Abbildungen der Seite

so ill? Have you been upon the place ? Have you seen them ?'

“Not at all; but I suspect it to be so.'

“* When therefore we are certain of it,' said Socrates, ‘and can speak upon better grounds than simple conjectures, we will propose this advice to the senate.'

“• It may be well to do so,' said Glaucon.

“ • It comes into my mind, too,' continued Socrates, *that you have never been at the mines of silver, to examine why they bring not in so much now as they did formerly

“• You say true; I have never been there.'

« • Indeed they say the place is very unhealthy, and that may excuse you.'

“ You rally me now,' said Glaucon.

“Socrates added, “But I believe you have at least observed how much corn our lands produce, how long it will serve to supply our city, and how much more we shall want for the whole year; to the end you may not be surprised with a scarcity of bread, but may give timely orders for the necessary provisions.'

“ « There is a deal to do,' said Glaucon, if we must take care of all these things.'

“There is so,' replied Socrates; and it is even impossible to manage our own families well, unless we know all that is wanting, and take care to provide it. As you see, therefore, that our city is composed of above ten thousand families, and it being a difficult task to watch over them all at once, why did you not first try to retrieve your uncle's affairs, which are running to decay ? and after having given that proof of your industry, you might have taken a greater trust upon you. But now, when you find yourself incapable of aiding a private man, how can you think of behaving yourself so as to be useful to a whole people ? Ought a man,


who has not strength enough to carry a hundred pound weight, to undertake to carry a heavier burden?'

“+ I would have done good service to my uncle,' said Glaucon, “if he would have taken my advice.'

“ • How,' replied Socrates, “have you not hitherto been able to govern the mind of your uncle, and do you now believe yourself able to govern the minds of all the Athenians, and his among the rest ? Take heed, my dear Glaucon, take heed lest too great a desire of power should render you despised ; consider how dangerous it is to speak and entertain ourselves concerning things we do not understand; what a figure do those forward and rash people make in the world who do so; and judge yourself, whether they acquire more esteem than blame, whether they are more admired than contemned. Think, on the contrary, with how much more honor a man is regarded, who understands perfectly what he says and what he does, and then you will confess, that renown and applause have always been the recompense of true merit, and shame the reward of ignorance and temerity. If, therefore, you would be honored, endeavour to be a man of true merit; and, if you enter upon the government of the republic with a mind more sagacious than usual, I shall not wonder if you succeed in all your designs.””

Thus Socrates put a stop to the disorderly ambition of this man; but, on an occasion quite contrary, he in the following manner exhorted Charmidas to take an employment.

“He was a man of sense, and more deserving than most others in the same post; but, as he was of a modest disposition, he constantly declined, and made great difficulties of engaging himself in public business. Socrates therefore addressed himself to him in this manner;

“ If you knew any man that could gain the prizes in the public games, and by that means render himself illustrious, and acquire glory to his country, what would you say of him if he refused to offer himself to the combat?'

“I would say,' answered Charmidas, that he was a mean-spirited, effeminate fellow.'

“ • And if a man were capable of governing a republic, of increasing its power by his advice, and of raising himself by this means to a high degree of honor, would you not brand him likewise with meanness of soul, if he 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.””



It is commonly asserted, that without self-denial there is no virtue, and that the greater the self-denial 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 fortitude, it would be intelligible enough; but, as it stands, it seems obscure or 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 ? If he is 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 may be 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 towards 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 praiseworthy, if public spirit is natural to him?

Is a pacing-horse less valuable for being a natural pacer ? VOL. II.


« ZurückWeiter »