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‘And not ill-natured but good-natured, because they have as yet had but few opportunities of observing the (prevalent) wickedness (of society)’. πονηρίας, plural, the acts or cases of villainy which meet us so frequently in the experience of life. The meaning of εὐήθεις here may be determined by its opposite κακοήθεις, which is thus defined in c. 13. 3; κακοήθεια τὸ ἐπὶ τὸ χεῖρον ὑπολαμβάνειν πάντα. It therefore denotes the simple, innocent, artless, candid turn of mind which ‘thinketh no evil’, and puts a favourable interpretation upon any doubtful act or expression. This is of course the primary and proper sense of the word, and so it is employed by Thucyd. III 83, καὶ τὸ εὔηθες, οὗ τὸ γενναῖον πλεῖστον μετέχει, καταγελασθὲν ἠφανίσθη, ‘simplicity, the chiefest ingredient of a noble temper, was laughed to scorn and disappeared’; namely, in that degeneration of character, and consequent perversion of language, which are ascribed by the author to the factious quarrels then prevailing in Greece. In Herod. III 140, there is a doubtful instance, δἰ εὐηθίην, which Schweighäuser explains by animi bonitas, though the more unfavourable signification is equally probable. And in Demosth. c. Timocr. 717. 2, τῆς ὑμετέρας εὐηθείας certainly bears the same sense as Aristotle gives to the word here. But in its ordinary application—even in Herodotus and the tragedians; in Plato, with whom it is very frequent, almost invariably— ‘simplicity’ has degenerated into silliness or absurdity, by that process of deterioration, common in language, which Trench, Study of Words, Lect. II. ‘On the morality in words’, has abundantly illustrated. He refers to εὐήθης without naming it, p. 46. Bonhomie and Einfalt have precisely the same double sense. [Cf. Vol. I. p. 175.] I must however add that it is equally possible that Ar. may have meant here that youth are ‘simple-minded’, i. e. prone to a simple and literal interpretation of everything as they see it, without penetrating beneath the surface, ‘inclined to think well of everything’—and so Victorius, ingenii simplicis et fatui, bene de omnibus existimantes— especially as Ar. himself has twice used the word in the disparaging sense, III 1. 9; 12. 2. Comp. Plat. Rep. III 409 A (quoted by Victorius), διὸ δὴ καὶ εὐήθεις νέοι ὄντες οἱ ἐπιεικεῖς φαίνονται, καὶ εὐεξαπάτητοι ὑπὸ τῶν ἀδίκων, ἅτε οὐκ ἔχοντες ἐν ἑαυτοῖς παραδείγματα ὁμοιοπαθῆ τοῖς πονηροῖς. [Martial, XII. 51, Tam saepe nostrum decipi Fabullinum Miraris, Aule? Semper homo bonus tiro est.] καὶ εὔπιστοι, κ.τ.λ.] ‘And credulous (easy of persuasion), owing to their having been hitherto seldom exposed to deceit’.
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