« ForrigeFortsett »
judgment of Aristotle and Isocrates, each of whom was so pleased with his own pursuit that he neglected that of the other.
II. But having resolved at this time to write to you somewhat and a great deal in time to come, I have thought proper to set out with that subject which is best adapted to your years and to my authority. For, while many subjects in philosophy, of great weight and utility, have been accurately and copiously discussed by philosophers, the most extensive seems to be what they have delivered and enjoined concerning the duties of mankind; for there can be no state of life, amidst public or private affairs, abroad or at home--whether you transact anything with yourself or contract anything with anotherthat is without its obligations. In the due discharge of that consists all the dignity, and in its neglect all the disgrace, of life.
This is an inquiry common to all philosophers; for where is the man who will presume to style himself a philosopher, and lay down no rules of duty? But there are certain schools which pervert all duty by the ultimate objects of good and evil which they propose. For if a man should lay down as the chief good that which has no connection with virtue, and measure it by his own interests, and not according to its moral merit; if such a man shall act consistently with his own principles, and is not sometimes influenced by the goodness of his heart, he can cultivate neither friendship, justice, nor generosity. In truth, it is impossible for the man to be brave who shall pronounce pain to be the greatest evil, or temperate who shall propose pleasure as the highest good.
Though these truths are so self-evident that they require no philosophical discussion, yet they have been treated by me elsewhere. I say, therefore, that if these schools are self-consistent, they can say nothing of the moral duties. Neither can any firm, permanent, or natural rules of duty be laid downl, but by those who esteem virtue to be solely, or by those who deem it to be chiefly, desirable for its own sake. The teaching of duties, therefore, is the peculiar study of the Stoics, of the Academics, and the Peripatetics; because the sentiments of Aristo, Pyrrho, and Herillus have been long exploded. Yet even those professors would have been entitled to have treated upon the duties of men, had they left us any distinction of things, so that there might have been a path open to the discovery of duty. We shall, therefore, upon this occasion, and in this inqulry, chiefly follow the Stoics, not as their expositors, but by drawing, as usual, from their sources, at our own option and judgment, so much and in such manner as we please. I therefore think proper, as my entire argument is on moral obligation, to define what a duty is, a definition which I am surprised has been omitted by Panætius; because every investigation which is rationally undertaken, concerning any subject, ought to set out with a definition, that it may be understood what is the subject of discussion.
III. All questions concerning duty are of iwc sorts. The first relates to the final good; the second consists of those rules which are to regulate the practice of life in all its relations. Examples of the former are as follows: Whether all duties are perfect in themselves? Whether one duty is of more importance than another? together with other questions of the same nature. Now the rules for moral duties relate, indeed, to the final good; but it is not so perceptible that they do, because they seem chiefly to refer to the regulation of ordinary life, and of them we are to treat in this book.
But there is another division of duty: for one is called a mean duty, the other a perfect duty. If I mistake not, the complete or perfect duty is the same with what we call a direct one, and by the
Greeks is called karópowua. As to that duty which is mean, they call it kalnkov, and they thus define those terms. Whatever duty is absolute, that they call a perfect duty; and they call that duty, for the performance of which a probable reason can be assigned, a mean duty.
In the opinion, therefore, of Panætius, there is a threefold consideration for determining our resolution; for men doubt whether the thing which falls under their consideration be of itself virtuous or disgraceful, and in this deliberation minds are often distracted into opposite sentiments. They then examine and deliberate whether or not the subject of their consideration conduces to the convenience or enjoyment of life, to the improvement of their estate and wealth, to their interest and power, by which they may profit themselves or their relations; all which deliberation falls under the category of utility. The third kind of doubtful deliberation is, when an apparent utility seems to clash with moral rectitude; for when utility hurries us to itself, and virtue, on the other hand, seems to call us back, it happens that the mind is distracted in the choice, and these occasion a double anxiety in deliberation. In this division (although an omission is of the worst consequence in divisions of this kind), two things are omitted; for we are accustomed to deliberate not only whether a thing be virtuous or shameful in itself, but, of two things that are virtuous, which is the most excellent? And, in like manner, of two things which are profitable, which is the more profitable? Thus it is found that the deliberation, which he considered to be threefold, ought to be distributed into five divisions. We must, therefore, first treat of what is virtuous in itself, and that under two heads; in like manner, of what is profitable; and we shall next treat of them comparatively. IV. In the first place, a disposition has been planted by nature in every species of living creatures to cherish themselves, their life, and body; to avoid those things that appear hurtful to them; and to look out for and procure whatever is necessary for their living, such as food, shelter, and the like. Now the desire of union for the purpose of procreating their own species is common to all animals, as well as a certain degree of concern about what is procreated. But the greatest distinction between a a man and a brute lies in this, that the latter is impelled only by instinct, and applies itself solely to that object which is present, and before it, with very little sensibility to what is past or to come; but the man, because endowed with reason, by which he discerns consequences, looks into the causes of things, and their progress, and being acquainted, as it were, with precedents, he compares their analogies and adapts and connects the present with what is to come. It is easy for him to foresee the future direction of all his life, and therefore he prepares whatever is necessary for passing through it.
Nature, likewise, by the same force of reason, conciliates man to man, in order to a community both of language and of life; above all it implants in them a strong love for their offspring; it impels them to desire that companies and societies should be formed, and that they should mingle in them; and that for those reasons man should take care to provide for the supply of ciothing and food; and that not only for himself, but for his wife and his children, and for all which rouses the spirit and makes it more strenuous for action.
The distinguishing property of man is to search for and to follow after truth. Therefore, when relaxed from our necessary cares and concerns, we then covet to see, to hear, and to learn somewhat; and we esteem knowledge of things either obscure or wonderful to be the indispensable means of living hap
pily. From this we understand that truth, simplicity, and candor are most agreeable to the nature of mankind. To this passion for discovering truth is added a desire to direct; for a mind well formed by nature is unwilling to obey any man but him who lays down rules and instructions to it, or who, for the general advantage, exercises equitable and lawful government. From this proceeds loftiness of mind and contempt for worldly interests.
Neither is it a mean privilege of nature and reason that man is the only animal who is sensible of order, of decency, and of propriety, both in acting and speaking. In like manner, no other creature perceives the beauty, the gracefulness, and the harmony of parts in those objects which are discerned by the sight. An analogous perception to which nature and reason convey from the sight to the mind; and consider that beauty, regularity, and order in counsels and actions should be still more preserved. She is cautious not to do aught that is indecent or effeminate, or to act or think wantonly in any of our deliberations or deeds. The effect and result of all this produces that honestum which we are now in search of; that virtue which is honorable even without being ennobled; and of which we may truly say, that even were it praised by none it would be commendable in itself.