the arguments of Democritus, with whom I do not agree. And I will the more readily refute them, on account of that doctrine which is laid down very clearly by the more refined natural philosophers, that everything has its own separate property. For grant that those ancient Servilii who were twins were as much alike as they are said to have been, do you think that that would have made them the same? They were not distinguished from one another out of doors, but they were at home. They were not distinguished from one another by strangers, but they were by their own family. Do we not see that this is frequently the case, that those people whom we should never have expected to be able to know from one another, we do by practice distinguish so easily that they do not appear to be even in the least alike?
57. Here, however, you may struggle; I will not oppose you. Moreover, I will grant that that very wise man who is the subject of all this discussion, when things like one another come under his notice, in which he has not remarked any special character, will withhold his assent, and will never agree to any perception which is not of such a character as a false perception can never assume. But with respect to all other things he has a certain art by which he can distinguish what is true from what is false; and with respect to those similitudes he must apply the test of experience. As a mother distinguishes between twins by the constant practice of her eyes, so you too will distinguish when you have become accustomed to it. Do you not see that it has become a perfect proverb that one egg is like another? and yet we are told that at Delos (when it was a flourishing island) there were many people who used to keep large numbers of hens for the sake of profit; and that they, when they had looked upon an egg, could tell which hen had laid it. Nor does that fact make against our argument; for it is sufficient for us to be able to distinguish between the eggs. For it is impossible for one to assent to the proposition that this thing is that thing more, than by admitting that there is actually no difference at all between the two. For I have laid it down as a rule, to consider all perceptions true which are of such a character as those which are false cannot be. And from this I may not depart one finger’s breadth, as they say, lest I should throw everything into confusion. For not only the knowledge of what is true and false, but their whole nature too, will be destroyed if there is no difference between one and the other. And that must be very absurd which you sometimes are in the habit of saying, when perceptions are imprinted on the mind, that what you say is, not that there is no difference between the impressions, but only that there is none between certain appearances and forms which they assume. As if perceptions were not judged of by their appearance, which can deserve or obtain no credit if the mark by which we are to distinguish truth from falsehood be taken away.
But that is a monstrous absurdity of yours, when you say that you follow what is probable when you are not hindered by anything from doing so. In the first place, how can you avoid being hindered, when what is false does not differ from what is true? Secondly, what judgment can be formed of what is true, when what is true is undistinguishable from what is false? From these facts there springs unavoidably epochē, that is to say, a suspension of assent: for which Arcesilas is more consistent, if at least the opinions which some people entertain of Carneades are correct. For if nothing can be perceived, as they both agree in thinking, then all assent is taken away. For what is so childish as to talk of approving of what is not known? But even yesterday we heard that Carneades was in the habit, at times, of descending to say that a wise man would be guided by opinion, that is to say, would do wrong. To me, indeed, it is not so certain that there is anything which can be comprehended, a question which I have now spent too much time in discussing, as that a wise man is never guided by opinion, that is to say, never assents to anything which is either false or unknown.
There remains this other statement of theirs, that for the sake of discovering the truth, one ought to speak against every side, and in favor of every side. I wish then to see what they have discovered. We are not in the habit, says he, of showing that. What then is the object of all this mystery? or why do you conceal your opinion as something discreditable? In order, says he, that those who hear us may be influenced by reason rather than led by authority. What if they are influenced by both? would there be any harm in that? However, they do not conceal one of their theories, namely, that there is nothing which can be conceived. Is authority no hindrance to entertaining this opinion? It seems to me to be a great one. For who would ever have embraced so openly and undisguisedly such perverse and false principles, if there had not been such great richness of ideas and power of eloquence in Arcesilas, and, in a still greater degree, in Carneades?
61. These are nearly the arguments which Antiochus used to urge at Alexandria, and many years afterwards, with much more positiveness too, in Syria, when he was there with me, a little before he died. But, as my case is now established, I will not hesitate to warn you, as you are my dearest friend, (he was addressing me,) and one a good deal younger than myself.
Will you, then, after having extolled philosophy with such panegyrics, and provoked our friend Hortensius, who disagrees with us, now follow that philosophy which confounds what is true with what is false, deprives us of all judgment, strips us of the power of approval, and robs us of all our senses? Even the Cimmerians, to whom some god, or nature, or the foulness of the country that they inhabited, had denied the light of the sun, had still some fires which they were permitted to avail themselves of as if they were light. But those men whom you approve of, after having enveloped us in such darkness, have not left us a single spark to enable us to look around by. And if we follow them, we become bound with such chains that we cannot move. For when assent is taken away, they take away at the same time all motion of our minds, and all our power of action; which not only cannot be done rightly, but which cannot possibly be done at all. Beware, also, lest you become the only person who is not allowed to uphold that opinion. Will you, when you have explained the most secret matters and brought them to light, and said on your oath that you have discovered them, (which, indeed, I could swear to also, since I learnt them from you,) — will you, I say, assert that there is nothing which can be known, comprehended, or perceived? Beware, I entreat you, lest the authority of those most beautiful actions be diminished by your own conduct.
63. And having said this he stopped. But Hortensius, admiring all he said very greatly, (so much, indeed, that all the time that Lucullus was speaking he kept lifting up his hands; and it was no wonder, for I do not believe that an argument had ever been conducted against the Academy with more acuteness,) began to exhort me, either jestingly or seriously, (for that was a point that I was not quite sure about,) to abandon my opinions. Then, said Catulus, if the discourse of Lucullus has had such influence over you, — and it has been a wonderful exhibition of memory, accuracy, and ingenuity, — I have nothing to say; nor do I think it my duty to try and deter you from changing opinion if you choose. But I should not think it well for you to be influenced merely by his authority. For he was all but warning you, said he, jestingly, to take care that no worthless tribune of the people, of whom you know what a number there will always be, seize upon you, and ask of you in the public assembly how you are consistent with yourself, when at one time you assert that nothing certain can be discovered, and at another time affirm that you yourself have discovered something. I entreat you, do not let him terrify you. But I would rather have you disagree with him on the merits of the case itself. But if you give in to him, I shall not be greatly surprised; for I recollect that Antiochus himself, after he had entertained such opinions for many years, abandoned them as soon as he thought it desirable. When Catulus had said this, they all began to fix their eyes on me.
64. Then I, being no less agitated than I usually am when pleading important causes, began to speak something after this fashion: —
The discourse of Lucullus, O Catulus, on the matter itself, moved me a good deal, being the discourse of a learned and ingenious and quick-witted man, and of one who passes over nothing which can be said for his side; but still I am not afraid but that I may be able to answer him. But no doubt such authority as his would have influenced me a good deal, if you had not opposed your own to it, which is of equal weight. I will endeavor, therefore, to reply to him after I have said a few words in defense of my own reputation, as it were.
If it is by any desire of display, or any zeal for contentious disputes, that I have been chiefly led to rank myself as an adherent of this school of philosophy, I should think not only my folly, but also my disposition and nature deserving of severe censure; for if obstinacy is found fault with in the most trifling matters, and if also calumny is repressed, should I choose to contend with others in a quarrelsome manner about the general condition and conduct of my whole life, or to deceive others and also my own self? Therefore, if I did not think it foolish in such a discussion to do what, when one is discussing affairs of state, is sometimes done, I would swear by Jupiter and my household gods, that I am inflamed with a desire of discovering the truth, and that I do truly feel what I say. For how can I avoid wishing to discover the truth, when I rejoice if I have discovered anything resembling the truth? But although I consider to see the truth a most beautiful thing, so also do I think it a most disgraceful one to approve of what is false as if it were true. Not, indeed, that I am myself a man who never approve of anything false, who never give assent to any such thing, and am never guided by opinion; but we are speaking of a wise man. But I myself am very apt to adopt opinions, for I am not a wise man, and I direct my thoughts, steering not to that little Cynosura,
The nightly star, which shining not in vain,
Guides the Phoenician sailor o’er the main,
as Aratus says; — and those mariners steer in a more direct course because they keep looking at the constellation,
Which in its inner course and orbit brief
Surely revolves; —
but looking rather towards Helice, and the bright north star, that is to say, to these reasons of a more expansive kind, not polished away to a point; and therefore I roam and wander about in a freer course. However, the question, as I said just now, is not about myself, but about a wise man. For when these perceptions have made a violent impression on the intellect and senses, I admit them, and sometimes I even assent to them, but still I do not perceive them: for I do not think that anything can be perceived. I am not a wise man, therefore I submit to perceptions and cannot resist them: but Arcesilas, being on this point in agreement with Zeno, thinks that this is the most important part of the power of a wise man, that he can guard against being entangled, and provide against being deceived. For there is nothing more incompatible with the idea which we have of the gravity of a wise man than error, levity, and temerity. Why, then, need I speak of the firmness of a wise man? whom even you too, Lucullus, admit to be never guided by mere opinion. And since this is sanctioned by you, (if I am dealing irregularly with you at this moment, I will soon return to the proper order of your arguments,) just consider what force this first conclusion has.
67. If the wise man ever assents to anything, he will likewise sometimes form opinions: but he never will form opinions: therefore he will never assent to anything. This conclusion was approved of by Arcesilas, for it confirmed both his first and second proposition. But Carneades sometimes granted that minor premiss, that the wise man did at times assent: then it followed that he also was at times guided by opinion; which you will not allow; and you are right, as it seems to me: but the first proposition, that the wise man, if he expresses assent, must also be guided by opinion, is denied by the Stoics and their follower on this point, Antiochus.
For they say that they can distinguish what is false from what is true, and what cannot be perceived from what can. But, in the first place, even if anything can be perceived, still the very custom of expressing assent appears to us to be perilous and unsure. Wherefore, as it is plain that is so faulty a proceeding, to assent to anything that is either false or unknown, all assent must rather be removed, lest it should rush on into difficulties if it proceeds rashly. For what is false is so much akin to what is true, and the things which cannot be perceived to those which can, (if, indeed, there are any such, for we shall examine that point presently,) that a wise man ought not to trust himself in such a hazardous position.
But if I assume that there is actually nothing which can be perceived, and if I also take what you grant me, that a wise man is never guided by opinion, then the consequence will be that the wise man will restrain all assent on his part; so that you must consider whether you would rather have it so, or let the wise man sometimes form opinions. You do not approve of either, you will say. Let us, then, endeavor to prove that nothing can be perceived; for that is what the whole controversy turns upon.
69. But first I must say a few words to Antiochus; who under Philo learnt this very doctrine which I am now defending, for such a length of time, that it is certain that no one was ever longer studying it; and who wrote on these subjects with the greatest acuteness, and who yet attacked it in his old age with no less energy than he had defended it in his youth. Although therefore he may have been a shrewd arguer, as indeed he was, still his authority is diminished by his inconsistency. For what day, I should like to know, will ever dawn, which shall reveal to him that distinctive characteristic of what is true and what is false, of which for so many years he denied the existence? Has he devised anything new? He says the same that the Stoics say. Does he repent of having held such an opinion? Why did he not cross over to some other school, and especially to the Stoics? for this disagreement with the Academy was peculiarly theirs. What? did he repent of Mnesarchus or Dardanus, who at that time were the chiefs of the Stoics at Athens? He never deserted Philo till after the time when he himself began to have pupils.
But whence was the Old Academy on a sudden recalled? He appears to have wished to preserve the dignity of the name, after he had given up the reality; which however some people said, that he did from a view to his own glory, and that he even hoped that those who followed him might be called Antiochians. But to me it seems, that he could not stand that concourse of all the philosophers. In truth, there are among them all, some common principles on the other points; but this doctrine is peculiar to the Academicians, and not one of the other philosophers approves of it. Therefore, he quitted it; and, like those men who, where the new shops stand, cannot bear the sun, so he, when he was hot, took refuge under the shade of the Old Academicians, as those men do under the shade of the old shops near the pillar of Maenius. 71. There was also an argument which he was in the habit of employing, when he used to maintain that nothing could be perceived; namely, asking whether Dionysius of Heraclea had comprehended the doctrine which he had espoused for many years, because he was guided by that certain characteristic, and whether he believed the doctrine of his master Zeno, that whatever was honorable was the only good; or, whether he adopted the assertion which he defended subsequently, that the name of honorableness is a mere phantom, and that pleasure is the chief good: for from this change of opinion on his part he wished to prove, that nothing can be so stamped on our minds by the truth, that it cannot also be impressed on them in the same manner by falsehood; and so he took care that others should derive from his own conduct the same argument which he himself had derived from Dionysius.
72. But we will argue this point more at length another time; at present we will turn what has been said, Lucullus, to you. And in the first place, let us examine the assertion which you made at the beginning, and see what sort of assertion it is; namely, that we spoke of the ancient philosophers in a manner similar to that in which seditious men were in the habit of speaking of illustrious men, who were however friends of the people. These men do not indeed pursue good objects, but still wish to be considered to resemble good men; but we say that we hold those opinions, which you yourselves confess to have been entertained by the most illustrious philosophers. Anaxagoras said, that snow was black: would you endure me if I were to say the same? You would not bear even for me to express a doubt on the subject. But who is this man? is he a Sophist? for by that name were those men called, who used to philosophize for the sake of display or of profit. The glory of the gravity and genius of that man was great. 73. Why should I speak of Democritus? Who is there whom we can compare with him for the greatness, not merely of his genius, but also of his spirit? a man who dared to begin thus:
I am going to speak of everything. He excepts nothing, so as not to profess a knowledge of it. For indeed, what could there possibly be beyond everything? Who can avoid placing this philosopher before Cleanthes, or Chrysippus, or all the rest of his successors? men who, when compared with him, appear to me to be in the fifth class.
But he does not say this, which we, who do not deny that there is some truth, declare cannot be perceived: he absolutely denies that there is any truth. He says that the senses are not merely dim, but utterly dark; for that is what Metrodorus of Chios, who was one of his greatest admirers, says of them, at the beginning of his book On Nature.
I deny, says he,
that we know whether we know anything or whether we know nothing; I say that we do not even know what is ignorance and knowledge; and that we have no knowledge whether anything exists or whether nothing does.
74. Empedocles appears to you to be mad; but to me he seems to utter words very worthy of the subjects of which he speaks. Does he then blind us, or deprive us of our senses, if he thinks that there is but little power in them to judge of those things which are brought under their notice? Parmenides and Xenophanes blame, as if they were angry with them, though in no very poetical verses, the arrogance of those people who, though nothing can be known, venture to say that they know something. And you said that Socrates and Plato were distinct from these men. Why so? Are there any men of whom we can speak more certainly? I indeed seem to myself to have lived with these men; so many of their discourses have been reported, from which one cannot possibly doubt that Socrates thought that nothing could be known. He excepted one thing only, asserting that he did know that he knew nothing; but he made no other exception. What shall I say of Plato? who certainly would never have followed up these doctrines in so many books if he had not approved of them; for there was no object in going on with the irony of the other, especially when it was so unceasing.
75. Do I not seem to you, not, like Saturninus, to be content with naming illustrious men, but also sometimes even to imitate them, though never unless they are really eminent and noble? And I might have opposed to you men who are annoying to you, but yet disputants of great accuracy; Stilpo, Diodorus, and Alexinus: men who indulged in far-fetched and pointed sophisms; for that was the name given usually to fallacious conclusions. But why need I enumerate them, when I have Chrysippus, who is considered to be the great support of the portico of the Stoics? How many of the arguments against the senses, how many against everything which is approved by ordinary practice, did he not refute! It is true that I do not think very much of his refutations; but still, let us grant that he did refute them. Certainly he would never have collected so many arguments to deceive us with their excessive probability, unless he saw that it was not easily possible to resist them.
76. What do you think of the Cyrenaic School? philosophers far from contemptible, who affirm that there is nothing which can be perceived externally; and that they perceive those things alone which they feel by their inmost touch, such as pain, or pleasure. And that they do not know what color anything is of, or what sound it utters; but only feel that they themselves are affected in a certain manner.
We have said enough about authors: although you had asked me whether I did not think that since the time of those ancient philosophers, in so many ages, the truth might have been discovered, when so many men of genius and diligence were looking for it? What was discovered we will consider presently, and you yourself shall be the judge. But it is easily seen that Arcesilas did not contend with Zeno for the sake of disparaging him; but that he wished to discover the truth. No one, I say, of preceding philosophers had said positively, no one had even hinted that it was possible for man never to form opinions: and that for a wise man it was not only possible, but indispensable. The opinion of Arcesilas appeared not only true, but honorable and worthy of a wise man.
Perhaps he asked of Zeno what would happen if a wise man could not possibly perceive anything, and if to form mere opinion was unworthy of a wise man? He answered, I suppose, that the wise man never would form mere opinion, since there were things which admitted of being perceived. What then were they? Perceptions, I suppose. What sort of perceptions then? In reply to this he gave a definition, That it was such as is impressed and stamped upon and figured in us, according to and conformably to something which exists. Afterwards the question was asked, whether, if such a perception was true, it was of the same character as one that was false? Here Zeno saw clearly enough that there was no perception that could be perceived at all, if the perception derived from that which is, could possibly resemble that which is derived from that which is not.
Arcesilas was quite right in admitting this. An addition was made to the definition; namely, That nothing false could be perceived; nor anything true either, if it was of such a character as that which was false. But he applied himself diligently to these discussions, in order to prove that no perception originated in what was true of such a kind that there might not be a similar one originating in what was false. And this is the one subject of controversy which has lasted to this day. For the other doctrine, that the wise man would never assent to anything, had nothing to do with this question. For it was quite possible for a man to perceive nothing, and nevertheless to be guided at times by opinion; which is said to have been admitted by Carneades. I, indeed, trusting rather to Clitomachus than to Philo or Metrodorus, believe that he argued this point rather than that he admitted it.
79. However, let us say no more about this. Undoubtedly, when opinion and perception are put an end to, the retention of every kind of assent must follow; as, if I prove that nothing can be perceived, you would then grant that a philosopher would never assent to anything. What is there then that can be perceived, if even the senses do not warn us of the truth? But you, O Lucullus, defend them by a common topic; and to prevent you from being able to do so it was, that I yesterday, when it was not otherwise necessary, said so much against the senses. But you say that you are not at all moved by
the broken oar or
the dove’s neck. In the first place, I will ask why? — for in the case of the oar, I feel that that which appears to be the case, is not really so; and that in the dove’s neck there appear to be many colors, but are not in reality more than one. Have we, then, said nothing more than this? Let all our arguments stand: that man is tearing his cause to pieces; he says that his senses are voracious. Therefore you have always one backer who will plead the cause at his own risk: for Epicurus brings the matter down to this point, that if once in a man’s life one of his senses has decided wrongly, none of them is ever to be trusted. This is what he calls being true, and confiding in his own witnesses, and urging his proofs to their just conclusion; therefore Timagoras the Epicurean declares, that when he had twisted his eye with his hand, he had never seen two flames appear out of one candle: for that the error was one of opinion, and not one of his eyes; just as if the question were what the fact is, and not what it appears to be. However, he is just like his predecessors. But as for you, who say that of the things perceived by your senses, some are true and some false, how do you distinguish between them? Cease, I beg of you, to employ common topics: we have plenty of them at home.
If any god were to ask you, while your senses are sound and unimpaired, whether you desire anything further, what would you answer? I wish, indeed, he would ask me! You should hear how ill he treats us: for how far are we to look in order to see the truth? I can see the Cumæan villa of Catulus from this place, but not his villa near Pompeii; not that there is any obstacle interposed, but my eyesight cannot extend so far. What a superb view! We see Puteoli, but we do not see our friend Avianus, though he may perhaps be walking in the portico of Neptune; 81. there was, however, some one or other who is often spoken of in the Schools who could see things that were a thousand and eighty furlongs off; and some birds can see further still. I should therefore answer your god boldly, that I am not at all contented with these eyes of mine. He will tell me, perhaps, that I can see better than some fishes; which are not seen by us, and which even now are beneath our eyes, and yet they cannot look up far enough to see us: therefore, as water is shed around them, so a dense air is around us. But we desire nothing better. What? do you suppose that a mole longs for light? — nor would he complain to the god that he could not see far, but rather that he saw incorrectly. Do you see that ship? It appears to us to be standing still; but to those who are in that ship, this villa appears to be moving. Seek for the reason why it seems so, and if you discover it ever so much, and I do not know whether you may not be able to, still you will have proved, not that you have a trustworthy witness, but that he has not given false evidence without sufficient reason.
82. What need had I to speak of the ship? for I saw that what I said about the oar was despised by you; perhaps you expect something more serious. What can be greater than the sun, which the mathematicians affirm to be more than eighteen times as large as the earth? How little does it appear to us! To me, indeed, it seems about a foot in diameter; but Epicurus thinks it possible that it may be even less than it seems, but not much; nor does he think that it is much greater, but that it is very near the size it seems to be: so that our eyes are either quite correct, or, at all events, not very incorrect. What becomes then of the exception,
If once … ? However, let us leave this credulous man, who does not believe that the senses are ever wrong, — not even now, when that sun, which is borne along with such rapidity that it is impossible even to conceive how great its velocity is, nevertheless seems to us to be standing still.
83. However, to abridge the controversy, consider, I pray you, within what narrow bounds you are confined. There are four principles which conduct you to the conclusion that there is nothing which can be known, or perceived, or comprehended; — and it is about this that the whole dispute is. The first principle is, that some perceptions are false; the second, that such cannot be perceived; the third, that of perceptions between which there is no difference, it is not possible that some of them can be perceived and that others cannot; the fourth, that there is no true perception proceeding from the senses, to which there is not some other perception opposed which in no respect differs from it, and which cannot be perceived. Now of these four principles, the second and third are admitted by every one. Epicurus does not admit the first, but you, with whom we are now arguing, admit that one too, — the whole contest is about the fourth.
84. The man, then, who saw Publius Servilius Geminus, if he thought that he saw Quintus, fell into a perception of that kind that could not be perceived; because what was true was distinguished by no characteristic mark from what was false: and if this distinctive mark were taken away, what characteristic of the same kind could he have by which to recognise Caius Cotta, who was twice consul with Geminus, which could not possibly be false? You say that such a likeness as that is not in the nature of things. You fight the question vigorously, but you are fighting a peaceably disposed adversary. Grant, then, that it is not; at all events, it is possible that it should seem to be so; therefore it will deceive the senses. And if one likeness deceives them, it will have made everything doubtful; for when that judgment is once taken away by which alone things can be known, then, even if the person whom you see, be really the person whom he appears to you to be, still you will not judge by that characteristic which you say you ought, being of such a character that one of the same kind cannot be false. If, therefore, it is possible that Publius Geminus may appear to you to be Quintus, what certainty have you that he may not appear to you to be Cotta though he is not, since some things do appear to you to be what they are not? You say that everything has its own peculiar genus; that there is nothing the same as something else. That is a stoic doctrine, and one not very credible, for they say that there is not a single hair or a single grain in every respect like another hair or grain. These things could all be refuted, but I do not wish to be contentious; for it has nothing in the world to do with the question whether the things which are seen do not differ at all in any part, or whether they cannot be distinguished from another even though they do differ. But, granting that there cannot be such a likeness between men, can there not be such between statues? Tell me, could not Lysippus, using the same brass, the same composition of metals, the same atmosphere, water, and all other appliances, have made a hundred Alexanders exactly alike? How then could you distinguish between them? 86. Again; if I, with this ring, make a hundred impressions on the same piece of wax, is it possible that there should be any difference to enable you to distinguish one from the other? — or, shall you have to seek out some ring engraver, since you have already found us a Delian poulterer who could recognise his eggs?
But you have recourse to art, which you call in to the aid of the senses. A painter sees what we do not see; and as soon as a flute-player plays a note the air is recognised by a musician. Well? Does not this argument seem to tell against you, if, without great skill, such as very few persons of our class attain to, we can neither see nor hear? Then you give an excellent description of the skill with which nature has manufactured our senses, and intellect, and the whole construction of man, in order to prevent my being alarmed at rashness of opinions. Can you also, Lucullus, affirm that there is any power united with wisdom and prudence which has made, or, to use your own expression, manufactured man? What sort of a manufacture is that? Where is it exercised? when? why? how? These points are all handled ingeniously, they are discussed even elegantly. Let it be said even that they appear likely; only let them not be affirmed positively. But we will discuss natural philosophy hereafter, and, indeed, we will do so that you, who said a little while ago that I should speak of it, may appear not to have spoken falsely.
However, to come to what is clearer, I shall now bring forward general facts on which whole volumes have been filled, not only by those of our own School, but also by Chrysippus. But the Stoics complain of him, that, while he studiously collected every argument which could be brought forward against the senses and clearness, and against all custom, and against reason, when he came to reply to himself, he was inferior to what he had been at first; and therefore that, in fact, he put arms into the hands of Carneades. 88. Those arguments are such as have been ingeniously handled by you. You said that the perceptions of men asleep, or drunk, or mad, were less vigorous than those of men awake, sober, and sane. How do you prove that? because, when Ennius had awakened, he would not say that he had seen Homer, but only that Homer had seemed to be present. And Alcmaeon says —
My heart distrusts the witness of my eyes.
And one may say the same of men who are drunk. As if any one denied that when a man has awakened he ceases to think his dreams true; and that a man whose frenzy has passed away, no longer conceives those things to be real which appeared so to him during his madness. But that is not the question: the question is, how those things appear to us, at the time when they do appear. Unless, indeed, we suppose that Ennius heard the whole of that address —
O piety of the soul …
(if, indeed, he did dream it), just as he would have heard it if he had been awake. For when awake, he was able to think those things phantoms — as, in fact, they were — and dreams. But while he was asleep, he felt as sure of their reality as if he had been awake. Again, Iliona, in that dream of hers, where she hears —
Mother, I call on you …
does she not believe that her son has spoken, just as she would have believed it if she had been awake? On which account she adds —
Come now, stand here, remain, and hear my words,
And once again repeat those words to me.
eDoes she here seem to place less trust in what she has seen than people do when awake?
89. Why should I speak of madmen? — such as your relation Tuditanus was, Catulus. Does any man, who may be ever so much in his senses, think the things which he sees as certain as he used to think those that appeared to him? Again, the man who cries out —
I see you now, I see you now alive,
Ulysses, while such sight is still allow’d me;
does he not twice cry out that he is seeing what he never sees at all? Again, when Hercules, in Euripides, shot his own sons with his arrows, taking them for the sons of Eurystheus, — when he slew his wife, — when he endeavored even to slay his father, — was he not worked upon by false ideas, just as he might have been by true ones? Again, does not your own Alcmaeon, who says that his heart distrusts the witness of his eyes, say in the same place, while inflamed by frenzy —
Whence does this flame arise?
And presently afterwards —
Come on; come on; they hasten, they approach;
They seek for me.
Listen, how he implores the good faith of the virgin: —
O bring me aid; O drive this pest away;
This fiery power which now doth torture me;
See, they advance, dark shades, with flames encircled,
And stand around me with their blazing torches.
Have you any doubt here that he appears to himself to see these things? And then the rest of his speech: —
See how Apollo, fair-hair’d God,
Draws in and bends his golden bow;
While on the left fair Dian waves her torch.
90. How could he have believed these things any more if they had really existed than he did when they only seemed to exist? For it is clear that at the moment his heart was not distrusting his eyes. But all these instances are cited in order to prove that than which nothing can be more certain, namely, that between true and false perceptions there is no difference at all, as far as the assent of the mind is concerned. But you prove nothing when you merely refute those false perceptions of men who are mad or dreaming, by their own recollection. For the question is not what sort of recollection those people usually have who have awakened, or those who have recovered from madness, but what sort of perception madmen or dreamers had at the moment when they were under the influence of their madness or their dream. However, we will say no more about the senses.
91. What is there that can be perceived by reason? You say that Dialectics have been discovered, and that that science is, as it were, an arbiter and judge of what is true and false. Of what true and false? — and of true and false on what subject? Will a dialectician be able to judge, in geometry, what is true and false, or in literature, or in music? He knows nothing about those things. In philosophy, then? What is it to him how large the sun is? or what means has he which may enable him to judge what the chief good is? What then will he judge of? Of what combination or disjunction of ideas is accurate, — of what is an ambiguous expression, — of what follows from each fact, or what is inconsistent with it? If the science of dialectics judges of these things, or things like them, it is judging of itself. But it professed more. For to judge of these matters is not sufficient for the resolving of the other numerous and important questions which arise in philosophy. But, since you place so much importance in that art, I would have you to consider whether it was not invented for the express purpose of being used against you. For, at its first opening, it gives an ingenious account of the elements of speaking, and of the manner in which one may come to an understanding of ambiguous expressions, and of the principles of reasoning: then, after a few more things, it comes to the sōrites, a very slippery and hazardous topic, and a class of argument which you yourself pronounced to be a vicious one.
What then, you will say; are we to be blamed for that viciousness? The nature of things has not given us any knowledge of ends, so as to enable us, in any subject whatever, to say how far we can go. Nor is this the case only in respect of the heap of wheat, from which the name is derived, but in no matter whatever where the argument is conducted by minute questions: for instance, if the question be whether a man is rich or poor, illustrious or obscure, — whether things be many or few, great or small, long or short, broad or narrow, — we have no certain answer to give, how much must be added or taken away to make the thing in question either one or the other.
93. But the sōrites is a vicious sort of argument: — crush it, then, if you can, to prevent its being troublesome; for it will be so, if you do not guard against it. We have guarded against it, says he. For Chrysippus’s plan is, when he is interrogated step by step (by way of giving an instance), whether there are three, or few, or many, to rest a little before he comes to the
many; that is to say, to use their own language, hēsychazein. Rest and welcome, says Carneades; you may even snore, for all I care. But what good does he do? For one follows who will waken you from sleep, and question you in the same manner: — Take the number, after the mention of which you were silent, and if to that number I add one, will there be many? You will again go on, as long as you think fit. Why need I say more? for you admit this, that you cannot in your answers fix the last number which can be classed as
few, nor the first, which amounts to
many. And this kind of uncertainty extends so widely, that I do not see any bounds to its progress.
94. Nothing hurts me, says he; for I, like a skillful driver, will rein in my horses before I come to the end, and all the more if the ground which the horses are approaching is precipitous. And thus, too, says he, I will check myself, and not reply any more to one who addresses me with captious questions. If you have a clear answer to make, and refuse to make it, you are giving yourself airs; if you have not, even you yourself do not perceive it. If you stop, because the question is obscure, I admit that it is so; but you say that you do not proceed as far as what is obscure. You stop, then, where the case is still clear. If then all you do is to hold your tongue, you gain nothing by that. For what does it matter to the man who wishes to catch you, whether he entangles you owing to your silence or to your talking? Suppose, for instance, you were to say, without hesitation, that up to the number nine, is
few, but were to pause at the tenth; then you would be refusing your assent to what is certain and evident, and yet you will not allow me to do the same with respect to subjects which are obscure.
That art, therefore, does not help you against the sōrites; inasmuch as it does not teach a man, who is using either the increasing or diminishing scale, what is the first point, or the last. May I not say that that same art, like Penelope undoing her web, at last undoes all the arguments which have gone before? Is that your fault, or ours? In truth, it is the foundation of dialectics, that whatever is enunciated (and that is what they call axiōma, which answers to our word effatum,) is either true or false. What, then, is the case? Are these true or false? If you say that you are speaking falsely, and that that is true, you are speaking falsely and telling the truth at the same time. This, forsooth, you say is inexplicable; and that is more odious than our language, when we call things uncomprehended, and not perceived.
However, I will pass over all this. I ask, if those things cannot be explained, and if no means of judging of them is discovered, so that you can answer whether they are true or false, then what has become of that definition, —
That a proposition (effatum) is something which is either true or false? After the facts are assumed I will add, that of them some are to be adopted, others impeached, because they are contrary to the first. What then do you think of this conclusion, —
If you say that the sun shines, and if you speak truth, therefore the sun does shine? At all events you approve of the kind of argument, and you say that the conclusion has been most correctly inferred. Therefore, in teaching, you deliver that as the first mood in which to draw conclusions. Either, therefore, you will approve of every other conclusion in the same mood, or that art of yours is good for nothing. Consider, then, whether you are inclined to approve of this conclusion; —
If you say that you are a liar, and speak the truth, then you are a liar. But you do say that you are a liar, and you do speak the truth, therefore you are a liar. How can you avoid approving of this conclusion, when you approved of the previous one of the same kind?
These are the arguments of Chrysippus, which even he himself did not refute. For what could he do with such a conclusion as this, —
If it shines, it shines: but it does shine, therefore it does shine? He must give in; for the principle of the connection compels you to grant the last proposition after you have once granted the first. And in what does this conclusion differ from the other, —
If you lie, you lie; but you do lie, therefore you do lie? You assert that it is impossible for you either to approve or disapprove of this: if so, how can you any more approve or disapprove of the other? If the art, or the principle, or the method, or the force of the one conclusion avails, they exist in exactly the same degree in both.
This, however, is their last resource. They demand that one should make an exception with regard to these points which are inexplicable. I give my vote for their going to some tribune of the people; for they shall never obtain this exception from me. In truth, when they cannot prevail on Epicurus, who despises and ridicules the whole science of dialectics, to grant this proposition to be true, which we may express thus —
Hermachus will either be alive tomorrow or he will not; when the dialecticians lay it down that every disjunctive proposition, such as
either yes or no is not only true but necessary; you may see how cautious he is, whom they think slow. For, says he, if I should grant that one of the two alternatives is necessary, it will then be necessary either that Hermachus should be alive tomorrow, or not. But there is no such necessity in the nature of things. Let the dialecticians then, that is to say, Antiochus and the Stoics, contend with him, for he upsets the whole science of dialectics.
98. For if a disjunctive proposition made up of contraries, (I call those propositions contraries when one affirms and the other denies,) if, I say, such a disjunctive can be false, then no one is ever true. But what quarrel have they with me who am following their system? When anything of that kind happened, Carneades used to joke in this way: —
If I have drawn my conclusion correctly, I gain the cause: if incorrectly, Diogenes shall pay back a mina; for he had learnt dialectics of that Stoic, and a mina was the pay of the dialecticians.
I, therefore, follow that system which I learnt from Antiochus; and I find no reason why I should judge
If it does shine, it does shine to be true, because I have learnt that everything which is connected with itself is true; and yet not judge
If you lie, you lie, to be connected with itself in the same manner. Either, therefore, I must judge both this and that to be true, or, if I may not judge this to be true, then I cannot judge that to be.
However, to pass over all those prickles, and all that tortuous kind of discussion, and to show what we are: — after having explained the whole theory of Carneades, all the quibbles of Antiochus will necessarily fall to pieces. Nor will I say anything in such a way as to lead any one to suspect that anything is invented by me. I will take what I say from Clitomachus, who was with Carneades till his old age, a man of great shrewdness, (indeed, he was a Carthaginian,) and very studious and diligent. And he has written four books on the subject of withholding assent; but what I am going to say is taken out of the first.
99. Carneades asserts that there are two kinds of appearances; and that the first kind may be divided into those which can be perceived and those which cannot; and the other into those which are probable and those which are not. Therefore, those which are pronounced to be contrary to the senses and contrary to evidentness belong to the former division; but that nothing can be objected to those of the second kind. Wherefore his opinion is, that there is no appearance of such a character that perception will follow it, but many such as to draw after them probability. Indeed, it would be contrary to nature if nothing were probable; and that entire overturning of life, which you were speaking of, Lucullus, would ensue. Therefore there are many things which may be proved by the senses; only one must recollect that there is not in them anything of such a character that there may not also be something which is false, but which in no respect differs from it in appearance; and so, whatever happens which is probable in appearance, if nothing offers itself which is contrary to that probability, the wise man will use it; and in this way the whole course of life will be regulated.
And, in truth, that wise man whom you are bringing on the stage, is often guided by what is probable, not being comprehended, nor perceived, nor assented to, but only likely; and unless a man acts on such circumstances there is an end to the whole system of life. 100. For what must happen? Has the wise man, when he embarks on board ship, a positive comprehension and perception in his mind that he will have a successful voyage? How can he? But suppose he goes from this place to Puteoli, thirty furlongs, in a seaworthy vessel, with a good pilot, and in fine weather like this, it appears probable that he will arrive there safe. According to appearances of this kind, then, he will make up his mind to act or not to act; and he will be more willing to find the snow white than Anaxagoras, who not only denied that fact, but who affirmed, because he knew that water, from which snow was congealed, was of a dark color, that snow did not even look white. 101. And he will be influenced by anything which affects him in such a way that the appearance is probable, and not interfered with by any obstacle. For such a man is not cut out of stone or hewn out of oak. He has a body, he has a mind, he is influenced by intellect, he is influenced by his senses, so that many things appear to him to be true, and yet not to have conspicuous and peculiar characteristics by which to be perceived. And therefore the wise man does not assent to them, because it is possible that something false may exist of the same kind as this true thing. Nor do we speak against the senses differently from the Stoics, who say that many things are false, and are very different from the appearance which they present to the senses.
But if this is the case, that one false idea can be entertained by the senses, you will find some one in a moment who will deny that anything can be perceived by the senses. And so, while we are silent, all perception and comprehension is done away with by the two principles laid down, one by Epicurus and the other by you. What is Epicurus’s maxim? — If anything that appears to the senses be false, then nothing can be perceived. What is yours? — The appearances presented to the senses are false. — What is the conclusion? Even if I hold my tongue, it speaks for itself, that nothing can be perceived. I do not grant that, says he, to Epicurus. Argue then with him, as he is wholly at variance with you, but leave me alone, who certainly agree with you so far, that the senses are liable to error. Although nothing appears so strange to me, as that such things should be said, especially by Antiochus, to whom the propositions which I have just mentioned were thoroughly known. For although, if he pleases, any one may find fault with this, namely with our denying that anything can be perceived; at all events it is not a very serious reproof that we can have to endure. But as for our statement that some things are probable, this does not seem to you to be sufficient. Grant that it is not. At least we ought to escape the reproaches which are incessantly bandied about by you,
Can you, then, see nothing? can you hear nothing? is nothing evident to you?
I explained just now, on the testimony of Clitomachus, in what manner Carneades intended those statements to be taken. Hear now, how the same things are stated by Clitomachus in that book which he dedicated to Caius Lucilius, the poet, after he had written on the same subject to Lucius Censorinus, the one, I mean, who was consul with Marcus Manilius; he then used almost these very words; for I am well acquainted with them, because the first idea and arrangement of those very matters which we are now discussing is contained in that book. He then uses the following language —
The philosophers of the Academy are of opinion that there are differences between things of such a kind that some appear probable, and others the contrary. But that it is not a sufficient reason for one’s saying that some of these can be perceived and that others cannot, because many things which are false are probable; but nothing false can be perceived and known. Therefore, says he, those men are egregiously wrong who say that the Academics deny the existence of the senses; for they have never said that there is no such thing as color, or taste, or sound; the only point they argue for is, that there is not in them that peculiar characteristic mark of truth and certainty which does not exist anywhere else.
104. And after having explained this, he adds, that there are two senses in which the wise man may be said to suspend his assent: one, when it is understood that he, as a general rule, assents to nothing; the other, when he forbears answering, so as to say that he approves or disapproves of anything, or, so as to deny or affirm anything. This being the case, he approves of the one sense, so as never to assent to anything; and adheres to the other, so as to be able to answer yes, or no, following probability whenever it either occurs or is wanting. And that one may not be astonished at one, who in every matter withholds himself from expressing his assent, being nevertheless agitated and excited to action, he leaves us perceptions of the sort by which we are excited to action, and those owing to which we can, when questioned, answer either way, being guided only by appearances, as long as we avoid expressing a deliberate assent. And yet we must look upon all appearances of that kind as probable, but only those which have no obstacles to counteract them. 105. If we do not induce you to approve of these ideas, they may perhaps be false, but they certainly do not deserve odium. For we are not depriving you of any light; but with reference to the things which you assert are perceived and comprehended, we say, that if they be only probable, they appear to be true.
Since, therefore, what is probable, is thus inferred and laid down, and at the same time disencumbered of all difficulties, set free and unrestrained, and disentangled from all extraneous circumstances; you see, Lucullus, that that defense of perspicuity which you took in hand is utterly overthrown. For this wise man of whom I am speaking will survey the heaven and earth and sea with the same eyes as your wise man; and will feel with the same senses all those other things which fall under each respective sense. That sea, which now, as the west wind is rising over it, appears purple to us, will appear so too to our wise man, but nevertheless he will not sanction the appearance by his assent; because, to us ourselves it appeared just now blue, and in the morning it appeared yellow; and now, too, because it sparkles in the sun, it is white and dimpled, and quite unlike the adjacent continent; so that, even if you could give an account why it is so, still you could not establish the truth of the appearance that is presented to the eyes.
106. Whence then, — for this was the question which you asked, — comes memory, if we perceive nothing, since we cannot recollect anything which we have seen unless we have comprehended it? What? Did Polyaenus, who is said to have been a great mathematician, after he had been persuaded by Epicurus to believe all geometry to be false, forget all the knowledge which he had previously possessed? But that which is false cannot be comprehended as you yourselves assert. If, therefore, memory is conversant only with things which have been perceived and comprehended, then it retains as comprehended and perceived all that every one remembers. But nothing false can be comprehended; and Scyron recollects all the dogmas of Epicurus; therefore they are all true. For all I care, they may be; but you also must either admit that they are so, and that is the last thing in your thoughts, or else you must allow me memory, and grant that there is plenty of room for it, even if there be no comprehension or perception.
107. What then is to become of the arts? Of what arts? of those, which of their own accord confess that they proceed on conjecture more than on knowledge; or of those which only follow what appears to them, and are destitute of that art which you possess to enable them to distinguish between truth and falsehood?
But there are two lights which, more than any others, contain the whole case; for, in the first place, you deny the possibility of any man invariably withholding his assent from everything. But that is quite plain; since Panætius, almost the greatest man, in my opinion, of all the Stoics, says that he is in doubt as to that matter, which all the Stoics except him think absolutely certain, namely as to the truth of the auspices taken by soothsayers, and of oracles, and dreams, and prophecies; and forbears to express any assent respecting them. And why, if he may pursue this course concerning those matters, which the men of whom he himself learnt considered unquestionable, why may not a wise man do so too in all other cases? Is there any position which a man may either approve or disapprove of after it has been asserted, but yet may not doubt about? May you do so with respect to the sōrites whenever you please, and may not he take his stand in the same manner in other cases, especially when without expressing his assent he may be able to follow a probability which is not embarrassed by anything?
108. The second point is that you declare that man incapable of action who withholds his assent from everything. For first of all we must see in what assent consists. For the Stoics say that the senses themselves are assents; that desire comes after them, and action after desire. But that every thing is at an end if we deny perception.
Now on this subject many things have been said and written on both sides, but the whole matter may be summed up in a few words. For although I think it a very great exploit to resist one’s perceptions, to withstand one’s vague opinions, to check one’s propensity to give assent to propositions, — and though I quite agree with Clitomachus, when he writes that Carneades achieved a Herculean labor when, as if it had been a savage and formidable monster, he extracted assent, that is to say, vague opinion and rashness, from our minds, — yet, supposing that part of the defense is wholly omitted, what will hinder the action of that man who follows probability, without any obstacle arising to embarrass him? This thing of itself, says he, will embarrass him, — that he will lay it down, that even the thing he approves of cannot be perceived. And that will hinder you, also, in sailing, in planting, in marrying a wife, in becoming the parent of children, and in many things in which you follow nothing except what is probable.
And, nevertheless, you bring up again that old and often repudiated objection, to employ it not as Antipater did, but, as you say, in a closer manner. For you tell us that Antipater was blamed for saying, that it was consistent in a man who affirmed that nothing could be comprehended, to say that at least this fact of that impossibility could be comprehended; which appeared even to Antiochus to be a stupid kind of assertion, and contradictory to itself. For that it cannot be said with any consistency that nothing can be comprehended, if it is asserted at the same time that the fact of the impossibility can be comprehended. He thinks that Carneades ought rather to be pressed in this way: — As the wise man admits of no dogma except such as is comprehended, perceived, and known, he must therefore confess that this very dogma of the wise man,
that nothing can be perceived, is perceived; as if the wise man had no other maxim whatever, and as if he could pass his life without any. But as he has others, which are probable, but not positively perceived, so also has he this one, that nothing can be perceived. For if he had on this point any characteristic of certain knowledge, he would also have it on all other points; but since he has it not, he employs probabilities. Therefore he is not afraid of appearing to be throwing everything into confusion, and making it uncertain. For it is not admissible for a person to say that he is ignorant about duty, and about many other things with which he is constantly mixed up and conversant; as he might say, if he were asked whether the number of the stars is odd or even. For in things uncertain, nothing is probable; but as to those matters in which there is probability, in those the wise man will not be at a loss what to do, or what answer to give.
111. Nor have you, O Lucullus, omitted that other objection of Antiochus (and, indeed, it is no wonder, for it is a very notorious one,) by which he used to say that Philo was above all things perplexed. For when one proposition was assumed, that some appearances were false, and a second one that there was no difference between them and true ones, he said that that school omitted to take notice that the former proposition had been granted by him, because there did appear to be some difference between appearances; but that that was put an end to by the second proposition, which asserted that there was no difference between false and true ones; for that no two assertions could be more contradictory. And this objection would be correct if we altogether put truth out of the question: but we do not; for we see both true appearances and false ones. But there is a show of probability in them, though of perception we have no sign whatever.
112. And I seem to myself to be at this moment adopting too meagre an argument; for, when there is a wide plain, in which our discourse may rove at liberty, why should we confine it within such narrow straits, and drive it into the thickets of the Stoics? For if I were arguing with a Peripatetic, who said
that everything could be perceived which was an impression originating in the truth, and who did not employ that additional clause, —
in such a way as it could not originate in what was false, I should then deal plainly with a plain man, and should not be very disputatious. And even if, when I said that nothing could be comprehended, he was to say that a wise man was sometimes guided by opinion, I should not contradict him; especially as even Carneades is not very hostile to this idea. As it is, what can I do? 113. For I am asking what there is that can be comprehended; and I am answered, not by Aristotle, or Theophrastus, or even Xenocrates or Polemo, but by one who is of much later date than they, —
A truth of such a nature as what is false cannot be. I find nothing of the sort. Therefore I will, in truth, assent to what is unknown; — that is to say, I will be guided by opinion. This I am allowed to do both by the Peripatetics and by the Old Academy; but you refuse me such indulgence, and in this refusal Antiochus is the foremost, who has great weight with me, either because I loved the man, as he did me, or because I consider him the most refined and acute of all the philosophers of our age.
And, first of all, I will ask him how it is that he is a follower of that Academy to which he professes to belong? For, to pass over other points, who is there, either of the Old Academy or of the Peripatetics, who has ever made these two assertions which are the subject of discussion, — either that that alone could be perceived which was a truth of such a nature, as what was false could not be; or that a wise man was never guided by opinion? Certainly no one of them ever said so. Neither of these propositions was much maintained before Zeno’s time. But I consider both of them true; and I do not say so just to serve the present turn, but it is my honest opinion.
114. This is what I cannot bear. When you forbid me to assent to what I do not know, and say such a proceeding is most discreditable, and full of rashness, — when you, at the same time, arrogate so much to yourself, as to take upon yourself to explain the whole system of wisdom, to unfold the nature of all things, to form men’s manners, to fix the limits of good and evil, to describe men’s duties, and also to undertake to teach a complete rule and system of disputing and understanding, will you be able to prevent me from never tripping while embracing all those multitudinous branches of knowledge? What, in short, is that school to which you would conduct me, after you have carried me away from this one? I fear you will be acting rather arrogantly if you say it is your own. Still you must inevitably say so. Nor, indeed, are you the only person who would say such a thing, but every one will try and tempt me to his own. Come; suppose I resist the Peripatetics, who say that they are closely connected with the orators, and that illustrious men who have been instructed by them have often governed the republic; — suppose that I withstand the Epicureans, so many of whom are friends of my own, — excellent, united, and affectionate men; — what am I to do with respect to Deodotus the Stoic, of whom I have been a pupil from my youth, — who has been living with me so many years, — who dwells in my house, — whom I admire and love, and who despises all those theories of Antiochus? Our principles, you will say, are the only true ones. Certainly the only true ones, if they are true at all; for there cannot be many true principles incompatible with one another. Are we then shameless who are unwilling to make mistakes; or they arrogant who have persuaded themselves that they are the only people who know everything? I do not, says he, assert that I, but that the wise man knows everything. Exactly so; that he knows those things which are the principles of your school. Now, in the first place, what an assertion it is that wisdom cannot be explained by a wise man. — But let us leave off speaking of ourselves; let us speak of the wise man, about whom, as I have often said before, the whole of this discussion is.
116. Wisdom, then, is distributed by most people, and indeed by us, into three parts. First therefore, if you please, let us consider the researches that have been made into the nature of things. Is there any one so puffed up with a false opinion of himself as to have persuaded himself that he knows those things? I am not asking about those reasons which depend on conjecture, which are dragged every way by discussions, and which do not admit any necessity of persuasion. Let the geometricians look to that, who profess not to persuade men to believe them, but to compel them to do so; and who prove to you everything that they describe. I am not asking these men for those principles of the mathematicians, which, if they be not granted, they cannot advance a single step; such as that a point is a thing which has no magnitude, — that an extremity or levelness, as it were, is a space which has no thickness, — that a line is length without breadth. Though I should grant that all these axioms are true, if I were to add an oath, do you think a wise man would swear that the sun is many degrees greater than the earth, before Archimedes had, before his eyes, made out all those calculations by which it is proved? If he does, then he will be despising the sun which he considers a god. But if he will not believe the mathematical calculations which employ a sort of constraint in teaching, — as you yourselves say, — surely he will be very far from believing the arguments of philosophers; or, if he does believe any such, which school will he believe? One may explain all the principles of natural philosophers, but it would take a long time: I ask, however, whom he will follow? Suppose for a moment that some one is now being made a wise man, but is not one yet, — what system and what school shall he select above all others? For, whatever one he selects, he will select while he is still unwise. But grant that he is a man of godlike genius, which of all the natural philosophers will he approve of above all others? For he cannot approve of more than one. I will not pursue an infinite number of questions; only let us see whom he will approve of with respect to the elements of things of which all things are composed; for there is a great disagreement among the greatest men on this subject.
118. First of all, Thales, one of the seven, to whom they say that the other six yielded the preeminence, said that everything originated out of water; but he failed to convince Anaximander, his countryman and companion, of this theory; for his idea was that there was an infinity of nature from which all things were produced. After him, his pupil, Anaximenes, said that the air was infinite, but that the things which were generated from it were finite; and that the earth, and water, and fire, were generated, and that from them was produced everything else. Anaxagoras said that matter was infinite; but that from it were produced minute particles resembling one another; that at first they were confused, but afterwards brought into order by divine intellect. Xenophanes, who was a little more ancient still, asserted that all things were only one single being, and that that being was immutable and a god, not born, but everlasting, of a globular form. Parmenides considered that it is fire that moves the earth, which is formed out of it. Leucippus thought that there was a plenum, and a vacuum; Democritus resembled him in this idea, but was more copious on other matters: Empedocles adopts the theory of the four ordinary and commonly known elements. Heraclitus refers everything to fire; Melissus thinks that what exists is infinite, immutable, always has existed, and always will. Plato thinks that the world was made by God, so as to be eternal, out of matter which collects everything to itself. The Pythagoreans affirm that everything proceeds from numbers, and from the principles of mathematicians.
Now of all these different teachers the wise man will, I imagine, select some one to follow; all the rest, numerous, and great men as they are, will be discarded by him and condemned; but whichever doctrine he approves of he will retain in his mind, being comprehended in the same manner as those things which he comprehends by means of the senses; nor will he feel any greater certainty of the fact of its now being day, than, since he is a Stoic, of this world being wise, being endowed with intellect, which has made both itself and the world, and which regulates, sets in motion, and governs everything. He will also be persuaded that the sun, and moon, and all the stars, and the earth, and sea, are gods, because a certain animal intelligence pervades and passes through them all: but nevertheless that it will happen some day or other that all this world will be burnt up with fire.
Suppose that all this is true: (for you see already that I admit that something is true,) still I deny that these things are comprehended and perceived. For when that wise Stoic of yours has repeated all that to you, syllable by syllable, Aristotle will come forward pouring forth a golden stream of eloquence, and pronounce him a fool; and assert that the world has never had a beginning, because there never existed any beginning of so admirable a work from the adoption of a new plan: and that the world is so excellently made in every part that no power could be great enough to cause such motion, and such changes; nor could any time whatever be long enough to produce an old age capable of causing all this beauty to decay and perish. It will be indispensable for you to deny this, and to defend the former doctrine as you would your own life and reputation; may I not have even leave to entertain a doubt on the matter? To say nothing about the folly of people who assent to propositions rashly, what value am I to set upon a liberty which will not allow to me what is necessary for you? Why did God, when he was making everything for the sake of man, (for this is your doctrine,) make such a multitude of water-serpents and vipers? Why did he scatter so many pernicious and fatal things over the earth? You assert that all this universe could not have been made so beautifully and so ingeniously without some godlike wisdom; the majesty of which you trace down even to the perfection of bees and ants; so that it would seem that there must have been a Myrmecides among the gods; the maker of all animated things.
You say that nothing can have any power without God. Exactly opposite is the doctrine of Strato of Lampsacus, who gives that God of his exemption from all important business. But as the priests of the gods have a holiday, how much more reasonable is it that the gods should have one themselves? He then asserts that he has no need of the aid of the gods to account for the making of the world. Everything that exists, he says, was made by Nature: not agreeing with that other philosopher who teaches, that the universe is a concrete mass of rough and smooth, and hooked and crooked bodies, with the addition of a vacuum: this he calls a dream of Democritus, and says that he is here not teaching, but wishing; — but he himself, examining each separate part of the world, teaches that whatever exists, and whatever is done, is caused, or has been caused, by natural weights and motions. In this way he releases God from a great deal of hard work, and me from fear; for who is there who, (when he thinks that he is an object of divine care,) does not feel an awe of the divine power day and night? And who, whenever any misfortunes happen to him (and what man is there to whom none happen?) feels a dread lest they may have befallen him deservedly — not, indeed, that I agree with that; but neither do I with you: at one time I think one doctrine more probable, and at other times I incline to the other.
122. All these mysteries, O Lucullus, lie concealed and enveloped in darkness so thick that no human ingenuity has a sight sufficiently piercing to penetrate into heaven, and dive into the earth. We do not understand our own bodies: we do not know what is the situation of their different parts, or what power each part has: therefore, the physicians themselves, whose business it was to understand these things, have opened bodies in order to lay those parts open to view. And yet empirics say that they are not the better known for that; because it is possible that, by being laid open and uncovered, they may be changed. But is it possible for us, in the same manner, to anatomize, and open, and dissect the natures of things, so as to see whether the earth is firmly fixed on its foundations and sticks firm on its roots, if I may so say, or whether it hangs in the middle of a vacuum? 123. Xenophanes says that the moon is inhabited, and that it is a country of many cities and mountains. These assertions seem strange, but the man who has made them could not take his oath that such is the case; nor could I take mine that it is not the case. You also say that, opposite to us, on the contrary side of the earth, there are people who stand with their feet opposite to our feet, and you call them Antipodes. Why are you more angry with me, who do not despise these theories, than with those who, when they hear them, think that you are beside yourselves?
Hiretas of Syracuse, as Theophrastus tells us, thinks that the sun, and moon, and stars, and all the heavenly bodies, in short, stand still; and that nothing in the world moves except the earth; and, as that turns and revolves on its own axis with the greatest rapidity, he thinks that everything is made to appear by it as if it were the heaven which is moved while the earth stands still. And, indeed, some people think that Plato, in the Timaeus, asserts this, only rather obscurely. What is your opinion, Epicurus? Speak. Do you think that the sun is so small? — Do I? Do you yourselves think it so large? But all of you are ridiculed by him, and you in your turn mock him. Socrates, then, is free from this ridicule, and so is Ariston of Chios, who thinks that none of these matters can be known.
124. But I return to the mind and body. Is it sufficiently known by us what is the nature of the sinews and of the veins? Do we comprehend what the mind is? — where it is? — or, in short, whether it exists at all, or whether, as Dicaearchus thinks, there is no such thing whatever? If there is such a thing, do we know whether it has three divisions, as Plato thought; those of reason, anger, and desire? — or whether it is single and uniform? If it is single and uniform, do we know whether it is fire, or breath, or blood? — or, as Xenocrates says, number without a body? — though, what sort of thing that is, is not very easy to understand. And whatever it is, do we know whether it is mortal or eternal? For many arguments are alleged on both sides.
125. Some of these theories seem certain to your wise man: but ours does not even see what is most probable; so nearly equal in weight are the opposite arguments in most cases. If you proceed more modestly, and reproach me, not because I do not assent to your reasoning, but because I do not assent to any, I will not resist any further: but I will select some one with whom I may agree. Whom shall I choose? — whom? Democritus? for, as you know, I have always been a favorer of noble birth. I shall be at once overwhelmed with the reproaches of your whole body. Can you think, they will say to me, that there is any vacuum, when everything is so filled and close packed that whenever any body leaves its place and moves, the place which it leaves is immediately occupied by some other body? Or can you believe that there are any atoms to which whatever is made by their combination is entirely unlike? or that any excellent thing can be made without intellect? And, since this admirable beauty is found in one world, do you think that there are also innumerable other worlds, above, below, on the right hand and on the left, before, and behind, some unlike this one, and some of the same kind? And, as we are now at Bauli, and are beholding Puteoli, do you think that there are in other places like these a countless host of men, of the same names and rank, and exploits, and talents, and appearances, and ages, arguing on the same subjects? And if at this moment, or when we are asleep, we seem to see anything in our mind, do you think that those images enter from without, penetrating into our minds through our bodies? You can never adopt such ideas as these, or give your assent to such preposterous notions. It is better to have no ideas at all than to have such erroneous ones as these.
126. Your object, then, is not to make me sanction anything by my assent. If it were, consider whether it would not be an impudent, not to say an arrogant demand, especially as these principles of yours do not seem to me to be even probable. For I do not believe that there is any such thing as divination, which you assent to; and I also despise fate, by which you say that everything is regulated. I do not even believe that this world was formed by divine wisdom; or, I should rather say, I do not know whether it was so formed or not.
But why should you seek to disparage me? May I not confess that I do not understand what I really do not? Or may the Stoics argue with one other, and may I not argue with them? Zeno, and nearly all the rest of the Stoics, consider Aether as the Supreme God, being endued with reason, by which everything is governed. Cleanthes, who we may call a Stoic, Majorum Gentium, the pupil of Zeno, thinks that the Sun has the supreme rule over and government of everything. We are compelled, therefore, by the dissensions of these wise men, to be ignorant of our own ruler, inasmuch as we do not know whether we are subjects of the Sun or of Aether. But the great size of the sun, (for this present radiance of his appears to be looking at me,) warns me to make frequent mention of him. Now you all speak of his magnitude as if you had measured it with a ten-foot rule, (though I refuse credit to your measurement, looking on you as but bad architects.) Is there then any room for doubt, which of us, to speak as gently as possible, is the more modest of the two? Not, however, that I think those questions of the natural philosophers deserving of being utterly banished from our consideration; for the consideration and contemplation of nature is a sort of natural food, if I may say so, for our minds and talents. We are elevated by it, we seem to be raised above the earth, we look down on human affairs; and by fixing our thoughts on high and heavenly things we despise the affairs of this life, as small and inconsiderable. The mere investigation of things of the greatest importance, which are at the same time very secret, has a certain pleasure in it. 128. And when anything meets us which appears likely, our minds are filled with pleasure thoroughly worthy of a man. Both your wise man and ours, then, will inquire into these things; but yours will do so in order to assent, to feel belief, to express affirmation; ours, with such feelings that he will fear to yield rashly to opinion, and will think that he has succeeded admirably if in matters of this kind he has found out anything which is likely.
Let us now come to the question of the knowledge of good and evil. But we must say a few words by way of preface. It appears to me that they who speak so positively about those questions of natural philosophy, do not reflect that they are depriving themselves of the authority of those ideas which appear more clear. For they cannot give a clearer assent to, or a more positive approval of the fact that it is now daylight, than they do, when the crow croaks, to the idea that it is commanding or prohibiting something. Nor will they affirm that that statue is six feet high more positively after they have measured it, than that the sun, which they cannot measure, is more than eighteen times as large as the earth. From which this conclusion arises: if it cannot be perceived how large the sun is, he who assents to other things in the same manner as he does to the magnitude of the sun, does not perceive them. But the magnitude of the sun cannot be perceived. He, then, who assents to a statement about it, as if he perceived it, perceives nothing. Suppose they were to reply that it is possible to perceive how large the sun is; I will not object as long as they admit that other things too can be perceived and comprehended in the same manner. For they cannot affirm that one thing can be comprehended more or less than another, since there is only one definition of the comprehension of everything.
129. However, to go back to what I had begun to say — What have we in good and bad certainly ascertained? (we must, of course, fix boundaries to which the sum of good and evil is to be referred;) what subject, in fact, is there about which there is a greater disagreement between the most learned men? I say nothing about those points which seem now to be abandoned; or about Herillus, who places the chief good in knowledge and science: and though he had been a pupil of Zeno, you see how far he disagrees with him, and how very little he differs from Plato. The school of the Megaric philosophers was a very celebrated one; and its chief, as I see it stated in books, was Xenophanes, whom I mentioned just now. After him came Parmenides and Zeno; and from them the Eleatic philosophers get their name. Afterwards came Euclid of Megara, a pupil of Socrates, from whom that school got the name of Megaric. And they defined that as the only good which was always one, alike, and identical. They also borrowed a great deal from Plato. But the Eretrian philosophers, who were so called from Menedumus, because he was a native of Eretria, placed all good in the mind, and in that acuteness of the mind by which the truth is discerned. The Megarians say very nearly the same, only that they, I think, develop their theory with more elegance and richness of illustration. 130. If we now despise these men, and think them worthless, at all events we ought to show more respect for Ariston, who, having been a pupil of Zeno, adopted in reality the principles which he had asserted in words; namely, that there was nothing good except virtue, and nothing evil except what was contrary to virtue; and who denied altogether the existence of those influences which Zeno contended for as being intermediate, and neither good nor evil. His idea of the chief good, is being affected in neither direction by these circumstances; and this state of mind he calls adiaphoria; but Pyrrho asserts that the wise man does not even feel them; and that state is called apatheia.
To say nothing, then, of all these opinions, let us now examine those others which have been long and vigorously maintained. 131. Some have accounted pleasure the chief good; the chief of whom was Aristippus, who had been a pupil of Socrates, and from whom the Cyrenaic school spring. After him came Epicurus, whose school is now better known, though he does not exactly agree with the Cyrenaics about pleasure itself. But Callipho thought that pleasure and honor combined made up the chief good. Hieronymus placed it in being free from all annoyance; Diodorus in this state when combined with honor. Both these last men were Peripatetics. To live honorably, enjoying those things which nature makes most dear to man, was the definition both of the Old Academy, (as we may learn from the writings of Polemo, who is highly approved of by Antiochus,) and of Aristotle, and it is the one to which his friends appear now to come nearest. Carneades also introduced a definition, (not because he approved of it himself, but for the sake of opposition to the Stoics,) that the chief good is to enjoy those things which nature has made man consider as most desirable. But Zeno laid it down that that honorableness which arises from conformity to nature is the chief good. And Zeno was the founder and chief of the Stoic school.
132. This now is plain enough, that all these chief goods which I have mentioned have a chief evil corresponding to them, which is their exact opposite. I now put it to you, whom shall I follow? only do not let any one make me so ignorant and absurd a reply as, Any one, provided only that you follow some one or other. Nothing more inconsiderate can be said: I wish to follow the Stoics. Will Antiochus, (I do not say Aristotle, a man almost, in my opinion, unrivalled as a philosopher, but will Antiochus) give me leave? And he was called an Academic; but he would have been, with very little alteration, something very like a Stoic. The matter shall now be brought to a decision. For we must either give the wise man to the Stoics or to the Old Academy. He cannot belong to both; for the contention between them is not one about boundaries, but about the whole territory. For the whole system of life depends on the definition of the chief good; and those who differ on that point, differ about the whole system of life. It is impossible, therefore, that those of both these schools should be wise, since they differ so much from one another: but one of them only can be so. If it be the disciple of Polemo, then the Stoic is wrong, who assents to an error: and you say that nothing is so incompatible with the character of a wise man as that. But if the principles of Zeno be true, then we must say the same of the Old Academics and of the Peripatetics; and as I do not know which is the more wise of the two, I give my assent to neither. What? when Antiochus in some points disagrees with the Stoics whom he is so fond of, does he not show that these principles cannot be approved of by a wise man?
The Stoics assert that all offenses are equal: but Antiochus energetically resists this doctrine. At least, let me consider before I decide which opinion I will embrace. Cut the matter short, says he, do at last decide on something. What? The reasons which are given appear to me to be both shrewd and nearly equal: may I not then be on my guard against committing a crime? for you called it a crime, Lucullus, to violate a principle; I, therefore, restrain myself, lest I should assent to what I do not understand; and this principle I have in common with you.
134. Here, however, is a much greater difference. — Zeno thinks that a happy life depends on virtue alone. What says Antiochus? He admits that this is true of a happy life, but not of the happiest possible life. The first is a god, who thinks that nothing can be wanting to virtue; the latter is a miserable man, who thinks that there are many things besides virtue, some of which are dear to a man, and some even necessary. But I am afraid that the former may be attributing to virtue more than nature can bear; especially since Theophrastus has said many things with eloquence and copiousness on this subject; and I fear that even he may not be quite consistent with himself. For though he admits that there are some evils both of body and fortune, he nevertheless thinks that a man may be happy who is afflicted by them all, provided he is wise. I am perplexed here; at one time the one opinion appears to me to be more probable, and at another time the other does. And yet, unless one or the other be true, I think virtue must be entirely trampled under foot.
135. However, they differ as to this principle. What then? Can we approve, as true, of those maxims on which they agree; namely, that the mind of the wise man is never influenced by either desire or joy? Come, suppose this opinion is a probable one, is this other one so too; namely, that it never feels either alarm or grief? Cannot the wise fear? And if his country be destroyed, cannot he grieve? That seems harsh, but Zeno thinks it inevitable; for he considers nothing good except what is honorable. But you do not think it true in the least, Antiochus. For you admit that there are many good things besides honor, and many evils besides baseness; and it is inevitable that the wise man must fear such when coming, and grieve when they have come. But I ask when it was decided by the Old Academy that they were to deny that the mind of the wise man could be agitated or disturbed? They approved of intermediate states, and asserted that there was a kind of natural mean in every agitation. We have all read the treatise on Grief, by Crantor, a disciple of the Old Academy. It is not large, but it is a golden book, and one, as Panaetius tells Tubero, worth learning by heart. And these men used to say that those agitations were very profitably given to our minds by nature; fear, in order that we may take care; pity and melancholy they called the whetstone of our clemency; and anger itself that of our courage. Whether they were right or wrong we may consider another time. 136. How it was that those stern doctrines of yours forced their way into the Old Academy I do not know, but I cannot bear them; not because they have anything in them particularly disagreeable to me; for many of the marvelous doctrines of the Stoics, which men call paradoxa, are derived from Socrates. But where has Xenocrates or where has Aristotle touched these points? For you try to make out the Stoics to be the same as these men. Would they ever say that wise men were the only kings, the only rich, the only handsome men? that everything everywhere belonged to the wise man? that no one was a consul, or praetor, or general, or even, for aught I know, a quinquevir, but the wise man? lastly, that he was the only citizen, the only free man? and that all who are destitute of wisdom are foreigners, exiles, slaves, or madmen? last of all, that the writings of Lycurgus and Solon and our Twelve Tables are not laws? that there are even no cities or states except those which are peopled by wise men? 137. Now these maxims, O Lucullus, if you agree with Antiochus, your own friend, must be defended by you as zealously as the bulwarks of your city; but I am only bound to uphold them with moderation, just as much as I think fit.
I have read in Clitomachus, that when Carneades and Diogenes the Stoic were standing in the capitol before the senate, Aulus Albonus (who was praetor at the time, in the consulship of Publius Scipio and Marcus Marcellus, the same Albonus who was consul, Lucullus, with your own grandfather, a learned man, as his own history shows, which is written in Greek) said jestingly to Carneades —
I do not, O Carneades, seem to you to be praetor because I am not wise, nor does this seem to be a city, nor do the inhabitants seem to be citizens, for the same reason. And he answered —
That is the Stoic doctrine. Aristotle or Xenocrates, whom Antiochus wished to follow, would have had no doubt that he was praetor, and Rome a city, and that it was inhabited by citizens. But our friend is, as I said before, a manifest Stoic, though he talks a little nonsense.
138. But you are all afraid for me, lest I should descend to opinions, and adopt and approve of something that I do not understand; which you would be very sorry for me to do. What advice do you give me? Chrysippus often testifies that there are three opinions only about the chief good which can be defended; he cuts off and discards all the rest. He says that either honor is the chief good, or pleasure, or both combined. For that those who say that the chief good is to be free from all annoyance, shun the unpopular name of pleasure, but hover about its neighborhood. And those also do the same who combine that freedom from annoyance with honor. And those do not much differ from them who unite to honor the chief advantages of nature. So he leaves three opinions which he thinks may be maintained by probable arguments.
139. Be it so. Although I am not easily to be moved from the definition of Polemo and the Peripatetics, and Antiochus, nor have I anything more probable to bring forward. Still, I see how sweetly pleasure allures our senses. I am inclined to agree with Epicurus or Aristippus. But virtue recalls me, or rather leads me back with her hand; says that these are the feelings of cattle, and that man is akin to the Deity. I may take a middle course; so that, since Aristippus, as if we had no mind, defends nothing but the body, and Zeno espouses the cause of the mind alone, as if we were destitute of body, I may follow Callipho, whose opinion Carneades used to defend with such zeal, that he appeared wholly to approve of it; although Clitomachus affirmed that he never could understand what Carneades approved of. But if I were to choose to follow him, would not truth itself, and all sound and proper reason, oppose me? Will you, when honor consists in despising pleasure, unite honor to pleasure, joining, as it were, a man to a beast?
140. There is now, then, only one pair of combatants left — pleasure and honor; between which Chrysippus, as far as I can see, was not long in perplexity how to decide. If you follow the one, many things are overthrown, especially the fellowship of the human race, affection, friendship, justice, and all other virtues, none of which can exist at all without disinterestedness: for the virtue which is impelled to action by pleasure, as by a sort of wages, is not really virtue, but only a deceitful imitation and pretense of virtue. Listen, on the contrary, to those men who say that they do not even understand the name of honor, unless we call that honorable which is accounted reputable by the multitude; that the source of all good is in the body; that this is the law, and rule, and command of nature; and that he who departs from it will never have any object in life to follow. Do you think, then, that I am not moved when I hear these and innumerable other statements of the same kind? I am moved as much as you are, Lucullus; and you need not think me less a man than yourself. The only difference is that you, when you are agitated, acquiesce, assent, and approve; you consider the impression which you have received true, certain, comprehended, perceived, established, firm, and unalterable; and you cannot be moved or driven from it by any means whatever. I think that there is nothing of such a kind that, if I assent to it, I shall not often be assenting to what is false; since there is no distinct line of demarcation between what is true and what is false, especially as the science of dialectics has no power of judging on this subject.
142. I come now to the third part of philosophy. There is an idea advanced by Protagoras, who thinks that that is true to each individual which seems so to him; and a completely different one put forward by the Cyrenaics, who think that there is no such thing as certain judgment about anything except the inner feelings: and a third, different from either, maintained by Epicurus, who places all judgment in the senses, and in our notions of things, and in pleasure. But Plato considered that the whole judgment of truth, and that truth itself, being abstracted from opinions and from the senses, belonged to the province of thought and of the intellect. 143. Does our friend Antiochus approve of any of these principles? He does not even approve of those who may be called his own ancestors in philosophy: for where does he follow Xenocrates, who has written a great many books on the method of speaking, which are highly esteemed? — or Aristotle himself, than whom there is no more acute or elegant writer? He never goes one step without Chrysippus.
Do we then, who are called Academics, misuse the glory of this name? or why are we to be compelled to follow those men who differ from one another? In this very thing, which the dialecticians teach among the elements of their art, how one ought to judge whether an argument be true or false which is connected in this manner,
If it is day, it shines, how great a contest there is; — Diodorus has one opinion, Philo another, Chrysippus a third. Need I say more? In how many points does Chrysippus himself differ from Cleanthes, his own teacher? Again, do not two of the very princes of the dialecticians, Antipater and Archidemus, men most devoted to hypothesis, disagree in numbers of things? 144. Why then, Lucullus, do you seek to bring me into odium, and drag me, as it were, before the assembly? And why, as seditious tribunes often do, do you order all the shops to be shut? For what is your object when you complain that all trades are being suppressed by us, if it be not to excite the artisans? But, if they all come together from all quarters, they will be easily excited against you; for, first of all, I will cite all those unpopular expressions of yours when you called all those, who will then be in the assembly, exiles, and slaves, and madmen: and then I will come to those arguments which touch not the multitude, but you yourselves who are here present. For Zeno and Antiochus both deny that any of you know anything. How so? you will say; for we allege, on the other hand, that even a man without wisdom comprehends many things. 145. But you affirm that no one except a wise man knows one single thing. And Zeno professed to illustrate this by a piece of action; for when he stretched out his fingers, and showed the palm of his hand,
Perception, said he,
is a thing like this. Then, when he had a little closed his fingers,
Assent is like this. Afterwards, when he had completely closed his hand, and held forth his fist, that, he said, was comprehension. From which simile he also gave that state a name which it had not before, and called it catalēpsis. But when he brought his left hand against his right, and with it took a firm and tight hold of his fist, knowledge, he said, was of that character; and that was what none but a wise man possessed. But even those who are themselves wise men do not venture to say so, nor any one who has ever lived and been a wise man. According to that theory, you, Catulus, do not know that it is daylight; and you, Hortensius, are ignorant that we are now in your villa.
146. Now, are these arguments less formidable than yours? They are not, perhaps, very refined; and those others show more acuteness. But, just as you said, that if nothing could be comprehended, all the arts were destroyed at once, and would not grant that mere probability was a sufficient foundation for art; so I now reply to you, that art cannot exist without knowledge. Would Zeuxis, or Phidias, or Polycletus allow that they knew nothing, when they were men of such marvelous skill? But if any one had explained to them how much power knowledge was said to have, they would cease to be angry; they would not even be offended with us, when they had learnt that we were only putting an end to what did not exist anywhere; but that we left them what was quite sufficient for them.
And this doctrine is confirmed also by the diligence of our ancestors, who ordained, in the first place, that every one should swear
according to the opinion of his own mind; secondly, that he should be accounted guilty
if he knowingly swore falsely, because there was a great deal of ignorance in life; thirdly, that the man who was giving his evidence should say that
he thought, even in a case where he was speaking of what he had actually seen himself. And that when the judges were giving their decision on their evidence, they should say, not that such and such a thing had been done, but that such and such a thing appeared to them.
147. But since the sailor is making signals, and the west wind is showing us too, by its murmur, that it is time for us, Lucullus, to set sail, and since I have already said a great deal, I must now conclude. But hereafter, when we inquire into these subjects, we will discuss the great disagreements between the most eminent on the subject of the obscurity of nature, and the errors of so many philosophers who differ from one another about good and evil so widely, that, as more than one of their theories cannot be true, it is inevitable that many illustrious schools must fall to the ground, rather than the theories about the false impressions of the eyes and the other senses, and sōrites, or false syllogism, — rods which the Stoics have made to beat themselves with.
148. Then Lucullus replied, I am not at all sorry that we have had this discussion; for often, when we meet again, especially in our Tusculan villas, we can examine other questions which seem worth investigation. Certainly, said I; but what does Catulus think? and Hortensius? I? said Catulus. I return to my father’s opinion, which he used to say was derived from Carneades, and think that nothing can be perceived; but still I imagine that a wise man will assent to what is not actually perceived — that is to say, will form opinions: being, however, aware at the same time that they are only opinions, and knowing that there is nothing which can be comprehended and perceived. And, practicing that epochē so as to take probability for a guide in all things, I altogether assent to that other doctrine, that nothing can be perceived. I see your meaning, said I; and I do not very much object to it. But what is your opinion, Hortensius? He laughed, and said, I suspend my judgment. I understand, said I; for that is the peculiar principle of the Academy.
So, after we had finished our discourse, Catulus remained behind, and we went down to the shore to embark in our vessels.
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