Commentary notes can be accessed by clicking on a blue square. The Latin text can be accessed by clicking on a green square.
FLORENCE WILSON GIVES HIS GREETING TO FRANCESCO MICHELI, A PATRICIAN OF LUCCA
FEW days ago, as you know, we held a lengthy disputation about peace of mind in your garden, situated on the slope of that hill which overhangs Lyon. As you see, that discussion has been hastily assembled into a dialogue and published under your name. If this rough, unpolished disputation encounters men’s criticism, as it deserves, I shall place the blame for my incompetence on your haste, the result of which is that I have allowed these still-unfledged chicks, as they say, to fly from the nest, or rather have rashly and harmfully ejected them before your time. For at your instigation this little book has been set before men’s eyes virtually on the selfsame day that it was written. It does not escape me that my talent is so meager that even if I had energetically thrown myself into the task for a long time I could not have been able to produce anything which would not have great cause to fear the censure of this most learned age. And yet, if I am not greatly mistaken, by the grace of God I am not so lacking in learning or talent that this disputation could not have been published in an improved and more finished state, if it could have been kept back even for a few days. But why should I be so greatly concerned about readers’ favor or opinions, particularly since throughout nearly the whole of my discourse I expound the necessity of scorning glory and subduing our desires? “Cricket is friend to cricket, ant to ant,” and, always, as the proverb has it, “birds of a feather flock together.” Hence it comes about that we half-learned writers who, as they say, sit in the back rows of the theater, find more readers who take pleasure in our thoughts than in those who occupy the first row. For what is devised by the learned at the cost of much thought and pains satisfy nobody but the learned, and their number is extremely small. But who does not not know that everything is full of the unlettered and unschooled? And yet (if I may freely speak my mind), I think that those are never to be scorned as uneducated who, although they possess no subtlety at disputation nor are trained in the schools of the Greeks or recruited into any philosophical sect, have nevertheless devoted themselves particularly to our subject, which is the cultivation of the mind. I occupy all my mind and thought to that concern, to gain the favor of men of that kind. My undying and constant purpose is to help these men to the best of my ability. And so I have persuaded myself that such men will not hold my disputation entirely in contempt. If I am deceived in my hope, and nothing good appears to come from this task I have undertaken, the loss will be particularly suffered by Sébastian Gryphe, who, out of his kindness and erudition, is often not reluctant to help even us less well-instructed folk with his kindness and learning, or with an expenditure of his time and effort, and wants there to be a place in his typographical heaven, not just for the principal luminaries and stars of the first magnitude, but also for us lesser lights.
ON TRANQUILITY OF MIND
A DIALOGUE BETWEEN FRANCESCO MICHAELI, FLORENCE WILSON, AND DEMETRIO CARAVELLA
FRANC. We must suspend our reading this morning, Florence. For I sense that our health is no little weakened by that nor’wester that was blowing on us yesterday. And so, if there’s nothing that calls you elsewhere, let’s climb up to the garden and enjoy this calmer weather, which I hope will bring us some relief.
FLOR. Let’s go where you want. For I too like the idea of more freely enjoying the view from these pleasant hills, no matter which way I look. But if it’s no trouble, you go ahead while I put on my coat, and I’ll follow you immediately.
FRANC. Now we have surmounted the difficulties of this steep path. Next we should sit down in these grassy seats in the shade, beside this arbor, until the weariness of the climb has passed. Afterwards, when we have had our fill of sitting, we’ll have a stroll. Meanwhile if you have something worth listening to — and you always do — you should not be reluctant to produce it, so that our time might not pass to no good purpose.
2. FLOR. Yesterday when I went across the Saone, as is my habit, to visit those well-furnished bookstalls which this city has in abundance, I learned of two things from a reliable friend, and it’s not easy for me to say which troubles me the more. And, so spare you the effort of asking me, the first is that the nations of Britain are up in arms and a great English army has recently been mustered to be led against the Scots. I can’t refrain from wishing well for my fellow-countrymen the Scots (whom in Latin you may call Caledonians). As is said in Homer, nothing is sweeter than one’s homeland, “even if one is living far away in a prosperous foreign land.” The English are always remarkably kind to me, and I am obliged to them for their uncommon favors. I shall not mention the favor of their right puissant sovereign, which in the past has not debarred me from being enriched by all those ornaments fortune has to bestow. As far as I can conjecture, this best and noblest of all islands, as is well-established, whether you consider the character of its land or the excellence of peoples, will never cease being wracked by impious internal wars until one kingdom is made out of its two, or certainly until both its peoples are brought to some holy, indissoluble concord such as befits Christian. If it were not untimely, before going any further I would show by very clear arguments why this is in the interest of both peoples and why both should hope for it, and what leads me to this conclusion. And as for that other matter, which concerns religion, I think you are already well informed, I mean how a few months ago some men from your Italy, who for many years now have, with no less success than zeal, opposed the dignity of the Pope of Rome and some religious doctrines we accept, paid a visit to those Germans who for many years now have, with no less success than zeal, opposed the dignity of the Pope of Rome and some religious doctrines we accept. Among these is Bernardino Ochino, by far the most eloquent of preachers when it comes to holy matters, and likewise the sometime head of an order among you commonly called Capuchins. Likewise in this company are Peter Martyr and Paulo Lacisio, men excellently schooled both in many languages and in a variety of forms of philosophy. And what goes a long way towards placing a check on the manners of our time and readily ensures that, whatever they write, they will enjoy the support of the peoples of Italy and sway many to their point of view, these are all men of high birth and wonderfully commended for their extraordinary piety. Here among prudent men there is a great desire that prelates do their duty, for if they faithfully do so (I mean, set aside their pride and luxurious living and preach the Gospel cleanly, holding Christ’s ways of living dearer than their own), defections of this kind would not exist, nor would fine intellects of this kind so readily go a-flocking to those enemies of piety who rail against the edicts of Popes and kings.
3. FRANC. Although I highly commend you for your zeal for your native land and for that mindful sense of obligation you are wont to harbor towards those who have treated you well, I still fail to see why you need to be so concerned about matters over which you have no control. You know that a wise man cannot be blamed for things that are not his fault. And when he is free of responsibility, he should tolerate those other things with equanimity and moderation. So leave to the gods this concern, which involves the outcome of wars. Having been devoted to the acquisition of learning almost from the very cradle, you should not regard yourself as a citizen of any particular place, but rather, like Socrates and the Stoics, you ought to regard any inhabited part of this world as your nation, or indeed as a single city in which, if for some reason you are offended and cannot be of service with your intellectual endowments in the precinct where you were born, you may serve as an ornament to the one next next, or to any you choose. This France is open to you, as is our Italy, in which you already have many friends and would have more if you would return, men who, I venture to say, would not defer to either the English nor your Scotsmen when it comes to loving and honoring you. As far as religion goes, which you mentioned in the second place, let the prelates themselves look to this, for they assuredly will not go long unpunished if they administer their provinces negligently. Better for us not to criticize that category of men and, as they say, bring matters down to ourselves, carefully inquiring if we are doing our duty. For their negligence cannot help our cause if it is a bad one. Mind you, I do not wish to be understood as speaking in support of reprobates and rogues or doubting your sincerity, but rather because I am somehow offended by certain men’s absurd charity, who see other men’s faults with great clarity, but are blinder than moles towards their own. If something is done amiss by others, they are greatly scandalized, they lay their accusations with gravity and suffer acute sorrow (as they wish it to seem), but in the meantime they are unconcerned about amending their own vices, even when they are of the foulest. Therefore let us shift our discourse from these hateful things, and indeed from others that are equally secular and humdrum, to some noble subject likely to be of some substantial benefit.
4. FLOR. Wisely and kindly spoken, Francesco, and I am no little encouraged by your words, so I must confess that I’m greatly in your debt. If my speech, which in part criticized prelates for their idleness in religion, struck you as a little over-harsh, as I live and as Christ favors me, the reason why I was somewhat vehement in this matter and a trifle heavy-handed in railing against that class was no ill-will or harshness of disposition; rather, I was moved by a concern for the public weal and their own dignity. But now I am girding myself to meet your demand, and gladly so, since I’m being bidden by you to run in that direction where I ought to have gone of my own volition. And in the meantime I congratulate you, since (to your everlasting praise) in the flower of your young life and having subdued the desires of youth, you willingly spend your time in these most noble studies by which the mind gains its adornment: not only the time which is left over after you have attended to your necessary concerns, but also that which must be devoted to recovering your health. And I have no fear of being held suspect for flattery, since I am surrounded by so many witnesses to this thing. But come, in what conversations do you wish us to engage? What should we discuss?
FRANC. You will have me as a willing listener concerning anything that properly pertains to the mind’s composure, for I am already so disposed that there will be no need for an elaborate introduction to make me a docile and attentive student. But since it is the custom that, should any doubt arise, listeners have the freedom to ask questions, I beg you not to be disturbed if either I or our friend Demetrio (who, as see, is hastening up to join our company) occasionally interrupt your discourse. As far as I know, there will be no other intruder.
5. FLOR. No you are assigning me the role to play that you should be reserving for yourself. For in addition to that happy nature of yours, which is quite singular, you have an abundant supply of precocious wisdom, which you have procured yourself by the constant moderation of your life, which is finest reason for philosophizing. But since I strike you as having supplemented my wit, such as it may be, with a smattering of learning and art, and you wish me to play the role of the professor, I shall do so, as long as I have the understanding and the ability, and I shall not shirk that disputation you desire me to undertake (although my reputation for intellect is at stake), but only on the condition that you supply the subject. And your interruptions of my discourse are so far from being troublesome that scarcely anything more welcome could occur. For although I know full well that in other respects you crave a learned, useful oration, your frequently inserted questions will give me a better guarantee of your constant attention. In addition, the wit of the man delivering the disputation is stimulated by timely contradiction, just as steel is whetted by being rubbed against steel, and the truth more readily attained, as long as the wrangling does not exceed is due limit. And so, if the need should arise, be sure not to omit any interruption, contradiction, or questioning as you see fit. But what is the meaning of this, that you seem plunged in deep thought, and all but immersed in it?
FRANC. Now, as I am silently comparing the aspect of today’s weather with that of yesterday, I immediately think over the things I have taken in with my eyes. As I do so, I chance to be coming across a subject (for you wanted it to be my responsibility to suggest one), and I think that none can be found that is richer or more profitable, even if one were to be industriously sought for, and there’s none I would rather have occurred to me.
FLOR. I’m eager to learn as quickly as possible what is so pleasing to you.
6. FRANC. Yesterday, when everything was troubled and cast into confusion by clouds, rain, and those vexatious blasts of wind, how unpleasant an aspect the weather had! Nature’s beauty seemed destroyed, and she herself to overwhelmed by a kind of mourning. Today no rain is falling, no violent crashing can be heard, nor do the clouds obstruct the rays of the sun, and nature’s former glory is restored. As a result, our minds also have a share in this happiness, which is, at is were, returned from exile. In the very same way, the mind seems like a gloomy and particularly unlovely thing when it is shrouded in the darkness of ignorance, tossed about by that furious hurly-burly of cares, but, on the other hand, “Happy of mind as he, and very like the gods in themselves who is untroubled by glory with its lying deception, nor by the evil joys of haughty luxury, but who allows his days to pass in silence and lives out the tranquil silence of an innocent life amidst the adornment of a pauper.” Although these verses are the work of some modern writer (if I am not mistaken, they belong to a certain Angelo Poliziano), I have gladly recited them, both because they are pertinent to our topic, and also because the day before yesterday, if I recall, you lavishly praised them to me, meanwhile maintaining (with my complete agreement) that what matters is why and how somebody has written, not when he wrote.
7. FLOR. Beyond a doubt, this manner of speaking bespeaks a mind born for philosophy and is one of the signs by which one can identify a man who has made no little progress in the study of probity, as has been observed by Plutarch, who is indeed no mean author. For one must seize the opportunity of enriching and enhancing one’s virtue not just from books or the discourses of the wise, but also from any source at all one encounters, no matter how slight, by comparing similarities and investigating the likenesses of things. Thus Socrates understood that he should tolerate the spats of his quarrelsome wife for the sake of the sons he would father, no differently than one must tolerate rackety bothersome cackling chickens for the sake of their eggs. Thus Diogenes, seeing a slave drinking out of his cupped hand, learned a lesson in poverty and threw away the the cup he had been wont to carry about in his sack, as being a superfluous thing. Thus Pliny, that most distinguished writer about natural history, based on the fact that we start this life in tears and nakedness, accused the folly and criticized the vanity of those who, having such origins, imagine themselves born for a life of pride. Thus Seneca argues that we ought display a high and lofty spirit in the face of death, because when shrews and other very humble animals of that kind, created by nature so as to take flight, turn and face their enemy when there is no avenue for escape, and, though they are feeble of body, nevertheless courageously ready themselves for a fight. In sum, the books of all wise men are filled with such comparisons. And indeed your simile is particularly elegant and makes a fine beginning when you compare a troubled mind with the horrible and troubled aspect of nature, and on the other hand compare it in its tranquil state with its happy, serene appearance. But I am waiting to see where you are going.
FRANC. I desire to learn from you whether that tranquility of mind, for which (as it seems to me) we should not refuse to pay any price, is by any means obtainable in this life.
8. FLOR. I am of the opinion that it is entirely obtainable, even as we live here on this earth, and that you can procure for it for yourself, if not perfectly, at least to some distinguished degree, scarcely to be regretted, if you industriously apply yourself to that praiseworthy end.
FRANC So how does it happen that out of such a numerous throng of men so few obtain it? For how many are there who do not suffer from self-love or suffer from insatiable desires, who are content with their lot and condition? For it cannot be imagined that any man loathes himself to the extent that he would refuse to abandon this hateful condition of life he complains of, or to live without cares?
FLOR. Indeed to a man they all seek this, nor with all our exertions and such a painful course of our life do we seek anything but tranquility, as it is like the happiest harbor of all repose. For so we must conclude, since every business is undertaken for the sake of gaining some form of idleness. But, either because out of ignorance we are unsure of the thing in which tranquility is situated and whence it arises, or because of the mind’s weakness and debility we do not take firm strides along the path that leads to it, even if we know the way, it comes about that there are very few men who attain to it.
DEM. How do they seek it, if they are ignorant? How can it be that we seek after something unknown?
9. FLOR. Everybody understands the general proposition that the word tranquility denotes a certain absolute peace of mind when it is seeking nothing more, or certainly when it is not seeking anxiously. But it is not so commonly understood by the acquisition of what goods it exists, or how these good things out of which it is engendered are to be procured. An ill man knows what health us, but has no idea of the things by which it is procured, and how his medicine is to be compounded. A child furtively follows his mother when she goes outside the house, but when he comes to the street-corner and can catch no sight of her, now he is doubtful of mind and destitute of counsel, and he turns turns himself to bawling and tears; angry and howling, he uncertainly rushes hither and thither to fid her. He knows his mother has gone somewhere, but since he can’t discover or decide where or by what route he should go, he torments himself in vain. And indeed we, not very differently, not having an adequate grasp of the means of acquiring tranquility, wander about all over the place, vainly seeking satisfaction now from this, now from that, and trouble ourselves with constant torments, indeed being similar to those who dash around in a maze; as Seneca says, the faster we are in our retrograde movement, the farther we become removed from our goal.
FRANC. So is there some art, by whose precept we may be guided in acquiring tranquility?
10. FLOR. Indeed there is. For the task of all moral philosophy is located in this, and deals with it, so that it might be understood what goods we should most seek, whose fruits we may enjoy with no sorrow, and by what methods the tumult of our emotions can be restrained, emotions thanks to which the mind cannot without stumbling pursue the things defined by reason as genuine goods. But men’s idleness and sloth in this department of philosophy is remarkable. There are few who concern themselves with learning logic or the art of polished oratory. The department of natural philosophy deals almost entirely with opinion, save when the measurement of physical bodies or numbers are involved. In those cases some certitudes are expressed, but the rest consists pretty much of (to use Lucian’s witty expression) “squabbles over a donkey’s shadow.” And, although the investigation of nature is a very fine thing, the completion of this science cannot be hoped for in this life. The single moral department remains, which pertains to the entire human race, without any exception. For there is no man who is unconcerned about living his life in peace and quiet. And since this cannot be hoped for from any other source than the moral discipline (which reveals the end of good things and the path which leads there), the minds of young men need to be inculcated with this form of learning from their lives’ beginning, and the most useful precepts for doing their duties throughout the course of their lives needs to be dinned in their ear. For nowadays how many a man is there — and what can be imagined more shameful or deplorable? — who does not come to the end of his life before learning how it ought to be lived, who does not depart the light before gaining an understanding of why he has come into the possession of this light, and who is not destroyed in mid-course before being able to catch sight of his harbor? We must therefore apply ourselves with diligence to this art, our teacher about this life and all our duties. This way must earnestly learned, for if you are ignorant of it or abandon it you will not only fail to arrive at that sought-for repose, but will also fall into woes and certain inextricable difficulties. But here there is need for an able guide and appropriate escort on your journey. For many men deliver frigid moral precepts, that is, without any pleasantness or any rhetorical encouragements, that the man who reads of hears them often goes away empty, unmoved, and having gathered no profit.
DEM. Imagine me to be one (and would that I wouldn’t be such in point of fact!) who thus far has strayed from the path out of ignorance. For in my boyhood, either by my own fault or that of my parents, no great care was taken about these kinds of studies, nor, because of my affairs, have I had time reserved for learning and heeding philosophers. So it appears that there are grounds for fear lest, if I now (I mean too late) attempt to transfer myself from the everyday manner of life to this wise discipline which produces happiness, I should, as they say, be washing a brick or trying to whitewash an Ethiopian, and that there is no ability to return to the right path for somebody who has wandered so far astray. For who can clear his mind of what he has learned for so long? What do you think I should do at this point?
11. FLOR. Demetrio, I know you are not unfamiliar with polite letters and the Humanities, and indeed I respect you for being a man of great experience and no dullard. But, since for modesty’s sake you choose to dissimulate your excellence, for the moment I’ll address you as if you were one of the common run of mankind. At the end of your speech you touched, to a large part, upon what needs to be done. But so that the matter might be clearer, I’ll come back to the very comparisons you made. And first I ask you, is it agreed that that after the everyday path you took doesn’t take you there, some other one must be tried?
DEM. That’s no less necessary than there is agreement.
FLOR. Tell me this too. Have you ever been on a journey and come across some water or rough terrain, so that you turned aside from the well-worn pubic road into a meadow or field, and when it came time to return to the highway, you were compelled to ride your horse back over the entire distance you had covered?
DEM. I’ve often had that experience, occasionally not without the laughter of my friends, who for amusement’s sake allowed me to be deceived by the appearance of the route, when some mound or deep ditch or thick brush denied me an exit after I had traveled some distance.
FLOR. Not otherwise must the man do who has made a bad start in seeking the course of a tranquil life. For neither does the road which the common folk persist in taking lead there, nor is this road of tranquility of the kind that you can travel it by any idle passage; rather, it behooves you to return to the road’s beginning and, as they say, go back from the finish-line to the starting-gate. For a mistake at that beginning-point has great importance, and that is where nearly your entire journey hangs in the balance. But if, thanks to a change in your counsels and opinion, you are able to gain that starting-point of the road then, trust me, the entire business is easier than it is thought to be, and the route which a little while ago seemed insuperable will now reveal itself to you as smooth and easy to accomplish. Now observe how unreasonably we abandon our duty or enthusiasm for pursuing tranquility because of this excuse of difficulty.
12. FRANC. At this point I can’t forbear to contradict you. I have always heard that this is the common opinion of all the wise, that whatever is excellent is always difficult. At Lucca, when lectures on Cicero’s letters delivered to us schoolboys, I heard that line of Hesiod which Cicero included in one of them, “between us and Goodness the gods have placed the sweat of our brows.” With these words, I think, he indicates that those who strive for some excellence in virtue need to sweat, and sweat means difficult (or, if they are a trifle different, they are closely related). Now pray consider whether you have done aright when in mentioning the acquisition of tranquility of mind, easily the noblest of all things which (as you yourself will not deny) cannot be gained save by means of virtue, you had no hesitation in making mention of easiness. By the everlasting God, what more excellent or admirable a thing can be imagined than that the human mind, inhabiting this frail little body, is so constituted that, albeit surrounded on all sides by miseries and the target of fortune’s darts, is able not only to be true to itself, but also inwardly, I mean from within itself, produces incredibly sweet things with which it sustains and consoles itself? For, as I think, this is encompassed in the concept of tranquility. And we, gods willing, being at peace and carefree, will be borne aloft to this pinnacle. What is better known than those verses by the Roman poet, “The descent to Avernus is easy, the dark doors of Dis remain open days and nights. But to retrace your steps and return to the upper air, this is a a task, this is an effort. A few men of divine pedigree, loved by a favorable Jupiter or transported by their ardent virtue, have achieved this.” Why? Because, as Christ Himself said (if the authority of human testimony does not sway you), the road that leads there is narrow and not trodden by a large number of men.
13. FLOR. I am not unwilling to grant you this, that neither virtue nor the peace of mind we are seeking, nor any other excellent thing can be procured without some effort. The saying “fine things are difficult” is no less true than it is profitable. I likewise concede that it is impossible to climb up to the citadel of tranquility without virtue’s guidance. As Juvenal has it, “the path of a tranquil life is only available by means of virtue.” But I don’t consider it useful to confront novices with the words “virtue” or “effort.” Virtue, I admit, is a thing of incomparable beauty, but just as somewhat uncouth manners in a girl of excellent beauty are wont to frighten off suitors, so the very difficulty which the word “virtue” proclaims (for it is virtue which fights against difficulties) can cause beginners to lose heart. But I am entirely of the opinion that the essence of power need to be taught, and taught with great diligence. Therefore, like those physicians who administer medicines to children, even the somewhat older ones if their palates remain sensitive, mix in some honey if there is a good deal of absinthe in the drug or potion, or smear the cup’s rim with some sweet liquid, lest the unwelcome flavor impede the consumption of the wholesome medication, thus the visible terror of virtue is to be hidden under the guise of of tranquility, so that mortals may realize that they are not being summoned to virtue so much as to a constant pleasure even within this present life, with great hope of easiness thrown into the bargain. Thus they will more eagerly come a-flocking and will be more steadfast in persevering in this undertaking. For there is something sweet and seductive in the very word “tranquility” which attracts and entices minds to it. Likewise the precepts of this art, if they are appropriately communicated, have their own advantages from which you can’t shrink unless you are a man of fierce and brutal nature. And, just as those anodynes, as the physicians call them, find particular favor when they dispel pain without inflicting any pain of their own, so it is exceptionally praiseworthy to have diminished the difficulty of excellent things.
FRANC. Pardon me for saying so, but how will clear yourself in our eyes of the charge of vanity and pretence? Doesn’t this amount to deceiving another man’s credibility by constructing a lie, if you promise ease in a business which entails much sweat? Honesty and candor especially befits philosophers (I mean teachers of ethics). So you must enter into a fuller exposition of your reason for this statement.
14. FLOR. There’s no deception or pretence at all. First, this is because, in this way, the interests of that man you have undertaken to help are being consulted, for otherwise he might perhaps shrink from the difficult of these things, if they were set forth. Next, because where virtue has been enhanced, it leaves not the slightest trace of difficult in those actions it inspires. At the beginning it is hard to resist wanton impulses, restrain desires, cool the fires of anger, especially if they have acquired some strength out of habit. But after you have been accustomed for a while to exercise these functions of wisdom, you will freely and gladly exhibit that which previously could only be wrenched from you against your will. Hesiod affirms this in the same passage whose beginning you have already quoted: “when a man has reached the top, then is she easy to reach, though before that she was hard.” As Terence says, “At the beginning, and when you ignorant, things are hard, but easier when you have understanding.” And lastly, this too must be considered, that the initial difficulty is wonderfully lessened if you make a legitimate beginning, starting at the right place. If progress is not impeded at the very outset, it is easy. Remove ignorance, remove pernicious opinions about the value of things, the source of all error, and your road to all excellence will be a smooth one. Law trustworthy foundations for virtue, by which I mean set the price on all things that ought and deserves to be set and no more, and you’ll see the rest of the structure virtually rising of its own volition. Never could you produce a sentiment more true and reasonable than that of the poet I just quoted, “The start is half of the whole.” And furthermore, that I have quoted from Vergil about it being granted only to men born of the gods to return from the Underworld (which means, as I think it should be understood, men who, their love of physical and perishable things set aside, are continually transported to that pure and unchanging glory of souls) does nothing much to contradict my opinion, since none of us is not of divine birth. For in the Acts of the Apostles St. Paul cites this testimony out of Aratus, “we are all of His race.” But most frequently the mind degenerates by its own fault and because of its association with the body, so that only they can seem divinely-born who indulge the body as little as possible. And finally, that passage of Scripture you produced pertains to greater things, as it points out the remarkable weakness of our powers in performing those things required by Christian piety. But here too, if I am not deceived by everything that comes to mind to confirm me in this view, by far the greatest amount of exertion occurs at the very outset. And yet this is removed by a certain divine inspiration, and when this occurs, good God, what a keenness of spirit springs up, even as we are enduring the greatest pains! Let this be proved by the Apostles, the first founders of Christian piety and others who, as soon as that sacrosanct persuasion about Christ touched their minds, were then wont to rejoice exceedingly (as is recounted in the annals of our religion’s earliest days), and regarded themselves as most blessed on that score, when they were deemed worthy to be reproached for the sake of Christ our Savior.
15. FRANC. I gather from your speech that there is a certain art of acquiring tranquility, although it is not familiar to many men. And, as you think, it is far easier than is commonly imagined, if it is properly inculcated and due caution is exercised at the beginning. So far, so good, and until now you have done a fine job, filling us with hope for some singular profit, now that you have convinced us that the effort will be lessened. For it is the difficulty of things which chills our enthusiasm for the study of virtue. God grant that the remainder matches such fair beginnings. Now as for myself (if I may lay my complaint in your lap), although amidst this hubbub of cares in which I am plunged (not out of my own will but according to the wishes of those I cannot refuse), I strive to be true to myself, yet thus far by no exertion I have been unable to avoid the mental anxieties and wounding blows by which I am sometimes, if not stabbed, at least sharply stung, and am kept away from the longed-for harbor of tranquility as if some contrary wind were blowing. And so I beseech you again and again to teach us some more effective way of coming into this port, and you may regard this as the topic assigned by us for your argumentation. And what you have said thus far seems to serve as a very appropriate introduction. And if you continue to oblige our request (as we are quite confident you will), I promise promise that you will occupy an excellent position of esteem with both of us (if I may make this promise on behalf of Demetrio, whom I imagine is not yet settled in Jove’s lap). I am led to believe you have some ability in this line because I see that you are always calm and cheerful amidst your conspicuous poverty, and that with your great and lofty mind you scorn the outward splendor of things. I have no idea whether you have acquired this thanks to divine intervention and in a manner outside the range of normal human experience. But this is quite certain, that such a great thing does not befall any man by mere happenstance. I would not venture to attribute it to the bounty of your nature, since I know from living with you for a long time and our domestic experience, that you are particularly hot-blooded and very eager for those things which are commonly regarded as excellent. But you force yourself to observe that orderliness of yours and restrain yourself, as it were, with the bridle of moderation. So it follows that you have achieved that equanimity by art and effort.
16. FLOR. Logically and from this art you have learned the truth of Cicero’s dictum, “nature’s goodness imitates learning.” But we must get to the point. Since I am not sufficiently versed in those supports which the arguing of this subject demand, and am not adequately prepared for such an important matter (for here there need for great force of intellect and great erudition in many of the arts), for the present I must refer you those writers who have explicitly treated this subject, I mean to Seneca and Plutarch, and indeed to Cicero himself, who has very copiously discussed it in his Tusculan Disputations. But since I must satisfy the promise that I have already given, I shall attempt to do as you wish and deposit with you some manner of pledge, if not of learning, most certainly of earnest good-will. I regret (albeit too late) that I have not studied learned literature to the point that I am able to supply what you wish in abundance. But since, whatever I may seem to you, Francesco, I am beyond doubt more than sufficiently liable to mankind’s common infirmities and am ashamed of myself much more often than I would wish, I can’t pretend to be your teacher in this business without a show of arrogance. Therefore I shall not ask what road you ought to take, but rather I shall join with you in inquiring how you arrived at that steadiness of mind you have already achieved, and maintain thanks to a certain heavenly guidance and your happy character. Meanwhile you will pardon this barbarian, I mean a man born and raised in another language and other manners among the distant Britons, and imbued late in life with a smattering of that learning which to us is something foreign and strange, if he handles this argument somewhat clumsily, if his speech is unpolished and redolent of foreignness, and, to sum it all up, that you won’t blame me if a poverty or either ideas or eloquence is visible in this hastily-produced work (and it most certainly will). I thought I should say this because, although one should never zealously strive for a reputation for ability, it should not therefore be entirely neglected.
FRANC. Florence, you should at some point put an end to this modesty of yours and with good birds of omen, as they say, spread the sails of your exposition to the winds as quickly as you can. As I have always observed, you are by nature a hater of superficiality and idle speech, and I have no great need for a polished orator, being content with that kind of discourse which sets forth its matter suitably and appropriately. And so I hope that we are in good agreement. Nor am I unaware that it is your habit to supply more than you promise.
17. FLOR. I fancy that the sea (or anything else which likewise wont to be agitated) is traditionally said to be tranquil in Latin after those heaving waves violently stirred up by the sea have grown quiet. In the same way, as you yourself rightly observed at the outset, the tranquility of the mind is a calm steadiness of mind, free of the tumult of the passions. Or, if you like a shorter definition (it is our habit, and required by the nature of disputation, that our beginning must be made from a definition), it is a equable state of mind, consistent with reason. The force of this definition is very meaningfully expressed by the Green word εὐθυμία. And so tranquility exists thanks to the calming of the emotions, as from an efficient cause. Thus tranquility is created by the calming of the senses, and from it immediately spring forth enduring pleasures unknown to the common run of mankind.
FRANC. So it appears that there are gusts of emotions which prevent the mind from being at rest.
FLOR. It is indeed as you think. For our emphasis is placed entirely on sedating them: we must resist them might and main if we care to lead this very brief span of life granted us in tranquility and peace, so that (if I may use Cicero’s words) “the mind neither blazes with anger, nor is inflamed by lust, nor melts in pleasure.”
FRANC. So at the very beginning of this disputation we have chosen it will be worthwhile, before you enter into an exposition of your main part, to speak about the character and differentiation of the emotions, where they are located, why they arise, and what Aeolus stirs them up, and it will be useful and timely to explain this.
18. FLOR. I must doubtless do as you say. But since these disputations you have proposed belong more to the department of natural philosophy than moral philosophy, with which we must be concerned, they must only be touched on as a side-issue and in passing. Therefore, so that everything will be clearer, I shall first give a general explanation of what an emotion is, where it springs from, and where it resides. Then I shall speak of how many there are and of their several natures, and whether they are to be wholly overthrown or only moderated. Lastly, I shall discuss the means of their moderation and what advantages we reap from that. When these parts have been dealt with as they should be, if I am not mistaken, our Schools curriculum will not inappropriately be finished. In the first place, one must know that Boethius (by far the most learned of men, when it comes to the understanding of things) spoke of what the Greeks call πάθη as passions (albeit with questionable Latinity). We ought to join Cicero and Quintilian in calling them perturbations, affects, or affections. And so it may be clearly established what an affect is, it will be worthwhile to derive a differentiation of things from the very top of the tree. So then, of all the things which can be effected from the outside and some external cause (and everything other than God Himself belongs to this category), some are wholly devoid of cognition, such the Elements and every inanimate thing composed of them. To these you made add the Roots, which are all carried to their proper conclusion by a certain natural propensity without any preceding perception of a thing being suitable: thus some men refer this as natural appetite. By dint of this, stones and everything possessed of weight fall, light things are borne aloft, and likewise plants drink moisture from the soil and, in sum, every thing has need of that whereby it is perfected. This is distinct from the thing in which it is said to exist in theory rather than in fact. Other things are endowed with cognition, and they are threefold in nature. Some only thrive with sensation, the function of which is concerned merely with gross things and bodies, and this occurs without making any comparisons or that kind of discrimination which perceives the organization or connection of things, so its entire task is performed within very restricted limits. To this category belong the beasts, who are all possessed of that appetite which can be called animal, and is commonly called sensitive, although in my opinion that is bad Latin. This is the faculty which allows a living thing to pursue or avoid that which it has perceived by means of sensation. Other living things are so endowed with an excellence and purity of intellect that there is nothing corporeal in their nature, and7 this class of things are called οὐσίαι κεχωρισμέναι, i. e., separate entities (if one can speak thus), and indeed the philosophers sometimes call them gods, but by us they are said to be minds and intelligences, and according to the custom of religion as transmitted to us by Scripture they are called by a Greek word angels. In them resides an appetite of a certain simple nature which we call will.
19. A third kind must be distinguished, that consisting of those beings who have been endowed by nature with the gift of both sensation and reason or understanding, and only Man belongs to this category, who, just as by his sensation perceives what is gross in bodies, so, thanks to the benefit of intellect and reason, knowledgeably investigates and to some extent grasps the logic and order of bodies, and the things that are above and below him, and indeed also incorporeal things which are scarcely accessible to sensation. Because of his complex and multifaceted nature (for it was rightly noted by Plato that Man is a miniature universe, and has a share in everything that is enclosed in the greater one), in addition to those inclinations and proclivities which we have termed natural, among which you may count hunger and thirst, there are two other kinds of appetite, I mean animal, which is a companion of sensation, and rational, which is identified by the name of will. His function is to follow reason wherever it leads and always heed it. And there is no small distinction between these two latter appetitive faculties (for there is no reason to expend more words on that lowest kind, the natural) concerning both the things they seek and also in their very manner of seeking, and yet all of this derives from that anterior means of understanding and the boundaries of judgment, which are not equal to them. For just as perception, and that indeed of a gross kind, has been conceded to the physical senses, so the appetite that flows therefrom seeks only after corporeal advantages, and can extend itself no farther. Hence it comes about that the entire concern of animals is devoted to the pursuit of advantages and pleasures. Intellect, on the other hand, acknowledges not only perceptible things (for a superior cognitive faculty always embraces within itself every virtue of inferior ones, with no little enhancement), but also, transcending the limits of perceptible things and flying beyond the ultimate boundaries of physical things, it penetrates to things wholly free of embodiment, and indeed to that First of all things Which is purity and divinity Itself. And it is about these higher things that that loftier appetitive faculty should properly concern itself: this is its designated arena, this is the appointed in field in which it should rejoice. And also the manner of each of these faculties is different, because of the fact that the animal appetite is borne towards the satisfaction of particular desires by unconsidered impulse and necessary enthusiasm, being unfamiliar with freedom, whereas will, after reason has been consulted about the thing to be sought after or performed, freely pours itself into an immensity of good things, some of which pertain to the body, and others to the mind. Some exist in the present, some in the future; some are discerned with the eyes, but others exclusively with the mind.
20. For will, just like its companion intellect, is by its very nature free of matter. And the peculiar quality of matters (as will be clear enough to those who are familiar with the inner secrets of philosophical studies), is that it reduces the extent of forms to certain particular confines. For among us the number and division of things is hewn out of mass, and the distinction of things into their appropriate species follows this division of matter, as our Aristotle hints in more than one place. Therefore the further a faculty is removed from matter, it is freer and has larger scope to range abroad, so that it is not strange in Man, who thanks to reason (which by its very nature is most removed from matter) is capable of all things. By his zeal and his will he is carried to anything, transcending the boundaries of time and place, and is not obliged to apply himself to anything except some good proposed to him which manifestly contains with itself an infinity of good things. For a reason for rejection does not apply to a good of this class, which is what they call happiness. And indeed it is no contemptible argument that we have been born for great and more excellent things than the goods we can achieve in this life, indeed for something immense. From these initial distinctions arises that sharp and constant conflict between sense and reason in Man. Sense informs us that the good that is physically at hand, whereas reason always urges us to preserve our dignity, observe decorum (something sense has not been able to see) and allow ourselves to be drawn without interruption to the excellence of immortal things. In his treatise De Anima Aristotle teaches that this quarrel of the appetites is only to be found in that living thing which has a sure judgment about time, and is able to distinguish the immediate from the future. Undoubtedly he wants Man to be understood, who often, going against the body’s present affects, scorns the difficulties and pains of present situation for the sake of hoped-for future advantages. Thus the hope of regaining health inspires some men suffering from diseases to drink bitter potions, others to endure surgical operations and cautery, and yet others to tolerate having their members cruelly cut by steel. Would that among us mindfulness of eternity and the immortal glory of minds would have as much power as do the slender pleasures of this life which are not guaranteed to befalls us, but, once they have come, are guaranteed soon to perish!
21. But (to return to the point where I began my digression) beasts can never be inspired to tolerate present suffering out of hope for some advantage in the future, because they have no foresight concerning future things. The little birds, indeed, build nests, a dog follows its quarry thanks to its scent, and (if I may borrow the poet’s words), the ant stores up food “fearing poverty-stricken old age,” and, not to dwell on this point forever, you may find countless examples of such cleverness and varied industry in animals who live both on land and in water. But, as I see the most learned philosophers believe, all of these are not examples of some thought-process or careful prudence for the future, are done by some blind impulse and instinct of nature, which is their superior. The ancient philosophers were not interested in making as precise distinction of appetite as I have just done. But I, inspired by the authority of religion as well as reason, could not do otherwise than to decide, with assurance and not without good reason, that the mind is disjunct from the body and possessed of its own nature, lest, when it is free of the body, you might appear to be despoiled of your faculties and resources, and reduced to a certain inactivity and entombment, something from which nature greatly shrinks when it comes to excellent things.
22. Now, having completed this distinction of the appetites (and was indeed necessary to make it), let us come to a definition of the affections. In connection with our present subject, the word “affection” (although it has a wider scope), denotes nothing other than the arousal of the human appetite provoked by the perception of something pleasant or unpleasant. For in vision (to use it as an example), if color is introduced and light is not absence, there arises that action or affection which is called vision: thus when a living being is confronted by something regarded as agreeable or disagreeable by the evidence of the senses or of reason, there immediately exist in the appetite certain stirrings of attraction or aversion: i. e. love, anger, happiness, fear, pain, and the rest of the flock of kindred disturbances that can be categorized under these headings. I am sometimes compelled to use words not easily found among the best Roman writers, but I do so in order best to explain what I mean and so that the description and understand of things might be easier, since this is the result and profit of all discourse, the target towards which all speech and writing ought to be aimed, and if you miss it, even if you are Eloquence itself you are not eloquent. Sometimes, therefore, it will be worthwhile to express subtleties of thought in common, everyday words, although (as I must candidly admit the truth) I disapprove of a liberty of speech which greatly deviates from the standard of Roman style. So (to return to where I left off), in men there are two kinds of affects: some are grosser and common to men and beasts, and I have called them animal. Others are of a more subtle nature, which are peculiar to that faculty which we call the will, and in this particular we are most akin to those separate minds.
23. FRANC. I have two points of uneasiness, both of which arise from your words. The first is created by your inclusion of love and happiness among the affections (when you were enumerating them in passing). If this is true, since an affection is the same as a disturbed motion of the mind, how can it be that love or happiness can befall God or in those intelligences which are first in dignity next to God? As I have learned from you gentlemen who are constantly involved in the investigation of nature, there is a great agreement among the learned, and I hear that it is accepted among all philosophers, that there is an absolute necessity for a Beginning of all motion, but that Beginning is itself unmoved in all respects, and hence immune to all disturbances. But if you take happiness or love away from God or the other beings of heaven, and deny that they are bound by men’s gratitude and grace, not only Scripture, but also profane letters (if any literature is profane) will accuse and condemn you of a falsehood. A dictum by a profane poet, which is scarcely a profane observation is “Man is dearer to the gods than to himself.” What is our source of life itself, what is the source of our noble endowments both of mind and body, if not by the bounty and consent of our everlasting God?
DEM. What kind of life could there be for anybody, which is not suffused with the sweetness of love and happiness?
FRANC. My other objection is of this kind. Since will belongs to the more excellent soul, I mean the kind called the rational, how does it come about that it regularly yields so disgracefully, and in almost every quarrel is bested by that animal appetite? So it seems either to be non-existent, or at least added as idle afterthought, since it is constantly on vacation from its duty, never displaying its noble and excellent power. Among mankind, how common is he who pursues those splendid considerations of immortality, who is either not wholly immersed in the mud of the pleasures or swept into silliness by windy praises, who does not, in sum, seek after the advantages of the present, so that “virtue,” “uprightness,” and “heavenly beings” appear to be empty words with no solid meaning, but only idle things introduced into men’s speech by the falsehood of philosophers?
24. FLOR. You overwhelm me with the abundance of your acumen, and it seems to me that each of you have decided to reinforce the other in besieging me. I should take to my heels if as boys we had not had a taste of Dialect, which supplies no small help in removing difficulties in argumentation. Briefly, you must understand this about God, for it is here that you seem to have caught me in a dilemma. There are some affects which are not attributed to Him save metaphorically, that is by a certain figure of speech and similitude. Thus He is also said to grow angry and wrathful, and this manner of speech is common even in Scripture. For, since these affects contain within themselves a certain deformity, they cannot properly apply to Him. It is therefore correctly appreciated by theologians that, whenever in our speech we apply anything we find in ourselves to God, if that word attributes anything deformed or imperfect, this deformity must be removed or banished from our mind’s thought. In Him, therefore, anger and wrath are not troubled emotions but very placid thoughts of justice, to which the names of anger and wrath are applied because of the severity of His punishment. But other affections properly belong to Him, and of this kind are the love and happiness you just now mentioned, and whatever other words of this kind there exist, which denote nothing unworthy. But His transcendence in all things is so great that both these things and those mentioned above, which we said were attributed to him by the rationale of a figure of speech, are very foreign to anything of the kind we possess, since those are attributed to Him by His nature and are entirely separate from everything that is moveable or turbulent. Things other than God possess in themselves something variable and capable of assuming many forms, whereas God Himself is a simple thing of a single kind, possessing nothing concrete in that infinity of things, and so theologians regard words applicable to both God and men as homonyms, i. e., words that have different meanings. For the poverty of our speech cannot match that ineffable majesty of God Almighty, and the humility of our affairs is removed from the loftiness of His by such a great interval that by comparison ours occupy the place of pictures or images, or more truthfully shadows, rather than of solid things. And so, in comparison with His happiness and the blessedness of the life He enjoys that whatever we possess of pleasures or joys almost takes on the aspect of sorrow or pain.
25. And, to deal with that related question about angels (for it is not my purpose to discuss the nature or manners of those minds, but rather to heal the faults of ours), that which the philosophers of the Peripatetic school unanimously teach must be noted, that motion only pertains to corporeal things, with the result that affection takes on the aspect of motion then but not otherwise, since in bodies are elements consisting both of mind and body. So those inferior minds, even if separated from the purity of that First Mind by an infinite interval, since they are wholly free of a corporeal nature, are likewise affected subtly and without any turbulence of motion. But in ourselves both affections take on the aspect of motion, but the one kind (i. e., the animal ones) have this because of their nature, but it is not the same with the voluntary ones. For every animal affection bears with it a certain associated physical change: in happiness, blood and spirits are sweetly poured around the heart; in fear and pain, on the other hand, there is an unpleasant contraction of these same thing, which is usually accompanied by pallor of face; in anger there is a certain boiling of the bile and an immoderate heating of the blood, so that the face takes on a threatening appearance and fierce expression; the countenance of shame is suffused with blood, and the logic is not dissimilar concerning the other affects. Additionally, the animal appetite itself, from which these affects derive, cannot exist if it is not attached to a body. But the will, just like the intellect on whose guidance it depends, is not so immersed in the body, nor in its appetite does it necessarily entail these physical alterations, for to the degree that each man is most prudent and sedate of mind, to that same degree he is less subject to turbulences of that kind, as can sometimes be appreciated in those men in whom no trace of anger appears even as they are wreaking vengeance on the guilty, and who amidst very fearful circumstances lose nothing of their former countenance. But since a certain connection and natural overflowing occurs when the will itself is vehemently aroused, and the animal appetite is also stirred, even the affects of the will are not entirely free from movements and perturbations, and if they pass beyond the bounds prescribed by reason, they are then called diseases.
26. The usual reason why reason is abandoned when appetitition is at work has to do with the things towards which the animal appetite is characteristically swept, i. e. because of the pleasant things of the bodies, by the fires of which we are wont to be kindled for commission of every wrongdoing. For it has previously been said that the animal appetite seeks those things which pertain to the body, and while doing so, zealously fighting against reason on behalf of the body, by a wonderful kind of association it also abducts the will to participate in a criminal conspiracy. Therefore, since our affections are rarely free of movement, and movement does not exist save in the body, by the contagion of which the mind too is inspired to base things, not undeservedly Plato located the source and origin of perturbations and diseases of the mind in the body, so that the mind first begins to be disturbed when it migrates into such an unfamiliar and disturbed dwelling-place, and said that it is destined to be come blessed then and only then, when it will leave the body and be free of desires and strivings. There is a notable passage about this very thing in Plato, which is wholly manufactured in Plato’s workshop (he is speaking of souls): “The strength of those seeds is fiery, and their origin celestial, to the degree that they are not impeded by harmful bodies and their earthly frames and mortal limbs do not impede them. This is why they fear, desire, grieve and rejoice, having no care for the light, since they are pent up in shadows and this dark dungeon.” What Socrates said as he was about to drink the hemlock is relevant, when he bade Phaedo discharge a vow by sacrificing a cock to Asclepius. For he perceived that the boon of health was not far removed, since now he was to leave his body, which teemed with faults. And indeed it can appear to be the result of a certain cruelty of nature that Man’s most noble spirit so wretchedly lies confined in this rotten, infected hulk of the body. That statement of St. Paul can seem to refer to this same thing, even though it has a far more divine underlying meaning: “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”
27. But I see I have dwelt on this point too long. Now I must come to the shameful victory of that animal appetite and explain the origin of this calamity. I imagine that someone who wholly relies on human wisdom and has not been schooled by divine aid and from oracles will say that understanding of the truth and untainted judgment concerning genuine goods is not produced save after a long time and by means of much mental exertion. For it is by this single method that the lights of the mind are made visible, and we have need of these in their clearest form so that we may perceive that incredible beauty which resides in the honorable, and unless this seizes us, we must needs descend into a false appearance of goods. But as matters now stand, as soon as we are borne into the light and taken up by our parents, a corrupt education captures us: we become accustomed only to the pleasures of the body; the examples set by the common run of mankind, agreeable to vices, and this age of ours, rife with sin, corrupt us and bring it about that, like cattle, we follow the lead of the herd, going where the road takes us rather than where we ought to go. We are imbued with very false opinions about what things are to be sought and what to be avoided, with the the result that, as Cicero says, “we appear to have imbibed error together with the very milk of our nursemaids.” For gradually our habit deviates from the right way and is brought to the point that all assemblies of men, wherever you go in the world, seems to be a school of crime and common workshop of evildoing. What can you do here, since wickedness has calloused them before before their judgment was able to ascertain the power of uprightness. As they grow older, therefore, although the reason, inspired by the admonitions of wise men, awakens somewhat, nevertheless the will, long accustomed to obey the commands of sensation, casts off the yoke with difficulty and from very sluggish beginnings grows to its native strength. We see that dyed wool cannot lose its color undamaged, and thus vices acquired from the earliest years barely admit a cure, nor is it easy to set reason, rescued from slavery, in its kingdom, once the senses have come rushing in to gain possession of it. As it is written in Scripture, “Can the Ethopian chcange his skin, or the leopard his spots? Then may ye also do good, that are so accustomed to do evil.”
28. This is the reason why we observe those who turn to the dictates of right counsels wonderfully struggling at the beginning, just as recuperating invalids totter. Thus the power of the will within us is feeble, the powers of reason are asleep, having previously been overwhelmed by popular opinions and bound by the chains of depraved habit before reason is able to shake off the slumber which overcame it when first it entered the body. In addition, these bodily goods (from the appetite for these all our dignity’s downfall arises) are presently at hand, but the goods of the mind are either in the future or deeply hidden. And since, when it comes to seeking something, it makes no small difference whether that thing is in the future or present (for we are are more sluggish in preparing ourselves for those prizes which are not shown to us or visible), we abandon those deeply buried or future ones and embrace those that are present. The perfection of consistency improves the aim of appetite, i. e., goodness itself. But this disputation has need for more subtle attention. This answer, even if it is full of a physical explanation and is not entirely removed from the truth, is nevertheless not the full account of this thing. There must be some other origin of this evil, the strength of which is so great that no member of mankind from the beginning of this race has been found who has cleanly done his duty or performed everything required by the laws of humanity. For indeed there are many things, and these fine in men’s opinion, which combine to destroy the honorable, nor has there been, nor can there be, any moral maxim, no matter how earnest, that can be bestowed on Man so that no elements of perversity reside in his inmost nature, from which discharges the constant pus of constant impurity. Therefore Christian doctrine alone can show us the sources of this evil. By its teaching we understand that the original parent of our race, ignored the obedience he owed to God, the king and lord of all things, and sinfully pursued some present desire, as we ourselves never fail to do. The violence and contagion of his rashness was such (lest anyone imagine that it is a light thing to scorn our everlasting God’s commandments) that all posterity descended from him is wounded and prostrated by that original wounding. Hence these poisons of our nature; hence the darkness of mind, thanks of which we cannot appreciate either God’s greatness nor His goodness; hence that forgetfulness and neglect of piety; hence our preposterous, impious self-love; hence the infirmity and weakening of our strength; hence the error of our reason; and hence, likewise, the languor of our will.
29. To deny that all these defects and frailties, and indeed constant impiety, than which nothing is worse, exist within us is to deny that the sun has light. For God Himself, by dint of the very fact that He is God, by right makes this claim, that we invest all our effort and thought into His love and worship. As Cicero says, “the beauty of this universe and orderliness of the things in the heaven compel us to confess that there is some excellent, eternal nature, and that the human race must revere and admire it.” If we could do this by yourselves, sometime among such a great number of humanity over such a long succession of centuries there would have existed some man who would have attained perfection in performing the whole of this duty. But since nobody of the kind as existed without the special help of divine help, who has combined innocence of life with true piety (as the history books can easily inform you), we must entirely confess that our very nature is in some way damaged and infirm. And yet divine goodness has never been failing for the human race, which is healed of its disease by Christ Himself, by Whose kindness this disease has been acknowledged. But this teaching has not wholly penetrated our minds, save for those who have abandoned all self-reliance and have turned themselves wholly to heaven’s help. Here there comes to mind the story (not without its usefulness) about a man who fell into a deep well. Asked by someone else how he suffered his fall, answered that this was of no importance: what mattered was how he might be rescued. Thus in the present we must especially apply ourselves to this: that, after we have realized we are are shattered and have learned by experience the magnitude of our feebleness in that at which we should most excel, we should strive to depend on the help of Christ, and from all sources to seek out means by which the integrity of our dutifulness might endure.
FRANC. You have satisfied the questions I propose in such a way that for the present I require nothing more, and your explanation of these things was all the more welcome and pleasant to hear because, as befits a pious man, you ended with the praise of religion. But before you return to your topic tell me how Adam, the original father of our race, could so shamefully fail in his duty although his nature was not yet corrupted. For you say that the corruption of our nature descended from him.
30. FLOR. Indeed, his nature was not corrupted prior to his fall, as is ours, but everything outside of God is weak, especially if left to its own devices, and, to tell you the truth as I see it, the story of the Creation and Adam seems to make this point, that we might understand that even those things that appear most excellent and on whose grace other things depend (not to preen ourselves arrogantly on something) exist in the most precarious situation and are most in need of divine help and should earnestly take refuge in divine aid. For we crave to be gods and seem so to ourselves, and we seek to be regarded as such (who is there who does not demand to be first in all respects, a thing which resides in a unique participation in divinity?), and if we compare ourselves with the brute beasts we are nearly such. But these ignorances and lapses of ours, which cannot escape our notice if we open our eyes even little, sufficiently declare that we hope in vain for any divinity or true greatness, save in acknowledging and worshipping Him Who alone is truly great and truly God.
FRANC. This strikes me as spoken in accordance with both natural philosophy and Christianity, I mean with piety. But (so that I may be responsible both for your discursus and your return to your subject), now tell me this, if there are any other causes of the affects beyond things themselves and our appetitive faculties when excited by things being shown us?
31. FLOR. Indeed there are, but things which enhance and strengthen them rather than serving as efficient causes. There is crasis or mixture, I mean the temperament of the body, which is very reliant on the qualities of its elements. There is also habit, produced in Man by custom. The power of crasis in this respect is shown by the example of those with a superfluity of bile adust, who have a singular proclivity towards anger. Much hilarity of blood impels us to happiness and love. Phlegm begets dullness and sluggishness. Those with a preponderance of black bile are wont to be oppressed by suspicions and fears. Indeed, Galen argued in a book on the subject that the mind’s dispositions are produced by the temperament of the body. And the affections undergo a change as we pass through life’s stages. For when youth’s vigor (which we call the acme) passes, and when the intense fire of middle age is dampened, the ardors of our lusts grow old and, as Horace says, “white hair gentles our spirits.” But other sordid cravings grow along with our years, with the result that no part of age, be it adolescence, the flower of youth, or old age (the dregs of our life), which is not enmeshed in its own faults and exposed to affections. Closely akin to this verdict is a certain poetic fiction preserved in the writings of both Aristotle and Plato, that there was a good deal of gold inmixed in the nature of certain men; others were made of an alloy for the most part composed of silver; and yet others could be discovered weighed down by iron and lead. The point of this allegory, as I fancy, resides in this that different men are found to be naturally talented at different things, and there is a great difference in their natures. This one has an ambitious, restless nature, that one a sedate and easy one; this man is born of wise stock and is fit for doing great deeds, that one is fit for a certain mediocrity, and a third one must be relegated to craftsman’s work and humbler tasks. Cicero was of the opinion that certain men were so gifted by nature’s bounties that “they appear not to have been born, but created by some god.” These are the very men, as Juvenal has it, “whose wits the Titan manufactured with his kindly art out of some superior mud.”
32. Those who profess to an understanding of the stars say that, in addition to the constitution produced in every man by the mixture of elements, there is another created by the position of the stars at the exact moment of our birth, which flows into our bodies. And, since the heaven has greater power than the elements, these same gentlemen claim that a man who, thanks to the mixture of his elements, is greedy, lascivious or effeminate, can be rendered kindly, devoted to martial pursuits, or chaste and self-controlled by his horoscope, i. e. by the aspect of his birth-stars, and that he should have as little contact with bodies as possible. For my part, I do deny that the position of the stars does influence many things, and therefore that they either increase or diminish desires in individual cases. But we must steadfastly cling to two things. The first is that neither crasis nor the stars can apply force to our minds and remove our freedom of choice. For although the body subjects us to the domination of the stars and the temperament of the body fills us with a strong propensity, nevertheless, if I may employ Terence’s words, “a liberal cause manumits us,” with the result it does not reside in natural causes, but rather in the will, whether it applies itself to this or to that.
33. The other is that nature’s depravity is corrected by honorable efforts, not as a favor conferred by some star. Zopyrus the physiognomist, as is told by Cicero, said that Socrates was a stupid, dull man of petulant character, and when this was received with derision by Alcibiades and others familiar with the man’s integrity and wisdom, Socrates himself, the offended party, was kind enough to come to Zopyrus’ defense: he frankly admitted that nature had created him as such a man as the physiognomist had said, but by his industry he had developed into another man, and his flawed nature had been overcome by himself and subdued by learning.
34. Custom (so that I might come this part of my discussion) has its power in arousing affects. Aristotle adopted the view of a certain poet named Evenus in saying it is wont to be persistent and finally transforms into nature. For, since those things which are within us by nature cannot be wholly removed and uprooted, so to that is difficult to eliminate which has become habitual through long usage. And, just as we experience no trouble or effort in vision, hearing, and the other such activities provided us by the power of nature, so custom in doing anything at all supplies singular ease and constancy. For by means of custom, i. e. the frequent repetition of actions over time, arises that quality which the Greeks call ἕξις, and we habit. For just as by touching strings as it should or drawing a pencil the hand acquires a certain readiness relevant to the science of lute-playing or drawing, so each human appetite is molded to certain dispositions by custom, so that it is exercised readily and with ease. With what great difficulty they who never troubled themselves to gain mastery over such furies restrain themselves from taking offence, how irascible they are, how readily they are provoked! And on the other hand you can see others who, no matter how possessed they are of a irascible nature, experience no difficulty in dissimulating or scorning insults, since they are accustomed to restraining themselves by applying the precepts of wisdom. The matter is no different in love and the other perturbations of the mind. And so there is a habit of crime, if it has been vicious, but if it pertains to uprightness, it becomes a certain ripeness of virtue. And inasmuch as out of habit a certain form of necessity exists in our actions, we must energetically strive not to be come habituated to any baseness. An ill man cannot restore himself to health by an exertion of the will, nor can a man recall a stone once he has thrown it, and in the same way, as Aristotle says, a man inured to some vicious habit cannot restore himself to wholesomeness.
35. And yet necessity does not therefore excuse the vice, because in the beginning the man was free to devote himself to probity or wrongdoing, just as the cast of the stone was optional before it was cast from the hand, and the disease was contracted by the fault of the patient who neglected the legitimate manner of life that had been prescribed by his physician. But I think this dictum of Aristotle’s about necessity must be understood as having been said by way of hyperbole, and I understand “necessity” as meaning “difficulty.” There is no habit acquired by human effort that by the same logic cannot be destroyed, if you wholly devote yourself to this. Nobody is plunged so deep in the mire of the vices that he cannot get out and return himself to wholesomeness, since determined effort overcomes nature’s evil disposition. And accustomization indeed introduces difficulty into minds as well as bodies. For a sudden swelling of the eyes is easier cured than chronic bleariness, and here for a wicked man nothing cannot be conquered by effort. Under the heading of habit is subsumed training, and the Spartan lawgiver Lycurgus amply showed the great importance of training for the acquisition of virtue with the famous example of the puppies. He trained two, one of whom was whelped from that ignoble breed used as watchdogs for houses, and this one he trained for hunting. The other was a purebred, and he allowed it to lull about the house among the cooking-pots. In the sight of the people he produced them both in the market-place, on the one side of which were placed thorn-bushes and and on the other pots full of food. When a hare was set loose both dogs ran to their familiar setting, and Lycurgus said, “You observe how a noble nature has degenerated because of its training, and likewise how a base one has been ennobled. So you must rest assured that, even if your stock is descended from Hercules, unless you exert yourselves to imitate his feats, you are destined soon to degenerate because of your disgraceful idleness.” Thus Plato thought that all men are to be trained for virtue beginning in childhood. For proper training corrects faults of character, and, if it does not wholly uproot inborn depravity, it has a wonderfully ability to check and weaken it. And since, as Horace says, “A cask long retains the scent of the wine that was poured in it when it was new.” Like the branches of saplings, tender years are flexible and young can bend them where you will, so, as I said above, you must care for them with great diligence, and young men are to be trained for this before the down grows on their cheeks, so that their minds can be induced to think honor is to be valued more than life itself.
DEM. I have heard that your Aristotle debarred young men from the pursuit civil and all moral education on the grounds that they are unsuitable for admission into the lecture-hall where morals are discussed. This indeed seems contrary both to what you are teaching and to the truth itself.
36. FLOR. Being clearly a man of greatest and most keen intellect, Aristotle did not think that age should be neglected; rather, following Plato’s opinion, in Book II of the Nichomachean Ethics he says that it needs most zealous cultivation. His words are these: “So it is of no small moment, but rather of very great significance, nay, all-important, whether children are educated this way or that from the cradle.” But what he said at the very outset of that same Book, that young men are unfit students of moral philosophy, pertains to something else, namely that it should be understood that, because of their inexperience, they cannot follow reason as the instructor of their life. For they have still lived only a small amount of their lives. Likewise the weakness of their affections makes them reluctant to participate in the school of that doctrine. For since nature is still so new in them, as Eustratius learnedly writes, “they are only preoccupied with living, not with living well.” So all thoughts of that age are directed only to those things which establish that life which we share in common with the beasts, just as the fruit of intellect is not to be hoped for yet, but only after the habit of the body has been established. Therefore when they are still (if I may so speak) half-beasts, it’s no surprise if, because of the frenzy of their desires, they hold in scorn wise men’s precepts about properly shaping their lives. And since a thick callous of maliciousness is produced in the meantime, great work is subsequently created for their tutors, who, whether they apply precepts, rebukes or lashes, have a difficult job in make them adopt a different manner of pursuits. Wherefore the more vehemently that age shrinks from wholesome counsels, the more vigilantly they are to be admonished, the more earnestly they are to be exhorted. For with care they grow mild little by little, and turn out obedient and well-mannered. In his little book On Educating Children Plutarch delivers the opinion that excellent teachers are to be engaged as soon as possible, and he cites Plato when the forbids nurses to pour silly or base fables in children’s ears, for from this source some corruption of mind can exist in the decency of childhood. I admit I have consumed a lot of words in this section, but they are not entirely beside the point, because nearly the manner of nearly our entire remainder of life depends on training. But before I cease speaking about this point, let me add this: I am greatly desirous that parents take the trouble to select tutors of such intelligence that they strive to do their job in the manner of that famous Spartan pedagogue, so that the boys entrusted to their care delight in honorable things and feel disgust over shameful ones. Nature has endowed us with such a great taste for sweetness that youth acquire something of this taste, boy’s minds will be much more easily molded for virtue and every good feeling.
37. Thus far I have been speaking of the causes of the affections, now I must show their homes and nests. Natural appetites are distributed throughout the body of the living being, but those that pertain to the soul, where life’s vigor resides, more clearly manifest themselves in definite places. For hunger and thirst exist in the stomach when the liver demands its normal allocation of nourishment so as quickly to distribute it in the veins, and subsequently in the limbs. Natural lust, even if it manifests itself elsewhere, is by most writers assigned to the liver. Animal affections are thrown together in the heart and φρενἐς, i. e. the part surrounding the heart. The movement of will is situated in the rational mind, nor does it lay claim on any definite part of the body from which to flow, as neither do intellect or will itself. But so as not to depart too greatly from the normal manner of speech, they may be located in the heart. But here it must be noted that certain actions which do derive directly from the will, but are only command by it, such as walking and hearing, and likewise thought. These pertain either to the powers or the organs from which they properly arise. For we walk with our feet, hear with our eyes, and think by means of reason. There are others which will produces from itself, such as wanting or refusing, and it is the seat of these things, as I have just said.
FRANC. Since the mind is some kind of form and perfection of the body, what reason or religion prevents the parts of the body too from being perfected by those most excellent powers of the soul? Unless, perhaps, you are trying say that the powers of the soul, i. e., intellect and will, are of a purer and worthier nature than the soul itself. Why not attribute reason to the brain and will to the heart? Clearly those people appear to possess neither heart nor brain who, exclusively pursuing certain inanities, shun the normal habit of thinking.
38. FLOR. With those acute questions of yours, you almost make think that you’ve been trained in scholastic argumentation at Padua or Bologna, those most flourishing universities of Italy. But let me continue what I have been gone. Here a number of things crop up for our consideration and debate. Plato was of the opinion that anything beyond the mind lies entirely outside of Man’s essence (if I may employ a philosophical word), i. e., he regarded mind as our true nature and considered it only a guest of the body, occupying the same position as a captain does in a ship. Aristotle composed Man of mind and body, but whenever he had to form some conclusion about intellect he proceeded timidly and hesitantly, and, although everywhere he honored νοῦς, i. e. the mind or intellect, with great reverence, the tangled form of discourse in which he was customarily enmeshed creates no little obscurity for the reader. And so it was necessary for new schools of Peripatetics to be bred, and for there to be many differences in their doctrine. Therefore some of the latter-day ones have decided that that there are three souls in one and the same man, of which the supreme one, called the rational, is not the nearest and most informing form of Man, but a guest and a kind of adjunct external perfection. They other two, i. e. the one from which comes sensation and the one whence we have living vigor in bodies, they pronounce to be forms very deeply embedded in bodies, not destined to survive it. Others, who seem more Aristotle-like, assign individual men a single soul, but one which performs a triple function, i. e. of providing Man life, sensation, and intelligence. But not even these agree among themselves both about a number of other things and about this, that some introduce a distinction in theory, albeit not in fact, between the intellect and will and the soul itself. Others count the powers of the soul among those things which the Greeks called συμβεβηκότα, i. e., accidentals, and relate them to the category of qualities. And they go into wonderful contortions in explaining this, how a thing entirely free of matter can be the body’s proper form. But they want us to remember and consider this fact, that the soul is the body’s form not insofar as it possesses intelligence, but insofar as it supplies sense and movement, and so it should not seem strange if the intellect is not assigned to any definite part of the body, as sight is to the eyes and hearing to the ears. And the fact that it is not absurd for things free of mass to make an impression on bodies is shown by those offscourings and appearances which are constantly flowing from bodies to our senses, and is considerably more clear in the case of those countless images which, the respository and storehouse of which, without them occupying any place or entering into any contention about location, is the brain itself. And since we have been brought here by the thread of our discourse, for this very reason we should not be reluctant to concede that the brain is the seat of intellect, and the heart that of the will.
39. These things are, to be sure, entangled in many difficulties, and, driven by an ambition to display my intellect, I can scarcely refrain from dwelling longer on this argument. But since the obscurity of these things is so great that words scarcely suffice to cast light on them, and the things are incapable of being extricated from those technical and narrow disputations in which they are bound and reduced to a freer and more ordinary form of discourse, being, as it were, taken out of thornbrakes and set in an open field, I not unwillingly forbear to discuss them, especially because such a disquisition, besides being irrelevant, would contain more display than usefulness. And yet I have decided not to hold my silence about this point, that that threefold kind of souls progressively transcend bodies and, as it were, gradually cast them off. The vegetative faculty, plunged deep within the body, advertises itself by certain increases and decreases. The senses are elevated to a moderate degree and, by receiving the subtle images of things free of embodiment, begin to deal with incorporeal things. The intellect itself seems to have entirely emerged into the aether, and (if I may put ut this) to have contact with the body, subject to itself, only for a moment in time, although, indeed, its reliance on images is the reason why it fails to enjoy a certain freedom of divinity. But what does it matter in what part of our acre these crop-destroying beasts are loitering? Wherever they are, they must be drven off, or certainly compelled to cease their ruinous munching. Indeed there would be no harm in ignoring this entire topic of the seats of the affections, except that, just as that treatment of natural philosophy is most pleasurable which has an admixture of moral philosophy, thus when moral philosophy is being handled, some it gladly grants some place to natural philosophy.
40. The first part of my entire discourse is fully complete. Now let us apply ourselves to the second, I mean the distinction, enumeration and quality of the affections. And, lest we pursue an infinity or unnecessary divisions, only the principal ones of these will mentioned by me, using brief descriptions. A general distinction, touched upon above, is in accordance with the view of Aristotle: it can be gathered from the underlying forces from which they arise and in which they find rest. For some belong to the will, and some to the animal appetite. Aristotle embraces all the latter in the two words anger and desire, and gives the name of will to the the former. There is another distinction to be gathered from the objective things with which the affections are engaged. And this is the constant theme of the Peripatetics, to derive distinctions of the soul’s powers and the faculties from their function and the variety of material with which they deal. Thus taste is that sense which discerns flavors, just as hearing discerns sounds and sight colors. Thus some of the affections are things from which we receive some good (or at least something that seems such). Others are ones thanks to which we recoil from something bad. But to this confused distribution I must add the things which proceed both from the difficulty of the good and the bad, and from differences of times. The descriptions I am about to add will better serve to explain this thing. Let love be the first disturbance of the appetite, born from the approval we give to some good and pleasing thing. Desire appears to be a subdivision of love, for it is either love or the minds approach towards something loved but not yet acquired, as it feels liking and readies itself for the embrace. Happiness appears to be the sweetness of a certain tickle born out the presence of the loved thing, or at least from a hesitant hope conceived in the mind, which is the equivalent of a presence. The affection hatred is the opposite of love, when the mind, as it were, frowns and wrinkles its nose after catching sight of something unwelcome. Abhorrence and flight arise from hatred, when we take care to avoid something bad that is impending but not yet present. And this affection is the opposite of desire or greed. Sorrow or sadness is a dejection of mind and, as it were, a kind of grief arising out of a present evil, and it is the opposite of happiness or joy. Hope is a seeking for a good, especially one to be gained with difficulty, which the mind has persuaded itself will sometime be present. Despair, on the other hand, is when an evil appears to be insuperable, or a good so difficult to gain that a certain hopelessness of mind arises. Fear is a shrinking of the mind, lighter than despair, when an impending evil presents us with a difficulty, and it is like a certain mental apprehension. Confidence or trust, is certain firmness of mind, arising from the expectation that a bad thing can be overcome. Anger is an affection compounded out of sadness and thirst for revenge, and mercifulness of mind can be regarded as its opposite.
41. The other affects fall under those I have already enumerated, and, generally speaking, there are several subdivisions of each kind. For example, envy is subordinated to sorrow, for it is a grief coming someone else’s unimpeded successes, and I don’t know of anything in Man more ignoble. Pity is sadness itself, but of a kind we can least criticize, as it is very often conjoined with kindness and the desire to help. Pain is sorrow, together with vexation of the body. Terror is under fear. Pride pertains to love: for it is an immoderate relish for one’s personal excellence, arising out of self-ignorance. There will be no end, if each the affections is to be explained. Cicero, who says a lot on this subject, distinguishes four in particular, inspired by the view of the Stoics: from some supposed present good, happiness; from some supposed future good, desire; from some supposed present evil, sorrow; and from some supposed future evil, fear. Out of the entire collection, two remain that appear to be sui generis in their classification and nature, pain and pleasure. Virtually all the rest touch the mind more closely, seeing that they can be acquired and discarded in accordance with the mind’s opinion and thought. These ones do not depend on opinions since the senses pertain to them, the most concrete of all, I mean, the sensations of the ears, eyes, touches, smells, and tastes. For just as the opinion of the bad by itself does not produce fear, or that of good hope, thus you cannot create pain by the mere opinion of pain. For nature has given us minds so much in accord with the pains of the bodies that dissimulation or forgetfulness is not within our power when torment stabs us. The reason for this as that, the near to the mind’s nature an affection approaches, the fitter it is for correction by the rule of reason.
42. Fear, to be sure, arises from thought, and so can be banished by thought. But pain does not arise from thought, but from the depths of our sense of touch, something which is not absent in any living being and is often found in that which possesses no thought (as can be seen in moths and worms): it happens because of injury. Therefore the senses are somewhat removed from the realm of the mind, so that it would not be strange of they enjoy an equal freedom. And delight or pleasure is an affection of external sense, that arises when something of an agreeable temperament is presented to sensation. In pain, on the other hand, when what is presented exceeds the limit of the temperament, an insult to sensation occurs, and not infrequently an injury to that sense or to its organ. For there is a certain limitation in these concrete senses (or, to be more accurate, in those organs which some call sensory), a limitation of the qualities of those things presented to the composition of those organs, I mean of heat, humidity, cold, dryness and so forth, if such exist. When excess in a thing presented to the senses is wont to corrupt this limit and this appropriate temperament. Thus the sun’s brightness dazzles the eyesight, thus those cataracts of the Nile deafen those who live nearby, thus fire’s heat destroys the sense of touch when brought too near. But in the intelligence (as Aristotle says), the situation is different. For it emerges from the contemplation of the excellence of things all the stronger, and never is wearied by its work. And if any weakening of the thought-processes occurs, this is effected by the infirmity of the senses that serve it, which possess something of a corporeal nature. For the further anything is removed from corporeality, the less danger it confronts from those affections which bring corruption or destruction, and the closer it comes to an infinitude of vigor. From this it obviously follows that all of Man’s liberty and dignity come from the mind, and, on the contrary, servitude and abjection from the body. But let there be a limit to my discursus. It does not escape my notice that several of the words I have just defined admit of a multiple and ambiguous significance. As a result, I sometime purposefully differ from the forms of Cicero’s definiions.Will is called such when it it desires something with reason. Desire is unbridled want, contrary to reason. Love is that quickly-passing movement of the appetite, which properly is an affection. It is also a habit in the lover, produced from the frequent repetition of wanting. And sometimes it understood to designate the loved thing itself, as when it was said by the poet, “My love is the nymph of Libethrios.” Hatred likewise is now a passing aversion to some unwelcome thing, and again inveterate anger, and he who is vehemently disliked by one and all is said to be an (object of) hatred. And in the same way the same word is common to the affect, the habit, and the thing with which the affect or habit is concerned, and you will find examples of this form of speech in every kind of writing and in every manner of speaking: the reason and justification for these things is to be sought in the figures of the grammarians and rhetoriticians.
43. Thus far I have spoken of their number. Now the quality of the affections beckons us. The Stoics are of that school of thought that holds that the affections are nothing more than depraved opinions about seeking and avoiding things. If this is true, then it necessarily follows that all need to be, not moderated (for what limit can there be amidst ignorance?), but wholly eradicated. As is said by Cicero, they defined avarice as a vehement and all but inbred opinion concerning money regarded as something greatly to be sought; happiness as the expectation of a present good, by which it appears right to be swept up; fear as the opinion of an impending evil which appears intolerable, and which requires an act of mental consent be drawn into it. They sought to support this view by the example of Socrates and men like him, to whom death, in whom death engendered no terror, as it commonly does, because they were not of the opinion that death was an evil. Thus fear of death is a deceptive opinion, because it accounts death among bad things. But there is nothing more absurd than this construction, if taken literally, nor anything more fragile than the meshes of argumentation by which they father this. For, if there is one faculty of intelligence and another of will, thus it is one thing to understand and another to want or to crave. But opinion manifestly pertains to intellect. Thus intellect is weaker than belief in the reality of sensory appearances. And who is so blind as not to see that it is one thing to know and another to love? Nor does that which was alleged about Socrates possess anything more of dialectical insight. For the consequence of that is not what they want but its obvious, and that which we freely confess. For an opinion that death is an evil is not the fear of death, but the origin and cause of that fear. And indeed all the vicious affections derive from depraved opinions. Socrates’ heart was fortified against the terrors of death by the precepts of philosophy. He believed that nothing was to be accounted among evils or greatly to be feared save only disgrace; but death is not disgrace, but rather a dissolution of this fragile mixture, which arrives at its time prescribed by nature. He likewise understood that good men are God’s concern and that nothing amiss can befall them, and for this reason all men who were wise like Socrates cheerfully and freely reconcile themselves to these fatal necessities.
44. Now what they teach, not about pruning or polling these affections, but of wholly removing them, is no less silly. For nothing deserves removal save for that which is bad. But rest assured that affections are not bad per se on the basis of this argument, that nature has seeded and engendered them in us (Plutarch speaks of the passions as being innate), and who but an impudent fellow would call nature the author of the bad? But what need here for authorities? Doesn’t experience itself abundantly teach us that they are wont to burst forth even against our will, and that no man is so endowed with wisdom that he must not endure those commotions of the mind when they crop up? I do not deny that all the foulnesses of a debased mind are located in affections, but indiscriminately to condemn the entire range of them for the sake of some criminal ones is to level the same accusation against innocent and guilty alike, and is cruel and markedly unfair. So my way of thinking is this, that among words there are some which denote turpitude, such as “debauchery,” “theft,” and many others of that kind. On the other hand, there are others which denote dutifulness, such as “piety,” “moderation,” and the other names of the virtues. Still others are middling ones of indifferent connotation: i. e., words which can be employed as either praiseworthy or worthy of blame, depending on the subject, the intention, and the occasion, such as “wakefulness,” “speech,” and “walking,” for it happens that men walk and talk properly or not. If you want me to put it more briefly, sickness is reckoned among the bad things, health among the greatest goods, yet the word “health” is used in both a good and bad sense. Thus some of the affections are base when you hear them mentioned, such as pride and envy, since by their very nature they admit no limit and, as Aristotle says, if you try to impose one on them, you do so in vain. For all pride, even the least, is in the category of vice, and nobody could ever speak fitly of an honest whore. There others whose name gains your good graces, such as kindness, mildness, mercy, and charity. Others can be taken in either way, such as the generic words “love,” “hope,” “joy,” “anger,” and “fear.” And such affections taken by themselves, and not yet associated with those times which are commonly called circumstances, are not regarded as either good or bad. And, if I understand aright, this is Cicero’s “mean duty”: for him, repaying a debt belongs to “common duty,” but to return it aright belongs to the category of things done rightly and to more perfected duty.
45. So, since as there are some middling things, such as things and actions, likewise there are middling appetites, the Stoics are not to be tolerated, who indiscriminately categorize all affections in the class of baseness. My Aristotle, therefore, is far more reasonable and humane, who does not compel us into such strange narrow straits, and teaches us that we are to cling to μετριότητα, i. e., the middling way, not to στέρεσις or privation. We are so far removed from being able to complain about nature on this score, as if she has equipped us with harmful things, that by her agency the affections have usefully been added as if they are such a material that the virtue of the mind might express itself in their handling and shaping. And if you complain that the nature of this material is intractable, you should think that an artisan’s talent waxes warmest under such circumstances, and even the whelps of wild beasts are tamed by training. There are many trees which degenerate if you don’t tend them, producing no fruit that is not sour and uncultivated; but these same trees, given the industry of a cultivator, supply the sweetest fruit. And so it is affirmed by Aristotle out of Homer that the virtues receive some support from the affections, when he shows that θύμος or anger is the whetstone of fortitude and a stimulus for undergoing perils. Here the Stoics display to the Peripatetics a bellicose wrath and certain kind of rabid courage, such as intoxication is wont to produce, and they indeed have not accepted the Peripatetic opinion. And indeed wine is useful, even to give us Dutch courage, albeit not intoxication, and we certainly do reason’s bidding better when it is supported by the body’s enthusiasm. Here Cicero ill-advisedly favors the Stoics and calls both the Peripatetics’ argument and discourse feeble and enervated, which he vainly tries to convince us is a moderation of perturbations., although he admits that nothing is more copious or learned. For this reason he says that an orator should not grow angry, but rather, like actors on the stage, should imitate and feign the gestures and tones of angry and grieving men, and to model themselves after his own method, which was to write out without anger his wrathful speeches after his cases had been settled. Oh, the trivial statement of a serious man! Is truth so feeble, or rather so misleading, that it requires the support of vanity and misrepresentation? Here, no doubt, Cicero has given his pen no little free reign. For this same man, while describing the orator and reporting Antonius’ views, says that it makes no small difference in winning our case and swaying the judges’ minds if the orator is himself first moved by pity before attempting to arouse pity in the judges. As is said in Terence, “It makes no litte difference whether you do everything with sincerity, as nature supplies it, or out of calculation.” Citing Democritus and Plato as his authorities, Cicero also admits that no poet is good if he does not have an inflammation of spirits and a certain frenzied inspiration. So Cicero should not have championed that apathy of the Stoics so stoutly.
46. FRANC. I’ve often heard that word, which I believe is of Greek derivation. Pray explain its meaning.
FLOR. It signifies a total freedom from affections and imperturbability (if Latin usage permits this expression). For in Latin a man can be called unperturbed, but I don’t think one can likewise speak of imperturbability. The Stoics say it is the peculiar characteristic the wise man, who neither desires nor fears anything. For pain necessarily arises from desire and fear, and, since this a kind of mental disease, cannot (as it seems) befall a wise man. And they pronounce that man to be wise who (to use the words of poets) “neither grieves while pitying a helpless man, nor envies a man who possess something, and also whom, if the world collapsed in smithereens, the ruins would strike unafraid.”
FRANC. These appear to be the characteristics of a rock or block of wood, or of a god, but not of a man. Christ, beyond doubt the master of all dutifulness and sanctity, wishes us to imitate our Father, I mean God, the Lord and Master of all things, in being merciful and displaying reverence both towards Himself and towards men.
47. FLOR. At this point we must look into some things a little more deeply. Plotinus, no mean philosopher of Plato’s school, established four categories of virtue. The first consists of the civic ones, whose task is to moderate the affections. The second is made up of the so-called purgative ones, and their function is to completely quench all the flames of desires. The third kind purge minds to the extent that not even the memory of desires remains. The task of the fourth is to provide a kind of model of divinity and achieve a personal union with God. This is indeed a magnificent discourse and in good agreement with what our Paul preaches about the condition and dignity of the life to come, in which he says that this animal body will someday become “pneumatic,” I mean of a more subtle and divine nature. It seems that this Plotinus had either read book of Christians doctrine or certainly learned much from our religion’s masters, and chronology does not discourage this view, since he flourished in the reins of Galienus, Claudius, Tacitus and Probus. He was a man of singular continence, and so much so that his student Porphyrius attests that he set himself in opposition to everything pertaining to the body, and was a shamed of this life to the extent that he never could abide hearing that he had parents or a homeland on this earth, since he had wholly devoted himself to the dignity of minds. There was indeed an showing of a kind of rare excellence in this way of life, but in my opinion it had a goodly helping of lunacy intermixed. For after the order of divine providence has ordained that this mind of ours should for a time live as an exile in this body, it is our duty at all times to exhibit equanimity and to endure with tolerance what the condition of our present life offers, lest we seem to shirk the human task assigned by God. Whatever he sends us, wherever he places us, we should not grumble. Indeed great gratitude should always be shown Him, not only for prosperous things going according to our will, but also for adversities. For His boundless wisdom and goodness, he looks out for our affairs far better than we could either imagine or hope for. Therefore Paul, the standard-bearer of our piety (I mean the true piety), did much more wisely who, although he ardently yearned to depart and join Christ and had no hesitation out of his hopes for Him, nevertheless was of doubtful mind, because of his zeal for Man’s salvation and the propagation of our religion, whether he should linger on earth or immediately depart to Christ, and said he could not easily decide which choice to make.
48. But now my wandering discourse must be recalled to its path. As is well known even by those who have absorbed the first rudiments of philosophy, it is not easy to distinguish Man from the beasts even in thought. For even schoolboys know that Man is a thinking beast, and the affections of necessity proceed from our animal nature. So the last three of Plotinus’ distinctions do not belong to this life. Not even the Stoics can deny that visions and sudden inroads of fearsome things sometime shake a wise man. For we are not born of flint, and, as Pindar says, “during panics even the sons of the gods flee.” So, as Plutarch says, “apathy in mortals is impossible.” Yet I cannot deny that some heroes have lived who, either aided by divine help or by some rare felicity of nature, have produced much calmer perturbations of mind when aroused (a thing which some want to make pertinent to the second abovementioned category of distinction). I believe this pertains to heroic virtue. Aristotle opposes this to savagery or wildness, and makes ordinary human virtue as the means between these. Thus Man sometimes transcends the normal limits of human ability, when to a wonderful degree he strives to cultivate that part which makes him akin to the beings of heaven. But from the exceptional prerogative and praiseworthiness of this kind of men it does not follow that we should vituperate those who live in a moderate, civil way. For to cast off the character of nature, that is to gain mastery of the mind’s first impulses and feel not even small disturbances, this is a matter that requires a certain divine faculty. But since these apathies are now more than hissed off the stage and put to rout by the Peripatetics’ disputations, it would be superfluous to contend with the further.
FRANC. If these things are true, it appears that the tranquility of the mind is not what we had hoped.
FLOR. How so?
49. FRANC. Tranquility of mind is a certain quiet, and from the idea of quietness it seems to consist of not being moved at all rather than being moved to a limited extent. Additionally, grief, fear, and the rest of the affections are said to be mental sickness and even if they are not, certainly the tranquil mind is not a mind existing in fear or sadness. If you grant me that the affections are diseases (as shown by that cock Socrates commanded be sacrificed to Asclepius), who fails to see that even the slightest illness needs to be carefully driven off, and it is far better not to be sick than to be sick a little bit and to some prescribed limit? For whatever is destructive as it grows is also harmful when it is born. Since, therefore, grief and the other perturbations are harmful when they have been amplified, even when first acquired they play the part of plagues. Nor can he be called healthy who is even slightly ill. For anger is said to be the first step of insanity, and thus he who is angry has something of insanity. Here you must be vigilant lest you neglect or abandon the Peripatetic cause, and understand your fight is with those most valiant philosophers, the Stoics.
50. FLOR. You have touched briefly on virtually everything that can be said in favor of the Stoics. But their principal premise, on which nearly the whole gist of their argument depends, is not supported by the truth. For their argument precedes as if it is conceded that all the affections are diseases, i. e. that they are faults. Were this the case, they would hold the victory within their grasp. Wherefore, so that everything can be clearer, certain things must be investigated more deeply. So let us first decide this, that virtue only exists in human actions. But that cannot be deemed a human action where reason cannot intervene (reason being the distinctive property of Man). Now this needs to be assumed, that this organization is set in the appetites by nature, that a thing impinges on sensation before it does in reason. From its intrusion the animal appetite is immediately stimulated and, although the mind is very rapid by nature, because of the arrangement of images in the senses (without which reason can make no judgment), a delay must needs be imposed before the men can decide what is to be done. To illustrate my point, something of pleasant aspect presents itself to the eyes, of a sort that cannot be sought after without incurring disgrace, and it allures the beholder, or an enemy who seriously harmed you suddenly appears, and immediately a certain commotion of the blood ensues, but neither that commotion nor that swift impulse of the mind towards the pleasant thing, engendered before there is time for deliberation, can be called human, i. e., a voluntary action, since, as has already been said, nothing can be called voluntary about which reason cannot form a prior judgment. But let us concede that reason has an interval for gathering itself and leisure to form a judgment, neither the appetites of the will nor of the animal faculty take on the quality of a vice unless reason is being rejected. And an affection is said to reject reason when it either accommodates itself to base things or when it neglects the fitness of the occasion, or when the mind’s counsel is corrupted with no malice aforethought. If you seduce a girl because you love her, your love is base. If you confer a favor on a friend or boon companion so that he will be your partner or accomplice in some crime, you abuse friendship. If out of fear you reveal a secret, betray those participating in some noble undertaking, or neglect any duty, your fear is a vice even if your life is at risk. And, on the other hand, if your affection is directed towards honorable things at appropriate times, your appetites will be accounted praiseworthy, no matter how intense the sensible commotions of your heart.
FRANC. If you count exertions of the affections among honorable things, it seems possible that some forgetfulness of duty might be introduced by the greatness of one’s fear and you might be swept beyond reason’s limits by a kind of blind impulse.
51. FLOR. This is the objection of the Stoics, which Plutarch counters with an example, saying that this is as if someone were to criticize a footrace because one of the runners might take a tumble, or throwing because the cast might miss its mark. The Stoics believe that when we indulge anger or any perturbation we are no longer our own masters. For, they say, can a stone once thrown be recalled? After a man jumps off a cliff can he hold himself aloft when he wishes? But these similes are insufficiently appropriate. Heavy things are borne down by their nature, and are not created so as to heed the command of reason or will, but all the motions of our heart are within our control and derive from our opinions. And since reason has the power to correct depravity when it wants, the affections are always subordinate to the rule of reason. Just as a rider can check the running of his horse by pulling on the bridle, thus reason itself can always restrain the impulse of perturbations. It does not escape my notice that when the powers of habit were mentioned above, that simile about the inevitable course of the stone once thrown was borrowed from Aristotle, but in that very place I showed how that necessity is to be kept under control and below, when the subject requires it, something related will be discussed. Therefore, to conclude this entire argument, only those affections which are base are to be accounted diseases, because it is only thanks to them that there occurs a violation of this integrity of mind which resides in this, that we should do or seek out nothing but that which is honorable, at least advisedly and after given it thought. So in the absence of baseness the motions of minds are understood always to be calm. And furthermore, we are sufficiently taught by this west wind sweetly wafting through the leaves that shade us that gentler breezes do not impede tranquility, for it does not diminish the pleasantness of this clear day, but rather enhances it, as you see. Those Elysian Fields whom Homer, reckoned the be the source of all genius, regarded as the home of all blessedness, are unfamiliar with snow or rain, but just “shrill Zephyrs softly blowing.”
FRANC. I am of your sentiment cap à pie, as they say, but it is not for no good reason that so many excellent men have a tradition of earnestly commending to us a thing beyond human reach. For it is incredible that the great infirmity of human powers escaped their understanding. What do you imagine the reason to have been?
52. FLOR. There has never been any philosophical school whose teaching has lacked its flaws, and indeed has not been defaced by serious errors. The Pythagoreans have their reincarnation; the Platonists their Ideas, composition of numbers, and monstrous forms of a republic; the Peripatetics their infinite eternity of ages and their wavering opinions about the duration of souls; the Academics take opposing sides regarding everything, absurdly withholding their assent from manifest truths, and for that reason are called Skeptics. Here I am not speaking of those philosophers whose teachings are opposed to the nature or dignity of virtue (no few of those voluptuary-philosophers belong to this category), but those held in particular esteem by all men. So it should not seem strange if even the Stoics, that holy tribe of philosophers, have their own absurdities of doctrine. Although very many distinguished men have arisen from that school, such as Zeno, Cleanthes, Cato of Utica, Epictetus, and that most grave professor of morals Seneca, the lapses and errors of outstanding men always still need to be refuted, without any detriment to their honor and reverence, particularly when doing otherwise under some liberal excuse for mitigating circumstance would not serve the interest of piety. I shall briefly (as it seems to me, anyway) disclose what led them to this conclusion, and for present purposes shall make myself a man to whom they might entrust the pleading of their case, at least as an exercise.
FRANC. You will do something both welcome to us and worthy of your nature and habit.
53. FLOR. When it comes to perturbations, that mean recommended by the Peripatetics is the sign towards which we should always especially turn our eyes and the target at which all moral teachings should aim, for our perfection of virtue consists in attaining it. But when that middle-point between two extremes, i. e. located midway between excess and defect, is indivisible and something that needs to be calculated by a careful evaluation of the circumstances of things, a deviation is easy, there being great scope for straying to one side or to the other, but hitting the mark is difficult, just as we see regarding those who shoot arrows or throw javelins at a mark. To throw down your arms and abandon your standard out of fear of death is an easy thing. There are many who fly at undeserving men with rabid savagery, but few who employ presence of mind to do so when reason requires it (something that pertains to the glory of bravery). But, besides this common difficulty, which to a large part rises from the consideration of that indivisible point of the mean, there is added a second, arising from the fact that there no man who does not incline more to one side or to the other because of the quality of his character. Wherefore, if will tends in the same direction as does nature, we easily, as they say, “jump the fences,” for this superadded force falls on those already inclined in that direction. Thus the irascible man, when he has come to understand that anger is not forbidden him, but only its excess, relies on his nature and is carried beyond the middling point, i. e. beyond the bounds of reason, and embraces vice instead of virtue. If there were a man so constructed by nature that, every he started to walk, he would break out in a run, doubtless he should constantly attempt to walk at the pace of a tortoise. By the same token, it be to no small advantage to a man who was aware that he possessed a hot-tempered nature to try to assume dullness and mildness as often has he received insults; for him of an amorous disposition not only to avoid the sight of beauty but also to try to make himself hate it; for him prone to daintiness, wine-bibbing and wantonness sometimes to torture himself with hunger and thirst.
54. For these reasons it will come about that, while reason calls us away from the things we find agreeable, and an affection pulls us in the other direction (for an affection is sometimes profitable), we attain to that mean recommend by reason. And this is Aristotle’s discipline: he does not want to the same thing as those who (to use his words) “straighten warped pieces of wood.” For they bend curved wood in the opposite direction so that it might finally achieve its symmetrical shape and the ends don’t rise up. For we render ourselves excessively obliging to those enervated opinions which flatter our affections, and are far more easily carried in that direction when our nature conspires in the transaction. But you will ask the point of these things. Hear me: even the Stoics will concede me this, that the more vehement affections are, the more perilous they are, and the baser they would be, the more carefully they are to be removed. And this again is sufficiently agreed, that those which our temperament produces in us are more ardent, and we are wont to be most delinquent in controlling them. To these points let us now add that which is advised by Aristotle considering turning towards the other extreme: the Stoics employ different words but teach with pretty much the same intention when they say that perturbations are to be wholly eradicated. Nature has endowed you with a propensity for always hurrying at a run, but this needs to be restrained. Aristotle wants you to walk slowly, the Stoics want you to stand still, so that by a certain rigor in their injunction your industry in foreseeing and guarding against vices might be enhanced. But perhaps not everybody will accept this rationalization, and so I shall set forth a second one which, possibly, the Stoics themselves will not reject. But this requires a longer and more subtle explanation.
FRANC. As you see, we are avid listeners about things of this kind. It will be your task, in accordance with the dexterity of your wit, to insure that light is not wanting for obscure things, nor brevity for prolix ones.
55. FLOR. I shall indeed do so, not as much as you request (for that requires a man of greater ability), but as much as I can and as much as considerations of time permit, even if I am spouting whatever forth comes to my lips. For, if the occasion permitted me to devote myself to this topic more earnestly and devote the force of my industry (such as it may be) to this matter, I should give you fuller satisfaction. Therefore, that I may make a beginning, my view is as follows: if we were to understand that what the Stoics teach about abandoning all affections were to be understood to refer to the animal perturbations, their case would have more justice on its side than is commonly thought. And indeed, when I think the whole matter over, I perceive that I’m being drawn into their school one very small step at a time. There is a double reason for this, but both, to borrow Cicero’s words, “need to be weighed with a goldsmith’s scale, not an ordinary one.” The first one of these is based on the consideration that, the less of such perturbations is present, the less of error is wont to be involved in our very choice of things. The second is of this kind, that our dutifulness has a greater measure of purity and praiseworthy when the impulsiveness of the bodily perturbation is present in the doing of our duty.
56. To clarify these things, I must borrow some things from the well-stocked workshop of the Peripatetics. Don’t be at all surprised if you see me frequently citing Aristotle. I don’t deny that he’s sometimes slippery and obscure, and sometimes impossible to comprehend, but certainly, when it comes to acumen and method in subtly teasing out the nature of things he far surpasses all those ever born who speak Greek or Latin (I have no idea what the far-distand barbarity of the Indies possesses). For him, in his commentaries On the Soul and in those which handle the first part of philosophy, which he calls the Metaphysics, “all intellect is right, but appetite and imagination is both right and wrong.” The point of these words (as his very celebraed commentators Themistius and Joannes Grammaticus tell us) is that we must understand that the power of the intellect per se has no share of error, so that whatever mistakes are made by Man are to be attributed to the body and the senses, to which the intellect is bound, inasmuch as the body is always wafting a kind of noxious and obscuring fume to the mind, and by its interposition the strength of the intellect grows pallid and the keen edge of judgment is blunted. But here it must be understood that this vehemence of perturbations can occasionally follow the mind’s deliberations. When this occurs, an affection only serves to confirm a man in his already-existing opinion, be it virtuous or depraved, and in this sense the danger is less. The same thing sometimes precedes counsel, and then the mind receives a twofold injury: I mean regarding both the beginning of judgment and also its progress. In the beginning, since, when once aroused, these motions affect the living thing’s body in various ways, but other things come together to the animate being which has been variously affected. For when the dogstar is burning we seek out shade and indulge ourselves in cold drinks, whereas when the sun is in wintry sign of the Zodiac we set the fireplace ablaze and drink less since we have no thirst. and since frequently reason, as it seeks the conveniences of life, borrows a goodly part of its judgment from the body’s present disposition, it comes about that we always embrace those things towards which our bodily disposition impels us. For example, while you are young some distinguished beauty commends herself to your attention, whereas while you are now managing your affairs more carefully the same allure is exerted by gold or some pleasant and fruitful field. And here (more quickly or slowly, in accordance with a man’s temperament, or purely from his imagination) there immediately arise those animal motions which with their importunate demands stake a claim on reason (already begriming to waver in its opinion) to pronounce its verdict without delay.
57. Therefore, just as what is viewed through tinted glass takes on the color of that glass (hence the pupil has no color, for if it did, then everything would appear to be of a single color), thus those things are wont to deceive us by which, when we are violently affected, we make our decisions as if corrupted by prejudices. Here that speech by the young Charinus in Terence is relevant: “When we are healthy we all give sound advice to the sick. If you are the patient, you view things differently” So as often as the appearance of external things affects and delights us, everything ought to be regarded with suspicion for a little while until very mature judgment can assert itself, we need to remind ourselves of those famous lines in Vergil, “You lads who pluck flowers and strawberries growing on the ground (oh boys, take to your heels!), a cold-blooded snake lies in the grass.” And the affections work harm in their progress, since when they are powerful they snatch a man away from himself, so that he does not want to think about anything except what to which they are carrying him. Hence the evaluation of circumstances and those things which are in accordance with his duty are neglected, and everything is managed with inconsiderate rashness. Those verses by Martial about a certain Rufus desperately in love with Naevia are witty, and, since they are apposite to my subject, I shall not be reluctant to quote them: “Whatever Rufus does, in Rufus’ eyes this is nothing but Naevia, if he rejoices, if he weeps, if he is silent or if he speaks. He eats, he makes toasts, he asks, he refuses, he consents: this is all Naevia. If it is not Naevia, he will stand mute. Yesterday morning, when he was writing a letter to his father, he began it with this greeting: ‘Hail, Naevia, you light. Hail, Naevia, you brightness.’” Hence also those broodings of a troubled Dido in Vergil, as “The man’s courage often returns to mind, and the nobility of his race: his features and his words cling fixedly to her heart, and love will not grant restful calm to her body.” For the sake of this phenomenon, professors of rhetoric issue precepts about perturbing the minds of judges, especially if the orator has little confidence in the rectitude of the case he is defending. The result will be that there will be exceedingly small room for reason among the judges and the truth will have slipped past before being appreciated (whether this can be done by a just and good orator is of no concern to this present disquisition). From this it is quite plain that all men taking consultation about doubtful manners will perform their task better to the extent that they are farther removed from anger, love, hared, favor, and the vehemence of quarrels.
58. Now what I have said about the purity of duty (and this is the second argument in favor of uprooting affects) rests on this foundation, that (if I may put it thus) our judgment about doing a thing is not wholly indigenous, i. e., it does not proceed entirely from reason but, being partially inspired by the body’s disposition, as it were, a foreign and brutish instigator, it possesses less dignity, and will be thought less pure because of no little intervention from the body. And next this impurity of judgment overflows into choice with the result that that which does not proceed from pure ration should be deemed less flee, with the consequence that there is a certain diminution in the action of both goodness and badness, and hence of praise and blame. I believe Cicero had something akin to this view in mind when he said that those good deeds done rashly and, as it were, inspired by a sudden gust of wind, are to be esteemed less than those done as the result of judgment and steady consideration. And, to conclude this argument with a few words, I cannot rebuke that manly and spirited view of the Stoics, who contend that, since we possess no small share of divinity, we should attempt with constant striving to abandon that body, which is common to us and the beasts, and always fix our thoughts on our association with and likeness to the gods.
FRANC. That noble defense indeed does possess something of justice, and yet, although I have many reasons for not accepting it, I shall mention a very few out of those many. If an affection, occurring first, obstructs purity of judgment and therefore free will (as it seems to me you have decided), then we should neither be blamed or praised for what we have done in accordance with the impulse of the affections. Then, as you have it, or at least as the Stoics most certainly do, we seem to be pushed rather than to go. Add to this that it is human custom to measure the magnitude of will, and likewise of criminality, from those signs which indicate the intensity of an affection. From redness of face and a fierce look we gather the ardor of will, and from its constant dejection the disgust of a certain despair. And perhaps if we investigate the word’s etymology, we shall discover that the word “face” (vultus) is a word derived from “willing” (volendum), since Cicero calls the facial expression a certain unspoken discourse of the mind, which could scarcely be the case if the affections thanks to which exist the variety of facial expressions impeded the operation of the will.
59. FLOR. Affections which follow counsels and deliberations, do not (as I just said) affect purity of judgment, because of the fact that they supervene after judgment has been made, but from them we can gather evidence of depraved or virtuous will, because of the fact that the will is even more ardent in communicating some of its fervor into the animal part. But those which precede them, if they are so vehement that they destroy all use of the mind (which customarily occurs in rages and in the case of madmen) likewise remove the grounds for praise and blame, inasmuch as (as Cicero puts it), “the Law of the Twelve Tables forbids him to be master of his own affairs” and the laws free him of responsibility. This excessive and monstrous power of an inflamed affection can also surge up after counsel has been taken, but it is power is nearly always of a single kind, by which I mean that we must realize that its victim has been transformed from a man into a baest. But, just as it makes a very great difference whether you wholly disturb a peaceful fountain by heaving in a great stone or create slow-moving ripples by dropping in a pebble, so there is a great difference by that mind whose light is wholly extinguished, and its function of intellect completely impeded and that which is beclouded only by a light mist of no especial corporeality. And indeed, as I see the most learned choose to think, these gentler perturbations which impede the lights of the intellect, if they are not deliberately conjured up, although they do not wholly destroy our liberty, still remove a little of our guilt and gain some forgiveness for the delinquent, so that we more easier take pity on those who have erred after being overcome by a perturbation. For murder is not the same in Ajax’ condition and that of Ulysses, and nature is wont to expend greater force on those who are not in control of their minds. But since human conjecture cannot always determine with absolute precision whether a perturbation takes occurs before or after counsel has been taken (for these things are known only to God), no certain proof of the origin of an ardent will can be gathered from it or from its symptoms.
60. This is sufficiently acknowledged in the case of a man conspicuously created by nature for some perturbation, who is wont not only to follow it but even to run ahead of judgment, and this is that diminution of freedom I mentioned above. But also in the performance of his duty the man who is induced to humanity by the unalloyed guidance of his mind, and not because of the sweetness of his temperament, deserves conspicuous and singular praise, and, as it seems, is to be regarded as more excellent than he whom nature has made to be dutiful. For you may see certain men endowed with such great goodness of character that, as soon as they have caught sight of somebody in a perilous situation, out of their kindness they feel his pain and desire to come to his aid as soon as possible, in the manner of that Menedemus in Terence who was mindful that he was a man and regarded nothing human as alien to himself. It is possible to find others who are moved not a jot by other men’s woes. If these men are not inspired by some reasoning, but continue to heed their nature and jeer at wretches and the downtrodden, they are men of a monstrous, worst possible nature. At this point, on the subject of the diminution of liberty by means of perturbation, I could cite some acute theologians who are likewise of the opinion that actions arising from habit are less free, since habit is like nature, carrying us to base or honorable things. But a limit must be put on everything.
DEM. If I paid proper attention to what you just said, it would appear that these sensible motions of the heart are to be avoided and we are to employ only pure reason when we should succor the afflicted or do something piously and with humanity. For we can be liberal and supply help without experiencing any of the pain attendant upon pity. For why should we experience useless pangs for the sake of others if it is possible to do without discomfort, especially since we should alleviate the discomfort of others?
61. FLOR. There comes to mind a certain saying of that most excellent man Francis Bryan, which strikes me as acute and agreeable to your argument. While Christmas is being celebrated the English are wont to play dice, and (as sometimes happens when your luck runs against you), William Pickering, a well-bred man and deservedly a royal favorite, was ruined. When the king learned of this he averred that he grieved for Pickering’s misfortune. Then Bryan, who was accustomed to address the king as a familiar (for the king is distinguished for his affability, as for all the other virtues), said “It is our place, your majesty, to grieve, since we desire to come to his aid but cannot, but it is not yours, nor should you feel any sadness over his lost money. For it is within your power to make him a Croesus, and when you bestowed some money on him, the cause of this sorrow will be removed.” The king, being most prudent, approved of Brian’s character and a little later very bounteously elevated Pickering to honors and wealth.
62. Now (to return to my subject), you will not have me as a person urging and exhorting to about pry into this subject. Concerning the matter itself, since I appreciated that either side of the argument could be championed, I only wanted to show that the Stoics were not entirely rash in wanting to introduce that stern apathy into human conversation, and so what I said on their behalf I do not want to have the force of a definition or opinion. I think that we should adopt a milder approach, and when you incline towards some praiseworthy thing with your approval accept what nature gives you, confidently loosen the rein, boldly rejoice, and do not be afraid to set your sail where the wind is blowing. For my part, I think that the man who relies on pure reason for each of his choices is rarer than a Phoenix. Would that nature had abundantly endowed me with that sweetness of character and that philanthropy which is also supported by the temperament of the body, so that I could readily tolerate others, rashly set myself in opposition to nobody, and prefer myself to nobody out of envy. I would be grateful if I could be melted by pity, and it would be most pleasant to be gripped with enthusiasm for helping all men as best I could. For our infirmity in doing our duties is so great that we can never be inspired too much by reasons or, having been aroused, be sufficiently reinforced with protections. So let us be gripped by love, no matter how ardent, as long as it is a love for excellent, honorable things. Let us feel fear, but especially fear lest we lapse into turpitude. Let us likewise be angry, but angry at ourselves, if ever we perceive that we have been too slothful in resisting the enticements of crime or avidly chasing after those things which are inconsistent with men’s dignity. For in this way it will some day transpire that all the regiments of the affections, which are perhaps too happy to be campaigning in the camp of turpitude, will desert to honesty and perform their service under the banners of the virtues. If I recall aright, it is said of a certain Xenophon son of Lagus, that when somebody reproached him for cowardice when he did not dare dice with him, he replied that it did not trouble him that he was timid concerning things which were either useless or unworthy; rather, that was his single heart’s desire. How fine was that remark of Agesilaus, who, learning that a malefactor had borne up steadfastly under torture, remarked that the man was a genuine wretch, for he had wasted his courage on wicked deeds rather than in some crisis of his nation and on honorable enterprises. I have recounted these anecdotes to make it clear that many of the affections are deadly and reprehensible, not because of their own nature, but because of our fault.
63. FRANC. If these things are as you say, we are coming back to the very same place we started and confronted by the same problem, as if we always are encountering the thing which we are striving to avoid (as they say) at full sail. For by this logic perturbations are not only not removed, but not even diminished, but rather are diverted elsewhere while retaining the same old degree of intensity and magnitude. You allow me to wax angry at my own vices, to be afraid lest my dutifulness ever be harmed, and to be happy and rejoice in the awareness of being honorable. I concede that these are far more just reasons for anger, fear and rejoicing. Nevertheless in anger and fear those troublesome spasms and torments of the mind are not absent, and peace of mind cannot easily be associated with these. In the same way, a wound manfully received on behalf of one’s nation carries with it a certain unwelcome feeling of pain. Therefore this usage of perturbations which you recommend is improbable.
64. FLOR. I know that you are sufficiently endowed with keenness of wit and reliability of memory that you yourself can easily dispel your objection, acute though it may be, on the basis of the things I have said above. But perhaps you are always manufacturing new problems of argumentation for the sake of prolonging our dispute. So something must be said here, especially since your objection offers an opportunity for explaining a difficulty that deserves to be noted and resolved. It is the mark of a well-ordered will to embrace things that are either honorable in their own right, or certainly so that the will of our everliving God might be complied with, rather than because of some conjoined utility or pleasure (although it is enjoined by nature that solid and assured goodness is never lacking in pleasure for the mind, nor is genuine pleasure separate from goodness). On the other hand, it does not shun turpitude out of fear of loss or plain, but because they are to be shunned per se, or rather because the things enjoined by divine law, which it behooves us wholly to obey, are their diametrical opposites. Thus every man must convince himself to whom genuine probity is dear. For this is the source of all duties, this is the foundation of everything that comes from the just and the good, so firm and so noble that nobody with even the slightest education is unaware of that quotation, “Good men hate to sin out of love for virtue, bad men hate to sin out of fear of punishment.” As Terence says, “It is a father’s responsibility to accustom his son to act aright of his own free will, rather than out of fear of someone else.” And Seneca thinks that those who refrain from evildoing out of fear ought to be called timid, not blameless. The same philosopher wants us to cultivate friends, not so they may sit at our bedsides and succor us when we are ailing, but rather so we may sit by and succor them. For virtue is always sought more for its dignity, splendor and purity, than because of its profit, pleasure, or the enticement of any reward.
65. And so that the matter may be grasped by an example, you do not so assiduously revere and lovingly attend upon your father Bonaventure because of some advantage, nor do you wish him to remain hale and healthy as long as possible since, if he lives longer, he will further enrich the family fortune and your patrimony, or because you are bound to reap pleasure from living in the same household with him. This would indeed be Epicurean, this would be acting out of self-interest, not loving your father, and to look out for your own advantage, all of which would be wrong and contain within themselves a certain reprehensible baseness. So why do you? Because the reward of duty and piety resides in this, that you venerate excellence of virtue in whoever it is found, while at the same time your origin is held in honor and divine laws are obeyed. But why, you ask, this long disquisition? So that it might be understood that by the same logic the strivings of the mind or the things which they yield are not to be pursued for the sake of advantages or happiness, although they are wont to result in a pleasurable movement of the heart, nor are they to be shunned because of the gnawings of pain brought on by the contraction of the region around the heart. For, as I have said, this smacks of the dainty doctrine of the Epicureans and a softness of spirit which is very abhorrent to the dignity of virtue. So the reason why these commotions of bodies are to be avoided is not the physical trouble they are capable of imposing, but they sometimes entice us into criminally abandoning the right and bring us to turpitude, if we are not vigilant. Therefore, of whatever sort they are, as long as turpitude is absent, it must be understood that these trifling commotions are nothing that disturb whatever tranquility which can humanly be achieved.
66. But here it is worth observing how kindly nature has dealt with us in this respect. Here I should exhort you to be more attentive and pay closer attention, if you are not already doing so of your own accord. I said that we should fear turpitudes, I said that we should be angry at ourselves if we are found to be idle in our duties, I conceded that we should grieve when out of negligence some mark of turpitude is branded on us or has arisen. Furthermore fear, anger, and grief are affections which are manifestly inconsistent with tranquility. But if we are only perturbed by those worthy things I have mentioned, there will be entirely no need that this experience should be lengthy or great. Why so, you ask? Because it will always be within our power to discard such affections and the discomforts of our hearts they produce, as soon as we please. Reason, right and strong, is ready at hand, since it is the result of your will that turpitude adheres to you or you are despoiled of honor. For the will, to which alone virtue and vice properly pertain, lies under no compulsion. As Horace put it, “The man who is just and tenacious of his purpose neither the anger of his citizens bidding him do what is wrong nor the face of a threatening tyrant shakes from his solid determination, nor the south wind, wild emperor of the restless Adriatic, nor the mighty hand of thundering Jupiter: if the world should fall shattered, the ruins will strike him unafraid.” Therefore, to conclude my argument, honest pains of this kind are in our power, and are accepted or rejected as we will, so there is no impediment to our tranquility of mind.
67. It is very different concerning sadness, which is adopted rashly and contrary to reason. For if you weep over lost money, you are crying over something you can’t give or take away from yourself. This business is between you and fortune, and concerns those things that do not fall within the limits of your control. Here another kind of medicine is to be administered, of which I shall speak below. These are things discussed, usefully but not very concisely, in Epictetus’ Enchiridion, written up by Arrian, and so in our present context I want to cast some illumination from a passage of this little book that occurs right after the beginning: “If, then, you confine your aversion to those objects only which are contrary to the natural use of your faculties, which you have in your own control, you will never incur anything to which you are averse. But if you are averse to sickness, or death, or poverty, you will be wretched. Remove aversion, then, from all things that are not in our control, and transfer it to things contrary to the nature of what is in our control.” Whatever is beyond these things, i. e. whatever pertains to the body or depends on fortune, is beyond us and is granted no man as his possession. Now let me interpret Epictetus: “If, then, you confine your aversion to those objects only which are contrary to the natural use of your faculties,” that is, if you only shun and fear depraved opinions and unbecoming appetites (for both are contrary nature, since they dissolve it, and the are likewise among the number of them within us), “you will never incur anything to which you are averse,” because the power over these things belongs to you. “But if you are averse to sickness, or death, or poverty, you will be wretched,” for these things are not within your jurisdiction, and can befall you even against your will. “Remove aversion, then, from all things that are not in our control,” i. e., do not greatly shun or fear these external things, since thus you will be in constant fear and pave your own way to misery, for those things perpetually threaten befall us against our will, “and transfer it to things contrary to the nature of what is in our control,” i .e, avoid base appetites and a perverse valuation of things.
68. But I see I have now fallen into that mistake of Chrysippus and the Stoics, who (as Cicero writes) consumed a great part of their discussions of the mind’s perturbations to their definitions and divisions, devoting very little of their exposition to the cure of minds, which seems to be sought only in moral disputation. Let me therefore change course and come to the third part of my discourse, which will rightly devoted in toto to the subduing and moderation of those tumults of the mind I have now defined and distinguished. Certainly that habit of the medical tribe is silly, which, in the presence of the sobbing patient tearfully begging for relief, subtly disputes for the sake of displaying its learning and fritters away time in citing Hippocrates, Galen, Paul of Aegina, Celsus and Avicenna that would be better spent in dispensing medicines. But in this science of curing minds it is advantageous to be driven away from our course and deal with certain things rather removed from our goal, since here (unlike in the diseases of the body), each man is his own physician, and we ourselves must grasp the precepts of this art, if we desire our minds to be properly cured.
FRANC. No need to feel ashamed of any excursus. For you were so well-versed in setting forth the nature and causes of perturbations that your speech constantly smacked of character-description, and you struck me as never unmindful of either the argument or the person. So go on and finish this last part, and if in this you show yourself to be such as you seemed in the preceding ones (to say no more), you will satisfy us in abundance.
FLOR. It is agreed that there are many vicious affections, and each of these requires its own medication. And further, to write separately about the remedies for each would be a virtually endless task, and I am not competent to deal with this subject. But to expound this subject in general terms, and at the same time to so usefully, is by far the most difficult thing. For how can we cure diseases of any kind at all with a single drug, unless perchance a herb offers itself to us at this point such as Mercury gave Ulysses to combat all of Circe’s philters, which, according to Homer, “all the gods call moly,” or that all-healing philonium in Galen?
FRANC. Who is there who would not prefer to get where he wants by a shortcut rather than by taking a long road, as long as peril is absent? So we beg you, if you have some common means by which all the diseases of the mind can be banished, don’t keep it hidden from us any longer.
69. FLOR. Lest I gratuitously prolong your anxious awaiting any longer, I shall right now provide you with a compendium, without any nitpicking division in my disputation, so that illumination may not be wanting. Pleurisy is a common enough malady, and in this (as I have heard from physicians) the healer who removes the inflammation of the ribs at the same time does away with the difficulty in breathing, the fever, and the cough, which are concomitant and attendant maladies. And — mark me well here — it is not otherwise when one comes to the affections: he who has made love conform to the standard of reason will have little or no difficult in moderating all the others. For all the others, as many as exist, emanate from love just as streams arise from a fountain. We desire the good, but the good we have previously liked, or rather loved; we shun and fear evils, and are angry at them because they are hostile and opposed to the good we love, or because they prevent us from acquiring it. We hope for the loved good, we grieve and are sorrowful when it is taken away or damaged, we rejoice even at the mere hope of gaining it. In sum, we are insane and always wearying ourselves for no other reason than the good we love, and the bad itself would not displease us if it were not in our nature that the good pleased us. Whoever wishes streams to run clean must begin with their source, and in this context this quotation is not amiss, “By art chariots are swift, by art love must be governed.”
FRANC. So you must tell us the rules and discipline of this art, so that you may join with the poet in saying about a praiseworthy thing what he said about a disgraceful and forbidden one, “I shall be called the Typhis and Automedon of love.”
70. FLOR. A man about to do something, not according to his own self-guidance and counsel but relying on another person’s opinion, has need of that guide and counselor who is wise and reliable in that kind of thing, whatever it may be, and the blinder the man is who is being guided, the more keen-sighted the guide must be. Now, since the will is brutish per se and void of all understanding, its direction and guidance of necessity depends on reason, and since animal appetite is no more than a living being’s propensity to sensible things that it likes, so a man’s will is a propensity to that which pleases reason. So if we want will to be attracted to nothing, that is, to love nothing, except for that which is a genuine good, we must vigorously exert ourselves to ensure that nothing is approved as a good by reason save for that which is genuinely so, and that no mist or infirmity of eyesight makes the bad seem good. For virtually all wholesomeness of human activity depends on the soundness of reason, and that statement by Vergil can not inappropriately be mentioned, “When the king is safe, all men are of one mind. When he is lost, they break faith.” For the kingdom of the entire mind is bestowed by nature on mind and reason, so that those men who have lost their self-control are spoken of thus because they are not governed by judgment and reason. For if reason has not gone astray in making its judgment (as I see Aristotle and the most learned of the Peripatetics teach) it will never willingly sin, the will will never apply itself to a base thing. And just as diseases and sufferings are created in the body when the blood is corrupted, the phlegm is superabundant, or the bile is not yet excreted, so depravity and self-contradiction of opinions is what deprives the mind of its health. So our first cure must be of opinions.
71. FRANC. You appear to me to have said that that the will can never differ from reason’s verdict. So what am I hearing? Then how can will said to be free and in control of itself if it only walks in the footsteps prescribed by reason, if it cannot apply its own judgment, contrary to reason’s, both regarding the bad and the good? In this way, it appears there is no kingdom of the will, but rather that servitude and a narrow circumscription of necessity is involved in its workings. Doesn’t this seem to you to run contrary to what the poet seems to mean when he says, “Cupid urges one thing, my mind another. I see the better and I approve it, but I follow the worse?” Then too, how could that accursed sin of pride have existed in those heavenly minds we call angels, if all sin derives from ignorance or depraved opinion? How could the heavenly splendor of that intellect be brought to such a darkness of mind that it could hope for something manifestly contrary to all nature, I mean a dignity equal to that boundless one of divinity? Whence this arrogant rivalry? How did you fall from heaven, Lucifer, when you used to rise each morning? This certainly does not appear to have been done out of ignorance. And if you want to be self-consistent you must admit this, as you taught above out of your Aristotle, that that intellect which is separated from the body can contain no kind of error. Finally, as we are informed by the learned, there are some misdeeds that can be charged to ignorance, some to perturbation, and some to malice. It appears that there is no room for this distinction if ignorance plays a part in all sin. So neither is all error of the will derived from reason, nor is will so bound by reason that it cannot stray from it and go in another direction. You need to explain these things before you can go where you want.
72. FLOR. You impede my haste by setting roadblocks in my path that I must overcome. But since it touches on my good credit to have a regard for your enthusiasm for the good, I shall briefly touch on this point of ignorance, for there is scarcely any other in moral philosophy that demands a more copious or penetrating treatment. Nonetheless, before I state the reason for my view, I shall briefly reply to the things you objected. But here certain foundations need to be laid, and the gist of them is this: nobody can harbor an appetite for something which, either in truth or in his mistaken opinion, does not seem attainable. For it is given us by nature to seek that which is fitting and which preserves our security, and to shun that which inflicts corruption or destruction. You cannot remove this characteristic of nature any sooner than you can remove nature itself. Now, since nothing can be perfected by an evil (unless we are perchance such leaden blockheads that we believe that we grow warm thanks to coldness itself, or grow black because of whiteness), the evil which is sought contains nothing within itself other than such great indignity that it should keep all appetite at a far distance. In the Phaedrus Plato shows this at great length in the explanation of Socrates, who carefully examines the etymology of the word καλὸν (“good”) and and thinks it is from καλέω (“call”) or κηλέω (“charm”). Hence that proverb κόρος οὐδεὶς τῶν καλῶν (“there is no surfeit of good things.”) For their is a great power of enchantment in the good, and likewise in the beautiful, both for enticement and for bewitchment: indeed, this would be incredible, if experience did not teach us of the perils to which those who vehemently love or hate will expose themselves. It is for that reason that among the philosophers the desirable and the good are regarded as coextensive and have a certain interchangeability, so that whatever is good is also beautiful and thus likewise to be sought, and vice versa. When Epictetus wished to show that there is no evil in nature, but only in our perverse wills, he used this comparison: “just as no target is set up so that it might be missed, so there is no natural evil in this universe.” For whatever occurs in this world does so for some purpose, so that it is in some way to be aimed at like a target. And since this is the case, they preach an absurd doctrine who at this point abuse their talent and their pens in trying to show (more captiously than truly) that the will can also extend itself to embrace wrongdoing. For who seeks that which he does not in some manner adjudge to be worth seeking? If it seems such, it immediately appears to be good too (as is clear from what has been said above).
DEM. So what are they choosing who chose to sin, who undertake thefts, frauds, and forbidden lusts, who scheme impieties? If these are not evils, then what, pray, is evil? For who is unaware that there is no lack of men caught up in desires of that kind?
73. FLOR. This objection repeats that of Francesco, with a few words changed, so my response will be common to both. Since the creation of mankind there has been seen no man, either of his right wits or not, who has been entirely gratuitous in his sinning, I mean who has changed his disposition from the pursuit of honorable things to impropriety and wicked deeds led by no hope of gain or enticed by no sweetness. For no greedy man seeks after the fraud which is involved in base money-grubbing, but rather the money or resources, since he promises himself (albeit falsely) he will have a certain peace when he has gained him. Nor does the adulterer or whoremonger seek after the baseness which is involved in his seductions and lustful wallowings, but rather sensual pleasures, which he desires to have the leisure to enjoy, if such can be. Therefore all the men who apply themselves to improprieties do so because of certain advantages or pleasures, things which are indeed good per se, but to which some turpitude is adjoined. I admit that we can see some men who delight in inflicting even gratuitous injuries, but from this they derive pleasure, since by a certain depravity of nature the man inflicting the injury entertains the opinion that he possesses a kind of excellence as he perceived himself trampling on another man with impunity, although helping another man rather than harming him is the mark of true greatness. Nor does this pertain to any freedom from reason, so that the will can equally be borne to goodness or evil, but rather because when it is confronted by an infinite variety of good things, it accommodates itself to the one it chooses, being addicted to no single thing (as explained by me previously). If you ask for an example, observe how taste recognizes nothing but flavor, but there are various kinds of flavor, and discriminating between them pertains to taste, such as the sweet, the bitter, the sharp, salty, astringent, sharp, acid, and oily. The same logic applies to vision, which discerns nothing but light and colors, but there are various kinds of color. But it is silly to imagine that anything is seen save the bright and the colored. So only that which is either truly good or clad in the appearance of good makes an impression on us.
DEM. So why is the will said to be depraved, if it always seeks good? For it is not a bad thing to seek the good when it is natural to seek the good, and for the will to seek that which is good.
74. FLOR. When it sins in actions the will is borne to a bad thing, but not insofar as it is bad itself. For in diseases badness is nothing other than a certain lameness in action, and, if it should be directed, it pertains to the performance of its function. And this lameness, i. e. this defect in the ordering which ought to have been employed, is of such gravity that the action, which would otherwise be good, is now thought to be bad. It is certainly blameless to seek honors, resources, and natural associations, but when the order imposed by the laws of honesty are neglected, actions take on turpitude and lameness. Thus the will, even when it is delinquent, seeks things which possess something of goodness, but because of their associated foulnesses they are bad and ought to be rejected. But you can perceive that in this matter will is not entirely at variance with reason, and the mistake is not made by the will than by reason, from the fact that we embrace nothing save what pleases us, and whatever pleases us has some aspect of the good, and we never seek something out, as I have already said, which does not seem worthy of being sought for. But here it is worthwhile to realize that the error of judgment involved in sinning is not of a single kind. One form is ignorance, which is commonly said to be ignorance of the law, as when one is uninformed and unschooled in the precepts necessary for living life honorable, as when a man is unaware that whoring is one of the shameful things. And this is a matter that comes in two forms: for sometimes there is present a certain obstinacy of mind that scorns to ask what pertains to duty. This kind of ignorance, which is said to be affected or voluntarily assumed, doubtless increases the degree of a man’s guilt. Sometimes ignorance arises from a certain slothfulness of mind that shrinks from that effort involved in the search for truth. But this passive form of ignorance does not wholly remove the blame, since it is especially incumbent on us to learn the science of honorable things; and yet it partially relieves the burden of guilt and procures a modicum of forgiveness for the wrongdoer.
75. Another kind proceeds from ignorance, not of the law, but of the deed, and this indeed can befall any excellent and most wise man, since no human diligence is such that it can guarantee an outcome or remember everything. This was the ignorance of the young, Aemilius (as the story is told by Plutarch) who saw his wife loitering among the thornbrakes, imagined she was a deer, and shot her with an arrow. He is in the grip of that ignorance who forgets it’s Friday and eats fowl in the presence of us Christians. And the action that derives from this ignorance, which is never held against anyone as a capital crime, since you are held to have done unwittingly what you would not have done if you had been aware of the thing you were doing, in the absence of any negligence or fault on your part. An abundant proof that those actions are involuntary is this, that as soon as we learn of our error we become penitent. Thus Aemilius, out of chagrin for what had happened, committed suicide. But those who go astray when impelled by perturbations can be in possession of a full understanding of both the law and the fact. Their counsel is upright and their deliberations honorable, but when they have come to the doing of the deed they slip, because the the supervening perturbation corrupts judgment. “I must banish this softness of mind, I’m too self-indulgent. Can’t I live without her, if I must, for three whole days?” says Phaedria in Terence. “What, her? After him? And me? When she didn’t? Come on, I’d rather die and show her what sort of man I am. But one false tear of hers will destroy these words.” When he sees her he entirely shakes, he quakes, and immediately dances attendance on Thais. So too Medea, whose words you have quoted: “She spoke, and right, piety and shame stood before her eyes. Now Cupid turned tail, defeated, and her ardor subsided, broken and banished, when she saw Jason and the dampened fire blazed up.”
76. Aristotle calls this kind the impotent, because it cannot command the affections. But where, you will ask, does error come in? This has many complicated, and indeed contradictory syllogisms, and (to use the poet’s words), “now divides the swift mind this way, and now that.” It knows that debauchery is to be shunned, and that that which is presently being offered is altogether to be avoided. But here a certain opposite reflection comes to mind, when it decides that everything that is pleasant is in agreement with nature, then realizes that debauchery is among the pleasant things and therefore to be pursued. This is the conclusion of the syllogism, and from this he immediately leaps to the commission of the crime.
FRANC. Here, as it appears, there are present contrary and self-contradictory affirmations, but reason itself teaches this cannot be the case in practice. For nobody will admit that the same man is both indisposed and healthy at the same time, or that the same water is both hot and cold. And this gentleman is deciding that this is a base crime because it is debauchery, and therefore to be avoided, and yet he will decide that it is a good, and therefore to be pursued, because it is a source of pleasure.
77. FLOR. There would be a genuine inconsistency and self-contradiction if at one given moment the mind were to decide that the same thing or action, completely unchanged, were both good and bad. But this never happens. For while the mind wavers and images swiftly occur to it, the victory inclines now in this direction, and now in that, and so it cannot form contrary decisions save after some interval of passing time. But because the mind’s debating of this issue back and forth is very swift, this passage of time is not evident. Concerning those who admit they are acting wrongly and pursuing depraved things at the very same moment they make their depraved choice, Aristotle says that they are madmen and act like those who “in the midst of sufferings recite the teachings and verses of Empedocles.” Therefore he is of the opinion that they do not seriously and sincerely think they are applying themselves to bad things, but, quite to the contrary, are deciding that for the moment these things are good and worthy of being sought; and since the matter is otherwise, it is manifest that some mental error is intervening. These folk are not completely evil, although they are suffering from human frailty until the affections go into remission, and when the urging of the perturbation is defeated they return to themselves and, despising their lapses, heed the general precepts of honesty with some degree of faithfulness and observance. But some men are thought to sin with malice, not because they like malice per se (it has been shown that nature does not allow this), but because they make a private decision, not being impelled by the upsurge of any perturbation at the moment, to pursue things which they either know to be bad or to be forbidden by law. But it strikes me that the reason for these things is twofold. They are worse who have decided through all their life to do what strikes them as advantageous, be it right or wrong. They have little or no regard for the authority of religion, as long as what they do is hidden from others and they expect they can carry it off with impunity. These men appear to sin most damnably, I mean concerning the things most important for salvation. For in general they believe that God has no concern for mortal affairs, that souls perish entirely, and that virtue is an empty word, and, relying on these dark thoughts, they have acquired the idea that you may live however you please so long as you can escape the punishment of human laws. Much less evil are others who, impelled by habit and depraved custom, assiduously pursue the pleasures of this life, even when these involve harm, but are free of those pestilential errors and restrain themselves from the greatest crimes; nor have they abandoned all reason or showing of honesty, and sometimes they lament that they cannot extricate themselves from their dissolute manner of living and the mire of their vices.
78. As I think, these are near akin to those called impotent by Aristotle, I mean the intemperate ones. They are in the grip of a nearly constant error because they think more is to be allowed to pleasures and advantages than to the honest, and they are considerably more difficult to cure than the impotent, both because of their judgment is more perverse and because of a certain necessity of habit. For in them depravity is a kind of enduring affection or quality, which in the impotent possesses the character of a transitory commotion that does not endure. It seems me that Juvenal, an elegant and sententious poet, has described both of these kinds in these verses: “There are some who refer everything to fortune's chances and believe the world is moved by no governor as nature brings on its cycles of days and years, and thus they bodly lay hands on any altar. Another does believe that punishment follows on crime. He thinks the gods exists, yet commits perjury, telling himself, ‘Let Isis decree whatever she wants for my body and strike at my eyes with her angry sacred rattle, as long as in my blindness I can hang on to this money I claim not to have.Although great, the gods’ anger certainly takes its time.’ This bucks up his fearful, conscience-stricken mind.” I believe that, on the basis of what I have said, it is now clear that the ignorance of him who is malicious is more perilous that than of the man who errors out of impotence or ignorance. Thus the guilt of them who sin out of involuntary ignorance or ignorance of the deed is nonexistent, or at least trifling. Likewise it is easy to pardon those who are perturbed. But malice conjoined with great contempt is to be punished severely, with a heavy hand. And indeed this contempt seems to be the thing that distinguishes the malicious from the impotent, even if malice lacks that suddenly-born frenzy of perturbation. I would easily have passed over this distinction regarding ignorance if you were not responsible for this organization of my discourse.
79. FRANC. Since error of judgment is all-pervasive, why is there no protection for those whom are blinded by malice, just as or those who impotently lapse out of error?
FLOR. As I have often said, our industry cannot guarantee that perturbations will not crop up, nor can it immediately repress them once they have. Therefore, although deliberation is honest before the motion arises, and when it has disappeared it readily returns to the honest, there is some lapse in protection because of the very fact that reason is beclouded. But the matter stands very differently regarding that kind of error which is premeditated and base by design. Perturbation is absent from this, and does not impel the wrongdoer towards his criminal deed, as occurs to the other one; rather he seems to go of his own volition.
FRANC. Every perturbation seems to be a kind of intoxication of reason, Here, I think, we are being reminded to be on our guard against “dry drunkenness.” But if drunkenness, lasting only a brief while, is supported no little by evildoing, it seems that this is all the more so for a drunkenness that is perpetual. For he who relies on malice in his delinquency seems to suffer from a constant and intense perturbation of self-love, and also a certain perversity of temperament. He is furthermore supported by habit, which can play the part of a new perturbation.
80. FLOR. Immoderate self-love and depravity of temperament is also present in the impotent. But you will perhaps insist that it is unfair to identify them as victims of depraved temperament. To this I respond that depraved nature can be forgiven to no small extent: for God also pities us, and He is not unaware of what clay we are made. But since our temperament is not so troublesome that it does not wholly destroy our use of the mind, in the manner of vehement perturbations (you can observe that the malicious are most ingenious and employ the keenest intellect in their pursuits), and some general notions of honesty always remain in their mind which gives them a capacious power to determine the truth, this supervening ignorance cannot support criminality. It is sufficiently clear from what we discussed above what needs to be added about vicious habit, and by what means it is to be dispelled. Here I do not deny that it is only to Christian piety that we can look for the cleansing of corrupt nature, I only touch on this in passing, because it can be alleged against our idleness when with unreasonable severity we accuse our nature rather than our will or reason.
81. But now I must come to that evil crime of the angels, over which those of our theologians who attempt to join Peripatetic philosophy to religion go into wonderful contortions as they seek to explain its means and reasons. They do not attribute any turmoil or gross error to those angels, but only a certain lack of consideration which brought it about, not that they thought themselves God’s equals (which would have been entirely absurd to think); rather, they fell into a kind of mental elation in valuing their own species and dignity without reflecting that it was God who was first responsible for bestowing these on them. If you wish to learn about these things in greater detail, read the theologians themselves. For in the deepest and most difficult questions of this kind, such as those concerning the ineffable Trinity, the perpetual immutability of divine decisions concerning Man’s salvation popularly called predestination, the manner in which human nature is conjoined with divinity in Christ, the manner in which souls separated from the body are tormented by hellfire, and many other problems of this kind, I cheerfully join Paul in confessing my ignorance of these matters and exclaim, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!” At present let this suffice for us, that the distinctive feature of a yardstick (and I do not blush to repeat that which can never be said enough) is that it never deviates from its upright position. For if a yardstick is out of true, it is no longer a yardstick. But God Himself is the yardstick, and everything else, since there is no yardstick in them, are neither of a kind, nor can be or be imagined to be of a kind which is not fallible and transitory by its own nature. So all other things remain whole and upright to the extent that they are preserved and guided by God Himself, our Sovereign, never to be named without most pious quaking.
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