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would not present himself to be employed?" "Perhaps I might," said Charmidas: "but why do you ask me this question?" Socrates replied, "Because you are capable of managing the affairs of the republic; and, nevertheless, you avoid doing so, though, in quality of a citizen, you are obliged to take care of the commonwealth. Be no longer, then, thus negligent in this matter; consider your abilities and your duty with more attention; and let not slip the occasions of serving the republic, and of rendering it, if possible, more flourishing than it is. This will be a blessing whose influence will descend not only on the other citizens, but on your best friends and yourself."
SELF-DENIAL NOT THE ESSENCE OF
From the Pennsylvania Gazette, No. 324, Feb. 18, 1735.
It is commonly asserted, that without self-denial there is no virtue, and that the greater the selfdenial the greater the virtue.
If it were said that he who cannot deny himself any thing he inclines to, though he knows it will be to his hurt, has not the virtue of resolution or fortitnde, it would be intelligible enough; but, as it stands, it seems obscure and erroneous.
Let us consider some of the virtues singly.
If a man has no inclination to wrong people in his dealings, if he feels no temptation to it, and therefore never does it, can it be said that he is not a just man? has he not the virtue of justice?
If to a certain man idle diversions have nothing in them that is tempting, and therefore he never relaxes his application to business for their sake, is he not an industrious man? or has he not the virtue of industry?
I might in like manner instance in all the rest of the virtues: but to make the thing short, as it is certain that the more we strive against the temptation to any vice, and practise the contrary virtue, the weaker will that temptation be, and the stronger will be that habit, till at length the temptation has no force, or entirely vanishes; does it follow from thence, that, in our endeavours to overcome vice, we grow continually less and less virtuous, till at length we have no virtue at all?
If self-denial be the essence of virtue, then it follows that the man who is naturally temperate, just, &c. is not virtuous; but that, in order to be virtuous, he must, In spite of his natural inclination, wrong his neighbours, and eat and drink, &c. to excess.
But perhaps it maybe said, that by the word virtue, in the above assertion, is meant merit, and so it should stand thus: without self-denial there is no merit, and the greater the self-denial the greater the merit.
The self-denial here meant must be when our inclinations are toward vice, or else it would still be nonsense.
By merit is understood desert; and when we say a man merits, we mean that he deserves praise or reward.
We do not pretend to merit any thing of God, for
he is above our services; and the benefits he confers on us are the effects of his goodness and bounty.
All our merit then is with regard to one another, and from one to another. Taking then the assertion as it last stands, If a man does me a service from a natural benevolent inclination, does he deserve less of me than another, who does me the like kindness against his inclination?
If I have two journeymen, one naturally industrious, the other idle, but both perform a day's work equally good, ought I to give the latter the most wages?
Indeed, lazy workmen are commonly observed to be more extravagant in their demands than the industrious; for, if they have not more for their work, they cannot live as well: but though it be true to a proverb that lazy folks take the most pains, does it follow that they deserve the most money?
If you were to employ servants in affairs of trust, would you not bid more for one you knew was naturally honest, than for one naturally roguish, but who has lately acted honestly? for currents, whose natural channel is dammed up, till the new course is by time worn sufficiently deep and become natural, are apt to break their banks. If one servant is more valuable than another, has he not more merit than the other? and yet this is not on account of superior self-denial.
Is a patriot not praise-worthy if public spirit is natural to him?
Is a pacing horse less valuable for being a natural pacer?
Nor, in my opinion, has any man less merit for having in general natural virtuous inclinations.
The truth is, that temperance, justice, charity, &c. are virtues, whether practised with or against our inclinations, and the man who practises them merits our love and esteem; and self-denial is neither good nor bad but as it is applied. He that denies a vicious inclination is virtuous in proportion to his resolution; but the most perfect virtue is above all temptation, such as the virtue of the saints in heaven; and he who does a foolish, indecent, or wicked thing, merely becanse it is contrary to his inclination, (like some mad enthusiasts I have read of, who ran about naked, under the notion of taking up the cross,) is not practising the reasonable science of virtue, but is a lunatic.
ON THE USEFULNESS OF MATHEMATICS.
From the Pennsylvania Gazette, No. 360, Oct. 30, 1735.
Mathematics originally signifies any kind of discipline or learning, but now it is taken for that science which teaches or contemplates whatever is capable of being numbered or measured. That part of the mathematics which relates to numbers only, is called arithmetic; and that which is concerned about measure in general, whether length, breadth, motion, force, &c. is called geometry.
As to the usefulness of arithmetic, it is well known that no business, commerce, trade, or employment whatsoever, even from the merchant to the shopkeeper, &c. can be managed and carried on without the assistance of numbers; for by these, the trader computes the value of all sorts of goods that he dealeth in, does his business with ease and certainty, and informs himself how matters stand at any time with respect to men, money, or merchandize, to profit and loss, whether he goes forward or backward, grows richer or poorer. Neither is this science only useful to the merchant, but is reckoned the primum mobile or first mover of all mundane affairs in general; and is useful for all sorts and degrees of men, from the highest to the lowest.
As to the usefulness of geometry, it is as certain that no curious art, or mechanic work, can either be invented, improved, or performed, without its assisting principles.
It is owing to this that astronomers are put into a way of making their observations, coming at the knowledge of the extent of the heavens, the duration of time, the motions, magnitudes, and distances of the heavenly bodies, their situations, positions, risings, sittings, aspects, and eclipses; also the measure of seasons, of years, and of ages.
It is by the assistance of this science, that geographers present to our view at once the magnitnde and form of the whole earth, the vast extent of the seas, the divisions of empires, kingdoms, and provinces.
It is by the help of geometry, the ingenious mariner is instructed how to guide a ship through the vast ocean, from one part of the earth to another, the nearest and safest way, and in the shortest time.