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‘Maxims may also be cited in opposition to, or in contradiction of, those that have become public property—by these I mean such as ‘know thyself’, ‘avoid excess’ (the maxims or adages of Solon and Chilon)—whenever one's character is likely to be put in a more favourable light (thereby), or the γνώμη has been pronounced in an excited state of feeling (by the opponent who is to be answered); of this ‘pathetic’ γνώμη an instance is, if for example a man in a fit of passion were to say that it is false that a man is bound to know himself, “this gentleman at any rate, if he knew himself, would never have claimed to be elected general.”’

Aristotle has said that there are two classes of cases in which a generally accepted or ‘universal’ maxim—such as Solon's γνῶθι σεαυτόν—may be contradicted with effect. One of these is, when the γνώμη itself, including the contradiction of it—as appears from the example— is uttered in a state of excited feeling, real or assumed, such as indignation. The example of this is a man in a fit of passion, ὀργιζόμενος, loudly asserting that Solon's universally accepted maxim, or the precept conveyed by it, is untrue, or at any rate liable to exception; for if so and so (some imaginary person) had had a true knowledge of himself (and his own incapacity) he never would have aspired to be a general: but he has done so, and succeeded in the attempt: and this success shews the falsity of the rule, as a prudential maxim, at any rate in this case; and also being undeserved provokes the indignation of the speaker. And it is to be observed that this success without merit is necessary to inspire the feeling, the existence of which is distinctly stated. The case is that of Cleon, Thuc. IV 27 seq. Victorius however understands it in a different sense. According to him the case is that of an Iphicrates, who raised himself from a low condition to the height of power and distinction; Rhet. I 7. 32, Ἰφικράτης αὑτὸν ἐνεκωμίαζε λέγων ἐξ ὧν ὑπῆρξε ταῦτα; I 9. 31, ἐξ οἵων εἰς οἷα, (τὸ τοῦ Ἰφικράτους); if Iphicrates had ‘known himself’, i. e. remembered his origin, he never could have entered upon such a career. But it seems to me that this is not a proper interpretation of ‘self-knowledge’, and that the maxim could not be applied in this sense: the mere recollection of his former low estate surely is not entitled to the name of knowledge of self. Iphicrates, instead of disobeying the precept, conformed to it in the strictest sense; he did know himself so well, he was so fully aware of his capacity for fulfilling the duties of the office, that he did not hesitate to apply for and exercise the command of an army. Victorius' words are; “παθητικῶς dicet, qui ira percitus ita loquetur” (but what is the occasion of the anger, when it is thus interpreted? The mere contradiction of an universal maxim does not give rise to a fit of passion), “falsum est omnino, quod aiunt, debere homines seipsos nosse: hic enim profecto si se ipsum cognosset nunquam praetor ducere exercitum voluisset.” It may perhaps be meant that the speaker assumes indignation in order to give force to his contradiction: or really gets into a passion at the thought of the folly of mankind for believing it.

‘Our character is bettered, men's opinion of our character is improved, by saying for instance (subaudi οἷον εἴ τις λέγοι, aut tale aliquid) that we ought not, as is said, to love as with the prospect of our love being turned into hatred, but rather the reverse, to hate as if that was likely to become love’. This is Bias' precept or suggestion, ὑποθήκη, see note on II 13. 4.

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