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1. [7]

Sometimes indeed men are actually praised1 for deeds of this ‘mixed’ class, namely when they submit to some disgrace or pain as the price of some great and noble object; though if they do so without any such motive they are blamed, since it is contemptible to submit to a great disgrace with no advantage or only a trifling one in view. In some cases again, such submission though not praised is condoned, when a man does something wrong through fear of penalties that impose too great a strain on human nature, and that no one could endure. 1. [8] Yet there seem to be some acts which a man cannot be compelled to do,2 and rather than do them he ought to submit to the most terrible death: for instance, we think it ridiculous that Alcmaeon in Euripides' play3 is compelled by certain threats to murder his mother! 1. [9] But it is sometimes difficult to decide how far we ought to go in choosing to do a given act rather than suffer a given penalty, or in enduring a given penalty rather than commit a given action; and it is still more difficult to abide by our decision when made, since in most of such dilemmas the penalty threatened is painful and the deed forced upon us dishonorable, which is why praise and blame are bestowed according as we do or do not yield to such compulsion.

1 Which shows that the acts are regarded as voluntary ( Peters).

2 i.e., some acts are so repulsive that a man's abhorrence of them must be stronger than any pressure that can be put on him to commit them; so that if he commits them he must be held to have chosen to do so.

3 In a play now lost, Eriphyle was bribed with a necklace to induce her husband Amphiaraus, king of Argos, to join the expedition of the Seven against Thebes. Foreseeing he would lose his life, he charged his sons to avenge his death upon their mother, invoking on them famine and childlessness if they disobeyed. The verse in question is preserved: μάλιστα μὲν μ᾽ ἐπῆρ᾽ ἐπισκήψας πατήρ. Alcmaeon, fr. 69 (Nauck).

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