CHAPTER 12 Of Disputation or Discussion
What things a man must learn in order to be able to apply the art of disputation, has been accurately shown by our philosophers; but with respect to the proper use of the things, we are entirely without practice. Only give to any of us, whom you please, an illiterate man to discuss with,, and he cannot discover how to deal with the man. But when he has moved the man a little, if he answers beside the purpose, he does not know how to treat him, but he then either abuses or ridicules him, and says, "He is an illiterate man; it is not possible to do anything with him." Now a guide, when he has found a man out of the road leads him into the right way: he does not ridicule or abuse him and then leave him. Do you also show this illiterate man the truth, and you will see that he follows. But so long as you do not show him the truth, do not ridicule him, but rather feel your own incapacity.

How then did Socrates act? He used to compel his adversary in disputation to bear testimony to him, and he wanted no other witness. Therefore he could say, "I care not for other witnesses, but I am always satisfied with the evidence of my adversary, and I do not ask the opinion of others, but only the opinion of him who is disputing with me." For he used to make the conclusions drawn from natural notions so plain that every man saw the contradiction and withdrew from it: "Does the envious man rejoice?" "By no means, but he is rather pained." Well, "Do you think that envy is pain over evils? and what envy is there of evils?" Therefore he made his adversary say that envy is pain over good things. "Well then, would any man envy those who are nothing to him?" "By no means." Thus having completed the notion and distinctly fixed it he would go away without saying to his adversary, "Define to me envy"; and if the adversary had defined envy, he did not say, "You have defined it badly, for the terms of the definition do not correspond to the thing defined." These are technical terms, and for this reason disagreeable and hardly intelligible to illiterate men, which terms we cannot lay aside. But that the illiterate man himself, who follows the appearances presented to him, should be able to concede anything or reject it, we can never by the use of these terms move him to do. Accordingly, being conscious of our own inability, we do not attempt the thing; at least such of us as have any caution do not. But the greater part and the rash, when they enter into such disputations, confuse themselves and confuse others; and finally abusing their adversaries and abused by them, they walk away.

Now this was the first and chief peculiarity of Socrates, never to be irritated in argument, never to utter anything abusive, anything insulting, but to bear with abusive persons and to put an end to the quarrel. If you would know what great power he had in this way, read the Symposium of Xenophon, and you will see how many quarrels he put an end to. Hence with good reason in the poets also this power is most highly praised,

Quickly with the skill he settles great disputes.
Well then; the matter is not now very safe, and particularly at Rome; for he who attempts to do it, must not do it in a corner, you may be sure, but must go to a man of consular rank, if it so happen, or to a rich man, and ask him, "Can you tell me, Sir, to whose care you have entrusted your horses?" "I can tell you." Here you entrusted them to a person indifferently and to one who has no experience of horses? "By no means." Well then; can you tell me to whom you entrust your gold or silver things or your vestments? "I don't entrust even these to anyone indifferently." Well; your own body, have you already considered about entrusting the care of it to any person? "Certainly." To a man of experience, I suppose, and one acquainted with the aliptic, or with the healing art? "Without a doubt." Are these the best things that you have, or do you also possess something else which is better than all these? "What kind of thing do you mean?" That I mean which makes use of these things, and tests each of these things and deliberates. "Is it the soul that you mean?" You think right, for it is the soul that I mean. "In truth I do think the soul is a much better thing than all the others which I possess." Can you then show us in what way you have taken care of the soul? for it is not likely that you, who are so wise a man and have a reputation in the city, inconsiderately and carelessly allow the most valuable thing that you possess to be neglected and to perish? "Certainly not." But have you taken care of the soul yourself; and have you learned from another to do this, or have you discovered the means yourself? Here comes the danger that in the first place he may say, "What is this to you, my good man, who are you?" Next, if you persist in troubling him, there is a danger that he may raise his hands and give you blows. I was once myself also an admirer of this mode of instruction until I fell into these dangers.