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AGAINST COLOTES, THE DISCIPLE AND FAVORITE OF EPICURUS. - Plutarch, The Morals, vol. 5 
Plutarch’s Morals. Translated from the Greek by Several Hands. Corrected and Revised by William W. Goodwin, with an Introduction by Ralph Waldo Emerson. 5 Volumes. (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1878). Vol. 5.
Part of: Plutarch’s Morals, 5 vols.
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AGAINST COLOTES, THE DISCIPLE AND FAVORITE OF EPICURUS.
1.Colotes, whom Epicurus was wont diminutively and by way of familiarity or fondness, to call Colotaras and Colotarion, composed, O Saturninus, and published a little book which he entitled, “That according to the opinions of the other philosophers one cannot so much as live.” This he dedicated to King Ptolemy. Now I suppose that it will not be unpleasant for you to read, when set down in writing, what came into my mind to speak against this Colotes, since I know you to be a lover of all elegant and honest treatises, and particularly of such as regard the science of antiquity, and to esteem the bearing in memory and having (as much as possible may be) in hand the discourses of the ancient sages to be the most royal of all studies and exercises.
2. Not long since therefore, as this book was reading, Aristodemus of Aegium, a familiar friend of ours (whom you well know to be one of the Academy, and not a mere thyrsus-bearer, but one of the most frantic celebrators of Plato’s orgies),* did, I know not how, keep himself contrary to his custom very still all the while, and patiently gave ear to it even to the end. But the reading was scarce well over, when he said: Well then, whom shall we cause to rise up and fight against this man, in defence of the philosophers? For I am not of Nestor’s opinion, who, when the most valiant of those nine warriors that presented themselves to enter into combat was to be chosen, committed the election to the fortune of a lot.
Yet, answered I, you see he so disposed himself in reference to the lot, that the choice might pass according to the arbitrament of the wisest man;
But yet since you command me to make the election,
Consider therefore, and be well advised, in what manner you will chastise this man.
But you know, replied Aristodemus, that Plato, when highly offended with his boy that waited on him, would not himself beat him, but requested Speusippus to do it for him, saying that he himself was angry. As much therefore may I say to you; Take this fellow to you, and treat him as you please; for I am in a fit of choler.
When therefore all the rest of the company desired me to undertake this office; I must then, said I, speak, since it is your pleasure. But I am afraid that I also shall seem more vehemently transported than is fitting against this book, in the defending and maintaining Socrates against the rudeness, scurrility, and insolence of this man; who, because Socrates affirmed himself to know nothing certainly, instead of bread (as one would say) presents him hay, as if he were a beast, and asks him why he puts meat into his mouth and not into his ear. And yet perhaps some would make but a laughing matter of this, considering the mildness and gentleness of Socrates; “but for the whole host of the Greeks,” that is, of the other philosophers, amongst which are Democritus, Plato, Stilpo, Empedocles, Parmenides, and Melissus, who have been basely traduced and reviled by him, it were not only a shame to be silent, but even a sacrilege in the least point to forbear or recede from freedom of speech in their behalf, who have advanced philosophy to that honor and reputation it has gotten.
And our parents indeed have, with the assistance of the Gods, given us our life; but to live well comes to us from reason, which we have learned from the philosophers, which favors law and justice, and restrains our concupiscence. Now to live well is to live sociably, friendly, temperately, and justly; of all which conditions they leave us not one, who cry out that man’s sovereign good lies in his belly, and that they would not purchase all the virtues together at the expense of a cracked farthing, if pleasure were totally and on every side removed from them. And in their discourses concerning the soul and the Gods, they hold that the soul perishes when it is separated from the body, and that the Gods concern not themselves in our affairs. Thus the Epicureans reproach the other philosophers, that by their wisdom they bereave man of his life; whilst the others on the contrary accuse them of teaching men to live degenerately and like beasts.
3. Now these things are scattered here and there in the writings of Epicurus, and dispersed through all his philosophy. But this Colotes, by having extracted from them certain pieces and fragments of discourses, destitute of any arguments whatever to render them credible and intelligible, has composed his book, being like a shop or cabinet of monsters and prodigies; as you better know than any one else, because you have always in your hands the works of the ancients. But he seems to me, like the Lydian, to open not only one gate against himself, but to involve Epicurus also in many and those the greatest doubts and difficulties. For he begins with Democritus, who receives of him an excellent and worthy reward for his instruction; it being certain that Epicurus for a long time called himself a Democritean, which as well others affirm, as Leonteus, a principal disciple of Epicurus, who in a letter which he writ to Lycophron says, that Epicurus honored Democritus, because he first attained, though a little at a distance, the right and sound understanding of the truth, and that in general all the treatise concerning natural things was called Democritean, because Democritus was the first who happened upon the principles and met with the primitive foundations of Nature. And Metrodorus says openly of philosophy, If Democritus had not gone before and taught the way, Epicurus had never attained to wisdom. Now if it be true, as Colotes holds, that to live according to the opinions of Democritus is not to live, Epicurus was then a fool in following Democritus, who led him to a doctrine which taught him not to live.
4. Now the first thing he lays to his charge is, that, by supposing every thing to be no more of one nature than another, he wholly confounds human life. But Democritus was so far from having been of this opinion, that he opposed Protagoras the philosopher who asserted it, and writ many excellent arguments concluding against him, which this fine fellow Colotes never saw nor read, nor yet so much as dreamed of; but deceived himself by misunderstanding a passage which is in his works, where he determines that τὸ δέν is no more than τὸ μηδέν, naming in that place the body by δέν, and the void by μηδέν, and meaning that the void has its own proper nature and subsistence, as well as the body.
But he who is of opinion that nothing is more of one nature than another makes use of a sentence of Epicurus, in which he says that all the apprehensions and imaginations given us by the senses are true. For if of two saying, the one, that the wine is sour, and the other, that it is sweet, neither of them shall be deceived by his sense, how shall the wine be more sour than sweet? And we may often see that some men using one and the same bath find it to be hot, and others find it to be cold; because those order cold water to be put into it, as these do hot. It is said that, a certain lady going to visit Berenice, wife to King Deiotarus, as soon as ever they approached each other, they both immediately turned their backs, the one, as it seemed, not being able to bear the smell of perfume, nor the other of butter. If then the sense of one is no truer than the sense of another, it is also probable, that water is no more cold than hot, nor sweet ointment or butter better or worse scented one than the other. For if any one shall say that it seems the one to one, and the other to another, he will, before he is aware, affirm that they are both the one and the other.
5. And as for these symmetries and proportions of the pores, or little passages in the organs of the senses, about which they talk so much, and those different mixtures of seeds, which, they say, being dispersed through all savors, odors, and colors, move the senses of different persons to perceive different qualities, do they not manifestly drive them to this, that things are no more of one quality than another? For to pacify those who think the sense is deceived and lies because they see contrary events and passions in such as use the same objects, and to solve this objection, they teach, — that all things being mixed and confounded together, and yet one nevertheless being more suitable and fitting to one, and another to another, it is not possible that there should in all cases be a contact and comprehension of one and the same quality, nor does the object equally affect all with all its parts, every one meeting only those to which it has its sense commensurate and proportioned; so that they are to blame so obstinately to insist that a thing is either good or bad, white or not white, thinking to establish their own senses by destroying those of others; whereas they ought neither to combat the senses, — because they all touch some quality, each one drawing from this confused mixture, as from a living and large fountain, what is suitable and convenient, — nor to pronounce of the whole, by touching only the parts, nor to think that all ought to be affected after one and the same manner by the same thing, seeing that one is affected by one quality and faculty of it, and another by another. Let us then seek who those men are which bring in this opinion that things are not more of one quality than another, if they are not those who hold that every sensible thing is a mixture, composed of all sorts of qualities, like a mixture of new wine fermenting, and who confess that all their rules are lost and their faculty of judging quite gone, if they admit any sensible object that is pure and simple, and do not make each one thing to be many?
6. See now to this purpose, what discourse and debate Epicurus makes Polyaenus to have with him in his Banquet concerning the heat of wine. For when he asked, “Do you, Epicurus, say, that wine does not heat?” some one answered, “It is not universally to be affirmed that wine heats.” And a little after: “For wine seems not to be universally a heater; but such a quantity may be said to heat such a person.” And again subjoining the cause, to wit, the compressions and disseminations of the atoms, and having alleged their commixtures and conjunctions with others when the wine comes to be mingled in the body, he adds this conclusion: “It is not universally to be said that wine is endued with a faculty of heating; but that such a quantity may heat such a nature and one so disposed, while such a quantity to such a nature is cooling. For in such a mass there are such natures and complexions of which cold might be composed, and which, joined with others in proper measure, would yield a refrigerative virtue. Wherefore some are deceived, who say that wine is universally a heater; and others, who say that it is universally a cooler.” He then who says that most men are deceived and err, in holding that which is hot to be heating and that which is cold to be cooling, is himself in an error, unless he should believe that his assertion leads to the doctrine that one thing is not more of one nature than another. He farther adds afterwards, that oftentimes wine entering into a body brings with it thither neither a calefying nor refrigerating virtue, but, the mass of the body being agitated and disturbed, and a transposition made of the parts, the heat-effecting atoms being assembled together do by their multitude cause a heat and inflammation in the body, and sometimes on the contrary disassembling themselves cause a refrigeration.
7. But it is moreover wholly evident, that we may apply this argument to all those things which are called and esteemed bitter, sweet, purging, dormitive, and luminous, not any one of them having an entire and perfect quality to produce such effects, nor to do rather than to suffer when they are in the bodies, but being there susceptible of various temperatures and differences. For Epicurus himself, in his Second Book against Theophrastus, affirming that colors are not connatural to bodies, but are engendered there according to certain situations and positions with respect to the sight of man, says: “For this reason a body is no more colored than destitute of color.” And a little above he writes thus, word for word: “But apart from this, I know not how a man may say that those bodies which are in the dark have color; although very often, an air equally dark being spread about them, some distinguish diversities of colors, others perceive them not through the weakness of their sight. And moreover, going into a dark house or room, we at our first entrance see no color, but after we have stayed there awhile, we do. Wherefore we are to say that every body is not more colored than not colored. Now, if color is relative and has its being in regard to something else, so also then is white, and so likewise blue; and if colors are so, so also are sweet and bitter. So that it may truly be affirmed of every quality, that it cannot more properly be said to be than not to be. For to those who are in a certain manner disposed, they will be; but to those who are not so disposed, they will not be.” Colotes therefore has bedashed and bespattered himself and his master with that dirt, in which he says those lie who maintain that things are not more of one quality than another.
8. But is it in this alone, that this excellent man shows himself
No indeed; but yet much farther in his second reprehension, without any way minding it, he drives Epicurus and Democritus out of this life. For he affirms that the saying of Democritus — that the atoms are to the senses color by a certain law or ordinance, that they are by the same law sweetness, and by the same law concretion† — is at war with our senses, and that he who uses this reason and persists in this opinion cannot himself imagine whether he is living or dead. I know not how to contradict this discourse; but this I can boldly affirm, that this is as inseparable from the sentences and doctrines of Epicurus as they say figure and weight are from atoms. For what is it that Democritus says? “There are substances, in number infinite, called atoms (because they cannot be divided), without difference, without quality, and impassible, which move, being dispersed here and there, in the infinite voidness; and that when they approach one another, or meet and are conjoined, of such masses thus heaped together, one appears water, another fire, another a plant, another a man; and that all things are thus really atoms (as he called them), and that there is nothing else; for there can be no generation from what is not; and of those things which are nothing can be generated, because these atoms are so firm, that they can neither change, alter, nor suffer; wherefore there cannot be made color of those things which are without color, nor nature or soul of those things which are without quality and impassible.” Democritus then is to be blamed, not for confessing those things that happen upon his principles, but for supposing principles upon which such things happen. For he should not have supposed immutable principles; or having supposed them, he ought to have seen that the generation of all quality is taken away; but having seen the absurdity, to deny it is most impudent. But Epicurus says, that he supposes the same principles with Democritus, but that he says not that color, sweet, white, and other qualities, are by law and ordinance. If therefore not to say is merely not to confess, he does merely what he is wont to do. For it is as when, taking away divine Providence, he nevertheless says that he leaves piety and devotion towards the Gods; and when, choosing friendship for the sake of pleasure, that he suffers most grievous pains for his friends; and supposing the universe to be infinite, that he nevertheless takes not away high and low. . . . Indeed having taken the cup, one may drink what he pleases, and return the rest. But in reasoning one ought chiefly to remember this wise apophthegm, that where the principles are not necessary, the ends and consequences are necessary. It was not then necessary for him to suppose or (to say better) to steal from Democritus, that atoms are the principles of the universe; but having supposed this doctrine, and having pleased and glorified himself in the first probable and specious appearances of it, he must afterwards also swallow that which is troublesome in it, or must show how bodies which have not any quality can bring all sorts of qualities to others only by their meetings and joining together. As — to take that which comes next to hand — whence does that which we call heat proceed, and how is it engendered in the atoms, if they neither had heat when they came, nor are become hot after their being joined together? For the one presupposes that they had some quality, and the other that they were fit to receive it. And you affirm, that neither the one nor the other must be said to belong to atoms, because they are incorruptible.
9. How then? Do not Plato, Aristotle, and Xenocrates produce gold from that which is not gold, and stone from that which is not stone, and many other things from the four simple first bodies? Yes indeed; but with those bodies immediately concur also the principles for the generation of every thing, bringing with them great contributions, that is, the first qualities which are in them; then, when they come to assemble and join in one the dry with the moist, the cold with the hot, and the solid with the soft, — that is active bodies with such as are fit to suffer and receive every alteration and change, — then is generation wrought by passing from one temperature to another. Whereas the atom, being alone, is deprived and destitute of all quality and generative faculty, and when it comes to meet with the others, it can make only a noise and sound because of its hardness and firmness, but nothing else. For they always strike and are stricken, not being able by this means to compose or make an animal, a soul, or a nature, nay, not so much as a mass or heap of themselves; for that as they beat upon one another, so they fly back again asunder.
10. But Colotes, as if he were speaking to some ignorant and unlettered king, again attacks Empedocles for breathing forth the same thought:
For my part, I do not see how this is repugnant and contrary to life or living, especially amongst those who hold that there is no generation of that which is not, nor corruption of that which is, but that the assembling and union of the things which are is called generation, and their dissolution and disunion named corruption and death. For that he took Nature for generation, and that this is his meaning, he has himself declared, when he opposed Nature to death. And if they neither live nor can live who place generation in union and death in disunion, what else do these Epicureans? Yet Empedocles, gluing, (as it were) and conjoining the elements together by heats, softnesses, and humidities, gives them in some sort a mixtion and unitive composition; but these men who hunt and drive together the atoms, which they affirm to be immutable and impassible, compose nothing proceeding from them, but indeed make many and continual percussions of them.
For the interlacement, hindering the dissolution, more and more augments the collision and concussion; so that there is neither mixtion nor adhesion and conglutination, but only a confusion and combat, which according to them is called generation. And if the atoms do now recoil for a moment by reason of the shock they have given, and then return again after the blow is past, they are above double the time absent from one another, without either touching or approaching, so as nothing can be made of them, not even so much as a body without a soul. But as for sense, soul, understanding, and prudence, there is not any man who can in the least conceive or imagine how it is possible they should be made in a voidness, and of atoms which neither when separate and apart have any quality, nor any passion or alteration when they are assembled and joined together, especially seeing this their meeting together is not an incorporation or congress, making a mixture or coalition, but rather percussions and repercussions. So that, according to the doctrine of these people, life is taken away, and the being of an animal denied, since they suppose principles void, impassible, godless, and soulless, and such as cannot admit or receive any mixture or incorporation whatever.
11. How then is it, that they admit and allow Nature, soul, and living creature? Even in the same manner as they do an oath, prayer, and sacrifice, and the adoration of the Gods. Thus they adore by word and mouth, only naming and feigning that which by their principles they totally take away and abolish. If now they call that which is born Nature, and that which is engendered generation, — as those who ordinarily call the wood itself wood-work and the voices that accord and sound together symphony, — whence came it into his mind to object these words against Empedocles? “Why,” says he, “do we tire ourselves in taking such care of ourselves, in desiring and longing after certain things, and shunning and avoiding others? For we neither are ourselves, nor do we live by making use of others.” But be of good cheer, my dear little Colotes, may one perhaps say to him: there is none who hinders you from taking care of yourself by teaching that the nature of Colotes is nothing else but Colotes himself, or who forbids you to make use of things (now things with you are pleasures) by showing that there is no nature of tarts and marchpanes, of sweet odors, or of venereal delights, but that there are tarts, marchpanes, perfumes, and women. For neither does the grammarian who says that “the strength of Hercules” is Hercules himself deny the being of Hercules; nor do those who say that symphonies and roofings are but bare derivations affirm that there are neither sounds nor timbers; since also there are some who, taking away the soul and prudence, do not yet seem to take away either living or being prudent.
And when Epicurus says that the nature of things consists in bodies and their place, do we so comprehend him as if he meant that Nature were something else than the things which are, or as if he insinuated that it is simply the things which are, and nothing else? — as, to wit, he is wont to call voidness itself the nature of voidness, and the universe, by Jupiter, the nature of the universe. And if any one should thus question him; What sayst thou, Epicurus, that this is voidness, and that the nature of voidness? No, by Jupiter, would he answer; but this community of names is in use by law and custom. I grant it is. Now what has Empedocles done else, but taught that Nature is nothing else save that which is born, and death no other thing but that which dies? But as the poets very often, forming as it were an image, say thus in figurative language,
so do most men attribute generation and corruption to things that are contracted together and dissolved. But so far has he been from stirring and taking away that which is, or contradicting that which evidently appears, that he casts not so much as one single word out of the accustomed use; but taking away all figurative fraud that might hurt or endamage things, he again restored the ordinary and useful signification to words in these verses:
And yet I myself say that Colotes, though he alleged these verses, did not understand that Empedocles took not away men, beasts, trees, or birds, which he affirmed to be composed of the elements mixed together; and that, by teaching how much they are deceived who call this composition Nature and life, and this dissolution unhappy destruction and miserable death, he did not abrogate the using of the customary expressions in this respect.
12. And it seems to me, indeed, that Empedocles did not aim in this place at the disturbing the common form of expression, but that he really, as it has been said, had a controversy about generation from things that have no being, which some call Nature. Which he manifestly shows by these verses:
For these are the words of one who cries loud enough to those which have ears, that he takes not away generation, but procreation from nothing; nor corruption, but total destruction, that is, reduction to nothing. For to him who would not so savagely and foolishly but more gently calumniate, the following verses might give a colorable occasion of charging Empedocles with the contrary, when he says:
For these are not the expressions of a man who denies those that are born to be, but rather of him who holds those to be that are not yet born or that are already dead. And Colotes also does not altogether accuse him of this, but says that according to his opinion we shall never be sick, never wounded. But how is it possible, that he who affirms men to have being both before their life and after their death, and during their life to find both fortunes (or to be accompanied both by good and evil), should not leave them the power to suffer? Who then are they, O Colotes, that are endued with this privilege never to be wounded, never to be sick? Even you yourselves, who are composed of atoms and voidness, neither of which, you say, has any sense. Now there is no great hurt in this; but the worst is, you have nothing left that can cause you pleasure, seeing an atom is not capable to receive those things which are to effect it, and voidness cannot be affected by them.
13. But because Colotes would, immediately after Democritus, seem to inter and bury Parmenides, and I have passed over and a little postponed his defence, to bring in between them that of Empedocles, as seeming to be more coherent and consequent to the first reprehensions, let us now return to Parmenides. Him then does Colotes accuse of having broached and set abroad certain shameful and villanous sophistries; and yet by these his sophisms he has neither rendered friendship less honorable, nor voluptuousness or the desire of pleasures more audacious and unbridled. He has not taken from honesty its attractive property or its being venerable or recommendable of itself, nor has he disturbed the opinions we ought to have of the Gods. And I do not see how, by saying that the All (or the universe) is one, he hinders or obstructs our living. For when Epicurus himself says that the All is infinite, that it is neither engendered nor perishable, that it can neither increase nor be diminished, he speaks of the universe as of one only thing. And having in the beginning of his treatise concerning this matter said, that the nature of those things which have being consists of bodies and of voidness, he makes a division (as it were) of one thing into two parts, one of which has in reality no subsistence, being, as you yourselves term it, impalpable, void, and incorporeal; so that by this means, even with you also, all comes to be one; unless you desire, in speaking of voidness, to use words void of sense, and to combat the ancients, as if you were fighting against a shadow.
But these atomical bodies, you will say, are, according to the opinion of Epicurus, infinite in number, and every thing which appears to us is composed of them. See now, therefore, what principles of generation you suppose, infinity and voidness; one of which, to wit, voidness, is inactive, impassible, and incorporeal; the other, to wit, infinity, is disorderly, unreasonable, and incomprehensible, dissolving and confounding itself, because it cannot for its multitude be contained, circumscribed, or limited. But Parmenides has neither taken away fire, nor water, nor rocks and precipices, nor yet cities (as Colotes says) which are built and inhabited as well in Europe as in Asia; since he has both made an order of the world, and mixing the elements, to wit, light and dark, does of them and by them compose and finish all things that are to be seen in the world. For he has written very largely of the earth, heaven, sun, moon, and stars, and has spoken of the generation of man; and being, as he was, an ancient author in physiology, and one who in writing sought to deliver his own and not to destroy another’s doctrine, he has passed over none of the principal things in Nature. Moreover, Plato, and before him Socrates himself, understood that in Nature there is one part subject to opinion, and another subject to intelligence. As for that which is subject to opinion, it is always unconstant, wandering, and carried away with several passions and changes, liable to diminution and increase, and to be variously disposed to various men, and not always appearing after one manner even to the same person. But as to the intelligible part, it is quite of another kind,
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 takes away 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;
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 thing sensible and opinable, 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 discourse of Ideas more fully declaring, has thereby afforded Colotes an opportunity of cavilling.
14. Therefore it seems not unreasonable 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 Peripatetics 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?
15. Plato, says he, writes that horses are in vain by us esteemed 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 fine fellow Colotes, as if he were not a hair’s breadth removed from perfect wisdom, apprehends 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 effect. Wherein that which is by itself and always the same principally differs from that which is by another and never abides 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 affections 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 exists of itself from that which exists 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 substance, that is, by 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,
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 considers 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 effects 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 any thing; and he teaches them, more purely touching the difference, to express it by names, calling these ὄντα or entia (things that have being), and those γιγνόμενα 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 make use of them in their lives and in their philosophy, as of things having subsistence and existence.
16. 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 compounded 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 impalpable 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 speak 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.
17. 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 absolutely 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 reserve 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 in cite 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 thy ways, and walk immortal; and understand that we also are in like manner immortal.
18. 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 enquiring 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.
19. 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 proofs 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 any thing. 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 appears, but yet doing every thing 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 through his vanity took a fancy 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 things 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 every thing 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 every thing, the senses have it not.
20. 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 enquiring 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 origin 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 vain-glorious 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 her faculties about 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 enquire after any other thing before this, the knowledge of which is so necessary and so hard to find. For how could he hope to gain the knowledge of other things, who has not been able to comprehend the principal part even of himself?
21. 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 confusion 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, reason, 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 enquiries that turn every thing upside down, which are in Phaedrus,* 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.
22. 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 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 fostering 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 and fail in language than you? For you take utterly away the whole class of namable things, which constitute the essence of language; and leave only words and their accidental objects, while you take away in the mean time the things particularly signified by them, by which are wrought disciplines, doctrines, preconceptions, intelligences, inclination, and assent, which you hold to be nothing at all.
23. But as for Stilpo, thus his argument stands. “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.
24. 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 “are impressed with the images of walls, horses, or men.” In which he first maliciously abuses the terms, as calumniators 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 unhindered efficacy 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 impressions, 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 impressions and different imaginations.
25. 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 passions 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 do not 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 impression and the external subject, the belief must either remain in the impression, 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 impression 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 impression 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 effigies 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 which they call testimonies and counter-testimonies 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 that which is totally true to that which often fails.
26. But how full of trouble and contradiction 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 an 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 to such illustrious personages. For this therefore thanks to Colotes, and to every one who declares that the Academic doctrine was from higher times derived to Arcesilaus. Now as for the retention of assent and the doubting of all things, not even those who have much labored in the matter, 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 any thing else. For against such adversaries the combat and dispute is lawful and just. And
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 precipitation 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.
27. It is their own saying, 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?
28. 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:
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 winding feet and undivided 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, carver 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 for ever 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 dissensions 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 (whether these be true or false), 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 to be wondered that a man should be silent about all things, but rather that he should give his assent to any thing; 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.
29. 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 uncertain matters things which do not appear are credible and ought to be believed, when they see so great obscurity and uncertainty in things which 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 conceptions, and that he was in other respects like a woman, — praying that all these extraordinary endowments of the young man might not work him hatred and envy. But these are sophisters 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.
30. 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, unsocial, and bestial? When, the laws being taken away, there shall be left doctrines inciting men to pleasure; when the world shall be thought 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;
God near us stands, and views whate’er we do;
and once more: “God, as antiquity has delivered to us, 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 avenues 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 wise 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.
31. 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 sanctified the Lacedaemonians, Numa the Romans, the ancient Ion the Athenians, and Deucalion universally all the Greeks, through prayers, oaths, oracles, and omens, rendering 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, divinations, 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?
32. 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,*
and there cherish thy bit of flesh, leaving those to expostulate and find fault with me who have themselves lived a civil and domestic life? 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 political science, 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 delivered 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 had him 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 Par menides, 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.
33. But out of the school of Epicurus, and from among those who follow his doctrine, I will not ask what tyrantkiller 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 indignity, that, of so many sects of philosophers as have been extant, they alone should enjoy the benefits that are in cities, without having ever contributed to them any thing of their own; but far worse 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 very little, or μιϰϰόν, 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 night-cap on his head, employed only in cherishing and making much of his belly. 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 abundance of vanity and arrogance, have so deep an insight into the business of it, that in treating about the precepts of good life and virtue, they suffer 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 free-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 strung with ankle-bones, with which those gelded 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.
34. 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 any thing that the laws forbid. To which he answers: “That is not so easy to determine simply.” — that is, “I will do it indeed, but I am not willing to confess it.” And again, I suppose, writing to Idomeneus, he exhorts him not to make his life a slave to the laws or to the opinions of men, unless it be to avoid the trouble they prepare, by the scourge and chastisement, so near at hand. If then those who abolish the laws, governments, and policies 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 and 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.
[* ]See Plato, Phaed p. 69 C, and Stallbaum’s note. Here the proverb occurs, — Ναρθηκοϕόροι μὲν πολλοὶ, Βάκχοι δέ τε παῦροι, the thrysus-bearers are many, but the true priests of Bacchus are few. (G.)
[* ]Il. VII. 182; X. 243.
[* ]Euripides, Frag. 1071.
[† ]The text is corrupt here. (G.)
[* ]Il. XVIII. 535.
[* ]Plato, Phaedrus, p. 230 A.
[* ]Il. XX. 250.
[* ]Eurip. Iph. Taur. 289.
[* ]Eurip. Orest. 258.