Cicero – On Ends Book Five
My dear Brutus, — Once I had been attending a lecture of Antiochus, as I was in the habit of doing, with Marcus Piso, in the building called the School of Ptolemy; and with us were my brother Quintus, Titus Pomponius, and Lucius Cicero, whom I loved as a brother but who was really my first cousin. We arranged to take our afternoon stroll in the Academy, chiefly because the place would be quiet and deserted at that hour of the day. Accordingly at the time appointed we met at our rendezvous, Piso’s lodgings, and starting out beguiled with conversation on various subjects the •three-quarters of a mile from the Dipylon Gate. When we reached the walks of the Academy, which are so deservedly famous, we had them entirely to ourselves, as we had hoped. Thereupon Piso remarked: “Whether it is a natural instinct or a mere illusion, I can’t say; but one’s emotions are more strongly aroused by seeing the places that tradition records to have been the favourite resort of men of note in former days, than by hearing about their deeds or reading their writings. My own feelings at the present moment are a case in point. I am reminded of Plato, the first philosopher, so we are told, that made a practice of holding discussions in this place; and indeed the garden close at hand yonder not only recalls his memory but seems to bring the actual man before my eyes. This was the haunt of Speusippus, of Xenocrates, and of Xenocrates’ pupil Polemo, who used to sit on the pvery seat we see over there. For my own part even the sight of our senate-house at home (I mean the Curia Hostilia, not the present new building, which looks to my eyes smaller since its enlargement) used to call up to me thoughts of Scipio, Cato, Laelius, and chief of all, my grandfather; such powers of suggestion do places possess. No wonder the scientific training of the memory is based upon locality.”
“Perfectly true, Piso,” rejoined Quintus. “I myself on the way here just now noticed yonder village of Colonus, and it brought to my imagination Sophocles who resided there, and who is as you know my great admiration and delight. Indeed my memory took me further back; for I had a vision of Oedipus, advancing towards this very spot and asking in those most tender verses, ‘What place is this?’ — a mere fancy no doubt, yet still it affected me strongly.”
“For my part,” said Pomponius, “you are fond of attacking me as a devotee of Epicurus, and I do spend much of my time with Phaedrus, who as you know is my dearest friend, in Epicurus’s Gardens which we passed just now; but I obey the old saw: I ‘think of those that are alive.’ Still I could not forget Epicurus, even if I wanted; the members of our body not only have pictures of him, but even have his likeness on their drinking-cups and rings.”
“As for our friend Pomponius,” I interposed, “I believe he is joking; and no doubt he is a licensed wit, for he has so taken root in Athens that he is almost an Athenian; in fact I expect he will get the surname of Atticus! But I, Piso, agree with you; it is a common experience that places do strongly stimulate the imagination and vivify our ideas of famous men. You remember how I once came with you to Metapontum, and would not go to the house where we were to stay until I had seen the very place where Pythagoras breathed his last and the seat he sat in. All over Athens, I know, there are many reminders of eminent men in the actual place where they lived; but at the present moment it is that alcove over there which appeals to me, for not long ago it belonged to Carneades. I fancy I see him now (for his portrait is familiar), and I can imagine that the very place where he used to sit misses the sound of his voice, and mourns the loss of that mighty intellect.”
“Well, then,” said Piso, “as we all have some association that appeals to us, what is it that interests our young friend Lucius? Does he enjoy visiting the spot where Demosthenes and Aeschines used to fight their battles? For we are all specially influenced by our own favourite study.”
“Pray don’t ask me,” answer Lucius with a blush; “I have actually made a pilgrimage down to the Bay of Phalerum, where they say Demosthenes used to practise declaiming on the beach, to learn to pitch his voice so as to overcome an uproar. Also only just now I turned off the road a little way on the right, to visit the tomb of Pericles. Though in fact there is no end to it in this city; wherever we go we tread historic ground.”
“Well, Cicero,” said Piso, “these enthusiasms befit a young man of parts, if they lead him to copy the example of the great. If they only stimulate antiquarian curiosity, they are mere dilettantism. But we all of us exhort you — though I hope it is a case of spurring a willing steed — to resolve to imitate your heroes as well as to know about them.” “He is practising your precepts already, Piso,” said I, “as you are aware; but all the same thank you for encouraging him.” “Well,” said Piso, with his usual amiability, “let us all join forces to promote the lad’s improvement; and especially let us try to make him spare some of his interest for philosophy, either so as to follow the example of yourself for whom he has such an affection, or in order to be better equipped for the very study to which he is devoted. But, Lucius,” he asked, “do you need our urging, or have you a natural leaning of your own towards philosophy? You are keeping Antiochus’s lectures, and seem to me to be a pretty attentive pupil.” “I try to be,” replied Lucius with a timid or rather a modest air; “but have you heard any lectures on Carneades lately? He attracts me immensely; but Antiochus calls me in the other direction; and there is no other lecturer to go to.”
“Perhaps,” said Piso, “it will not be altogether easy, while our friend here” (meaning me) “is by, still I will venture to urge you to leave the present New Academy for the Old, which includes, as you heard Antiochus declare, not only those who bear the name of Academics, Speusippus, Xenocrates, Polemo, Crantor and the rest, but also the early Peripatetics, headed by their chief, Aristotle, who, if Plato be excepted, I almost think deserves to be called the prince of philosophers. Do you then join them, I beg of you. From their writings and teachings can be learnt the whole of liberal culture, of history and of style; moreover they include such a variety of sciences, that without the equipment that they give no one can be adequately prepared to embark on any of the higher careers. They have produced orators, generals and statesmen. To come to the less distinguished professions, this factory of experts in all the sciences has turned out mathematicians, poets, musicians and physicians.” “You know that I agree with you about that, Piso,” I replied; “but you have raised the point most opportunely; for my cousin Cicero is eager to hear the doctrine of the Old Academy of which you speak, and of the Peripatetics, on the subject of the Ends of Goods. We feel sure you can expound it with the greatest ease, for you have had Staseas from Naples in your household for many years, and also we know you have been studying this very subject under Antiochus for several months at Athens.” “Here goes, then,” replied Piso, smiling, “(for you have rather craftily arranged for our discussion to start with me), let me see what I can do to give the lad a lecture. If an oracle had foretold that I should find myself discoursing in the Academy like a philosopher, I should not have believed it, but here I am, thanks to our having the place to ourselves. Only don’t let me bore the rest of you while I am obliging our young friend.” “What, bore me?” said I. “Why, it is I who asked you to speak.” Thereupon Quintus and Pomponius having declared that they wished it too, Piso began. And I will ask you, Brutus, kindly to consider whether you think his discourse a satisfactory summary of the doctrine of Antiochus, which I believe to be the system which you most approve, as you have often attended the lectures of his brother Aristus.
Accordingly Piso spoke as follows: “About the educational value of the Peripatetic system I have said enough, in the briefest possible way, a few moments ago. Its arrangement, like that of most other systems, is threefold: one part deals with nature, the second with discourse, and the third with conduct. Natural Philosophy the Peripatetics have investigated so thoroughly that no region in sky or sea or land (to speak poetically) has been passed over. Nay more, in treating of the elements of being and the constitution of the universe they have established much of their doctrine not merely by probable arguments but by conclusive mathematical demonstration, applying a quantity of material derived from facts that they have themselves investigated to the discovery of other facts beyond the reach of observation. Aristotle gave a complete account of the birth, nutrition and structure of all living creatures, Theophrastus of the natural history of plants and the causes and constitution of vegetable organisms in general; and the knowledge thus attained facilitated the investigation of the most obscure questions. In Logic their teachings include the rules of rhetoric as well as of dialectic; and Aristotle their founder started the practice of arguing both pro and contra upon every topic, not like Arcesilas, always controverting every proposition, but setting out all the possible arguments on either side in every subject. The third division of philosophy investigates the rules of human well-being; this too was treated by the Peripatetics, so as to comprise not only the principles of individual conduct but also of the government of states. From Aristotle we learn the manners, customs and institutions, and from Theophrastus the laws also, of nearly all the states not only of Greece but of the barbarians as well. Both described the proper qualifications of a statesman, both moreover wrote lengthy treatises on the best form of constitution; Theophrastus treated the subject more fully, discussing the forces and occasions of political change, and their control as circumstances demand. Among the alternative ideals of conduct they gave the highest place to the life of retirement, devoted to contemplation and to study. This was pronounced to be most worthy of the Wise Man, as most nearly resembling the life of the gods. And these topics they handle in a style as brilliant as it is illuminating.
“Their books on the subject of the Chief Good fall into two classes, one popular in style, and this class they used to call their exoteric works; the other more carefully wrought. The latter treatises they left in the form of note-books. This distinction occasionally gives them an appearance of inconsistency; but as a matter of fact in the main body of their doctrine there is no divergence, at all events among the philosophers I have mentioned, nor did they disagree among themselves. But on the chief object of inquiry, namely Happiness, and the one question which philosophy has to consider and to investigate, whether this lies entirely within the control of the Wise Man, or whether it can be impaired or destroyed by adversity, here there does appear sometimes to exist among them some divergence and uncertainty. This effect is chiefly produced by Theophrastus’s book On Happiness, in which a very considerable amount of importance is assigned to fortune; though if this be correct, wisdom alone could not guarantee happiness. This theory seems to me to be, if I may so call it, too enervating and unmanly to be adequate to the force and dignity of virtue. Hence we had better keep to Aristotle and his son Nicomachus; the latter’s elaborate volumes on Ethics are ascribed, it is true, to Aristotle, but I do not see why the son should not have been capable of emulating the father. Still, we may use Theophrastus on most points, so long as we maintain a larger element of strength and solidity in virtue than he did. Let us then limit ourselves to these authorities. Their successors are indeed in my opinion superior to the philosophers of any other school, but are so unworthy of their ancestry that one might imagine them to have been their own teachers. To begin with, Theophrastus’s pupil Strato set up to be a natural philosopher; but great as he is in this department, he is nevertheless for the most part an innovator; and on ethics he has hardly anything. His successor Lyco has a copious style, but his matter is somewhat barren. Lyco’s pupil Aristo is polished and graceful, but has not the authority that we expect to find in a great thinker; he wrote much, it is true, and he wrote well, but his style is somehow lacking in weight.
“I pass over a number of writers, including the learned and entertaining Hieronymus. Indeed I know no reason for calling the latter a Peripatetic at all; for he defined the Chief Good as freedom from pain: and to hold a different view of the Chief Good is to hold a different system of philosophy paltogether. Critolaus professed to imitate the ancients; and he does in fact come nearest to them in weight, and has a flowing style; all the same, even he is not true to the principles of his ancestors. Diodorus, his pupil, couples with Moral Worth freedom from pain. He too stands by himself; differing about the Chief Good he cannot correctly be called a Peripatetic. Our master Antiochus seems to me to adhere most scrupulously to the doctrine of the ancients, which according to his teaching was common to Aristotle and to Polemo.
“Our young friend Lucius is therefore well advised in desiring most of all to hear about the Chief Good; for when you have settled that point in a system of philosophy, you have settled everything. On any other topic, some degree of incompleteness or uncertainty causes no more mischief than is proportionate to the importance of the particular topic on which the neglect has occurred; but uncertainty as to the Chief Good necessarily involves uncertainty as to the principles of conduct, and this must carry men so far out of their course that they cannot know what harbour to steer for. On the other hand when we have ascertained the Ends of things, knowing the ultimate Good and ultimate Evil, we have discovered a map of life, a chart of all the duties; and therefore have discovered a standard to which each action may be referred; and from this we can discover and construct that rule of happiness which all desire.
“Now there is great difference of opinion as to what constitutes the Chief Good. Let us therefore adopt the classification of Carneades, which our teacher Antiochus is very fond of employing. Carneades passed in review all the opinions as of that Chief Good, not only that actually had been held by philosophers hitherto, but that it was possible to hold. He then pointed out that no science or art can supply its own starting-point; its subject-matter must always lie outside it. There is no need to enlarge upon or illustrate this point; for it is evident that no art is occupied with itself: the art is distinct from the subject with which it deals; since therefore, as medicine is the art of health and navigation the art of sailing the ship, so Prudence or Practical Wisdom is the art of conduct, it follows that Prudence also must have something as its base and point of departure. Now practically all have agreed that the subject with which Prudence is occupied and the end which it desires to attain is bound to be something intimately adapted to our nature; it must be capable of directly arousing and awakening an impulse of desire, what in Greek is called hormē. But what it is that at the first moment of our existence excites in our nature this impulse of desire — as to this there is no agreement. It is at this point that all the difference of opinion among students of the ethical problem arises. Of the whole inquiry into the Ends of Goods and Evils and the question which among them is ultimate and final, the fountain-head is to be found in the earliest instincts of nature; discover these and you have the source of the stream, the starting-point of the debate as to the Chief Good and Evil.
“One school holds that our earliest desire is for pleasure and our earliest repulsion is from pain; another thinks that freedom from pain is the earliest thing welcomed, and pain the earliest thing avoided; others again start from what they term the primary objects in accordance with nature, among which they reckon the soundness and safety of all the parts of the body, health, perfect senses, freedom from pain, strength, beauty and the like, analogous to which are the primary intellectual excellences which are the sparks and seeds of the virtues. Now it must be one or other of these three sets of things which first excites our nature to feel desire or repulsion; nor can it be anything whatsoever beside these three things. It follows therefore that every right act of avoidance or of pursuit is aimed at one of these objects, and that consequently one of these three must form the subject-matter of Prudence, which we spoke of as the art of life; from one of the three Prudence derives the initial motive of the whole of conduct.
“Now, from whichever Prudence decides to be the object of the primary natural impulses, will arise a theory of right and of Moral Worth which may correspond with one or other of the three objects aforesaid. Thus Morality will consist either in aiming all our actions at pleasure, even though one may not succeeded in attaining it; or at absence of pain, even though one is unable to secure it; or at getting the things in accordance with nature, even though one does not attain any of them. Hence there is a divergence between the different conceptions of the Ends of Goods and Evils, precisely equivalent to the difference of opinion as to the primary natural objects. — Others again starting from the same primary objects will make the sole standard of right action the actual attainment of pleasure, freedom from pain, or the primary things in accordance with nature, respectively.
“Thus we have now set forth six views as to the Chief Good. The leading upholders of the latter three are: of pleasure, Aristippus; of freedom from pain, Hieronymus; of the enjoyment of what we have called the primary things in accordance with nature, Carneades, — that is, he did not originate this view but he upheld it for purposes of argument. The three former were possible views, but only one of them has been actually maintained, though that with great vigour. No one has asserted pleasure to be the sole aim of action in the sense that the mere intention of attaining pleasure, although unsuccessful, is in itself desirable and moral and the only good. Nor yet has anyone held that the effort to avoid pain is in itself a thing desirable, without one’s being able actually to avoid it. On the other hand, that morality consists in using every endeavour to obtain the things in accordance with nature, and that this endeavour even though unsuccessful is itself the sole thing desirable and the sole good, is actually maintained by the Stoics.
“These then are the six simple views about the End of Goods and Evils; two of them without a champion, and four actually upheld. Of composite or dualistic definitions of the Supreme Good there have been three in all; nor were more than three possible, if you examine the nature of the case closely. There is the combination of Morality with pleasure, adopted by Callipho and Dinomachus; with freedom from pain, by Diodorus; or with the primary objects of nature, the view of the ancients, as we entitle both the Academics and the Peripatetics.
“But it is impossible to set forth the whole of our position at once; so for the present we need only notice that pleasure must be discarded, on the ground that, as will be shown later, we are intended by nature for greater things. Freedom from pain is open to practically the same objections as pleasure. Nor need we look for other arguments to refute the opinion of Carneades; for any conceivable account of the Chief Good which does not include the factor of Moral Worth gives a system under which there is no room either for duty, virtue or friendship. Moreover the combination with Moral Worth either of pleasure or of freedom from pain debases the very morality that it aims at supporting. For to uphold two standards of conduct jointly, one of which declares freedom from evil to be the Supreme Good, while the other is a thing concerned with the most frivolous part of our nature, is to dim, if not to defile, all the radiance of Moral Worth. There remain the Stoics, who took over their whole system from the Peripatetics and the Academics, adopting the same ideas under other names.
“The best way to deal with these different schools would be to refute each separately; but for the present we must keep to the business in hand; we will discuss these other schools at our leisure.
“The calmness or tranquillity of mind which is the Chief Good of Democritus, euthumia as he calls it, has had to be excluded from this discussion, because this mental tranquillity is in itself the happiness in question; and we are inquiring not what happiness is, but what produces it. Again, the discredited and abandoned theories of Pyrrho, Aristo and Erillus cannot be brought within the circle we have drawn, and so we have not been concerned to consider them at all. For the whole of this inquiry into the Ends or, so to speak, the limits of Goods and Evils must begin from that which we have spoken of as adapted and suited to nature and which is the earliest object of desire for its own sake; now this is entirely done away with by those who maintain that, in the sphere of things which contain no element of Moral Worth or baseness, there is no reason why any one thing should be preferred to any other, and who consider these things to be absolutely indifferent; and Erillus also, if he actually held that there is nothing good but knowledge, destroyed every motive of rational action and every clue to right conduct.
“Thus we have eliminated the views of all the other philosophers; and no other view is possible; therefore this doctrine of the Ancients must hold good. Let us then follow the practice of the old philosophers, adopted also by the Stoics, and start as follows.
“Every living creature loves itself, and from the moment of birth strives to secure its own preservation; because the earliest impulse bestowed on it by nature for its life-long protection is the instinct for self-preservation and for the maintenance of itself in the best condition possible to it in accordance with its nature. At the outset this tendency is vague and uncertain, so that it merely aims at protecting itself whatever its character may be; it does not understand itself nor its own capacities and nature. When, however, it has grown a little older, and has begun to understand the degree in which different things affect and concern itself, it now gradually commences to make progress. Self-consciousness dawns, and the creature begins to comprehend the reason why it possesses the instinctive appetition aforesaid, and to try to obtain the things which it perceives to be adapted to its nature and to repel their opposites. Every living creature therefore finds its object of appetition in the thing suited to its nature. Thus arises The End of Goods, namely to live in accordance with nature and in that condition which is the best and most suited to nature that is possible. At the same time every animal has its own nature; and consequently, while for all alike the End consists in the realization of their nature (for there is no reason why certain things should not be common to all the lower animals, and also to the lower animals and man, since all have a common nature), yet the ultimate and supreme objects that we are investigating must be differentiated and distributed among the different kinds of animals, each kind having its own peculiar to itself and adapted to the requirements of its individual nature. Hence when we say that the End of all living creatures is to live in accordance with nature, this must not be construed as meaning that all have one and the same end; but just as it is correct to say that all the arts and sciences have the common characteristic of occupying themselves with some branch of knowledge, while each art has its own particular branch of knowledge belonging to it, so all animals have the common End of living according to nature, but their natures are diverse, so that one thing is in accordance with nature for the horse, another for the ox, and another for man, and yet in all the Supreme End is common, and that not only in animals but also in all those things upon which nature bestows nourishment, increase and protection. Among these things we notice that plants can, in a sense, perform on their own behalf a number of actions conducive to their life and growth, so that they may attain their End after their kind. So that finally we may embrace all animate existence in one broad generalization, and say without hesitation, that all nature is self-preserving, and has before it the end and aim of maintaining itself in the best possible condition after its kind; and that consequently all things endowed by nature with life have a similar, but not an identical, End. This leads to the inference, that the ultimate Good of man is life in accordance with nature, which we may interpret as meaning life in accordance with human nature developed to its full perfection and supplied with all its needs. This, then, is the theory that we have to expound; but if it requires a good deal of explanation, you will receive it with forbearance. For this is perhaps the first time that Lucius has heard the subject debated, and we must make allowance for his youth.” “Very true,” said I; “albeit the style of your discourse so far has been suited to hearers of any age.”
“Well then,” he resumed, “having explained what the principle is which determines what things are desirable, I have next to show why the matter is as I have stated. Let us therefore begin from the position which I laid down first and which is also first in the order of reality: let us understand that every living creature loves itself. The fact that this is so admits of no doubt, for indeed it is a fundamental fact of nature, and one that everybody can grasp for himself by the evidence of his senses, so much so that did anyone choose to deny it, he would not get a hearing; nevertheless, so that no step may be omitted, I suppose I ought also to give reasons why it is so. Yet how can you form any intelligible conception of an animal that should hate itself? The thing is a contradiction in terms. For the creature being its own enemy, the instinctive appetition we spoke of will deliberately set about drawing to itself something harmful to itself; yet it will be doing this for its own sake; therefore the animal will both hate and love itself at the same time, which is impossible. Also, if a man is his own enemy, it follows that he will think good evil and evil good; that he will avoid things that are desirable and seek things that ought to be avoided; but this undeniably would mean to turn the whole of life upside down. A few people may be found who attempt to end their lives with a halter or by other means; but these, or the character of Terence who (in his own words) ‘resolved that if he made himself to suffer, he so made less the wrong he did his son,’ are not to be put down as haters of themselves. The motive with some is grief, with others passion; many are rendered insane by anger, and plunge into ruin with their eyes open, fancying all the time that what they do is for their own best interests. Hence they say, and say in all sincerity:
‘It is my way; do you do as it suits you.’
Men who had really declared war against themselves would desire to have days of torment and nights of anguish, and they would not reproach themselves and say that they had been misguided and imprudent: such lamentations show that they love and care for themselves. It follows that whenever pit is said of a man that he has ruined himself and is his own worst enemy, and that he is tied of life, you may be sure that there is really an explanation which would justify the inference, even from such a case as this, that every man loves himself. Nor is it enough to say that nobody exists who hates himself; we must also realize that nobody exists who thinks it makes no difference to him what his own condition is. For it will be destructive of the very faculty of desire if we come to think of our own circumstances as a matter of indifference to us, and feel in our own case the absolute neutrality which is our attitude towards the things that are really indifferent.
“It would also be utterly absurd if anyone desired to maintain that, though the fact of self-love is admitted, this instinct of affection is really directed toward some other object and not towards the person himself who feels it. When this is said of friendship, of right action or of virtue, whether correct or not, it has some intelligible meaning; but in the case of ourselves it is utterly meaningless to say that we love ourselves for the sake of something else, for example, for the sake of pleasure. Clearly we do not love ourselves for the sake of pleasure, but pleasure for the sake of ourselves. Yet what fact is more self-evident than that every man not merely loves himself, but loves himself very much indeed? For who is there, what percentage of mankind, whose
‘Blood does not ebb with horror, and face turn pale with fear,’
at the approach of death? No doubt it is a fault to precoil so violently from the dissolution of our being (and the same timidity in regard to pain is blameworthy); but the fact that practically everybody has this feeling is conclusive proof that nature shrinks from destruction; and the more some people act thus — as indeed they do to a blameworthy degree — the more it is to be inferred that this very excess would not have occurred in exceptional cases, were not a certain moderate degree of such timidity natural. I am not referring to the fear of death felt by those who shun death because they believe it means the loss of the good things of life, or because they are afraid of certain horrors after death, or if they dread lest death may be painful: for very often young children, who do not think of any of these things, are terribly frightened if in fun we threaten to let them fall from a height. Even ‘wild creatures,’ says Pacuvius,
‘Lacking discourse of reason
To look before,’
when seized with fear of death, ‘bristle with horror.’ Who does not suppose that the Wise Man himself, even when he has resolved that he must die, will yet be affected by parting from his friends and merely by leaving the light of day? The strength of natural impulse, in this manifestation of it, is extremely obvious, since many men endure to beg their bread in order that they may live, and men broken with age suffer anguish at the approach of death, and endure torments like those of Philoctetes in the play; who though racked with intolerable pains, nevertheless prolonged life by fowling;
‘Slow he pierced the swift with arrows, standing shot them on the wing,’
p as Attius has it, and wove their plumage together to make himself garments. But do I speak of the human race or of animals generally, when the nature of trees and plants is almost the same? For whether it be, as very learned men have thought, that this capacity has been engendered in them by some higher and diviner power, or whether it is the result of chance, we see that the vegetable species secure by means of their bark and roots that support and protection which animals derive from the distribution of the sensory organs and from the well-knit framework of the limbs. On this matter I agree, it is true, with those who hold that all these things are regulated by nature, because if nature were to neglect them her own existence would be impossible; yet I allow those who think otherwise on this point to hold whatever view they please: whenever I mention ‘the nature of man,’ let them, if they like, understand me to mean ‘man,’ as it makes no difference. For the individual can no more lose the instinct to seek the things that are good for him than he can divest himself of his own personality. The wisest authorities have therefore been right in finding the basis of the Chief Good in nature, and in holding that this instinctive desire for things suited to our nature is innate in all men, because it is founded on that natural attraction which makes them love themselves.
“Having made it sufficiently clear that self-love is an instinct of nature, we must next examine what is the nature of man; for it is human nature that is the object of our investigation. Now it is manifest that man consists of body and mind, although the mind plays the more important part and the body the less. Next we further observe both that man’s body is of a structure surpassing that of other animals, and that his mind is so constituted as not only to be equipped with senses but also to possess the dominant factor of intellect, which commands the obedience of the whole of man’s nature, being endowed with the marvellous faculties of reason, of cognition, of knowledge and of all the virtues. In fact the faculties of the body are not comparable in importance with the parts of the mind. Moreover they are easier to understand. We will therefore begin with them.
“It is manifest how well the parts of our body, and its entire shape, form and attitude are adapted to our nature; and that special conformation of the brow, eyes, ears and other parts which is appropriate to man can be recognized without hesitation by the understanding. But of course it is necessary that these organs should be healthy and vigorous and possessed of their natural motions and uses; no part must be lacking and none must be diseased or enfeebled — this is a requirement of nature. Again, there is also a certain form of bodily activity which keeps the motions and postures in harmony with nature; and any error in these, due to distortion or abnormality of movement or posture, — for example, if a man were to walk on his hands, or backwards instead of forwards, — would make a man appear alienated from himself, as if he had stripped off his proper humanity and hated his own nature. Hence certain attitudes in sitting, and slouching, languishing movements, such as are affected by the wanton and the effeminate, are contrary to nature, and though really arising from a defect of mind, suggest to the eye a bodily perversion of man’s nature. And so, on the contrary, a controlled and well-regulated bearing, condition and movement of the body has the appearance of being in harmony with nature.
“Turning now to the mind, this must not only exist, but also be of a certain character; it must have all its parts intact and lack none of the virtues. The senses also possess their several virtues or excellences, consisting in the unimpeded performance of their several functions of swiftly and readily perceiving sensible objects. The mind, on the other hand, and that dominant part of the mind which is called the intellect, possess many excellences or virtues, but these are of two main classes; one class consists of those excellences which are implanted by their own nature, and which are called non‑volitional; and the other of those which, depending on our volition, are usually styled ‘virtues’ in the more special sense; and the latter are the pre‑eminent glory and distinction of the mind. To the former class belong receptiveness and memory; and practically all the excellences of this class are included under one name of ‘talent,’ and their possessors are spoken of as ‘talented.’ The other class consists of the lofty virtues properly so called, which we speak of as dependent on volition, for instance, Prudence, Temperance, Courage, Justice, and the others of the same kind.
“Such is the account, a brief one, it is true, that it was necessary to give of the body and the mind. It has indicated in outline what the requirements of man’s nature are; and it has clearly shown that, since we love ourselves, and desire all our faculties both of mind and body to be perfect, those faculties are themselves dear to us for their own sakes, and are of the highest importance for our general well-being. For he who aims at the preservation of himself, must necessarily feel an affection for the parts of himself also, and the more so, the more perfect and admirable in their own kind they are. For the life we desire is one fully equipped with the virtues of mind and body; and such a life must constitute the Chief Good, inasmuch as it must necessarily be such as to be the limit of things desirable. This truth realized, it cannot be doubted that, as men feel an affection towards themselves for their own sakes and of their own accord, the parts also of the body and mind, and of those faculties which are displayed in each while in motion or at rest, are esteemed for their own attractiveness and desired for their own sake. From these explanations, it may readily be inferred that the most desirable of our faculties are those possessed of the highest intrinsic worth; so that the most desirable excellences are the excellences of the noblest parts of us, which are desirable for their own sake. The result will be that excellence of mind will be rated higher than excellence of body, and the volitional virtues of the mind will surpass the non‑volitional; the former, indeed, are the ‘virtues’ specially so called, and are far superior, in that they spring from reason, the most divine element in man. For the inanimate or nearly inanimate creatures that are under nature’s charge, all of them have their supreme good in the body; hence it has been cleverly said, as I think, about the pig, that a mind has been bestowed upon this animal to serve as salt and keep it from going bad. But there are some animals which possess something resembling virtue, for example, lions, dogs and horses; in these we observe not only bodily movements as in pigs, but in some degree a sort of mental activity also. In man, however, the whole importance belongs to the mind, and to the rational part of the mind, which is the source of virtue; and virtue is defined as the perfection of reason, a doctrine which the Peripatetics think cannot be expounded too often.
“Plants also have a development and progress to maturity that is not unlike that of animals; hence we speak of a vine living and dying, or of a tree as young or old, in the prime of life or decrepit; consequently it is appropriate to suppose that with them as with animals certain things are suited and certain other things foreign to their nature; and that their growth and nurture is tended by a foster-mother, the science and art of husbandry, which trims and prunes, straightens, raises and props, enabling them to advance to the goal that nature prescribes, till the vines themselves, could they speak, would acknowledge this to be their proper mode of treatment and of tendance. In reality, of course, the power that tends the vine, to take that particular instance, is something outside of it; for the vine does not possess force enough in itself to be able to attain its highest possible development without the aid of cultivation. But suppose the vine to receive the gift of sensation, bestowing on it some degree of appetition and power of movement; then what do you think it will do? Will it not endeavour to provide for itself the benefits which it previously obtained by the aid of the vine-dresser? But do you mark how it will further be concerned to protect its sensory faculties also and all their appetitive instincts, and any additional organs it may have developed? Thus with the properties that it always possessed it will combine those subsequently added to it, and it will not have the same end as the husbandman who tended it had, but will desire to live in accordance with that nature which it has subsequently acquired. And so its End or Good will be similar to, but not the same as, what it was before; it will no longer seek the Good of a plant, but that of an animal. Suppose again that it have bestowed upon it not merely sensation but also a human mind. Will it not result that while its former properties remain objects of its care, these added properties will be far more dear to it, and that the best parts of the mind will be the dearest of all? Will it not find its End or Chief Good in this crowning development of its nature, inasmuch as intellect and reason are far and away the highest of all faculties? Thus there has emerged the final term of the series of objects of desire; thus starting from the primary attraction of nature, by gradual stages of ascent we have arrived at the summit, the consummation of perfect bodily integrity combined with the full development of the mental faculty of reason.
“The plan of our nature being then that which I have explained, if, as I said at the outset, every man as soon as he is born could know himself and could appreciate the powers of his nature as a whole and of its several parts, he would at once perceive the true essence of the thing that is the subject of our inquiry, namely the highest and last of the objects of our desires, and he would be incapable of error in anything. But as it is, our nature at all events at the outset is curiously hidden from us, and we cannot fully realize or understand it; yet as we grow older we gradually or I should say tardily come, as it were, to know ourselves. Accordingly, the earliest feeling of attraction which nature has created in us towards ourselves is vague and obscure, and the earliest instinct of appetition only strives to secure our safety and freedom from injury. When, however, we begin to look about us and to perceive what we are and how we differ from the rest of living creatures, we then commence to pursue the objects for which we are intended by nature. Some resemblance to this process we observe in the lower animals. At first they do not move from the place where they were born. Then they begin to move, under the influence of their several instincts of appetition; we see little snakes gliding, ducklings swimming, blackbirds flying, oxen using their horns, scorpions their stings; each in fact has its own nature as its guide to life. A similar proceeds is clearly seen in the human race. Infants just born lie helpless, as if absolutely inanimate; when they have acquired a little more strength, they exercise their mind and senses; they strive to stand erect, they use their hands, they recognize their nurses; then they take pleasure in the society of other children, and enjoy meeting them, they take part in games and love to hear stories; they desire to bestow of their own abundance in bounty to others; they take an inquisitive interest in what goes on in their homes; they begin to reflect and to learn, and want to know the names of the people they see; in their contests with their companions they are elated by victory, discouraged and disheartened pby defeat. For every stage of this development there must be supposed to be a reason. It is that human capacity is so constituted by nature that it appears designed to achieve every kind of virtue; hence children, without instruction, are actuated by semblances of the virtues, of which they possess in themselves the seeds, for these are primary elements of our nature, and they sprout and blossom into virtue. For we are so constituted from birth as to contain within us the primary instincts of action, of affection, of liberality and of gratitude; we are also gifted with minds that are adapted to knowledge, prudence and courage, and averse from their opposites; hence there is a reason why we observe in children those sparks of virtue I have mentioned, from which the philosopher’s torch of reason must be kindled, that he may follow reason as his divine guide and so arrive at nature’s goal. For as I have repeatedly said already, in the years of immaturity when the intellect is weak the powers of our nature are discerned as through a mist; but as the mind grows older and stronger it learns to know the capacity of our nature, while recognizing that this nature is susceptible of further development and has by itself only reached an incomplete condition.
“We must therefore penetrate into the nature of things, and come to understand thoroughly its requirements; otherwise we cannot know ourselves. That maxim was too lofty for it to be thought to have emanated from a human being, and it was therefore ascribed to a god. Accordingly the Pythian Apollo bids us ‘learn to know ourselves’; but the sole road to self-knowledge is to know our powers of body and of mind, and to follow the path of life that gives us their full employment.
p “Now inasmuch as our original instinct of desire was for the possession of the parts aforesaid in their fullest natural perfection, it must be allowed that, when we have attained the object of our desire, our nature takes its stand in this as its final End, and this constitutes our Chief Good; and that this End as a whole must be desired intrinsically and in and for itself, follows of necessity from the fact that the several parts of it also have already been proved to be desirable for themselves.
“If however anyone thinks that our enumeration of bodily advantages is incomplete owing to the omission of pleasure, let us postpone this question to another time. For whether pleasure is or is not one of the objects we have called the primary things in accordance with nature makes no difference for our present inquiry. If, as I hold, pleasure adds nothing to the sum‑total of nature’s goods, it has rightly been omitted. If on the contrary pleasure does possess the property that some assign to it, this fact does not impair the general outline we have just given of the Chief Good; since if to the primary objects of nature as we have explained them, pleasure be added, this only adds one more to the list of bodily advantages, and does not alter the interpretation of the Chief Good which has been propounded.
“So far as our argument has proceeded hitherto, it has been based entirely upon the primary attractions of nature. But from this point on let us adopt a different line of reasoning, namely to show that, in addition to the argument from self-love, the fact that each part of our nature, both mental and bodily, possesses its own peculiar faculty goes to prove that the activity of our several parts is pre‑eminently spontaneous. To start with the body, do you notice how men try to hide a deformed or infirm or maimed limb? They actually take great pains and trouble to conceal, if they possibly can, their bodily defect, or at all events to let it be seen as little as possible; they even undergo painful courses of treatment in order to restore the natural appearance of their limbs, even though the actual use of them will not only not be improved but will even be diminished. In fact, since every man instinctively thinks that he himself in his entirety is a thing to be desired, and this not for the sake of anything else but for his own sake, it follows that when a thing is desired as a whole for its own sake, the parts also of that thing are desired for their own sakes. Again, is there nothing in the movements and postures of the body which Nature herself judges to be of importance? A man’s mode of walking and sitting, his particular cast of features and expression — is there nothing in these things that we consider worthy or unworthy of a free man? Do we not often think people deserving of dislike, who by some movement or posture appear to have violated a law or principle of nature? And since people try to get rid of these defects of bearing, why should not even beauty have a good claim to be considered as desirable for its own sake? For we think imperfection or mutilation of the body things to be avoided for their own sake, why should we not with equal or perhaps still greater reason pursue distinction of form for its own sake? And if we avoid ugliness in bodily movement and posture, why should we not pursue beauty? Health also, and strength and freedom from pain we shall desire not merely for their utility but also for their own sakes. For since our nature aims at the full development of all its parts, she desires for its own sake that state of body which is most in accordance with himself; because she is thrown into utter disorder if the body is diseased or in pain or weak.
“Let us consider the parts of the mind, which are of nobler aspect. The loftier these are, the more unmistakable indications of nature do they afford. So great is our innate love of learning and of knowledge, that no one can doubt that man’s nature is strongly attracted to these things even without the lure of any profit. Do we notice how children cannot be deterred even by punishment from studying and inquiry into the world around them? Drive them away, and back they come. They delight in knowing things; they are eager to impart their knowledge to others; pageants, games and shows of that sort hold them spell-bound, and they will even endure hunger and thirst so as to be able to see them. Again, take persons who delight in the liberal arts and studies; do we not see them careless of health or business, patiently enduring any inconvenience when under the spell of learning and of science, and repaid for endless toil and trouble by the pleasure they derive from acquiring knowledge? For my part I believe Homer had something of this sort in view in his imaginary account of the songs of the Sirens. Apparently it was not the sweetness of their voices or the novelty and diversity of their songs, but their professions of knowledge that used to attract the passing voyageurs; it was the passion for learning that kept men rooted to the Sirens’ rocky shores. This is their invitation to Ulysses (for I have translated this among other passages of Homer):
Ulysses, pride of Argos, turn thy bark
And listen to our music. Never yet
Did voyager sail these waters blue, but stayed
His course, enchanted by our voices sweet,
And having filled his soul with harmony,
Went on his homeward way a wiser man.
We know the direful strife and clash of war
That Greece by Heaven’s mandate bore to Troy,
And whatsoe’er on the wide earth befalls.
Homer was aware that his story would not sound plausible if the magic that held his hero immeshed was merely an idle song! It is knowledge that the Sirens offer, and it was no marvel if a lover of wisdom held this dearer than his home. A passion for miscellaneous omniscience no doubt stamps a man as a mere dilettante; but it must be deemed the mark of a superior mind to be led on by the contemplation of high matters to a passionate love of knowledge.
“What an ardour for study, think you, possessed Archimedes, who was so absorbed in a diagram he was drawing in the dust that he was unaware even of the capture of his native city! What genius do we see expended by Aristoxenus on the theory of music! Imagine the zeal of a lifetime that Aristophanes devoted to literature! Why should I speak of Pythagoras, or of Plato, or Democritus? For they, we are told, in their passion for learning travelled through the remotest parts of the earth! Those who are blind to these facts have never been enamoured of some high and worthy study. And those who in this connexion allege that the studies I have mentioned are pursued for the sake of mental pleasure fail to see that they are proved to be desirable for their own sake by the very fact that the mind feels delight in them when no bait of advantage is held out, and finds enjoyment in the mere possession of knowledge even though it is likely to be a positive disadvantage to its possessor. But what is the point of inquiring further into matters so obvious? Let us ask ourselves the question, how it is we are interested in the motions of the stars and in contemplating the heavenly bodies and studying all the obscure and secret realms of nature; why we derive pleasure from history, which we are so fond of following up, to the remotest detail, turning back to parts we have omitted, and pushing on to the end when we have once begun. Not that I am unaware that history is useful as well as entertaining. But what of our reading fiction, from which no utility can be extracted? What of our eagerness to learn the names of people who have done something notable, their parentage, birthplace, and many quite unimportant details beside? What of the delight that is taken in history by men of the humblest station, who have no expectation of participating in public life, even mere artisans? Also we may notice that the persons most eager to hear and read of public affairs are those who are debarred by the infirmities of age from any prospect of taking part in them. Hence we are forced to infer that the objects of study and knowledge contain in themselves the allurements that entice us to study and to learning. The old philosophers picture what the life of the Wise will be in the Islands of the Blest, and pthink that being released from all anxiety and needing none of the necessary equipment or accessories of life, they will do nothing but spend their whole time upon study and research in the science of nature. We on the other hand see in such studies not only the amusement of a life of happiness, but also the alleviation of misfortune; hence the numbers of men who when they had fallen into the power of enemies or tyrants, or when they were in prison or in exile, have solaced their sorrow with the pursuit of learning. Demetrius of Phalerum, a ruler of this city, when unjustly banished from his country, repaired to the court of King Ptolemy at Alexandria. Being eminent in the very system of philosophy which we are recommending to you, and a pupil of Theophrastus, he employed the leisure afforded by his disaster in composing a number of excellent treatises, not for any practical use of his own, for he was debarred from affairs; but he found a sort of food for his higher nature in thus cultivating his mind. I myself frequently heard the blind ex‑praetor and scholar Gnaeus Aufidius declare that he felt the actual loss of light more than the inconvenience of blindness. Take lastly the gift of sleep: did it not bring us repose for our bodies and an antidote for labour, we should think it a violation of nature, for it robs us of sensation and entirely suspends our activity; so that if our nature did not require repose or could obtain it in some other manner, we should be quite content, inasmuch as even as it is we frequently deny ourselves slumber, almost to the point of doing violence to nature, in the interests of business or of study.
“Even more striking, and in fact absolutely obvious and convincing natural indications are not wanting, more particularly no doubt in man, but also in every living creature, of the presence of a positive craving for constant activity. Perpetual repose is unendurable on any terms. This is a fact that may be readily detected in children of the tenderest age, if I may risk being thought to lay undue stress on a field of observation sanctioned by the older thinkers, all of whom, and my own school more than others, go to the nursery, because they believe that Nature reveals her plan to them most clearly in childhood. Even infants, we notice, are incapable of keeping still. Children of a somewhat more advanced age delight in games involving considerable exertion, from which not even fear of punishment can restrain them. And this passion for activity grows as they grow older. The prospect of the most delightful dreams would not reconcile us to feeling asleep for ever: Endymion’s fate we should consider no better than death. Observe the least energetic among men: even in a notorious idler both mind and body are constantly in motion; set him free from unavoidable occupations, and he calls for a dice-board, goes off to some sport, or looks for somebody to chat with, seeking at the club or at some trivial social gathering a substitute for higher and more intellectual amusements. Even the wild animals that we keep caged up for our amusement find their captivity irksome, although they are better fed than if they were at large; they miss their natural birthright of free and untrammelled movement. Hence the abler and more accomplished a man is, the less he would care to be alive at all if debarred from taking part in affairs, although allowed to batten on the most exquisite pleasures. Men of ability either choose pa life of private activity, or, if of loftier ambition, aspire to a public career of political or military office, or else they devote themselves entirely to study and learning; and the devotees of learning are so far from making pleasure their aim, that they actually endure care, anxiety and loss of sleep, in the exercise of the noblest part of man’s nature, the divine element within us (for so we must consider the keen edge of the intellect and the reason), they ask for no pleasure and avoid no toil; they are ceaselessly occupied in marvelling at the discoveries of the ancients or in pursuing new researches of their own; insatiable in their appetite for study, they forget all else besides, and harbour not one base or mean thought. So potent is the spell of these pursuits, that even those who profess to follow other Ends of Goods, defined by utility or pleasure, may yet be seen to spend their whole lives in investigating and unfolding the processes of nature.
“It is therefore at all events manifest that we are designed by nature for activity. Activities vary in kind, so much so that the more important actually eclipse the less; but the most important are, first (according to my own view and that of those with whose system we are now occupied) the contemplation and the study of the heavenly bodies and of those secrets and mysteries of nature which reason has the capacity to penetrate; secondly, the practice and the theory of politics; thirdly, the principles of Prudence, Temperance, Courage and Justice, with the remaining virtues and the activities consonant therewith, all of which we may sum up under the single term of Morality; towards the knowledge and practice of which, when we have grown to maturity, we are led onward by nature’s own guidance. All things are small in their first beginnings, but they grow larger as they pass through their regular stages of progress. And there is a reason for this, namely that at the moment of birth we possess a certain weakness and softness which prevent our seeing and doing what is best. The radiance of virtue and of happiness, the two things most to be desired, dawns upon us later, and far later still comes a full understanding of their nature. ‘Happy the man,’ Plato well says, ‘who even in old age has the good fortune to be able to achieve wisdom and true opinions.’ Therefore since enough has been said about the primary goods of nature, let us now consider the more important things that follow later. In generating and developing the human body, Nature’s procedure was to make some parts perfect at birth, and to fashion other parts as it grew up, without making much use of external and artificial aids. The mind on the other hand she endowed with its remaining faculties in the same perfection as the body, equipping it with senses already adapted to their function of perception and requiring little or no assistance of any kind to complete their development; but the highest and noblest part of man’s nature she neglected. It is true she bestowed an intellect capable of receiving every virtue, and implanted in it at birth and without instruction embryonic notions of the loftiest ideas, laying the foundation of its education, and introducing among its endowments the elementary constituents, so to speak, of virtue. But of virtue itself she merely gave the germ and no more. Therefore it rests with us (and when I say with us, I mean with our science), in addition to the elementary principles bestowed upon us, to seek out their logical developments, until our full purpose is realized. For this is much more valuable and more intrinsically desirable than either the senses or the endowments of the body above alluded to; since those are surpassed in an almost inconceivable degree by the matchless perfection of the intellect. Therefore all honour, all admiration, all enthusiasm is directed toward virtue and towards the actions in harmony with virtue, and all such properties and processes of the mind are entitled by the single name of Moral Worth.
“The connotation of all these conceptions and the signification of the terms that denote them, and their several values and natures we shall study later; for the present let us merely explain that this Morality to which I allude is an object of our desire, not only because of our love of self, but also intrinsically and for its own sake. A hint of this is given by children, in whom nature is discerned as in a mirror. How hotly they pursue their rivalries! how fierce their contests and competitions! what exultation they feel when they win, and what shame when they are beaten! How they dislike blame! how they covet praise! what toils do they not undergo to stand first among their companions! how good their memory is for those who have shown them kindness, and how eager they are to repay it! And these traits are most apparent in the noblest characters, in which the moral excellences, as we understand them, are already roughly outlined by nature. But this belongs to childhood; the picture is filled in at the age when the character is fully formed. Who is pso unlike a human being as to feel no repulsion at baseness and no approval for goodness? Who is there that does not hate a youth spent in debauchery and wantonness? Who on the contrary would not esteem modesty and orderliness in the young, even though he has no personal concern in them? Who does not hate the traitor Pullus Numitorius of Fregellae, although he did a service to our country? Who does not praise and extol Codrus, the preserver of this city, or honour the daughters of Erechtheus? or loathe the very name of Tubulus? or love the memory of Aristides? Do we forget the strong emotion that we feel when we hear or read of some deed of piety, of friendship or of magnanimity? But I need not speak of ourselves, whose birth, breeding and education point us towards glory and towards honour; think of the uneducated multitude, — what a tempest of applause rings through the theatre at the words:
I am Orestes,
and at the rejoinder:
No, no, ’tis I, I say, I am Orestes.
And then when each offers a solution to the king in his confusion and perplexity:
Then prithee slay us both; we’ll die together:
as often as this scene is acted, does it ever fail to arouse the greatest enthusiasm? This proves that all men without exception approve and applaud the disposition that not only seeks no advantage for itself, but is loyal and true even to its own disadvantage. These high examples crowd the pages not only of romance but also of history, and especially the history pof our own country. It was we who chose our most virtuous citizen to receive the sacred emblems from Ida; we who sent guardians to royal princes; our generals sacrificed their lives to save their country; our consuls warned the king who was their bitterest enemy, when close to the walls of Rome, to be on his guard against poison; in our commonwealth was found the lady who expiated her outraged honour by a self-sought death, and the father who killed his daughter to save her from shame. Who is there who cannot see that all these deeds and countless others besides were done by men who were inspired by the splendour of moral greatness to forget all thought of interest, and are praised by us from no other consideration but that of Moral Worth?
“The considerations thus briefly set out (for I have not aimed at such a full account as I might have given, since the matter admitted of no uncertainty), these considerations then lead to the undoubted conclusion that all the virtues, and the Moral Worth which springs from them and inheres in them, are intrinsically desirable. But in the whole moral sphere of which we are speaking there is nothing more glorious nor of wider range than the solidarity of mankind, that species of alliance and partnership of interests and that actual affection which exists between man and man, which, coming into existence immediately upon our birth, owing to the fact that children are loved by their parents and the family as a whole is bound together by the ties of marriage and parenthood, gradually spreads its influence beyond the home, first by blood relationships, then by connections through marriage, later by friendships, afterwards by the bonds of neighbourhood, then to fellow-citizens and political allies and friends, and lastly by embracing the whole of the human race. This sentiment, assigning each his own and maintaining with generosity and equity that human solidarity and alliance of which I speak, is termed Justice; connected with it are dutiful affection, kindness, liberality, good-will, courtesy and the other graces of the same kind. And while these belong peculiarly to Justice, they are also factors shared by the remaining virtues. For human nature is so constituted at birth as to possess an innate element of civic and national feeling, termed in Greek politikon; consequently all the actions of every virtue will be in harmony with the human affection and solidarity I have described, and Justice in turn will diffuse its agency through the other virtues, and so will aim at the promotion of these. For only a brave and a wise man can preserve Justice. Therefore the qualities of this general union and combination of the virtues of which I am speaking belong also to the Moral Worth aforesaid; inasmuch as Moral Worth is either virtue itself or virtuous action; and life in harmony with these and in accordance with the virtues can be deemed right, moral, consistent, and in agreement with nature.
“At the same time this complex of interfused virtues can yet be theoretically resolved into its separate parts by philosophers. For although the virtues are so closely united that each participates in every other and none can be separated from any other, yet on the other hand each has its own special function. Thus Courage is displayed in toils and dangers, Temperance in forgoing pleasures, Prudence in the choice of goods and evils, Justice in giving each his due. As then each virtue contains an element not merely self-regarding, which embraces other men and makes them its end, there results a state of feeling in which friends, brothers, kinsmen, connections, fellow-citizens, and finally all human beings (since our belief is that all mankind are united in one society) are things desirable for their own sakes. Yet none of these relations is such as to form part of the end and Ultimate Good. Hence it results that we find two classes of things desirable for their own sakes; one class consists of those things which constitute the Ultimate Good aforesaid, namely goods of mind or body; the latter set, which are external goods, that is, goods that belong neither to the mind nor to the body, such as friends, parents, children, relatives and one’s country itself, while intrinsically precious to us, yet are not included in the same class as the former. Indeed, no one could ever attain the Chief Good, if all those goods, which though desirable are external to us, formed part of the Chief Good.
“How then, you will object, can it be true that all things are means to the Chief Good, if friendships and relationships and the other external goods are not part of the Chief Good? The answer is that it is in this way: we maintain these external goods by those acts of duty which spring from the particular class of virtue connected with each. For example, dutiful conduct towards friends and parents benefits the doer from the very fact that such performance of duty is a right action, and right actions take their rise from virtues. And whereas the Wise, under nature’s guidance, make right action their aim, on the other hand men not perfect and yet endowed with noble characters often respond to the stimulus of honour, which has some show and semblance of Moral Worth. But if they could fully discern Moral Worth itself in its absolute perfection and completeness, the one thing of all others most splendid and most glorious, how enraptured would they be, if they take such a delight in the mere shadow and reputation of it! What devotee of pleasure, though consumed by most glowing passions, can be supposed to feel such transports of rapture in winning the objects of his keenest desires, as were felt by the elder Africanus upon the defeat of Hannibal, or by the younger at the overthrow of Carthage? Who ever experienced so much delight from the voyage down the Tiber on the day of the festival as Lucius Paulus felt when he sailed up the river leading King Perses captive in his train? Come now, my dear Lucius, build in your imagination the lofty and towering structure of the virtues; then you will feel no doubt that those who achieve them, guiding themselves by magnanimity and uprightness, are always happy; realizing as they do that all the vicissitudes of fortune, the ebb and flow of time and of circumstance, will be trifling and feeble if brought into conflict with virtue. The things we reckon as bodily goods do, it is true, form a factor in supreme happiness, but yet happiness is possible without them. For those supplementary goods are so small and slight in the full radiance of the virtues they are as invisible as the stars in sunlight. Yet true though it is that these bodily advantages are of but slight importance for happiness, to say that they are of no importance is too sweeping; those who maintain this appear to me to have forgotten those first principles of nature which they have themselves established. Some weight then must be given to bodily goods provided one understands what is the proper amount of weight. The genuine philosopher, who aims at truth and not ostentation, while refusing on the one hand to deny all value to the things which even those high-sounding teachers themselves admit to be in accordance with nature, will on the other hand realize that virtue is so potent, Moral Worth invested so to speak with such prestige, that all those other goods, though not worthless, are so small as to appear worthless. This is the language that a man will hold who while not despising all else but virtue yet extols virtue herself with her own proper praises; in short, this is the full, finished and complete account of the Chief Good.
“From this system all the other schools have endeavoured to appropriate fragments, which each has hoped may pass for original. Aristotle and Theophrastus often and admirably praised knowledge for its own sake; Erillus, captivated by this single tenet, maintained that knowledge was the Chief Good and that nothing else was desirable as an end in itself. The ancients enlarged on the duty of rising proudly superior to human fortunes; Aristo singled out this one point, and declared that nothing but vice or virtue was either to be avoided or desired. Our school included freedom from pain among the things in accordance with nature; Hieronymus made it out to be the Supreme Good. On the other hand Callipho and later Diodorus, the one having fallen in love with pleasure, and the other with freedom from pain, could neither of them dispense with Moral Worth, which by our school was extolled above all else. Even the votaries of pleasure take refuge in evasions: the name of virtue is on their lips all the time, and they declare that pleasure is only at first the object of desire, and that later habit produces a sort of second nature, which supplies a motive for many actions not aiming at pleasure at all. There remain the Stoics. The Stoics have conveyed from us not some one or other item, but our entire system of philosophy. It is a regular practice of thieves to alter the marks upon stolen goods; and the Stoics, in order to pass off our opinions as their own, have changed the names, which are the marks of things. Our system therefore is left as the sole philosophy worthy of the student of the liberal arts, of the learned and the eminent, of statesmen and princes.”
After these words he paused, and then added: “How now? Do you think I have made good use of my privilegec of having you hear me say over my lesson?” “Why, Piso,” I replied, “you have shown such a knowledge of your theory, on this, as on many other occasions, that I do not think we should have to rely much upon the aid of the Greeks, if we had more frequent opportunities of hearing you. And I was all the more ready to be convinced by you because I remember that your great teacher, Staseas of Naples, a Peripatetic of unquestionable repute, used to give a somewhat different account of your system, agreeing with those who attached great importance to good and bad fortune, and to bodily goods and evils.” “That is true,” said he; “but our friend Antiochus is a far better and far more uncompromising exponent of the psystem than Staseas used to be. Though I don’t want to know how far I succeeded in convincing you, but how far I convinced our friend Cicero here; I want to kidnap your pupil from you.”
To this Lucius replied: “Oh, I am quite convinced by what you have said, and I think my cousin is so too.” “How now?” said Piso to me, “Has the young man your consent? or would you rather he should study a system which, when he has mastered it, will lead to his knowing nothing?” “Oh, I leave him his liberty,” said I; “but don’t you remember that it is quite open to me to approve the doctrines you have stated? Since who can refrain from approving statements that appear to him probable?” “But,” said he, “can anyone approve that of which he has not full perception, comprehension and knowledge?” “There is no great need to quarrel about that, Piso,” I rejoined. “The only thing that makes me deny the possibility of perception is the Stoics’ definition of that faculty; they maintain that nothing can be perceived except a true presentation having such a character as no false presentation can possess. Here then I have a quarrel with the Stoics, but certainly none with the Peripatetics. However let us drop this question, for it involves a very long and somewhat contentious debate. It is the doctrine that the Wise Man is always and invariably happy that I would challenge as too hurriedly touched upon by you. Your discourse somehow skimmed past this point. But unless this doctrine is proved, I am afraid that the truth will lie with Theophrastus, who held that misfortune, sorrow and bodily anguish were incompatible with happiness. For it is violently inconsistent to call a man happy and at the same time say that he is overwhelmed with evils. How happiness and misfortune can go together I entirely fail to understand.” “Which position then do you question?” he replied; “that virtue is so potent that she need not look outside herself for happiness? or, if you can accept this, do you deny that the virtuous can be happy even when afflicted by certain evils?” “Oh, I would rate the potency of virtue as high as possible; but let us defer the question of her exact degree of greatness; the only point is now, could she be so great as she is, if anything outside virtue be classed as a good?” “Yet,” said he, “if you concede to the Stoics that the presence of virtue alone can produce happiness, you concede this also to the Peripatetics. What the Stoics have not the courage to call evils, but admit to be irksome, detrimental, ‘to be rejected,’ and not in accordance with nature, we say are evils, though small and almost negligible evils. Hence if a man can be happy when surrounded by circumstances that are irksome and to be rejected, he can also be happy when surrounded by trifling evils.” “Piso,” I rejoined, “you, if anyone, are a sharp enough lawyer to see at a glance the real point at issue in a dispute. Therefore I beg your close attention. For so far, though perhaps I am to blame, you do not grasp the point of my question.” “I am all attention,” he replied,” and await your reply to my inquiry.”
“My reply will be,” said I, “that I am not at the present asking what result virtue can produce, but what is a consistent and what a self-contradictory account of it.” “How do you mean?” said he. “Why,” I said, “first Zeno enunciates the lofty and oracular utterance, ‘Virtue need not look outside herself for happiness’; ‘Why?’ says some one. ‘Because,’ he answers, ‘nothing else is good but what is morally good.’ I am not now asking whether this is true; I merely say that Zeno’s statements are admirably logical and consistent. Suppose Epicurus to say the same thing, that the Wise Man is always happy, — for he is fond of ranting like this now and then, and indeed tells us that when the Wise Man is suffering torments of pain, he will say ‘How pleasant this is! how little I mind! — Well, I should not join issue with the man as to why he goes so far astray about the nature of the Good; but I should insist that he does not understand what is the necessary corollary of his own avowal that pain is the supreme evil. I take the same line now against you. As to what is good and what is evil, your account agrees entirely with that of those who have never set eyes on a philosopher even in a picture, as the saying is: you call health, strength, poise, beauty, soundness of every part from top to toe, goods, and ugliness, disease and weakness evils. As for external goods, you were, it is true, cautious; but since these bodily excellences are goods, you will doubtless reckon as goods the things productive of them, namely friends, children, relations, riches, rank and power. Mark that against this I say nothing; what I say is, if misfortunes which a Wise Man may encounter are as you say evils, to be wise is not enough for happiness.” “Say rather,” said he, “not enough for supreme happiness, but it is enough for happiness.” “I noticed,” I replied, “you made that distinction a little time ago, and I am aware that our master Antiochus is fond of saying the same; but what can be more unsatisfactory than to say that a man is happy but not happy enough? Any addition to what is enough makes it too much; now no one has too much happiness; therefore no one can be happier than happy.” “Then what is your view,” he said, “of Quintus Metellus, who saw three sons consuls, and one of these made censor and celebrating a triumph as well, and a fourth praetor, and who left his four sons alive and well and three daughters married, having himself been consul, censor and augur and having had a triumph? Supposing him to have been a Wise Man, was he not happier than Regulus, who died a captive in the hands of the enemy, from starvation and want of sleep, allowing him also to have been a Wise Man?”
“Why,” said I, “do you ask that question of me? Ask the Stoics.” “What answer then,” he said, “do you think they would give?” “That Metellus is no happier than Regulus.” “Well then,” said he, “let us start from that.” “Still,” said I, “we are wandering from our subject. For I am not inquiring what is true, but what each school ought consistently to say. I only wish that they did allow degrees of happiness! then you would see a collapse! For since the Good consists solely in virtue and in actual Moral Worth, and neither virtue nor Moral Worth, as they hold, admits of increase, and since that alone is good which necessarily makes its possessor happy, when that which alone constitutes happiness does not allow of increase, how can anyone possibly be happier than anyone else? Do you see how logical this is? And in fact (for I must confess what I really think) their system is a marvellously consistent whole. The conclusions agree with the first principles, the middle steps with both, in fact every part with every other. They understand what inference follows from and what contradicts a given premise. It is like geometry: grant the premises and you must grant everything. Admit that there is no good but Moral Worth, and you are bound to admit that happiness consists in virtue. Or again conversely: given the latter, you must grant the former. Your school are not so logical. ‘Three classes of goods’: your exposition runs smoothly on. But when it comes to its conclusion, it finds itself in trouble; for it wants to assert that the Wise Man can lack no requisite of happiness. That is the moral style, the style of Socrates and of Plato too. ‘I dare assert it,’ cries the Academic. You cannot, unless you recast the earlier part of the argument. If poverty is an evil, no beggar can be happy, be he as wise as you like. But Zeno dared to say that a wise beggar was not only happy but also wealthy. Pain is an evil: then a man undergoing crucifixion cannot be happy. Children are a good: then childlessness is miserable; one’s country is good: then exile is miserable; health is a good: then sickness is miserable; soundness of body is a good; then infirmity is miserable; good eyesight is a good: then blindness is miserable. Perhaps the philosopher’s consolations can alleviate each of these misfortunes singly; but how will have enable us to endure them all together? Suppose a man to be at once blind, infirm, afflicted by dire disease, in exile, childless, destitute and tortured on the rack; what is your name, Zeno, for him? ‘A happy man,’ says Zeno. A supremely happy man as well? ‘To be sure,’ he will reply, ‘because I have proved that happiness no more admits of degrees than does virtue, in which happiness itself consists.’ You draw the line at this; you can’t believe that he is supremely happy. Well, but can one believe what you say either? Call me before a jury of ordinary people, and you will never persuade them that the man so afflicted is happy; refer the case to the learned, and it is possible that on one of the two counts you will be doubtful about their verdict, whether virtue has such efficacy that the virtuous will be happy even in the bull of Phalaris: but on the other, they will find without hesitation that the Stoic doctrine is consistent and yours self-contradictory. ‘Ah,’ says the Academic, ‘then you agree with Theophrastus in his great work On Happiness?’ However, we are wandering from the subject; and to cut the matter short, Piso,” I said, “I do fully agree with Theophrastus, if misfortunes, as you say, are evils.” “Then don’t you think they are evils?” he said. “To that question,” said I, “whichever reply I make, you are bound to be in difficulties.” “How so exactly?” he asked. “Because,” I replied, “if they are evils, the man who suffers from them will not be happy; and on the other hand if they are not evils, down topples the whole Peripatetic system.” “I see what you are at,” cried he smiling; “you are afraid of my robbing you of a pupil.” “Oh,” said I, “you are welcome to convert him if he wants to be converted; for if he is in your fold, he will be in mine.”
“Listen then, Lucius,” said Piso, “for I must address myself to you. The whole importance of philosophy lies, as Theophrastus says, in the attainment of happiness; since an ardent desire for happiness possesses us all. On this your cousin and I are agreed. Hence what we have to consider is this, can the systems of the philosophers give us happiness? They certainly profess to do so. Whether it not so, why did Plato travel through Egypt to learn arithmetic and astronomy from barbarian priests? Why did he later visit Archytas at Tarentum, or the other Pythagoreans, Echecrates, Timaeus and Arion, at Locri, intending to append to his picture of Socrates an account of the Pythagorean system and to extend his studies into those branches which Socrates repudiated? Why did Pythagoras himself scour Egypt and visit the Persian magi? why did he travel on foot through those vast barbarian lands and sail across those many seas? Why did Democritus do the same? It is related of Democritus (whether truly or falsely we are not concerned to inquire) that he deprived himself of eyesight; and it is certain that in order that his mind should be distracted as little as possible from reflection, he neglected his paternal estate and left his land uncultivated, engrossed in the search for what else but happiness? Even if he supposed happiness to consist in knowledge, still he designed that his study of natural philosophy should bring him cheerfulness of mind; since that is his conception of the Chief Good, which he entitles euthumia, or often athambia, that is freedom from alarm. But what he said on this subject, however excellent, nevertheless lacks the finishing touches; for indeed about virtue he said very little, and that not clearly expressed. For it was later that these inquiries began to be pursued at Athens by Socrates, first in the city, and afterwards the study was transferred to the place where we now are; and no one doubted that all hope alike of right conduct and of happiness lay in virtue. Zeno having learnt this doctrine from our school proceeded to deal with ‘the same matter in another manner,’ as the common preamble to an indictment has it. You now approve of this procedure on his part. He, no doubt, can change the names of things and be acquitted of inconsistency, but we cannot! He denies that the life of Metellus was happier than that of Regulus, yet calls it ‘preferable’; not more desirable, but ‘more worthy of adoption’; and given the choice, that of Metellus is ‘to be selected’ and that of Regulus ‘rejected.’ Whereas the life he called ‘preferable’ and ‘more worthy to be selected’ I term happier, though I do not assign any the minutest fraction more value to that life than do the Stoics. What is the difference, except that I call familiar things familiar names, whereas they invent new terms to express the same meaning? Thus just as in the senate there is always some one who demands an interpreter, so we must use an interpreter when we give audience to your school. I call whatever is in accordance with nature good and what is contrary to nature bad; nor am I alone in this: you, Chrysippus, do so too in business and in private life, but you leave off doing so in the lecture-room. What then? do you think philosophers should speak a different language from ordinary human beings? The learned and the unlearned may differ as to the values of things; but when the learned are agreed what each thing’s value is, — if they were human beings, they would adopt the recognized form of expression; but so long as the substance remains the same, — let them coin new words at their pleasure.
p “But I come to the charge of inconsistency, or you will say I digress too often. You make inconsistency a matter of words, but I imagined it to be a question of fact. Only let it be clearly grasped, and in this we have the Stoics as our strongest supporters, that such is the power of virtue that all other things, if ranged in contrast with it, are absolutely eclipsed and extinguished; then, as for all the things which they admit to be advantageous and ‘to be adopted’ and ‘selected’ and ‘preferred’ (terms which they define so as to mean possessed of considerable value), when I style these things, which receive so many names from the Stoics, some new and original, like your words ‘promoted’ and ‘degraded,’ some identical in meaning (for what difference is there between ‘desiring’ a thing and ‘selecting’ it? to my ear there is a more sumptuous sound about a thing that is selected, and to which choice is applied), — however, when I call all these things good, the only thing that matters is, how good do I mean, when I call them desirable, the only question is, how desirable? But if on the other hand I do not think them more ‘to be desired’ than you ‘to be selected,’ and if I who call them good do not deem them more valuable than you who call them ‘promoted,’ all these external things will necessarily be overwhelmed and eclipsed by the side of virtue; its radiance will envelop them like the rays of the sun. But you will say that a life which contains some evil cannot be happy. At that rate a crop of corn is not a heavy and abundant crop if you can spy a single stalk of wild oat among it; a business is not profitable if among enormous profits it incurs a trifling loss. Does one principle hold good in everything else, but another in conduct? And will you not judge the whole of life by its largest part? Is there any doubt that virtue plays so far the largest part in human affairs that it obliterates everything else? Well, then, I shall make bold to call the other things in accordance with nature ‘goods,’ and not cheat them of their old name, rather than excogitate some new one; but I shall place the massive bulk of virtue in the opposite scale of the balance. Believe me, that scale will weigh down earth and sea combined. It is a universal rule that any whole takes its name from its most predominant and preponderant part. We say that a man is a cheerful fellow; but if for once he falls into low spirits, has he therefore lost his title to cheerfulness for ever? Well, the rule was not applied to Marcus Crassus, who according to Lucilius laughed but once in his life; that did not prevent his having the name of agelastos, as Lucilius says he had. Polycrates of Samos was called ‘the fortunate.’ Not a single untoward accident had ever befallen him, except that he had thrown his favourite ring overboard at sea. Did that single annoyance then make him unfortunate? and did he become fortunate again when the very same ring was found in a fish’s belly? But Polycrates, if he was foolish (which he apparently was, since he was a tyrant), was never happy; if wise, he was not unhappy even when crucified by Oroetes, the satrap of Darius. ‘But,’ you say, ‘many evils befell him!’ Who denies it? but those evils were eclipsed by the magnitude of his virtue.
p “Or do you even refuse to let the Peripatetics say that the life of all good, that is of all wise men, men whom every virtue decks, always comprises infinitely more good than evil? Who does say this? The Stoics, you suppose? Not at all; but the very people who measure all things by pleasure and pain, do not these cry aloud that the Wise Man always has more things that he likes than that he dislikes? When therefore so much importance is assigned to virtue by those who confess that they would not raise a hand for the sake of virtue if it did not produce pleasure, what are we to do, who say that the smallest amount you like to mention of mental excellence surpasses all the goods of the body, and renders them completely imperceptible? For who is there who would venture to say that it would become the Wise Man to discard virtue for ever (were this possible) for the sake of securing absolute freedom from pain? Who of our school (which is not ashamed to call evils what the Stoics term ‘hardships’) was ever known to say that it is better to commit a pleasant sin than to do the painful right? We think it was scandalous of Dionysius of Heraclea to secede from the Stoics because of a malady of the eyes. As though Zeno had ever taught him that to feel pain was not painful! What he had heard, though he had not learnt the lesson, was that pain was not an evil, because not morally bad, and that it was manly to endure it. Had Dionysius been a Peripatetic, I believe he should never have changed his opinions; the Peripatetics say that pain is an evil, but on the duty of bearing the annoyance it causes with fortitude their teaching is the same as that of the Stoics. And indeed your friend Arcesilas, though he was rather too dogmatic in debate, was still one of us, for he was a pupil of Polemo. When he was racked with the torments of gout he was visited by an intimate friend, the Epicurean Charmides. The latter was departing in distress. ‘Stay, I beg of you, friend Charmides,’ cried Arcesilas; ‘no pain from there has got to here’ (pointing to his feet and his breast). Yet he would have preferred to have no pain at all.
“This then is our system which you think inconsistent. I on the other hand, seeing the celestial and divine existence of virtue, excellence so great that where virtue and the mighty and most glorious deeds that she inspires are found, there misery and sorrow cannot be, though pain and annoyance can, do not hesitate to declare that every Wise Man is always happy, but yet that it is possible for one to be happier than another.” “Well, Piso,” said I, “that is a position which you will find needs a great deal of defending; and if you can hold to it, you are welcome to convert not only my cousin Cicero, but also myself.” “For my part,” remarked Quintus, “I think the position has been satisfactorily defended, and I am delighted that the philosophy whose homely gear I already valued more highly than the estates of the other schools (I deemed her rich enough for me to find in her all that I coveted in our studies), I rejoice, I say, that this philosophy has been found to be also subtler than the rest, — a quality in which she was said by some to be deficient.” “Not subtler than ours at all events,” said Pomponius playfully; but I protest I was most delighted by your discourse. You have expounded ideas that I thought it impossible pto express in Latin, and you have expressed them as lucidly as do the Greeks, and in apt language. But our time is up, if you please; let us make straight for my quarters.” At these words, as it was felt there had been enough discussion, we all proceeded to the town to Pomponius’s house.