Essays and Miscellanies - The Complete Works Volume 3
by Plutarch
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Constant, entire, and still engenerable,

as himself says, always like to itself, and perdurable in its being.

Here Colotes, sycophant-like, catching at his expressions and drawing the discourse from things to words, flatly affirms that Parmenides in one word destroys the existence of all things by supposing ENS (or that which is) to be one. But, on the contrary, he takes away neither the one nor the other part of Nature; but rendering to each of them what belongs to it and is convenient for it, he places the intelligible in the idea of one and of "that which is," calling it ENS because it is eternal and incorruptible, and one because it is always like itself and admits no diversity. And as for that part which is sensible, he places it in the rank of uncertain, disorderly, and always moving. Of which two parts, we may see the distinct judgment:—

One certain truth and sincere knowledge is,

as regarding that which is intelligible, and always alike and of the same sort;

The other does on men's opinions rest, Which breed no true belief within our breast,

because it is conversant in things which receive all sorts of changes, passions, and inequalities. Now how he could have left sense and opinion, if he had not also left any sensible and opinable object, it is impossible for any man to say. But because to that which truly IS it appertains to continue in its being, and because sensible things sometimes are, sometimes are not, continually passing from one being to another and perpetually changing their state, he thought they required some other name than that of ENTIA, or things which always are. This speech therefore concerning ENS (or that which is), that it should be but one, is not to take away the plurality of sensible things, but to show how they differ from that which is intelligible. Which difference Plato in his discussion of Ideas more fully declaring, has thereby afforded Colotes an opportunity of cavilling.

Therefore it seems not unfitting to me to take next into our consideration, as it were all in a train, what he has also said against him. But first let us contemplate a little the diligence—together with the manifold and profound knowledge—of this our philosopher, who says, that Aristotle, Xenocrates, Theophrastus, and all the Peripateties have followed these doctrines of Plato. For in what corner of the uninhabitable world have you, O Colotes, written your book, that, composing all these accusations against such personages, you never have lighted upon their works, nor have taken into your hands the books of Aristotle concerning Heaven and the Soul, nor those of Theophrastus against the Naturalists, nor the Zoroaster of Heraclides, nor his books of Hell, nor that of Natural Doubts and Difficulties, nor the book of Dicaearchus concerning the Soul; in all which books they are in the highest degree contradictory and repugnant to Plato about the principal and greatest points of natural philosophy? Nay, Strato himself, the very head and prince of the other Peripatetics, agrees not in many things with Aristotle, and holds opinions altogether contrary to Plato, concerning motion, the understanding, the soul, and generation. In fine, he says that the world is not an animal, and that what is according to Nature follows what is according to Fortune; for that Chance gave the beginning, and so every one of the natural effects was afterwards finished.

Now as to the ideas,—for which he quarrels with Plato,—Aristotle, by moving this matter at every turn, and alleging all manner of doubts concerning them, in his Ethics, in his Physics, and in his Exoterical Dialogues seems to some rather obstinately than philosophically to have disputed against these doctrines, as having proposed to himself the debasing and undervaluing of Plato's philosophy; so far he was from following it. What an impudent rashness then is this, that having neither seen nor understood what these persons have written and what were their opinions, he should go and devise such things as they never imagined; and persuading himself that he reprehends and refutes others, he should produce a proof, written with his own hand, arguing and convincing himself of ignorance, licentiousness, and shameful impudence, in saying that those who contradict Plato agree with him, and that those who oppose him follow him.

Plato, says he, writes that horses are in vain by us considered horses, and men men. And in which of Plato's commentaries has he found this hidden? For as to us, we read in all his books, that horses are horses, that men are men, and that fire is by him esteemed fire, because he holds that every one of these things is sensible and subject to opinion. But this Colotes, as if he were not a hair's breadth distance from wisdom, takes it to be one and the same thing to say, "Man is not" and "Man is a NON ENS."

Now to Plato there seems to be a wonderful great difference between not being at all and being a NON ENS; because the first imports an annihilation and abolishment of all substance, and the other shows the diversity there is between that which is participated and that which participates. Which diversity those who came after distinguished only into the difference of genus and species, and certain common and proper qualities or accidents, as they are called, but ascended no higher, falling into more logical doubts and difficulties. Now there is the same proportion between that which is participated and that which participates, as there is between the cause and the matter, the original and the image, the faculty and the result. Wherein that which is by itself and always the same principally differs from that which is by another and never remains in one and the same manner; because the one never was nor ever shall be non-existent, and is therefore totally and essentially an ENS; but to the other that very being, which it has not of itself but happens to take by participation from another, does not remain firm and constant, but it goes out of it by its imbecility,—the matter always gliding and sliding about the form, and receiving several functions and changes in the image of the substance, so that it is continually moving and shaking. As therefore he who says that the image of Plato is not Plato takes not away the sense and substance of the image, but shows the difference of that which is of itself from that which is only in regard to some other, so neither do they take away the nature, use, or sense of men, who affirm that every one of us, by participating in a certain common substratum, that is, in the idea, is become the image of that which afforded the likeness for our generation. For neither does he who says that a red-hot iron is not fire, or that the moon is not the sun, but, as Parmenides has it,

A torch which round the earth by night Does bear about a borrowed light,

take away therefore the use of iron, or the nature of the moon. But if he should deny it to be a body, or affirm that it is not illuminated, he would then contradict the senses, as one who admitted neither body, animal, generation, nor sense. But he who by his opinion imagines that these things subsist only by participation, and reflects how far remote and distant they are from that which always is and which communicates to them their being, does not reject the sensible, but affirms that the intelligible is; nor does he take away and abolish the results which are wrought and appear in us; but he shows to those who follow him that there are other things, firmer and more stable than these in respect of their essence, because they are neither engendered, nor perish, nor suffer anything; and he teaches them, more purely touching the difference, to express it by names, calling these [Greek omitted] or [Greek omitted] (THINGS THAT HAVE BEING), and those [Greek omitted] or FIENTIA (THINGS ENGENDERED). And the same also usually befalls the moderns; for they deprive many—and those great things—of the appellation of ENS or BEING; such as are voidness, time, place, and simply the entire genus of things spoken, in which are comprised all things true. For these things, they say, are not ENTIA but SOME THINGS; and they perpetually treat of them in their lives and in their philosophy, as of things having subsistence and existence.

But I would willingly ask this our fault-finder, whether themselves do not in their affairs perceive this difference, by which some things are permanent and immutable in their substances,—as they say of their atoms, that they are at all times and continually after one and the same manner, because of their impassibility and hardness,—but that all compound things are fluxible, changeable, generated, and perishing; forasmuch as infinite images are always departing and going from them, and infinite others as it is probable, repair to them from the ambient air, filling up what was diminished from the mass, which is much diversified and transvasated, as it were, by this change, since those atoms which are in the very bottom of the said mass can never cease stirring and reciprocally beating upon one another; as they themselves affirm. There is then in things such a diversity of substance. But Epicurus is in this wiser and more learned than Plato, that he calls them all equally ENTIA,—to wit, the impalable voidness, the solid and resisting body, the principles, and the things composed of them,—and thinks that the eternal participates of the common substance with that which is generated, the immortal with the corruptible, and the natures that are impassible, perdurable, unchangeable, and that can never fall from their being, with those which have their essence in suffering and changing, and can never continue in one and the same state. But though Plato had with all the justness imaginable deserved to be condemned for having offended in this, yet should he have been sentenced by these gentlemen, who use Greek more elegantly and discourse more correctly than he, only as having confounded the terms, and not as having taken away the things and driven life from us, because he named them FIENTIA (or things engendered), and not ENTIA (things that have being), as these men do.

But because we have passed over Socrates, who should have come next after Parmenides, we must now turn back our discourse to him. Him therefore has Colotes begun at the very first to remove, as the common proverb has it, from the sacred line; and having mentioned how Chaerephon brought from Delphi an oracle, well known to us all, concerning Socrates, he says thus: "Now as to this narration of Chaerephon's, because it is odious and entirely sophistical, we will overpass it." Plato, then, that we may say nothing of others, is also odious, who has committed it to writing; and the Lacedaemonians are yet more odious, who keep the oracle of Lycurgus amongst their most ancient and most authentic inscriptions. The oracle also of Themistocles, by which he persuaded the Athenians to quit their town, and in a naval fight defeated the barbarous Xerxes, was a sophistical fiction. Odious also were all the ancient legislators and founders of Greece who established the most part of their temples, sacrifices, and solemn festivals by the answer of the Pythian Oracle. But if the oracle brought from Delphi concerning Socrates, a man ravished with a divine zeal to virtue, by which he is styled and declared wise, is odious, fictitious, and sophistical, by what name shall we call your cries, noises, and shouts, your applauses, adorations and canonizations, with which you extol and celebrate him who incites and exhorts you to frequent and continual pleasures? For thus has he written in his epistle to Anaxarchus: "I for my part incite and call you to continual pleasures, and not to vain and empty virtues, which have nothing but turbulent hopes of uncertain fruits." And yet Metrodorus, writing to Timarchus, says: "Let us do some extraordinarily excellent thing, not suffering ourselves to be plunged in reciprocal affections, but retiring from this low and terrestrial life, and elevating ourselves to the truly holy and divinely revealed ceremonies and mysteries of Epicurus." And even Colotes himself, hearing one day Epicurus discoursing of natural things, fell suddenly at his feet and embraced his knees, as Epicurus himself, glorying in it, thus writes: "For as if you had adored what we were then saying, you were suddenly taken with a desire, proceeding not from any natural cause, to come to us, prostrate yourself on the ground, embrace our knees, and use all those gestures to us which are ordinarily practised by those who adore and pray to the gods. So that you made us also," says he, "reciprocally sanctify and adore you." Those, by Jupiter, well deserve to be pardoned, who say, they would willingly give any money for a picture in which should be presented to the life this fine story of one lying prostrate at the knees and embracing the legs of another, who mutually again adores him and makes his devout prayers to him. Nevertheless this devout service, how well soever it was ordered and composed by Colotes, received not the condign fruit he expected; for he was not declared wise; but it was only said to him: Go they ways, and walk immortal; and understand that we also are in like manner immortal.

These men, knowing well in their consciences that they have used such foolish speeches, have had such motions, and such passions, dare nevertheless call others odious. And Colotes, having shown us these fine first-fruits and wise positions touching the natural senses,—that we eat meat, and not hay or forage; and that when rivers are deep and great, we pass them in boats, but when shallow and easily fordable, on foot,—cries out, "You use vain and arrogant speeches, O Socrates; you say one thing to those who come to discourse with you, and practise another." Now I would fain know what these vain and arrogant speeches of Socrates were, since he ordinarily said that he knew nothing, that he was always learning, and that he went inquiring and searching after the truth. But if, O Colotes, you had happened on such expressions of Socrates as are those which Epicurus writ to Idomeneus, "Send me then the first-fruits for the entertainment of our sacred body, for ourself and for our children: for so it comes upon me to speak;" what more arrogant and insolent words could you have used? And yet that Socrates spake otherwise than he lived, you have wonderful proofs in his gests at Delium, at Potidaea, in his behavior during the time of the Thirty Tyrants, towards Archelaus, towards the people of Athens, in his poverty, and in his death. For are not these things beseeming and answerable to the doctrine of Socrates? They would indeed, good sir, have been indubitable testimonies to show that he acted otherwise than he taught, if, having proposed pleasure for the end of life, he had led such a life as this.

Thus much for the calumnies he has uttered against Socrates. Colotes besides perceives not that he is himself found guilty of the same offences in regard to theory and practice which he objects against Socrates. For this is one of the sentences and propositions of Epicurus, that none but the wise man ought irrevocably and unchangeably to be persuaded of anything. Since then Colotes, even after those adorations he performed to Epicurus, became not one of the sages, let him first make these questions and interrogatories his own: How is it that being hungry he eats meat and not hay, and that he puts a robe about his body and not about a pillar, since he is not indubitably persuaded either that a robe is a robe or that meat is meat? But if he not only does these things, but also passes not over rivers, when they are great and high, on foot, and flies from wolves and serpents, not being irrevocably persuaded that any of these things is such as it seems, but yet doing everything according to what appears to him; so likewise the opinion of Socrates concerning the senses was no obstacle to him, but that he might in like manner make use of things as they appeared to him. For it is not likely that bread appeared bread and hay hay to Colotes, because he had read those holy rules of Epicurus which came down from heaven, while Socrates on account of his vanity imagined that hay was bread and bread hay. For these wise men use better opinions and reasons than we; but to have sense, and to receive an impression from objects as they appear, is common as well to the ignorant as to the wise, as proceeding from causes where there needs not the discourse of reason. And the proposition which affirms that the natural senses are not perfect, nor certain enough to cause an entire belief, hinders not that everything may appear to us; but leaving us to make use of our senses in our actions according to that which appears, it permits us not so to give credit to them as if they were exactly true and without error. For it is sufficient that in what is necessary and commodious for use there is nothing better. But as for the science and knowledge which the soul of a philosopher desires to have concerning everything, the senses have it not.

But as to this, Colotes will farther give us occasion to speak of it hereafter, for he brings this objection against several others. Furthermore, whereas he profusely derides and despises Socrates for asking what man is, and in a youthful bravery (as he terms it) affirming that he was ignorant of it, it is manifest that he himself, who scoffs at it, never so much as thought of this matter; but Heraclitus on the contrary, as having done some great and worthy thing, said, I have been seeking myself. And of the sentences that were written in Apollo's temple at Delphi, the most excellent and most divine seems to have been this, Know thyself. And this it was which gave Socrates an occasion and beginning of doubting and inquiring into it, as Aristotle says in his Platonics. And yet this appears to Colotes ridiculous and fit to be scoffed at. And I wonder that he derides not also his master himself, who does as much whenever he writes concerning the substance of the soul and the creation of man. For if that which is compounded of both, as they themselves hold,—of the body, to wit, and the soul,—is man, he who searches into the nature of the soul consequently also searches into the nature of man, beginning from his chiefest principle. Now that the soul is very difficult to be comprehended by reason, and altogether incomprehensible by the exterior senses, let us not learn from Socrates, who is a vainglorious and sophistical disputer, but let us take it from these wise men, who, having forged and framed the substance of the soul of somewhat hot, spiritual, and aerial, as far as to the faculties of the flesh, by which she gives heat, softness and strength to the body, proceed not to that which is the principal, but give over faint and tired by the way. For that by which she judges, remembers, loves, hates,—in a word, that which is prudent and rational, is,—say they, made afterwards of I know not what nameless quality. Now we well know, that this nameless thing is a confession of their shameful ignorance, whilst they pretend they cannot name what they are not able to understand or comprehend. But let this, as they say, be pardoned them. For it seems not to be a light and easy matter, which every one can at the first attempt find out and attain to, but has retired itself to the bottom of some very remote place, and there lies obscurely concealed. So that there is not, amongst so many words and terms as are in use, any one that can explain or show it. Socrates therefore was not a fool or blockhead for seeking and searching what himself was; but they are rather to be thought shallow coxcombs, who inquire after any other thing before this, the knowledge of which is so necessary and so hard to find. For how could he expect to gain the knowledge of other things, who has not been able to comprehend the principal element even of himself?

But granting a little to Colotes, that there is nothing so vain, useless, and odious as the seeking into one's self, let us ask him, what confession of human life is in this, and how it is that a man cannot continue to live, when he comes once thus to reason and discourse in himself: "Go to now, what am I? Am I a composition, made up of soul and body; or rather a soul, serving itself and making use of the body, as an horseman using his horse is not a subject composed of horse and man? Or is every one of us the principal part of the soul, by which we understand, infer, and act; and are all the other parts, both of soul and body, only organs and utensils of this power? Or, to conclude, is there no proper substance of the soul at all apart, but is only the temperature and complexion of the body so disposed, that it has force and power to understand and live?" But Socrates does not by these questions overthrow human life, since all natural philosophers treat of the same matter. But those perhaps are the monstrous questions and inquiries that turn everything upside down, which are in Phaedrus, (Plato, "Phaedrus," p. 230 A.) where he says, that every one ought to examine and consider himself, whether he is a savage beast, more cautelous, outrageous, and furious than ever was the monster Typhon; or on the contrary, an animal more mild and gentle, partaking by Nature of a certain divine portion, and such as is free from pride. Now by these discourses and reasonings he overturns not the life of man, but drives from it presumption and arrogance, and those haughty and extravagant opinions and conceits he has of himself. For this is that monster Typhon, which your teacher and master has made to be so great in you by his warring against the gods and divine men.

Having done with Socrates and Plato, he next attacks Stilpo. Now as for those his true doctrines and good discourses, by which he managed and governed himself, his country, his friends, and such kings and princes as loved him and esteemed him, he has not written a word; nor yet what prudence and magnanimity was in his heart, accompanied with meekness, moderation, and modesty. But having made mention of one of those little sentences he was wont in mirth and raillery to object against the sophisters, he does, without alleging any reason against it or solving the subtlety of the objection, stir up a terrible tragedy against Stilpo, saying that the life of man is subverted by him, inasmuch as he affirms that one thing cannot be predicated of another. "For how," says he, "shall we live, if we cannot style a man good, nor a man a captain, but must separately name a man a man, good good, and a captain a captain; nor can say ten thousand horsemen, or a fortified town, but only call horsemen horsemen, and ten thousand ten thousand, and so of the rest?" Now what man ever was there that lived the worse for this? Or who is there that, hearing this discourse, does not immediately perceive and understand it to be the speech of a man who rallies gallantly, and proposes to others this logical question for the exercise of their wits? It is not, O Colotes, a great and dangerous scandal not to call any man good, or not to say ten thousand horsemen; but not to call God God, and not to believe him to be God,—as you and the rest do, who will not confess that there is a Jupiter presiding over generation, or a Ceres giving laws, or a Neptune nourishing the plants,—it is this separation of names that is pernicious, and fills our life with audaciousness and an atheistical contempt of the gods. When you pluck from the gods the names and appellations that are tied to them, you abolish also the sacrifices, mysteries, processions, and feasts. For to whom shall we offer the sacrifices preceding the tilling of the ground? To whom those for the obtaining of preservation? How shall we celebrate the Phosphoria or torch-festivals, the Bacchanals, and the ceremonies that go before marriage, if we admit neither Bacchantes, gods of light, gods who protect the sown field, nor preservers of the state? For this it is that touches the principal and greatest points, being an error in things,—not in words, in the structure of propositions, or use of terms.

Now if these are the things that disturb and subvert human life, who are there that more offend in speech than you? For you take utterly away the whole category of namable things, which constitute the substance of language; and leave only words and their accidental objects, while you take away in the meantime the things particularly signfied by them, by which are wrought disciplines, doctrines, preconceptions, intelligences, inclination, and assent, which you hold to be nothing at all.

But as for Stilpo, thus his reasoning proceeds. "If of a man we predicate good, and of an horse running, the predicate or thing predicated is not the same with the subject or that of which it is predicated, but the essential definition of man is one, and of good another. And again, to be a horse differs from to be running. For being asked the definition of the one and of the other, we do not give the same for them both; and therefore those err who predicate the one of the other. For if good is the same with man, and to run the same with a horse, how is good affirmed also of food and medicine, and again (by Jupiter) to run of a lion and a dog? But if the predicate is different, then we do not rightly say that a man is good, and a horse runs." Now if Stilpo is in this exorbitant and grossly mistaken, not admitting any copulation of such things as are in the subject, or affirmed of the subject, with the subject itself; but holding that every one of them, if it is not absolutely one and the same thing with that to which it happens or of which it is spoken, ought not to be spoken or affirmed of it,—no, not even as an accident; it is nevertheless manifest, that he was only offended with some words, and opposed the usual and accustomed manner of speaking, and not that he overthrew man's life, and turned his affairs upside down.

Colotes, then, having got rid of the old philosophers, turns to those of his own time, but without naming any of them; though he would have done better either to have reproved by name these moderns, as he did the ancients, or else to have named neither of them. But he who has so often employed his pen against Socrates, Plato, and Parmenides, evidently demonstrates that it is through cowardice he dares not attack the living, and not for any modesty or reverence, of which he showed not the least sign to those who were far more excellent than these. But his meaning is, as I suspect, to assault the Cyrenaics first, and afterwards the Academics, who are followers of Arcesilaus. For it was these who doubted of all things; but those, placing the passions and imaginations in themselves, were of opinion that the belief proceeding from them is not sufficient for the assuring and affirming of things but, as if it were in the siege of a town, abandoning what is without, they have shut themselves up in the passions, using only it seems, and not asserting it is, of things without. And therefore they cannot, as Colotes says of them, live or have the use of things. And then speaking comically of them, he adds: "These deny that there is a man, a horse, a wall; but say that they themselves (as it were) become walls, horses, men," or "take on the images of walls, horses, or men." In which he first maliciously abuses the terms, as caluminators are usually wont to do. For though these things follow from the sayings of the Cyrenaics, yet he ought to have declared the fact as they themselves teach it. For they affirm that things then become sweet, bitter, lightsome, or dark, when each thing has in itself the natural unobstructed operation of one of these impressions. But if honey is said to be sweet, an olive-branch bitter, hail cold, wine hot, and the nocturnal air dark, there are many beasts, things, and men that testify the contrary. For some have an aversion for honey, others feed on the branches of the olive-tree; some are scorched by hail, others cooled with wine; and there are some whose sight is dim in the sun but who see well by night. Wherefore opinion, containing itself within these sensations, remains safe and free from error; but when it goes forth and attempts to be curious in judging and pronouncing concerning exterior things, it often deceives itself, and opposes others, who from the same objects receive contrary sensations and different imaginations.

And Colotes seems properly to resemble those young children who are but beginning to learn their letters. For, being accustomed to learn them where they see them in their own horn-books and primers, when they see them written anywhere else, they doubt and are troubled; so those very discourses, which he praises and approves in the writings of Epicurus, he neither understands nor knows again, when they are spoken by others. For those who say that the sense is truly informed and moulded when there is presented one image round and another broken, but nevertheless permit us not to pronounce that the tower is round and the oar broken, confirm their own sensations and imaginations, but they will not acknowledge and confess that the things without are so affected. But as the Cyrenaics must say that they are imprinted with the figure of a horse or of a wall, but refuse to speak of the horse or the wall; so also it is necessary to say that the sight is imprinted with a figure round or with three unequal sides, and not that the tower is in that manner triangular or round. For the image by which the sight is affected is broken; but the oar whence that image proceeds is not broken. Since, then, there is a difference between the sensation and the external subject, the belief must either remain in the sensation, or else—if it maintains the being in addition to the appearing—be reproved and convinced of untruth. And whereas they cry out and are offended in behalf of the sense, because the Cyrenaics say not that the thing without is hot, but that the effect made on the sense is such; is it not the same with what is said touching the taste, when they say that the thing without is not sweet, but that some function and motion about the sense is such? And for him who says that he has received the apprehension of an human form, but perceives not whether it is a man, whence has he taken occasion so to say? Is it not from those who affirm that they receive an apprehension of a bowed figure and form, but that the sight pronounces not that the thing which was seen is bowed or round, but that a certain image of it is such? Yes, by Jupiter, will some one say; but I, going near the tower or touching the oar, will pronounce and affirm that the one is straight and the other has many angles and faces; but he, when he comes near it, will confess that it seems and appears so to him, and no more. Yes, certainly, good sir, and more than this, when he sees and observes the consequence, that every imagination is equally worthy of belief for itself, and none for another; but that they are all in like condition. But this your opinion is quite lost, that all the imaginations are true and none false or to be disbelieved, if you think that these ought to pronounce positively of that which is without, but those you credit no farther than that they are so affected. For if they are in equal condition as to their being believed, when they are near or when they are far off, it is just that either upon all of them, or else not upon these, should follow the judgment pronouncing that a thing is. But if there is a difference in the being affected between those that are near and those that are far off, it is then false that one sense and imagination is not more express and evident than another. Therefore those they call attestations and counter-attestations are nothing to the sense, but are concerned only with opinion. So, if they would have us following these to pronounce concerning exterior things, making being a judgment of opinion, and what appears an affection of sense, they transfer the judicature from which is totally true to that which often fails.

But how full of trouble and contradictions in respect of one another these things are, what need is there to say at present? But the reputation of Arcesilaus, who was the best beloved and most esteemed of all the philosophers in his time, seems to have been no small eyesore to Epicurus; who says of him that delivering nothing peculiar to himself or of his own invention, he imprinted in illiterate men the opinion and esteem of his being very knowing and learned. Now Arcesilaus was so far from desiring any glory by being a bringer-in of new opinions, and from arrogating to himself those of the ancients, that the sophisters of that time blamed him for attributing to Socrates, Plato, Parmenides, and Heraclitus the doctrines concerning the retention of assent, and the incomprehensibility of things; having no need so to do, but only that he might strengthen them and render them recommendable by ascribing them such illustrious personages. For this, therefore, thanks to Colotes, and to every one who declares that the academic doctrine was from a higher times derived to Arcesilaus. Now as for retention of assent and the doubting of all things, not even those who have much labored in the manner, and strained themselves to compose great books and large treatises concerning it, were ever able to stir it; but bringing at last out of the Stoa itself the cessation from all actions, as the Gorgon to frighten away the objections that came against them, they were at last quite tired and gave over. For they could not, what attempts and stirs soever they made, obtain so much from the instinct by which the appetite is moved to act, as to suffer itself to be called an assent, or to acknowledge sense for the origin and principle of its propension, but it appeared of its own accord to present itself to act, as having no need to be joined with anything else. For against such adversaries the combat and dispute is lawful and just. And

Such words as you have spoke, the like you may Expect to hear. ("Iliad," xx. 250.)

For to speak to Colotes of instinct and consent is, I suppose, all one as to play on the harp before an ass. But to those who can give ear and conceive, it is said that there are in the soul three sorts of motions,—the imaginative, the appetitive, and the consenting. As to the imaginative or the apprehension, it cannot be taken away, though one would. For one cannot, when things approach, avoid being informed and (as it were) moulded by them, and receiving an impression from them. The appetite, being stirred up by the imaginative, effectually moves man to that which is proper and agreeable to his nature, just as when there is made a propension and inclination in the principal and reasonable part. Now those who withhold their assent and doubt of all things take not away this, but make use of the appetition or instinct naturally conducting every man to that which seems convenient for him. What, then, is the only thing that they shun? That in which is bred falsehood and deceit,—that is, opining, and haste in giving consent,—which is a yielding through weakness to that which appears, and has not any true utility. For action stands in need of two things, to wit, the apprehension or imagination of what is agreeable to Nature, and the instinct or appetition driving to that which is so imagined; of which, neither the one nor the other is repugnant to the retention of assent. For reason withdraws us from opinion, and not from appetition or imagination. When, therefore, that which is delectable seems to us to be proper for us, there is no need of opinion to move and carry us to it, but appetition immediately exerts itself, which is nothing else but the motion and inclination of the soul.

It is their own axiom, that a man must only have sense and be flesh and blood and pleasure will appear to be good. Wherefore also it will seem good to him who withholds his assent. For he also participates of sense, and is made of flesh and blood, and as soon as he has conceived an imagination of good, desires it and does all things that it may not escape from him; but as much as possibly he can, he will keep himself with that which is agreeable to his nature, being drawn by natural and not by geometrical constraints. For these goodly, gentle, and tickling motions of the flesh are, without any teacher, attractive enough of themselves—even as these men forget not to say—to draw even him who will not in the least acknowledge and confess that he is softened and rendered pliable by them. "But how comes it to pass," perhaps you will say, "that he who is thus doubtful and withholds his assent hastens not away to the mountain, instead of going to the bath? Or that, rising up to go forth into the market-place, he runs not his head against the wall, but takes his way directly to the door?" Do you ask this, who hold all the senses to be infallible, and the apprehensions of the imagination certain and true? It is because the bath appears to him not a mountain, but a bath; and the door seems not a wall, but a door; and the same is to be said of every other thing. For the doctrine of retention does not pervert the sense, nor by absurd passions and motions work in it an alteration disturbing the imaginative faculty; but it only takes away opinions, and for the rest, makes use of other things according to their nature.

But it is impossible, you will say, not to consent to things that are evident; for to deny such things as are believed is more absurd than neither to deny nor affirm. Who then are they that call in question things believed, and contend against things that are evident? They who overthrow and take away divination, who say that there is not any government of Divine Providence, who deny the sun and the moon—to whom all men offer sacrifices and whom they honor and adore—to be animated. And do not you take away that which is apparent to all the world, that the young are contained in the nature of their parents? Do you not, contrary to the sense of all men, affirm that there is no medium between pleasure and pain, saying that not to be in pain is to be in the fruition of pleasure, that not to do is to suffer, and that not to rejoice is to be grieved?

But to let pass all the rest, what is more evident and more generally believed by all men, than that those who are seized with melancholy distempers, and whose brain is troubled and whose wits are distracted, do, when the fit is on them and their understanding altered and transported, imagine that they see and hear things which they neither see nor hear? Whence they frequently cry out:—

Women in black arrayed bear in their hands, To burn mine eyes, torches and fiery brands.

And again:—

See, in her arms she holds my mother dear. (Euripides, "Iphigenia in Tauris," 289.)

These, and many other illusions more strange and tragical than these,—resembling those mormos and bugbears which they themselves laugh at and deride, as they are described by Empedocles to be, "with sinuous feet and undeveloped hands, bodied like ox and faced like man,"—with certain other prodigious and unnatural phantoms, these men have gathered together out of dreams and the alienations of distracted minds, and affirm that none of them is a deception of the sight, a falsity, or inconsistence; but that all these imaginations are true, being bodies and figures that come from the ambient air. What thing then is there so impossible in Nature as to be doubted of, if it is possible to believe such reveries as these? For these men, supposing that such things as never any mask-maker, potter, designer of wonderful images, or skilful and all-daring painter durst join together, to deceive or make sport for the beholders, are seriously and in good earnest existent,—nay, which is more, affirming that, if they are not really so, all firmness of belief, all certainty of judgment and truth, is forever gone,—do by these their suppositions and affirmations cast all things into obscurity, and bring fears into our judgments, and suspicions into our actions,—if the things which we apprehend, do, are familiarly acquainted with, and have at hand are grounded on the same imagination and belief with these furious, absurd, and extravagant fancies. For the equality which they suppose to be in all apprehensions rather derogates from the credit of such as are usual and rational, than adds any belief to those that are unusual and repugnant to reason. Wherefore we know many philosophers who would rather and more willingly grant that no imagination is true than that all are so, and that would rather simply disbelieve all the men they never had conversed with, all the things they had not experimented, and all the speeches they had not heard with their own ears, than persuade themselves that any one of these imaginations, conceived by these frantic, fanatical, and dreaming persons, is true. Since then there are some imaginations which may, and others which may not be rejected, it is lawful for us to retain our assent concerning them, though there were no other cause but this discordance, which is sufficient to work in us a suspicion of things, as having nothing certain and assured, but being altogether full of obscurity and perturbation. For in the disputes about the infinity of worlds and the nature of atoms and individuums and their inclinations, although they trouble and disturb very many, there is yet this comfort, that none of all these things that are in question is near us, but rather every one of them is far remote from sense. But as to this diffidence, perplexity, and ignorance concerning sensible things and imaginations, found even in our eyes, our ears, and our hands, what opinion does it not shock? What consent does it not turn upside down? For if men neither drunk, intoxicated, nor otherwise disturbed in their senses, but sober, sound in mind, and professedly writing of the truth and of the canons and rules by which to judge it, do in the most evident passions and motions of the senses set down either that which has no existence for true, or that which is existent for false, it is not strange that a man should be silent about all things, but rather that he assent to anything; nor is it incredible that he should have no judgment about things which appear, but rather that he should have contrary judgments. For it is less to be wondered, that a man should neither affirm the one nor the other but keep himself in a mean between two opposite things, than that he should set down things repugnant and contrary to one another. For he that neither affirms nor denies, but keeps himself quiet, is less repugnant to him who affirms an opinion than he who denies it, and to him who denies an opinion than he who affirms it. Now if it is possible to withhold one's assent concerning these things, it is not impossible also concerning others, at least according to your opinion, who say that one sense does not exceed another, nor one imagination another.

The doctrine then of retaining the assent is not, as Colotes thinks, a fable or an invention of rash and light-headed young men who please themselves in babbling and prating; but a certain habit and disposition of men who desire to keep themselves from falling into error, not leaving the judgment at a venture to such suspected and inconstant senses, nor suffering themselves to be deceived by those who hold that in doubtful matters things which do not appear to the senses are credible and ought to be believed, when they see so great obscurity and uncertainty in things which do appear. But the infinity you assert is a fable, and so indeed are the images you dream of: and he breeds in young men rashness and self-conceitedness who writ of Pythocles, not yet eighteen years of age, that there was not in all Greece a better or more excellent nature, that he admirably well expressed his convictions, and that he was in other respects behaved like a women,—praying that all these extraordinary endowments of the young man might not work him hatred and envy. But these are sophists and arrogant, who write so impudently and proudly against great and excellent personages. I confess indeed, that Plato, Aristotle, Theophrastus and Democritus contradicted those who went before them; but never durst any man besides Colotes set forth with such an insolent title as this against all at once.

Whence it comes to pass that, like to such as have offended some Divinity, confessing his fault, he says thus towards the end of His book: "Those who have established laws and ordinances and instituted monarchies and other governments in towns and cities, have placed human life in great repose and security and delivered it from many troubles; and if any one should go about to take this away, we should lead the life of savage beasts, and should be every one ready to eat up one another as we meet." For these are the very words of Colotes, though neither justly nor truly spoken. For if any one, taking away the laws, should leave us nevertheless the doctrines of Parmenides, Socrates, Plato, and Heraclitus, we should be far from mutually devouring one another and leading the life of beasts. For we should fear dishonest things, and should for honesty alone venerate justice, the gods our superiors, and magistrates, believing that we have spirits and daemons who are the guardians and superintendents of human life, esteeming all the gold that is upon and within the earth not to be equivalent to virtue; and doing that willingly by reason, as Xenocrates says, which we now do by force and through fear of the law. When then will our life become savage, uncivilized, and bestial? When, the laws being taken away, there shall be left doctrines inciting men to pleasure; when the world shall bethought not to be ruled and governed by Divine Providence; when those men shall be esteemed wise who spit at honesty if it is not joined with pleasure; and when such discourses and sentences as these shall be scoffed at and derided:—

For Justice has an eye which all things sees;

and again:—

God near us stands, and views whate'er we do;

and once more: "God, as antiquity has delivered to holding the beginning, middle, and end of the universe, makes a direct line, walking according to Nature. After him follows Justice, a punisher of those who have been deficient in their duties by transgressing the divine law."

For they who contemn these things as if they were fables, and think that the sovereign good of man consists about the belly, and in those other passages by which pleasure is admitted, are such as stand in need of the law, and fear, and stripes, and some king, prince, or magistrate, having in his hand the sword of justice; to the end that they may not devour their neighbors through their gluttony, rendered confident by their atheistical impiety. For this is the life of brutes, because brute beasts know nothing better nor more honest than pleasure, understand not the justice of the gods, nor revere the beauty of virtue; but if Nature has bestowed on them any point of courage, subtlety, or activity, they make use of it for the satisfaction of their fleshly pleasure and the accomplishment of their lusts. And the sapient Metrodorus believes that this should be so, for he says: "All the fine, subtle, and ingenious inventions of the soul have been found out for the pleasure and delight of the flesh, or for the hopes of attaining to it and enjoying it, and every act which tends not to this end is vain and unprofitable." The laws being by such discourses and philosophical reasons as these taken away, there wants nothing to a beast-like life but lions' paws, wolves' teeth, oxen's paunches, and camels' necks; and these passions and doctrines do the beasts themselves, for want of speech and letters, express by their bellowings, neighings, and brayings, all their voice being for their belly and the pleasure of their flesh, which they embrace and rejoice in either present or future; unless it be perhaps some animal which naturally takes delight in chattering and garrulity.

No sufficient praise therefore or equivalent to their deserts can be given those who, for the restraining of such bestial passions, have set down laws, established policy and government of state, instituted magistrates and ordained good and wholesome laws. But who are they that utterly confound and abolish this? Are they not those who withdraw themselves and their followers from all part in the government? Are they not those who say that the garland of tranquillity and a reposed life are far more valuable than all the kingdoms and principalities in the world? Are they not those who declare that reigning and being a king is a mistaking the path and straying from the right way of felicity? And they write in express terms: "We are to treat how a man may best keep and preserve the end of Nature, and how he may from the very beginning avoid entering of his own free will and voluntarily upon offices of magistracy, and government over the people." And yet again, these other words are theirs: "There is no need at all that a man should tire out his mind and body to preserve the Greeks, and to obtain from them a crown of wisdom; but to eat and drink well, O Timocrates, without prejudicing, but rather pleasing the flesh." And yet in the constitution of laws and policy, which Colotes so much praises, the first and most important article is the belief and persuasion of the gods. Wherefore also Lycurgus heretofore consecrated the Lacedaemonians, Numa the Romans, the ancient Ion the Athenians, and Deucalion universally all the Greeks, through prayers, oaths, oracles, and omens, making them devout and affectionate to the gods by means of hopes and fears at once. And if you will take the pains to travel through the world, you may find towns and cities without walls, without letters, without kings, without houses, without wealth, without money, without theatres and places of exercise; but there was never seen nor shall be seen by man any city without temples and gods, or without making use of prayers, oaths, auguries, and sacrifices for the obtaining of blessings and benefits, and the averting of curses and calamities. Nay, I am of opinion, that a city might sooner be built without any ground to fix it on, than a commonweal be constituted altogether void of any religion and opinion of the gods,—or being constituted, be preserved. But this, which is the foundation and ground of all laws, do these men, not going circularly about, nor secretly and by enigmatical speeches, but attacking it with the first of their most principal opinions directly subvert and overthrow; and then afterwards, as if they were haunted by the Furies, they come and confess that they have grievously offended in thus taking away the laws, and confounding the ordinances of justice and policy, that they may not be capable of pardon. For to err in opinion, though it be not the part of wise men, is at least human; but to impute to others the errors and offences they commit themselves, how can any one declare what it is, if he forbears to give it the name it deserves?

For if, in writing against Antidorus or Bion the sophister, he had made mention of laws, policy, order, and justice, might not either of them have said to him, as Electra did to her mad brother Orestes:—

Lie still at ease, poor wretch; keep in thy bed, (Euripides, "Orestes," 258.)

and there cherish thy bit of body, leaving those to expostulate and find fault with me who have themselves lived the life of a citizen and householder? Now such are all those whom Colotes has reviled and railed at in his book. Amongst whom, Democritus in his writings advises and exhorts to the learning of the science of politics, as being the greatest of all, and to the accustoming one's self to bear fatigues, by which men attain to great wealth and honor. And as for Parmenides, he beautified and adorned his native country with most excellent laws which he there established, so that even to this day the officers every year, when they enter first on the exercise of their charges, are obliged to swear that they will observe the laws and ordinances of Parmenides. Empedocles brought to justice some of the principal of his city, and caused them to be condemned for their insolent behavior and embezzling of the public treasure, and also delivered his country from sterility and the plague—to which calamities it was before subject—by immuring and stopping up the holes of certain mountains, whence there issued an hot south wind, which overspread all the plain country and blasted it. And Socrates, after he was condemned, when his friends offered him, if he pleased, an opportunity of making his escape, absolutely refused to make use of it, that he might maintain the authority of the laws, choosing rather to die unjustly than to save himself by disobeying the laws of his country. Melissus, being captain general of his country, vanquished the Athenians in a battle at sea. Plato left in his writings excellent discourses concerning the laws, government, and policy of a commonweal; and yet he imprinted much better in the hearts and minds of his disciples and familiars, which caused Sicily to be freed by Dion, and Thrace to be set at liberty by Pytho and Heraclides, who slew Cotys. Chabrias also and Phocion, those two great generals of the Athenians, came out of the Academy.

As for Epicurus, he indeed sent certain persons into Asia to chide Timocrates, and caused him to be removed out of the king's palace, because he had offended his brother Metrodorus; and this is written in their own books. But Plato sent of his disciples and friends, Aristonymus to the Arcadians, to set in order their commonweal, Phormio to the Eleans, and Menedemus to the Pyrrhaeans. Eudoxus gave laws to the Cnidians, and Aristotle to the Stagirites, who were both of them the intimates of Plato. And Alexander the Great demanded of Xenocrates rules and precepts for reigning well. And he who was sent to the same Alexander by the Grecians dwelling in Asia, and who most of all inflamed and stimulated him to embrace and undertake the war against the barbarian king of Persia, was Delius the Ephesian, one of Plato's familiars. Zeno, the disciple of Parmenides, having attempted to kill the tyrant Demylus, and failing in his design, maintained the doctrine of Parmenides, like pure and fine gold tried in the fire, that there is nothing which a magnanimous man ought to dread but dishonor, and that there are none but children and women, or effeminate and women-hearted men, who fear pain. For, having with his own teeth bitten off his tongue, he spit it in the tyrant's face.

But out of the school of Epicurus, and from among those who follow his doctrine, I will not ask what tyrant-killer has proceeded, nor yet what man valiant and victorious in feats of arms, what lawgiver, what prince, what counsellor, or what governor of the people; neither will I demand, who of them has been tormented or has died for supporting right and justice. But which of all these sages has for the benefit and service of his country undertaken so much as one voyage at sea, gone of an embassy, or expended a sum of money? What record is there extant of one civil action in matter of government, performed by any of you? And yet, because Metrodorus went down one day from the city as far as the haven of Piraeus, taking a journey of forty stadia to assist Mithres a Syrian, one of the king of Persia's court who had been arrested and taken prisoner, he writ of it to every one and in all his letters, Epicurus also highly magnifying and extolling this wonderful voyage. What value then, think you, would they have put upon it, if they had done such an act as Aristotle did, who procured the restoration and rebuilding of Stagira, the town of his nativity, after it had been destroyed by King Philip? Or as Theophrastus, who twice delivered his city, when possessed and held by tyrants? Would not the river Nile sooner have given over to bear the paper-reed, than they have been weary of writing their brave exploits?

And it is not the greatest dishonor, that, of so many sects of philosophers as have existed, they alone should enjoy the benefits that are in cities, without having ever contributed to them anything of their own; but far more serious is it that, while there are not even any tragical or comical poets who do not always endeavor to do or say some good thing or other in defence of the laws and policy these men, if peradventure they write, write of policy, that we may not concern ourselves in the government of the commonweal,—of rhetoric, that we may not perform an act of eloquence,—and of royalty, that we may shun the living and conversing with kings. Nor do they ever name any of those great personages who have intermeddled in civil affairs, but only to scoff at them and abolish their glory. Thus they say that Epaminondas had something of good, but that infinitesimal, or [Greek omitted], for that is the very word they use. They moreover call him iron-hearted, and ask what ailed him that he went marching his army through all Peloponnesus, and why he did not rather keep himself quiet at home with a garland on his head, employed only in cherishing and making much of his body. But methinks I ought not in this place to omit what Metrodorus writ in his book of Philosophy, when, utterly abjuring all meddling in the management of the state, he said thus: "Some, through an excess of vanity and arrogance, have so deep a comprehension into the business of it, that in discussing the precepts of good life and virtue, they allow themselves to be carried away with the very same desires as were Lycurgus and Solon." What is this? Was it then vanity and abundance of vanity, to set free the city of Athens, to render Sparta well-policied and governed by wholesome laws, that young men might do nothing licentiously, nor get children upon common courtesans and whores, and that riches, delights, intemperance, and dissolution might no longer bear sway and have command in cities, but law and justice? For these were the desires of Solon. To this Metrodorus, by way of scorn and contumely, adds this conclusion: "It is then very well beseeming a native born gentleman to laugh heartily, as at other men, so especially at these Solons and Lycurguses." But such a one, O Metrodorus, is not a gentleman, but a servile and dissolute person, and deserves to be scourged, not with that whip which is for free-born persons, but with that scourge made with ankle-bones, with which those eunuch sacrificers called Galli were wont to be chastised, when they failed of performing their duty in the ceremonies and sacrifices of the Goddess Cybele, the great Mother of the Gods.

But that they made war not against the lawgivers but against the laws themselves, one may hear and understand from Epicurus. For in his questions, he asks himself, whether a wise man, being assured that it will not be known, will do anything that the laws forbid. To which he answers: "That is not so easy to settle simply,"—that is "I will do it indeed, but I am not willing to confess it." And again, I suppose writing to Idomeneus, he exorts him not to make his life a slave to the laws or to the options of men, unless it be to avoid the trouble they prepare, by the scourge and chastisement, so near at hand. If those who abolish laws, governments, and polices of men subvert and destroy human life, and if Metrodorus and Epicurus do this, by dehorting and withdrawing their friends from concerning themselves in public affairs, by hating those who intermeddle in them, by reviling the first most wise lawgivers, and by advising contempt of the laws provided there is no fear and danger of the whip punishment. I do not see that Colotes has brought so many false accusations against the other philosophers as he has alleged and advanced true ones against the writings and doctrines of Epicurus.

END OF TEN——————



For he would never have used the name of God in such a merry, jesting manner, though Plato in that book makes Socrates several times to talk with great boasting and arrogance, as he does now. "There are many, dear friend, so affected towards me, that they are ready even to snap at me, when I offer to cure them of the least madness. For they will not be persuaded that I do it out of goodwill, because they are ignorant that no god bears ill-will to man, and that therefore I wish ill to no man; but I cannot allow myself either to stand in a lie or to stifle the truth." (Ibid. p. 151 C.) Whether therefore did he style his own nature, which was of a very strong and pregnant wit, by the name of God,—as Menander says, "For our mind is God," and as Heraclitus, "Man's genius is a Deity"? Or did some divine cause or some daemon or other impart this way of philosophizing to Socrates, whereby constantly interrogating others, he cleared them of pride, error, and ignorance, and of being troublesome both to themselves and to others? For about that time there happened to be in Greece several sophists; to these some young men paid great sums of money, for which they purchased a strong opinion of learning and wisdom, and of being stout disputants; but this sort of disputation spent much time in trifling squabblings, which were of no credit or profit. Now Socrates, using an argumentative discourse by way of a purgative remedy procured belief and authority to what he said, because in refuting others he himself affirmed nothing; and he the sooner gained upon people, because he seemed rather to be inquisitive after the truth as well as they, than to maintain his own opinion.

Now, however useful a thing judgment is, it is mightily infected By the begetting of a man's own fancies. For the lover is blinded with the thing loved; and nothing of a man's own is so beloved as is the opinion and discourse he has begotten. And the distribution of children said to be the justest, in respect of discourses is the unjustest; for there a man must take his own, but here a man must choose the best, though it be another man's. Therefore he that has children of his own, is a worse judge of other men's; it being true, as the sophister said well, "The Eleans would be the most proper judges of the Olympic games, were no Eleans gamesters." So he that would judge of disputations cannot be just, if he either seeks the bays for himself, or is himself antagonist to either of the antagonists. For as the Grecian captains, when they were to settle by their suffrages who had behaved himself the best, every man of them voted for himself; so there is not a philosopher of them all but would do the like, besides those that acknowledge, like Socrates, that they can say nothing that is their own; and these only are the pure uncorrupt judges of the truth. For as the air in the ears, unless it be still and void of noise in itself, without any sound or humming, does not exactly take sounds so the philosophical judgment in disputations, if it be disturbed and obstreperous within, is hardly comprehensive of what is said without. For our familiar and inbred opinion will not allow that which disagrees with itself, as the number of sects and parties shows, of which philosophy—if she deals with them in the best manner—must maintain one to be right, and all the others to be contrary to the truth in their positions.

Furthermore, if men can comprehend and know nothing, God did justly interdict Socrates the procreation of false and unstable discourses, which are like wind-eggs, and did him convince others who were of any other opinion. And reasoning, which rids us of the greatest of evils, error and vanity of mind, is none of the least benefit to us; "For God has not granted this to the Esculapians." (Theognis, vs. 432,) Nor did Socrates give physic to the body; indeed he purged the mind of secret corruption. But if there be any knowledge of the truth, and if the truth be one, he has as much that learns it of him that invented it, as the inventor himself. Now he the most easily attains the truth, that is persuaded he has it not; and he chooses best, just as he that has no children of his own adopts the best. Mark this well, that poetry, mathematics, oratory, and sophistry, which are the things the Deity forbade Socrates to generate, are of no value; and that of the sole wisdom about what is divine and intelligible (which Socrates called amiable and eligible for itself), there is neither generation nor invention by man, but reminiscence. Wherefore Socrates taught nothing, but suggesting principles of doubt, as birth-pains, to young men, he excited and at the same time confirmed the innate notions. This he called his Art of Midwifery, which did not (as others professed) extrinsically confer intelligence upon his auditors; but demonstrated it to be innate, yet imperfect and confused, and in want of a nurse to feed and fortify it.


Is it because he is (as Homer calls him) of created gods and men the Father, and of brutes and things that have no soul the maker? If Chrysippus may be believed, he is not properly styled the father of the afterbirth who supplied the seed, although it arose from the seed. Or has Plato figuratively called the maker of the world the father of it? In his Convivium he calls Phaedrus the father of the amatorious discourse which he had commenced; and so in his Phaedrus ("Phaedrus," p. 261 A.) he calls him "father of noble children," when he had been the occasion of many pre-eminent discourses about philosophical questions. Or is there any difference between a father and a maker? Or between procreation and making? For as what is procreated is also made, but not the contrary recreated did also make, for the procreation of an animal is the making of it. Now the work of a maker—as of a builder, a weaver, a musical-instrument maker, or a statuary—is altogether apart and separate from its author; but the principle and power of the procreator is implanted in the progeny, and contains his nature, the progeny being a piece pulled off the procreator. Since therefore the world is neither like a piece of potter's work nor joiner's work, but there is a great share of life and divinity in it, which God from himself communicated to and mixed with matter, God may properly be called Father of the world—since it has life in it—and also the maker of it.

And since these things come very near to Plato's opinion, consider, I pray, whether there may not be some probability in them. Whereas the world consists of two parts, body and soul, God indeed made not the body; but matter being at hand, he formed and fitted it, binding up and confirming what was infinite within proper limits and figures. But the soul, partaking of mind, reason, and harmony, was not only the work of God, but part of him not only made by him, but begot by him.

QUESTION III. In the Republic, ("Republic," vi. pp. 509 D-511 E.) he assumes the universe, as one line to be cut into two unequal parts; again he cuts each of these parts in two after the same manner, and supposes the two sections first made to form the two genera of things sensible and things intelligible. The first stands for the genus of intelligibles, comprehending in the first subdivision the primitive forms, in the second the mathematics. Of sensibles, the first subdivision comprehends solid bodies, the second comprehends the images and representations of them. Moreover, to every one of these four he has assigned its proper criterion;—to the first reason; to the mathematics, the understanding; to sensibles, belief; to images and likenesses, conjecture.


At first glance it will appear that the sensible is the greater portion. For the essence of intelligibles being indivisible, and in the same respect ever the same, is contracted into a little, and pure; but an essence divisible and running through bodies constitutes the sensible part. Now what is immaterial is limited; but body in respect of matter is infinite and unlimited, and it becomes sensible only when it is limited by partaking of the intelligible. Besides, as every sensible has many images, shadows, and representations, and from one and the same original several copies may be taken both by nature and art; so the latter must surpass the former in number, according to Plato, who makes things of the intellect to be patterns or ideas of things sensible, as if the last were images and reflections. Further, Plato derives the knowledge of ideas by abstraction and cutting away of body, leading us by mathematical discipline from arithmetic to geometry, thence to astronomy, and placing harmony above them all. For things become geometrical by the accession of magnitude to quantity; solid, by the accession of profundity to magnitude; astronomical, by the accession of motion to solidity; harmonical, by the accession of sound to motion. Take then sound from moving bodies, motion from solids, profundity from superficies, magnitude from quantity, we then reach pure intelligible ideas, which have no difference among themselves as regards the one single intelligible essence. For unity makes no number unless joined by the infinite binary; then it makes a number. And thence we proceed to points, thence to lines, from them to superficies, and solids, and bodies, and to the qualities of the bodies so and so affected. Now the reason is the only criterion of intelligibles; and the understanding is the reason in the mathematics, where intelligibles appear as if in mirrors. But as to the knowledge of bodies, because of their multitude, Nature has given us five powers or distinctions of senses; nor are all bodies discerned by them, many escaping sense by reason of their smallness. And though every one of us consists of a body and soul, yet the hegemonic and intellectual faculty is small, being hid in the huge mass of flesh. And the case is the same in the universe, as to sensible and intelligible. For intelligibles are the principles of bodily things, but everything is greater than the principle whence it came.

Yet, on the contrary, some will say that, by comparing sensibles with intelligibles, we match things mortal with divine, in some measure; for God is in intelligibles. Besides, the thing contained is ever less than the containing, and the nature of the universe contains the sensible in the intelligible. For God, having placed the soul in the middle, hath extended it through all, and hath covered it all round with bodies. The soul is invisible, and cannot be perceived by any of the senses, as Plato says in his Book of Laws; therefore every man must die, but the world shall never die. For mortality and dissolution surround every one of our vital faculties. The case is quite otherwise in the world; for the corporeal part, contained in the middle by the more noble and unalterable principle, is ever preserved. And a body is said to be without parts and indivisible for its minuteness; but what is incorporeal and intelligible is so, as being simple and sincere, and void of all firmness and difference. Besides, it were folly to think to judge of incorporeal things by corporeal. The present, or now, is said to be without parts and indivisible, since it is everywhere and no part of the world is void of it. But all affections and actions, and all corruptions and generations in the world, are contained by this same now. But the mind is judge only of what is intelligible, as the sight is of light, by reason of its simplicity and similitude. But bodies, having several differences and diversities, are comprehended, some by one judicatory function, others by another, as by several organs. Yet they do not well who despise the discriminative faculty in us; for being great, it comprehends all sensibles, and attains to things divine. The chief thing he himself teaches in his Banquet, where he shows us how we should use amatorious matters, turning our minds from sensible goods to things discernible only by the mind, that we ought not to be enslaved by the beauty of any body, study, or learning, but laying aside such weakness, should turn to the vast ocean of beauty. (See Plato's "Symposium," p. 210 D.)


Perhaps what we have often said is true; viz., that the soul without reason and the body without form did mutually ever coexist, and neither of them had generation or beginning. But after the soul did partake of reason and harmony, and being through consent made wise, it wrought a change in matter, and being stronger than the other's motions, it drew and converted these motions to itself. So the body of the world drew its original from the soul, and became conformable and like to it. For the soul did not make the nature of the body out of itself, or out of nothing; but it wrought an orderly and pliable body out of one disorderly and formless. Just as if a man should say that the virtue of the seed is with the body, and yet that the body of the fig-tree or olive-tree was made of the seed, he would not be much out; for the body, its innate motion and mutation proceeding from the seed, grew up and became what it is. So, when formless and indefinite matter was once formed by the inbeing soul, it received such a form and disposition.


Is their opinion true who think that he ascribed a dodecahedron to the globe, when he says that God made use of it in delineating the universe? For upon account of the multitude of its bases and the obtuseness of its angles, avoiding all rectitude, it is flexible, and by circumtension, like globes made of twelve skins, it becomes circular and comprehensive. For it has twenty solid angles, each of which is contained by three obtuse planes, and each of these contains one and the fifth part of a right angle. Now it is made up of twelve equilateral and equangular quinquangles (or pentagons), each of which consists of thirty of the first scalene triangles. Therefore it seems to resemble both the Zodiac and the year, it being divided into the same number of parts as these.

Or is a right line in Nature prior to circumference; or is circumference but an accident of rectilinear? For a right line is said to bend; and a circle is described by a centre and distance, which is the place of a right line from which a circumference is measured, this being everywhere equally distant from the middle. And a cone and a cylinder are made by rectilinears; a cone by keeping one side of a triangle fixed and carrying another round with the base,—a cylinder, by doing the like with a parallelogram. Further, that is nearest to principle which is less; but a right is the least of all lines, as it is simple; whereas in a circumference one part is convex without, another concave within. Besides, numbers are before figures, as unity is before a point, which is unity in position. But indeed unity is triangular; for every triangular number (Triangular numbers are those of which equilateral triangles can be formed in this way:

. . .. . .. ... . .. ... .... ..............

Such are: 3, 6, 10, 15, 21, 28, 36, 45, etc.; that is, numbers formed by adding the digits in regular order. (G.)) taken eight times, by adding unity, becomes quadrate; and this happens to unity. Therefore a triangle is before a circle, whence a right line is before a circumference. Besides, no element is divided into things compounded of itself; indeed there is a dissolution of all other things into the elements. Now a triangle is divided into no circumference, but two diameters cut a circle into four triangles; therefore a rectilinear figure is before a circular, and has more of the nature of an element. And Plato himself shows that a rectilinear is in the first place, and a circular is only consequential and accidental. For when he says the earth consists of cubes, each of which is contained with rectilinear superficies, he says the earth is spherical and round. Therefore there was no need of making a peculiar element for round things, since rectilinears, fitted after a certain manner among themselves, do make up this figure.

Besides, a right line, whether great or little, preserves the same rectitude; but as to the circumference of a circle, the less it is, the crookeder it is; the larger, the straighter. Therefore if a convex surface stands on a plane, it sometimes touches the under plane in a point, sometimes in a line. So that a man may imagine that a circumference is made up of little right lines.

But observe whether this be not true, that no circle or sphere in this world is exactly drawn; but since by the tension and circumtension of the straight lines, or by the minuteness of the parts, the difference is hidden, the figure seems circular and round. Therefore no corruptible body moves circularly, but altogether in a right line. To be truly spherical is not in a sensible body, but is the element of the soul and mind, to which he has given circular motion, as being agreeable to their nature.


Is it because the discourse is of love, and love is of beauty inherent in a body? Now beauty, by similitude to things divine, moves and reminds the soul. Or it may be (without too much curiosity) he may be understood in plain meaning, to wit, that the several faculties of the soul being employed about bodies, the power of reasoning and understanding partakes most about divine and heavenly things; which he did not improperly call a wing, it raising the soul from mean and mortal things to things above.


For it seems unreasonable to ascribe the reason of such different effects to the selfsame cause.

How respiration is made by the reaction of the air, he has sufficiently shown. But the others, he says, seem to be effected miraculously, but really the bodies force each other aside and change places with one another; while he has left for us to discover how each is particularly done.

As to cupping-glasses, the case is thus: the air next to the flesh being comprehended and inflamed by the heat, and being made more rare than the pores of the brass, does not go into a vacuum (for there is no such thing), but into the air that is without the cupping-glass, and has an impulse upon it. This air drives that before it; and each, as it gives way, strives to succeed into the place which was vacuated by the cession of the first. And so the air approaching the flesh comprehended by the cupping-glass, and attracting it, draws the humors into the cupping-glass.

Swallowing takes place in the same way. For the cavities about the mouth and stomach are full of air; when therefore the meat is squeezed down by the tongue and tonsils, the elided air follows what gives way, and also forces down the meat.

Weights also thrown cleave the air and dissipate it, as they fall with force; the air recoiling back, according to its proper tendency to rush in and fill the vacuum, follows the impulse, and accelerates the motion.

The fall also of thunderbolts is like to darting anything. For by the blow in the cloud, the fiery matter exploded breaks into the air; and it being broken gives way, and again being contracted above, by main force it presses the thunderbolt downwards contrary to Nature.

And neither amber nor the loadstone draws anything to it which is near, nor does anything spontaneously approach them. But this stone emits strong exhalations, by which the surrounding air being impelled forceth that which is before it; and this being drawn round in the circle, and returning into the vacuated place, forcibly draws the iron in the same movement. In amber there is a flammeous and spirituous nature, and this by rubbing on the surface is emitted by recluse passages, and does the same that the loadstone does. It also draws the lightest and driest of adjacent bodies, by reason of their tenuity and weakness; for it is not so strong nor so endued with weight and strength as to force much air and to act with violence and to have power over great bodies, as the magnet has. But what is the reason the air never draws a stone, nor wood, but iron only, to the loadstone? This is a common question both by those who think the coition of these bodies is made by the attraction of the loadstone, and by such as think it done by the incitement of the iron. Iron is neither so rare as wood, nor altogether so solid as gold or a stone; but has certain pores and asperities, which as far as inequality is concerned are proportionable to the air; and the air being received in certain positions, and having (as it were) certain stays to hang to, does not slip off; but when it is carried up to the stone and is forced against it, it draws the iron by force along with it to the stone. Such then may be the reason of this.

But the manner of the waters running over the earth is not so evident. But it is observable that the waters of lakes and ponds stand immovable, because the air about them stagnates immovable and admits of no vacuity. For the water on the surface of lakes and seas is troubled and fluctuates as the air is moved, it following the motion of the air, and moving as it is moved. For the force from below causes the hollowness of the wave, and from above the swelling thereof; until the air ambient and containing the water is still. Therefore the flux of such waters as follow the motion of the receding air, and are impelled by that which presses behind, is continued without end. And this is the reason that the stream increases with the waters, and is slow where the water is weak, the air not giving way, and therefore enduring less reaction. So the water of fountains must needs go upwards, the extrinsic air succeeding into the vacuity and throwing the water out. In a close house, that keeps in the air and wind, the floor sprinkled with water causes an air or wind, because, as the sprinkled water falls, the air gives way. For it is so provided by Nature that air and water force one another and give way to one another; because there is no vacuity in which one can be fixed without experiencing the change and alteration in the other.

Concerning symphony, he shows how sounds harmonize. A quick sound is acute, a slow is grave. Therefore acute sounds move the senses the quicker; and these dying and grave sounds supervening, what arises from the contemperation of one with the other causes pleasure to the ear, which we call harmony. And by what has been said, it may easily be understood that air is the instrument of these things. For sound is the stroke upon the sense of the hearer, caused by the air; and the air strikes as it is struck by the thing moving,—if violent, acutely,—if languid, softly. The violent stroke comes quick to the ear; then the circumambient air receiving a slower, it affects and carries the sense along with it.


Does the earth move like the sun, moon, and five planets, which for their motions he calls organs or instruments of time? Or is the earth fixed to the axis of the universe; yet not so built as to remain immovable, but to turn and wheel about, as Aristarchus and Seleucus have shown since; Aristarchus only supposing it, Seleucus positively asserting it? Theophrastus writes how that Plato, when he grew old, repented him that he had placed the earth in the middle of the universe, which was not its place.

Or is this contradictory to Plato's opinion elsewhere, and in the Greek instead of [Greek omitted] should it be written [Greek omitted], taking the dative case instead of the genitive, so that the stars will not be said to be instruments, but the bodies of animals? So Aristotle has defined the soul to be "the actualization of a natural organic body, having the power of life." The sense then must be this, that souls are dispersed into meet organical bodies in time. But this is far besides his opinion. For it is not once, but several times, that he calls the stars instruments of time; as when he says, the sun was made, as well as other planets, for the distinction and conservation of the numbers of time.

It is therefore most proper to understand the earth to be here an instrument of time; not that the earth is moved, as the stars are; but that, they being carried about it, it standing still makes sunset and sunrising, by which the first measures of time, nights and days, are circumscribed. Wherefore he called it the infallible guard and artificer of night and day. For the gnomons of dials are instruments and measures of time, not in being moved with the shadows, but in standing still; they being like the earth in closing out the light of the sun when it is down,—as Empedocles says that the earth makes night by intercepting light. This therefore may be Plato's meaning.

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