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can. Besides, there is more reason for exertion in this behalf, because it is said that many Latin books have been written carelessly; by excellent men indeed, but not sufficiently learned. For it may happen that he, who thinks justly, may not have the power of explaining, what he thinks, elegantly. But he abuses both his leisure and the cause of letters, and fails likewise to bestow any pleasure upon his readers, who publishes his thoughts, without knowing how to arrange them or express them clearly. Such writers read their books to their intimate friends; nor does any one touch them, except those who are in favor of a like license in writing for themselves. Wherefore if by my industry I have added any reputation to the name of orator, much more diligently, on that account, shall I open the fountains of philosophy from which those excellencies flow.
IV. But as Aristotle, a man of the highest genius, and full of knowledge, when he was moved by the glory acquired by Isocrates, the rhetorician, began to teach the youth how to speak, and to join lessons in wisdom with rules of eloquence, so it pleases me, not laying aside the former study of oratory, to employ myself in the consideration of this higher and more fertile subject. For I have always thought that to be the most perfect system of philosophy, which may enable one to speak fluently and elegantly upon great questions. In this exercise I have so studiously wrought, that I have even dared to hold discussions after the manner of the Greeks; as lately in Tusculanum, when, after your departure, several of my intimate friends being about me, I tried what I could do in this kind of study. For as I was formerly accustomed to declaim upon causes, a practice no one has kept up longer than myself, so now this is ihe declamation of my old age. I suggested to any one to propose some question, which he wished to hear discussed, and upon that I discoursed either sitting or walking. Thus I have arranged the discussions of five days, schools as the Greeks call them, in so many books. We proceeded thus; when he who proposed a question had said what he thought upon the subject, I spoke on the other side. This, as you know, is the ancient and the Socratic method of dialectical discussion. For Socrates thought that by this method the Truth would be most easily and probably discovered. But that you may have the most correct notion of our discussions, I shall write them down as if a passing scene, and not in the form of a narration or report of them.
The beginning was made in this manner.
A. To both.
M. Therefore both those who are dead, and those who have . yet to die are miserable.
A. So it seems to me. · M. There is no one then who is not miserable.
A. Truly no one.
M. And indeed, if you would be consistent, all who have been born, or will be born, are not only miserable, but eternally so. For if you say that they only are miserable who must die, you can except no one living, for all must die; but still there might be an end of suffering at death. But since the dead too are miserable, we are born to endless misery. For we necessarily conclude that they are miserable, who died a hundred thousand years ago, or rather that all are so, who have been born.
A. So indeed I think.
M. Tell me, I pray you, if you are affrighted at those things; the three-headed Cerberus in the infernal regions, the roaring of Cocytus, the passage over Acheron, “and Tantalus half dead with thirst, and only able to touch the top of the water with his chin?” Or that other story of “Sisyphus striving with the rock, sweating with exertion and not advancing a wbit ? " Or perhaps those inexorable judges, Minos and Rhadamanthus, terrify you ; before whom neither Lucius Crassus, nor Marcus Antonius will defend you, nor, since the trial will be before Greek judges, will you be able to call in the aid of Demosthenes, — you must plead your own cause before a most numerous assembly. These things perchance you fear, and therefore conclude that death is an eternal evil.
VI. A. Do you think me so foolish as to believe such things?
M. And do you not believe them ?
M. Because I might be eloquent, if I should speak against them.
A. Who could not be eloquent in such a cause ? But what need is there of refuting these unnatural fictions of the poets and painters ?
M. And yet the books of philosophers are full of discussions against these very things.
A. Vain, indeed! Who can be so silly, that those things can move him?
M. If then the miserable are not in the infernal regions, there are none there.
A. That is precisely my opinion.
M. Where then are those who, you say, are miserable, or what place do they inhabit ? For if they exist, they must occupy some place.
A. I think indeed that they occupy no place.
A. Exactly so; and yet miserable on that very account, because they do not exist.
M. Indeed I had rather you feared Cerberus, than make such inconsiderate remarks.
A. Why ? pray!
M. You deny and assert existence of the same person. Where is your acuteness? You affirm misery of a being whom you deny to exist.
A. I am not so dull as to speak thus.
A. For example, I say Marcus Crassus is miserable, who has been deprived by death of those great fortunes; that Cneius Pompey is miserable, because he has been deprived of his great glory ; that all, finally, are miserable, who are deprived of this light.
M. You come round again to the same point. It is necessary that they should exist who, you say, are miserable. But you deny that the dead are in being. If they are not in being, they can be nothing, so that they are not miserable.
A. I do not perhaps express what I think. But I think that very state of annihilation, after having lived, to be a most wretched condition.
M. How! more miserable than never to have existed at all? Then they who are not yet born are unhappy, because they are not in existence; and we ourselves, if after death we are fated to misery, were miserable before we were born. I do not remember my unhappiness before my birth.
Perhaps your memory serves you better, -I should like to know if you have any recollection of such a state.
VII. A. You jest with me; as if I had said, they who are not born are miserable, and not they who are dead.
M. You say then that they do exist.
A. Nay, it is because they do not exist, once having lived, that they are wretched.
M. Do you not see that you contradict yourself? For what so contradictory as to affirm misery, or indeed any state of being, of that which does not exist ? Do you, when, going out of the city by the gate Capena, you behold the sepulchres of Calatinus, of the Scipios, the Servilii, and the Metelli, think that they are miserable ?
A. Since you press me with the word, henceforth I will not say that the miserable exist, but only that, for the very reason that they do not exist, they are wretched.
M. You say not, then, that Marcus Crassus is miserable ; but only miserable Marcus Crassus.
A. Evidently, that is what I mean.
M. As if it were not necessary that whatever thing you declare to be in that condition, must either exist or not. Have you not been instructed in logic? In the first place, it is an established rule that every proposition (it occurs to me now to call it ašiwua, axiom, I will give it another better name if I can find one) is something affirmed, which is either true or false. When therefore you say miserable Marcus Crassus, or Marcus Crassus is miserable, you say something of which we may judge as to whether it is true or false, or else you say nothing at all.
A. Well then, I will grant that the dead are not miserable, since you have forced me to confess that those who are not in existence cannot be wretched. What then ? Are not we who live wretched, because we must die ? What sweetness can life have, when the thought of death must be present to us day and night?
VIII. M. Do you not perceive what a load of evil you have taken off from human life?
A. In what way?
M. Because if to die were misery to the dead, we should have in life the thought of this infinite and eternal misery. Now I see the limit, to which when we have come we have nothing more to fear. But you seem to me to adopt the opinion of Epicharmus, an acute and not unwitty man for a Sicilian.
A. What opinion ? for I do not know it.
M. I will tell you, if I can, in Latin ; for you know I am not accustomed to introduce Greek into a Latin discourse any more than Latin into a Greek discourse.
A. And properly too. But what is that opinion of Epicharmus ?
M. “ I am unwilling to die, but I think that when I die I shall become nothing."
A. There I recognise the Greek. But since you have compelled me to admit that the dead are not in a miserable condition, go on, if you can, and prove that I ouglit not also to consider the necessity of dying a misery.
M. That indeed is hardly worth the while, as I aim at higher views.
A. Why of little consequence ? or what are those higher views ?
M. Because since after death there is no evil, death indeed is no evil; the nearest time to which is after death, a time in which you admit there is no evil ; so that neither is the necessity of dying an evil, for this is the necessity of coming to that which we admit is not an evil. : A. Speak more fully, I pray you, upon these points, for I confess that these knotty questions compel me to assent to what I do not fully understand. But what are those higher views, which you say you are about to unfold ?
M. To teach, if I can, not only that death is not an evil, but a positive good.
A. I do not demand so much as that; nevertheless I long to hear. For if you shall not prove all you wish, you will establish the point, that death is not an evil. But I will not interrupt you with questions. I prefer to hear a continued discourse.
M. What if I question you, will not you answer?
A. That would be arrogant in me, indeed; but unless it be necessary, I would rather you would not question me.
IX. M. I will comply with your plan, and explain what you wish as well as I am able; but I shall not pretend to speak, as the Pythian Apollo, certain and fixed Truth, but, as a man subject to error like all the rest, I shall follow probabilities. For I cannot say more than that this or that seems to me to be the truth. There are those who pretend to perceive and speak certainties, — and such people profess to be wise.