We see then that the carpenter when he has learned certain things becomes a carpenter; the pilot by learning certain things becomes a pilot. May it not, then, in philosophy also not be sufficient to wish to be wise and good, and that there is also a necessity to learn certain things? We inquire then what these things are. The philosophers say that we ought first to learn that there is a God and that he provides for all things; also that it is not possible to conceal from him our acts, or even our intentions and thoughts. The next thing, is to learn what is the nature of the Gods; for such as they are discovered to be, he, who would please and obey them, must try with all his power to be like them. If the divine is faithful, man also must be faithful; if it is free, man also must be free; if beneficent, man also must be beneficent; if magnanimous, man also must be magnanimous; as being, then an imitator of God, he must do and say everything consistently with this fact.
"With what then must we begin?" If you will enter on the discussion, I will tell you that you must first understand names. "So, then, you say that I do not now understand names?" You do not understand them. "How, then, do I use them?" Just as the illiterate use written language, as cattle use appearances: for use is one thing, understanding is another. But if you think that you understand them, produce whatever word you please, and let us try whether we understand it. But it is a disagreeable thing for a man to be confuted who is now old and, it may be, has now served his three campaigns. I too know this: for now you are come to me as if you were in want of nothing: and what could you even imagine to be wanting to you? You are rich, you have children, and a wife, perhaps and many slaves: Caesar knows you, in Rome you have many friends, you render their dues to all, you know how to requite him who does you a favour, and to repay in the same kind him who does a wrong. What do you lack? If, then, I shall show you that you lack the things most necessary and the chief things for happiness, and that hitherto you have looked after everything rather than what you ought, and, to crown all, that you neither know what God is nor what man is, nor what is good nor what is bad; and as to what I have said about your ignorance of other matters, that may perhaps be endured, but if I say that you know nothing about yourself, how is it possible that you should endure me and bear the proof and stay here? It is not possible; but you immediately go off in bad humour. And yet what harm have I done you? unless the mirror also injures the ugly man because it shows him to himself such as he is; unless the physician also is supposed to insult the sick man, when he says to him, "Man, do you think that you ail nothing? But you have a fever: go without food to-day; drink water." And no one says, "What an insult!" But if you say to a man, "Your desires are inflamed, your aversions are low, your intentions are inconsistent, your pursuits are not comfortable to nature, your opinions are rash and false," the man immediately goes away and says, "he has insulted me."
Our way of dealing is like that of a crowded assembly. Beasts are brought to be sold and oxen; and the greater part of the men come to buy and sell, and there are some few who come to look at the market and to inquire how it is carried on, and why, and who fixes the meeting and for what purpose. So it is here also in this assembly: some like cattle trouble themselves about nothing except their fodder. For to all of you who are busy about possessions and lands and slaves and magisterial offices, these are nothing except fodder. But there are a few who attend the assembly, men who love to look on and consider what is the world, who governs it. Has it no governor? And how is it possible that a city or a family cannot continue to exist, not even the shortest time without an administrator and guardian, and that so great and beautiful a system should be administered with such order and yet without a purpose and by chance? There is then an administrator. What kind of administrator and how does he govern? And who are we, who were produced by him, and for what purpose? Have we some connection with him and some relation toward him, or none? This is the way in which these few are affected, and then they apply themselves only to this one thing, to examine the meeting and then to go away. What then? They are ridiculed by the many, as the spectators at the fair are by the traders; and if the beasts had any understanding, they would ridicule those who admired anything else than fodder.