CHAPTER 19

Against those who embrace, philosophical opinions only in words
The argument called the "ruling argument" appears to have been proposed from such principles as these: there is in fact a common contradiction between one another in these three positions, each two being in contradiction to the third. The propositions are, that everything past must of necessity be true; that an impossibility does not follow a possibility; and that thing is possible which neither is nor t at a t will be true. Diodorus observing this contradiction employed the probative force of the first two for the demonstration of this proposition, "That nothing is possible which is not true and never will be." Now another will hold these two: "That something is possible, which is neither true nor ever will be": and "That an impossibility does not follow a possibility," But he will not allow that everything which is past is necessarily true, as the followers of Cleanthes seem to think, and Antipater copiously defended them. But others maintain the other two propositions, "That a thing is possible which is neither true nor will he true": and "That everything which is past is necessarily true"; but then they will maintain that an impossibility can follow a possibility. But it is impossible to maintain these three propositions, because of their common contradiction.

If then any man should ask me which of these propositions do I maintain? I will answer him that I do not know; but I have received this story, that Diodorus maintained one opinion, the followers of Panthoides, I think, and Cleanthes maintained another opinion, and those of Chrysippus a third. "What then is your opinion?" I was not made for this purpose, to examine the appearances that occur to me and to compare what others say and to form an opinion of my own on the thing. Therefore I differ not at all from the grammarian. "Who was Hector's father?" Priam. "Who were his brothers?" Alexander and Deiphobus. "Who was their mother?" Hecuba. I have heard this story. "From whom?" From Homer. And Hellanicus also, I think, writes about the same things, and perhaps others like him. And what further have I about the ruling argument? Nothing. But, if I am a vain man, especially at a banquet, I surprise the guests by enumerating those who have written on these matters. Both Chrysippus has written wonderfully in his first book about "Possibilities," and Cleanthes has written specially on the subject, and Archedemus. Antipater also has written not only in his work about "Possibilities," but also separately in his work on the ruling argument. Have you not read the work? "I have not read it." Read. And what profit will a man have from it? he will be more trifling and impertinent than he is now; for what else have you rained by reading it? What opinion have you formed on this subject? none; but you will tell us of Helen and Priam, and the island of Calypso which never was and never will be. And in this matter indeed it is of no great importance if you retain the story, but have formed no opinion of your own. But in matters of morality this happens to us much more than in these things of which we are speaking.

"Speak to me about good and evil." Listen:

The wind from Ilium to Ciconian shores Brought me.
"Of things some are good, some are bad, and others are indifferent. The good then are the virtues and the things which partake of the virtues; the bad are the vices, and the things which partake of them; and the indifferent are the things which lie between the virtues and the vices, wealth, health, life, death, pleasure, pain." Whence do you know this? "Hellanicus says it in his Egyptian history"; for what difference does it make to say this, or to say that "Diogenes has it in his Ethic," or Chrysippus or Cleanthes? Have you then examined any of these things and formed an opinion of your own? Show how you are used to behave in a storm on shipboard? Do you remember this division, when the sail rattles and a man, who knows nothing of times and seasons, stands by you when you are screaming and says, "Tell me, I ask you by the Gods, what you were saying just now. Is it a vice to suffer shipwreck: does it participate in vice?" Will you not take up a stick and lay it on his head? What have we to do with you, man? we are perishing and you come to mock us? But if Caesar sent for you to answer a charge, do you remember the distinction? If, when you are going in, pale and trembling, a person should come up to you and say, "Why do you tremble, man? what is the matter about which you are engaged? Does Caesar who sits within give virtue and vice to those who go in to him?" You reply, "Why do you also mock me and add to my present sorrows?" Still tell me, philosopher, tell me why you tremble? Is it not death of which you run the risk, or a prison, or pain of the body, or banishment, or disgrace? What else is there? Is there any vice or anything which partakes of vice? What then did you use to say of these things? "What have you to do with me, man? my own evils are enough for me." And you say right. Your own evils are enough for you, your baseness, your cowardice, your boasting which you showed when you sat in the school. Why did you decorate yourself with what belonged to others? Why did you call yourself a Stoic?

Observe yourselves thus in your actions, and you will find to what sect you belong. You will find that most of you are Epicureans, a few Peripatetics, and those feeble. For wherein will you show that you really consider virtue equal to everything else or even superior? But show me a Stoic, if you can. Where or how? But you can show me an endless number who utter small arguments of the Stoics. For do the same persons repeat the Epicurean opinions any worse? And the Peripatetic, do they not handle them also with equal accuracy? who then is a Stoic? As we call a statue Phidiac which is fashioned according to the art of Phidias; so show me a man who is fashioned according to the doctrines which he utters. Show me a man who is sick and happy, in danger and happy, dying and happy, in exile and happy, in disgrace and happy. Show him: I desire, by the gods, to see a Stoic. You cannot show me one fashioned so; but show me at least one who is forming, who has shown a tendency to be a Stoic. Do me this favor: do not grudge an old man seeing a sight which I have not seen yet. Do you think that you must show me the Zeus of Phidias or the Athena, a work of ivory and gold? Let any of you show me a human soul ready to think as God does, and not to blame either God or man, ready not to be disappointed about anything, not to consider himself damaged by anything, not to be angry, not to be envious, not to be jealous; and why should I not say it direct? desirous from a man to become a god, and in this poor mortal body thinking of his fellowship with Zeus. Show me the man. But you cannot. Why then do you delude yourselves and cheat others? and why do you put on a guise which does not belong to you, and walk about being thieves and pilferers of these names and things which do not belong to you?

And now I am your teacher, and you are instructed in my school. And I have this purpose, to make you free from restraint, compulsion, hindrance, to make you free, prosperous, happy, looking to God in everything small and great. And you are here to learn and practice these things. Why, then, do you not finish the work, if you also have such a purpose as you ought to have, and if I, in addition to the purpose, also have such qualification as I ought to have? What is that which is wanting? When I see an artificer and material by him, I expect the work. Here, then, is the artificer, here the material; what is it that we want? Is not the thing, one that can be taught? It is. Is it not then in our power? The only thing of all that is in our power. Neither wealth is in our power, nor health, nor reputation, nor in a word anything else except the right use of appearances. This is by nature free from restraint, this alone is free from impediment. Why then do you not finish the work? Tell me the reason. For it is either through my fault that you do not finish it, or through your own fault, or through the nature of the thing. The thing itself is possible, and the only thing in our power. It remains then that the fault is either in me or in you, or, what is nearer the truth, in both. Well then, are you willing that we begin at last to bring such a purpose into this school, and to take no notice of the past? Let us only make a beginning. Trust to me, and you will see.