In the year A.U.C. 708, and the sixty-second year of Cicero’s age, his daughter, Tullia, died in childbed; and her loss afflicted Cicero to such a degree that he abandoned all public business, and, leaving the city, retired to Asterra, which was a country house that he had near Antium; where, after a while, he devoted himself to philosophical studies, and, besides other works, he published his Treatise de Finibus, and also this treatise called the Tusculan Disputations, of which Middleton gives this concise description:
“The first book teaches us how to scorn the terrors of death, and to look upon it as a blessing rather than an evil;
“The second, to support pain and affliction with a manly fortitude;
“The third, to appease all our complaints and uneasinesses under the accidents of life;
“The fourth, to moderate all our other passions;
“And the fifth explains the sufficiency of virtue to make men happy.”
It was his custom in the opportunities of his leisure to take some friends with him into the country, where, instead of amusing themselves with idle sports or feasts, their diversions were wholly speculative, tending to improve the mind and enlarge the understanding. In this manner he now spent five days at his Tusculan villa in discussing with his friends the several questions just mentioned. For, after employing the mornings in declaiming and rhetorical exercises, they used to retire in the afternoon into a gallery, called the Academy, which he had built for the purpose of philosophical conferences, where, after the manner of the Greeks, he held a school, as they called it, and invited the company to call for any subject that they desired to hear explained, which being proposed accordingly by some of the audience became immediately the argument of that day’s debate. These five conferences, or dialogues, he collected afterward into writing in the very words and manner in which they really passed; and published them under the title of his Tusculan Disputations, from the name of the villa in which they were held.
At a time when I had entirely, or to a great degree, released myself from my labors as an advocate, and from my duties as a senator, I had recourse again, Brutus, principally by your advice, to those studies which never had been out of my mind, although neglected at times, and which after a long interval I resumed; and now, since the principles and rules of all arts which relate to living well depend on the study of wisdom, which is called philosophy, I have thought it an employment worthy of me to illustrate them in the Latin tongue, not because philosophy could not be understood in the Greek language, or by the teaching of Greek masters; but it has always been my opinion that our countrymen have, in some instances, made wiser discoveries than the Greeks, with reference to those subjects which they have considered worthy of devoting their attention to, and in others have improved upon their discoveries, so that in one way or other we surpass them on every point; for, with regard to the manners and habits of private life, and family and domestic affairs, we certainly manage them with more elegance, and better than they did; and as to our republic, that our ancestors have, beyond all dispute, formed on better customs and laws. What shall I say of our military affairs; in which our ancestors have been most eminent in valor, and still more so in discipline? As to those things which are attained not by study, but nature, neither Greece, nor any nation, is comparable to us; for what people has displayed such gravity, such steadiness, such greatness of soul, probity, faith — such distinguished virtue of every kind, as to be equal to our ancestors. In learning, indeed, and all kinds of literature, Greece did excel us, and it was easy to do so where there was no competition; for while among the Greeks the poets were the most ancient species of learned men — since Homer and Hesiod lived before the foundation of Rome, and Archilochus was a contemporary of Romulus — we received poetry much later. For it was about five hundred and ten years after the building of Rome before Livius published a play in the consulship of C. Claudius, the son of Caecus, and M. Tuditanus, a year before the birth of Ennius, who was older than Plautus and Naevius.
It was, therefore, late before poets were either known or received among us; though we find in Cato de Originibus that the guests used, at their entertainments, to sing the praises of famous men to the sound of the flute; but a speech of Cato’s shows this kind of poetry to have been in no great esteem, as he censures Marcus Nobilior for carrying poets with him into his province; for that consul, as we know, carried Ennius with him into Aetolia. Therefore the less esteem poets were in, the less were those studies pursued; though even then those who did display the greatest abilities that way were not very inferior to the Greeks. Do we imagine that if it had been considered commendable in Fabius, a man of the highest rank, to paint, we should not have had many Polycleti and Parrhasii? Honor nourishes art, and glory is the spur with all to studies; while those studies are always neglected in every nation which are looked upon disparagingly. The Greeks held skill in vocal and instrumental music as a very important accomplishment, and therefore it is recorded of Epaminondas, who, in my opinion, was the greatest man among the Greeks, that he played excellently on the flute; and Themistocles, some years before, was deemed ignorant because at an entertainment he declined the lyre when it was offered to him. For this reason musicians flourished in Greece; music was a general study; and whoever was unacquainted with it was not considered as fully instructed in learning. Geometry was in high esteem with them, therefore none were more honorable than mathematicians. But we have confined this art to bare measuring and calculating.
But, on the contrary, we early entertained an esteem for the orator; though he was not at first a man of learning, but only quick at speaking: in subsequent times he became learned; for it is reported that Galba, Africanus, and Laelius were men of learning; and that even Cato, who preceded them in point of time, was a studious man: then succeeded the Lepidi, Carbo, and Gracchi, and so many great orators after them, down to our own times, that we were very little, if at all, inferior to the Greeks. Philosophy has been at a low ebb even to this present time, and has had no assistance from our own language, and so now I have undertaken to raise and illustrate it, in order that, as I have been of service to my countrymen, when employed on public affairs, I may, if possible, be so likewise in my retirement; and in this I must take the more pains, because there are already many books in the Latin language which are said to be written inaccurately, having been composed by excellent men, only not of sufficient learning; for, indeed, it is possible that a man may think well, and yet not be able to express his thoughts elegantly; but for anyone to publish thoughts which he can neither arrange skilfully nor illustrate so as to entertain his reader, is an unpardonable abuse of letters and retirement: they, therefore, read their books to one another, and no one ever takes them up but those who wish to have the same license for careless writing allowed to themselves. Wherefore, if oratory has acquired any reputation from my industry, I shall take the more pains to open the fountains of philosophy, from which all my eloquence has taken its rise.
But, as Aristotle, a man of the greatest genius, and of the most various knowledge, being excited by the glory of the rhetorician Isocrates, commenced teaching young men to speak, and joined philosophy with eloquence: so it is my design not to lay aside my former study of oratory, and yet to employ myself at the same time in this greater and more fruitful art; for I have always thought that to be able to speak copiously and elegantly on the most important questions was the most perfect philosophy. And I have so diligently applied myself to this pursuit, that I have already ventured to have a school like the Greeks. And lately when you left us, having many of my friends about me, I attempted at my Tusculan villa what I could do in that way; for as I formerly used to practice declaiming, which nobody continued longer than myself, so this is now to be the declamation of my old age. I desired anyone to propose a question which he wished to have discussed, and then I argued that point either sitting or walking; and so I have compiled the scholae, as the Greeks call them, of five days, in as many books. We proceeded in this manner: when he who had proposed the subject for discussion had said what he thought proper, I spoke against him; for this is, you know, the old and Socratic method of arguing against another’s opinion; for Socrates thought that thus the truth would more easily be arrived at. But to give you a better notion of our disputations, I will not barely send you an account of them, but represent them to you as they were carried on; therefore let the introduction be thus:
A. To me death seems to be an evil.
M. What, to those who are already dead? or to those who must die?
A. To both.
M. It is a misery, then, because an evil?
M. Then those who have already died, and those who have still got to die, are both miserable?
A. So it appears to me.
M. Then all are miserable?
A. Every one.
M. And, indeed, if you wish to be consistent, all who are already born, or ever shall be, are not only miserable, but always will be so; for should you maintain those only to be miserable, you would not except anyone living, for all must die; but there should be an end of misery in death. But seeing that the dead are miserable, we are born to eternal misery, for they must of consequence be miserable who died a hundred thousand years ago; or rather, all that have ever been born.
A. So, indeed, I think.
M. Tell me, I beseech you, are you afraid of the three-headed Cerberus in the shades below, and the roaring waves of Cocytus, and the passage over Acheron, and Tantalus expiring with thirst, while the water touches his chin; and Sisyphus,
Who sweats with arduous toil in vain
The steepy summit of the mount to gain?
Perhaps, too, you dread the inexorable judges, Minos and Rhadamanthus; before whom neither L. Crassus nor M. Antonius can defend you; and where, since the cause lies before Grecian judges, you will not even be able to employ Demosthenes; but you must plead for yourself before a very great assembly. These things perhaps you dread, and therefore look on death as an eternal evil.
A. Do you take me to be so imbecile as to give credit to such things?
M. What, do you not believe them?
A. Not in the least.
M. I am sorry to hear that.
A. Why, I beg?
M. Because I could have been very eloquent in speaking against them.
A. And who could not on such a subject? or what trouble is it to refute these monstrous inventions of the poets and painters?
M. And yet you have books of philosophers full of arguments against these.
A. A great waste of time, truly! for who is so weak as to be concerned about them?
M. If, then, there is no one miserable in the infernal regions, there can be no one there at all.
A. I am altogether of that opinion.
M. Where, then, are those you call miserable? or what place do they inhabit? For, if they exist at all, they must be somewhere.
A. I, indeed, am of opinion that they are nowhere.
M. Then they have no existence at all.
A. Even so, and yet they are miserable for this very reason, that they have no existence.
M. I had rather now have you afraid of Cerberus than speak thus inaccurately.
A. In what respect?
M. Because you admit him to exist whose existence you deny with the same breath. Where now is your sagacity? When you say anyone is miserable, you say that he who does not exist, does exist.
A. I am not so absurd as to say that.
M. What is it that you do say, then?
A. I say, for instance, that Marcus Crassus is miserable in being deprived of such great riches as his by death; that Cn. Pompey is miserable in being taken from such glory and honor; and, in short, that all are miserable who are deprived of this light of life.
M. You have returned to the same point, for to be miserable implies an existence; but you just now denied that the dead had any existence: if, then, they have not, they can be nothing; and if so, they are not even miserable.
A. Perhaps I do not express what I mean, for I look upon this very circumstance, not to exist after having existed, to be very miserable.
M. What, more so than not to have existed at all? Therefore, those who are not yet born are miserable because they are not; and we ourselves, if we are to be miserable after death, were miserable before we were born: but I do not remember that I was miserable before I was born; and I should be glad to know, if your memory is better, what you recollect of yourself before you were born.
A. You are pleasant: as if I had said that those men are miserable who are not born, and not that they are so who are dead.
M. You say, then, that they are so?
A. Yes; I say that because they no longer exist after having existed they are miserable.
M. You do not perceive that you are asserting contradictions; for what is a greater contradiction, than that that should be not only miserable, but should have any existence at all, which does not exist? When you go out at the Capene gate and see the tombs of the Calatini, the Scipios, Servilii, and Metelli, do you look on them as miserable?
A. Because you press me with a word, henceforward I will not say they are miserable absolutely, but miserable on this account, because they have no existence.
M. You do not say, then, “M. Crassus is miserable,” but only “Miserable M. Crassus.”
A. Exactly so.
M. As if it did not follow that whatever you speak of in that manner either is or is not. Are you not acquainted with the first principles of logic? For this is the first thing they lay down, Whatever is asserted (for that is the best way that occurs to me, at the moment, of rendering the Greek term [Greek: axiôma]; if I can think of a more accurate expression hereafter, I will use it), is asserted as being either true or false. When, therefore, you say, “Miserable M. Crassus,” you either say this, “M. Crassus is miserable,” so that some judgment may be made whether it is true or false, or you say nothing at all.
A. Well, then, I now own that the dead are not miserable, since you have drawn from me a concession that they who do not exist at all can not be miserable. What then? We that are alive, are we not wretched, seeing we must die? for what is there agreeable in life, when we must night and day reflect that, at some time or other, we must die?
M. Do you not, then, perceive how great is the evil from which you have delivered human nature?
A. By what means?
M. Because, if to die were miserable to the dead, to live would be a kind of infinite and eternal misery. Now, however, I see a goal, and when I have reached it, there is nothing more to be feared; but you seem to me to follow the opinion of Epicharmus, a man of some discernment, and sharp enough for a Sicilian.
A. What opinion? for I do not recollect it.
M. I will tell you if I can in Latin; for you know I am no more used to bring in Latin sentences in a Greek discourse than Greek in a Latin one.
A. And that is right enough. But what is that opinion of Epicharmus?
M. I would not die, but yet am not concerned that I shall be dead.
A. I now recollect the Greek; but since you have obliged me to grant that the dead are not miserable, proceed to convince me that it is not miserable to be under a necessity of dying.
M. That is easy enough; but I have greater things in hand.
A. How comes that to be so easy? And what are those things of more consequence?
M. Thus: because, if there is no evil after death, then even death itself can be none; for that which immediately succeeds that is a state where you grant that there is no evil: so that even to be obliged to die can be no evil, for that is only the being obliged to arrive at a place where we allow that no evil is.
A. I beg you will be more explicit on this point, for these subtle arguments force me sooner to admissions than to conviction. But what are those more important things about which you say that you are occupied?
M. To teach you, if I can, that death is not only no evil, but a good.
A. I do not insist on that, but should be glad to hear you argue it, for even though you should not prove your point, yet you will prove that death is no evil. But I will not interrupt you; I would rather hear a continued discourse.
M. What, if I should ask you a question, would you not answer?
A. That would look like pride; but I would rather you should not ask but where necessity requires.
M. I will comply with your wishes, and explain as well as I can what you require; but not with any idea that, like the Pythian Apollo, what I say must needs be certain and indisputable, but as a mere man, endeavoring to arrive at probabilities by conjecture, for I have no ground to proceed further on than probability. Those men may call their statements indisputable who assert that what they say can be perceived by the senses, and who proclaim themselves philosophers by profession.
A. Do as you please: We are ready to hear you.
M. The first thing, then, is to inquire what death, which seems to be so well understood, really is; for some imagine death to be the departure of the soul from the body; others think that there is no such departure, but that soul and body perish together, and that the soul is extinguished with the body. Of those who think that the soul does depart from the body, some believe in its immediate dissolution; others fancy that it continues to exist for a time; and others believe that it lasts forever. There is great dispute even what the soul is, where it is, and whence it is derived: with some, the heart itself (cor) seems to be the soul, hence the expressions, excordes, vecordes, concordes; and that prudent Nasica, who was twice consul, was called Corculus, i.e., wise-heart; and Aelius Sextus is described as Egregie cordatus homo, catus Aeliu’ Sextus — that great wise-hearted man, sage Aelius. Empedocles imagines the blood, which is suffused over the heart, to be the soul; to others, a certain part of the brain seems to be the throne of the soul; others neither allow the heart itself, nor any portion of the brain, to be the soul, but think either that the heart is the seat and abode of the soul, or else that the brain is so. Some would have the soul, or spirit, to be the anima, as our schools generally agree; and indeed the name signifies as much, for we use the expressions animam agere, to live; animam efflare, to expire; animosi, men of spirit; bene animati, men of right feeling; exanimi sententia, according to our real opinion; and the very word animus is derived from anima. Again, the soul seems to Zeno the Stoic to be fire.
But what I have said as to the heart, the blood, the brain, air, or fire being the soul, are common opinions: the others are only entertained by individuals; and, indeed, there were many among the ancients who held singular opinions on this subject, of whom the latest was Aristoxenus, a man who was both a musician and a philosopher. He maintained a certain straining of the body, like what is called harmony in music, to be the soul, and believed that, from the figure and nature of the whole body, various motions are excited, as sounds are from an instrument. He adhered steadily to his system, and yet he said something, the nature of which, whatever it was, had been detailed and explained a great while before by Plato. Xenocrates denied that the soul had any figure, or anything like a body; but said it was a number, the power of which, as Pythagoras had fancied, some ages before, was the greatest in nature: his master, Plato, imagined a threefold soul, a dominant portion of which — that is to say, reason — he had lodged in the head, as in a tower; and the other two parts — namely, anger and desire — he made subservient to this one, and allotted them distinct abodes, placing anger in the breast, and desire under the praecordia. But Dicaearchus, in that discourse of some learned disputants, held at Corinth, which he details to us in three books — in the first book introduces many speakers; and in the other two he introduces a certain Pherecrates, an old man of Phthia, who, as he said, was descended from Deucalion; asserting, that there is in fact no such thing at all as a soul, but that it is a name without a meaning; and that it is idle to use the expression “animals,” or “animated beings;” that neither men nor beasts have minds or souls, but that all that power by which we act or perceive is equally infused into every living creature, and is inseparable from the body, for if it were not, it would be nothing; nor is there anything whatever really existing except body, which is a single and simple thing, so fashioned as to live and have its sensations in consequence of the regulations of nature. Aristotle, a man superior to all others, both in genius and industry (I always except Plato), after having embraced these four known sorts of principles, from which all things deduce their origin, imagines that there is a certain fifth nature, whence comes the soul; for to think, to foresee, to learn, to teach, to invent anything, and many other attributes of the same kind, such as to remember, to love, to hate, to desire, to fear, to be pleased or displeased — these, and others like them, exist, he thinks, in none of those first four kinds: on such account he adds a fifth kind, which has no name, and so by a new name he calls the soul [Greek: endelecheia], as if it were a certain continued and perpetual motion.
If I have not forgotten anything unintentionally, these are the principal opinions concerning the soul. I have omitted Democritus, a very great man indeed, but one who deduces the soul from the fortuitous concourse of small, light, and round substances; for, if you believe men of his school, there is nothing which a crowd of atoms cannot effect. Which of these opinions is true, some God must determine. It is an important question for us, Which has the most appearance of truth? Shall we, then, prefer determining between them, or shall we return to our subject?
A. I could wish both, if possible; but it is difficult to mix them: therefore, if without a discussion of them we can get rid of the fears of death, let us proceed to do so; but if this is not to be done without explaining the question about souls, let us have that now, and the other at another time.
M. I take that plan to be the best, which I perceive you are inclined to; for reason will demonstrate that, whichever of the opinions which I have stated is true, it must follow, then, that death cannot be an evil; or that it must rather be something desirable; for if either the heart, or the blood, or the brain, is the soul, then certainly the soul, being corporeal, must perish with the rest of the body; if it is air, it will perhaps be dissolved; if it is fire, it will be extinguished; if it is Aristoxenus’s harmony, it will be put out of tune. What shall I say of Dicaearchus, who denies that there is any soul? In all these opinions, there is nothing to affect anyone after death; for all feeling is lost with life, and where there is no sensation, nothing can interfere to affect us. The opinions of others do indeed bring us hope; if it is any pleasure to you to think that souls, after they leave the body, may go to heaven as to a permanent home.
A. I have great pleasure in that thought, and it is what I most desire; and even if it should not be so, I should still be very willing to believe it.
M. What occasion have you, then, for my assistance? Am I superior to Plato in eloquence? Turn over carefully his book that treats of the soul; you will have there all that you can want.
A. I have, indeed, done that, and often; but, I know not how it comes to pass, I agree with it while I am reading it; but when I have laid down the book, and begin to reflect with myself on the immortality of the soul, all that agreement vanishes.
M. How comes that? Do you admit this — that souls either exist after death, or else that they also perish at the moment of death?
A. I agree to that. And if they do exist, I admit that they are happy; but if they perish, I cannot suppose them to be unhappy, because, in fact, they have no existence at all. You drove me to that concession but just now.
M. How, then, can you, or why do you, assert that you think that death is an evil, when it either makes us happy, in the case of the soul continuing to exist, or, at all events, not unhappy, in the case of our becoming destitute of all sensation?
A. Explain, therefore, if it is not troublesome to you, first, if you can, that souls do exist after death; secondly, should you fail in that (and it is a very difficult thing to establish), that death is free from all evil; for I am not without my fears that this itself is an evil: I do not mean the immediate deprivation of sense, but the fact that we shall hereafter suffer deprivation.
M. I have the best authority in support of the opinion you desire to have established, which ought, and generally has, great weight in all cases. And, first, I have all antiquity on that side, which the more near it is to its origin and divine descent, the more clearly, perhaps, on that account, did it discern the truth in these matters. This very doctrine, then, was adopted by all those ancients whom Ennius calls in the Sabine tongue Casci; namely, that in death there was a sensation, and that, when men departed this life, they were not so entirely destroyed as to perish absolutely. And this may appear from many other circumstances, and especially from the pontifical rites and funeral obsequies, which men of the greatest genius would not have been so solicitous about, and would not have guarded from any injury by such severe laws, but from a firm persuasion that death was not so entire a destruction as wholly to abolish and destroy everything, but rather a kind of transmigration, as it were, and change of life, which was, in the case of illustrious men and women, usually a guide to heaven, while in that of others it was still confined to the earth, but in such a manner as still to exist. From this, and the sentiments of the Romans,
In heaven Romulus with Gods now lives,
as Ennius saith, agreeing with the common belief; hence, too, Hercules is considered so great and propitious a God among the Greeks, and from them he was introduced among us, and his worship has extended even to the very ocean itself. This is how it was that Bacchus was deified, the offspring of Semele; and from the same illustrious fame we receive Castor and Pollux as Gods, who are reported not only to have helped the Romans to victory in their battles, but to have been the messengers of their success. What shall we say of Ino, the daughter of Cadmus? Is she not called Leucothea by the Greeks, and Matuta by us? Nay, more; is not the whole of heaven (not to dwell on particulars) almost filled with the offspring of men?
Should I attempt to search into antiquity, and produce from thence what the Greek writers have asserted, it would appear that even those who are called their principal Gods were taken from among men up into heaven.
Examine the sepulchres of those which are shown in Greece; recollect, for you have been initiated, what lessons are taught in the mysteries; then will you perceive how extensive this doctrine is. But they who were not acquainted with natural philosophy (for it did not begin to be in vogue till many years later) had no higher belief than what natural reason could give them; they were not acquainted with the principles and causes of things; they were often induced by certain visions, and those generally in the night, to think that those men who had departed from this life were still alive. And this may further be brought as an irrefragable argument for us to believe that there are Gods — that there never was any nation so barbarous, nor any people in the world so savage, as to be without some notion of Gods. Many have wrong notions of the Gods, for that is the nature and ordinary consequence of bad customs, yet all allow that there is a certain divine nature and energy. Nor does this proceed from the conversation of men, or the agreement of philosophers; it is not an opinion established by institutions or by laws; but, no doubt, in every case the consent of all nations is to be looked on as a law of nature. Who is there, then, that does not lament the loss of his friends, principally from imagining them deprived of the conveniences of life? Take away this opinion, and you remove with it all grief; for no one is afflicted merely on account of a loss sustained by himself. Perhaps we may be sorry, and grieve a little; but that bitter lamentation and those mournful tears have their origin in our apprehensions that he whom we loved is deprived of all the advantages of life, and is sensible of his loss. And we are led to this opinion by nature, without any arguments or any instruction.
But the greatest proof of all is, that nature herself gives a silent judgment in favor of the immortality of the soul, inasmuch as all are anxious, and that to a great degree, about the things which concern futurity:
One plants what future ages shall enjoy,
as Statius saith in his Synephebi. What is his object in doing so, except that he is interested in posterity? Shall the industrious husbandman, then, plant trees the fruit of which he shall never see? And shall not the great man found laws, institutions, and a republic? What does the procreation of children imply, and our care to continue our names, and our adoptions, and our scrupulous exactness in drawing up wills, and the inscriptions on monuments, and panegyrics, but that our thoughts run on futurity? There is no doubt but a judgment may be formed of nature in general, from looking at each nature in its most perfect specimens; and what is a more perfect specimen of a man than those are who look on themselves as born for the assistance, the protection, and the preservation of others? Hercules has gone to heaven; he never would have gone thither had he not, while among men, made that road for himself. These things are of old date, and have, besides, the sanction of universal religion.
What will you say? What do you imagine that so many and such great men of our republic, who have sacrificed their lives for its good, expected? Do you believe that they thought that their names should not continue beyond their lives? None ever encountered death for their country but under a firm persuasion of immortality! Themistocles might have lived at his ease; so might Epaminondas; and, not to look abroad and among the ancients for instances, so might I myself. But, somehow or other there clings to our minds a certain presage of future ages; and this both exists most firmly, and appears most clearly, in men of the loftiest genius and greatest souls. Take away this, and who would be so mad as to spend his life amidst toils and dangers? I speak of those in power. What are the poet’s views but to be ennobled after death? What else is the object of these lines,
Behold old Ennius here, who erst
Thy fathers’ great exploits rehearsed?
He is challenging the reward of glory from those men whose ancestors he himself had ennobled by his poetry. And in the same spirit he says, in another passage,
Let none with tears my funeral grace, for I
Claim from my works an immortality.
Why do I mention poets? The very mechanics are desirous of fame after death. Why did Phidias include a likeness of himself in the shield of Minerva, when he was not allowed to inscribe his name on it? What do our philosophers think on the subject? Do not they put their names to those very books which they write on the contempt of glory? If, then, universal consent is the voice of nature, and if it is the general opinion everywhere that those who have quitted this life are still interested in something, we also must subscribe to that opinion. And if we think that men of the greatest abilities and virtues see most clearly into the power of nature, because they themselves are her most perfect work, it is very probable that, as every great man is especially anxious to benefit posterity, there is something of which he himself will be sensible after death.
But as we are led by nature to think there are Gods, and as we discover, by reason, of what description they are, so, by the consent of all nations, we are induced to believe that our souls survive; but where their habitation is, and of what character they eventually are, must be learned from reason. The want of any certain reason on which to argue has given rise to the idea of the shades below, and to those fears which you seem, not without reason, to despise; for as our bodies fall to the ground, and are covered with earth (humus), whence we derive the expression to be interred (humari), that has occasioned men to imagine that the dead continue, during the remainder of their existence, under ground; which opinion has drawn after it many errors, which the poets have increased; for the theater, being frequented by a large crowd, among which are women and children, is wont to be greatly affected on hearing such pompous verses as these,
Lo! here I am, who scarce could gain this place,
Through stony mountains and a dreary waste;
Through cliffs, whose sharpen’d stones tremendous hung,
Where dreadful darkness spread itself around.
And the error prevailed so much, though indeed at present it seems to me to be removed, that although men knew that the bodies of the dead had been burned, yet they conceived such things to be done in the infernal regions as could not be executed or imagined without a body; for they could not conceive how disembodied souls could exist; and, therefore, they looked out for some shape or figure. This was the origin of all that account of the dead in Homer. This was the idea that caused my friend Appius to frame his Necromancy; and this is how there got about that idea of the lake of Avernus, in my neighborhood,
Whence the souls of undistinguish’d shape,
Clad in thick shade, rush from the open gate
Of Acheron, vain phantoms of the dead.
And they must needs have these appearances speak, which is not possible without a tongue, and a palate, and jaws, and without the help of lungs and sides, and without some shape or figure; for they could see nothing by their mind alone — they referred all to their eyes. To withdraw the mind from sensual objects, and abstract our thoughts from what we are accustomed to, is an attribute of great genius. I am persuaded, indeed, that there were many such men in former ages; but Pherecydes the Syrian is the first on record who said that the souls of men were immortal, and he was a philosopher of great antiquity, in the reign of my namesake Tullius. His disciple Pythagoras greatly confirmed this opinion, who came into Italy in the reign of Tarquin the Proud; and all that country which is called Great Greece was occupied by his school, and he himself was held in high honor, and had the greatest authority; and the Pythagorean sect was for many ages after in such great credit, that all learning was believed to be confined to that name.
But I return to the ancients. They scarcely ever gave any reason for their opinion but what could be explained by numbers or definitions. It is reported of Plato that he came into Italy to make himself acquainted with the Pythagoreans; and that when there, among others, he made an acquaintance with Archytas and Timaeus, and learned from them all the tenets of the Pythagoreans; and that he not only was of the same opinion with Pythagoras concerning the immortality of the soul, but that he also brought reasons in support of it; which, if you have nothing to say against it, I will pass over, and say no more at present about all this hope of immortality.
A. What, will you leave me when you have raised my expectations so high? I had rather, so help me Hercules! be mistaken with Plato, whom I know how much you esteem, and whom I admire myself, from what you say of him, than be in the right with those others.
M. I commend you; for, indeed, I could myself willingly be mistaken in his company. Do we, then, doubt, as we do in other cases (though I think here is very little room for doubt in this case, for the mathematicians prove the facts to us), that the earth is placed in the midst of the world, being, as it were, a sort of point, which they call a [Greek: kentron], surrounded by the whole heavens; and that such is the nature of the four principles which are the generating causes of all things, that they have equally divided among them the constituents of all bodies; moreover, that earthy and humid bodies are carried at equal angles by their own weight and ponderosity into the earth and sea; that the other two parts consist, one of fire, and the other of air? As the two former are carried by their gravity and weight into the middle region of the world, so these, on the other hand, ascend by right lines into the celestial regions, either because, owing to their intrinsic nature, they are always endeavoring to reach the highest place, or else because lighter bodies are naturally repelled by heavier; and as this is notoriously the case, it must evidently follow that souls, when once they have departed from the body, whether they are animal (by which term I mean capable of breathing) or of the nature of fire, must mount upward. But if the soul is some number, as some people assert, speaking with more subtlety than clearness, or if it is that fifth nature, for which it would be more correct to say that we have not given a name to than that we do not correctly understand it — still it is too pure and perfect not to go to a great distance from the earth. Something of this sort, then, we must believe the soul to be, that we may not commit the folly of thinking that so active a principle lies immerged in the heart or brain; or, as Empedocles would have it, in the blood.
We will pass over Dicaearchus, with his contemporary and fellow-disciple Aristoxenus, both indeed men of learning. One of them seems never even to have been affected with grief, as he could not perceive that he had a soul; while the other is so pleased with his musical compositions that he endeavors to show an analogy betwixt them and souls. Now, we may understand harmony to arise from the intervals of sounds, whose various compositions occasion many harmonies; but I do not see how a disposition of members, and the figure of a body without a soul, can occasion harmony. He had better, learned as he is, leave these speculations to his master Aristotle, and follow his own trade as a musician. Good advice is given him in that Greek proverb,
Apply your talents where you best are skill’d.
I will have nothing at all to do with that fortuitous concourse of individual light and round bodies, notwithstanding Democritus insists on their being warm and having breath, that is to say, life. But this soul, which is compounded of either of the four principles from which we assert that all things are derived, is of inflamed air, as seems particularly to have been the opinion of Panaetius, and must necessarily mount upward; for air and fire have no tendency downward, but always ascend; so should they be dissipated that must be at some distance from the earth; but should they remain, and preserve their original state, it is clearer still that they must be carried heavenward, and this gross and concrete air, which is nearest the earth, must be divided and broken by them; for the soul is warmer, or rather hotter, than that air, which I just now called gross and concrete: and this may be made evident from this consideration — that our bodies, being compounded of the earthy class of principles, grow warm by the heat of the soul.
We may add, that the soul can the more easily escape from this air, which I have often named, and break through it, because nothing is swifter than the soul; no swiftness is comparable to the swiftness of the soul, which, should it remain uncorrupt and without alteration, must necessarily be carried on with such velocity as to penetrate and divide all this atmosphere, where clouds, and rain, and winds are formed, which, in consequence of the exhalations from the earth, is moist and dark: but, when the soul has once got above this region, and falls in with, and recognizes, a nature like its own, it then rests upon fires composed of a combination of thin air and a moderate solar heat, and does not aim at any higher flight; for then, after it has attained a lightness and heat resembling its own, it moves no more, but remains steady, being balanced, as it were, between two equal weights. That, then, is its natural seat where it has penetrated to something like itself, and where, wanting nothing further, it may be supported and maintained by the same aliment which nourishes and maintains the stars.
Now, as we are usually incited to all sorts of desires by the stimulus of the body, and the more so as we endeavor to rival those who are in possession of what we long for, we shall certainly be happy when, being emancipated from that body, we at the same time get rid of these desires and this rivalry. And that which we do at present, when, dismissing all other cares, we curiously examine and look into anything, we shall then do with greater freedom; and we shall employ ourselves entirely in the contemplation and examination of things; because there is naturally in our minds a certain insatiable desire to know the truth, and the very region itself where we shall arrive, as it gives us a more intuitive and easy knowledge of celestial things, will raise our desires after knowledge. For it was this beauty of the heavens, as seen even here upon earth, which gave birth to that national and hereditary philosophy (as Theophrastus calls it), which was thus excited to a desire of knowledge. But those persons will in a most especial degree enjoy this philosophy, who, while they were only inhabitants of this world and enveloped in darkness, were still desirous of looking into these things with the eye of their mind.
For if those men now think that they have attained something who have seen the mouth of the Pontus, and those straits which were passed by the ship called Argo, because,
From Argos she did chosen men convey,
Bound to fetch back the Golden Fleece, their prey;
or those who have seen the straits of the ocean,
Where the swift waves divide the neighboring shores
Of Europe, and of Afric;
what kind of sight do you imagine that will be when the whole earth is laid open to our view? and that, too, not only in its position, form, and boundaries, nor those parts of it only which are habitable, but those also that lie uncultivated, through the extremities of heat and cold to which they are exposed; for not even now is it with our eyes that we view what we see, for the body itself has no senses; but (as the naturalists, ay, and even the physicians assure us, who have opened our bodies, and examined them) there are certain perforated channels from the seat of the soul to the eyes, ears, and nose; so that frequently, when either prevented by meditation, or the force of some bodily disorder, we neither hear nor see, though our eyes and ears are open and in good condition; so that we may easily apprehend that it is the soul itself which sees and hears, and not those parts which are, as it were, but windows to the soul, by means of which, however, she can perceive nothing, unless she is on the spot, and exerts herself. How shall we account for the fact that by the same power of thinking we comprehend the most different things — as color, taste, heat, smell, and sound — which the soul could never know by her five messengers, unless every thing were referred to her, and she were the sole judge of all? And we shall certainly discover these things in a more clear and perfect degree when the soul is disengaged from the body, and has arrived at that goal to which nature leads her; for at present, notwithstanding nature has contrived, with the greatest skill, those channels which lead from the body to the soul, yet are they, in some way or other, stopped up with earthy and concrete bodies; but when we shall be nothing but soul, then nothing will interfere to prevent our seeing everything in its real substance and in its true character.
It is true, I might expatiate, did the subject require it, on the many and various objects with which the soul will be entertained in those heavenly regions; when I reflect on which, I am apt to wonder at the boldness of some philosophers, who are so struck with admiration at the knowledge of nature as to thank, in an exulting manner, the first inventor and teacher of natural philosophy, and to reverence him as a God; for they declare that they have been delivered by his means from the greatest tyrants, a perpetual terror, and a fear that molested them by night and day. What is this dread — this fear? What old woman is there so weak as to fear these things, which you, forsooth, had you not been acquainted with natural philosophy, would stand in awe of?
The hallow’d roofs of Acheron, the dread
Of Orcus, the pale regions of the dead.
And does it become a philosopher to boast that he is not afraid of these things, and that he has discovered them to be false? And from this we may perceive how acute these men were by nature, who, if they had been left without any instruction, would have believed in these things. But now they have certainly made a very fine acquisition in learning that when the day of their death arrives, they will perish entirely. And if that really is the case — for I say nothing either way — what is there agreeable or glorious in it? Not that I see any reason why the opinion of Pythagoras and Plato may not be true; but even although Plato were to have assigned no reason for his opinion (observe how much I esteem the man), the weight of his authority would have borne me down; but he has brought so many reasons, that he appears to me to have endeavored to convince others, and certainly to have convinced himself.
But there are many who labor on the other side of the question, and condemn souls to death, as if they were criminals capitally convicted; nor have they any other reason to allege why the immortality of the soul appears to them to be incredible, except that they are not able to conceive what sort of thing the soul can be when disentangled from the body; just as if they could really form a correct idea as to what sort of thing it is, even when it is in the body; what its form, and size, and abode are; so that were they able to have a full view of all that is now hidden from them in a living body, they have no idea whether the soul would be discernible by them, or whether it is of so fine a texture that it would escape their sight. Let those consider this, who say that they are unable to form any idea of the soul without the body, and then they will see whether they can form any adequate idea of what it is when it is in the body. For my own part, when I reflect on the nature of the soul, it appears to me a far more perplexing and obscure question to determine what is its character while it is in the body — a place which, as it were, does not belong to it — than to imagine what it is when it leaves it, and has arrived at the free aether, which is, if I may so say, its proper, its own habitation. For unless we are to say that we cannot apprehend the character or nature of anything which we have never seen, we certainly may be able to form some notion of God, and of the divine soul when released from the body. Dicæarchus, indeed, and Aristoxenus, because it was hard to understand the existence and substance and nature of the soul, asserted that there was no such thing as a soul at all. It is, indeed, the most difficult thing imaginable to discern the soul by the soul. And this, doubtless, is the meaning of the precept of Apollo, which advises everyone to know himself. For I do not apprehend the meaning of the God to have been that we should understand our members, our stature, and form; for we are not merely bodies; nor, when I say these things to you, am I addressing myself to your body: when, therefore, he says, “Know yourself,” he says this, “Inform yourself of the nature of your soul;” for the body is but a kind of vessel, or receptacle of the soul, and whatever your soul does is your own act. To know the soul, then, unless it had been divine, would not have been a precept of such excellent wisdom as to be attributed to a God; but even though the soul should not know of what nature itself is, will you say that it does not even perceive that it exists at all, or that it has motion? On which is founded that reason of Plato’s, which is explained by Socrates in the Phædrus, and inserted by me, in my sixth book of the Republic.
“That which is always moved is eternal; but that which gives motion to something else, and is moved itself by some external cause, when that motion ceases, must necessarily cease to exist. That, therefore, alone, which is self-moved, because it is never forsaken by itself, can never cease to be moved. Besides, it is the beginning and principle of motion to everything else; but whatever is a principle has no beginning, for all things arise from that principle, and it cannot itself owe its rise to anything else; for then it would not be a principle did it proceed from anything else. But if it has no beginning, it never will have any end; for a principle which is once extinguished cannot itself be restored by anything else, nor can it produce anything else from itself; inasmuch as all things must necessarily arise from some first cause. And thus it comes about that the first principle of motion must arise from that thing which is itself moved by itself; and that can neither have a beginning nor an end of its existence, for otherwise the whole heaven and earth would be overset, and all nature would stand still, and not be able to acquire any force by the impulse of which it might be first set in motion. Seeing, then, that it is clear that whatever moves itself is eternal, can there be any doubt that the soul is so? For everything is inanimate which is moved by an external force; but everything which is animate is moved by an interior force, which also belongs to itself. For this is the peculiar nature and power of the soul; and if the soul be the only thing in the whole world which has the power of self-motion, then certainly it never had a beginning, and therefore it is eternal.”
Now, should all the lower order of philosophers (for so I think they may be called who dissent from Plato and Socrates and that school) unite their force, they never would be able to explain anything so elegantly as this, nor even to understand how ingeniously this conclusion is drawn. The soul, then, perceives itself to have motion, and at the same time that it gets that perception, it is sensible that it derives that motion from its own power, and not from the agency of another; and it is impossible that it should ever forsake itself. And these premises compel you to allow its eternity, unless you have something to say against them.
A. I should myself be very well pleased not to have even a thought arise in my mind against them, so much am I inclined to that opinion.
M. Well, then, I appeal to you, if the arguments which prove that there is something divine in the souls of men are not equally strong? But if I could account for the origin of these divine properties, then I might also be able to explain how they might cease to exist; for I think I can account for the manner in which the blood, and bile, and phlegm, and bones, and nerves, and veins, and all the limbs, and the shape of the whole body, were put together and made; ay, and even as to the soul itself, were there nothing more in it than a principle of life, then the life of a man might be put upon the same footing as that of a vine or any other tree, and accounted for as caused by nature; for these things, as we say, live. Besides, if desires and aversions were all that belonged to the soul, it would have them only in common with the beasts; but it has, in the first place, memory, and that, too, so infinite as to recollect an absolute countless number of circumstances, which Plato will have to be a recollection of a former life; for in that book which is inscribed Menon, Socrates asks a child some questions in geometry, with reference to measuring a square; his answers are such as a child would make, and yet the questions are so easy, that while answering them, one by one, he comes to the same point as if he had learned geometry. Whence Socrates would infer that learning is nothing more than recollection; and this topic he explains more accurately in the discourse which he held the very day he died; for he there asserts that, anyone, who seeming to be entirely illiterate, is yet able to answer a question well that is proposed to him, does in so doing manifestly show that he is not learning it then, but recollecting it by his memory. Nor is it to be accounted for in any other way, how children come to have notions of so many and such important things as are implanted, and, as it were, sealed up, in their minds (which the Greeks call [Greek: ennoiai]), unless the soul, before it entered the body, had been well stored with knowledge. And as it had no existence at all (for this is the invariable doctrine of Plato, who will not admit anything to have a real existence which has a beginning and an end, and who thinks that that alone does really exist which is of such a character as what he calls [Greek: eidea], and we species), therefore, being shut up in the body, it could not while in the body discover what it knows; but it knew it before, and brought the knowledge with it, so that we are no longer surprised at its extensive and multifarious knowledge. Nor does the soul clearly discover its ideas at its first resort to this abode to which it is so unaccustomed, and which is in so disturbed a state; but after having refreshed and recollected itself, it then by its memory recovers them; and, therefore, to learn implies nothing more than to recollect. But I am in a particular manner surprised at memory. For what is that faculty by which we remember? what is its force? what its nature? I am not inquiring how great a memory Simonides may be said to have had, or Theodectes, or that Cineas who was sent to Rome as ambassador from Pyrrhus; or, in more modern times, Charmadas; or, very lately, Metrodorus the Scepsian, or our own contemporary Hortensius: I am speaking of ordinary memory, and especially of those men who are employed in any important study or art, the great capacity of whose minds it is hard to estimate, such numbers of things do they remember.
Should you ask what this leads to, I think we may understand what that power is, and whence we have it. It certainly proceeds neither from the heart, nor from the blood, nor from the brain, nor from atoms; whether it be air or fire, I know not, nor am I, as those men are, ashamed, in cases where I am ignorant, to own that I am so. If in any other obscure matter I were able to assert anything positively, then I would swear that the soul, be it air or fire, is divine. Just think, I beseech you: can you imagine this wonderful power of memory to be sown in or to be a part of the composition of the earth, or of this dark and gloomy atmosphere? Though you cannot apprehend what it is, yet you see what kind of thing it is, or if you do not quite see that, yet you certainly see how great it is. What, then? Shall we imagine that there is a kind of measure in the soul, into which, as into a vessel, all that we remember is poured? That indeed is absurd; for how shall we form any idea of the bottom, or of the shape or fashion of such a soul as that? And, again, how are we to conceive how much it is able to contain? Shall we imagine the soul to receive impressions like wax, and memory to be marks of the impressions made on the soul? What are the characters of the words, what of the facts themselves? and what, again, is that prodigious greatness which can give rise to impressions of so many things? What, lastly, is that power which investigates secret things, and is called invention and contrivance? Does that man seem to be compounded of this earthly, mortal, and perishing nature who first invented names for everything; which, if you will believe Pythagoras, is the highest pitch of wisdom? or he who collected the dispersed inhabitants of the world, and united them in the bonds of social life? or he who confined the sounds of the voice, which used to seem infinite, to the marks of a few letters? or he who first observed the courses of the planets, their progressive motions, their laws? These were all great men. But they were greater still who invented food, and raiment, and houses; who introduced civilization among us, and armed us against the wild beasts; by whom we were made sociable and polished, and so proceeded from the necessaries of life to its embellishments. For we have provided great entertainments for the ears by inventing and modulating the variety and nature of sounds; we have learned to survey the stars, not only those that are fixed, but also those which are improperly called wandering; and the man who has acquainted himself with all their revolutions and motions is fairly considered to have a soul resembling the soul of that Being who has created those stars in the heavens: for when Archimedes described in a sphere the motions of the moon, sun, and five planets, he did the very same thing as Plato’s God, in his Timaeus, who made the world, causing one revolution to adjust motions differing as much as possible in their slowness and velocity. Now, allowing that what we see in the world could not be effected without a God, Archimedes could not have imitated the same motions in his sphere without a divine soul.
To me, indeed, it appears that even those studies which are more common and in greater esteem are not without some divine energy: so that I do not consider that a poet can produce a serious and sublime poem without some divine impulse working on his mind; nor do I think that eloquence, abounding with sonorous words and fruitful sentences, can flow thus without something beyond mere human power. But as to philosophy, that is the parent of all the arts: what can we call that but, as Plato says, a gift, or, as I express it, an invention, of the Gods? This it was which first taught us the worship of the Gods; and then led us on to justice, which arises from the human race being formed into society; and after that it imbued us with modesty and elevation of soul. This it was which dispersed darkness from our souls, as it is dispelled from our eyes, enabling us to see all things that are above or below, the beginning, end, and middle of everything. I am convinced entirely that that which could effect so many and such great things must be a divine power. For what is memory of words and circumstances? What, too, is invention? Surely they are things than which nothing greater can be conceived in a God! For I do not imagine the Gods to be delighted with nectar and ambrosia, or with Juventas presenting them with a cup; nor do I put any faith in Homer, who says that Ganymede was carried away by the Gods on account of his beauty, in order to give Jupiter his wine. Too weak reasons for doing Laomedon such injury! These were mere inventions of Homer, who gave his Gods the imperfections of men. I would rather that he had given men the perfections of the Gods! those perfections, I mean, of uninterrupted health, wisdom, invention, memory. Therefore the soul (which is, as I say, divine) is, as Euripides more boldly expresses it, a God. And thus, if the divinity be air or fire, the soul of man is the same; for as that celestial nature has nothing earthly or humid about it, in like manner the soul of man is also free from both these qualities: but if it is of that fifth kind of nature, first introduced by Aristotle, then both Gods and souls are of the same.
As this is my opinion, I have explained it in these very words, in my book on Consolation. The origin of the soul of man is not to be found upon earth, for there is nothing in the soul of a mixed or concrete nature, or that has any appearance of being formed or made out of the earth; nothing even humid, or airy, or fiery. For what is there in natures of that kind which has the power of memory, understanding, or thought? which can recollect the past, foresee the future, and comprehend the present? for these capabilities are confined to divine beings; nor can we discover any source from which men could derive them, but from God. There is therefore a peculiar nature and power in the soul, distinct from those natures which are more known and familiar to us. Whatever, then, that is which thinks, and which has understanding, and volition, and a principle of life, is heavenly and divine, and on that account must necessarily be eternal; nor can God himself, who is known to us, be conceived to be anything else except a soul free and unembarrassed, distinct from all mortal concretion, acquainted with everything, and giving motion to everything, and itself endued with perpetual motion.
Of this kind and nature is the intellect of man. Where, then, is this intellect seated, and of what character is it? where is your own, and what is its character? Are you able to tell? If I have not faculties for knowing all that I could desire to know, will you not even allow me to make use of those which I have? The soul has not sufficient capacity to comprehend itself; yet, the soul, like the eye, though it has no distinct view of itself, sees other things: it does not see (which is of least consequence) its own shape; perhaps not, though it possibly may; but we will pass that by: but it certainly sees that it has vigor, sagacity, memory, motion, and velocity; these are all great, divine, eternal properties. What its appearance is, or where it dwells, it is not necessary even to inquire. As when we behold, first of all, the beauty and brilliant appearance of the heavens; secondly, the vast velocity of its revolutions, beyond power of our imagination to conceive; then the vicissitudes of nights and days, the fourfold division of the seasons, so well adapted to the ripening of the fruits of the earth, and the temperature of our bodies: and after that we look up to the sun, the moderator and governor of all these things; and view the moon, by the increase and decrease of its light, marking, as it were, and appointing our holy days; and see the five planets, borne on in the same circle, divided into twelve parts, preserving the same course with the greatest regularity, but with utterly dissimilar motions among themselves; and the nightly appearance of the heaven, adorned on all sides with stars; then, the globe of the earth, raised above the sea, and placed in the center of the universe, inhabited and cultivated in its two opposite extremities, one of which, the place of our habitation, is situated toward the north pole, under the seven stars:
Where the cold northern blasts, with horrid sound,
Harden to ice the snowy cover’d ground;
the other, toward the south pole, is unknown to us, but is called by the Greeks [Greek: antichthona]: the other parts are uncultivated, because they are either frozen with cold, or burned up with heat; but where we dwell, it never fails, in its season,
To yield a placid sky, to bid the trees
Assume the lively verdure of their leaves:
The vine to bud, and, joyful, in its shoots,
Foretell the approaching vintage of its fruits:
The ripen’d corn to sing, while all around
Full riv’lets glide; and flowers deck the ground:
then the multitude of cattle, fit part for food, part for tilling the ground, others for carrying us, or for clothing us; and man himself, made, as it were, on purpose to contemplate the heavens and the Gods, and to pay adoration to them: lastly, the whole earth, and wide extending seas, given to man’s use. When we view these and numberless other things, can we doubt that they have some being who presides over them, or has made them (if, indeed, they have been made, as is the opinion of Plato, or if, as Aristotle thinks, they are eternal), or who at all events is the regulator of so immense a fabric and so great a blessing to men? Thus, though you see not the soul of man, as you see not the Deity, yet, as by the contemplation of his works you are led to acknowledge a God, so you must own the divine power of the soul, from its remembering things, from its invention, from the quickness of its motion, and from all the beauty of virtue. Where, then, is it seated, you will say?
In my opinion, it is seated in the head, and I can bring you reasons for my adopting that opinion. At present, let the soul reside where it will, you certainly have one in you. Should you ask what its nature is? It has one peculiarly its own; but admitting it to consist of fire, or air, it does not affect the present question. Only observe this, that as you are convinced there is a God, though you are ignorant where he resides, and what shape he is of; in like manner you ought to feel assured that you have a soul, though you cannot satisfy yourself of the place of its residence, nor its form. In our knowledge of the soul, unless we are grossly ignorant of natural philosophy, we cannot but be satisfied that it has nothing but what is simple, unmixed, uncompounded, and single; and if this is admitted, then it cannot be separated, nor divided, nor dispersed, nor parted, and therefore it cannot perish; for to perish implies a parting-asunder, a division, a disunion, of those parts which, while it subsisted, were held together by some band. And it was because he was influenced by these and similar reasons that Socrates neither looked out for anybody to plead for him when he was accused, nor begged any favor from his judges, but maintained a manly freedom, which was the effect not of pride, but of the true greatness of his soul; and on the last day of his life he held a long discourse on this subject; and a few days before, when he might have been easily freed from his confinement, he refused to be so; and when he had almost actually hold of that deadly cup, he spoke with the air of a man not forced to die, but ascending into heaven.
For so indeed he thought himself, and thus he spoke: “That there were two ways, and that the souls of men, at their departure from the body, took different roads; for those which were polluted with vices that are common to men, and which had given themselves up entirely to unclean desires, and had become so blinded by them as to have habituated themselves to all manner of debauchery and profligacy, or to have laid detestable schemes for the ruin of their country, took a road wide of that which led to the assembly of the Gods; but they who had preserved themselves upright and chaste, and free from the slightest contagion of the body, and had always kept themselves as far as possible at a distance from it, and while on earth had proposed to themselves as a model the life of the Gods, found the return to those beings from whom they had come an easy one.” Therefore, he argues, that all good and wise men should take example from the swans, who are considered sacred to Apollo, not without reason, but particularly because they seem to have received the gift of divination from him, by which, foreseeing how happy it is to die, they leave this world with singing and joy. Nor can anyone doubt of this, unless it happens to us who think with care and anxiety about the soul (as is often the case with those who look earnestly at the setting sun), to lose the sight of it entirely; and so the mind’s eye, viewing itself, sometimes grows dull, and for that reason we become remiss in our contemplation. Thus our reasoning is borne about, harassed with doubts and anxieties, not knowing how to proceed, but measuring back again those dangerous tracts which it has passed, like a boat tossed about on the boundless ocean. But these reflections are of long standing, and borrowed from the Greeks. But Cato left this world in such a manner as if he were delighted that he had found an opportunity of dying; for that God who presides in us forbids our departure hence without his leave. But when God himself has given us a just cause, as formerly he did to Socrates, and lately to Cato, and often to many others — in such a case, certainly every man of sense would gladly exchange this darkness for that light: not that he would forcibly break from the chains that held him, for that would be against the law; but, like a man released from prison by a magistrate or some lawful authority, so he too would walk away, being released and discharged by God. For the whole life of a philosopher is, as the same philosopher says, a meditation on death.
For what else is it that we do, when we call off our minds from pleasure, that is to say, from our attention to the body, from the managing our domestic estate, which is a sort of handmaid and servant of the body, or from duties of a public nature, or from all other serious business whatever? What else is it, I say, that we do, but invite the soul to reflect on itself? oblige it to converse with itself, and, as far as possible, break off its acquaintance with the body? Now, to separate the soul from the body, is to learn to die, and nothing else whatever. Wherefore take my advice; and let us meditate on this, and separate ourselves as far as possible from the body, that is to say, let us accustom ourselves to die. This will be enjoying a life like that of heaven even while we remain on earth; and when we are carried thither and released from these bonds, our souls will make their progress with more rapidity; for the spirit which has always been fettered by the bonds of the body, even when it is disengaged, advances more slowly, just as those do who have worn actual fetters for many years: but when we have arrived at this emancipation from the bonds of the body, then indeed we shall begin to live, for this present life is really death, which I could say a good deal in lamentation for if I chose.
A. You have lamented it sufficiently in your book on Consolation; and when I read that, there is nothing which I desire more than to leave these things; but that desire is increased a great deal by what I have just heard.
M. The time will come, and that soon, and with equal certainty, whether you hang back or press forward; for time flies. But death is so far from being an evil, as it lately appeared to you, that I am inclined to suspect, not that there is no other thing which is an evil to man, but rather that there is nothing else which is a real good to him; if, at least, it is true that we become thereby either Gods ourselves, or companions of the Gods. However, this is not of so much consequence, as there are some of us here who will not allow this. But I will not leave off discussing this point till I have convinced you that death can, upon no consideration whatever, be an evil.
A. How can it, after what I now know?
M. Do you ask how it can? There are crowds of arguers who contradict this; and those not only Epicureans, whom I regard very little, but, somehow or other, almost every man of letters; and, above all, my favorite Dicæarchus is very strenuous in opposing the immortality of the soul: for he has written three books, which are entitled Lesbiacs, because the discourse was held at Mitylene, in which he seeks to prove that souls are mortal. The Stoics, on the other hand, allow us as long a time for enjoyment as the life of a raven; they allow the soul to exist a great while, but are against its eternity.
Are you willing to hear then why, even allowing this, death cannot be an evil.
A. As you please; but no one shall drive me from my belief in mortality.
M. I commend you, indeed, for that; though we should not be too confident in our belief of anything; for we are frequently disturbed by some subtle conclusion. We give way and change our opinions even in things that are more evident than this; for in this there certainly is some obscurity. Therefore, should anything of this kind happen, it is well to be on our guard.
A. You are right in that; but I will provide against any accident.
M. Have you any objection to our dismissing our friends the Stoics — those, I mean, who allow that the souls exist after they have left the body, but yet deny that they exist forever?
A. We certainly may dismiss the consideration of those men who admit that which is the most difficult point in the whole question, namely, that a soul can exist independently of the body, and yet refuse to grant that which is not only very easy to believe, but which is even the natural consequence of the concession which they have made — that if they can exist for a length of time; they most likely do so forever.
M. You take it right; that is the very thing. Shall we give, therefore, any credit to Pauaestius, when he dissents from his master, Plato? whom he everywhere calls divine, the wisest, the holiest of men, the Homer of philosophers, and whom he opposes in nothing except this single opinion of the soul’s immortality: for he maintains what nobody denies, that everything which has been generated will perish, and that even souls are generated, which he thinks appears from their resemblance to those of the men who begot them; for that likeness is as apparent in the turn of their minds as in their bodies. But he brings another reason — that there is nothing which is sensible of pain which is not also liable to disease; but whatever is liable to disease must be liable to death. The soul is sensible of pain, therefore it is liable to perish.
These arguments may be refuted; for they proceed from his not knowing that, while discussing the subject of the immortality of the soul, he is speaking of the intellect, which is free from all turbid motion; but not of those parts of the mind in which those disorders, anger and lust, have their seat, and which he whom he is opposing, when he argues thus, imagines to be distinct and separate from the mind. Now this resemblance is more remarkable in beasts, whose souls are void of reason. But the likeness in men consists more in the configuration of the bodies: and it is of no little consequence in what bodies the soul is lodged; for there are many things which depend on the body that give an edge to the soul, many which blunt it. Aristotle, indeed, says that all men of great genius are melancholy; so that I should not have been displeased to have been somewhat duller than I am. He instances many, and, as if it were matter of fact, brings his reasons for it. But if the power of those things that proceed from the body be so great as to influence the mind (for they are the things, whatever they are, that occasion this likeness), still that does not necessarily prove why a similitude of souls should be generated. I say nothing about cases of unlikeness. I wish Panaetius could be here: he lived with Africanus. I would inquire of him which of his family the nephew of Africanus’s brother was like? Possibly he may in person have resembled his father; but in his manners he was so like every profligate, abandoned man, that it was impossible to be more so. Whom did the grandson of P. Crassus, that wise and eloquent and most distinguished man, resemble? Or the relations and sons of many other excellent men, whose names there is no occasion to mention? But what are we doing? Have we forgotten that our purpose was, when we had sufficiently spoken on the subject of the immortality of the soul, to prove that, even if the soul did perish, there would be, even then, no evil in death?
A. I remembered it very well; but I had no dislike to your digressing a little from your original design, while you were talking of the soul’s immortality.
M. I perceive you have sublime thoughts, and are eager to mount up to heaven.
I am not without hopes myself that such may be our fate. But admit what they assert — that the soul does not continue to exist after death.
A. Should it be so, I see that we are then deprived of the hopes of a happier life.
M. But what is there of evil in that opinion? For let the soul perish as the body: is there any pain, or indeed any feeling at all, in the body after death? No one, indeed asserts that; though Epicurus charges Democritus with saying so; but the disciples of Democritus deny it. No sense, therefore, remains in the soul; for the soul is nowhere. Where, then, is the evil? for there is nothing but these two things. Is it because the mere separation of the soul and body cannot be effected without pain? But even should that be granted, how small a pain must that be! Yet I think that it is false, and that it is very often unaccompanied by any sensation at all, and sometimes even attended with pleasure; but certainly the whole must be very trifling, whatever it is, for it is instantaneous. What makes us uneasy, or rather gives us pain, is the leaving all the good things of life. But just consider if I might not more properly say, leaving the evils of life; only there is no reason for my now occupying myself in bewailing the life of man, and yet I might, with very good reason. But what occasion is there, when what I am laboring to prove is that no one is miserable after death, to make life more miserable by lamenting over it? I have done that in the book which I wrote, in order to comfort myself as well as I could. If, then, our inquiry is after truth, death withdraws us from evil, not from good. This subject is indeed so copiously handled by Hegesias, the Cyrenaic philosopher, that he is said to have been forbidden by Ptolemy from delivering his lectures in the schools, because some who heard him made away with themselves. There is, too, an epigram of Callimachus on Cleombrotus of Ambracia, who, without any misfortune having befallen him, as he says, threw himself from a wall into the sea, after he had read a book of Plato’s. The book I mentioned of that Hegesias is called [Greek: Apokarterterôn], or “A Man who starves himself,” in which a man is represented as killing himself by starvation, till he is prevented by his friends, in reply to whom he reckons up all the miseries of human life. I might do the same, though not so fully as he, who thinks it not worth any man’s while to live. I pass over others. Was it even worth my while to live, for, had I died before I was deprived of the comforts of my own family, and of the honors which I received for my public services, would not death have taken me from the evils of life rather than from its blessings?
Mention, therefore, some one, who never knew distress; who never received any blow from fortune. The great Metellus had four distinguished sons; but Priam had fifty, seventeen of whom were born to him by his lawful wife. Fortune had the same power over both, though she exercised it but on one; for Metellus was laid on his funeral pile by a great company of sons and daughters, grandsons, and granddaughters; but Priam fell by the hand of an enemy, after having fled to the altar, and having seen himself deprived of all his numerous progeny. Had he died before the death of his sons and the ruin of his kingdom,
With all his mighty wealth elate,
Under rich canopies of state;
would he then have been taken from good or from evil? It would indeed, at that time, have appeared that he was being taken away from good; yet surely it would have turned out advantageous for him; nor should we have had these mournful verses,
Lo! these all perish’d in one flaming pile;
The foe old Priam did of life beguile,
And with his blood, thy altar, Jove, defile.
As if anything better could have happened to him at that time than to lose his life in that manner; but yet, if it had befallen him sooner, it would have prevented all those consequences; but even as it was, it released him from any further sense of them. The case of our friend Pompey was something better: once, when he had been very ill at Naples, the Neapolitans, on his recovery, put crowns on their heads, as did those of Puteoli; the people flocked from the country to congratulate him — it is a Grecian custom, and a foolish one; still it is a sign of good fortune. But the question is, had he died, would he have been taken from good, or from evil? Certainly from evil. He would not have been engaged in a war with his father-in-law; he would not have taken up arms before he was prepared; he would not have left his own house, nor fled from Italy; he would not, after the loss of his army, have fallen unarmed into the hands of slaves, and been put to death by them; his children would not have been destroyed; nor would his whole fortune have come into the possession of the conquerors. Did not he, then, who, if he had died at that time, would have died in all his glory, owe all the great and terrible misfortunes into which he subsequently fell to the prolongation of his life at that time?
These calamities are avoided by death, for even though they should never happen, there is a possibility that they may; but it never occurs to a man that such a disaster may befall him himself. Everyone hopes to be as happy as Metellus: as if the number of the happy exceeded that of the miserable; or as if there were any certainty in human affairs; or, again, as if there were more rational foundation for hope than fear. But should we grant them even this, that men are by death deprived of good things; would it follow that the dead are therefore in need of the good things of life, and are miserable on that account? Certainly they must necessarily say so. Can he who does not exist be in need of anything? To be in need of has a melancholy sound, because it in effect amounts to this — he had, but he has not; he regrets, he looks back upon, he wants. Such are, I suppose, the distresses of one who is in need of. Is he deprived of eyes? to be blind is misery. Is he destitute of children? not to have them is misery. These considerations apply to the living, but the dead are neither in need of the blessings of life, nor of life itself. But when I am speaking of the dead, I am speaking of those who have no existence. But would anyone say of us, who do exist, that we want horns or wings? Certainly not. Should it be asked, why not? the answer would be, that not to have what neither custom nor nature has fitted you for would not imply a want of them, even though you were sensible that you had them not. This argument should be pressed over and over again, after that point has once been established, which, if souls are mortal, there can be no dispute about — I mean, that the destruction of them by death is so entire as to remove even the least suspicion of any sense remaining. When, therefore, this point is once well grounded and established, we must correctly define what the term to want means; that there may be no mistake in the word. To want, then, signifies this: to be without that which you would be glad to have; for inclination for a thing is implied in the word want, excepting when we use the word in an entirely different sense, as we do when we say that a fever is wanting to anyone. For it admits of a different interpretation, when you are without a certain thing, and are sensible that you are without it, but yet can easily dispense with having it. “To want,” then, is an expression which you cannot apply to the dead; nor is the mere fact of wanting something necessarily lamentable. The proper expression ought to be, “that they want a good,” and that is an evil.
But a living man does not want a good, unless he is distressed without it; and yet, we can easily understand how any man alive can be without a kingdom. But this cannot be predicated of you with any accuracy: it might have been asserted of Tarquin, when he was driven from his kingdom. But when such an expression is used respecting the dead, it is absolutely unintelligible. For to want implies to be sensible; but the dead are insensible: therefore, the dead can be in no want.
But what occasion is there to philosophize here in a matter with which we see that philosophy is but little concerned? How often have not only our generals but whole armies, rushed on certain death! But if it had been a thing to be feared, L. Brutus would never have fallen in fight, to prevent the return of that tyrant whom he had expelled; nor would Decius the father have been slain in fighting with the Latins; nor would his son, when engaged with the Etruscans, nor his grandson with Pyrrhus have exposed themselves to the enemy’s darts. Spain would never have seen, in one campaign, the Scipios fall fighting for their country; nor would the plains of Cannae have witnessed the death of Paulus and Geminus, or Venusia that of Marcellus; nor would the Latins have beheld the death of Albinus, nor the Leucanians that of Gracchus. But are any of these miserable now? Nay, they were not so even at the first moment after they had breathed their last; nor can anyone be miserable after he has lost all sensation. Oh, but the mere circumstance of being without sensation is miserable. It might be so if being without sensation were the same thing as wanting it; but as it is evident there can be nothing of any kind in that which has no existence, what can there be afflicting to that which can neither feel want nor be sensible of anything? We might be said to have repeated this over too often, only that here lies all that the soul shudders at from the fear of death. For whoever can clearly apprehend that which is as manifest as the light — that when both soul and body are consumed, and there is a total destruction, then that which was an animal becomes nothing — will clearly see that there is no difference between a Hippocentaur, which never had existence, and King Agamemnon, and that M. Camillus is no more concerned about this present civil war than I was at the sacking of Rome, when he was living.
Why, then, should Camillus be affected with the thoughts of these things happening three hundred and fifty years after his time? And why should I be uneasy it I were to expect that some nation might possess itself of this city ten thousand years hence? Because so great is our regard for our country, as not to be measured by our own feeling, but by its own actual safety.
Death, then, which threatens us daily from a thousand accidents, and which, by reason of the shortness of life, can never be far off, does not deter a wise man from making such provision for his country and his family as he hopes may last forever; and from regarding posterity, of which he can never have any real perception, as belonging to himself. Wherefore a man may act for eternity, even though he be persuaded that his soul is mortal; not, indeed, from a desire of glory, which he will be insensible of, but from a principle of virtue, which glory will inevitably attend, though that is not his object. The process, indeed, of nature is this: that just in the same manner as our birth was the beginning of things with us, so death will be the end; and as we were noways concerned with anything before we were born, so neither shall we be after we are dead. And in this state of things where can the evil be, since death has no connection with either the living or the dead? The one have no existence at all, the other are not yet affected by it. They who make the least of death consider it as having a great resemblance to sleep; as if anyone would choose to live ninety years on condition that, at the expiration of sixty, he should sleep out the remainder. The very swine would not accept of life on those terms, much less I. Endymion, indeed, if you listen to fables, slept once on a time on Latmus, a mountain of Caria, and for such a length of time that I imagine he is not as yet awake. Do you think that he is concerned at the Moon’s being in difficulties, though it was by her that he was thrown into that sleep, in order that she might kiss him while sleeping. For what should he be concerned for who has not even any sensation? You look on sleep as an image of death, and you take that on you daily; and have you, then, any doubt that there is no sensation in death, when you see there is none in sleep, which is its near resemblance?
Away, then, with those follies, which are little better than the old women’s dreams, such as that it is miserable to die before our time. What time do you mean? That of nature? But she has only lent you life, as she might lend you money, without fixing any certain time for its repayment. Have you any grounds of complaint, then, that she recalls it at her pleasure? for you received it on these terms. They that complain thus allow that if a young child dies, the survivors ought to bear his loss with equanimity; that if an infant in the cradle dies, they ought not even to utter a complaint; and yet nature has been more severe with them in demanding back what she gave. They answer by saying that such have not tasted the sweets of life; while the other had begun to conceive hopes of great happiness, and, indeed, had begun to realize them. Men judge better in other things, and allow a part to be preferable to none. Why do they not admit the same estimate in life? Though Callimachus does not speak amiss in saying that more tears had flowed from Priam than his son; yet they are thought happier who die after they have reached old age. It would be hard to say why; for I do not apprehend that anyone, if a longer life were granted to him, would find it happier. There is nothing more agreeable to a man than prudence, which old age most certainly bestows on a man, though it may strip him of everything else. But what age is long, or what is there at all long to a man? Does not
Old age, though unregarded, still attend
On childhood’s pastimes, as the cares of men?
But because there is nothing beyond old age, we call that long: all these things are said to be long or short, according to the proportion of time they were given us for. Artistotle saith there is a kind of insect near the river Hypanis, which runs from a certain part of Europe into the Pontus, whose life consists but of one day; those that die at the eighth hour die in full age; those who die when the sun sets are very old, especially when the days are at the longest. Compare our longest life with eternity, and we shall be found almost as short-lived as those little animals.
Let us, then, despise all these follies — for what softer name can I give to such levities? — and let us lay the foundation of our happiness in the strength and greatness of our minds, in a contempt and disregard of all earthly things, and in the practice of every virtue. For at present we are enervated by the softness of our imaginations, so that, should we leave this world before the promises of our fortune-tellers are made good to us, we should think ourselves deprived of some great advantages, and seem disappointed and forlorn. But if, through life, we are in continual suspense, still expecting, still desiring, and are in continual pain and torture, good Gods! how pleasant must that journey be which ends in security and ease! How pleased am I with Theramenes! Of how exalted a soul does he appear! For, although we never read of him without tears, yet that illustrious man is not to be lamented in his death, who, when he had been imprisoned by the command of the thirty tyrants, drank off, at one draught, as if he had been thirsty, the poisoned cup, and threw the remainder out of it with such force that it sounded as it fell; and then, on hearing the sound of the drops, he said, with a smile, “I drink this to the most excellent Critias,” who had been his most bitter enemy; for it is customary among the Greeks, at their banquets, to name the person to whom they intend to deliver the cup. This celebrated man was pleasant to the last, even when he had received the poison into his bowels, and truly foretold the death of that man whom he named when he drank the poison, and that death soon followed. Who that thinks death an evil could approve of the evenness of temper in this great man at the instant of dying? Socrates came, a few years after, to the same prison and the same cup by as great iniquity on the part of his judges as the tyrants displayed when they executed Theramenes. What a speech is that which Plato makes him deliver before his judges, after they had condemned him to death!
“I am not without hopes, O judges, that it is a favorable circumstance for me that I am condemned to die; for one of these two things must necessarily happen — either that death will deprive me entirely of all sense, or else that, by dying, I shall go from hence into some other place; wherefore, if all sense is utterly extinguished, and if death is like that sleep which sometimes is so undisturbed as to be even without the visions of dreams — in that case, O ye good Gods! what gain is it to die? or what length of days can be imagined which would be preferable to such a night? And if the constant course of future time is to resemble that night, who is happier than I am? But if on the other hand, what is said be true, namely, that death is but a removal to those regions where the souls of the departed dwell, then that state must be more happy still to have escaped from those who call themselves judges, and to appear before such as are truly so — Minos, Rhadamanthus, Aeacus, Triptolemus — and to meet with those who have lived with justice and probity! Can this change of abode appear otherwise than great to you? What bounds can you set to the value of conversing with Orpheus, and Musaeus, and Homer, and Hesiod? I would even, were it possible, willingly die often, in order to prove the certainty of what I speak of. What delight must it be to meet with Palamedes, and Ajax, and others, who have been betrayed by the iniquity of their judges! Then, also, should I experience the wisdom of even that king of kings, who led his vast troops to Troy, and the prudence of Ulysses and Sisyphus: nor should I then be condemned for prosecuting my inquiries on such subjects in the same way in which I have done here on earth. And even you, my judges, you, I mean, who have voted for my acquittal, do not you fear death, for nothing bad can befall a good man, whether he be alive or dead; nor are his concerns ever overlooked by the Gods; nor in my case either has this befallen me by chance; and I have nothing to charge those men with who accused or condemned me but the fact that they believed that they were doing me harm.” In this manner he proceeded. There is no part of his speech which I admire more than his last words: “But it is time,” says he, “for me now to go hence, that I may die; and for you, that you may continue to live. Which condition of the two is the best, the immortal Gods know; but I do not believe that any mortal man does.”
Surely I would rather have had this man’s soul than all the fortunes of those who sat in judgment on him; although that very thing which he says no one except the Gods know, namely, whether life or death is most preferable, he knows himself, for he had previously stated his opinion on it; but he maintained to the last that favorite maxim of his, of affirming nothing. And let us, too, adhere to this rule of not thinking anything an evil which is a general provision of nature; and let us assure ourselves, that if death is an evil, it is an eternal evil, for death seems to be the end of a miserable life; but if death is a misery, there can be no end of that. But why do I mention Socrates, or Theramenes, men distinguished by the glory of virtue and wisdom? when a certain Lacedaemomian, whose name is not so much as known, held death in such contempt, that, when led to it by the ephori, he bore a cheerful and pleasant countenance; and, when he was asked by one of his enemies whether he despised the laws of Lycurgus, “On the contrary,” answered he, “I am greatly obliged to him, for he has amerced me in a fine which I can pay without borrowing, or taking up money at interest.” This was a man worthy of Sparta. And I am almost persuaded of his innocence because of the greatness of his soul. Our own city has produced many such. But why should I name generals, and other men of high rank, when Cato could write that legions have marched with alacrity to that place whence they never expected to return? With no less greatness of soul fell the Lacedaemonians at Thermopylae, on whom Simonides wrote the following epitaph:
Go, stranger, tell the Spartans, here we lie,
Who to support their laws durst boldly die.
What was it that Leonidas, their general, said to them? “March on with courage, my Lacedaemonians. Tonight, perhaps, we shall sup in the regions below.” This was a brave nation while the laws of Lycurgus were in force. One of them, when a Persian had said to him in conversation, “We shall hide the sun from your sight by the number of our arrows and darts,” replied, “We shall fight, then in the shade.” Do I talk of their men? How great was that Lacedaemonian woman, who had sent her son to battle, and when she heard that he was slain, said, “I bore him for that purpose, that you might have a man who durst die for his country!” However, it is a matter of notoriety that the Spartans were bold and hardy, for the discipline of a republic has great influence.
What, then, have we not reason to admire Theodorus the Cyrenean, a philosopher of no small distinction, who, when Lysimachus threatened to crucify him, bade him keep those menaces for his courtiers? “To Theodorus it makes no difference whether he rot in the air or underground.” By which saying of the philosopher I am reminded to say something of the custom of funerals and sepulture, and of funeral ceremonies, which is, indeed, not a difficult subject, especially if we recollect what has been before said about insensibility. The opinion of Socrates respecting this matter is clearly stated in the book which treats of his death, of which we have already said so much; for when he had discussed the immortality of the soul, and when the time of his dying was approaching rapidly, being asked by Criton how he would be buried, “I have taken a great deal of pains,” saith he, “my friends, to no purpose, for I have not convinced our Criton that I shall fly from hence, and leave no part of me behind. Notwithstanding, Criton, if you can overtake me, wheresoever you get hold of me, bury me as you please: but believe me, none of you will be able to catch me when I have flown away from hence.” That was excellently said, inasmuch as he allows his friend to do as he pleased, and yet shows his indifference about anything of this kind. Diogenes was rougher, though of the same opinion; but in his character of a Cynic he expressed himself in a somewhat harsher manner; he ordered himself to be thrown anywhere without being buried. And when his friends replied, “What! to the birds and beasts?” “By no means,” saith he; “place my staff near me, that I may drive them away.” “How can you do that,” they answer, “for you will not perceive them?” “How am I then injured by being torn by those animals, if I have no sensation?” Anaxagoras, when he was at the point of death at Lampsacus, and was asked by his friends, whether, if anything should happen to him, he would not choose to be carried to Clazomenae, his country, made this excellent answer, “There is,” says he, “no occasion for that, for all places are at an equal distance from the infernal regions.” There is one thing to be observed with respect to the whole subject of burial, that it relates to the body, whether the soul live or die. Now, with regard to the body, it is clear that, whether the soul live or die, that has no sensation.
But all things are full of errors. Achilles drags Hector, tied to his chariot; he thinks, I suppose, he tears his flesh, and that Hector feels the pain of it; therefore, he avenges himself on him, as he imagines. But Hecuba bewails this as a sore misfortune:
I saw (a dreadful sight) great Hector slain,
Dragg’d at Achilles’ car along the plain.
What Hector? or how long will he be Hector? Accius is better in this, and Achilles, too, is sometimes reasonable:
I Hector’s body to his sire convey’d,
Hector I sent to the infernal shade.
It was not Hector that you dragged along, but a body that had been Hector’s. Here another starts from underground, and will not suffer his mother to sleep:
To thee I call, my once-loved parent, hear,
Nor longer with thy sleep relieve thy care;
Thine eye which pities not is closed — arise;
Ling’ring I wait the unpaid obsequies.
When these verses are sung with a slow and melancholy tune, so as to affect the whole theater with sadness, one can scarce help thinking those unhappy that are unburied:
Ere the devouring dogs and hungry vultures …
He is afraid he shall not have the use of his limbs so well if they are torn to pieces, but is under no such apprehensions if they are burned:
Nor leave my naked bones, my poor remains,
To shameful violence and bloody stains.
I do not understand what he could fear who could pour forth such excellent verses to the sound of the flute. We must, therefore, adhere to this, that nothing is to be regarded after we are dead, though many people revenge themselves on their dead enemies. Thyestes pours forth several curses in some good lines of Ennius, praying, first of all, that Atreus may perish by a shipwreck, which is certainly a very terrible thing, for such a death is not free from very grievous sensations. Then follow these unmeaning expressions:
On the sharp rock his mangled carcass lie,
His entrails torn, to hungry birds a prey!
May he convulsive writhe his bleeding side,
And with his clotted gore the stones be dyed!
The rocks themselves were not more destitute of feeling than he who was hanging to them by his side; though Thyestes imagines he is wishing him the greatest torture. It would be torture, indeed, if he were sensible; but as he is not, it can be none; then how very unmeaning is this:
Let him, still hovering o’er the Stygian wave,
Ne’er reach the body’s peaceful port, the grave!
You see under what mistaken notions all this is said. He imagines the body has its haven, and that the dead are at rest in their graves. Pelops was greatly to blame in not having informed and taught his son what regard was due to everything.
But what occasion is there to criticize the opinions of individuals, when we may observe whole nations to fall into all sorts of errors? The Egyptians embalm their dead, and keep them in their houses; the Persians dress them over with wax, and then bury them, that they may preserve their bodies as long as possible. It is customary with the Magi to bury none of their order, unless they have been first torn by wild beasts. In Hyrcania, the people maintain dogs for the public use; the nobles have their own — and we know that they have a good breed of dogs; but everyone, according to his ability, provides himself with some, in order to be torn by them; and they hold that to be the best kind of interment. Chrysippus, who is curious in all kinds of historical facts, has collected many other things of this kind; but some of them are so offensive as not to admit of being related. All that has been said of burying is not worth our regard with respect to ourselves, though it is not to be neglected as to our friends, provided we are thoroughly aware that the dead are insensible. But the living, indeed, should consider what is due to custom and opinion; only they should at the same time consider that the dead are noways interested in it. But death truly is then met with the greatest tranquility when the dying man can comfort himself with his own praise. No one dies too soon who has finished the course of perfect virtue. I myself have known many occasions when I have seemed in danger of immediate death; oh! how I wish it had come to me! for I have gained nothing by the delay. I had gone over and over again the duties of life; nothing remained but to contend with fortune. If reason, then, cannot sufficiently fortify us to enable us to feel a contempt for death, at all events let our past life prove that we have lived long enough, and even longer than was necessary; for notwithstanding the deprivation of sense, the dead are not without that good which peculiarly belongs to them, namely, the praise and glory which they have acquired, even though they are not sensible of it. For although there be nothing in glory to make it desirable, yet it follows virtue as its shadow; and the genuine judgment of the multitude on good men, if ever they form any, is more to their own praise than of any real advantage to the dead. Yet I cannot say, however it may be received, that Lycurgus and Solon have no glory from their laws, and from the political constitution which they established in their country; or that Themistocles and Epaminondas have not glory from their martial virtue.
For Neptune shall sooner bury Salamis itself with his waters than the memory of the trophies gained there; and the Boeotian Leuctra shall perish sooner than the glory of that great battle. And longer still shall fame be before it deserts Curius, and Fabricius, and Calatinus, and the two Scipios, and the two Africani, and Maximus, and Marcellus, and Paulus, and Cato, and Laelius, and numberless other heroes; and whoever has caught any resemblance of them, not estimating it by common fame, but by the real applause of good men, may with confidence, when the occasion requires, approach death, on which we are sure that even if the chief good is not continued, at least no evil is. Such a man would even wish to die while in prosperity; for all the favors that could be heaped on him would not be so agreeable to him as the loss of them would be painful. That speech of the Lacedaemonian seems to have the same meaning, who, when Diagoras the Rhodian, who had himself been a conqueror at the Olympic games, saw two of his own sons conquerors there on the same day, approached the old man, and, congratulating him, said, “You should die now, Diagoras, for no greater happiness can possibly await you.” The Greeks look on these as great things; perhaps they think too highly of them, or, rather, they did so then. And so he who said this to Diagoras, looking on it as something very glorious, that three men out of one family should have been conquerors there, thought it could answer no purpose to him to continue any longer in life, where he could only be exposed to a reverse of fortune.
I might have given you a sufficient answer, as it seems to me, on this point, in a few words, as you had allowed the dead were not exposed to any positive evil; but I have spoken at greater length on the subject for this reason, because this is our greatest consolation in the losing and bewailing of our friends. For we ought to bear with moderation any grief which arises from ourselves, or is endured on our own account, lest we should seem to be too much influenced by self-love. But should we suspect our departed friends to be under those evils, which they are generally imagined to be, and to be sensible of them, then such a suspicion would give us intolerable pain; and accordingly I wished, for my own sake, to pluck up this opinion by the roots, and on that account I have been perhaps somewhat more prolix than was necessary.
A. More prolix than was necessary? Certainty not, in my opinion. For I was induced, by the former part of your speech, to wish to die; but, by the latter, sometimes not to be unwilling, and at others to be wholly indifferent about it. But the effect of your whole argument is, that I am convinced that death ought not to be classed among the evils.
M. Do you, then, expect that I am to give you a regular peroration, like the rhetoricians, or shall I forego that art?
A. I would not have you give over an art which you have set off to such advantage; and you were in the right to do so, for, to speak the truth, it also has set you off. But what is that peroration? For I should be glad to hear it, whatever it is.
M. It is customary, in the schools, to produce the opinions of the immortal Gods on death; nor are these opinions the fruits of the imagination alone of the lecturers, but they have the authority of Herodotus and many others. Cleobis and Biton are the first they mention, sons of the Argive priestess; the story is a well-known one. As it was necessary that she should be drawn in a chariot to a certain annual sacrifice, which was solemnized at a temple some considerable distance from the town, and the cattle that were to draw the chariot had not arrived, those two young men whom I have just mentioned, pulling off their garments, and anointing their bodies with oil, harnessed themselves to the yoke. And in this manner the priestess was conveyed to the temple; and when the chariot had arrived at the proper place, she is said to have entreated the Goddess to bestow on them, as a reward for their piety, the greatest gift that a God could confer on man. And the young men, after having feasted with their mother, fell asleep; and in the morning they were found dead. Trophonius and Agamedes are said to have put up the same petition, for they, having built a temple to Apollo at Delphi, offered supplications to the God, and desired of him some extraordinary reward for their care and labor, particularizing nothing, but asking for whatever was best for men. Accordingly, Apollo signified to them that he would bestow it on them in three days, and on the third day at daybreak they were found dead. And so they say that this was a formal decision pronounced by that God to whom the rest of the deities have assigned the province of divining with an accuracy superior to that of all the rest.
There is also a story told of Silenus, who, when taken prisoner by Midas, is said to have made him this present for his ransom — namely, that he informed him that never to have been born was by far the greatest blessing that could happen to man; and that the next best thing was to die very soon; which very opinion Euripides makes use of in his Cresphontes, saying,
When man is born, ‘tis fit, with solemn show,
We speak our sense of his approaching woe;
With other gestures and a different eye,
Proclaim our pleasure when he’s bid to die.
There is something like this in Crantor’s Consolation; for he says that Terinaesus of Elysia, when he was bitterly lamenting the loss of his son, came to a place of divination to be informed why he was visited with so great affliction, and received in his tablet these three verses:
Thou fool, to murmur at Euthynous’ death!
The blooming youth to fate resigns his breath:
The fate, whereon your happiness depends,
At once the parent and the son befriends.
On these and similar authorities they affirm that the question has been determined by the Gods. Nay, more; Alcidamas, an ancient rhetorician of the very highest reputation, wrote even in praise of death, which he endeavored to establish by an enumeration of the evils of life; and his Dissertation has a great deal of eloquence in it; but he was unacquainted with the more refined arguments of the philosophers. By the orators, indeed, to die for our country is always considered not only as glorious, but even as happy: they go back as far as Erechtheus, whose very daughters underwent death, for the safety of their fellow-citizens: they instance Codrus, who threw himself into the midst of his enemies, dressed like a common man, that his royal robes might not betray him, because the oracle had declared the Athenians conquerors, if their king was slain. Menoeceus is not overlooked by them, who, in compliance with the injunctions of an oracle, freely shed his blood for his country. Iphigenia ordered herself to be conveyed to Aulis, to be sacrificed, that her blood might be the cause of spilling that of her enemies.
From hence they proceed to instances of a fresher date. Harmodius and Aristogiton are in everybody’s mouth; the memory of Leonidas the Lacedaemonian and Epaminondas the Theban is as fresh as ever. Those philosophers were not acquainted with the many instances in our country — to give a list of whom would take up too much time — who, we see, considered death desirable as long as it was accompanied with honor. But, notwithstanding this is the correct view of the case, we must use much persuasion, speak as if we were endued with some higher authority, in order to bring men to begin to wish to die, or cease to be afraid of death. For if that last day does not occasion an entire extinction, but a change of abode only, what can be more desirable? And if it, on the other hand, destroys, and absolutely puts an end to us, what can be preferable to the having a deep sleep fall on us, in the midst of the fatigues of life, and being thus overtaken, to sleep to eternity? And, should this really be the case, then Ennius’s language is more consistent with wisdom than Solon’s; for our Ennius says,
Let none bestow upon my passing bier
One needless sigh or unavailing tear.
But the wise Solon says,
Let me not unlamented die, but o’er my bier
Burst forth the tender sigh, the friendly tear.
But let us, if indeed it should be our fate to know the time which is appointed by the Gods for us to die, prepare ourselves for it with a cheerful and grateful mind, thinking ourselves like men who are delivered from a jail, and released from their fetters, for the purpose of going back to our eternal habitation, which may be more emphatically called our own; or else to be divested of all sense and trouble. If, on the other hand, we should have no notice given us of this decree, yet let us cultivate such a disposition as to look on that formidable hour of death as happy for us, though shocking to our friends; and let us never imagine anything to be an evil which is an appointment of the immortal Gods, or of nature, the common parent of all. For it is not by hazard or without design that we have been born and situated as we have. On the contrary, beyond all doubt there is a certain power which consults the happiness of human nature; and this would neither have produced nor provided for a being which, after having gone through the labors of life, was to fall into eternal misery by death. Let us rather infer that we have a retreat and haven prepared for us, which I wish we could crowd all sail and arrive at; but though the winds should not serve, and we should be driven back, yet we shall to a certainty arrive at that point eventually, though somewhat later. But how can that be miserable for one which all must of necessity undergo? I have given you a peroration, that you might not think I had overlooked or neglected anything.
A. I am persuaded you have not; and, indeed, that peroration has confirmed me.
M. I am glad it has had that effect. But it is now time to consult our health. Tomorrow, and all the time we continue in this Tusculan villa, let us consider this subject; and especially those portions of it which may ease our pain, alleviate our fears, and lessen our desires, which is the greatest advantage we can reap from the whole of philosophy.
Neoptolemus, in Ennius, indeed, says that the study of philosophy was expedient for him; but that it required limiting to a few subjects, for that to give himself up entirely to it was what he did not approve of. And for my part, Brutus, I am perfectly persuaded that it is expedient for me to philosophize; for what can I do better, especially as I have no regular occupation? But I am not for limiting my philosophy to a few subjects, as he does; for philosophy is a matter in which it is difficult to acquire a little knowledge without acquainting yourself with many, or all its branches, nor can you well take a few subjects without selecting them out of a great number; nor can anyone, who has acquired the knowledge of a few points, avoid endeavoring with the same eagerness to understand more. But still, in a busy life, and in one mainly occupied with military matters, such as that of Neoptolemus was at that time, even that limited degree of acquaintance with philosophy may be of great use, and may yield fruit, not perhaps so plentiful as a thorough knowledge of the whole of philosophy, but yet such as in some degree may at times deliver us from the dominion of our desires, our sorrows, and our fears; just as the effect of that discussion which we lately maintained in my Tusculan villa seemed to be that a great contempt of death was engendered, which contempt is of no small efficacy toward delivering the mind from fear; for whoever dreads what cannot be avoided can by no means live with a quiet and tranquil mind. But he who is under no fear of death, not only because it is a thing absolutely inevitable but also because he is persuaded that death itself hath nothing terrible in it, provides himself with a very great resource toward a happy life. However, I am not tolerant that many will argue strenuously against us; and, indeed, that is a thing which can never be avoided, except by abstaining from writing at all. For if my Orations, which were addressed to the judgment and approbation of the people (for that is a popular art, and the object of oratory is popular applause), have been criticised by some people who are inclined to withhold their praise from everything but what they are persuaded they can attain to themselves, and who limit their ideas of good speaking by the hopes which they conceive of what they themselves may attain to, and who declare, when they are overwhelmed with a flow of words and sentences, that they prefer the utmost poverty of thought and expression to that plenty and copiousness (from which arose the Attic kind of oratory, which they who professed it were strangers to, though they have now been some time silenced, and laughed out of the very courts of justice), what may I not expect, when at present I cannot have the least countenance from the people by whom I used to be upheld before? For philosophy is satisfied with a few judges, and of her own accord industriously avoids the multitude, who are jealous of it, and utterly displeased with it; so that, should anyone undertake to cry down the whole of it, he would have the people on his side; while, if he should attack that school which I particularly profess, he would have great assistance from those of the other philosophers.
But I have answered the detractors of philosophy in general, in my Hortensius. And what I had to say in favor of the Academics, is, I think, explained with sufficient accuracy in my four books of the Academic Question.
But yet I am so far from desiring that no one should write against me, that it is what I most earnestly wish; for philosophy would never have been in such esteem in Greece itself, if it had not been for the strength which it acquired from the contentions and disputations of the most learned men; and therefore I recommend all men who have abilities to follow my advice to snatch this art also from declining Greece, and to transport it to this city; as our ancestors by their study and industry have imported all their other arts which were worth having. Thus the praise of oratory, raised from a low degree, is arrived at such perfection that it must now decline, and, as is the nature of all things, verge to its dissolution in a very short time. Let philosophy, then, derive its birth in Latin language from this time, and let us lend it our assistance, and bear patiently to be contradicted and refuted; and although those men may dislike such treatment who are bound and devoted to certain predetermined opinions, and are under such obligations to maintain them that they are forced, for the sake of consistency, to adhere to them even though they do not themselves wholly approve of them; we, on the other hand, who pursue only probabilities, and who cannot go beyond that which seems really likely, can confute others without obstinacy, and are prepared to be confuted ourselves without resentment. Besides, if these studies are ever brought home to us, we shall not want even Greek libraries, in which there is an infinite number of books, by reason of the multitude of authors among them; for it is a common practice with many to repeat the same things which have been written by others, which serves no purpose but to stuff their shelves; and this will be our case, too, if many apply themselves to this study.
But let us excite those, if possible, who have had a liberal education, and are masters of an elegant style, and who philosophize with reason and method.
For there is a certain class of them who would willingly be called philosophers, whose books in our language are said to be numerous, and which I do not despise; for, indeed, I never read them: but still, because the authors themselves declare that they write without any regularity, or method, or elegance, or ornament, I do not care to read what must be so void of entertainment. There is no one in the least acquainted with literature who does not know the style and sentiments of that school; wherefore, since they are at no pains to express themselves well, I do not see why they should be read by anybody except by one another. Let them read them, if they please, who are of the same opinions; for in the same manner as all men read Plato and the other Socratics, with those who sprung from them, even those who do not agree with their opinions, or are very indifferent about them; but scarcely anyone except their own disciples take Epicurus or Metrodorus into their hands; so they alone read these Latin books who think that the arguments contained in them are sound. But, in my opinion, whatever is published should be recommended to the reading of every man of learning; and though we may not succeed in this ourselves, yet nevertheless we must be sensible that this ought to be the aim of every writer. And on this account I have always been pleased with the custom of the Peripatetics and Academics, of disputing on both sides of the question; not solely from its being the only method of discovering what is probable on every subject, but also because it affords the greatest scope for practicing eloquence; a method that Aristotle first made use of, and afterward all the Aristotelians; and in our own memory Plilo, whom we have often heard, appointed one time to treat of the precepts of the rhetoricians, and another for philosophical discussion, to which custom I was brought to conform by my friends at my Tusculum; and accordingly our leisure time was spent in this manner. And therefore, as yesterday before noon we applied ourselves to speaking, and in the afternoon went down into the Academy, the discussions which were held there I have acquainted you with, not in the manner of a narration, but in almost the very same words which were employed in the debate.
The discourse, then, was introduced in this manner while we were walking, and it was commenced by some such an opening as this:
A. It is not to be expressed how much I was delighted, or rather edified, by your discourse of yesterday. For although I am conscious to myself that I have never been too fond of life, yet at times, when I have considered that there would be an end to this life, and that I must some time or other part with all its good things, a certain dread and uneasiness used to intrude itself on my thoughts; but now, believe me, I am so freed from that kind of uneasiness that there is nothing that I think less worth any regard.
M. I am not at all surprised at that, for it is the effect of philosophy, which is the medicine of our souls; it banishes all groundless apprehensions, frees us from desires, and drives away fears: but it has not the same influence over all men; it is of very great influence when it falls in with a disposition well adapted to it. For not only does Fortune, as the old proverb says, assist the bold, but reason does so in a still greater degree; for it, by certain precepts, as it were, strengthens even courage itself. You were born naturally great and soaring, and with a contempt for all things which pertain to man alone; therefore a discourse against death took easy possession of a brave soul. But do you imagine that these same arguments have any force with those very persons who have invented, and canvassed, and published them, excepting indeed some very few particular persons? For how few philosophers will you meet with whose life and manners are conformable to the dictates of reason! who look on their profession, not as a means of displaying their learning, but as a rule for their own practice! who follow their own precepts, and comply with their own decrees! You may see some of such levity and such vanity, that it would have been better for them to have been ignorant; some covetous of money, some others eager for glory, many slaves to their lusts; so that their discourses and their actions are most strangely at variance; than which nothing in my opinion can be more unbecoming: for just as if one who professed to teach grammar should speak with impropriety, or a master of music sing out of tune, such conduct has the worst appearance in these men, because they blunder in the very particular with which they profess that they are well acquainted. So a philosopher who errs in the conduct of his life is the more infamous because he is erring in the very thing which he pretends to teach, and, while he lays down rules to regulate life by, is irregular in his own life.
A. Should this be the case, is it not to be feared that you are dressing up philosophy in false colors? For what stronger argument can there be that it is of little use than that some very profound philosophers live in a discreditable manner?
M. That, indeed, is no argument at all, for as all the fields which are cultivated are not fruitful (and this sentiment of Accius is false, and asserted without any foundation,
The ground you sow on is of small avail;
To yield a crop good seed can never fail),
it is not every mind which has been properly cultivated that produces fruit; and, to go on with the comparison, as a field, although it may be naturally fruitful, cannot produce a crop without dressing, so neither can the mind without education; such is the weakness of either without the other. Whereas philosophy is the culture of the mind: this it is which plucks up vices by the roots; prepares the mind for the receiving of seeds; commits them to it, or, as I may say, sows them, in the hope that, when come to maturity, they may produce a plentiful harvest. Let us proceed, then, as we began. Say, if you please, what shall be the subject of our disputation.
A. I look on pain to be the greatest of all evils.
M. What, even greater than infamy?
A. I dare not indeed assert that; and I blush to think I am so soon driven from my ground.
M. You would have had greater reason for blushing had you persevered in it; for what is so unbecoming — what can appear worse to you, than disgrace, wickedness, immorality? To avoid which, what pain is there which we ought not (I will not say to avoid shirking, but even) of our own accord to encounter, and undergo, and even to court?
A. I am entirely of that opinion; but, notwithstanding that pain is not the greatest evil, yet surely it is an evil.
M. Do you perceive, then, how much of the terror of pain you have given up on a small hint?
A. I see that plainly; but I should be glad to give up more of it.
M. I will endeavor to make you do so; but it is a great undertaking, and I must have a disposition on your part which is not inclined to offer any obstacles.
A. You shall have such: for as I behaved yesterday, so now I will follow reason wherever she leads.
M. First, then, I will speak of the weakness of many philosophers, and those, too, of various sects; the head of whom, both in authority and antiquity, was Aristippus, the pupil of Socrates, who hesitated not to say that pain was the greatest of all evils. And after him Epicurus easily gave in to this effeminate and enervated doctrine. After him Hieronymus the Rhodian said, that to be without pain was the chief good, so great an evil did pain appear to him to be. The rest, with the exceptions of Zeno, Aristo, Pyrrho, were pretty much of the same opinion that you were of just now — that it was indeed an evil, but that there were many worse. When, then, nature herself, and a certain generous feeling of virtue, at once prevents you from persisting in the assertion that pain is the chief evil, and when you were driven from such an opinion when disgrace was contrasted with pain, shall philosophy, the preceptress of life, cling to this idea for so many ages? What duty of life, what praise, what reputation, would be of such consequence that a man should be desirous of gaining it at the expense of submitting to bodily pain, when he has persuaded himself that pain is the greatest evil? On the other side, what disgrace, what ignominy, would he not submit to that he might avoid pain, when persuaded that it was the greatest of evils? Besides, what person, if it be only true that pain is the greatest of evils, is not miserable, not only when he actually feels pain, but also whenever he is aware that it may befall him. And who is there whom pain may not befall? So that it is clear that there is absolutely no one who can possibly be happy. Metrodorus, indeed, thinks that man perfectly happy whose body is free from all disorders, and who has an assurance that it will always continue so; but who is there who can be assured of that?
But Epicurus, indeed, says such things that it should seem that his design was only to make people laugh; for he affirms somewhere that if a wise man were to be burned or put to the torture — you expect, perhaps, that he is going to say he would bear it, he would support himself under it with resolution, he would not yield to it (and that by Hercules! would be very commendable, and worthy of that very Hercules whom I have just invoked): but even this will not satisfy Epicurus, that robust and hardy man! No; his wise man, even if he were in Phalaris’s bull, would say, How sweet it is! how little do I regard it! What, sweet? Is it not sufficient, if it is not disagreeable? But those very men who deny pain to be an evil are not in the habit of saying that it is agreeable to anyone to be tormented; they rather say that it is cruel, or hard to bear, afflicting, unnatural, but still not an evil: while this man who says that it is the only evil, and the very worst of all evils, yet thinks that a wise man would pronounce it sweet. I do not require of you to speak of pain in the same words which Epicurus uses — a man, as you know, devoted to pleasure: he may make no difference, if he pleases, between Phalaris’s bull and his own bed; but I cannot allow the wise man to be so indifferent about pain. If he bears it with courage, it is sufficient: that he should rejoice in it, I do not expect; for pain is, beyond all question, sharp, bitter, against nature, hard to submit to and to bear. Observe Philoctetes: We may allow him to lament, for he saw Hercules himself groaning loudly through extremity of pain on Mount Oeta. The arrows with which Hercules presented him were then no consolation to him, when
The viper’s bite, impregnating his veins
With poison, rack’d him with its bitter pains.
And therefore he cries out, desiring help, and wishing to die,
Oh that some friendly hand its aid would lend,
My body from this rock’s vast height to send
Into the briny deep! I’m all on fire,
And by this fatal wound must soon expire.
It is hard to say that the man who was obliged to cry out in this manner was not oppressed with evil, and great evil too.
But let us observe Hercules himself, who was subdued by pain at the very time when he was on the point of attaining immortality by death. What words does Sophocles here put in his mouth, in his Trachiniae? who, when Deianira had put upon him a tunic dyed in the centaur’s blood, and it stuck to his entrails, says,
What tortures I endure no words can tell,
Far greater these, than those which erst befell
From the dire terror of thy consort, Jove —
E’en stern Eurystheus’ dire command above;
This of thy daughter, Oeneus, is the fruit,
Beguiling me with her envenom’d suit,
Whose close embrace doth on my entrails prey,
Consuming life; my lungs forbid to play;
The blood forsakes my veins; my manly heart
Forgets to beat; enervated, each part
Neglects its office, while my fatal doom
Proceeds ignobly from the weaver’s loom.
The hand of foe ne’er hurt me, nor the fierce
Giant issuing from his parent earth.
Ne’er could the Centaur such a blow enforce,
No barbarous foe, nor all the Grecian force;
This arm no savage people could withstand,
Whose realms I traversed to reform the land.
Thus, though I ever bore a manly heart,
I fall a victim to a woman’s art.
Assist, my son, if thou that name dost hear,
My groans preferring to thy mother’s tear:
Convey her here, if, in thy pious heart,
Thy mother shares not an unequal part:
Proceed, be bold, thy father’s fate bemoan,
Nations will join, you will not weep alone.
Oh, what a sight is this same briny source,
Unknown before, through all my labors’ course!
That virtue, which could brave each toil but late,
With woman’s weakness now bewails its fate.
Approach, my son; behold thy father laid,
A wither’d carcass that implores thy aid;
Let all behold: and thou, imperious Jove,
On me direct thy lightning from above:
Now all its force the poison doth assume,
And my burnt entrails with its flame consume.
Crestfallen, unembraced, I now let fall
Listless, those hands that lately conquer’d all;
When the Nemaean lion own’d their force,
And he indignant fell a breathless corse;
The serpent slew, of the Lernean lake,
As did the Hydra of its force partake:
By this, too, fell the Erymanthian boar:
E’en Cerberus did his weak strength deplore.
This sinewy arm did overcome with ease
That dragon, guardian of the Golden Fleece.
My many conquests let some others trace;
It’s mine to say, I never knew disgrace.
Can we then, despise pain, when we see Hercules himself giving vent to his expressions of agony with such impatience?
Let us see what Aeschylus says, who was not only a poet but a Pythagorean philosopher also, for that is the account which you have received of him; how doth he make Prometheus bear the pain he suffered for the Lemnian theft, when he clandestinely stole away the celestial fire, and bestowed it on men, and was severely punished by Jupiter for the theft. Fastened to Mount Caucasus, he speaks thus:
Thou heav’n-born race of Titans here fast bound,
Behold thy brother! As the sailors sound
With care the bottom, and their ships confine
To some safe shore, with anchor and with line;
So, by Jove’s dread decree, the God of fire
Confines me here the victim of Jove’s ire.
With baneful art his dire machine he shapes;
From such a God what mortal e’er escapes?
When each third day shall triumph o’er the night,
Then doth the vulture, with his talons light,
Seize on my entrails; which, in rav’nous guise,
He preys on! then with wing extended flies
Aloft, and brushes with his plumes the gore:
But when dire Jove my liver doth restore,
Back he returns impetuous to his prey,
Clapping his wings, he cuts th’ ethereal way.
Thus do I nourish with my blood this pest,
Confined my arms, unable to contest;
Entreating only that in pity Jove
Would take my life, and this cursed plague remove.
But endless ages past unheard my moan,
Sooner shall drops dissolve this very stone.
And therefore it scarcely seems possible to avoid calling a man who is suffering, miserable; and if he is miserable, then pain is an evil.
A. Hitherto you are on my side; I will see to that by-and-by; and, in the meanwhile, whence are those verses? I do not remember them.
M. I will inform you, for you are in the right to ask. Do you see that I have much leisure?
A. What, then?
M. I imagine, when you were at Athens, you attended frequently at the schools of the philosophers.
A. Yes, and with great pleasure.
M. You observed, then, that though none of them at that time were very eloquent, yet they used to mix verses with their harangues.
A. Yes, and particularly Dionysius the Stoic used to employ a great many.
M. You say right; but they were quoted without any appropriateness or elegance. But our friend Philo used to give a few select lines and well adapted; and in imitation of him, ever since I took a fancy to this kind of elderly declamation, I have been very fond of quoting our poets; and where I cannot be supplied from them, I translate from the Greek, that the Latin language may not want any kind of ornament in this kind of disputation.
But, do you not see how much harm is done by poets? They introduce the bravest men lamenting over their misfortunes: they soften our minds; and they are, besides, so entertaining, that we do not only read them, but get them by heart. Thus the influence of the poets is added to our want of discipline at home, and our tender and delicate manner of living, so that between them they have deprived virtue of all its vigor and energy. Plato, therefore, was right in banishing them from his commonwealth, where he required the best morals, and the best form of government. But we, who have all our learning from Greece, read and learn these works of theirs from our childhood; and look on this as a liberal and learned education.
But why are we angry with the poets? We may find some philosophers, those masters of virtue, who have taught that pain was the greatest of evils. But you, young man, when you said but just now that it appeared so to you, upon being asked by me what appeared greater than infamy, gave up that opinion at a word. Suppose I ask Epicurus the same question. He will answer that a trifling degree of pain is a greater evil than the greatest infamy; for that there is no evil in infamy itself, unless attended with pain. What pain, then, attends Epicurus, when he says that very thing, that pain is the greatest evil! And yet nothing can be a greater disgrace to a philosopher than to talk thus. Therefore, you allowed enough when you admitted that infamy appeared to you to be a greater evil than pain. And if you abide by this admission, you will see how far pain should be resisted; and that our inquiry should be not so much whether pain be an evil, as how the mind may be fortified for resisting it. The Stoics infer from some petty quibbling arguments that it is no evil, as if the dispute were about a word, and not about the thing itself. Why do you impose upon me, Zeno? For when you deny what appears very dreadful to me to be an evil, I am deceived, and am at a loss to know why that which appears to me to be a most miserable thing should be no evil. The answer is, that nothing is an evil but what is base and vicious. You return to your trifling, for you do not remove what made me uneasy. I know that pain is not vice — you need not inform me of that: but show me that it makes no difference to me whether I am in pain or not. It has never anything to do, say you, with a happy life, for that depends upon virtue alone; but yet pain is to be avoided. If I ask, why? It is disagreeable, against nature, hard to bear, woful and afflicting.
Here are many words to express that by so many different forms which we call by the single word evil. You are defining pain, instead of removing it, when you say, it is disagreeable, unnatural, scarcely possible to be endured or borne, nor are you wrong in saying so: but the man who vaunts himself in such a manner should not give way in his conduct, if it be true that nothing is good but what is honest, and nothing evil but what is disgraceful. This would be wishing, not proving. This argument is a better one, and has more truth in it — that all things which Nature abhors are to be looked upon as evil; that those which she approves of are to be considered as good: for when this is admitted, and the dispute about words removed, that which they with reason embrace, and which we call honest, right, becoming, and sometimes include under the general name of virtue, appears so far superior to everything else that all other things which are looked upon as the gifts of fortune, or the good things of the body, seem trifling and insignificant; and no evil whatever, nor all the collective body of evils together, appears to be compared to the evil of infamy. Wherefore, if, as you granted in the beginning, infamy is worse than pain, pain is certainly nothing; for while it appears to you base and unmanly to groan, cry out, lament, or faint under pain; while you cherish notions of probity, dignity, honor, and, keeping your eye on them, refrain yourself, pain will certainly yield to virtue, and, by the influence of imagination, will lose its whole force. — For you must either admit that there is no such thing as virtue, or you must despise every kind of pain. Will you allow of such a virtue as prudence, without which no virtue whatever can even be conceived? What, then? Will that suffer you to labor and take pains to no purpose? Will temperance permit you to do anything to excess? Will it be possible for justice to be maintained by one who through the force of pain discovers secrets, or betrays his confederates, or deserts many duties of life? Will you act in a manner consistently with courage, and its attendants, greatness of soul, resolution, patience, and contempt for all worldly things? Can you hear yourself called a great man when you lie groveling, dejected, and deploring your condition with a lamentable voice; no one would call you even a man while in such a condition. You must therefore either abandon all pretensions to courage, or else pain must be put out of the question.
You know very well that, even though part of your Corinthian furniture were gone, the remainder might be safe without that; but if you lose one virtue (though virtue in reality cannot be lost), still if, I say, you should acknowledge that you were deficient in one, you would be stripped of all. Can you, then, call yourself a brave man, of a great soul, endued with patience and steadiness above the frowns of fortune? or Philoctetes? for I choose to instance him, rather than yourself, for he certainly was not a brave man, who lay in his bed, which was watered with his tears,
Whose groans, bewailings, and whose bitter cries,
With grief incessant rent the very skies.
I do not deny pain to be pain — for were that the case, in what would courage consist? — but I say it should be assuaged by patience, if there be such a thing as patience: if there be no such thing, why do we speak so in praise of philosophy? or why do we glory in its name? Does pain annoy us? Let it sting us to the heart: if you are without defensive armor, bare your throat to it; but if you are secured by Vulcanian armor, that is to say by resolution, resist it. Should you fail to do so, that guardian of your honor, your courage, will forsake and leave you. — By the laws of Lycurgus, and by those which were given to the Cretans by Jupiter, or which Minos established under the direction of Jupiter, as the poets say, the youths of the State are trained by the practice of hunting, running, enduring hunger and thirst, cold and heat. The boys at Sparta are scourged so at the altars that blood follows the lash in abundance; nay, sometimes, as I used to hear when I was there, they are whipped even to death; and yet not one of them was ever heard to cry out, or so much as groan. What, then? Shall men not be able to bear what boys do? and shall custom have such great force, and reason none at all?
There is some difference between labor and pain; they border upon one another, but still there is a certain difference between them. Labor is a certain exercise of the mind or body, in some employment or undertaking of serious trouble and importance; but pain is a sharp motion in the body, disagreeable to our senses. — Both these feelings, the Greeks, whose language is more copious than ours, express by the common name of [Greek: Ponos]: therefore they call industrious men painstaking, or, rather, fond of labor; we, more conveniently, call them laborious; for laboring is one thing, and enduring pain another. You see, O Greece! your barrenness of words, sometimes, though you think you are always so rich in them. I say, then, that there is a difference between laboring and being in pain. When Caius Marius had an operation performed for a swelling in his thigh, he felt pain; when he headed his troops in a very hot season, he labored. Yet these two feelings bear some resemblance to one another; for the accustoming ourselves to labor makes the endurance of pain more easy to us. And it was because they were influenced by this reason that the founders of the Grecian form of government provided that the bodies of their youth should be strengthened by labor, which custom the Spartans transferred even to their women, who in other cities lived more delicately, keeping within the walls of their houses; but it was otherwise with the Spartans.
The Spartan women, with a manly air,
Fatigues and dangers with their husbands share;
They in fantastic sports have no delight,
Partners with them in exercise and fight.
And in these laborious exercises pain interferes sometimes. They are thrown down, receive blows, have bad falls, and are bruised, and the labor itself produces a sort of callousness to pain.
As to military service (I speak of our own, not of that of the Spartans, for they used to march slowly to the sound of the flute, and scarce a word of command was given without an anapaest), you may see, in the first place, whence the very name of an army (exercitus) is derived; and, secondly, how great the labor is of an army on its march: then consider that they carry more than a fortnight’s provision, and whatever else they may want; that they carry the burden of the stakes, for as to shield, sword, or helmet, they look on them as no more encumbrance than their own limbs, for they say that arms are the limbs of a soldier, and those, indeed, they carry so commodiously that, when there is occasion, they throw down their burdens, and use their arms as readily as their limbs. Why need I mention the exercises of the legions? And how great the labor is which is undergone in the running, encounters, shouts! Hence it is that their minds are worked up to make so light of wounds in action. Take a soldier of equal bravery, but undisciplined, and he will seem a woman. Why is it that there is this sensible difference between a raw recruit and a veteran soldier? The age of the young soldiers is for the most part in their favor; but it is practice only that enables men to bear labor and despise wounds. Moreover, we often see, when the wounded are carried off the field, the raw, untried soldier, though but slightly wounded, cries out most shamefully; but the more brave, experienced veteran only inquires for some one to dress his wounds, and says,
Patroclus, to thy aid I must appeal
Ere worse ensue, my bleeding wounds to heal;
The sons of Aesculapius are employ’d,
No room for me, so many are annoy’d.
This is certainly Eurypylus himself. What an experienced man! — While his friend is continually enlarging on his misfortunes, you may observe that he is so far from weeping that he even assigns a reason why he should bear his wounds with patience.
Who at his enemy a stroke directs,
His sword to light upon himself expects.
Patroclus, I suppose, will lead him off to his chamber to bind up his wounds, at least if he be a man: but not a word of that; he only inquires how the battle went:
Say how the Argives bear themselves in fight?
And yet no words can show the truth as well as those, your deeds and visible sufferings.
Peace! and my wounds bind up;
but though Eurypylus could bear these afflictions, Aesopus could not,
Where Hector’s fortune press’d our yielding troops;
and he explains the rest, though in pain. So unbounded is military glory in a brave man! Shall, then, a veteran soldier be able to behave in this manner, and shall a wise and learned man not be able? Surely the latter might be able to bear pain better, and in no small degree either. At present, however, I am confining myself to what is engendered by practice and discipline. I am not yet come to speak of reason and philosophy. You may often hear of old women living without victuals for three or four days; but take away a wrestler’s provisions but for one day, and he will implore the aid of Jupiter Olympius, the very God for whom he exercises himself: he will cry out that he cannot endure it. Great is the force of custom! Sportsmen will continue whole nights in the snow; they will bear being almost frozen upon the mountains. From practice boxers will not so much as utter a groan, however bruised by the cestus. But what do you think of those to whom a victory in the Olympic games seemed almost on a par with the ancient consulships of the Roman people? What wounds will the gladiators bear, who are either barbarians, or the very dregs of mankind! How do they, who are trained to it, prefer being wounded to basely avoiding it! How often do they prove that they consider nothing but the giving satisfaction to their masters or to the people! for when covered with wounds, they send to their masters to learn their pleasure: if it is their will, they are ready to lie down and die. What gladiator, of even moderate reputation, ever gave a sigh? who ever turned pale? who ever disgraced himself either in the actual combat, or even when about to die? who that had been defeated ever drew in his neck to avoid the stroke of death? So great is the force of practice, deliberation, and custom! Shall this, then, be done by
A Samnite rascal, worthy of his trade;
and shall a man born to glory have so soft a part in his soul as not to be able to fortify it by reason and reflection? The sight of the gladiators’ combats is by some looked on as cruel and inhuman, and I do not know, as it is at present managed, but it may be so; but when the guilty fought, we might receive by our ears perhaps (but certainly by our eyes we could not) better training to harden us against pain and death.
I have now said enough about the effects of exercise, custom, and careful meditation. Proceed we now to consider the force of reason, unless you have something to reply to what has been said.
A. That I should interrupt you! By no means; for your discourse has brought me over to your opinion. Let the Stoics, then, think it their business to determine whether pain be an evil or not, while they endeavor to show by some strained and trifling conclusions, which are nothing to the purpose, that pain is no evil. My opinion is, that whatever it is, it is not so great as it appears; and I say, that men are influenced to a great extent by some false representations and appearance of it, and that all which is really felt is capable of being endured. Where shall I begin, then? Shall I superficially go over what I said before, that my discourse may have a greater scope?
This, then, is agreed upon by all, and not only by learned men, but also by the unlearned, that it becomes the brave and magnanimous — those that have patience and a spirit above this world — not to give way to pain. Nor has there ever been anyone who did not commend a man who bore it in this manner. That, then, which is expected from a brave man, and is commended when it is seen, it must surely be base in anyone to be afraid of at its approach, or not to bear when it comes. But I would have you consider whether, as all the right affections of the soul are classed under the name of virtues, the truth is that this is not properly the name of them all, but that they all have their name from that leading virtue which is superior to all the rest: for the name “virtue” comes from vir, a man, and courage is the peculiar distinction of a man: and this virtue has two principal duties, to despise death and pain. We must, then, exert these, if we would be men of virtue, or, rather, if we would be men, because virtue (virtus) takes its very name from vir, man.
You may inquire, perhaps, how? And such an inquiry is not amiss, for philosophy is ready with her assistance. Epicurus offers himself to you, a man far from a bad — or, I should rather say, a very good man: he advises no more than he knows. “Despise pain,” says he. Who is it saith this? Is it the same man who calls pain the greatest of all evils? It is not, indeed, very consistent in him. Let us hear what he says: “If the pain is excessive, it must needs be short.” I must have that over again, for I do not apprehend what you mean exactly by “excessive” or “short.” That is excessive than which nothing can be greater; that is short than which nothing is shorter. I do not regard the greatness of any pain from which, by reason of the shortness of its continuance, I shall be delivered almost before it reaches me. But if the pain be as great as that of Philoctetes, it will appear great indeed to me, but yet not the greatest that I am capable of bearing; for the pain is confined to my foot. But my eye may pain me, I may have a pain in the head, or sides, or lungs, or in every part of me. It is far, then, from being excessive. Therefore, says he, pain of a long continuance has more pleasure in it than uneasiness. Now, I cannot bring myself to say so great a man talks nonsense; but I imagine he is laughing at us. My opinion is that the greatest pain (I say the greatest, though it may be ten atoms less than another) is not therefore short, because acute. I could name to you a great many good men who have been tormented many years with the acutest pains of the gout. But this cautious man doth not determine the measure of that greatness or of duration, so as to enable us to know what he calls excessive with regard to pain, or short with respect to its continuance. Let us pass him by, then, as one who says just nothing at all; and let us force him to acknowledge, notwithstanding he might behave himself somewhat boldly under his colic and his strangury, that no remedy against pain can be had from him who looks on pain as the greatest of all evils. We must apply, then, for relief elsewhere, and nowhere better (if we seek for what is most consistent with itself) than to those who place the chief good in honesty, and the greatest evil in infamy. You dare not so much as groan, or discover the least uneasiness in their company, for virtue itself speaks to you through them.
Will you, when you may observe children at Lacedaemon, and young men at Olympia, and barbarians in the amphitheater, receive the severest wounds, and bear them without once opening their mouths — will you, I say, if any pain should by chance attack you, cry out like a woman? Will you not rather bear it with resolution and constancy? and not cry, It is intolerable; nature cannot bear it! I hear what you say: Boys bear this because they are led thereto by glory; some bear it through shame, many through fear, and yet are we afraid that nature cannot bear what is borne by many, and in such different circumstances? Nature not only bears it, but challenges it, for there is nothing with her preferable, nothing which she desires more than credit, and reputation, and praise, and honor, and glory. I choose here to describe this one thing under many names, and I have used many that you may have the clearer idea of it; for what I mean to say is, that whatever is desirable of itself, proceeding from virtue, or placed in virtue, and commendable on its own account (which I would rather agree to call the only good than deny it to be the chief good) is what men should prefer above all things. And as we declare this to be the case with respect to honesty, so we speak in the contrary manner of infamy; nothing is so odious, so detestable, nothing so unworthy of a man. And if you are thoroughly convinced of this (for, at the beginning of this discourse, you allowed that there appeared to you more evil in infamy than in pain), it follows that you ought to have the command over yourself, though I scarcely know how this expression may seem an accurate one, which appears to represent man as made up of two natures, so that one should be in command and the other be subject to it.
Yet this division does not proceed from ignorance; for the soul admits of a twofold division, one of which partakes of reason, the other is without it. When, therefore, we are ordered to give a law to ourselves, the meaning is, that reason should restrain our rashness. There is in the soul of every man something naturally soft, low, enervated in a manner, and languid. Were there nothing besides this, men would be the greatest of monsters; but there is present to every man reason, which presides over and gives laws to all; which, by improving itself, and making continual advances, becomes perfect virtue. It behooves a man, then, to take care that reason shall have the command over that part which is bound to practice obedience. In what manner? you will say. Why, as a master has over his slave, a general over his army, a father over his son. If that part of the soul which I have called soft behaves disgracefully, if it gives itself up to lamentations and womanish tears, then let it be restrained, and committed to the care of friends and relations, for we often see those persons brought to order by shame whom no reasons can influence. Therefore, we should confine those feelings, like our servants, in safe custody, and almost with chains. But those who have more resolution, and yet are not utterly immovable, we should encourage with our exhortations, as we would good soldiers, to recollect themselves, and maintain their honor. That wisest man of all Greece, in the Niptrae, does not lament too much over his wounds, or, rather, he is moderate in his grief:
Move slow, my friends; your hasty speed refrain,
Lest by your motion you increase my pain.
Pacuvius is better in this than Sophocles, for in the one Ulysses bemoans his wounds too vehemently; for the very people who carried him after he was wounded, though his grief was moderate, yet, considering the dignity of the man, did not scruple to say,
And thou, Ulysses, long to war inured,
Thy wounds, though great, too feebly hast endured.
The wise poet understood that custom was no contemptible instructor how to bear pain. But the same hero complains with more decency, though in great pain:
Assist, support me, never leave me so;
Unbind my wounds, oh! execrable woe!
He begins to give way, but instantly checks himself:
Away! begone! but cover first the sore;
For your rude hands but make my pains the more.
Do you observe how he constrains himself? not that his bodily pains were less, but because he checks the anguish of his mind. Therefore, in the conclusion of the Niptrae, he blames others, even when he himself is dying:
Complaints of fortune may become the man,
None but a woman will thus weeping stand.
And so that soft place in his soul obeys his reason, just as an abashed soldier does his stern commander.
The man, then, in whom absolute wisdom exists (such a man, indeed, we have never as yet seen, but the philosophers have described in their writings what sort of man he will be, if he should exist); such a man, or at least that perfect and absolute reason which exists in him, will have the same authority over the inferior part as a good parent has over his dutiful children: he will bring it to obey his nod without any trouble or difficulty. He will rouse himself, prepare and arm himself, to oppose pain as he would an enemy. If you inquire what arms he will provide himself with, they will be contention, encouragement, discourse with himself. He will say thus to himself: Take care that you are guilty of nothing base, languid, or unmanly. He will turn over in his mind all the different kinds of honor. Zeno of Elea will occur to him, who suffered everything rather than betray his confederates in the design of putting an end to the tyranny. He will reflect on Anaxarchus, the pupil of Democritus, who, having fallen into the hands of Nicocreon, King of Cyprus, without the least entreaty for mercy or refusal, submitted to every kind of torture. Calanus the Indian will occur to him, an ignorant man and a barbarian, born at the foot of Mount Caucasus, who committed himself to the flames by his own free, voluntary act. But we, if we have the toothache, or a pain in the foot, or if the body be anyways affected, cannot bear it. For our sentiments of pain as well as pleasure are so trifling and effeminate, we are so enervated and relaxed by luxuries, that we cannot bear the sting of a bee without crying out. But Caius Marius, a plain countryman, but of a manly soul, when he had an operation performed on him, as I mentioned above, at first refused to be tied down; and he is the first instance of anyone’s having had an operation performed on him without being tied down. Why, then, did others bear it afterward? Why, from the force of example. You see, then, that pain exists more in opinion than in nature; and yet the same Marius gave a proof that there is something very sharp in pain for he would not submit to have the other thigh cut. So that he bore his pain with resolution as a man; but, like a reasonable person, he was not willing to undergo any greater pain without some necessary reason. The whole, then, consists in this — that you should have command over yourself. I have already told you what kind of command this is; and by considering what is most consistent with patience, fortitude, and greatness of soul, a man not only restrains himself, but, somehow or other, mitigates even pain itself.
Even as in a battle the dastardly and timorous soldier throws away his shield on the first appearance of an enemy, and runs as fast as he can, and on that account loses his life sometimes, though he has never received even one wound, when he who stands his ground has nothing of the sort happen to him, so they who cannot bear the appearance of pain throw themselves away, and give themselves up to affliction and dismay. But they that oppose it, often come off more than a match for it. For the body has a certain resemblance to the soul: as burdens are more easily borne the more the body is exerted, while they crush us if we give way, so the soul by exerting itself resists the whole weight that would oppress it; but if it yields, it is so pressed that it cannot support itself. And if we consider things truly, the soul should exert itself in every pursuit, for that is the only security for its doing its duty. But this should be principally regarded in pain, that we must not do anything timidly, or dastardly, or basely, or slavishly, or effeminately, and, above all things, we must dismiss and avoid that Philoctetean sort of outcry. A man is allowed sometimes to groan, but yet seldom; but it is not permissible even in a woman to howl; for such a noise as this is forbidden, by the twelve tables, to be used even at funerals. Nor does a wise or brave man ever groan, unless when he exerts himself to give his resolution greater force, as they who run in the stadium make as much noise as they can. The wrestlers, too, do the same when they are training; and the boxers, when they aim a blow with the cestus at their adversary, give a groan, not because they are in pain, or from a sinking of their spirits, but because their whole body is put upon the stretch by the throwing-out of these groans, and the blow comes the stronger.
What! they who would speak louder than ordinary are they satisfied with working their jaws, sides, or tongue or stretching the common organs of speech and utterance? The whole body and every muscle is at full stretch if I may be allowed the expression; every nerve is exerted to assist their voice. I have actually seen the knees of Marcus Antonius touch the ground when he was speaking with vehemence for himself, with relation to the Varian law. For, as the engines you throw stones or darts with throw them out with the greater force the more they are strained and drawn back; so it is in speaking, running, or boxing — the more people strain themselves, the greater their force. Since, therefore, this exertion has so much influence — if in a moment of pain groans help to strengthen the mind, let us use them; but if they be groans of lamentation, if they be the expression of weakness or abjectness, or unmanly weeping, then I should scarcely call him a man who yielded to them. For even supposing that such groaning could give any ease, it still should be considered whether it were consistent with a brave and resolute man. But if it does not ease our pain, why should we debase ourselves to no purpose? For what is more unbecoming in a man than to cry like a woman? But this precept which is laid down with respect to pain is not confined to it. We should apply this exertion of the soul to everything else. Is anger inflamed? is lust excited? we must have recourse to the same citadel, and apply to the same arms. But since it is pain which we are at present discussing, we will let the other subjects alone. To bear pain, then, sedately and calmly, it is of great use to consider with all our soul, as the saying is, how noble it is to do so, for we are naturally desirous (as I said before, but it cannot be too often repeated) and very much inclined to what is honorable, of which, if we discover but the least glimpse, there is nothing which we are not prepared to undergo and suffer to attain it. From this impulse of our minds, this desire for genuine glory and honorable conduct, it is that such dangers are supported in war, and that brave men are not sensible of their wounds in action, or, if they are sensible of them, prefer death to the departing but the least step from their honor. The Decii saw the shining swords of their enemies when they were rushing into the battle. But the honorable character and the glory of the death which they were seeking made all fear of death of little weight. Do you imagine that Epaminondas groaned when he perceived that his life was flowing out with his blood? No; for he left his country triumphing over the Lacedaemonians, whereas he had found it in subjection to them. These are the comforts, these are the things that assuage the greatest pain.
You may ask, How the case is in peace? What is to be done at home? How we are to behave in bed? You bring me back to the philosophers, who seldom go to war. Among these, Dionysius of Heraclea, a man certainly of no resolution, having learned fortitude of Zeno, quitted it on being in pain; for, being tormented with a pain in his kidneys, in bewailing himself he cried out that those things were false which he had formerly conceived of pain. And when his fellow-disciple, Cleanthes, asked him why he had changed his opinion, he answered, “That the case of any man who had applied so much time to philosophy, and yet was unable to bear pain, might be a sufficient proof that pain is an evil; that he himself had spent many years at philosophy, and yet could not bear pain: it followed, therefore, that pain was an evil.” It is reported that Cleanthes on that struck his foot on the ground, and repeated a verse out of the Epigonae:
Amphiaraus, hear’st thou this below?
He meant Zeno: he was sorry the other had degenerated from him.
But it was not so with our friend Posidonius, whom I have often seen myself; and I will tell you what Pompey used to say of him: that when he came to Rhodes, after his departure from Syria, he had a great desire to hear Posidonius, but was informed that he was very ill of a severe fit of the gout; yet he had great inclination to pay a visit to so famous a philosopher. Accordingly, when he had seen him, and paid his compliments, and had spoken with great respect of him, he said he was very sorry that he could not hear him lecture. “But indeed you may,” replied the other, “nor will I suffer any bodily pain to occasion so great a man to visit me in vain.” On this Pompey relates that, as he lay on his bed, he disputed with great dignity and fluency on this very subject: that nothing was good but what was honest; and that in his paroxysms he would often say, “Pain, it is to no purpose; notwithstanding you are troublesome, I will never acknowledge you an evil.” And in general all celebrated and notorious afflictions become endurable by disregarding them.
Do we not observe that where those exercises called gymnastic are in esteem, those who enter the lists never concern themselves about dangers? that where the praise of riding and hunting is highly esteemed, they who practice these arts decline no pain? What shall I say of our own ambitious pursuits or desire of honors? What fire have not candidates run through to gain a single vote? Therefore Africanus had always in his hands Xenophon, the pupil of Socrates, being particularly pleased with his saying, that the same labors were not equally heavy to the general and to the common man, because the honor itself made the labor lighter to the general. But yet, so it happens, that even with the illiterate vulgar an idea of honor is of great influence, though they cannot understand what it is. They are led by report and common opinion to look on that as honorable which has the general voice. Not that I would have you, should the multitude be ever so fond of you, rely on their judgment, nor approve of everything which they think right: you must use your own judgment. If you are satisfied with yourself when you have approved of what is right, you will not only have the mastery over yourself (which I recommended to you just now), but over everybody, and everything. Lay this down, then, as a rule, that a great capacity, and lofty elevation of soul, which distinguishes itself most by despising and looking down with contempt on pain, is the most excellent of all things, and the more so if it does not depend on the people and does not aim at applause, but derives its satisfaction from itself. Besides, to me, indeed, everything seems the more commendable the less the people are courted, and the fewer eyes there are to see it. Not that you should avoid the public, for every generous action loves the public view; yet no theater for virtue is equal to a consciousness of it.
And let this be principally considered: that this bearing of pain, which I have often said is to be strengthened by an exertion of the soul, should be the same in everything. For you meet with many who, through a desire of victory, or for glory, or to maintain their rights, or their liberty, have boldly received wounds, and borne themselves up under them; and yet those very same persons, by relaxing that intenseness of their minds, were unequal to bearing the pain of a disease; for they did not support themselves under their former sufferings by reason or philosophy, but by inclination and glory. Therefore some barbarians and savage people are able to fight very stoutly with the sword, but cannot bear sickness like men; but the Grecians, men of no great courage, but as wise as human nature will admit of, cannot look an enemy in the face, yet the same will bear to be visited with sickness tolerably, and with a sufficiently manly spirit; and the Cimbrians and Celtiberians are very alert in battle, but bemoan themselves in sickness. For nothing can be consistent which has not reason for its foundation. But when you see those who are led by inclination or opinion, not retarded by pain in their pursuits, nor hindered by it from succeeding in them, you may conclude, either that pain is no evil, or that, notwithstanding you may choose to call an evil whatever is disagreeable and contrary to nature, yet it is so very trifling an evil that it may so effectually be got the better of by virtue as quite to disappear. And I would have you think of this night and day; for this argument will spread itself, and take up more room some time or other, and not be confined to pain alone; for if the motives to all our actions are to avoid disgrace and acquire honor, we may not only despise the stings of pain, but the storms of fortune, especially if we have recourse to that retreat which was pointed out in our yesterday’s discussion; for, as if some God had advised a man who was pursued by pirates to throw himself overboard, saying, “There is something at hand to receive you; either a dolphin will take you up, as it did Arion of Methymna; or those horses sent by Neptune to Pelops (who are said to have carried chariots so rapidly as to be borne up by the waves) will receive you, and convey you wherever you please. Cast away all fear.” So, though your pains be ever so sharp and disagreeable, if the case is not such that it is worth your while to endure them, you see whither you may betake yourself. I think this will do for the present. But perhaps you still abide by your opinion.
A. Not in the least, indeed; and I hope I am freed by these two days’ discourses from the fear of two things that I greatly dreaded.
M. Tomorrow, then, for rhetoric, as we were saying. But I see we must not drop our philosophy.
A. No, indeed; we will have the one in the forenoon, and this at the usual time.
M. It shall be so, and I will comply with your very laudable inclinations.
What reason shall I assign, O Brutus, why, as we consist of mind and body, the art of curing and preserving the body should be so much sought after, and the invention of it, as being so useful, should be ascribed to the immortal Gods; but the medicine of the mind should not have been so much the object of inquiry while it was unknown, nor so much attended to and cultivated after its discovery, nor so well received or approved of by some, and accounted actually disagreeable, and looked upon with an envious eye by many? Is it because we, by means of the mind, judge of the pains and disorders of the body, but do not, by means of the body, arrive at any perception of the disorders of the mind? Hence it comes that the mind only judges of itself when that very faculty by which it is judged is in a bad state. Had nature given us faculties for discerning and viewing herself, and could we go through life by keeping our eye on her — our best guide — there would be no reason certainly why anyone should be in want of philosophy or learning; but, as it is, she has furnished us only with some feeble rays of light, which we immediately extinguish so completely by evil habits and erroneous opinions that the light of nature is nowhere visible. The seeds of virtues are natural to our constitutions, and, were they suffered to come to maturity, would naturally conduct us to a happy life; but now, as soon as we are born and received into the world, we are instantly familiarized with all kinds of depravity and perversity of opinions; so that we may be said almost to suck in error with our nurse’s milk. When we return to our parents, and are put into the hands of tutors and governors, we are imbued with so many errors that truth gives place to falsehood, and nature herself to established opinion.
To these we may add the poets; who, on account of the appearance they exhibit of learning and wisdom, are heard, read, and got by heart, and make a deep impression on our minds. But when to these are added the people, who are, as it were, one great body of instructors, and the multitude, who declare unanimously for what is wrong, then are we altogether overwhelmed with bad opinions, and revolt entirely from nature; so that they seem to deprive us of our best guide who have decided that there is nothing better for man, nothing more worthy of being desired by him, nothing more excellent, than honors and commands, and a high reputation with the people; which indeed every excellent man aims at; but while he pursues that only true honor which nature has in view above all other objects, he finds himself busied in arrant trifles, and in pursuit of no conspicuous form of virtue, but only some shadowy representation of glory. For glory is a real and express substance, not a mere shadow. It consists in the united praise of good men, the free voice of those who form a true judgment of pre-eminent virtue; it is, as it were, the very echo of virtue; and being generally the attendant on laudable actions, should not be slighted by good men. But popular fame, which would pretend to imitate it, is hasty and inconsiderate, and generally commends wicked and immoral actions, and throws discredit upon the appearance and beauty of honesty by assuming a resemblance of it. And it is owing to their not being able to discover the difference between them that some men ignorant of real excellence, and in what it consists, have been the destruction of their country and of themselves. And thus the best men have erred, not so much in their intentions as by a mistaken conduct. What? is no cure to be attempted to be applied to those who are carried away by the love of money, or the lust of pleasures, by which they are rendered little short of madmen, which is the case of all weak people? or is it because the disorders of the mind are less dangerous than those of the body? or because the body will admit of a cure, while there is no medicine whatever for the mind?
But there are more disorders of the mind than of the body, and they are of a more dangerous nature; for these very disorders are the more offensive because they belong to the mind and disturb it; and the mind, when disordered, is, as Ennius says, in a constant error: it can neither bear nor endure anything, and is under the perpetual influence of desires. Now, what disorders can be worse to the body than these two distempers of the mind (for I overlook others), weakness and desire? But how, indeed, can it be maintained that the mind cannot prescribe for itself, when she it is who has invented the medicines for the body, when, with regard to bodily cures, constitution and nature have a great share, nor do all who suffer themselves to be cured find that effect instantly; but those minds which are disposed to be cured, and submit to the precepts of the wise, may undoubtedly recover a healthy state? Philosophy is certainly the medicine of the soul, whose assistance we do not seek from abroad, as in bodily disorders, but we ourselves are bound to exert our utmost energy and power in order to effect our cure. But as to philosophy in general, I have, I think, in my Hortensius, sufficiently spoken of the credit and attention which it deserves: since that, indeed, I have been continually either disputing or writing on its most material branches; and I have laid down in these books all the discussions which took place between myself and my particular friends at my Tusculan villa. But as I have spoken in the two former of pain and death, this book shall be devoted to the account of the third day of our disputations.
We came down into the Academy when the day was already declining toward afternoon, and I asked one of those who were present to propose a subject for us to discourse on; and then the business was carried on in this manner:
A. My opinion is, that a wise man is subject to grief.
M. What, and to the other perturbations of mind, as fears, lusts, anger? For these are pretty much like what the Greeks call [Greek: pathê]. I might call them diseases, and that would be a literal translation, but it is not agreeable to our way of speaking. For envy, delight, and pleasure are all called by the Greeks diseases, being affections of the mind not in subordination to reason; but we, I think, are right in calling the same motions of a disturbed soul perturbations, and in very seldom using the term diseases; though, perhaps, it appears otherwise to you.
A. I am of your opinion.
M. And do you think a wise man subject to these?
A. Entirely, I think.
M. Then that boasted wisdom is but of small account, if it differs so little from madness?
A. What? does every commotion of the mind seem to you to be madness?
M. Not to me only; but I apprehend, though I have often been surprised at it, that it appeared so to our ancestors many ages before Socrates; from whom is derived all that philosophy which relates to life and morals.
A. How so?
M. Because the name madness implies a sickness of the mind and disease; that is to say, an unsoundness and an unhealthiness of mind, which they call madness. But the philosophers call all perturbations of the soul diseases, and their opinion is that no fool is ever free from these; but all that are diseased are unsound; and the minds of all fools are diseased; therefore all fools are mad. For they held that soundness of the mind depends on a certain tranquility and steadiness; and a mind which was destitute of these qualities they called insane, because soundness was inconsistent with a perturbed mind just as much as with a disordered body.
Nor were they less ingenious in calling the state of the soul devoid of the light of the mind, “a being out of one’s mind,” “a being beside one’s self.” Whence we may understand that they who gave these names to things were of the same opinion with Socrates, that all silly people were unsound, which the Stoics have carefully preserved as being derived from him; for whatever mind is distempered (and, as I just now said, the philosophers call all perturbed motions of the mind distempers) is no more sound than a body is when in a fit of sickness. Hence it is that wisdom is the soundness of the mind, folly a sort of unsoundness, which is insanity, or a being out of one’s mind: and these are much better expressed by the Latin words than the Greek, which you will find the case also in many other topics. But we will discuss that point elsewhere: let us now attend to our present subject. The very meaning of the word describes the whole thing about which we are inquiring, both as to its substance and character. For we must necessarily understand by “sound” those whose minds are under no perturbation from any motion as if it were a disease. They who are differently affected we must necessarily call “unsound.” So that nothing is better than what is usual in Latin, to say that they who are run away with by their lust or anger have quitted the command over themselves; though anger includes lust, for anger is defined to be the lust of revenge. They, then, who are said not to be masters of themselves, are said to be so because they are not under the government of reason, to which is assigned by nature the power over the whole soul. Why the Greeks should call this mania, I do not easily apprehend; but we define it much better than they, for we distinguish this madness (insania), which, being allied to folly, is more extensive, from what we call furor, or raving. The Greeks, indeed, would do so too, but they have no one word that will express it: what we call furor, they call [Greek: melancholia], as if the reason were affected only by a black bile, and not disturbed as often by a violent rage, or fear, or grief. Thus we say Athamas, Alcmaeon, Ajax, and Orestes were raving (furere); because a person affected in this manner was not allowed by the Twelve Tables to have the management of his own affairs; therefore the words are not, if he is mad (insanus), but if he begins to be raving (furiosus). For they looked upon madness to be an unsettled humor that proceeded from not being of sound mind; yet such a person might perform his ordinary duties, and discharge the usual and customary requirements of life: but they considered one that was raving as afflicted with a total blindness of the mind, which, notwithstanding it is allowed to be greater than madness, is nevertheless of such a nature that a wise man may be subject to raving (furor), but cannot possibly be afflicted by insanity (insania). But this is another question: let us now return to our original subject.
I think you said that it was your opinion that a wise man was liable to grief.
A. And so, indeed, I think.
M. It is natural enough to think so, for we are not the offspring of flints; but we have by nature something soft and tender in our souls, which may be put into a violent motion by grief, as by a storm; nor did that Crantor, who was one of the most distinguished men that our Academy has ever produced, say this amiss: “I am by no means of their opinion who talk so much in praise of I know not what insensibility, which neither can exist, nor ought to exist. “I would choose,” says he, “never to be ill; but should I be so, still I should choose to retain my sensation, whether there was to be an amputation or any other separation of anything from my body. For that insensibility cannot be but at the expense of some unnatural ferocity of mind, or stupor of body.” But let us consider whether to talk in this manner be not allowing that we are weak, and yielding to our softness. Notwithstanding, let us be hardy enough, not only to lop off every arm of our miseries, but even to pluck up every fibre of their roots. Yet still something, perhaps, may be left behind, so deep does folly strike its roots: but whatever may be left it will be no more than is necessary. But let us be persuaded of this, that unless the mind be in a sound state, which philosophy alone can effect, there can be no end of our miseries. Wherefore, as we began, let us submit ourselves to it for a cure; we shall be cured if we choose to be. I shall advance something further. I shall not treat of grief alone, though that indeed is the principal thing; but, as I originally proposed, of every perturbation of the mind, as I termed it; disorder, as the Greeks call it: and first, with your leave, I shall treat it in the manner of the Stoics, whose method is to reduce their arguments into a very small space; afterward I shall enlarge more in my own way.
A man of courage is also full of faith. I do not use the word confident, because, owing to an erroneous custom of speaking, that word has come to be used in a bad sense, though it is derived from confiding, which is commendable. But he who is full of faith is certainly under no fear; for there is an inconsistency between faith and fear. Now, whoever is subject to grief is subject to fear; for whatever things we grieve at when present we dread when hanging over us and approaching. Thus it comes about that grief is inconsistent with courage: it is very probable, therefore, that whoever is subject to grief is also liable to fear, and to a broken kind of spirits and sinking. Now, whenever these befall a man, he is in a servile state, and must own that he is overpowered; for whoever admits these feelings, must admit timidity and cowardice. But these cannot enter into the mind of a man of courage; neither, therefore, can grief: but the man of courage is the only wise man; therefore grief cannot befall the wise man. It is, besides, necessary that whoever is brave should be a man of great soul; that whoever is a man of a great soul should be invincible; whoever is invincible looks down with contempt on all things here, and considers them, beneath him. But no one can despise those things on account of which he may be affected with grief; whence it follows that a wise man is never affected with grief: for all wise men are brave; therefore a wise man is not subject to grief. And as the eye, when disordered, is not in a good condition for performing its office properly; and as the other parts, and the whole body itself, when unsettled, cannot perform their office and business; so the mind, when disordered, is but ill-fitted to perform its duty. The office of the mind is to use its reason well; but the mind of a wise man is always in condition to make the best use of his reason, and therefore is never out of order. But grief is a disorder of the mind; therefore a wise man will be always free from it.
And from these considerations we may get at a very probable definition of the temperate man, whom the Greeks call [Greek: sôphrôn]: and they call that virtue [Greek: sôphrosynên], which I at one time call temperance, at another time moderation, and sometimes even modesty; but I do not know whether that virtue may not be properly called frugality, which has a more confined meaning with the Greeks; for they call frugal men [Greek: chrêsimous], which implies only that they are useful; but our name has a more extensive meaning: for all abstinence, all innocency (which the Greeks have no ordinary name for, though they might use the word [Greek: ablabeia], for innocency is that disposition of mind which would offend no one) and several other virtues are comprehended under frugality; but if this quality were of less importance, and confined in as small a compass as some imagine, the surname of Piso would not have been in so great esteem. But as we allow him not the name of a frugal man (frugi), who either quits his post through fear, which is cowardice; or who reserves to his own use what was privately committed to his keeping, which is injustice; or who fails in his military undertakings through rashness, which is folly — for that reason the word frugality takes in these three virtues of fortitude, justice, and prudence, though it is indeed common to all virtues, for they are all connected and knit together. Let us allow, then, frugality itself to be another and fourth virtue; for its peculiar property seems to be, to govern and appease all tendencies to too eager a desire after anything, to restrain lust, and to preserve a decent steadiness in everything. The vice in contrast to this is called prodigality (nequitia). Frugality, I imagine, is derived from the word fruge, the best thing which the earth produces; nequitia is derived (though this is perhaps rather more strained; still, let us try it; we shall only be thought to have been trifling if there is nothing in what we say) from the fact of everything being to no purpose (nequicquam) in such a man; from which circumstance he is called also Nihil, nothing. Whoever is frugal, then, or, if it is more agreeable to you, whoever is moderate and temperate, such a one must of course be consistent; whoever is consistent, must be quiet; the quiet man must be free from all perturbation, therefore from grief likewise: and these are the properties of a wise man; therefore a wise man must be free from grief.
So that Dionysius of Heraclea is right when, upon this complaint of Achilles in Homer,
Well hast thou spoke, but at the tyrant’s name
My rage rekindles, and my soul’s in flame:
‘Tis just resentment, and becomes the brave,
Disgraced, dishonor’d like the vilest slave —
he reasons thus: Is the hand as it should be, when it is affected with a swelling? or is it possible for any other member of the body, when swollen or enlarged, to be in any other than a disordered state? Must not the mind, then, when it is puffed up, or distended, be out of order? But the mind of a wise man is always free from every kind of disorder: it never swells, never is puffed up; but the mind when in anger is in a different state. A wise man, therefore, is never angry; for when he is angry, he lusts after something; for whoever is angry naturally has a longing desire to give all the pain he can to the person who he thinks has injured him; and whoever has this earnest desire must necessarily be much pleased with the accomplishment of his wishes; hence he is delighted with his neighbor’s misery; and as a wise man is not capable of such feelings as these, he is therefore not capable of anger. But should a wise man be subject to grief, he may likewise be subject to anger; for as he is free from anger, he must likewise be free from grief. Again, could a wise man be subject to grief, he might also be liable to pity, or even might be open to a disposition toward envy (invidentia); I do not say to envy (invidia), for that can only exist by the very act of envying: but we may fairly form the word invidentia from invidendo, and so avoid the doubtful name invidia; for this word is probably derived from in and video, looking too closely into another’s fortune; as it is said in the Melanippus,
Who envies me the flower of my children?
where the Latin is invidit florem. It may appear not good Latin, but it is very well put by Accius; for as video governs an accusative case, so it is more correct to say invideo florem than flori. We are debarred from saying so by common usage. The poet stood in his own right, and expressed himself with more freedom.
Therefore compassion and envy are consistent in the same man; for whoever is uneasy at anyone’s adversity is also uneasy at another’s prosperity: as Theophrastus, while he laments the death of his companion Callisthenes, is at the same time disturbed at the success of Alexander; and therefore he says that Callisthenes met with man of the greatest power and good fortune, but one who did not know how to make use of his good fortune. And as pity is an uneasiness which arises from the misfortunes of another, so envy is an uneasiness that proceeds from the good success of another: therefore whoever is capable of pity is capable of envy. But a wise man is incapable of envy, and consequently incapable of pity. But were a wise man used to grieve, to pity also would be familiar to him; therefore to grieve is a feeling which cannot affect a wise man. Now, though these reasonings of the Stoics, and their conclusions, are rather strained and distorted, and ought to be expressed in a less stringent and narrow manner, yet great stress is to be laid on the opinions of those men who have a peculiarly bold and manly turn of thought and sentiment. For our friends the Peripatetics, notwithstanding all their erudition, gravity, and fluency of language, do not satisfy me about the moderation of these disorders and diseases of the soul which they insist upon; for every evil, though moderate, is in its nature great. But our object is to make out that the wise man is free from all evil; for as the body is unsound if it is ever so slightly affected, so the mind under any moderate disorder loses its soundness; therefore the Romans have, with their usual accuracy of expression, called trouble, and anguish, and vexation, on account of the analogy between a troubled mind and a diseased body, disorders. The Greeks call all perturbation of mind by pretty nearly the same name; for they name every turbid motion of the soul [Greek: pathos], that is to say, a distemper. But we have given them a more proper name; for a disorder of the mind is very like a disease of the body. But lust does not resemble sickness; neither does immoderate joy, which is an elated and exulting pleasure of the mind. Fear, too, is not very like a distemper, though it is akin to grief of mind, but properly, as is also the case with sickness of the body, so too sickness of mind has no name separated from pain. And therefore I must explain the origin of this pain, that is to say, the cause that occasions this grief in the mind, as if it were a sickness of the body. For as physicians think they have found out the cure when they have discovered the cause of the distemper, so we shall discover the method of curing melancholy when the cause of it is found out.
The whole cause, then, is in opinion; and this observation applies not to this grief alone, but to every other disorder of the mind, which are of four sorts, but consisting of many parts. For as every disorder or perturbation is a motion of the mind, either devoid of reason, or in despite of reason, or in disobedience to reason, and as that motion is excited by an opinion of either good or evil; these four perturbations are divided equally into two parts: for two of them proceed from an opinion of good, one of which is an exulting pleasure, that is to say, a joy elated beyond measure, arising from an opinion of some present great good; the other is a desire which may fairly be called even a lust, and is an immoderate inclination after some conceived great good without any obedience to reason. Therefore these two kinds, the exulting pleasure and the lust, have their rise from an opinion of good, as the other two, fear and grief, have from an opinion of evil. For fear is an opinion of some great evil impending over us, and grief is an opinion of some great evil present; and, indeed, it is a freshly conceived opinion of an evil so great that to grieve at it seems right: it is of that kind that he who is uneasy at it thinks he has good reason to be so. Now we should exert, our utmost efforts to oppose these perturbations — which are, as it were, so many furies let loose upon us and urged on by folly — if we are desirous to pass this share of life that is allotted to us with ease and satisfaction. But of the other feelings I shall speak elsewhere: our business at present is to drive away grief if we can, for that shall be the object of our present discussion, since you have said that it was your opinion that a wise man might be subject to grief, which I can by no means allow of; for it is a frightful, miserable, and detestable thing, which we should fly from with our utmost efforts — with all our sails and oars, as I may say.
That descendant of Tantalus, how does he appear to you — he who sprung from Pelops, who formerly stole Hippodamia from her father-in-law, King Oenomaus, and married her by force? — he who was descended from Jupiter himself, how broken-hearted and dispirited does he not seem!
Stand off, my friends, nor come within my shade,
That no pollutions your sound hearts pervade,
So foul a stain my body doth partake.
Will you condemn yourself, Thyestes, and deprive yourself of life, on account of the greatness of another’s crime? What do you think of that son of Phoebus? Do you not look upon him as unworthy of his own father’s light?
Hollow his eyes, his body worn away,
His furrow’d cheeks his frequent tears betray;
His beard neglected, and his hoary hairs
Rough and uncomb’d, bespeak his bitter cares.
O foolish Aeetes! these are evils which you yourself have been the cause of, and are not occasioned by any accidents with which chance has visited you; and you behaved as you did, even after you had been inured to your distress, and after the first swelling of the mind had subsided! — whereas grief consists (as I shall show) in the notion of some recent evil — but your grief, it is very plain, proceeded from the loss of your kingdom, not of your daughter, for you hated her, and perhaps with reason, but you could not calmly bear to part with your kingdom. But surely it is an impudent grief which preys upon a man for not being able to command those that are free. Dionysius, it is true, the tyrant of Syracuse, when driven from his country, taught a school at Corinth; so incapable was he of living without some authority. But what could be more impudent than Tarquin, who made war upon those who could not bear his tyranny; and, when he could not recover his kingdom by the aid of the forces of the Veientians and the Latins, is said to have betaken himself to Cuma, and to have died in that city of old age and grief!
Do you, then, think that it can befall a wise man to be oppressed with grief, that is to say, with misery? for, as all perturbation is misery, grief is the rack itself. Lust is attended with heat, exulting joy with levity, fear with meanness, but grief with something greater than these; it consumes, torments, afflicts, and disgraces a man; it tears him, preys upon his mind, and utterly destroys him: if we do not so divest ourselves of it as to throw it completely off, we cannot be free from misery. And it is clear that there must be grief where anything has the appearance of a present sore and oppressing evil. Epicurus is of opinion that grief arises naturally from the imagination of any evil; so that whosoever is eye-witness of any great misfortune, if he conceives that the like may possibly befall himself, becomes sad instantly from such an idea. The Cyrenaics think that grief is not engendered by every kind of evil, but only by unexpected, unforeseen evil; and that circumstance is, indeed, of no small effect on the heightening of grief; for whatsoever comes of a sudden appears more formidable. Hence these lines are deservedly commended:
I knew my son, when first he drew his breath,
Destined by fate to an untimely death;
And when I sent him to defend the Greeks,
War was his business, not your sportive freaks.
Therefore, this ruminating beforehand upon future evils which you see at a distance makes their approach more tolerable; and on this account what Euripides makes Theseus say is much commended. You will give me leave to translate them, as is usual with me:
I treasured up what some learn’d sage did tell,
And on my future misery did dwell;
I thought of bitter death, of being drove
Far from my home by exile, and I strove
With every evil to possess my mind,
That, when they came, I the less care might find.
But Euripides says that of himself, which Theseus said he had heard from some learned man, for the poet had been a pupil of Anaxagoras, who, as they relate, on hearing of the death of his son, said, “I knew that my son was mortal;” which speech seems to intimate that such things afflict those men who have not thought on them before. Therefore, there is no doubt but that all those things which are considered evils are the heavier from not being foreseen. Though, notwithstanding this is not the only circumstance which occasions the greatest grief, still, as the mind, by foreseeing and preparing for it, has great power to make all grief the less, a man should at all times consider all the events that may befall him in this life; and certainly the excellence and divine nature of wisdom consists in taking a near view of, and gaining a thorough acquaintance with, all human affairs, in not being surprised when anything happens, and in thinking, before the event, that there is nothing but what may come to pass.
Wherefore ev’ry man,
When his affairs go on most swimmingly,
E’en then it most behooves to arm himself
Against the coming storm: loss, danger, exile,
Returning ever, let him look to meet;
His son in fault, wife dead, or daughter sick;
All common accidents, and may have happen’d
That nothing shall seem new or strange. But if
Aught has fall’n out beyond his hopes, all that
Let him account clear gain.
Therefore, as Terence has so well expressed what he borrowed from philosophy, shall not we, from whose fountains he drew it, say the same thing in a better manner, and abide by it with more steadiness? Hence came that steady countenance, which, according to Xantippe, her husband Socrates always had; so that she said that she never observed any difference in his looks when he went out and when he came home. Yet the look of that old Roman, M. Crassus, who, as Lucilius says, never smiled but once in his lifetime, was not of this kind, but placid and serene, for so we are told. He, indeed, might well have had the same look at all times who never changed his mind, from which the countenance derives its expression. So that I am ready to borrow of the Cyrenaics those arms against the accidents and events of life by means of which, by long premeditation, they break the force of all approaching evils; and at the same time I think that those very evils themselves arise more from opinion than nature, for if they were real, no forecast could make them lighter. But I shall speak more particularly on these matters after I have first considered Epicurus’s opinion, who thinks that all people must necessarily be uneasy who believe themselves to be in any evils, let them be either foreseen and expected, or habitual to them; for with him evils are not the less by reason of their continuance, nor the lighter for having been foreseen; and it is folly to ruminate on evils to come, or such as, perhaps, never may come: every evil is disagreeable enough when it does come; but he who is constantly considering that some evil may befall him is loading himself with a perpetual evil; and even should such evil never light on him, he voluntarily takes upon himself unnecessary misery, so that he is under constant uneasiness, whether he actually suffers any evil, or only thinks of it. But he makes the alleviation of grief depend on two things — a ceasing to think on evil, and a turning to the contemplation of pleasure. For he thinks that the mind may possibly be under the power of reason, and follow her directions: he forbids us, therefore, to mind trouble, and calls us off from sorrowful reflections; he throws a mist over our eyes to hinder us from the contemplation of misery. Having sounded a retreat from this statement, he drives our thoughts on again, and encourages them to view and engage the whole mind in the various pleasures with which he thinks the life of a wise man abounds, either from reflecting on the past, or from the hope of what is to come. I have said these things in my own way; the Epicureans have theirs. However, let us examine what they say; how they say it is of little consequence.
In the first place, they are wrong in forbidding men to premeditate on futurity and blaming their wish to do so; for there is nothing that breaks the edge of grief and lightens it more than considering, during one’s whole life, that there is nothing which it is impossible should happen, or than, considering what human nature is, on what conditions life was given, and how we may comply with them. The effect of which is that we are always grieving, but that we never do so; for whoever reflects on the nature of things, the various turns of life, and the weakness of human nature, grieves, indeed, at that reflection; but while so grieving he is, above all other times, behaving as a wise man, for he gains these two things by it: one, that while he is considering the state of human nature he is performing the especial duties of philosophy, and is provided with a triple medicine against adversity — in the first place, because he has long reflected that such things might befall him, and this reflection by itself contributes much toward lessening and weakening all misfortunes; and, secondly, because he is persuaded that we should bear all the accidents which can happen to man with the feelings and spirit of a man; and, lastly, because he considers that what is blamable is the only evil. But it is not your fault that something has happened to you which it was impossible for man to avoid. For that withdrawing of our thoughts which he recommends when he calls us off from contemplating our misfortunes is an imaginary action; for it is not in our power to dissemble or to forget those evils which lie heavy on us; they tear, vex, and sting us — they burn us up, and leave no breathing time. And do you order us to forget them (for such forgetfulness is contrary to nature), and at the same time deprive us of the only assistance which nature affords, the being accustomed to them? For that, though it is but a slow medicine (I mean that which is brought by lapse of time), is still a very effectual one. You order me to employ my thoughts on something good, and forget my misfortunes. You would say something worthy a great philosopher if you thought those things good which are best suited to the dignity of human nature.
Should Pythagoras, Socrates, or Plato say to me, Why are you dejected or sad? Why do you faint, and yield to fortune, which, perhaps, may have power to harass and disturb you, but should not quite unman you? There is great power in the virtues; rouse them, if they chance to droop. Take fortitude for your guide, which will give you such spirits that you will despise everything that can befall man, and look on it as a trifle. Add to this temperance, which is moderation, and which was just now called frugality, which will not suffer you to do anything base or bad — for what is worse or baser than an effeminate man? Not even justice will suffer you to act in this manner, though she seems to have the least weight in this affair; but still, notwithstanding, even she will inform you that you are doubly unjust when you both require what does not belong to you, inasmuch as though you who have been born mortal demand to be placed in the condition of the immortals, and at the same time you take it much to heart that you are to restore what was lent you. What answer will you make to prudence, who informs you that she is a virtue sufficient of herself both to teach you a good life and also to secure you a happy one? And, indeed, if she were fettered by external circumstances, and dependent on others, and if she did not originate in herself and return to herself, and also embrace everything in herself, so as to seek no adventitious aid from any quarter, I cannot imagine why she should appear deserving of such lofty panegyrics, or of being sought after with such excessive eagerness. Now, Epicurus, if you call me back to such goods as these, I will obey you, and follow you, and use you as my guide, and even forget, as you order me, all my misfortunes; and I will do this the more readily from a persuasion that they are not to be ranked among evils at all. But you are for bringing my thoughts over to pleasure. What pleasures? Pleasures of the body, I imagine, or such as are recollected or imagined on account of the body. Is this all? Do I explain your opinion rightly? for your disciples are used to deny that we understand at all what Epicurus means. This is what he says, and what that subtle fellow, old Zeno, who is one of the sharpest of them, used, when I was attending lectures at Athens, to enforce and talk so loudly of; saying that he alone was happy who could enjoy present pleasure, and who was at the same time persuaded that he should enjoy it without pain, either during the whole or the greatest part of his life; or if, should any pain interfere, if it was very sharp, then it must be short; should it be of longer continuance, it would have more of what was sweet than bitter in it; that whosoever reflected on these things would be happy, especially if satisfied with the good things which he had already enjoyed, and if he were without fear of death or of the Gods.
You have here a representation of a happy life according to Epicurus, in the words of Zeno, so that there is no room for contradiction in any point. What, then? Can the proposing and thinking of such a life make Thyestes’s grief the less, or Aeetes’s, of whom I spoke above, or Telamon’s, who was driven from his country to penury and banishment? in wonder at whom men exclaimed thus:
Is this the man surpassing glory raised?
Is this that Telamon so highly praised
By wondering Greece, at whose sight, like the sun,
All others with diminish’d lustre shone?
Now, should anyone, as the same author says, find his spirits sink with the loss of his fortune, he must apply to those grave philosophers of antiquity for relief, and not to these voluptuaries: for what great abundance of good do they promise? Suppose that we allow that to be without pain is the chief good? Yet that is not called pleasure. But it is not necessary at present to go through the whole: the question is, to what point are we to advance in order to abate our grief? Grant that to be in pain is the greatest evil: whosoever, then, has proceeded so far as not to be in pain, is he, therefore, in immediate possession of the greatest good? Why, Epicurus, do we use any evasions, and not allow in our own words the same feeling to be pleasure which you are used to boast of with such assurance? Are these your words or not? This is what you say in that book which contains all the doctrine of your school; for I will perform on this occasion the office of a translator, lest anyone should imagine that I am inventing anything. Thus you speak: “Nor can I form any notion of the chief good, abstracted from those pleasures which are perceived by taste, or from what depends on hearing music, or abstracted from ideas raised by external objects visible to the eye, or by agreeable motions, or from those other pleasures which are perceived by the whole man by means of any of his senses; nor can it possibly be said that the pleasures of the mind are excited only by what is good, for I have perceived men’s minds to be pleased with the hopes of enjoying those things which I mentioned above, and with the idea that it should enjoy them without any interruption from pain.” And these are his exact words, so that anyone may understand what were the pleasures with which Epicurus was acquainted. Then he speaks thus, a little lower down: “I have often inquired of those who have been called wise men what would be the remaining good if they should exclude from consideration all these pleasures, unless they meant to give us nothing but words. I could never learn anything from them; and unless they choose that all virtue and wisdom should vanish and come to nothing, they must say with me that the only road to happiness lies through those pleasures which I mentioned above.” What follows is much the same, and his whole book on the chief good everywhere abounds with the same opinions. Will you, then, invite Telamon to this kind of life to ease his grief? And should you observe any one of your friends under affliction, would you rather prescribe him a sturgeon than a treatise of Socrates? or advise him to listen to the music of a water organ rather than to Plato? or lay before him the beauty and variety of some garden, put a nosegay to his nose, burn perfumes before him, and bid him crown himself with a garland of roses and woodbines? Should you add one thing more, you would certainly wipe out all his grief.
Epicurus must admit these arguments, or he must take out of his book what I just now said was a literal translation; or, rather, he must destroy his whole book, for it is crammed full of pleasures. We must inquire, then, how we can ease him of his grief who speaks in this manner:
My present state proceeds from fortune’s stings;
By birth I boast of a descent from kings;
Hence may you see from what a noble height
I’m sunk by fortune to this abject plight.
What! to ease his grief, must we mix him a cup of sweet wine, or something of that kind? Lo! the same poet presents us with another sentiment somewhere else:
I, Hector, once so great, now claim your aid.
We should assist her, for she looks out for help:
Where shall I now apply, where seek support?
Where hence betake me, or to whom resort?”
No means remain of comfort or of joy,
In flames my palace, and in ruins Troy;
Each wall, so late superb, deformed nods,
And not an altar’s left t’ appease the Gods.
You know what should follow, and particularly this:
Of father, country, and of friends bereft,
Not one of all these sumptuous temples left;
Which, while the fortune of our house did stand,
With rich wrought ceilings spoke the artist’s hand.
O excellent poet! though despised by those who sing the verses of Euphorion. He is sensible that all things which come on a sudden are harder to be borne. Therefore, when he had set off the riches of Priam to the best advantage, which had the appearance of a long continuance, what does he add?
Lo! these all perish’d in one blazing pile;
The foe old Priam of his life beguiled,
And with his blood, thy altar, Jove, defiled.
Admirable poetry! There is something mournful in the subject, as well as in the words and measure. We must drive away this grief of hers: how is that to be done? Shall we lay her on a bed of down; introduce a singer; shall we burn cedar, or present here with some pleasant liquor, and provide her something to eat? Are these the good things which remove the most afflicting grief? For you but just now said you knew of no other good. I should agree with Epicurus that we ought to be called off from grief to contemplate good things, if we could only agree upon what was good.
It may be said, What! do you imagine Epicurus really meant this, and that he maintained anything so sensual? Indeed I do not imagine so, for I am sensible that he has uttered many excellent things and sentiments, and delivered maxims of great weight. Therefore, as I said before, I am speaking of his acuteness, not of his morals. Though he should hold those pleasures in contempt which he just now commended, yet I must remember wherein he places the chief good. For he was not contented with barely saying this, but he has explained what he meant: he says that taste, and embraces, and sports, and music, and those forms which affect the eyes with pleasure, are the chief good. Have I invented this? have I misrepresented him? I should be glad to be confuted; for what am I endeavoring at but to clear up truth in every question? Well, but the same man says that pleasure is at its height where pain ceases, and that to be free from all pain is the very greatest pleasure. Here are three very great mistakes in a very few words. One is, that he contradicts himself; for, but just now, he could not imagine anything good unless the senses were in a manner tickled with some pleasure; but now he says that to be free from pain is the highest pleasure. Can anyone contradict himself more? The next mistake is, that where there is naturally a threefold division — the first, to be pleased; next, to be in pain; the last, to be affected neither by pleasure nor pain — he imagines the first and the last to be the same, and makes no difference between pleasure and a cessation of pain. The last mistake he falls into in common with some others, which is this: that as virtue is the most desirable thing, and as philosophy has been investigated with a view to the attainment of it, he has separated the chief good from virtue. But he commends virtue, and that frequently; and indeed C. Gracchus, when he had made the largest distributions of the public money, and had exhausted the treasury, nevertheless spoke much of defending the treasury. What signifies what men say when we see what they do? That Piso, who was surnamed Frugal, had always harangued against the law that was proposed for distributing the corn; but when it had passed, though a man of consular dignity, he came to receive the corn. Gracchus observed Piso standing in the court, and asked him, in the hearing of the people, how it was consistent for him to take corn by a law he had himself opposed. “It was,” said he, “against your distributing my goods to every man as you thought proper; but, as you do so, I claim my share.” Did not this grave and wise man sufficiently show that the public revenue was dissipated by the Sempronian law? Read Gracchus’s speeches, and you will pronounce him the advocate of the treasury. Epicurus denies that anyone can live pleasantly who does not lead a life of virtue; he denies that fortune has any power over a wise man; he prefers a spare diet to great plenty, and maintains that a wise man is always happy. All these things become a philosopher to say, but they are not consistent with pleasure. But the reply is, that he doth not mean that pleasure: let him mean any pleasure, it must be such a one as makes no part of virtue. But suppose we are mistaken as to his pleasure; are we so, too, as to his pain? I maintain, therefore, the impropriety of language which that man uses, when talking of virtue, who would measure every great evil by pain.
And indeed the Epicureans, those best of men — for there is no order of men more innocent — complain that I take great pains to inveigh against Epicurus. We are rivals, I suppose, for some honor or distinction. I place the chief good in the mind, he in the body; I in virtue, he in pleasure; and the Epicureans are up in arms, and implore the assistance of their neighbors, and many are ready to fly to their aid. But as for my part, I declare that I am very indifferent about the matter, and that I consider the whole discussion which they are so anxious about at an end. For what! is the contention about the Punic war? on which very subject, though M. Cato and L. Lentulus were of different opinions, still there was no difference between them. But these men behave with too much heat, especially as the opinions which they would uphold are no very spirited ones, and such as they dare not plead for either in the senate or before the assembly of the people, or before the army or the censors. But, however, I will argue with them another time, and with such a disposition that no quarrel shall arise between us; for I shall be ready to yield to their opinions when founded on truth. Only I must give them this advice: That were it ever so true, that a wise man regards nothing but the body, or, to express myself with more decency, never does anything except what is expedient, and views all things with exclusive reference to his own advantage, as such things are not very commendable, they should confine them to their own breasts, and leave off talking with that parade of them.
What remains is the opinion of the Cyrenaics, who think that men grieve when anything happens unexpectedly. And that is indeed, as I said before, a great aggravation of a misfortune; and I know that it appeared so to Chrysippus — “Whatever falls out unexpected is so much the heavier.” But the whole question does not turn on this; though the sudden approach of an enemy sometimes occasions more confusion than it would if you had expected him, and a sudden storm at sea throws the sailors into a greater fright than one which they have foreseen; and it is the same in many other cases. But when you carefully consider the nature of what was expected, you will find nothing more than that all things which come on a sudden appear greater; and this upon two accounts: first of all, because you have not time to consider how great the accident is; and, secondly, because you are probably persuaded that you could have guarded against it had you foreseen if, and therefore the misfortune, having been seemingly encountered by your own fault, makes your grief the greater. That it is so, time evinces; which, as it advances, brings with it so much mitigation that though the same misfortunes continue, the grief not only becomes the less, but in some cases is entirely removed. Many Carthaginians were slaves at Rome, and many Macedonians, when Perseus their king was taken prisoner. I saw, too, when I was a young man, some Corinthians in the Peloponnesus. They might all have lamented with Andromache,
All these I saw ……;
but they had perhaps given over lamenting themselves, for by their countenances, and speech, and other gestures you might have taken them for Argives or Sicyonians. And I myself was more concerned at the ruined walls of Corinth than the Corinthians themselves were, whose minds by frequent reflection and time had become callous to such sights. I have read a book of Clitomachus, which he sent to his fellow-citizens who were prisoners, to comfort them after the destruction of Carthage. There is in it a treatise written by Carneades, which, as Clitomachus says, he had inserted into his book; the subject was, “That it appeared probable that a wise man would grieve at the state of subjection of his country,” and all the arguments which Carneades used against this proposition are set down in the book. There the philosopher applies such a strong medicine to a fresh grief as would be quite unnecessary in one of any continuance; nor, if this very book had been sent to the captives some years after, would it have found any wounds to cure, but only scars; for grief, by a gentle progress and slow degrees, wears away imperceptibly. Not that the circumstances which gave rise to it are altered, or can be, but that custom teaches what reason should — that those things which before seemed to be of some consequence are of no such great importance, after all.
It may be said, What occasion is there to apply to reason, or to any sort of consolation such as we generally make use of, to mitigate the grief of the afflicted? For we have this argument always at hand, that nothing ought to appear unexpected. But how will anyone be enabled to bear his misfortunes the better by knowing that it is unavoidable that such things should happen to man? Saying this subtracts nothing from the sum of the grief: it only asserts that nothing has fallen out but what might have been anticipated; and yet this manner of speaking has some little consolation in it, though I apprehend not a great deal. Therefore those unlooked-for things have not so much force as to give rise to all our grief; the blow perhaps may fall the heavier, but whatever happens does not appear the greater on that account. No, it is the fact of its having happened lately, and not of its having befallen us unexpectedly, that makes it seem the greater. There are two ways, then, of discerning the truth, not only of things that seem evil, but of those that have the appearance of good. For we either inquire into the nature of the thing, of what description, and magnitude, and importance it is — as sometimes with regard to poverty, the burden of which we may lighten when by our disputations we show how few things nature requires, and of what a trifling kind they are — or, without any subtle arguing, we refer them to examples, as here we instance a Socrates, there a Diogenes, and then again that line in Cæcilius,
Wisdom is oft conceal’d in mean attire.
For as poverty is of equal weight with all, what reason can be given why what was borne by Fabricius should be spoken of by anyone else as unsupportable when it falls upon themselves? Of a piece with this is that other way of comforting, which consists in pointing out that nothing has happened but what is common to human nature; for this argument doth not only inform us what human nature is, but implies that all things are tolerable which others have borne and are bearing.
Is poverty the subject? They tell you of many who have submitted to it with patience. Is it the contempt of honors? They acquaint you with some who never enjoyed any, and were the happier for it; and of those who have preferred a private retired life to public employment, mentioning their names with respect; they tell you of the verse of that most powerful king who praises an old man, and pronounces him happy because he was unknown to fame and seemed likely to arrive at the hour of death in obscurity and without notice. Thus, too, they have examples for those who are deprived of their children: they who are under any great grief are comforted by instances of like affliction; and thus the endurance of every misfortune is rendered more easy by the fact of others having undergone the same, and the fate of others causes what has happened to appear less important than it has been previously thought, and reflection thus discovers to us how much opinion had imposed on us. And this is what the Telamon declares, “I, when my son was born,” etc.; and thus Theseus, “I on my future misery did dwell;” and Anaxagoras, “I knew my son was mortal.” All these men, by frequently reflecting on human affairs, had discovered that they were by no means to be estimated by the opinion of the multitude; and, indeed, it seems to me to be pretty much the same case with those who consider beforehand as with those who derive their remedies from time, excepting that a kind of reason cures the one, and the other remedy is provided by nature; by which we discover (and this contains the whole marrow of the matter) that what was imagined to be the greatest evil is by no means so great as to defeat the happiness of life. And the effect of this is, that the blow is greater by reason of its not having been foreseen, and not, as they suppose, that when similar misfortunes befall two different people, that man only is affected with grief whom this calamity has befallen unexpectedly. So that some persons, under the oppression of grief, are said to have borne it actually worse for hearing of this common condition of man, that we are born under such conditions as render it impossible for a man to be exempt from all evil.
For this reason Carneades, as I see our friend Antiochus writes, used to blame Chrysippus for commending these verses of Euripides:
Man, doom’d to care, to pain, disease, and strife,
Walks his short journey thro’ the vale of life:
Watchful attends the cradle and the grave,
And passing generations longs to save:
Last, dies himself: yet wherefore should we mourn?
For man must to his kindred dust return;
Submit to the destroying hand of fate,
As ripen’d ears the harvest-sickle wait.
He would not allow a speech of this kind to avail at all to the cure of our grief, for he said it was a lamentable case itself that we were fallen into the hands of such a cruel fate; and that a speech like that, preaching up comfort from the misfortunes of another, was a comfort adapted only to those of a malevolent disposition. But to me it appears far otherwise; for the necessity of bearing what is the common condition of humanity forbids your resisting the will of the Gods, and reminds you that you are a man, which reflection greatly alleviates grief; and the enumeration of these examples is not produced with a view to please those of a malevolent disposition, but in order that any one in affliction may be induced to bear what he observes many others have previously borne with tranquility and moderation. For they who are falling to pieces, and cannot hold together through the greatness of their grief, should be supported by all kinds of assistance. Whence Chrysippus thinks that grief is called [Greek: lypê], as it were [Greek: lysis], that is to say, a dissolution of the whole man — the whole of which I think may be pulled up by the roots by explaining, as I said at the beginning, the cause of grief; for it is nothing else but an opinion and judgment formed of a present acute evil. And thus any bodily pain, let it be ever so grievous, may be endurable where any hopes are proposed of some considerable good; and we receive such consolation from a virtuous and illustrious life that they who lead such lives are seldom attacked by grief, or but slightly affected by it.
But as besides this opinion of great evil there is this other added also — that we ought to lament what has happened, that it is right so to do, and part of our duty, then is brought about that terrible disorder of mind, grief. And it is to this opinion that we owe all those various and horrid kinds of lamentation, that neglect of our persons, that womanish tearing of our cheeks, that striking on our thighs, breasts, and heads. Thus Agamemnon, in Homer and in Accius,
Tears in his grief his uncomb’d locks;
whence comes that pleasant saying of Bion, that the foolish king in his sorrow tore away the hairs of his head, imagining that his grief would be alleviated by baldness. But men do all these things from being persuaded that they ought to do so. And thus Aeschines inveighs against Demosthenes for sacrificing within seven days after the death of his daughter. But with what eloquence, with what fluency, does he attack him! what sentiments does he collect! what words does he hurl against him! You may see by this that an orator may do anything; but nobody would approve of such license if it were not that we have an idea innate in our minds that every good man ought to lament the loss of a relation as bitterly as possible. And it is owing to this that some men, when in sorrow, betake themselves to deserts, as Homer says of Bellerophon:
Distracted in his mind,
Forsook by heaven, forsaking human kind,
Wide o’er the Aleïan field he chose to stray,
A long, forlorn, uncomfortable way!
And thus Niobe is feigned to have been turned into stone, from her never speaking, I suppose, in her grief. But they imagine Hecuba to have been converted into a bitch, from her rage and bitterness of mind. There are others who love to converse with solitude itself when in grief, as the nurse in Ennius,
Fain would I to the heavens find earth relate
Medea’s ceaseless woes and cruel fate.
Now all these things are done in grief, from a persuasion of their truth and propriety and necessity; and it is plain that those who behave thus do so from a conviction of its being their duty; for should these mourners by chance drop their grief, and either act or speak for a moment in a more calm or cheerful manner, they presently check themselves and return to their lamentations again, and blame themselves for having been guilty of any intermissions from their grief; and parents and masters generally correct children not by words only, but by blows, if they show any levity by either word or deed when the family is under affliction, and, as it were, oblige them to be sorrowful. What! does it not appear, when you have ceased to mourn, and have discovered that your grief has been ineffectual, that the whole of that mourning was voluntary on your part? What does that man say in Terence who punishes himself, the Self-tormentor?
I think I do my son less harm, O Chremes,
As long as I myself am miserable.
He determines to be miserable: and can anyone determine on anything against his will?
I well might think that I deserved all evil.
He would think he deserved any misfortune were he otherwise than miserable! Therefore, you see, the evil is in opinion, not in nature. How is it when some things do of themselves prevent your grieving at them? as in Homer, so many died and were buried daily that they had not leisure to grieve: where you find these lines —
The great, the bold, by thousands daily fall,
And endless were the grief to weep for all.
Eternal sorrows what avails to shed?
Greece honors not with solemn fasts the dead:
Enough when death demands the brave to pay
The tribute of a melancholy day.
One chief with patience to the grave resign’d,
Our care devolves on others left behind.
Therefore it is in our own power to lay aside grief upon occasion; and is there any opportunity (seeing the thing is in our own power) that we should let slip of getting rid of care and grief? It was plain that the friends of Cnaeus Pompeius, when they saw him fainting under his wounds, at the very moment of that most miserable and bitter sight were under great uneasiness how they themselves, surrounded by the enemy as they were, should escape, and were employed in nothing but encouraging the rowers and aiding their escape; but when they reached Tyre, they began to grieve and lament over him. Therefore, as fear with them, prevailed over grief, cannot reason and true philosophy have the same effect with a wise man?
But what is there more effectual to dispel grief than the discovery that it answers no purpose, and has been undergone to no account? Therefore, if we can get rid of it, we need never have been subject to it. It must be acknowledged, then, that men take up grief wilfully and knowingly; and this appears from the patience of those who, after they have been exercised in afflictions and are better able to bear whatever befalls them, suppose themselves hardened against fortune; as that person in Euripides,
Had this the first essay of fortune been,
And I no storms thro’ all my life had seen,
Wild as a colt I’d broke from reason’s sway;
But frequent griefs have taught me to obey.
As, then, the frequent bearing of misery makes grief the lighter, we must necessarily perceive that the cause and original of it does not lie in the calamity itself. Your principal philosophers, or lovers of wisdom, though they have not yet arrived at perfect wisdom, are not they sensible that they are in the greatest evil? For they are foolish, and foolishness is the greatest of all evils, and yet they lament not. How shall we account for this? Because opinion is not fixed upon that kind of evil, it is not our opinion that it is right, meet, and our duty to be uneasy because we are not all wise men. Whereas this opinion is strongly affixed to that uneasiness where mourning is concerned, which is the greatest of all grief. Therefore Aristotle, when he blames some ancient philosophers for imagining that by their genius they had brought philosophy to the highest perfection, says, they must be either extremely foolish or extremely vain; but that he himself could see that great improvements had been made therein in a few years, and that philosophy would in a little time arrive at perfection. And Theophrastus is reported to have reproached nature at his death for giving to stags and crows so long a life, which was of no use to them, but allowing only so short a span to men, to whom length of days would have been of the greatest use; for if the life of man could have been lengthened, it would have been able to provide itself with all kinds of learning, and with arts in the greatest perfection. He lamented, therefore, that he was dying just when he had begun to discover these. What! does not every grave and distinguished philosopher acknowledge himself ignorant of many things, and confess that there are many things which he must learn over and over again? And yet, though these men are sensible that they are standing still in the very midway of folly, than which nothing can be worse, they are under no great affliction, because no opinion that it is their duty to lament is ever mingled with this knowledge. What shall we say of those who think it unbecoming in a man to grieve? among whom we may reckon Q. Maximus, when he buried his son that had been consul, and L. Paulus, who lost two sons within a few days of one another. Of the same opinion was M. Cato, who lost his son just after he had been elected praetor, and many others, whose names I have collected in my book on Consolation. Now what made these men so easy, but their persuasion that grief and lamentation was not becoming in a man? Therefore, as some give themselves up to grief from an opinion that it is right so to do, they refrained themselves, from an opinion that it was discreditable; from which we may infer that grief is owing more to opinion than nature.
It may be said, on the other side, Who is so mad as to grieve of his own accord? Pain proceeds from nature, which you must submit to, say they, agreeably to what even your own Crantor teaches, for it presses and gains upon you unavoidably, and cannot possibly be resisted. So that the very same Oileus, in Sophocles, who had before comforted Telamon on the death of Ajax, on hearing of the death of his own son, is broken-hearted. On this alteration of his mind we have these lines:
Show me the man so well by wisdom taught
That what he charges to another’s fault,
When like affliction doth himself betide,
True to his own wise counsel will abide.
Now, when they urge these things, their endeavor is to prove that nature is absolutely and wholly irresistible; and yet the same people allow that we take greater grief on ourselves than nature requires. What madness is it, then, in us to require the same from others? But there are many reasons for our taking grief on us. The first is from the opinion of some evil, on the discovery and certainty of which grief comes of course. Besides, many people are persuaded that they are doing something very acceptable to the dead when they lament bitterly over them. To these may be added a kind of womanish superstition, in imagining that when they have been stricken by the afflictions sent by the Gods, to acknowledge themselves afflicted and humbled by them is the readiest way of appeasing them. But most men appear to be unaware what contradictions these things are full of. They commend those who die calmly, but they blame those who can bear the loss of another with the same calmness, as if it were possible that it should be true, as is occasionally said in love speeches, that anyone can love another more than himself. There is, indeed, something excellent in this, and, if you examine it, something no less just than true, that we love those who ought to be most dear to us as well as we love ourselves; but to love them more than ourselves is absolutely impossible; nor is it desirable in friendship that I should love my friend more than myself, or that he should love me so; for this would occasion much confusion in life, and break in upon all the duties of it.
But we will speak of this another time: at present it is sufficient not to attribute our misery to the loss of our friends, nor to love them more than, if they themselves could be sensible of our conduct, they would approve of, or at least not more than we do ourselves. Now as to what they say, that some are not at all appeased by our consolations; and, moreover, as to what they add, that the comforters themselves acknowledge they are miserable when fortune varies the attack and falls on them — in both these cases the solution is easy: for the fault here is not in nature, but in our own folly; and much may be said against folly. But men who do not admit of consolation seem to bespeak misery for themselves; and they who cannot bear their misfortunes with that temper which they recommend to others are not more faulty in this particular than most other persons; for we see that covetous men find fault with others who are covetous, as do the vainglorious with those who appear too wholly devoted to the pursuit of glory. For it is the peculiar characteristic of folly to perceive the vices of others, but to forget its own. But since we find that grief is removed by length of time, we have the greatest proof that the strength of it depends not merely on time, but on the daily consideration of it. For if the cause continues the same, and the man be the same, how can there be any alteration in the grief, if there is no change in what occasioned the grief, nor in him who grieves? Therefore it is from daily reflecting that there is no real evil in the circumstance for which you grieve, and not from the length of time, that you procure a remedy for your grief.
Here some people talk of moderate grief; but if such be natural, what occasion is there for consolation? for nature herself will determine, the measure of it: but if it depends on and is caused by opinion, the whole opinion should be destroyed. I think that it has been sufficiently said, that grief arises from an opinion of some present evil, which includes this belief, that it is incumbent on us to grieve. To this definition Zeno has added, very justly, that the opinion of this present evil should be recent. Now this word recent they explain thus: those are not the only recent things which happened a little while ago; but as long as there shall be any force, or vigor, or freshness in that imagined evil, so long it is entitled to the name of recent. Take the case of Artemisia, the wife of Mausolus, King of Caria, who made that noble sepulchre at Halicarnassus; while she lived, she lived in grief, and died of it, being worn out by it, for that opinion was always recent with her: but you cannot call that recent which has already begun to decay through time. Now the duty of a comforter is, to remove grief entirely, to quiet it, or draw it off as much as you can, or else to keep it under, and prevent its spreading any further, and to divert one’s attention to other matters. There are some who think, with Cleanthes, that the only duty of a comforter is to prove that what one is lamenting is by no means an evil. Others, as the Peripatetics, prefer urging that the evil is not great. Others, with Epicurus, seek to divert your attention from the evil to good: some think it sufficient to show that nothing has happened but what you had reason to expect; and this is the practice of the Cyrenaics. But Chrysippus thinks that the main thing in comforting is, to remove the opinion from the person who is grieving, that to grieve is his bounden duty. There are others who bring together all these various kinds of consolations, for people are differently affected; as I have done myself in my book on Consolation; for as my own mind was much disordered, I have attempted in that book to discover every method of cure. But the proper season is as much to be attended to in the cure of the mind as of the body; as Prometheus in Aeschylus, on its being said to him,
I think, Prometheus, you this tenet hold,
That all men’s reason should their rage control?
Yes, when one reason properly applies;
Ill-timed advice will make the storm but rise.
But the principal medicine to be applied in consolation is, to maintain either that it is no evil at all, or a very inconsiderable one: the next best to that is, to speak of the common condition of life, having a view, if possible, to the state of the person whom you comfort particularly. The third is, that it is folly to wear one’s self out with grief which can avail nothing. For the comfort of Cleanthes is suitable only for a wise man, who is in no need of any comfort at all; for could you persuade one in grief that nothing is an evil but what is base, you would not only cure him of grief, but folly. But the time for such precepts is not well chosen. Besides, Cleanthes does not seem to me sufficiently aware that affliction may very often proceed from that very thing which he himself allows to be the greatest misfortune. For what shall we say? When Socrates had convinced Alcibiades, as we are told, that he had no distinctive qualifications as a man different from other people, and that, in fact, there was no difference between him, though a man of the highest rank, and a porter; and when Alcibiades became uneasy at this, and entreated Socrates, with tears in his eyes, to make him a man of virtue, and to cure him of that mean position; what shall we say to this, Cleanthes? Was there no evil in what afflicted Alcibiades thus? What strange things does Lycon say? who, making light of grief, says that it arises from trifles, from things that affect our fortune or bodies, not from the evils of the mind. What, then? did not the grief of Alcibiades proceed from the defects and evils of the mind? I have already said enough of Epicurus’s consolation.
Nor is that consolation much to be relied on, though it is frequently practiced, and sometimes has some effect, namely, “That you are not alone in this.” It has its effect, as I said, but not always, nor with every person, for some reject it; but much depends on the application of it; for you ought rather to show, not how men in general have been affected with such evils, but how men of sense have borne them. As to Chrysippus’s method, it is certainly founded in truth; but it is difficult to apply it in time of distress. It is a work of no small difficulty to persuade a person in affliction that he grieves merely because he thinks it right so to do. Certainly, then, as in pleadings we do not state all cases alike (if I may adopt the language of lawyers for a moment), but adapt what we have to say to the time, to the nature of the subject under debate, and to the person; so, too, in alleviating grief, regard should be had to what kind of cure the party to be comforted can admit of. But, somehow or other, we have rambled from what you originally proposed. For your question was concerning a wise man, with whom nothing can have the appearance of evil that is not dishonorable; or at least, anything else would seem so small an evil that by his wisdom he would so overmatch it as to make it wholly disappear; and such a man makes no addition to his grief through opinion, and never conceives it right to torment himself above measure, nor to wear himself out with grief, which is the meanest thing imaginable. Reason, however, it seems, has demonstrated (though it was not directly our object at the moment to inquire whether anything can be called an evil except what is base) that it is in our power to discern that all the evil which there is in affliction has nothing natural in it, but is contracted by our own voluntary judgment of it, and the error of opinion.
But the kind of affliction of which I have treated is that which is the greatest; in order that when we have once got rid of that, it may appear a business of less consequence to look after remedies for the others. For there are certain things which are usually said about poverty; and also certain statements ordinarily applied to retired and undistinguished life. There are particular treatises on banishment, on the ruin of one’s country, on slavery, on weakness, on blindness, and on every incident that can come under the name of an evil. The Greeks divide these into different treatises and distinct books; but they do it for the sake of employment: not but that all such discussions are full of entertainment. And yet, as physicians, in curing the whole body, attend to even the most insignificant part of the body which is at all disordered, so does philosophy act, after it has removed grief in general; still, if any other deficiency exists — should poverty bite, should ignominy sting, should banishment bring a dark cloud over us, or should any of those things which I have just mentioned appear, there is for each its appropriate consolation, which you shall hear whenever you please. But we must have recourse again to the same original principle, that a wise man is free from all sorrow, because it is vain, because it answers no purpose, because it is not founded in nature, but on opinion and prejudice, and is engendered by a kind of invitation to grieve, when once men have imagined that it is their duty to do so. When, then, we have subtracted what is altogether voluntary, that mournful uneasiness will be removed; yet some little anxiety, some slight pricking, will still remain. They may indeed call this natural, provided they give it not that horrid, solemn, melancholy name of grief, which can by no means consist with wisdom. But how various and how bitter are the roots of grief! Whatever they are, I propose, after having felled the trunk, to destroy them all; even if it should be necessary, by allotting a separate dissertation to each, for I have leisure enough to do so, whatever time it may take up. But the principle of every uneasiness is the same, though they may appear under different names. For envy is an uneasiness; so are emulation, detraction, anguish, sorrow, sadness, tribulation, lamentation, vexation, grief, trouble, affliction, and despair. The Stoics define all these different feelings; and all those words which I have mentioned belong to different things, and do not, as they seem, express the same ideas; but they are to a certain extent distinct, as I shall make appear perhaps in another place. These are those fibres of the roots which, as I said at first, must be traced back and cut off and destroyed, so that not one shall remain. You say it is a great and difficult undertaking: who denies it? But what is there of any excellency which has not its difficulty? Yet philosophy undertakes to effect it, provided we admit its superintendence. But enough of this. The other books, whenever you please, shall be ready for you here or anywhere else.
I have often wondered, Brutus, on many occasions, at the ingenuity and virtues of our countrymen; but nothing has surprised me more than their development in those studies, which, though they came somewhat late to us, have been transported into this city from Greece. For the system of auspices, and religious ceremonies, and courts of justice, and appeals to the people, the senate, the establishment of an army of cavalry and infantry, and the whole military discipline, were instituted as early as the foundation of the city by royal authority, partly too by laws, not without the assistance of the Gods. Then with what a surprising and incredible progress did our ancestors advance toward all kind of excellence, when once the republic was freed from the regal power! Not that this is a proper occasion to treat of the manners and customs of our ancestors, or of the discipline and constitution of the city; for I have elsewhere, particularly in the six books I wrote on the Republic, given a sufficiently accurate account of them. But while I am on this subject, and considering the study of philosophy, I meet with many reasons to imagine that those studies were brought to us from abroad, and not merely imported, but preserved and improved; for they had Pythagoras, a man of consummate wisdom and nobleness of character, in a manner, before their eyes, who was in Italy at the time that Lucius Brutus, the illustrious founder of your nobility, delivered his country from tyranny. As the doctrine of Pythagoras spread itself on all sides, it seems probable to me that it reached this city; and this is not only probable of itself, but it does really appear to have been the case from many remains of it. For who can imagine that, when it flourished so much in that part of Italy which was called Magna Graecia, and in some of the largest and most powerful cities, in which, first the name of Pythagoras, and then that of those men who were afterward his followers, was in so high esteem; who can imagine, I say, that our people could shut their ears to what was said by such learned men? Besides, it is even my opinion that it was the great esteem in which the Pythagoreans were held, that gave rise to that opinion among those who came after him, that King Numa was a Pythagorean. For, being acquainted with the doctrine and principles of Pythagoras, and having heard from their ancestors that this king was a very wise and just man, and not being able to distinguish accurately between times and periods that were so remote, they inferred, from his being so eminent for his wisdom, that he had been a pupil of Pythagoras.
So far we proceed on conjecture. As to the vestiges of the Pythagoreans, though I might collect many, I shall use but a few; because they have no connection with our present purpose. For, as it is reported to have been a custom with them to deliver certain precepts in a more abstruse manner in verse, and to bring their minds from severe thought to a more composed state by songs and musical instruments; so Cato, a writer of the very highest authority, says in his Origins, that it was customary with our ancestors for the guests at their entertainments, everyone in his turn, to celebrate the praises and virtues of illustrious men in song to the sound of the flute; whence it is clear that poems and songs were then composed for the voice. And, indeed, it is also clear that poetry was in fashion from the laws of the Twelve Tables, wherein it is provided that no song should be made to the injury of another. Another argument of the erudition of those times is, that they played on instruments before the shrines of their Gods, and at the entertainments of their magistrates; but that custom was peculiar to the sect I am speaking of. To me, indeed, that poem of Appius Caecus, which Panaetius commends so much in a certain letter of his which is addressed to Quintus Tubero, has all the marks of a Pythagorean author. We have many things derived from the Pythagoreans in our customs, which I pass over, that we may not seem to have learned that elsewhere which we look upon ourselves as the inventors of. But to return to our purpose. How many great poets as well as orators have sprung up among us! and in what a short time! so that it is evident that our people could arrive at any learning as soon as they had an inclination for it. But of other studies I shall speak elsewhere if there is occasion, as I have already often done.
The study of philosophy is certainly of long standing with us; but yet I do not find that I can give you the names of any philosopher before the age of Laelius and Scipio, in whose younger days we find that Diogenes the Stoic, and Carneades the Academic, were sent as ambassadors by the Athenians to our senate. And as these had never been concerned in public affairs, and one of them was a Cyrenean, the other a Babylonian, they certainly would never have been forced from their studies, nor chosen for that employment, unless the study of philosophy had been in vogue with some of the great men at that time; who, though they might employ their pens on other subjects — some on civil law, others on oratory, others on the history of former times — yet promoted this most extensive of all arts, the principle of living well, even more by their life than by their writings. So that of that true and elegant philosophy (which was derived from Socrates, and is still preserved by the Peripatetics and by the Stoics, though they express themselves differently in their disputes with the Academics) there are few or no Latin records; whether this proceeds from the importance of the thing itself, or from men’s being otherwise employed, or from their concluding that the capacity of the people was not equal to the apprehension of them. But, during this silence, C. Amafinius arose and took upon himself to speak; on the publishing of whose writings the people were moved, and enlisted themselves chiefly under this sect, either because the doctrine was more easily understood, or because they were invited thereto by the pleasing thoughts of amusement, or that, because there was nothing better, they laid hold of what was offered them. And after Amafinius, when many of the same sentiments had written much about them, the Pythagoreans spread over all Italy: but that these doctrines should be so easily understood and approved of by the unlearned is a great proof that they were not written with any great subtlety, and they think their establishment to be owing to this.
But let everyone defend his own opinion, for everyone is at liberty to choose what he likes: I shall keep to my old custom; and, being under no restraint from the laws of any particular school, which in philosophy everyone must necessarily confine himself to, I shall always inquire what has the most probability in every question, and this system, which I have often practiced on other occasions, I have adhered closely to in my Tusculan Disputations. Therefore, as I have acquainted you with the disputations of the three former days, this book shall conclude the discussion of the fourth day. When we had come down into the Academy, as we had done the former days, the business was carried on thus:
M. Let anyone say, who pleases, what he would wish to have discussed.
A. I do not think a wise man can possibly be free from every perturbation of mind.
M. He seemed by yesterday’s discourse to be free from grief; unless you agreed with us only to avoid taking up time.
A. Not at all on that account, for I was extremely satisfied with your discourse.
M. You do not think, then, that a wise man is subject to grief?
A. No, by no means.
M. But if that cannot disorder the mind of a wise man, nothing else can. For what — can such a man be disturbed by fear? Fear proceeds from the same things when absent which occasion grief when present. Take away grief, then, and you remove fear.
The two remaining perturbations are, a joy elate above measure, and lust; and if a wise man is not subject to these, his mind will be always at rest.
A. I am entirely of that opinion.
M. Which, then, shall we do? Shall I immediately crowd all my sails? or shall I make use of my oars, as if I were just endeavoring to get clear of the harbor?
A. What is it that you mean, for I do not exactly comprehend you?
M. Because, Chrysippus and the Stoics, when they discuss the perturbations of the mind, make great part of their debate to consist in definitions and distinctions; while they employ but few words on the subject of curing the mind, and preventing it from being disordered. Whereas the Peripatetics bring a great many things to promote the cure of it, but have no regard to their thorny partitions and definitions. My question, then, was, whether I should instantly unfold the sails of my eloquence, or be content for a while to make less way with the oars of logic?
A. Let it be so; for by the employment of both these means the subject of our inquiry will be more thoroughly discussed.
M. It is certainly the better way; and should anything be too obscure, you may examine that afterward.
A. I will do so; but those very obscure points you will, as usual, deliver with more clearness than the Greeks.
M. I will, indeed, endeavor to do so; but it well requires great attention, lest, by losing one word, the whole should escape you. What the Greeks call [Greek: pathê] we choose to name perturbations (or disorders) rather than diseases; in explaining which, I shall follow, first, that very old description of Pythagoras, and afterward that of Plato; for they both divide the mind into two parts, and make one of these partake of reason, and the other they represent without it. In that which partakes of reason they place tranquility, that is to say, a placid and undisturbed constancy; to the other they assign the turbid motions of anger and desire, which are contrary and opposite to reason. Let this, then, be our principle, the spring of all our reasonings. But notwithstanding, I shall use the partitions and definitions of the Stoics in describing these perturbations; who seem to me to have shown very great acuteness on this question.
Zeno’s definition, then, is this: “A perturbation” (which he calls a [Greek: pathos]) “is a commotion of the mind repugnant to reason, and against nature.” Some of them define it even more briefly, saying that a perturbation is a somewhat too vehement appetite; but by too vehement they mean an appetite that recedes further from the constancy of nature. But they would have the divisions of perturbations to arise from two imagined goods, and from two imagined evils; and thus they become four: from the good proceed lust and joy — joy having reference to some present good, and lust to some future one. They suppose fear and grief to proceed from evils: fear from something future, grief from something present; for whatever things are dreaded as approaching always occasion grief when present. But joy and lust depend on the opinion of good; as lust, being inflamed and provoked, is carried on eagerly toward what has the appearance of good; and joy is transported and exults on obtaining what was desired: for we naturally pursue those things that have the appearance of good, and avoid the contrary. Wherefore, as soon as anything that has the appearance of good presents itself, nature incites us to endeavor to obtain it. Now, where this strong desire is consistent and founded on prudence, it is by the Stoics called [Greek: boulêsis], and the name which we give it is volition; and this they allow to none but their wise man, and define it thus: Volition is a reasonable desire; but whatever is incited too violently in opposition to reason, that is a lust, or an unbridled desire, which is discoverable in all fools. And, therefore, when we are affected so as to be placed in any good condition, we are moved in two ways; for when the mind is moved in a placid and calm motion, consistent with reason, that is called joy; but when it exults with a vain, wanton exultation, or immoderate joy, then that feeling may be called immoderate ecstasy or transport, which they define to be an elation of the mind without reason. And as we naturally desire good things, so in like manner we naturally seek to avoid what is evil; and this avoidance of which, if conducted in accordance with reason, is called caution; and this the wise man alone is supposed to have: but that caution which is not under the guidance of reason, but is attended with a base and low dejection, is called fear. Fear is, therefore, caution destitute of reason. But a wise man is not affected by any present evil; while the grief of a fool proceeds from being affected with an imaginary evil, by which his mind is contracted and sunk, since it is not under the dominion of reason. This, then, is the first definition, which makes grief to consist in a shrinking of the mind contrary to the dictates of reason. Thus, there are four perturbations, and but three calm rational emotions; for grief has no exact opposite.
But they insist upon it that all perturbations depend on opinion and judgment; therefore they define them more strictly, in order not only the better to show how blamable they are, but to discover how much they are in our power. Grief, then, is a recent opinion of some present evil, in which it seems to be right that the mind should shrink and be dejected. Joy is a recent opinion of a present good, in which it seems to be right that the mind should be elated. Fear is an opinion of an impending evil which we apprehend will be intolerable. Lust is an opinion of a good to come, which would be of advantage were it already come, and present with us. But however I have named the judgments and opinions of perturbations, their meaning is, not that merely the perturbations consist in them, but that the effects likewise of these perturbations do so; as grief occasions a kind of painful pricking, and fear engenders a recoil or sudden abandonment of the mind, joy gives rise to a profuse mirth, while lust is the parent of an unbridled habit of coveting. But that imagination, which I have included in all the above definitions, they would have to consist in assenting without warrantable grounds. Now, every perturbation has many subordinate parts annexed to it of the same kind. Grief is attended with enviousness (invidentia) — I use that word for instruction’s sake, though it is not so common; because envy (invidia) takes in not only the person who envies, but the person, too, who is envied — emulation, detraction, pity, vexation, mourning, sadness, tribulation, sorrow, lamentation, solicitude, disquiet of mind, pain, despair, and many other similar feelings are so too. Under fear are comprehended sloth, shame, terror, cowardice, fainting, confusion, astonishment. In pleasure they comprehend malevolence — that is, pleased at another’s misfortune — delight, boastfulness, and the like. To lust they associate anger, fury, hatred, enmity, discord, wants, desire, and other feelings of that kind.
But they define these in this manner:
Enviousness (invidentia), they say, is a grief arising from the prosperous circumstances of another, which are in no degree injurious to the person who envies; for where anyone grieves at the prosperity of another, by which he is injured, such a one is not properly said to envy — as when Agamemnon grieves at Hector’s success; but where anyone, who is in no way hurt by the prosperity of another, is in pain at his success, such a one envies indeed. Now the name “emulation” is taken in a double sense, so that the same word may stand for praise and dispraise: for the imitation of virtue is called emulation (however, that sense of it I shall have no occasion for here, for that carries praise with it); but emulation is also a term applied to grief at another’s enjoying what I desired to have, and am without. Detraction (and I mean by that, jealousy) is a grief even at another’s enjoying what I had a great inclination for. Pity is a grief at the misery of another who suffers wrongfully; for no one is moved by pity at the punishment of a parricide or of a betrayer of his country. Vexation is a pressing grief. Mourning is a grief at the bitter death of one who was dear to you. Sadness is a grief attended with tears. Tribulation is a painful grief. Sorrow, an excruciating grief. Lamentation, a grief where we loudly bewail ourselves. Solicitude, a pensive grief. Trouble, a continued grief. Affliction, a grief that harasses the body. Despair, a grief that excludes all hope of better things to come. But those feelings which are included under fear, they define thus: There is sloth, which is a dread of some ensuing labor; shame and terror, which affect the body — hence blushing attends shame; a paleness, and tremor, and chattering of the teeth attend terror — cowardice, which is an apprehension of some approaching evil; dread, a fear that unhinges the mind, whence comes that line of Ennius,
Then dread discharged all wisdom from my mind;
fainting is the associate and constant attendant on dread; confusion, a fear that drives away all thought; alarm, a continued fear.
The different species into which they divide pleasure come under this description; so that malevolence is a pleasure in the misfortunes of another, without any advantage to yourself; delight, a pleasure that soothes the mind by agreeable impressions on the ear. What is said of the ear may be applied to the sight, to the touch, smell, and taste. All feelings of this kind are a sort of melting pleasure that dissolves the mind. Boastfulness is a pleasure that consists in making an appearance, and setting off yourself with insolence. — The subordinate species of lust they define in this manner: Anger is a lust of punishing anyone who, as we imagine, has injured us without cause. Heat is anger just forming and beginning to exist, which the Greeks call [Greek: thymôsis]. Hatred is a settled anger. Enmity is anger waiting for an opportunity of revenge. Discord is a sharper anger conceived deeply in the mind and heart. Want an insatiable lust. Regret is when one eagerly wishes to see a person who is absent. Now here they have a distinction; so that with them regret is a lust conceived on hearing of certain things reported of some one, or of many, which the Greeks call [Greek: katêgorêmata], or predicaments; as that they are in possession of riches and honors: but want is a lust for those very honors and riches. But these definers make intemperance the fountain of all these perturbations; which is an absolute revolt from the mind and right reason — a state so averse to all rules of reason that the appetites of the mind can by no means be governed and restrained. As, therefore, temperance appeases these desires, making them obey right reason, and maintains the well-weighed judgments of the mind, so intemperance, which is in opposition to this, inflames, confounds, and puts every state of the mind into a violent motion. Thus, grief and fear, and every other perturbation of the mind, have their rise from intemperance.
Just as distempers and sickness are bred in the body from the corruption of the blood, and the too great abundance of phlegm and bile, so the mind is deprived of its health, and disordered with sickness, from a confusion of depraved opinions that are in opposition to one another. From these perturbations arise, first, diseases, which they call [Greek: nosêmata]; and also those feelings which are in opposition to these diseases, and which admit certain faulty distastes or loathings; then come sicknesses, which are called [Greek: arrhôstêmata] by the Stoics, and these two have their opposite aversions. Here the Stoics, especially Chrysippus, give themselves unnecessary trouble to show the analogy which the diseases of the mind have to those of the body: but, overlooking all that they say as of little consequence, I shall treat only of the thing itself. Let us, then, understand perturbation to imply a restlessness from the variety and confusion of contradictory opinions; and that when this heat and disturbance of the mind is of any standing, and has taken up its residence, as it were, in the veins and marrow, then commence diseases and sickness, and those aversions which are in opposition to these diseases and sicknesses.
What I say here may be distinguished in thought, though they are in fact the same; inasmuch as they both have their rise from lust and joy. For should money be the object of our desire, and should we not instantly apply to reason, as if it were a kind of Socratic medicine to heal this desire, the evil glides into our veins, and cleaves to our bowels, and from thence proceeds a distemper or sickness, which, when it is of any continuance, is incurable, and the name of this disease is covetousness. It is the same with other diseases; as the desire of glory, a passion for women, to which the Greeks give the name of [Greek: philogyneia]: and thus all other diseases and sicknesses are generated. But those feelings which are the contrary of these are supposed to have fear for their foundation, as a hatred of women, such as is displayed in the Woman-hater of Atilius; or the hatred of the whole human species, as Timon is reported to have done, whom they call the Misanthrope. Of the same kind is inhospitality. And all these diseases proceed from a certain dread of such things as they hate and avoid. But they define sickness of mind to be an overweening opinion, and that fixed and deeply implanted in the heart, of something as very desirable which is by no means so. What proceeds from aversion, they define thus: a vehement idea of something to be avoided, deeply implanted, and inherent in our minds, when there is no reason for avoiding it; and this kind of opinion is a deliberate belief that one understands things of which one is wholly ignorant. Now, sickness of the mind has all these subordinate divisions: avarice, ambition, fondness for women, obstinacy, gluttony, drunkenness, covetousness, and other similar vices. But avarice is a violent opinion about money, as if it were vehemently to be desired and sought after, which opinion is deeply implanted and inherent in our minds; and the definition of all the other similar feelings resembles these. But the definitions of aversions are of this sort: inhospitality is a vehement opinion, deeply implanted and inherent in your mind, that you should avoid a stranger. Thus, too, the hatred of women, like that felt by Hippolytus, is defined; and the hatred of the human species like that displayed by Timon.
But to come to the analogy of the state of body and mind, which I shall sometimes make use of, though more sparingly than the Stoics. Some men are more inclined to particular disorders than others; and, therefore, we say that some people are rheumatic, others dropsical, not because they are so at present, but because they are often so: some are inclined to fear, others to some other perturbation. Thus in some there is a continual anxiety, owing to which they are anxious; in some a hastiness of temper, which differs from anger, as anxiety differs from anguish: for all are not anxious who are sometimes vexed, nor are they who are anxious always uneasy in that manner: as there is a difference between being drunk and drunkenness; and it is one thing to be a lover, another to be given to women. And this disposition of particular people to particular disorders is very common: for it relates to all perturbations; it appears in many vices, though it has no name. Some are, therefore, said to be envious, malevolent, spiteful, fearful, pitiful, from a propensity to those perturbations, not from their being always carried away by them. Now this propensity to these particular disorders may be called a sickness from analogy with the body; meaning, that is to say, nothing more than a propensity toward sickness. But with regard to whatever is good, as some are more inclined to different good qualities than others, we may call this a facility or tendency: this tendency to evil is a proclivity or inclination to falling; but where anything is neither good nor bad, it may have the former name.
Even as there may be, with respect to the body, a disease, a sickness, and a defect, so it is with the mind. They call that a disease where the whole body is corrupted; they call that sickness where a disease is attended with a weakness, and that a defect where the parts of the body are not well compacted together; whence it follows that the members are misshapen, crooked, and deformed. So that these two, a disease and sickness, proceed from a violent concussion and perturbation of the health of the whole body; but a defect discovers itself even when the body is in perfect health. But a disease of the mind is distinguishable only in thought from a sickness. But a viciousness is a habit or affection discordant and inconsistent with itself through life. Thus it happens that, in the one case, a disease and sickness may arise from a corruption of opinions; in the other case, the consequence may be inconstancy and inconsistency. For every vice of the mind does not imply a disunion of parts; as is the case with those who are not far from being wise men. With them there is that affection which is inconsistent with itself while it is foolish; but it is not distorted, nor depraved. But diseases and sicknesses are parts of viciousness; but it is a question whether perturbations are parts of the same, for vices are permanent affections: perturbations are such as are restless; so that they cannot be parts of permanent ones. As there is some analogy between the nature of the body and mind in evil, so is there in good; for the distinctions of the body are beauty, strength, health, firmness, quickness of motion: the same may be said of the mind. The body is said to be in a good state when all those things on which health depends are consistent: the same may be said of the mind when its judgments and opinions are not at variance with one another. And this union is the virtue of the mind, which, according to some people, is temperance itself; others make it consist in an obedience to the precepts of temperance, and a compliance with them, not allowing it to be any distinct species of itself. But, be it one or the other, it is to be found only in a wise man. But there is a certain soundness of mind, which even a fool may have, when the perturbation of his mind is removed by the care and management of his physicians. And as what is called beauty arises from an exact proportion of the limbs, together with a certain sweetness of complexion, so the beauty of the mind consists in an equality and constancy of opinions and judgments, joined to a certain firmness and stability, pursuing virtue, or containing within itself the very essence of virtue. Besides, we give the very same names to the faculties of the mind as we do to the powers of the body, the nerves, and other powers of action. Thus the velocity of the body is called swiftness: a praise which we ascribe to the mind, from its running over in its thoughts so many things in so short a time.
Herein, indeed, the mind and body are unlike: that though the mind when in perfect health may be visited by sickness, as the body may, yet the body may be disordered without our fault; the mind cannot. For all the disorders and perturbations of the mind proceed from a neglect of reason; these disorders, therefore, are confined to men: the beasts are not subject to such perturbations, though they act sometimes as if they had reason. There is a difference, too, between ingenious and dull men; the ingenious, like the Corinthian brass, which is long before it receives rust, are longer before they fall into these perturbations, and are recovered sooner: the case is different with the dull. Nor does the mind of an ingenious man fall into every kind of perturbation, for it never yields to any that are brutish and savage; and some of their perturbations have at first even the appearance of humanity, as mercy, grief, and fear. But the sicknesses and diseases of the mind are thought to be harder to eradicate than those leading vices which are in opposition to virtues; for vices may be removed, though the diseases of the mind should continue, which diseases are not cured with that expedition with which vices are removed. I have now acquainted you with the arguments which the Stoics put forth with such exactness; which they call logic, from their close arguing: and since my discourse has got clear of these rocks, I will proceed with the remainder of it, provided I have been sufficiently clear in what I have already said, considering the obscurity of the subject I have treated.
A. Clear enough; but should there be occasion for a more exact inquiry, I shall take another opportunity of asking you. I expect you now to hoist your sails, as you just now called them, and proceed on your course.
M. Since I have spoken before of virtue in other places, and shall often have occasion to speak again (for a great many questions that relate to life and manners arise from the spring of virtue); and since, as I say, virtue consists in a settled and uniform affection of mind, making those persons praiseworthy who are possessed of her, she herself also, independent of anything else, without regard to any advantage, must be praiseworthy; for from her proceed good inclinations, opinions, actions, and the whole of right reason; though virtue may be defined in a few words to be right reason itself. The opposite to this is viciousness (for so I choose to translate what the Greeks call [Greek: kakia], rather than by perverseness; for perverseness is the name of a particular vice; but viciousness includes all), whence arise those perturbations which, as I just now said, are turbid and violent motions of the mind, repugnant to reason, and enemies in a high degree to the peace of the mind and a tranquil life, for they introduce piercing and anxious cares, and afflict and debilitate the mind through fear; they violently inflame our hearts with exaggerated appetite, which is in reality an impotence of mind, utterly irreconcilable with temperance and moderation, which we sometimes call desire, and sometimes lust, and which, should it even attain the object of its wishes, immediately becomes so elated that it loses all its resolution, and knows not what to pursue; so that he was in the right who said “that exaggerated pleasure was the very greatest of mistakes.” Virtue, then, alone can effect the cure of these evils.
For what is not only more miserable, but more base and sordid, than a man afflicted, weakened, and oppressed with grief? And little short of this misery is one who dreads some approaching evil, and who, through faintheartedness, is under continual suspense. The poets, to express the greatness of this evil, imagine a stone to hang over the head of Tantalus, as a punishment for his wickedness, his pride, and his boasting. And this is the common punishment of folly; for there hangs over the head of everyone whose mind revolts from reason some similar fear. And as these perturbations of the mind, grief and fear, are of a most wasting nature, so those two others, though of a more merry cast (I mean lust, which is always coveting something with eagerness, and empty mirth, which is an exulting joy), differ very little from madness. Hence you may understand what sort of person he is whom we call at one time moderate, at another modest or temperate, at another constant and virtuous; while sometimes we include all these names in the word frugality, as the crown of all; for if that word did not include all virtues, it would never have been proverbial to say that a frugal man does everything rightly. But when the Stoics apply this saying to their wise man, they seem to exalt him too much, and to speak of him with too much admiration.
Whoever, then, through moderation and constancy, is at rest in his mind, and in calm possession of himself, so as neither to pine with care, nor be dejected with fear, nor to be inflamed with desire, coveting something greedily, nor relaxed by extravagant mirth — such a man is that identical wise man whom we are inquiring for: he is the happy man, to whom nothing in this life seems intolerable enough to depress him; nothing exquisite enough to transport him unduly. For what is there in this life that can appear great to him who has acquainted himself with eternity and the utmost extent of the universe? For what is there in human knowledge, or the short span of this life, that can appear great to a wise man? whose mind is always so upon its guard that nothing can befall him which is unforeseen, nothing which is unexpected, nothing, in short, which is new. Such a man takes so exact a survey on all sides of him, that he always knows the proper place and spot to live in free from all the troubles and annoyances of life, and encounters every accident that fortune can bring upon him with a becoming calmness. Whoever conducts himself in this manner will be free from grief, and from every other perturbation; and a mind free from these feelings renders men completely happy; whereas a mind disordered and drawn off from right and unerring reason loses at once, not only its resolution, but its health. — Therefore the thoughts and declarations of the Peripatetics are soft and effeminate, for they say that the mind must necessarily be agitated, but at the same time they lay down certain bounds beyond which that agitation is not to proceed. And do you set bounds to vice? or is it no vice to disobey reason? Does not reason sufficiently declare that there is no real good which you should desire too ardently, or the possession of which you should allow to transport you? and that there is no evil that should be able to overwhelm you, or the suspicion of which should distract you? and that all these things assume too melancholy or too cheerful an appearance through our own error? But if fools find this error lessened by time, so that, though the cause remains the same, they are not affected, in the same manner, after some time, as they were at first, why, surely a wise man ought not to be influenced at all by it. But what are those degrees by which we are to limit it? Let us fix these degrees in grief, a difficult subject, and one much canvassed. — Fannius writes that P. Rutilius took it much to heart that his brother was refused the consulship; but he seems to have been too much affected by this disappointment, for it was the occasion of his death: he ought, therefore, to have borne it with more moderation. But let us suppose that while he was bearing this with moderation, the death of his children had intervened; here would have started a fresh grief, which, admitting it to be moderate in itself, yet still must have been a great addition to the other. Now, to these let us add some acute pains of body, the loss of his fortune, blindness, banishment. Supposing, then, each separate misfortune to occasion a separate additional grief, the whole would be too great to be supportable.
The man who attempts to set bounds to vice acts like one who should throw himself headlong from Leucate, persuaded that he could stop himself whenever he pleased. Now, as that is impossible, so a perturbed and disordered mind cannot restrain itself, and stop where it pleases. Certainly whatever is bad in its increase is bad in its birth. Now grief and all other perturbations are doubtless baneful in their progress, and have, therefore, no small share of evil at the beginning; for they go on of themselves when once they depart from reason, for every weakness is self-indulgent, and indiscreetly launches out, and does not know where to stop. So that it makes no difference whether you approve of moderate perturbations of mind, or of moderate injustice, moderate cowardice, and moderate intemperance; for whoever prescribes bounds to vice admits a part of it, which, as it is odious of itself, becomes the more so as it stands on slippery ground, and, being once set forward, glides on headlong, and cannot by any means be stopped.
Why should I say more? Why should I add that the Peripatetics say that these perturbations, which we insist upon it should be extirpated, are not only natural, but were given to men by nature for a good purpose? They usually talk in this manner. In the first place, they say much in praise of anger; they call it the whetstone of courage, and they say that angry men exert themselves most against an enemy or against a bad citizen: that those reasons are of little weight which are the motives of men who think thus, as — it is a just war; it becomes us to fight for our laws, our liberties, our country: they will allow no force to these arguments unless our courage is warmed by anger. — Nor do they confine their argument to warriors; but their opinion is that no one can issue any rigid commands without some bitterness and anger. In short, they have no notion of an orator either accusing or even defending a client without he is spurred on by anger. And though this anger should not be real, still they think his words and gestures ought to wear the appearance of it, so that the action of the orator may excite the anger of his hearer. And they deny that any man has ever been seen who does not know what it is to be angry; and they name what we call lenity by the bad appellation of indolence. Nor do they commend only this lust (for anger is, as I defined it above, the lust of revenge), but they maintain that kind of lust or desire to be given us by nature for very good purposes, saying that no one can execute anything well but what he is in earnest about. Themistocles used to walk in the public places in the night because he could not sleep; and when asked the reason, his answer was, that Miltiades’s trophies kept him awake. Who has not heard how Demosthenes used to watch, who said that it gave him pain if any mechanic was up in a morning at his work before him? Lastly, they urge that some of the greatest philosophers would never have made that progress in their studies without some ardent desire spurring them on. — We are informed that Pythagoras, Democritus, and Plato visited the remotest parts of the world; for they thought that they ought to go wherever anything was to be learned. Now, it is not conceivable that these things could be effected by anything but by the greatest ardor of mind.
They say that even grief, which we have already said ought to be avoided as a monstrous and fierce beast, was appointed by nature, not without some good purpose, in order that men should lament when they had committed a fault, well knowing they had exposed themselves to correction, rebuke, and ignominy; for they think that those who can bear ignominy and infamy without pain have acquired a complete impunity for all sorts of crimes; for with them reproach is a stronger check than conscience. Whence we have that scene in Afranius borrowed from common life; for when the abandoned son saith, “Wretched that I am!” the severe father replies,
Let him but grieve, no matter what the cause.
And they say the other divisions of sorrow have their use; that pity incites us to hasten to the assistance of others, and to alleviate the calamities of men who have undeservedly fallen into them; that even envy and detraction are not without their use, as when a man sees that another person has attained what he cannot, or observes another to be equally successful with himself; that he who should take away fear would take away all industry in life, which those men exert in the greatest degree who are afraid of the laws and of the magistrates, who dread poverty, ignominy, death, and pain. But while they argue thus, they allow indeed of these feelings being retrenched, though they deny that they either can or should be plucked up by the roots; so that their opinion is that mediocrity is best in everything. When they reason in this manner, what think you — is what they say worth attending to or not?
A. I think it is. I wait, therefore, to hear what you will say in reply to them.
M. Perhaps I may find something to say; but I will make this observation first: do you take notice with what modesty the Academics behave themselves? for they speak plainly to the purpose. The Peripatetics are answered by the Stoics; they have my leave to fight it out, who think myself no otherwise concerned than to inquire for what may seem to be most probable. Our present business is, then, to see if we can meet with anything in this question which is the probable, for beyond such approximation to truth as that human nature cannot proceed. The definition of a perturbation, as Zeno, I think, has rightly determined it, is thus: That a perturbation is a commotion of the mind against nature, in opposition to right reason; or, more briefly, thus, that a perturbation is a somewhat too vehement appetite; and when he says somewhat too vehement, he means such as is at a greater distance from the constant course of nature. What can I say to these definitions? The greater part of them we have from those who dispute with sagacity and acuteness: some of them expressions, indeed, such as the “ardors of the mind,” and “the whetstones of virtue,” savoring of the pomp of rhetoricians. As to the question, if a brave man can maintain his courage without becoming angry, it may be questioned with regard to the gladiators; though we often observe much resolution even in them: they meet, converse, they make objections and demands, they agree about terms, so that they seem calm rather than angry. But let us admit a man of the name of Placideianus, who was one of that trade, to be in such a mind, as Lucilius relates of him,
If for his blood you thirst, the task be mine;
His laurels at my feet he shall resign;
Not but I know, before I reach his heart,
First on myself a wound he will impart.
I hate the man; enraged I fight, and straight
In action we had been, but that I wait
Till each his sword had fitted to his hand.
My rage I scarce can keep within command.
But we see Ajax in Homer advancing to meet Hector in battle cheerfully, without any of this boisterous wrath. For he had no sooner taken up his arms than the first step which he made inspired his associates with joy, his enemies with fear; so that even Hector, as he is represented by Homer, trembling, condemned himself for having challenged him to fight. Yet these heroes conversed together, calmly and quietly, before they engaged; nor did they show any anger or outrageous behavior during the combat. Nor do I imagine that Torquatus, the first who obtained this surname, was in a rage when he plundered the Gaul of his collar; or that Marcellus’s courage at Clastidium was only owing to his anger. I could almost swear that Africanus, with whom we are better acquainted, from our recollection of him being more recent, was noways inflamed by anger when he covered Alienus Pelignus with his shield, and drove his sword into the enemy’s breast. There may be some doubt of L. Brutus, whether he was not influenced by extraordinary hatred of the tyrant, so as to attack Aruns with more than usual rashness; for I observe that they mutually killed each other in close fight. Why, then, do you call in the assistance of anger? Would courage, unless it began to get furious, lose its energy? What! do you imagine that Hercules, whom the very courage which you would try to represent as anger raised to heaven, was angry when he engaged the Erymanthian boar, or the Nemaean lion? Or was Theseus in a passion when he seized on the horns of the Marathonian bull? Take care how you make courage to depend in the least on rage. For anger is altogether irrational, and that is not courage which is void of reason.
We ought to hold all things here in contempt; death is to be looked on with indifference; pains and labors must be considered as easily supportable. And when these sentiments are established on judgment and conviction, then will that stout and firm courage take place; unless you attribute to anger whatever is done with vehemence, alacrity, and spirit. To me, indeed, that very Scipio who was chief priest, that favorer of the saying of the Stoics, “That no private man could be a wise man,” does not seem to be angry with Tiberius Gracchus, even when he left the consul in a hesitating frame of mind, and, though a private man himself, commanded, with the authority of a consul, that all who meant well to the republic should follow him. I do not know whether I have done anything in the republic that has the appearance of courage; but if I have, I certainly did not do it in wrath. Doth anything come nearer madness than anger? And indeed Ennius has well defined it as the beginning of madness. The changing color, the alteration of our voice, the look of our eyes, our manner of fetching our breath, the little command we have over our words and actions, how little do all these things indicate a sound mind! What can make a worse appearance than Homer’s Achilles, or Agamemnon, during the quarrel? And as to Ajax, anger drove him into downright madness, and was the occasion of his death. Courage, therefore, does not want the assistance of anger; it is sufficiently provided, armed, and prepared of itself. We may as well say that drunkenness or madness is of service to courage, because those who are mad or drunk often do a great many things with unusual vehemence. Ajax was always brave; but still he was most brave when he was in that state of frenzy:
The greatest feat that Ajax e’er achieved
Was, when his single arm the Greeks relieved.
Quitting the field; urged on by rising rage,
Forced the declining troops again t’engage.
Shall we say, then, that madness has its use?
Examine the definitions of courage: you will find it does not require the assistance of passion. Courage is, then, an affection of mind that endures all things, being itself in proper subjection to the highest of all laws; or it may be called a firm maintenance of judgment in supporting or repelling everything that has a formidable appearance, or a knowledge of what is formidable or otherwise, and maintaining invariably a stable judgment of all such things, so as to bear them or despise them; or, in fewer words, according to Chrysippus (for the above definitions are Sphaerus’s, a man of the first ability as a layer-down of definitions, as the Stoics think. But they are all pretty much alike: they give us only common notions, some one way, and some another). But what is Chrysippus’s definition? Fortitude, says he, is the knowledge of all things that are bearable, or an affection of the mind which bears and supports everything in obedience to the chief law of reason without fear. Now, though we should attack these men in the same manner as Carneades used to do, I fear they are the only real philosophers; for which of these definitions is there which does not explain that obscure and intricate notion of courage which every man conceives within himself? And when it is thus explained, what can a warrior, a commander, or an orator want more? And no one can think that they will be unable to behave themselves courageously without anger. What! do not even the Stoics, who maintain that all fools are mad, make the same inferences? for, take away perturbations, especially a hastiness of temper, and they will appear to talk very absurdly. But what they assert is this: they say that all fools are mad, as all dunghills stink; not that they always do so, but stir them, and you will perceive it. And in like manner, a warm-tempered man is not always in a passion; but provoke him, and you will see him run mad. Now, that very warlike anger, which is of such service in war, what is the use of it to him when he is at home with his wife, children, and family? Is there, then, anything that a disturbed mind can do better than one which is calm and steady? Or can anyone be angry without a perturbation of mind? Our people, then, were in the right, who, as all vices depend on our manners, and nothing is worse than a passionate disposition, called angry men the only morose men.
Anger is in no wise becoming in an orator, though it is not amiss to affect it. Do you imagine that I am angry when in pleading I use any extraordinary vehemence and sharpness? What! when I write out my speeches after all is over and past, am I then angry while writing? Or do you think Aesopus was ever angry when he acted, or Accius was so when he wrote? Those men, indeed, act very well, but the orator acts better than the player, provided he be really an orator; but, then, they carry it on without passion, and with a composed mind. But what wantonness is it to commend lust! You produce Themistocles and Demosthenes; to these you add Pythagoras, Democritus, and Plato. What! do you then call studies lust? But these studies of the most excellent and admirable things, such as those were which you bring forward on all occasions, ought to be composed and tranquil; and what kind of philosophers are they who commend grief, than which nothing is more detestable? Afranius has said much to this purpose:
Let him but grieve, no matter what the cause.
But he spoke this of a debauched and dissolute youth. But we are inquiring into the conduct of a constant and wise man. We may even allow a centurion or standard-bearer to be angry, or any others, whom, not to explain too far the mysteries of the rhetoricians, I shall not mention here; for to touch the passions, where reason cannot be come at, may have its use; but my inquiry, as I often repeat, is about a wise man.
But even envy, detraction, pity, have their use. Why should you pity rather than assist, if it is in your power to do so? Is it because you cannot be liberal without pity? We should not take sorrows on ourselves upon another’s account; but we ought to relieve others of their grief if we can. But to detract from another’s reputation, or to rival him with that vicious emulation which resembles an enmity, of what use can that conduct be? Now, envy implies being uneasy at another’s good because one does not enjoy it one’s self; but detraction is the being uneasy at another’s good, merely because he enjoys it. How can it be right that you should voluntarily grieve, rather than take the trouble of acquiring what you want to have? for it is madness in the highest degree to desire to be the only one that has any particular happiness. But who can with correctness speak in praise of a mediocrity of evils? Can anyone in whom there is lust or desire be otherwise than libidinous or desirous? or can a man who is occupied by anger avoid being angry? or can one who is exposed to any vexation escape being vexed? or if he is under the influence of fear, must he not be fearful? Do we look, then, on the libidinous, the angry, the anxious, and the timid man, as persons of wisdom, of excellence? of which I could speak very copiously and diffusely, but I wish to be as concise as possible. And so I will merely say that wisdom is an acquaintance with all divine and human affairs, and a knowledge of the cause of everything. Hence it is that it imitates what is divine, and looks upon all human concerns as inferior to virtue. Did you, then, say that it was your opinion that such a man was as naturally liable to perturbation as the sea is exposed to winds? What is there that can discompose such gravity and constancy? Anything sudden or unforeseen? How can anything of this kind befall one to whom nothing is sudden and unforeseen that can happen to man? Now, as to their saying that redundancies should be pared off, and only what is natural remain, what, I pray you, can be natural which may be too exuberant?
All these assertions proceed from the roots of errors, which must be entirely plucked up and destroyed, not pared and amputated. But as I suspect that your inquiry is not so much respecting the wise man as concerning yourself (for you allow that he is free from all perturbations, and you would willingly be so too yourself), let us see what remedies there are which may be applied by philosophy to the diseases of the mind. There is certainly some remedy; nor has nature been so unkind to the human race as to have discovered so many things salutary to the body, and none which are medicinal to the mind. She has even been kinder to the mind than to the body; inasmuch as you must seek abroad for the assistance which the body requires, while the mind has all that it requires within itself. But in proportion as the excellency of the mind is of a higher and more divine nature, the more diligence does it require; and therefore reason, when it is well applied, discovers what is best, but when it is neglected, it becomes involved in many errors. I shall apply, then, all my discourse to you; for though you pretend to be inquiring about the wise man, your inquiry may possibly be about yourself. Various, then, are the cures of those perturbations which I have expounded, for every disorder is not to be appeased the same way. One medicine must be applied to the man who mourns, another to the pitiful, another to the person who envies; for there is this difference to be maintained in all the four perturbations: we are to consider whether our discourse had better be directed to perturbations in general, which are a contempt of reason, or a somewhat too vehement appetite; or whether it would be better applied to particular descriptions, as, for instance, to fear, lust, and the rest, and whether it appears preferable to endeavor to remove that which has occasioned the grief, or rather to attempt wholly to eradicate every kind of grief. As, should anyone grieve that he is poor, the question is, Would you maintain poverty to be no evil, or would you contend that a man ought not to grieve at anything? Certainly this last is the best course; for should you not convince him with regard to poverty, you must allow him to grieve; but if you remove grief by particular arguments, such as I used yesterday, the evil of poverty is in some manner removed.
But any perturbation of the mind of this sort may be, as it were, wiped away by the method of appeasing the mind, if you succeed in showing that there is no good in that which has given rise to joy and lust, nor any evil in that which has occasioned fear or grief. But certainly the most effectual cure is to be achieved by showing that all perturbations are of themselves vicious, and have nothing natural or necessary in them. As we see, grief itself is easily softened when we charge those who grieve with weakness and an effeminate mind; or when we commend the gravity and constancy of those who bear calmly whatever befalls them here, as accidents to which all men are liable; and, indeed, this is generally the feeling of those who look on these as real evils, but yet think they should be borne with resignation. One imagines pleasure to be a good, another money; and yet the one may be called off from intemperance, the other from covetousness. The other method and address, which, at the same time that it removes the false opinion, withdraws the disorder, has more subtlety in it; but it seldom succeeds, and is not applicable to vulgar minds, for there are some diseases which that medicine can by no means remove. For, should any one be uneasy because he is without virtue, without courage, destitute of a sense of duty or honesty, his anxiety proceeds from a real evil; and yet we must apply another method of cure to him, and such a one as all the philosophers, however they may differ about other things, agree in. For they must necessarily agree in this, that commotions of the mind in opposition to right reason are vicious; and that even admitting those things to be evils which occasion fear or grief, and those to be goods which provoke desire or joy, yet that very commotion itself is vicious; for we mean by the expressions magnanimous and brave, one who is resolute, sedate, grave, and superior to everything in this life; but one who either grieves, or fears, or covets, or is transported with passion, cannot come under that denomination; for these things are consistent only with those who look on the things of this world as things with which their minds are unequal to contend.
Wherefore, as I before said, the philosophers have all one method of cure, so that we need say nothing about what sort of thing that is which disturbs the mind, but we must speak only concerning the perturbation itself. Thus, first, with regard to desire itself, when the business is only to remove that, the inquiry is not to be, whether that thing be good or evil which provokes lust, but the lust itself is to be removed; so that whether whatever is honest is the chief good, or whether it consists in pleasure, or in both these things together, or in the other three kinds of goods, yet should there be in anyone too vehement an appetite for even virtue itself, the whole discourse should be directed to the deterring him from that vehemence. But human nature, when placed in a conspicuous point of view, gives us every argument for appeasing the mind, and, to make this the more distinct, the laws and conditions of life should be explained in our discourse. Therefore, it was not without reason that Socrates is reported, when Euripides was exhibiting his play called Orestes, to have repeated the first three verses of that tragedy —
What tragic story men can mournful tell,
Whate’er from fate or from the gods befell,
That human nature can support —
But, in order to persuade those to whom any misfortune has happened that they can and ought to bear it, it is very useful to set before them an enumeration of other persons who have borne similar calamities. Indeed, the method of appeasing grief was explained in my dispute of yesterday, and in my book on Consolation, which I wrote in the midst of my own grief; for I was not myself so wise a man as to be insensible to grief, and I used this, notwithstanding Chrysippus’s advice to the contrary, who is against applying a medicine to the agitations of the mind while they are fresh; but I did it, and committed a violence on nature, that the greatness of my grief might give way to the greatness of the medicine.
But fear borders upon grief, of which I have already said enough; but I must say a little more on that. Now, as grief proceeds from what is present, so does fear from future evil; so that some have said that fear is a certain part of grief: others have called fear the harbinger of trouble, which, as it were, introduces the ensuing evil. Now, the reasons that make what is present supportable, make what is to come very contemptible; for, with regard to both, we should take care to do nothing low or groveling, soft or effeminate, mean or abject. But, notwithstanding we should speak of the inconstancy, imbecility, and levity of fear itself, yet it is of very great service to speak contemptuously of those very things of which we are afraid. So that it fell out very well, whether it was by accident or design, that I disputed the first and second day on death and pain — the two things that are the most dreaded: now, if what I then said was approved of, we are in a great degree freed from fear. And this is sufficient, as far as regards the opinion of evils.
Proceed we now to what are goods — that is to say, to joy and desire. To me, indeed, one thing alone seems to embrace the question of all that relates to the perturbations of the mind — the fact, namely, that all perturbations are in our own power; that they are taken up upon opinion, and are voluntary. This error, then, must be got rid of; this opinion must be removed; and, as with regard to imagined evils, we are to make them more supportable, so with respect to goods, we are to lessen the violent effects of those things which are called great and joyous. But one thing is to be observed, that equally relates both to good and evil: that, should it be difficult to persuade anyone that none of those things which disturb the mind are to be looked on as good or evil, yet a different cure is to be applied to different feelings; and the malevolent person is to be corrected by one way of reasoning, the lover by another, the anxious man by another, and the fearful by another: and it would be easy for anyone who pursues the best approved method of reasoning, with regard to good and evil, to maintain that no fool can be affected with joy, as he never can have anything good. But, at present, my discourse proceeds upon the common received notions. Let, then, honors, riches, pleasures, and the rest be the very good things which they are imagined to be; yet a too elevated and exulting joy on the possession of them is unbecoming; just as, though it might be allowable to laugh, to giggle would be indecent. Thus, a mind enlarged by joy is as blamable as a contraction of it by grief; and eager longing is a sign of as much levity in desiring as immoderate joy is in possessing; and, as those who are too dejected are said to be effeminate, so they who are too elated with joy are properly called volatile; and as feeling envy is a part of grief, and the being pleased with another’s misfortune is a kind of joy, both these feelings are usually corrected by showing the wildness and insensibility of them: and as it becomes a man to be cautious, but it is unbecoming in him to be fearful, so to be pleased is proper, but to be joyful improper. I have, in order that I might be the better understood, distinguished pleasure from joy. I have already said above, that a contraction of the mind can never be right, but that an elation of it may; for the joy of Hector in Nævius is one thing —
‘Tis joy indeed to hear my praises sung
By you, who are the theme of honor’s tongue —
but that of the character in Trabea another: “The kind procuress, allured by my money, will observe my nod, will watch my desires, and study my will. If I but move the door with my little finger, instantly it flies open; and if Chrysis should unexpectedly discover me, she will run with joy to meet me, and throw herself into my arms.”
Now he will tell you how excellent he thinks this:
Not even fortune herself is so fortunate.
Anyone who attends the least to the subject will be convinced how unbecoming this joy is. And as they are very shameful who are immoderately delighted with the enjoyment of venereal pleasures, so are they very scandalous who lust vehemently after them. And all that which is commonly called love (and, believe me, I can find out no other name to call it by) is of such a trivial nature that nothing, I think, is to be compared to it: of which Caecilius says,
I hold the man of every sense bereaved
Who grants not Love to be of Gods the chief:
Whose mighty power whate’er is good effects,
Who gives to each his beauty and defects:
Hence, health and sickness; wit and folly, hence,
The God that love and hatred doth dispense!
An excellent corrector of life this same poetry, which thinks that love, the promoter of debauchery and vanity, should have a place in the council of the Gods! I am speaking of comedy, which could not subsist at all without our approving of these debaucheries. But what said that chief of the Argonauts in tragedy?
My life I owe to honor less than love.
What, then, are we to say of this love of Medea? — what a train of miseries did it occasion! And yet the same woman has the assurance to say to her father, in another poet, that she had a husband
Dearer by love than ever fathers were.
However, we may allow the poets to trifle, in whose fables we see Jupiter himself engaged in these debaucheries: but let us apply to the masters of virtue — the philosophers who deny love to be anything carnal; and in this they differ from Epicurus, who, I think, is not much mistaken. For what is that love of friendship? How comes it that no one is in love with a deformed young man, or a handsome old one? I am of opinion that this love of men had its rise from the Gymnastics of the Greeks, where these kinds of loves are admissible and permitted; therefore Ennius spoke well:
The censure of this crime to those is due
Who naked bodies first exposed to view.
Now, supposing them chaste, which I think is hardly possible, they are uneasy and distressed, and the more so because they contain and refrain themselves. But, to pass over the love of women, where nature has allowed more liberty, who can misunderstand the poets in their rape of Ganymede, or not apprehend what Laius says, and what he desires, in Euripides? Lastly, what have the principal poets and the most learned men published of themselves in their poems and songs? What doth Alcaeus, who was distinguished in his own republic for his bravery, write on the love of young men? And as for Anacreon’s poetry, it is wholly on love. But Ibycus of Rhegium appears, from his writings, to have had this love stronger on him than all the rest.
Now we see that the loves of all these writers were entirely libidinous. There have arisen also some among us philosophers (and Plato is at the head of them, whom Dicæarchus blames not without reason) who have countenanced love. The Stoics, in truth, say, not only that their wise man may be a lover, but they even define love itself as an endeavor to originate friendship out of the appearance of beauty. Now, provided there is anyone in the nature of things without desire, without care, without a sigh, such a one may be a lover; for he is free from all lust: but I have nothing to say to him, as it is lust of which I am now speaking. But should there be any love — as there certainly is — which is but little, or perhaps not at all, short of madness, such as his is in the Leucadia —
Should there be any God whose care I am —
it is incumbent on all the Gods to see that he enjoys his amorous pleasure.
Wretch that I am!
Nothing is more true, and he says very appropriately,
What, are you sane, who at this rate lament?
He seems even to his friends to be out of his senses: then how tragical he becomes!
Thy aid, divine Apollo, I implore,
And thine, dread ruler of the wat’ry store!
Oh! all ye winds, assist me!
He thinks that the whole world ought to apply itself to help his love: he excludes Venus alone, as unkind to him.
Thy aid, O Venus, why should I invoke?
He thinks Venus too much employed in her own lust to have regard to anything else, as if he himself had not said and committed these shameful things from lust.
Now, the cure for one who is affected in this manner is to show how light, how contemptible, how very trifling he is in what he desires; how he may turn his affections to another object, or accomplish his desires by some other means; or else to persuade him that he may entirely disregard it: sometimes he is to be led away to objects of another kind, to study, business, or other different engagements and concerns: very often the cure is effected by change of place, as sick people, that have not recovered their strength, are benefited by change of air. Some people think an old love may be driven out by a new one, as one nail drives out another: but, above all things, the man thus afflicted should be advised what madness love is: for of all the perturbations of the mind, there is not one which is more vehement; for (without charging it with rapes, debaucheries, adultery, or even incest, the baseness of any of these being very blamable; not, I say, to mention these) the very perturbation of the mind in love is base of itself, for, to pass over all its acts of downright madness, what weakness do not those very things which are looked upon as indifferent argue?
Affronts and jealousies, jars, squabbles, wars,
Then peace again. The man who seeks to fix
These restless feelings, and to subjugate
Them to some regular law, is just as wise
As one who’d try to lay down rules by which
Men should go mad.
Now, is not this inconstancy and mutability of mind enough to deter any one by its own deformity? We are to demonstrate, as was said of every perturbation, that there are no such feelings which do not consist entirely of opinion and judgment, and are not owing to ourselves. For if love were natural, all would be in love, and always so, and all love the same object; nor would one be deterred by shame, another by reflection, another by satiety.
Anger, too, when it disturbs the mind any time, leaves no room to doubt its being madness: by the instigation of which we see such contention as this between brothers:
Where was there ever impudence like thine?
Who on thy malice ever could refine?
You know what follows: for abuses are thrown out by these brothers with great bitterness in every other verse; so that you may easily know them for the sons of Atreus, of that Atreus who invented a new punishment for his brother:
I who his cruel heart to gall am bent,
Some new, unheard-of torment must invent.
Now, what were these inventions? Hear Thyestes:
My impious brother fain would have me eat
My children, and thus serves them up for meat.
To what length now will not anger go? even as far as madness. Therefore we say, properly enough, that angry men have given up their power, that is, they are out of the power of advice, reason, and understanding; for these ought to have power over the whole mind. Now, you should put those out of the way whom they endeavor to attack till they have recollected themselves; but what does recollection here imply but getting together again the dispersed parts of their mind into their proper place? or else you must beg and entreat them, if they have the means of revenge, to defer it to another opportunity, till their anger cools. But the expression of cooling implies, certainly, that there was a heat raised in their minds in opposition to reason; from which consideration that saying of Archytas is commended, who being somewhat provoked at his steward, “How would I have treated you,” said he, “if I had not been in a passion?”
Where, then, are they who say that anger has its use? Can madness be of any use? But still it is natural. Can anything be natural that is against reason? or how is it, if anger is natural, that one person is more inclined to anger than another? or that the lust of revenge should cease before it has revenged itself? or that anyone should repent of what he had done in a passion? as we see that Alexander the king did, who could scarcely keep his hands from himself, when he had killed his favorite Clytus, so great was his compunction. Now who that is acquainted with these instances can doubt that this motion of the mind is altogether in opinion and voluntary? for who can doubt that disorders of the mind, such as covetousness and a desire of glory, arise from a great estimation of those things by which the mind is disordered? whence we may understand that every perturbation of the mind is founded in opinion. And if boldness — that is to say, a firm assurance of mind — is a kind of knowledge and serious opinion not hastily taken up, then diffidence is a fear of an expected and impending evil; and if hope is an expectation of good, fear must, of course, be an expectation of evil. Thus fear and other perturbations are evils. Therefore, as constancy proceeds from knowledge, so does perturbation from error. Now, they who are said to be naturally inclined to anger, or to pity, or to envy, or to any feeling of this kind, their minds are constitutionally, as it were, in bad health; yet they are curable, as the disposition of Socrates is said to have been; for when Zopyrus, who professed to know the character of everyone from his person, had heaped a great many vices on him in a public assembly, he was laughed at by others, who could perceive no such vices in Socrates; but Socrates kept him in countenance by declaring that such vices were natural to him, but that he had got the better of them by his reason. Therefore, as anyone who has the appearance of the best constitution may yet appear to be naturally rather inclined to some particular disorder, so different minds may be more particularly inclined to different diseases. But as to those men who are said to be vicious, not by nature, but their own fault, their vices proceed from wrong opinions of good and bad things, so that one is more prone than another to different motions and perturbations. But, just as it is in the case of the body, an inveterate disease is harder to be got rid of than a sudden disorder; and it is more easy to cure a fresh tumor in the eyes than to remove a defluxion of any continuance.
But as the cause of perturbations is now discovered, for all of them arise from the judgment or opinion, or volition, I shall put an end to this discourse. But we ought to be assured, since the boundaries of good and evil are now discovered, as far as they are discoverable by man, that nothing can be desired of philosophy greater or more useful than the discussions which we have held these four days. For besides instilling a contempt of death, and relieving pain so as to enable men to bear it, we have added the appeasing of grief, than which there is no greater evil to man. For though every perturbation of mind is grievous, and differs but little from madness, yet we are used to say of others when they are under any perturbation, as of fear, joy, or desire, that they are agitated and disturbed; but of those who give themselves up to grief, that they are miserable, afflicted, wretched, unhappy. So that it doth not seem to be by accident, but with reason proposed by you, that I should discuss grief, and the other perturbations separately; for there lies the spring and head of all our miseries; but the cure of grief, and of other disorders, is one and the same in that they are all voluntary, and founded on opinion; we take them on ourselves because it seems right so to do. Philosophy undertakes to eradicate this error, as the root of all our evils: let us therefore surrender ourselves to be instructed by it, and suffer ourselves to be cured; for while these evils have possession of us, we not only cannot be happy, but cannot be right in our minds. We must either deny that reason can effect anything, while, on the other hand, nothing can be done right without reason, or else, since philosophy depends on the deductions of reason, we must seek from her, if we would be good or happy, every help and assistance for living well and happily.
This fifth day, Brutus, shall put an end to our Tusculan Disputations: on which day we discussed your favorite subject. For I perceive from that book which you wrote for me with the greatest accuracy, as well as from your frequent conversation, that you are clearly of this opinion, that virtue is of itself sufficient for a happy life: and though it may be difficult to prove this, on account of the many various strokes of fortune, yet it is a truth of such a nature that we should endeavor to facilitate the proof of it. For among all the topics of philosophy, there is not one of more dignity or importance. For as the first philosophers must have had some inducement to neglect everything for the search of the best state of life: surely, the inducement must have been the hope of living happily, which impelled them to devote so much care and pains to that study. Now, if virtue was discovered and carried to perfection by them, and if virtue is a sufficient security for a happy life, who can avoid thinking the work of philosophizing excellently recommended by them, and undertaken by me? But if virtue, as being subject to such various and uncertain accidents, were but the slave of fortune, and were not of sufficient ability to support herself, I am afraid that it would seem desirable rather to offer up prayers, than to rely on our own confidence in virtue as the foundation for our hope of a happy life. And, indeed, when I reflect on those troubles with which I have been so severely exercised by fortune, I begin to distrust this opinion; and sometimes even to dread the weakness and frailty of human nature, for I am afraid lest, when nature had given us infirm bodies, and had joined to them incurable diseases and intolerable pains, she perhaps also gave us minds participating in these bodily pains, and harassed also with troubles and uneasinesses, peculiarly their own. But here I correct myself for forming my judgment of the power of virtue more from the weakness of others, or of myself perhaps, than from virtue itself: for she herself (provided there is such a thing as virtue; and your uncle Brutus has removed all doubt of it) has everything that can befall mankind in subjection to her; and by disregarding such things, she is far removed from being at all concerned at human accidents; and, being free from every imperfection, she thinks that nothing which is external to herself can concern her. But we, who increase every approaching evil by our fear, and every present one by our grief, choose rather to condemn the nature of things than our own errors.
But the amendment of this fault, and of all our other vices and offenses, is to be sought for in philosophy: and as my own inclination and desire led me, from my earliest youth upward, to seek her protection, so, under my present misfortunes, I have had recourse to the same port whence I set out, after having been tossed by a violent tempest. O Philosophy, thou guide of life! thou discoverer of virtue and expeller of vices! what had not only I myself, but the whole life of man, been without you? To you it is that we owe the origin of cities; you it was who called together the dispersed race of men into social life; you united them together, first, by placing them near one another, then by marriages, and lastly, by the communication of speech and languages. You have been the inventress of laws; you have been our instructress in morals and discipline; to you we fly for refuge; from you we implore assistance; and as I formerly submitted to you in a great degree, so now I surrender up myself entirely to you. For one day spent well, and agreeably to your precepts, is preferable to an eternity of error. Whose assistance, then, can be of more service to me than yours, when you have bestowed on us tranquility of life, and removed the fear of death? But Philosophy is so far from being praised as much as she has deserved by mankind, that she is wholly neglected by most men, and actually evil spoken of by many. Can any person speak ill of the parent of life, and dare to pollute himself thus with parricide, and be so impiously ungrateful as to accuse her whom he ought to reverence, even were he less able to appreciate the advantages which he might derive from her? But this error, I imagine, and this darkness has spread itself over the minds of ignorant men, from their not being able to look so far back, and from their not imagining that those men by whom human life was first improved were philosophers; for though we see philosophy to have been of long standing, yet the name must be acknowledged to be but modern.
But, indeed, who can dispute the antiquity of philosophy, either in fact or name? For it acquired this excellent name from the ancients, by the knowledge of the origin and causes of everything, both divine and human. Thus those seven [Greek: Sophoi], as they were considered and called by the Greeks, have always been esteemed and called wise men by us; and thus Lycurgus many ages before, in whose time, before the building of this city, Homer is said to have lived, as well as Ulysses and Nestor in the heroic ages, are all handed down to us by tradition as having really been what they were called, wise men; nor would it have been said that Atlas supported the heavens, or that Prometheus was bound to Caucasus, nor would Cepheus, with his wife, his son-in-law, and his daughter have been enrolled among the constellations, but that their more than human knowledge of the heavenly bodies had transferred their names into an erroneous fable. Whence all who occupied themselves in the contemplation of nature were both considered and called wise men; and that name of theirs continued to the age of Pythagoras, who is reported to have gone to Phlius, as we find it stated by Heraclides Ponticus, a very learned man, and a pupil of Plato, and to have discoursed very learnedly and copiously on certain subjects with Leon, prince of the Phliasii; and when Leon, admiring his ingenuity and eloquence, asked him what art he particularly professed, his answer was, that he was acquainted with no art, but that he was a philosopher. Leon, surprised at the novelty of the name, inquired what he meant by the name of philosopher, and in what philosophers differed from other men; on which Pythagoras replied, “That the life of man seemed to him to resemble those games which were celebrated with the greatest possible variety of sports and the general concourse of all Greece. For as in those games there were some persons whose object was glory and the honor of a crown, to be attained by the performance of bodily exercises, so others were led thither by the gain of buying and selling, and mere views of profit; but there was likewise one class of persons, and they were by far the best, whose aim was neither applause nor profit, but who came merely as spectators through curiosity, to observe what was done, and to see in what manner things were carried on there. And thus, said he, we come from another life and nature unto this one, just as men come out of some other city, to some much frequented mart; some being slaves to glory, others to money; and there are some few who, taking no account of anything else, earnestly look into the nature of things; and these men call themselves studious of wisdom, that is, philosophers: and as there it is the most reputable occupation of all to be a looker-on without making any acquisition, so in life, the contemplating things, and acquainting one’s self with them, greatly exceeds every other pursuit of life.”
Nor was Pythagoras the inventor only of the name, but he enlarged also the thing itself, and, when he came into Italy after this conversation at Phlius, he adorned that Greece, which is called Great Greece, both privately and publicly, with the most excellent institutions and arts; but of his school and system I shall, perhaps, find another opportunity to speak. But numbers and motions, and the beginning and end of all things, were the subjects of the ancient philosophy down to Socrates, who was a pupil of Archelaus, who had been the disciple of Anaxagoras. These made diligent inquiry into the magnitude of the stars, their distances, courses, and all that relates to the heavens. But Socrates was the first who brought down philosophy from the heavens, placed it in cities, introduced it into families, and obliged it to examine into life and morals, and good and evil. And his different methods of discussing questions, together with the variety of his topics, and the greatness of his abilities, being immortalized by the memory and writings of Plato, gave rise to many sects of philosophers of different sentiments, of all which I have principally adhered to that one which, in my opinion, Socrates himself followed; and argue so as to conceal my own opinion, while I deliver others from their errors, and so discover what has the greatest appearance of probability in every question. And the custom Carneades adopted with great copiousness and acuteness, and I myself have often given in to it on many occasions elsewhere, and in this manner, too, I disputed lately, in my Tusculan villa; indeed, I have sent you a book of the four former days’ discussions; but the fifth day, when we had seated ourselves as before, what we were to dispute on was proposed thus:
A. I do not think virtue can possibly be sufficient for a happy life.
M. But my friend Brutus thinks so, whose judgment, with submission, I greatly prefer to yours.
A. I make no doubt of it; but your regard for him is not the business now: the question is now, what is the real character of that quality of which I have declared my opinion. I wish you to dispute on that.
M. What! do you deny that virtue can possibly be sufficient for a happy life?
A. It is what I entirely deny.
M. What! is not virtue sufficient to enable us to live as we ought, honestly, commendably, or, in fine, to live well?
A. Certainly sufficient.
M. Can you, then, help calling anyone miserable who lives ill? or will you deny that anyone who you allow lives well must inevitably live happily?
A. Why may I not? for a man may be upright in his life, honest, praiseworthy, even in the midst of torments, and therefore live well. Provided you understand what I mean by well; for when I say well, I mean with constancy, and dignity, and wisdom, and courage; for a man may display all these qualities on the rack; but yet the rack is inconsistent with a happy life.
M. What, then? is your happy life left on the outside of the prison, while constancy, dignity, wisdom, and the other virtues, are surrendered up to the executioner, and bear punishment and pain without reluctance?
A. You must look out for something new if you would do any good. These things have very little effect on me, not merely from their being common, but principally because, like certain light wines that will not bear water, these arguments of the Stoics are pleasanter to taste than to swallow. As when that assemblage of virtues is committed to the rack, it raises so reverend a spectacle before our eyes that happiness seems to hasten on toward them, and not to suffer them to be deserted by her. But when you take your attention off from this picture and these images of the virtues to the truth and the reality, what remains without disguise is, the question whether anyone can be happy in torment? Wherefore let us now examine that point, and not be under any apprehensions, lest the virtues should expostulate, and complain that they are forsaken by happiness. For if prudence is connected with every virtue, then prudence itself discovers this, that all good men are not therefore happy; and she recollects many things of Marcus Atilius, Quintus Caepio, Marcus Aquilius; and prudence herself, if these representations are more agreeable to you than the things themselves, restrains happiness when it is endeavoring to throw itself into torments, and denies that it has any connection with pain and torture.
M. I can easily bear with your behaving in this manner, though it is not fair in you to prescribe to me how you would have me carry on this discussion. But I ask you if I have effected anything or nothing in the preceding days?
A. Yes; something was done, some little matter indeed.
M. But if that is the case, this question is settled, and almost put an end to.
A. How so?
M. Because turbulent motions and violent agitations of the mind, when it is raised and elated by a rash impulse, getting the better of reason, leave no room for a happy life. For who that fears either pain or death, the one of which is always present, the other always impending, can be otherwise than miserable? Now, supposing the same person — which is often the case — to be afraid of poverty, ignominy, infamy, or weakness, or blindness, or, lastly, slavery, which doth not only befall individual men, but often even the most powerful nations; now can anyone under the apprehension of these evils be happy? What shall we say of him who not only dreads these evils as impending, but actually feels and bears them at present? Let us unite in the same person banishment, mourning, the loss of children; now, how can anyone who is broken down and rendered sick in body and mind by such affliction be otherwise than very miserable indeed? What reason, again, can there be why a man should not rightly enough be called miserable whom we see inflamed and raging with lust, coveting everything with an insatiable desire, and, in proportion as he derives more pleasure from anything, thirsting the more violently after them? And as to a man vainly elated, exulting with an empty joy, and boasting of himself without reason, is not he so much the more miserable in proportion as he thinks himself happier? Therefore, as these men are miserable, so, on the other hand, those are happy who are alarmed by no fears, wasted by no griefs, provoked by no lusts, melted by no languid pleasures that arise from vain and exulting joys. We look on the sea as calm when not the least breath of air disturbs its waves; and, in like manner, the placid and quiet state of the mind is discovered when unmoved by any perturbation. Now, if there be anyone who holds the power of fortune, and everything human, everything that can possibly befall any man, as supportable, so as to be out of the reach of fear or anxiety, and if such a man covets nothing, and is lifted up by no vain joy of mind, what can prevent his being happy? And if these are the effects of virtue, why cannot virtue itself make men happy?
A. But the other of these two propositions is undeniable, that they who are under no apprehensions, who are noways uneasy, who covet nothing, who are lifted up by no vain joy, are happy: and therefore I grant you that. But as for the other, that is not now in a fit state for discussion; for it has been proved by your former arguments that a wise man is free from every perturbation of mind.
M. Doubtless, then, the dispute is over; for the question appears to have been entirely exhausted.
A. I think, indeed, that that is almost the case.
M. But yet that is more usually the case with the mathematicians than philosophers. For when the geometricians teach anything, if what they have before taught relates to their present subject, they take that for granted which has been already proved, and explain only what they had not written on before. But the philosophers, whatever subject they have in hand, get together everything that relates to it, notwithstanding they may have dilated on it somewhere else. Were not that the case, why should the Stoics say so much on that question, Whether virtue was abundantly sufficient to a happy life? when it would have been answer enough that they had before taught that nothing was good but what was honorable; for, as this had been proved, the consequence must be that virtue was sufficient to a happy life; and each premise may be made to follow from the admission of the other, so that if it be admitted that virtue is sufficient to secure a happy life, it may also be inferred that nothing is good except what is honorable. They, however, do not proceed in this manner; for they would separate books about what is honorable, and what is the chief good; and when they have demonstrated from the one that virtue has power enough to make life happy, yet they treat this point separately; for everything, and especially a subject of such great consequence, should be supported by arguments and exhortations which belong to that alone. For you should have a care how you imagine philosophy to have uttered anything more noble, or that she has promised anything more fruitful or of greater consequence, for, good Gods! doth she not engage that she will render him who submits to her laws so accomplished as to be always armed against fortune, and to have every assurance within himself of living well and happily — that he shall, in short, be forever happy? But let us see what she will perform? In the mean while, I look upon it as a great thing that she has even made such a promise. For Xerxes, who was loaded with all the rewards and gifts of fortune, not satisfied with his armies of horse and foot, nor the multitude of his ships, nor his infinite treasure of gold, offered a reward to anyone who could find out a new pleasure; and yet, when it was discovered, he was not satisfied with it; nor can there ever be an end to lust. I wish we could engage anyone by a reward to produce something the better to establish us in this belief.
A. I wish that, indeed, myself; but I want a little information. For I allow that in what you have stated the one proposition is the consequence of the other; that as, if what is honorable be the only good, it must follow that a happy life is the effect of virtue: so that if a happy life consists in virtue, nothing can be good but virtue. But your friend Brutus, on the authority of Aristo and Antiochus, does not see this; for he thinks the case would be the same even if there were anything good besides virtue.
M. What, then? do you imagine that I am going to argue against Brutus?
A. You may do what you please; for it is not for me to prescribe what you shall do.
M. How these things agree together shall be examined somewhere else; for I frequently discussed that point with Antiochus, and lately with Aristo, when, during the period of my command as general, I was lodging with him at Athens. For to me it seemed that no one could possibly be happy under any evil; but a wise man might be afflicted with evil, if there are any things arising from body or fortune deserving the name of evils. These things were said, which Antiochus has inserted in his books in many places — that virtue itself was sufficient to make life happy, but yet not perfectly happy; and that many things derive their names from the predominant portion of them, though they do not include everything, as strength, health, riches, honor, and glory: which qualities are determined by their kind, not their number. Thus a happy life is so called from its being so in a great degree, even though it should fall short in some point. To clear this up is not absolutely necessary at present, though it seems to be said without any great consistency; for I cannot imagine what is wanting to one that is happy to make him happier, for if anything be wanting to him, he cannot be so much as happy; and as to what they say, that everything is named and estimated from its predominant portion, that may be admitted in some things. But when they allow three kinds of evils — when anyone is oppressed with every imaginable evil of two kinds, being afflicted with adverse fortune, and having at the same time his body worn out and harassed with all sorts of pains — shall we say that such a one is but little short of a happy life, to say nothing about the happiest possible life?
This is the point which Theophrastus was unable to maintain; for after he had once laid down the position that stripes, torments, tortures, the ruin of one’s country, banishment, the loss of children, had great influence on men’s living miserably and unhappily, he durst not any longer use any high and lofty expressions when he was so low and abject in his opinion. How right he was is not the question; he certainly was consistent. Therefore, I am not for objecting to consequences where the premises are admitted. But this most elegant and learned of all the philosophers is not taken to task very severely when he asserts his three kinds of good; but he is attacked by everyone for that book which he wrote on a happy life, in which book he has many arguments why one who is tortured and racked cannot be happy. For in that book he is supposed to say that a man who is placed on the wheel (that is a kind of torture in use among the Greeks) cannot attain to a completely happy life. He nowhere, indeed, says so absolutely; but what he says amounts to the same thing. Can I, then, find fault with him, after having allowed that pains of the body are evils, that the ruin of a man’s fortunes is an evil, if he should say that every good man is not happy, when all those things which he reckons as evils may befall a good man? The same Theophrastus is found fault with by all the books and schools of the philosophers for commending that sentence in his Callisthenes,
Fortune, not wisdom, rules the life of man.
They say never did philosopher assert anything so languid. They are right, indeed, in that; but I do not apprehend anything could be more consistent, for if there are so many good things that depend on the body, and so many foreign to it that depend on chance and fortune, is it inconsistent to say that fortune, which governs everything, both what is foreign and what belongs to the body, has greater power than counsel. Or would we rather imitate Epicurus? who is often excellent in many things which he speaks, but quite indifferent how consistent he may be, or how much to the purpose he is speaking. He commends spare diet, and in that he speaks as a philosopher; but it is for Socrates or Antisthenes to say so, and not for one who confines all good to pleasure. He denies that anyone can live pleasantly unless he lives honestly, wisely, and justly. Nothing is more dignified than this assertion, nothing more becoming a philosopher, had he not measured this very expression of living honestly, justly, and wisely by pleasure. What could be better than to assert that fortune interferes but little with a wise man? But does he talk thus, who, after he has said that pain is the greatest evil, or the only evil, might himself be afflicted with the sharpest pains all over his body, even at the time he is vaunting himself the most against fortune? And this very thing, too, Metrodorus has said, but in better language: “I have anticipated you, Fortune; I have caught you, and cut off every access, so that you cannot possibly reach me.” This would be excellent in the mouth of Aristo the Chian, or Zeno the Stoic, who held nothing to be an evil but what was base; but for you, Metrodorus, to anticipate the approaches of fortune, who confine all that is good to your bowels and marrow — for you to say so, who define the chief good by a strong constitution of body, and well-assured hope of its continuance — for you to cut off every access of fortune! Why, you may instantly be deprived of that good. Yet the simple are taken with these propositions, and a vast crowd is led away by such sentences to become their followers.
But it is the duty of one who would argue accurately to consider not what is said, but what is said consistently. As in that very opinion which we have adopted in this discussion, namely, that every good man is always happy, it is clear what I mean by good men: I call those both wise and good men who are provided and adorned with every virtue. Let us see, then, who are to be called happy. I imagine, indeed, that those men are to be called so who are possessed of good without any alloy of evil; nor is there any other notion connected with the word that expresses happiness but an absolute enjoyment of good without any evil. Virtue cannot attain this, if there is anything good besides itself. For a crowd of evils would present themselves, if we were to allow poverty, obscurity, humility, solitude, the loss of friends, acute pains of the body, the loss of health, weakness, blindness, the ruin of one’s country, banishment, slavery, to be evils; for a wise man may be afflicted by all these evils, numerous and important as they are, and many others also may be added, for they are brought on by chance, which may attack a wise man; but if these things are evils, who can maintain that a wise man is always happy when all these evils may light on him at the same time? I therefore do not easily agree with my friend Brutus, nor with our common masters, nor those ancient ones, Aristotle, Speusippus, Xenocrates, Polemon, who reckon all that I have mentioned above as evils, and yet they say that a wise man is always happy; nor can I allow them, because they are charmed with this beautiful and illustrious title, which would very well become Pythagoras, Socrates, and Plato, to persuade my mind that strength, health, beauty, riches, honors, power, with the beauty of which they are ravished, are contemptible, and that all those things which are the opposites of these are not to be regarded. Then might they declare openly, with a loud voice, that neither the attacks of fortune, nor the opinion of the multitude, nor pain, nor poverty, occasions them any apprehensions; and that they have everything within themselves, and that there is nothing whatever which they consider as good but what is within their own power. Nor can I by any means allow the same person who falls into the vulgar opinion of good and evil to make use of these expressions, which can only become a great and exalted man. Struck with which glory, up starts Epicurus, who, with submission to the Gods, thinks a wise man always happy. He is much charmed with the dignity of this opinion, but he never would have owned that, had he attended to himself; for what is there more inconsistent than for one who could say that pain was the greatest or the only evil to think also that a wise man can possibly say in the midst of his torture, How sweet is this! We are not, therefore, to form our judgment of philosophers from detached sentences, but from their consistency with themselves, and their ordinary manner of talking.
A. You compel me to be of your opinion; but have a care that you are not inconsistent yourself.
M. In what respect?
A. Because I have lately read your fourth book on Good and Evil: and in that you appeared to me, while disputing against Cato, to be endeavoring to show, which in my opinion means to prove, that Zeno and the Peripatetics differ only about some new words; but if we allow that, what reason can there be, if it follows from the arguments of Zeno that virtue contains all that is necessary to a happy life, that the Peripatetics should not be at liberty to say the same? For, in my opinion, regard should be had to the thing, not to words.
M. What! you would convict me from my own words, and bring against me what I had said or written elsewhere. You may act in that manner with those who dispute by established rules. We live from hand to mouth, and say anything that strikes our mind with probability, so that we are the only people who are really at liberty. But, since I just now spoke of consistency, I do not think the inquiry in this place is, if the opinion of Zeno and his pupil Aristo be true that nothing is good but what is honorable; but, admitting that, then, whether the whole of a happy life can be rested on virtue alone. Wherefore, if we certainly grant Brutus this, that a wise man is always happy, how consistent he is, is his own business; for who, indeed, is more worthy than himself of the glory of that opinion? Still, we may maintain that such a man is more happy than anyone else.
Though Zeno the Cittiaean, a stranger and an inconsiderable coiner of words, appears to have insinuated himself into the old philosophy; still, the prevalence of this opinion is due to the authority of Plato, who often makes use of this expression, “That nothing but virtue can be entitled to the name of good,” agreeably to what Socrates says in Plato’s Gorgias; for it is there related that when some one asked him if he did not think Archelaus the son of Perdiccas, who was then looked upon as a most fortunate person, a very happy man, “I do not know,” replied he, “for I never conversed with him.” “What! is there no other way you can know it by?” “None at all.” “You cannot, then, pronounce of the great king of the Persians whether he is happy or not?” “How can I, when I do not know how learned or how good a man he is?” “What! do you imagine that a happy life depends on that?” “My opinion entirely is, that good men are happy, and the wicked miserable.” “Is Archelaus, then, miserable?” “Certainly, if unjust.” Now, does it not appear to you that he is here placing the whole of a happy life in virtue alone? But what does the same man say in his funeral oration? “For,” saith he, “whoever has everything that relates to a happy life so entirely dependent on himself as not to be connected with the good or bad fortune of another, and not to be affected by, or made in any degree uncertain by, what befalls another; and whoever is such a one has acquired the best rule of living; he is that moderate, that brave, that wise man, who submits to the gain and loss of everything, and especially of his children, and obeys that old precept; for he will never be too joyful or too sad, because he depends entirely upon himself.”
From Plato, therefore, all my discourse shall be deduced, as if from some sacred and hallowed fountain. Whence can I, then, more properly begin than from Nature, the parent of all? For whatsoever she produces (I am not speaking only of animals, but even of those things which have sprung from the earth in such a manner as to rest on their own roots) she designed it to be perfect in its respective kind. So that among trees and vines, and those lower plants and trees which cannot advance themselves high above the earth, some are evergreen, others are stripped of their leaves in winter, and, warmed by the spring season, put them out afresh, and there are none of them but what are so quickened by a certain interior motion, and their own seeds enclosed in every one, so as to yield flowers, fruit, or berries, that all may have every perfection that belongs to it; provided no violence prevents it. But the force of Nature itself may be more easily discovered in animals, as she has bestowed sense on them. For some animals she has taught to swim, and designed to be inhabitants of the water; others she has enabled to fly, and has willed that they should enjoy the boundless air; some others she has made to creep, others to walk. Again, of these very animals, some are solitary, some gregarious, some wild, others tame, some hidden and buried beneath the earth, and every one of these maintains the law of nature, confining itself to what was bestowed on it, and unable to change its manner of life. And as every animal has from nature something that distinguishes it, which every one maintains and never quits; so man has something far more excellent, though everything is said to be excellent by comparison. But the human mind, being derived from the divine reason, can be compared with nothing but with the Deity itself, if I may be allowed the expression. This, then, if it is improved, and when its perception is so preserved as not to be blinded by errors, becomes a perfect understanding, that is to say, absolute reason, which is the very same as virtue. And if everything is happy which wants nothing, and is complete and perfect in its kind, and that is the peculiar lot of virtue, certainly all who are possessed of virtue are happy. And in this I agree with Brutus, and also with Aristotle, Xenocrates, Speusippus, Polemon.
To me such are the only men who appear completely happy; for what can he want to a complete happy life who relies on his own good qualities, or how can he be happy who does not rely on them? But he who makes a threefold division of goods must necessarily be diffident, for how can he depend on having a sound body, or that his fortune shall continue? But no one can be happy without an immovable, fixed, and permanent good. What, then, is this opinion of theirs? So that I think that saying of the Spartan may be applied to them, who, on some merchant’s boasting before him that he had despatched ships to every maritime coast, replied that a fortune which depended on ropes was not very desirable. Can there be any doubt that whatever may be lost cannot be properly classed in the number of those things which complete a happy life? for of all that constitutes a happy life, nothing will admit of withering, or growing old, or wearing out, or decaying; for whoever is apprehensive of any loss of these things cannot be happy: the happy man should be safe, well fenced, well fortified, out of the reach of all annoyance, not like a man under trifling apprehensions, but free from all such. As he is not called innocent who but slightly offends, but he who offends not at all, so it is he alone who is to be considered without fear who is free from all fear, not he who is but in little fear. For what else is courage but an affection of mind that is ready to undergo perils, and patient in the endurance of pain and labor without any alloy of fear? Now, this certainly could not be the case if there were anything else good but what depended on honesty alone. But how can anyone be in possession of that desirable and much-coveted security (for I now call a freedom from anxiety a security, on which freedom a happy life depends) who has, or may have, a multitude of evils attending him? How can he be brave and undaunted, and hold everything as trifles which can befall a man? for so a wise man should do, unless he be one who thinks that everything depends on himself. Could the Lacedaemonians without this, when Philip threatened to prevent all their attempts, have asked him if he could prevent their killing themselves? Is it not easier, then, to find one man of such a spirit as we are inquiring after, than to meet with a whole city of such men? Now, if to this courage I am speaking of we add temperance, that it may govern all our feelings and agitations, what can be wanting to complete his happiness who is secured by his courage from uneasiness and fear, and is prevented from immoderate desires and immoderate insolence of joy by temperance? I could easily show that virtue is able to produce these effects, but that I have explained on the foregoing days.
But as the perturbations of the mind make life miserable, and tranquility renders it happy; and as these perturbations are of two sorts, grief and fear, proceeding from imagined evils, and as immoderate joy and lust arise from a mistake about what is good, and as all these feelings are in opposition to reason and counsel; when you see a man at ease, quite free and disengaged from such troublesome commotions, which are so much at variance with one another, can you hesitate to pronounce such a one a happy man? Now, the wise man is always in such a disposition; therefore the wise man is always happy. Besides, every good is pleasant; whatever is pleasant may be boasted and talked of; whatever may be boasted of is glorious; but whatever is glorious is certainly laudable, and whatever is laudable doubtless, also, honorable: whatever, then, is good is honorable (but the things which they reckon as goods they themselves do not call honorable); therefore what is honorable alone is good. Hence it follows that a happy life is comprised in honesty alone. Such things, then, are not to be called or considered goods, when a man may enjoy an abundance of them, and yet be most miserable. Is there any doubt but that a man who enjoys the best health, and who has strength and beauty, and his senses flourishing in their utmost quickness and perfection — suppose him likewise, if you please, nimble and active, nay, give him riches, honors, authority, power, glory — now, I say, should this person, who is in possession of all these, be unjust, intemperate, timid, stupid, or an idiot — could you hesitate to call such a one miserable? What, then, are those goods in the possession of which you may be very miserable? Let us see if a happy life is not made up of parts of the same nature, as a heap implies a quantity of grain of the same kind. And if this be once admitted, happiness must be compounded of different good things, which alone are honorable; if there is any mixture of things of another sort with these, nothing honorable can proceed from such a composition: now, take away honesty, and how can you imagine anything happy? For whatever is good is desirable on that account; whatever is desirable must certainly be approved of; whatever you approve of must be looked on as acceptable and welcome. You must consequently impute dignity to this; and if so, it must necessarily be laudable: therefore, everything that is laudable is good. Hence it follows that what is honorable is the only good. And should we not look upon it in this light, there will be a great many things which we must call good.
I forbear to mention riches, which, as anyone, let him be ever so unworthy, may have them, I do not reckon among goods; for what is good is not attainable by all. I pass over notoriety and popular fame, raised by the united voice of knaves and fools. Even things which are absolute nothings may be called goods; such as white teeth, handsome eyes, a good complexion, and what was commended by Euryclea, when she was washing Ulysses’s feet, the softness of his skin and the mildness of his discourse. If you look on these as goods, what greater encomiums can the gravity of a philosopher be entitled to than the wild opinion of the vulgar and the thoughtless crowd? The Stoics give the name of excellent and choice to what the others call good: they call them so, indeed; but they do not allow them to complete a happy life. But these others think that there is no life happy without them; or, admitting it to be happy, they deny it to be the most happy. But our opinion is, that it is the most happy; and we prove it from that conclusion of Socrates. For thus that author of philosophy argued: that as the disposition of a man’s mind is, so is the man; such as the man is, such will be his discourse; his actions will correspond with his discourse, and his life with his actions. But the disposition of a good man’s mind is laudable; the life, therefore, of a good man is laudable; it is honorable, therefore, because laudable; the unavoidable conclusion from which is that the life of good men is happy. For, good Gods! did I not make it appear, by my former arguments — or was I only amusing myself and killing time in what I then said? — that the mind of a wise man was always free from every hasty motion which I call a perturbation, and that the most undisturbed peace always reigned in his breast? A man, then, who is temperate and consistent, free from fear or grief, and uninfluenced by any immoderate joy or desire, cannot be otherwise than happy; but a wise man is always so, therefore he is always happy. Moreover, how can a good man avoid referring all his actions and all his feelings to the one standard of whether or not it is laudable? But he does refer everything to the object of living happily: it follows, then, that a happy life is laudable; but nothing is laudable without virtue: a happy life, then, is the consequence of virtue. And this is the unavoidable conclusion to be drawn from these arguments.
A wicked life has nothing which we ought to speak of or glory in; nor has that life which is neither happy nor miserable. But there is a kind of life that admits of being spoken of, and gloried in, and boasted of, as Epaminondas saith,
The wings of Sparta’s pride my counsels clipp’d.
And Africanus boasts,
Who, from beyond Maeotis to the place
Where the sun rises, deeds like mine can trace?
If, then, there is such a thing as a happy life, it is to be gloried in, spoken of, and commended by the person who enjoys it; for there is nothing excepting that which can be spoken of or gloried in; and when that is once admitted, you know what follows. Now, unless an honorable life is a happy life, there must, of course, be something preferable to a happy life; for that which is honorable all men will certainly grant to be preferable to anything else. And thus there will be something better than a happy life: but what can be more absurd than such an assertion? What! when they grant vice to be effectual to the rendering life miserable, must they not admit that there is a corresponding power in virtue to make life happy? For contraries follow from contraries. And here I ask what weight they think there is in the balance of Critolaus, who having put the goods of the mind into one scale, and the goods of the body and other external advantages into the other, thought the goods of the mind outweighed the others so far that they would require the whole earth and sea to equalize the scale.
What hinders Critolaus, then, or that gravest of philosophers, Xenocrates (who raises virtue so high, and who lessens and depreciates everything else), from not only placing a happy life, but the happiest possible life, in virtue? And, indeed, if this were not the case, virtue would be absolutely lost. For whoever is subject to grief must necessarily be subject to fear too, for fear is an uneasy apprehension of future grief; and whoever is subject to fear is liable to dread, timidity, consternation, cowardice. Therefore, such a person may, some time or other, be defeated, and not think himself concerned with that precept of Atreus,
And let men so conduct themselves in life,
As to be always strangers to defeat.
But such a man, as I have said, will be defeated; and not only defeated, but made a slave of. But we would have virtue always free, always invincible; and were it not so, there would be an end of virtue. But if virtue has in herself all that is necessary for a good life, she is certainly sufficient for happiness: virtue is certainly sufficient, too, for our living with courage; if with courage, then with a magnanimous spirit, and indeed so as never to be under any fear, and thus to be always invincible. Hence it follows that there can be nothing to be repented of, no wants, no lets or hinderances. Thus all things will be prosperous, perfect, and as you would have them, and, consequently, happy; but virtue is sufficient for living with courage, and therefore virtue is able by herself to make life happy. For as folly, even when possessed of what it desires, never thinks it has acquired enough, so wisdom is always satisfied with the present, and never repents on her own account.
Look but on the single consulship of Laelius, and that, too, after having been set aside (though when a wise and good man like him is outvoted, the people are disappointed of a good consul, rather than be disappointed by a vain people); but the point is, would you prefer, were it in your power, to be once such a consul as Laelius, or be elected four times, like Cinna? I have no doubt in the world what answer you will make, and it is on that account I put the question to you.
I would not ask every one this question; for some one perhaps might answer that he would not only prefer four consulates to one, but even one day of Cinna’s life to whole ages of many famous men. Laelius would have suffered had he but touched anyone with his finger; but Cinna ordered the head of his colleague consul, Cn. Octavius, to be struck off; and put to death P. Crassus, and L. Caesar, those excellent men, so renowned both at home and abroad; and even M. Antonius, the greatest orator whom I ever heard; and C. Caesar, who seems to me to have been the pattern of humanity, politeness, sweetness of temper, and wit. Could he, then, be happy who occasioned the death of these men? So far from it, that he seems to be miserable, not only for having performed these actions, but also for acting in such a manner that it was lawful for him to do it, though it is unlawful for anyone to do wicked actions; but this proceeds from inaccuracy, of speech, for we call whatever a man is allowed to do lawful. Was not Marius happier, I pray you, when he shared the glory of the victory gained over the Cimbrians with his colleague Catulus (who was almost another Laelius; for I look upon the two men as very like one another), than when, conqueror in the civil war, he in a passion answered the friends of Catulus, who were interceding for him, “Let him die?” And this answer he gave, not once only, but often. But in such a case, he was happier who submitted to that barbarous decree than he who issued it. And it is better to receive an injury than to do one; and so it was better to advance a little to meet that death that was making its approaches, as Catulus did, than, like Marius, to sully the glory of six consulships, and disgrace his latter days, by the death of such a man.
Dionysius exercised his tyranny over the Syracusans thirty-eight years, being but twenty-five years old when he seized on the government. How beautiful and how wealthy a city did he oppress with slavery! And yet we have it from good authority that he was remarkably temperate in his manner of living, that he was very active and energetic in carrying on business, but naturally mischievous and unjust; from which description every one who diligently inquires into truth must inevitably see that he was very miserable. Neither did he attain what he so greatly desired, even when he was persuaded that he had unlimited power; for, notwithstanding he was of a good family and reputable parents (though that is contested by some authors), and had a very large acquaintance of intimate friends and relations, and also some youths attached to him by ties of love after the fashion of the Greeks, he could not trust any one of them, but committed the guard of his person to slaves, whom he had selected from rich men’s families and made free, and to strangers and barbarians. And thus, through an unjust desire of governing, he in a manner shut himself up in a prison. Besides, he would not trust his throat to a barber, but had his daughters taught to shave; so that these royal virgins were forced to descend to the base and slavish employment of shaving the head and beard of their father. Nor would he trust even them, when they were grown up, with a razor; but contrived how they might burn off the hair of his head and beard with red-hot nutshells. And as to his two wives, Aristomache, his countrywoman, and Doris of Locris, he never visited them at night before everything had been well searched and examined. And as he had surrounded the place where his bed was with a broad ditch, and made a way over it with a wooden bridge, he drew that bridge over after shutting his bedchamber door. And as he did not dare to stand on the ordinary pulpits from which they usually harangued the people, he generally addressed them from a high tower. And it is said that when he was disposed to play at ball — for he delighted much in it — and had pulled off his clothes, he used to give his sword into the keeping of a young man whom he was very fond of. On this, one of his intimates said pleasantly, “You certainly trust your life with him;” and as the young man happened to smile at this, he ordered them both to be slain, the one for showing how he might be taken off, the other for approving of what had been said by smiling. But he was so concerned at what he had done that nothing affected him more during his whole life; for he had slain one to whom he was extremely partial. Thus do weak men’s desires pull them different ways, and while they indulge one, they act counter to another.
This tyrant, however, showed himself how happy he really was; for once, when Damocles, one of his flatterers, was dilating in conversation on his forces, his wealth, the greatness of his power, the plenty he enjoyed, the grandeur of his royal palaces, and maintaining that no one was ever happier, “Have you an inclination,” said he, “Damocles, as this kind of life pleases you, to have a taste of it yourself, and to make a trial of the good fortune that attends me?” And when he said that he should like it extremely, Dionysius ordered him to be laid on a bed of gold with the most beautiful covering, embroidered and wrought with the most exquisite work, and he dressed out a great many sideboards with silver and embossed gold. He then ordered some youths, distinguished for their handsome persons, to wait at his table, and to observe his nod, in order to serve him with what he wanted. There were ointments and garlands; perfumes were burned; tables provided with the most exquisite meats. Damocles thought himself very happy. In the midst of this apparatus, Dionysius ordered a bright sword to be let down from the ceiling, suspended by a single horse-hair, so as to hang over the head of that happy man. After which he neither cast his eye on those handsome waiters, nor on the well-wrought plate; nor touched any of the provisions: presently the garlands fell to pieces. At last he entreated the tyrant to give him leave to go, for that now he had no desire to be happy. Does not Dionysius, then, seem to have declared there can be no happiness for one who is under constant apprehensions? But it was not now in his power to return to justice, and restore his citizens their rights and privileges; for, by the indiscretion of youth, he had engaged in so many wrong steps and committed such extravagances, that, had he attempted to have returned to a right way of thinking, he must have endangered his life.
Yet, how desirous he was of friendship, though at the same time he dreaded the treachery of friends, appears from the story of those two Pythagoreans: one of these had been security for his friend, who was condemned to die; the other, to release his security, presented himself at the time appointed for his dying: “I wish,” said Dionysius, “you would admit me as the third in your friendship.” What misery was it for him to be deprived of acquaintance, of company at his table, and of the freedom of conversation! especially for one who was a man of learning, and from his childhood acquainted with liberal arts, very fond of music, and himself a tragic poet — how good a one is not to the purpose, for I know not how it is, but in this way, more than any other, every one thinks his own performances excellent. I never as yet knew any poet (and I was very intimate with Aquinius), who did not appear to himself to be very admirable. The case is this: you are pleased with your own works; I like mine. But to return to Dionysius. He debarred himself from all civil and polite conversation, and spent his life among fugitives, bondmen, and barbarians; for he was persuaded that no one could be his friend who was worthy of liberty, or had the least desire of being free.
Shall I not, then, prefer the life of Plato and Archytas, manifestly wise and learned men, to his, than which nothing can possibly be more horrid, or miserable, or detestable?
I will present you with an humble and obscure mathematician of the same city, called Archimedes, who lived many years after; whose tomb, overgrown with shrubs and briers, I in my quæstorship discovered, when the Syracusans knew nothing of it, and even denied that there was any such thing remaining; for I remembered some verses, which I had been informed were engraved on his monument, and these set forth that on the top of the tomb there was placed a sphere with a cylinder. When I had carefully examined all the monuments (for there are a great many tombs at the gate Achradinæ), I observed a small column standing out a little above the briers, with the figure of a sphere and a cylinder upon it; whereupon I immediately said to the Syracusans — for there were some of their principal men with me there — that I imagined that was what I was inquiring for. Several men, being sent in with scythes, cleared the way, and made an opening for us. When we could get at it, and were come near to the front of the pedestal, I found the inscription, though the latter parts of all the verses were effaced almost half away. Thus one of the noblest cities of Greece, and one which at one time likewise had been very celebrated for learning, had known nothing of the monument of its greatest genius, if it had not been discovered to them by a native of Arpinum. But to return to the subject from which I have been digressing. Who is there in the least degree acquainted with the Muses, that is, with liberal knowledge, or that deals at all in learning, who would not choose to be this mathematician rather than that tyrant? If we look into their methods of living and their employments, we shall find the mind of the one strengthened and improved with tracing the deductions of reason, amused with his own ingenuity, which is the one most delicious food of the mind; the thoughts of the other engaged in continual murders and injuries, in constant fears by night and by day. Now imagine a Democritus, a Pythagoras, and an Anaxagoras; what kingdom, what riches, would you prefer to their studies and amusements? For you must necessarily look for that excellence which we are seeking for in that which is the most perfect part of man; but what is there better in man than a sagacious and good mind? The enjoyment, therefore, of that good which proceeds from that sagacious mind can alone make us happy; but virtue is the good of the mind: it follows, therefore, that a happy life depends on virtue. Hence proceed all things that are beautiful, honorable, and excellent, as I said above (but this point must, I think, be treated of more at large), and they are well stored with joys. For, as it is clear that a happy life consists in perpetual and unexhausted pleasures, it follows, too, that a happy life must arise from honesty.
But that what I propose to demonstrate to you may not rest on mere words only, I must set before you the picture of something, as it were, living and moving in the world, that may dispose us more for the improvement of the understanding and real knowledge. Let us, then, pitch upon some man perfectly acquainted with the most excellent arts; let us present him for awhile to our own thoughts, and figure him to our own imaginations. In the first place, he must necessarily be of an extraordinary capacity; for virtue is not easily connected with dull minds. Secondly, he must have a great desire of discovering truth, whence will arise that threefold production of the mind; one of which depends on knowing things, and explaining nature; the other, in defining what we ought to desire and what to avoid; the third, in judging of consequences and impossibilities, in which consists both subtlety in disputing and also clearness of judgment. Now, with what pleasure must the mind of a wise man be affected which continually dwells in the midst of such cares and occupations as these, when he views the revolutions and motions of the whole world, and sees those innumerable stars in the heavens, which, though fixed in their places, have yet one motion in common with the whole universe, and observes the seven other stars, some higher, some lower, each maintaining their own course, while their motions, though wandering, have certain defined and appointed spaces to run through! the sight of which doubtless urged and encouraged those ancient philosophers to exercise their investigating spirit on many other things. Hence arose an inquiry after the beginnings, and, as it were, seeds from which all things were produced and composed; what was the origin of every kind of thing, whether animate or inanimate, articulately speaking or mute; what occasioned their beginning and end, and by what alteration and change one thing was converted into another; whence the earth originated, and by what weights it was balanced; by what caverns the seas were supplied; by what gravity all things being carried down tend always to the middle of the world, which in any round body is the lowest place.
A mind employed on such subjects, and which night and day contemplates them, contains in itself that precept of the Delphic God, so as to “know itself,” and to perceive its connection with the divine reason, whence it is filled with an insatiable joy. For reflections on the power and nature of the Gods raise in us a desire of imitating their eternity. Nor does the mind, that sees the necessary dependences and connections that one cause has with another, think it possible that it should be itself confined to the shortness of this life. Those causes, though they proceed from eternity to eternity, are governed by reason and understanding. And he who beholds them and examines them, or rather he whose view takes in all the parts and boundaries of things, with what tranquility of mind does he look on all human affairs, and on all that is nearer him! Hence proceeds the knowledge of virtue; hence arise the kinds and species of virtues; hence are discovered those things which nature regards as the bounds and extremities of good and evil; by this it is discovered to what all duties ought to be referred, and which is the most eligible manner of life. And when these and similar points have been investigated, the principal consequence which is deduced from them, and that which is our main object in this discussion, is the establishment of the point, that virtue is of itself sufficient to a happy life.
The third qualification of our wise man is the next to be considered, which goes through and spreads itself over every part of wisdom; it is that whereby we define each particular thing, distinguish the genus from its species, connect consequences, draw just conclusions, and distinguish truth from falsehood, which is the very art and science of disputing; which is not only of the greatest use in the examination of what passes in the world, but is likewise the most rational entertainment, and that which is most becoming to true wisdom. Such are its effects in retirement. Now, let our wise man be considered as protecting the republic; what can be more excellent than such a character? By his prudence he will discover the true interests of his fellow-citizens; by his justice he will be prevented from applying what belongs to the public to his own use; and, in short, he will be ever governed by all the virtues, which are many and various. To these let us add the advantage of his friendships; in which the learned reckon not only a natural harmony and agreement of sentiments throughout the conduct of life, but the utmost pleasure and satisfaction in conversing and passing our time constantly with one another. What can be wanting to such a life as this to make it more happy than it is? Fortune herself must yield to a life stored with such joys. Now, if it be a happiness to rejoice in such goods of the mind, that is to say, in such virtues, and if all wise men enjoy thoroughly these pleasures, it must necessarily be granted that all such are happy.
A. What, when in torments and on the rack?
M. Do you imagine I am speaking of him as laid on roses and violets? Is it allowable even for Epicurus (who only puts on the appearance of being a philosopher, and who himself assumed that name for himself) to say (though, as matters stand, I commend him for his saying) that a wise man might at all times cry out, though he be burned, tortured, cut to pieces, “How little I regard it!” Shall this be said by one who defines all evil as pain, and measures every good by pleasure; who could ridicule whatever we call either honorable or base, and could declare of us that we were employed about words, and uttering mere empty sounds; and that nothing is to be regarded by us but as it is perceived to be smooth or rough by the body? What! shall such a man as this, as I said, whose understanding is little superior to the beasts’, be at liberty to forget himself; and not only to despise fortune, when the whole of his good and evil is in the power of fortune, but to say that he is happy in the most racking torture, when he had actually declared pain to be not only the greatest evil, but the only one? Nor did he take any trouble to provide himself with those remedies which might have enabled him to bear pain, such as firmness of mind, a shame of doing anything base, exercise, and the habit of patience, precepts of courage, and a manly hardiness; but he says that he supports himself on the single recollection of past pleasures, as if anyone, when the weather was so hot as that he was scarcely able to bear it, should comfort himself by recollecting that he was once in my country, Arpinum, where he was surrounded on every side by cooling streams. For I do not apprehend how past pleasures can allay present evils. But when he says that a wise man is always happy who would have no right to say so if he were consistent with himself, what may they not do who allow nothing to be desirable, nothing to be looked on as good but what is honorable? Let, then, the Peripatetics and Old Academics follow my example, and at length leave off muttering to themselves; and openly and with a clear voice let them be bold to say that a happy life may not be inconsistent with the agonies of Phalaris’s bull.
But to dismiss the subtleties of the Stoics, which I am sensible I have employed more than was necessary, let us admit of three kinds of goods; and let them really be kinds of goods, provided no regard is had to the body and to external circumstances, as entitled to the appellation of good in any other sense than because we are obliged to use them: but let those other divine goods spread themselves far in every direction, and reach the very heavens. Why, then, may I not call him happy, nay, the happiest of men, who has attained them? Shall a wise man be afraid of pain? which is, indeed, the greatest enemy to our opinion. For I am persuaded that we are prepared and fortified sufficiently, by the disputations of the foregoing days, against our own death or that of our friends, against grief, and the other perturbations of the mind. But pain seems to be the sharpest adversary of virtue; that it is which menaces us with burning torches; that it is which threatens to crush our fortitude, and greatness of mind, and patience. Shall virtue, then, yield to this? Shall the happy life of a wise and consistent man succumb to this? Good. Gods! how base would this be! Spartan boys will bear to have their bodies torn by rods without uttering a groan. I myself have seen at Lacedaemon troops of young men, with incredible earnestness contending together with their hands and feet, with their teeth and nails, nay, even ready to expire, rather than own themselves conquered. Is any country of barbarians more uncivilized or desolate than India? Yet they have among them some that are held for wise men, who never wear any clothes all their life long, and who bear the snow of Caucasus, and the piercing cold of winter, without any pain; and who if they come in contact with fire endure being burned without a groan. The women, too, in India, on the death of their husbands have a regular contest, and apply to the judge to have it determined which of them was best beloved by him; for it is customary there for one man to have many wives. She in whose favor it is determined exults greatly, and being attended by her relations, is laid on the funeral pile with her husband; the others, who are postponed, walk away very much dejected. Custom can never be superior to nature, for nature is never to be got the better of. But our minds are infected by sloth and idleness, and luxury, and languor, and indolence: we have enervated them by opinions and bad customs. Who is there who is unacquainted with the customs of the Egyptians? Their minds being tainted by pernicious opinions, they are ready to bear any torture rather than hurt an ibis, a snake, a cat, a dog, or a crocodile; and should anyone inadvertently have hurt any of these animals, he will submit to any punishment. I am speaking of men only. As to the beasts, do they not bear cold and hunger, running about in woods, and on mountains and deserts? Will they not fight for their young ones till they are wounded? Are they afraid of any attacks or blows? I mention not what the ambitious will suffer for honor’s sake, or those who are desirous of praise on account of glory, or lovers to gratify their lust. Life is full of such instances.
But let us not dwell too much on these questions, but rather let us return to our subject. I say, and say again, that happiness will submit even to be tormented; and that in pursuit of justice, and temperance, and still more especially and principally fortitude, and greatness of soul, and patience, it will not stop short at sight of the executioner; and when all other virtues proceed calmly to the torture, that one will never halt, as I said, on the outside and threshold of the prison; for what can be baser, what can carry a worse appearance, than to be left alone, separated from those beautiful attendants? Not, however, that this is by any means possible; for neither can the virtues hold together without happiness, nor happiness without the virtues; so that they will not suffer her to desert them, but will carry her along with them, to whatever torments, to whatever pain they are led. For it is the peculiar quality of a wise man to do nothing that he may repent of, nothing against his inclination, but always to act nobly, with constancy, gravity, and honesty; to depend on nothing as certainty; to wonder at nothing, when it falls out, as if it appeared strange and unexpected to him; to be independent of every one, and abide by his own opinion. For my part, I cannot form an idea of anything happier than this. The conclusion of the Stoics is indeed easy; for since they are persuaded that the end of good is to live agreeably to nature, and to be consistent with that — as a wise man should do so, not only because it is his duty, but because it is in his power — it must, of course, follow that whoever has the chief good in his power has his happiness so too. And thus the life of a wise man is always happy. You have here what I think may be confidently said of a happy life; and as things now stand, very truly also, unless you can advance something better.
A. Indeed I cannot; but I should be glad to prevail on you, unless it is troublesome (as you are under no confinement from obligations to any particular sect, but gather from all of them whatever strikes you most as having the appearance of probability), as you just now seemed to advise the Peripatetics and the Old Academy boldly to speak out without reserve, “that wise men are always the happiest” — I should be glad to hear how you think it consistent for them to say so, when you have said so much against that opinion, and the conclusions of the Stoics.
M. I will make use, then, of that liberty which no one has the privilege of using in philosophy but those of our school, whose discourses determine nothing, but take in everything, leaving them unsupported by the authority of any particular person, to be judged of by others, according to their weight. And as you seem desirous of knowing how it is that, notwithstanding the different opinions of philosophers with regard to the ends of goods, virtue has still sufficient security for the effecting of a happy life — which security, as we are informed, Carneades used indeed to dispute against; but he disputed as against the Stoics, whose opinions he combated with great zeal and vehemence. I, however, shall handle the question with more temper; for if the Stoics have rightly settled the ends of goods, the affair is at an end; for a wise man must necessarily be always happy. But let us examine, if we can, the particular opinions of the others, that so this excellent decision, if I may so call it, in favor of a happy life, may be agreeable to the opinions and discipline of all.
These, then, are the opinions, as I think, that are held and defended — the first four are simple ones: “that nothing is good but what is honest,” according to the Stoics; “nothing good but pleasure,” as Epicurus maintains; “nothing good but a freedom from pain,” as Hieronymus asserts; “nothing good but an enjoyment of the principal, or all, or the greatest goods of nature,” as Carneades maintained against the Stoics — these are simple, the others are mixed propositions. Then there are three kinds of goods: the greatest being those of the mind; the next best those of the body; the third are external goods, as the Peripatetics call them, and the Old Academics differ very little from them. Dinomachus and Callipho have coupled pleasure with honesty; but Diodorus the Peripatetic has joined indolence to honesty. These are the opinions that have some footing; for those of Aristo, Pyrrho, Herillus, and of some others, are quite out of date. Now let us see what weight these men have in them, excepting the Stoics, whose opinion I think I have sufficiently defended; and indeed I have explained what the Peripatetics have to say; excepting that Theophrastus, and those who followed him, dread and abhor pain in too weak a manner. The others may go on to exaggerate the gravity and dignity of virtue, as usual; and then, after they have extolled it to the skies, with the usual extravagance of good orators, it is easy to reduce the other topics to nothing by comparison, and to hold them up to contempt. They who think that praise deserves to be sought after, even at the expense of pain, are not at liberty to deny those men to be happy who have obtained it. Though they may be under some evils, yet this name of happy has a very wide application.
For even as trading is said to be lucrative, and farming advantageous, not because the one never meets with any loss, nor the other with any damage from the inclemency of the weather, but because they succeed in general; so life may be properly called happy, not from its being entirely made up of good things, but because it abounds with these to a great and considerable degree. By this way of reasoning, then, a happy life may attend virtue even to the moment of execution; nay, may descend with her into Phalaris’s bull, according to Aristotle, Xenocrates, Speusippus, Polemon; and will not be gained over by any allurements to forsake her. Of the same opinion will Calliphon and Diodorus be; for they are both of them such friends to virtue as to think that all things should be discarded and far removed that are incompatible with it. The rest seem to be more hampered with these doctrines, but yet they get clear of them; such as Epicurus, Hieronymus, and whoever else thinks it worth while to defend the deserted Carneades: for there is not one of them who does not think the mind to be judge of those goods, and able sufficiently to instruct him how to despise what has the appearance only of good or evil. For what seems to you to be the case with Epicurus is the case also with Hieronymus and Carneades, and, indeed, with all the rest of them; for who is there who is not sufficiently prepared against death and pain? I will begin, with your leave, with him whom we call soft and voluptuous. What! does he seem, to you to be afraid of death or pain when he calls the day of his death happy; and who, when he is afflicted by the greatest pains, silences them all by recollecting arguments of his own discovering? And this is not done in such a manner as to give room for imagining that he talks thus wildly from some sudden impulse; but his opinion of death is, that on the dissolution of the animal all sense is lost; and what is deprived of sense is, as he thinks, what we have no concern at all with. And as to pain, too, he has certain rules to follow then: if it be great, the comfort is that it must be short; if it be of long continuance, then it must be supportable. What, then? Do those grandiloquent gentlemen state anything better than Epicurus in opposition to these two things which distress us the most? And as to other things, do not Epicurus and the rest of the philosophers seem sufficiently prepared? Who is there who does not dread poverty? And yet no true philosopher ever can dread it.
But with how little is this man himself satisfied! No one has said more on frugality. For when a man is far removed from those things which occasion a desire of money, from love, ambition, or other daily extravagance, why should he be fond of money, or concern himself at all about it? Could the Scythian Anacharsis disregard money, and shall not our philosophers be able to do so? We are informed of an epistle of his in these words: “Anacharsis to Hanno, greeting. My clothing is the same as that with which the Scythians cover themselves; the hardness of my feet supplies the want of shoes; the ground is my bed, hunger my sauce, my food milk, cheese, and flesh. So you may come to me as to a man in want of nothing. But as to those presents you take so much pleasure in, you may dispose of them to your own citizens, or to the immortal Gods.” And almost all philosophers, of all schools, excepting those who are warped from right reason by a vicious disposition, might have been of this same opinion. Socrates, when on one occasion he saw a great quantity of gold and silver carried in a procession, cried out, “How many things are there which I do not want!” Xenocrates, when some ambassadors from Alexander had brought him fifty talents, which was a very large sum of money in those times, especially at Athens, carried the ambassadors to sup in the Academy, and placed just a sufficiency before them, without any apparatus. When they asked him, the next day, to whom he wished the money which they had for him to be paid: “What!” said he, “did you not perceive by our slight repast of yesterday that I had no occasion for money?” But when he perceived that they were somewhat dejected, he accepted of thirty minas, that he might not seem to treat with disrespect the king’s generosity. But Diogenes took a greater liberty, like a Cynic, when Alexander asked him if he wanted anything: “Just at present,” said he, “I wish that you would stand a little out of the line between me and the sun,” for Alexander was hindering him from sunning himself. And, indeed, this very man used to maintain how much he surpassed the Persian king in his manner of life and fortune; for that he himself was in want of nothing, while the other never had enough; and that he had no inclination for those pleasures of which the other could never get enough to satisfy himself; and that the other could never obtain his.
You see, I imagine, how Epicurus has divided his kinds of desires, not very acutely perhaps, but yet usefully: saying that they are “partly natural and necessary; partly natural, but not necessary; partly neither. That those which are necessary may be supplied almost for nothing; for that the things which nature requires are easily obtained.” As to the second kind of desires, his opinion is that any one may easily either enjoy or go without them. And with regard to the third, since they are utterly frivolous, being neither allied to necessity nor nature, he thinks that they should be entirely rooted out. On this topic a great many arguments are adduced by the Epicureans; and those pleasures which they do not despise in a body, they disparage one by one, and seem rather for lessening the number of them; for as to wanton pleasures, on which subject they say a great deal, these, say they, are easy, common, and within anyone’s reach; and they think that if nature requires them, they are not to be estimated by birth, condition, or rank, but by shape, age, and person: and that it is by no means difficult to refrain from them, should health, duty, or reputation require it; but that pleasures of this kind may be desirable, where they are attended with no inconvenience, but can never be of any use. And the assertions which Epicurus makes with respect to the whole of pleasure are such as show his opinion to be that pleasure is always desirable, and to be pursued merely because it is pleasure; and for the same reason pain is to be avoided, because it is pain. So that a wise man will always adopt such a system of counterbalancing as to do himself the justice to avoid pleasure, should pain ensue from it in too great a proportion; and will submit to pain, provided the effects of it are to produce a greater pleasure: so that all pleasurable things, though the corporeal senses are the judges of them, are still to be referred to the mind, on which account the body rejoices while it perceives a present pleasure; but that the mind not only perceives the present as well as the body, but foresees it while it is coming, and even when it is past will not let it quite slip away. So that a wise man enjoys a continual series of pleasures, uniting the expectation of future pleasure to the recollection of what he has already tasted. The like notions are applied by them to high living; and the magnificence and expensiveness of entertainments are deprecated, because nature is satisfied at a small expense.
For who does not see this, that an appetite is the best sauce? When Darius, in his flight from the enemy, had drunk some water which was muddy and tainted with dead bodies, he declared that he had never drunk anything more pleasant; the fact was, that he had never drunk before when he was thirsty. Nor had Ptolemy ever eaten when he was hungry; for as he was traveling over Egypt, his company not keeping up with him, he had some coarse bread presented him in a cottage, upon which he said, “Nothing ever seemed to him pleasanter than that bread.” They relate, too, of Socrates, that, once when he was walking very fast till the evening, on his being asked why he did so, his reply was that he was purchasing an appetite by walking, that he might sup the better. And do we not see what the Lacedaemonians provide in their Phiditia? where the tyrant Dionysius supped, but told them he did not at all like that black broth, which was their principal dish; on which he who dressed it said, “It was no wonder, for it wanted seasoning.” Dionysius asked what that seasoning was; to which it was replied, “Fatigue in hunting, sweating, a race on the banks of Eurotas, hunger and thirst,” for these are the seasonings to the Lacedaemonian banquets. And this may not only be conceived from the custom of men, but from the beasts, who are satisfied with anything that is thrown before them, provided it is not unnatural, and they seek no farther. Some entire cities, taught by custom, delight in parsimony, as I said but just now of the Lacedaemonians. Xenophon has given an account of the Persian diet, who never, as he saith, use anything but cresses with their bread; not but that, should nature require anything more agreeable, many things might be easily supplied by the ground, and plants in great abundance, and of incomparable sweetness. Add to this strength and health, as the consequence of this abstemious way of living. Now, compare with this those who sweat and belch, being crammed with eating, like fatted oxen; then will you perceive that they who pursue pleasure most attain it least; and that the pleasure of eating lies not in satiety, but appetite.
They report of Timotheus, a famous man at Athens, and the head of the city, that having supped with Plato, and being extremely delighted with his entertainment, on seeing him the next day, he said, “Your suppers are not only agreeable while I partake of them, but the next day also.” Besides, the understanding is impaired when we are full with overeating and drinking. There is an excellent epistle of Plato to Dion’s relations, in which there occurs as nearly as possible these words: “When I came there, that happy life so much talked of, devoted to Italian and Syracusan entertainments, was noways agreeable to me; to be crammed twice a day, and never to have the night to yourself, and the other things which are the accompaniments of this kind of life, by which a man will never be made the wiser, but will be rendered much less temperate; for it must be an extraordinary disposition that can be temperate in such circumstances.” How, then, can a life be pleasant without prudence and temperance? Hence you discover the mistake of Sardanapalus, the wealthiest king of the Assyrians, who ordered it to be engraved on his tomb,
I still have what in food I did exhaust;
But what I left, though excellent, is lost.
“What less than this,” says Aristotle, “could be inscribed on the tomb, not of a king, but an ox?” He said that he possessed those things when dead, which, in his lifetime, he could have no longer than while he was enjoying them. Why, then, are riches desired? And wherein doth poverty prevent us from being happy? In the want, I imagine, of statues, pictures, and diversions. But if anyone is delighted with these things, have not the poor people the enjoyment of them more than they who are the owners of them in the greatest abundance? For we have great numbers of them displayed publicly in our city. And whatever store of them private people have, they cannot have a great number, and they but seldom see them, only when they go to their country seats; and some of them must be stung to the heart when they consider how they came by them. The day would fail me, should I be inclined to defend the cause of poverty. The thing is manifest; and nature daily informs us how few things there are, and how trifling they are, of which she really stands in need.
Let us inquire, then, if obscurity, the want of power, or even the being unpopular, can prevent a wise man from being happy. Observe if popular favor, and this glory which they are so fond of, be not attended with more uneasiness than pleasure. Our friend Demosthenes was certainly very weak in declaring himself pleased with the whisper of a woman who was carrying water, as is the custom in Greece, and who whispered to another, “That is he — that is Demosthenes.” What could be weaker than this? and yet what an orator he was! But although he had learned to speak to others, he had conversed but little with himself. We may perceive, therefore, that popular glory is not desirable of itself; nor is obscurity to be dreaded. “I came to Athens,” saith Democritus, “and there was no one there that knew me:” this was a moderate and grave man who could glory in his obscurity. Shall musicians compose their tunes to their own tastes? and shall a philosopher, master of a much better art, seek to ascertain, not what is most true, but what will please the people? Can anything be more absurd than to despise the vulgar as mere unpolished mechanics, taken singly, and to think them of consequence when collected into a body? These wise men would contemn our ambitious pursuits and our vanities, and would reject all the honors which the people could voluntarily offer to them; but we know not how to despise them till we begin to repent of having accepted them. There is an anecdote related by Heraclitus, the natural philosopher, of Hermodorus, the chief of the Ephesians, that he said “that all the Ephesians ought to be punished with death for saying, when they had expelled Hermodorus out of their city, that they would have no one among them better than another; but that if there were any such, he might go elsewhere to some other people.” Is not this the case with the people everywhere? Do they not hate every virtue that distinguishes itself? What! was not Aristides (I had rather instance in the Greeks than ourselves) banished his country for being eminently just? What troubles, then, are they free from who have no connection whatever with the people? What is more agreeable than a learned retirement? I speak of that learning which makes us acquainted with the boundless extent of nature and the universe, and which even while we remain in this world discovers to us both heaven, earth, and sea.
If, then, honor and riches have no value, what is there else to be afraid of? Banishment, I suppose; which is looked on as the greatest evil. Now, if the evil of banishment proceeds not from ourselves, but from the froward disposition of the people, I have just now declared how contemptible it is. But if to leave one’s country be miserable, the provinces are full of miserable men, very few of the settlers in which ever return to their country again. But exiles are deprived of their property! What, then! has there not been enough said on bearing poverty? But with regard to banishment, if we examine the nature of things, not the ignominy of the name, how little does it differ from constant traveling! in which some of the most famous philosophers have spent their whole life, as Xenocrates, Crantor, Arcesilas, Lacydes, Aristotle, Theophrastus, Zeno, Cleanthes, Chrysippus, Antipater, Carneades, Panaetius, Clitomachus, Philo, Antiochus, Posidonius, and innumerable others, who from their first setting-out never returned home again. Now, what ignominy can a wise man be affected with (for it is of such a one that I am speaking) who can be guilty of nothing which deserves it? for there is no occasion to comfort one who is banished for his deserts. Lastly, they can easily reconcile themselves to every accident who measure all their objects and pursuits in life by the standard of pleasure; so that in whatever place that is supplied, there they may live happily. Thus what Teucer said may be applied to every case:
“Wherever I am happy is my country.”
Socrates, indeed, when he was asked where he belonged to, replied, “The world;” for he looked upon himself as a citizen and inhabitant of the whole world. How was it with T. Altibutius? Did he not follow his philosophical studies with the greatest satisfaction at Athens, although he was banished? which, however, would not have happened to him if he had obeyed the laws of Epicurus and lived peaceably in the republic. In what was Epicurus happier, living in his own country, than Metrodorus, who lived at Athens? Or did Plato’s happiness exceed that of Xenocrates, or Polemo, or Arcesilas? Or is that city to be valued much that banishes all her good and wise men? Demaratus, the father of our King Tarquin, not being able to bear the tyrant Cypselus, fled from Corinth to Tarquinii, settled there, and had children. Was it, then, an unwise act in him to prefer the liberty of banishment to slavery at home?
Besides the emotions of the mind, all griefs and anxieties are assuaged by forgetting them, and turning our thoughts to pleasure. Therefore, it was not without reason that Epicurus presumed to say that a wise man abounds with good things, because he may always have his pleasures; whence it follows, as he thinks, that that point is gained which is the subject of our present inquiry, that a wise man is always happy. What! though he should be deprived of the senses of seeing and hearing? Yes; for he holds those things very cheap. For, in the first place, what are the pleasures of which we are deprived by that dreadful thing, blindness? For though they allow other pleasures to be confined to the senses, yet the things which are perceived by the sight do not depend wholly on the pleasure the eyes receive; as is the case when we taste, smell, touch, or hear; for, in respect of all these senses, the organs themselves are the seat of pleasure; but it is not so with the eyes. For it is the mind which is entertained by what we see; but the mind may be entertained in many ways, even though we could not see at all. I am speaking of a learned and a wise man, with whom to think is to live. But thinking in the case of a wise man does not altogether require the use of his eyes in his investigations; for if night does not strip him of his happiness, why should blindness, which resembles night, have that effect? For the reply of Antipater the Cyrenaic to some women who bewailed his being blind, though it is a little too obscene, is not without its significance. “What do you mean?” saith he; “do you think the night can furnish no pleasure?” And we find by his magistracies and his actions that old Appius, too, who was blind for many years, was not prevented from doing whatever was required of him with respect either to the republic or his own affairs. It is said that C. Drusus’s house was crowded with clients. When they whose business it was could not see how to conduct themselves, they applied to a blind guide.
When I was a boy, Cn. Aufidius, a blind man, who had served the office of prætor, not only gave his opinion in the Senate, and was ready to assist his friends, but wrote a Greek history, and had a considerable acquaintance with literature. Diodorus the Stoic was blind, and lived many years at my house. He, indeed, which is scarcely credible, besides applying himself more than usual to philosophy, and playing on the flute, agreeably to the custom of the Pythagoreans, and having books read to him night and day, in all which he did not want eyes, contrived to teach geometry, which, one would think, could hardly be done without the assistance of eyes, telling his scholars how and where to draw every line. They relate of Asclepiades, a native of Eretria, and no obscure philosopher, when some one asked him what inconvenience he suffered from his blindness, that his reply was, “He was at the expense of another servant.” So that, as the most extreme poverty may be borne if you please, as is daily the case with some in Greece, so blindness may easily be borne, provided you have the support of good health in other respects. Democritus was so blind he could not distinguish white from black; but he knew the difference between good and evil, just and unjust, honorable and base, the useful and useless, great and small. Thus one may live happily without distinguishing colors; but without acquainting yourself with things, you cannot; and this man was of opinion that the intense application of the mind was taken off by the objects that presented themselves to the eye; and while others often could not see what was before their feet, he traveled through all infinity. It is reported also that Homer was blind, but we observe his painting as well as his poetry. What country, what coast, what part of Greece, what military attacks, what dispositions of battle, what array, what ship, what motions of men and animals, can be mentioned which he has not described in such a manner as to enable us to see what he could not see himself? What, then! can we imagine that Homer, or any other learned man, has ever been in want of pleasure and entertainment for his mind? Were it not so, would Anaxagoras, or this very Democritus, have left their estates and patrimonies, and given themselves up to the pursuit of acquiring this divine pleasure? It is thus that the poets who have represented Tiresias the Augur as a wise man and blind never exhibit him as bewailing his blindness. And Homer, too, after he had described Polyphemus as a monster and a wild man, represents him talking with his ram, and speaking of his good fortune, inasmuch as he could go wherever he pleased and touch what he would. And so far he was right, for that Cyclops was a being of not much more understanding than his ram.
Now, as to the evil of being deaf. M. Crassus was a little thick of hearing; but it was more uneasiness to him that he heard himself ill spoken of, though, in my opinion, he did not deserve it. Our Epicureans cannot understand Greek, nor the Greeks Latin: now, they are deaf reciprocally as to each other’s language, and we are all truly deaf with regard to those innumerable languages which we do not understand. They do not hear the voice of the harper; but, then, they do not hear the grating of a saw when it is setting, or the grunting of a hog when his throat is being cut, nor the roaring of the sea when they are desirous of rest. And if they should chance to be fond of singing, they ought, in the first place, to consider that many wise men lived happily before music was discovered; besides, they may have more pleasure in reading verses than in hearing them sung. Then, as I before referred the blind to the pleasures of hearing, so I may the deaf to the pleasures of sight: moreover, whoever can converse with himself doth not need the conversation of another. But suppose all these misfortunes to meet in one person: suppose him blind and deaf — let him be afflicted with the sharpest pains of body, which, in the first place, generally of themselves make an end of him; still, should they continue so long, and the pain be so exquisite, that we should be unable to assign any reason for our being so afflicted — still, why, good Gods! should we be under any difficulty? For there is a retreat at hand: death is that retreat — a shelter where we shall forever be insensible. Theodorus said to Lysimachus, who threatened him with death, “It is a great matter, indeed, for you to have acquired the power of a Spanish fly!” When Perses entreated Paulus not to lead him in triumph, “That is a matter which you have in your own power,” said Paulus. I said many things about death in our first day’s disputation, when death was the subject; and not a little the next day, when I treated of pain; which things if you recollect, there can be no danger of your looking upon death as undesirable, or, at least, it will not be dreadful.
That custom which is common among the Grecians at their banquets should, in my opinion, be observed in life: Drink, say they, or leave the company; and rightly enough; for a guest should either enjoy the pleasure of drinking with others, or else not stay till he meets with affronts from those that are in liquor. Thus, those injuries of fortune which you cannot bear you should flee from.
This is the very same which is said by Epicurus and Hieronymus. Now, if those philosophers, whose opinion it is that virtue has no power of itself, and who say that the conduct which we denominate honorable and laudable is really nothing, and is only an empty circumstance set off with an unmeaning sound, can nevertheless maintain that a wise man is always happy, what, think you, may be done by the Socratic and Platonic philosophers? Some of these allow such superiority to the goods of the mind as quite to eclipse what concerns the body and all external circumstances. But others do not admit these to be goods; they make everything depend on the mind: whose disputes Carneades used, as a sort of honorary arbitrator, to determine. For, as what seemed goods to the Peripatetics were allowed to be advantages by the Stoics, and as the Peripatetics allowed no more to riches, good health; and other things of that sort than the Stoics, when these things were considered according to their reality, and not by mere names, his opinion was that there was no ground for disagreeing. Therefore, let the philosophers of other schools see how they can establish this point also. It is very agreeable to me that they make some professions worthy of being uttered by the mouth of a philosopher with regard to a wise man’s having always the means of living happily.
But as we are to depart in the morning, let us remember these five days’ discussions; though, indeed, I think I shall commit them to writing: for how can I better employ the leisure which I have, of whatever kind it is, and whatever it be owing to? And I will send these five books also to my friend Brutus, by whom I was not only incited to write on philosophy, but, I may say, provoked. And by so doing it is not easy to say what service I may be of to others. At all events, in my own various and acute afflictions, which surround me on all sides, I cannot find any better comfort for myself.
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