. . . Observe yourselves thus in your actions and you will find out to what sect of the philosophers you belong. You will find that most of you are Epicureans, some few Peripatetics, but these without any backbone; for wherein do you in fact show that you consider virtue equal to all things else, or even superior? But as for a Stoic, show me one if you can! Where, or how? Nay, but you can show me thousands who recite the petty arguments of the Stoics. Yes, but do these same men recite the petty arguments of the Epicureans any less well? Do they not handle with the same precision the petty arguments of the Peripatetics also? Who, then, is a Stoic? As we call a statue "Pheidian" that has been fashioned according to the art of Pheidias, in that sense show me a man fashioned according to the judgements which he utters. Show me a man who though sick is happy, though in danger is happy, though dying is happy, though condemned to exile is happy, though in disrepute is happy. Show him! By the gods, I would fain see a Stoic! But you cannot show me a man completely so fashioned; then show me at least one who is becoming so fashioned, one who has begun to tend in that direction; do me this favour; do not begrudge an old man the sight of that spectacle which to this very day I have never seen. Do you fancy that you are going to show me the Zeus or the Athena off Pheidias, a creation of ivory and gold? Let one of you show me the soul of a man who wishes to be of one mind with God, and never again to blame either God or man, to fail in nothing, that he would achieve, to fall into nothing that he would avoid, to be free from anger, envy and jealousy — but why use circumlocutions? — a man who has set his heart upon changing from a man into a god, and although he is still in this paltry body of death, does none the less have his purpose set upon fellowship with Zeus. Show him to me! But you cannot. Why, then, do you mock your own selves and cheat everybody else? And why do you put on a guise that is not your own and walk about as veritable thieves and robbers who have stolen these designations and properties that in no sense belong to you?
And so now I am your teacher, and you are being taught in my school. And my purpose is this — to make of you a perfect work, secure against restraint, compulsion, and hindrance, free, prosperous, happy, looking to God in everything both small and great; and you are here with the purpose of learning and practising all this. Why, then, do you not complete the work, if it is true that you on your part have the right kind of purpose and I on my part, in addition to the purpose, have the right kind of preparation? What is it that is lacking? When I see a craftsman who has material lying ready at hand, I look for the finished product. Here also, then, is the craftsman, and here is the material; what do we yet lack? Cannot the matter be taught? It can. Is it, then, not under our control? Nay, it is the only thing in the whole world that is under our control. Wealth is not under our control, nor health, nor fame, nor, in a word, anything else except the right use of external impressions. This alone is by nature secure against restraint and hindrance. Why, then, do you not finish the work? Tell me the reason. For it lies either in me, or in you, or in the nature off the thing. The thing itself is possible and is the only thing that is under our control. Consequently, then, the fault lies either in me, or in you, or, what is nearer the truth, in us both. What then? Would you like to have us at last begin to introduce here a purpose such as I have described? Let us let bygones be bygones. Only let us begin, and, take my word for it, you shall see.
|« NEXT »||« Stoicism »||« The Greek Philosophers »||« Philosophy »||« Library »||« A Plea »||« Our Civilization »|