A BRIEF INTRODUCTION
The period of composition
Written in Greek by an unknown author, the consensus of scholars now holds that this dramatic dialog was composed in the first century A.D. Its theoretical background is clearly stoic, and the Cebes of the title is not the Cebes who appears in Plato’s ‘Phaedo’.
The meaning of the work
First of all I must duly inform the reader that this dialogue is a highly dangerous thing, because it’s a matter of life or death. Anyone who runs into it will actually experience what Oedipus experienced when, on his way to Thebes, he ran into the Sphinx.
This dialogue and the explanation that it contains are highly dangerous matters, because if the reader pays attention and understands what is said, he is, or is destined to become, a wise and happy man; otherwise he already is, or is destined to remain, an unwise, unhappy, bitter and uncultured human being and will live very badly. The reason for this is that the explanation is similar to the riddle that the Sphinx propounded to people. If one was able to understand it and gave the right answer, he was saved; otherwise, he perished at the Sphinx’s hand.
The same thing holds true with regard to this explanation. For Foolishness is like a Sphinx to people. The ‘Table of Cebes’ hints like in a riddle at what is good, at what is bad and at what is neither good nor bad in life. He who does not understand these things perishes at Foolishness’ hand; not at once, like the one who died devoured by the Sphinx, but ruined little by little during his entire existence, like people handed over to an endless punishment. If, on the contrary, he understands these things, Foolishness dies whilst he is saved¬† and becomes blessed and happy for life. The reader is therefore invited to pay the utmost attention and not misunderstand what is said.
On the other end, it’s difficult to understand ‘The Table of Cebes’ if one is not acquainted with my translation of the works of Epictetus. The concepts of ‘proairesis’ and of ‘diairesis’, of ‘culture’ (that is ‘education to diairesis’) and of ‘pseudoculture’ (that is ‘education to all other kinds of knowledge’), of ‘human being’ and of ‘man’, of ‘happiness’ and of ‘unhappiness’, of ‘virtue’ and of ‘vice’, of ‘good’, of ‘bad’ and of ‘oudeterous’ find, in this dialogue, a pictorial representation of amazing and everlasting up-to-dateness, in the explanations that an old man gives to some foreigners about the meaning of a painting on a wooden panel that stood in an ancient temple of Cronus.
Dealing with a work of rather small size, I did not need to prepare a true Index Verborum, and a reasonable amount of page-border notes has been enough to make my translation possible.
Unlike ‘The Diairesis tree’, which is the faithful recording of Epictetus’ live talking, this ‘The Table of Cebes’ is a literary text. Granted my scrupulous care in translating all the key-words endowed with philosophical relevance, I am aware that I have not refrained from taking those liberties of style that the nature of the text allowed me to take.
The present translation has been carried out using the Greek text published by D. Pesce in: ‘La Tavola di Cebete’ Paideia Editrice, Brescia 1982, in the series ‘Antichità classica e cristiana’. This text is basically a reproduction of the critical edition of the ‘Cebe’s painting’ prepared by K. Praechter (Teubner, Lipsia 1893). I have introduced only one minor variation.
THE TABLE OF CEBES
[1.1] We were just then walking up and down in the precinct sacred to Cronus and were observing many different votive offerings. In front of the temple, among other offerings, there was also a painting on a wooden panel. It depicted unusual stories and we were unable to guess their meaning. [1.2] The painting seemed to us to depict neither a town nor a military encampment, but an enclosure containing two more enclosures, a bigger and a smaller one. In the first enclosure there was a gate, and a large crowd was stopping near it. [1.3] Inside the enclosure one could also see a lot of women. An old man stood by the gate and appeared issuing an order to the entering crowd.
[2.1] We were puzzled and asked each other for a long time about the meaning of the story. At a certain point an elderly man, who stood beside us, said:
-Foreigners, you experience nothing strange if you are puzzled by this painting. Indeed, many people of this country don’t know the meaning of the story. [2.2] For, this is not the votive offering of a citizen but of a foreigner, a very intelligent and exceptionally wise man, a zealous follower both in theory and in practice of a Pythagorean and Parmenidean life, who came here long ago and dedicated this sacred precinct and this painting to Cronus
[2.3] -Did you know this man personally?- I said
-Yes, he answered, and I also admired him for a long time when I was younger. For he used to discuss many and serious subjects, and I heard him many times going through the meaning of this story
[3.1] -By Zeus, I said, if now you have no other urgent business, please describe it to us too. We crave hearing what sort of story this is
-Foreigners- he said -I will not refuse. But you must first hear this, that my explanation contains something dangerous for you
-Which danger?- I asked
-That if you pay attention- he continued -and understand what I say, you will be wise and happy men; otherwise you will become unwise and unhappy, bitter and uncultured human beings, and will live badly. [3.2] For my explanation is similar to the riddle that the Sphinx propounded to people. If one understood it, he was saved; otherwise, he who did not understand it perished at the Sphinx’s hand. The same holds true with regard to this explanation. For, Foolishness is like a Sphinx to people. [3.3] The painting on the wooden panel hints as in a riddle at what is good, at what is bad and at what is neither good nor bad in life. He who does not understand these things perishes at Foolishness’s hand; not at once, like the one who died devoured by the Sphinx, but ruined little by little during his entire existence, like people handed over to an endless punishment. [3.4] If, on the contrary, he recognizes these things, Foolishness perishes whilst he is saved and becomes blessed and happy for life. Pay attention, then, and do not misunderstand what I say
[4.1] -By Heracles, if things are like that, what a craving you have aroused in us!
-Things are really like that- he said
-Make haste, therefore, and describe for us the sense of the story. On our part, as the reward is so important, we will pay simply careful attention to your words
[4.2] The elderly man took up a rod, stretched it out toward the painting and said:
-Do you see this enclosure?
-We see it
-First of all you must know that the name of this place is Life. The large crowd halting near the gate is the crowd of those who are going to enter Life. [4.3] The old man standing still above them, who has a roll of papyrus in one hand and is pointing at something with the other, is called Genius. He tells those who enter what they must to do after entering Life and shows them the road they must go along if they intend to save themselves in Life
[5.1] -Which road does he urge people to go along?- I asked
-Do you see near the gate- he answered -and just where the crowd enters, a chair on which a female, painted in such a way as to appear charming and who has a cup in her hand, is seated?
[5.2] -I see her- I said -Who is she?
-Her name is Deceit- he answered -and she makes all human beings err
-What does she do?
-She gives a drink of her own faculty to those who enter Life
[5.3] -What kind of drink is this?
-Error- he said -and Ignorance
-And then what happens?
-Once they have drunk it, they enter Life
-But do all people drink Error or not?
[6.1] -All drink it- he answered -some people more, some people less. Furthermore do you see, beyond the gate, a great number of other females having all sorts of attire?-
-I see them
[6.2] -They are called Opinions, Cravings, Pleasures. When the crowd enters, they jump upon these people, cling to each of them and then lead him away
-Where do they lead people away?
-Some of these females lead people to salvation- he answered -others, on the contrary, lead people to perdition at Deceit’s hand
-My dear friend, what an unpleasant drink you are talking about!
[6.3] -But all of them- he added -profess that they will lead people to what is best and to a happy and advantageous Life. These human beings, because of the Ignorance and Error that they drank from Deceit’s cup, do not find what is the true road in Life and go wandering at random, as you may see if you look at those who entered earlier and who are going around haphazardly
[7.1] -I see them- I said -But who is that one, who looks like a blind and mad woman and is standing upon a spherical stone?
-Her name is Fortune- he answered -And she is not only blind and mad but deaf too
[7.2] -What’s her function?
-She goes around everywhere- he answered -snatching away the possessions of some people and giving them to other people. To these same people, then, she immediately subtracts again what she has given and gives it to others, at random and in an unreliable way. Therefore that symbol also reveals very clearly her nature-
[7.3] -Which symbol?- I asked
-The fact that she is standing upon a spherical stone
-And what does this mean?
-It means that her gifts are neither safe nor secure. Whenever one trusts her, great and harsh disappointments happen
[8.1] -But what does the large crowd around her want, and how are these people called?
-They are called Thoughtless. Each of them asks for himself what Fortune throws away
-How is it that they don’t have similar appearances, but some are rejoicing while others stretch out their hands and are downhearted?
[8.2] -Those who are rejoicing and laughing- he answered -are those who have gotten something from her, and they call her good Fortune. Those who are crying are instead those from whom Fortune has subtracted what she earlier gave and these, on the contrary, call her evil Fortune
[8.3] -Which are the things that Fortune gives and thanks to which people who get them rejoice, while those who lose them cry?
-They are those- he answered -which seem to be good things to the multitude of human beings
-Which are these good things?
[8.4] -Money’s wealth, evidently, and then fame, noble birth, offspring, tyrannical power, royal power and whatever is similar to these things
-How is it? Are not these good things?
-This question- he said -we will discuss later. Now let’s go on with the meaning of the story
[9.1] -If you look beyond this gate and a bit higher, do you see another enclosure and some females, standing outside of the enclosure, clad like whores?
-One of them is called Lack of self-restraint, another Profligacy, another Insatiability, still another Flattery
[9.2] -Why are they standing there?
-Because they closely watch- he said -those who have got something from Fortune
-And then what happens?
-They jump upon these people and cling to them, flatter them, summon them to remain in their company saying that they will have a pleasant, painless life and experience no sufferings at all. [9.3] And if one is persuaded by these females to enter Luxury’s house, this seems a pleasant pastime until he is tickled, but no longer. For when he comes to his senses, he realizes that he was not eating at Luxury’s house but that Luxury was eating him alive and outraging him. [9.4] For this reason, after he has spent all he got from Fortune, he is forced to slave to these females, to submit himself to them in everything, to behave indecently and to do for their sake all sorts of harmful acts, like committing fraud, robbing the temples, swearing false oaths, betraying, plundering and to do all sorts of similar things. And when he has degraded himself to the point of utter destitution, these females hand him over to Punishment [10.1] -Which is the figure representing Punishment?
-Do you see- he said -back and above them, what looks like a small door and a narrow and dark place? -Of course
-Do you see there too, some ugly and filthy females wearing rags?
[10.2] -Of course
-Of these females- he answered -the one having the whip is called Punishment, the one with the head on her knees is called Grief and the one tearing her hair is Sorrow
[10.3] -Who is the one standing near them, that hideous, thin, naked fellow; and who is the woman with him, ugly and thin like he is?
-He is called Regret- he answered -and she is called Depression. They are brother and sister. [10.4] He is then handed over to these people and lives with them in continuous Punishment. From this place he is then cast out and hurled into Unhappiness’ house, where he lives the rest of his life in complete Unhappiness, unless Change of mind, emerging from his own proairesis, meets him
[11.1] -What happens, should Change of mind meet him?
-It delivers him from his evils and recommends him to a different Opinion, one able to lead him to True education and at the same time to what is called Pseudo-education
[11.2] -And then what happens?
-If he accepts the Opinion leading him to True education- he answered -he is purified by it, is saved and becomes blessed and happy in his Life. Otherwise he is again deceived by Pseudo-education
[12.1] -By Heracles, what a great danger is this too! And which is, I asked, the figure representing Pseudo-education?
-Do you see the other enclosure?
[12.2] -Of course- I said
-And do you see out of the enclosure and standing near its entrance, a female who looks very clean and well groomed?
[12.3] -The multitude of rash people- he said -call her Education, but she is no more than Pseudo- education. Anyway, when those who save themselves decide to come to True education, first of all they arrive here
-Is there any other road leading to True education?
-There is- he answered
[13.1] -Who are the men who walk up and down inside the enclosure?
-They are- he said -the deceived lovers of Pseudo-education, who believe to be conversing with True education-
-And how are they called?-
[13.2] -They are called- he answered -Poets, Orators, Dialecticians, Musicians, Mathematicians, Geometricians, Astronomers, Hedonists, Peripatetics, Critics and any other people having similar names
[14.1] -And who are the women running around them and looking like the first ones, the ones among whom you said there was Lack of self-restraint?
-They are exactly those females- he answered
[14.2] -Do they enter, then, here too?
-Yes, by Zeus, they enter here too! But rarely, not as in the first enclosure
-Do Opinions too enter here?- I asked
[14.3] -Yes, because the effects of the potion that these human beings also drank at Deceit’s hand persist
-Does Ignorance too persist in these men?
-Yes, by Zeus! And, with Ignorance, Foolishness too. You can be sure that neither Opinion nor any vice will depart from them until, despairing of Pseudo-education, they come to the true road and drink the purifying faculty. [14.4] After they are purified and have expelled all their evils, their Opinions, their Ignorance and any other vice, at that point only they will be saved. But till they remain in Pseudo- education’s company, they will never be freed and no evil will leave them by virtue of this kind of knowledge
[15.1] -Which is the road leading to True education?- I asked
-Do you see up there- he said -a place where no one dwells and which seems to be desert?
-I see it
[15.2] -Do you see also a small door and, in front of the door, a path not much frequented, on which very few people walk, for it is almost impassable, rough and rocky?
-Of course- I said
[15.3] -You can also see a high hill and a very narrow ascent, having steep cliffs on both sides
-I see everything
-This is the road- he said -that leads to True education
[15.4] -And a difficult one, it seems!
-And do you see up there, upon the hill, a huge rock, high and sheer all around?-
-I see it- I said
[16.1] -Do you also see two women with sleek and vigorous bodies, who stand still above the rock and stretch out their hands invitingly?
-I see them- I said -but what’s their name?
[16.2] -One is called Self-restraint- he answered -and the other Fortitude. They are sisters
-Why do they have their hands stretched out so invitingly?
[16.3] -Because they exhort- he said -those who arrive at that place to be of good courage and not fearful, telling them that they must still endure for a while and then will reach a magnificent road
[16.4] -But when people arrive at the rock, how can they go up? For I see no road leading to the two women
-The two women come down the cliff and drag them up there. They exhort them to rest and, [16.5] after a while, give them might and courage by professing that they will introduce them to True education and by showing them how magnificent, even, easy to walk and free from all evils is the road, as you can see
-It is manifest, by Zeus!
[17.1] -Do you also see- he said -in front of that grove a magnificent place, looking like meadows blazing with light?
[17.2] -Do you notice, in the middle of the meadows, one more enclosure and one more gate?
-Yes, I see it. But what’s the name of this place?
[17.3] -The Residence of happy men- he answered -All Virtues and Happiness abide here
-Yes- I said -what a magnificent place you are talking about!
[18.1] -And do you see- he continued -that near the gate there is a woman of middle or mature age having a beautiful, calm face and wearing a simple and unadorned robe? She is not standing upon a spherical stone but upon a square, firmly grounded one, [18.2] and with her are two more women who look like her daughters
-It is manifestly so
-Of these three women, then, the one in the middle is True education, the Education to diairesis, the others two are Truth and Self-confidence
[18.3] -Why does true Education stand upon a square stone?
-That it’s the sign- he answered -that for those who come to her the road is safe and well secured, as is also the case with her gifts
[18.4] -What are the things that True education provides?
-Courage and Control of fear- he said
-And what are these things?
-They are the scientific knowledge- he answered -allowing us to experience nothing terrible in Life [19.1] -By Heracles- I said -what a beautiful gift! But why does she stay outside of the enclosure?
-In order to cure- he answered -those who arrive and give them her purifying faculty to drink. After they are purified, she brings them to the Virtues
[19.2] -I don’t understand how this can happen- I said
-In this way you will understand it- he answered -If a person were seriously sick and came to see a doctor, the doctor would first make him expel the cause of his sickness by means of purifying remedies, thereby paving the way to good health. [19.3] But the sick person who does not obey the prescriptions, it is no more than fair that he should be abandoned to the ravages of his sickness
-This I understand- I said
[19.4] -In the same way- he continued -if one arrives to Education to diairesis, she cures him and provides him with a dose of her own faculty, that he may be first of all purified and expel all the evils with which he came here
[19.5] -Ignorance and Error, that he drank from Deceit’s cup, and then Arrogance, Craving, Lack of self-restraint, Wrath, Love of money and all the other evils with which he was filled in the first enclosure
[20.1] -And after he is purified, where does Education send him?
-She sends him inside the enclosure- he answered -to Science and to the other Virtues
-Which are these figures?
[20.2] -Do you see- he said -beyond the gate a choir of women, and how they are comely and neat, wearing plain and simple robes? Do you see also how they look natural and not at all made-up like the other ones?
[20.3] -I see them- I answered -And what are their names?
-The first one is called Science- he said -The others are her sisters and are called Virility, Justice, Uprightness, Temperance, Discipline, Freedom, Self-restraint and Mildness
[20.4] -My dearest friend- I said -what great things we may hope for!
-Provided that you understand- he said -and make a habit of what you are hearing
-We will pay our utmost attention to this- I said
-In this way- he continued -you will save yourselves
[21.1] -When the Virtues take him with themselves, where do they lead him? -To their mother- he answered
-And who is she?
-Happiness- he said
-Which is Happiness’ figure?
[21.2] -Do you see the road leading to the elevated place that represents the acropolis of all the enclosures?
-I see it
[21.3] -Do you see by the gateway a comely, middle aged woman who sits upon a high throne, decked nobly but artlessly and crowned with a splendid wreath of flowers?
-It’s manifestly so
-She is Happiness- he said
[22.1] -And when someone arrives here, what does he do?
-Happiness crowns him- he said -with her faculty and the other Virtues do the same, as with the winners of the most important contests
-What kind of contest did he win?- I asked
[22.2] -The most important ones- he answered -For he has tamed all the wildest beasts, the beasts that formerly used to eat him alive, to punish him, to make him a slave. He has won and chased all of them away from himself and has become master of himself, so that now those beasts are subjected to him as he was formerly subjected to them
[23.1] -Which beasts are you talking about? I yearn after hearing this from you
-First of all- he answered -Ignorance and Error. Do you think that they are beasts or not?
-And really knavish ones- I answered
[23.2] -Then Grief, Regret, Love of money, Lack of self-restraint and all other Vices. He is now master of them all, and no longer ruled by them as before
[23.3] -What beautiful deeds- I said -and what most beautiful victory! But tell me this thing more: which is the faculty of the wreath with which he is crowned?
[23.4] -The faculty of making men happy, my young fellow. For he who is crowned with this faculty becomes happy and blessed, and places his Happiness’ hopes in no one but himself
[24.1] -What a beautiful victory you are talking about! And when he has been crowned, what does he do and where does he go?
[24.2] -The Virtues take him with them and lead him to the place whence he earlier came out. They show him how badly fare and how wretchedly live the human beings who spend their time there, what a wreck their lives are, how they go erring and are led as if at an enemy’s mercy, some from Lack of self-restraint, others from Arrogance, others from Love of money, others from Vanity and others from still other evils. [24.3] These are the terrible evils to which they are bound and from which they are unable to free themselves, so as to be saved and arrive here. All their lives long they are, instead, disconcerted; and this they experience because, having forgotten the Genius’ order, they are unable to find the road that leads here
[25.1] -It seems to me that you are speaking rightly. But I am still puzzled about the reason why Virtues show him the place whence he earlier came out
[25.2] -Because he did not accurately understand- he said -and had no scientific knowledge of the things of that place, he used to be in doubt. As a matter of fact, due to the Ignorance and Error that he drank, he was accustomed to decree as good what is not good and as evil what is not evil. [25.3] For this reason he was living badly, as badly as the other human beings who live there. Now that this man has acquired, instead, the scientific knowledge of what is useful, he himself lives well and observes how badly off those others are
[26.1] -And after he has observed everything, what does he do and where does he go?
-Wherever he decides to go- he answered -For everywhere he is as safe as a person being in the Corycian cave, and wherever he arrives he lives well and in complete safety. All will indeed welcome him merrily, as sick people welcome the doctor
[26.2] -Does he no longer fear suffering any harm from those women whom you said were beasts?
-He will no longer be annoyed by Sorrow, by Grief, by Lack of self-restraint, by Love of money, by Lack of diairesis or by any other evil. [26.3] The man, indeed, dominates them all and is above all the things that used to grieve him before, like those who are immune to a viper’s bite. For the vipers that kill other people with poison do not trouble those who are immune to them, because they have the antidote against their poison. In the same way this man is also no longer grieved by evils, because he has the antidote against them
[27.1] -It seems to me that you are speaking well. But tell me this one more thing: who are those arriving from that part of the hill? Some of them are crowned and appear to be cheerful while others, the uncrowned ones, appear to be in grief and disconcertment, have injured legs and heads [27.2] and are held back by some women
-The crowned ones are those who saved themselves arriving at Education to diairesis and are cheerful because they have reached her. [27.3] The uncrowned ones are those who were rejected by Education to diairesis, and are coming back to a miserable and wretched existence. Others, having lost heart and not gone up to Fortitude, turned back and wander around aimlessly
[27.4] -Who are the women who follow them?
-They are Grieves- he answered -Sorrows, Depressions, Shames, Ignorances
[28.1] -Are you saying that all the evils follow them?
-All the evils, by Zeus, follow them!- he continued -And when these human beings arrive in the first enclosure, to Luxury and to Lack of self-restraint, [28.2] they do not accuse themselves but quickly start to say evil things about the Education to diairesis and about the men who go to her, maintaining that those are paltry, wretched and unhappy people who, having abandoned the life in company of Luxury and Lack of self-restraint, live badly and do not enjoy the goods that they bestow
[28.3] -Which things do they call good?
-Profligacy and Lack of self-restraint, to say it briefly. For they believe that fucking like cattle is the enjoyment of the utmost good
[29.1] -What are the names of the other women, who arrive from that side and are cheerful and laughing?
[29.2] -Their name is Opinions- he answered -After they have led to Education to diairesis those who will enter the place where the Virtues are, they are coming back in order to lead others there and are announcing that the ones who they led are by now happy men
[29.3] -But do Opinions- I asked -enter the place where the Virtues are?
-No- he answered – since an Opinion is not allowed to enter where Science is, they hand people over to Education to diairesis. [29.4] After Education to diairesis has taken them with her, then the Opinions come back in order to lead there other people, like merchant ships that, after unloading their cargo, come back and load a new cargo
[30.1] -It seems to me that you have explained these things very well- I said -But you have not yet made clear to us what Genius commands those who enter Life
[30.2] -To take heart- he answered -Wherefore, do you also take heart, for I shall explain everything and omit nothing
-You are speaking well- I answered
[30.3] He stretched again his hand toward the painting and:
-Do you see- he said -that blind female standing upon a spherical stone and whose name I told you a while ago is Fortune?
-We see her
[31.1] -Genius urges us- he continued -not to trust her, not to decree as safe and secure whatever we receive from her nor to believe it to be our own; [31.2 ] for nothing prevents these things from being
taken from us again and given to others. Fortune is often inclined to do so, and for this reason Genius urges us not to be moved by her gifts, neither rejoicing when she gives them nor being downhearted when we lose them, and to avoid censure or praise of her. [31.3] For she does nothing by reason but all at random and by chance, as I told you before. This is why Genius urges us not to be amazed at whatever she does and not to become like the wicked bankers, [31.4] who rejoice whenever they receive money from people and declare it to be their own. But when the money is demanded back, they are vexed and believe that they have been terribly wronged, forgetting that they received the money on condition that there would never be any obstacle to its withdrawal. [31.5] Genius, then, urges us to behave in the same way with regard to what Fortune gives, and to remember that it is her nature to take away what she gave, and again soon to give manifold other gifts, then again to withdraw not only what she recently gave but also the things that one had before. [31.6] Genius urges us to take what Fortune gives and then to leave immediately the first enclosure, aiming at the gifts that are safe and secure
[32.1] -Which are the safe and secure gifts?- I asked
-The things that they will receive from Education to diairesis, if they save themselves there
-Which are these things?
[32.2] -The true scientific knowledge of what is useful- he answered -This is the gift that is secure, safe and not to be abjured. [32.3] Genius then urges them to immediately flee toward Education to diairesis and when those who enter Life come near to the females whose names, as I told you before, are Lack of self-restraint and Luxury, he urges them to get immediately rid of them and to trust them in nothing, until they arrive at Pseudo-education. [32.4] He then urges them to dwell some time here and to take from Pseudo-education, as provisions for a journey, whatever they decide to take; but then to depart immediately from here and go to true Education. [32.5] This is what Genius commands. And whoever does anything contrary to these orders or misunderstands them, perishes miserably as a vicious human being. [33.1] Foreigners, such is the story painted upon the table. If you would like to ask me any more questions about each of the painted figures, I will not refuse to answer you
[33.2] -You are speaking well- I said -But what does Genius urge those entering Life to take from Pseudo-education?
-The things that they deem profitable
-And which are they?
[33.3] -The letters- he answered -and, among the other matters of knowledge those that, in the words of Plato, act as a restraint for young people, so that they may be distracted by nothing else
[33.4] -But for the one who aims at True education, is it necessary to receive this knowledge, or not? -There is no need- he answered -although it is profitable in order to come to her more quickly. In any case this knowledge confers nothing in order to become a truly virtuous man
[33.5] -Are you saying that this knowledge- I said -is unprofitable in order to become better men?
-I am saying that it is possible for human beings to become better, that is men, even without this knowledge; although this knowledge is not unprofitable. [33.6] As we sometimes contribute to a discussion thanks to an interpreter, although it would not be unprofitable for us to know that language, for this would allow us to understand more precisely; in the same way nothing prevents human beings from becoming better even without this knowledge
[34.1] -As far as becoming better is concerned, are those who have this knowledge, then, not superior to other men?
[34.2] -And how can they be superior, if they appear to be deceived about good and evil things as the other human beings are, and are yet dominated by all sorts of vices? [34.3] For nothing prevents he who knows the letters and has all the knowledge that Pseudo-education gives from being nevertheless a drunkard, not master of himself, a money lover, unjust, a traitor and, by the end, an unwise person [34.4] -It is for sure possible to see many such men
-As far as becoming better, that is men, thanks to this knowledge, how then are these people superior to the other human beings?
[35.1] -Your reasoning shows that they are in no way superior. But what’s the cause- I asked -of the fact that they spend their time in the second enclosure like those who approach true Education?
[35.2] -And of what use is this fact to them- he answered -when it’s possible to see people coming from the first enclosure, from Lack of self-restraint and any other Vice, to arrive directly at the third enclosure, at true Education, and thus to leave behind the ones who have the knowledge that Pseudo- education gives? So how can one still say that they are superior when, on the contrary, they are the dullest and slowest at learning?
[35.3] -How is this possible?- I asked
-Apart from the rest, also those who spend their time in the second enclosure, like those who spend their time in the first one, don’t know what they pretend to know. And until they have the Opinion of knowing, it’s impossible for them to take any practical steps towards True education. [35.4] And don’t you see also the fact that the Opinions, coming from the first enclosure, similarly enter where they are? This means that these people are no better than those, unless Repentance joins them and without the resulting conviction that they have no True education but Pseudo-education and that this is cheating them. [35.5] Yet, disposed as they are, they would never be saved. Foreigners- he said -do so, follow what I told you and make a habit of it. You must survey these things many times and believe all the rest to be a matter of secondary rank. Otherwise what you have heard now will not avail you
[36.1] -We will do that. But explain to us how it is that the things that men receive from Fortune are not goods. To live, to be healthy, rich, popular, to have offspring, to win and so on, are they not good things? [36.2] And how is it that the opposite things are not evils? For what you said seems to us to be very bizarre and incredible
-Come on, then- he said -and try to answer my questions according to your opinion
[36.3] -I will do that- I said
-Is life a good thing for anyone who lives badly?
-I don’t think so- I answered -but an evil one
-How is to live, then, a good thing- he continued -if it’s an evil one for this fellow?
[36.4] -Because to live seems to me to be an evil thing for those who live badly and a good thing, instead, for those who live well
-Are you saying that to live is at the same time an evil thing and a good thing?
-Yes, I am saying that
[37.1] -Don’t make unconvincing statements. It’s impossible for the same business to be an evil and a good thing. For in that case the same business would always be at the same time beneficial and harmful, to be chosen and to be avoided
[37.2] -I agree, it’s unconvincing. Yet, how is it possible that an evil thing is not occurring to anyone who lives badly? And if an evil thing is occurring to him, to live itself is an evil
-But to live and to live badly are not the same thing. Or do you think something different?
-Of course, I don’t think they are the same thing
[37.3] -The evil thing, then, is to live badly, but life in itself is not an evil. Because if it were so, an evil would occur to those who live well, simply because they live, which is what you say to be an evil
-I think that you are saying the truth
[38.1] -As it occurs that both of them, those who live well and those who live badly, live, life can be neither a good nor an evil thing. As for sick people it’s not the mere fact of cutting and cauterizing to cause sickness or good health but the way in which one cuts; the same is true in the case of Life, for the evil thing is not merely living but living badly
[38.2] -It is so
-If, then, things are like that, observe if you would decide to live badly or to die well and bravely
-I would choose to die well
[38.3] -So that not even to die is an evil thing, if we often prefer much more to die than to live
[38.4] -The same discourse holds true also in the case of sickness and health. For many times it’s not useful to be healthy but it is to be sick, whenever such a circumstance can be preferred
-You are saying the truth
[39.1] -Come on, also with regard to wealth, let’s analyze whether it’s truly possible to observe, as it’s often possible to see, people who are wealthy but live badly and wretchedly
-By Zeus, we can see many people like that!
[39.2] -Does wealth, then, not help these people to live well?
-It doesn’t seem to, for these people are insipient
[39.3] -So, it’s not wealth that makes people earnest in virtue, but Education to diairesis
-So it seems
-Therefore wealth is not a good, if indeed it does not help those who use it to be better men
-So it seems
[39.4] -Accordingly, it is not useful to some people to be wealthy, if they don’t know how to use this wealth
-It seems so to me
-How could we, then, judge what often is not useful to have, to be a good thing?
[39.5] -In no way
-If we know, then, how to employ wealth well and skillfully, we shall live well; otherwise we shall live badly
-It seems to me that you are saying very true things
[40.1] -On the whole, it’s possible to appreciate these things as goods or to deprecate them as evils, and this is exactly what disconcerts and damages human beings. For when they appreciate them and think it possible to be happy only through them, they accept to commit all sorts of actions because of them and will also fail to spurn the most impious and shameful ones. [40.2] And this they experience because of their ignorance of what is good. They ignore that a good cannot come from evils. [40.3] On the contrary it’s possible to see many people getting wealth through bad and shameful actions, I say for example, through betrayal, plunder, murder, denunciation, fraud and many other knavish actions
-It is so
[41.1] -If, then, no good comes from evil, as it seems, and wealth comes from evil actions, it’s necessary for wealth not to be a good thing
-So it is, according to this discourse
[41.2] -Now, as it is impossible to acquire wisdom or to act justly through evil actions, and at the same time it is impossible to act against justice or to acquire Foolishness through virtuous actions, these two things cannot happen to the same person at the same time. [41.3] On the contrary, nothing excludes that a person be wealthy, be famous, win and all sorts of similar things, and at the same time be vicious. So these things are neither good nor evil, but only wisdom is a good, while only Foolishness is an evil [41.4] -It seems to me that you have spoken enough- I said.