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I ONCE asked Taurus in his lecture-room whether a wise man got angry. For after his daily discourses he often gave everyone the opportunity of asking whatever questions he wished. On this occasion he first discussed the disease or passion of anger seriously and at length, setting forth what is to be fund in the books of the ancients and in his own commentaries; then, turning to me who had asked [p. 117] the question, he said: “This is what I think about getting angry, but it will not be out of place for you to hear also the opinion of my master Plutarch, a man of great learning and wisdom. Plutarch,” said he, “once gave orders that one of his slaves, a worthless and insolent fellow, but one whose ears had been filled with the teachings and arguments of philosophy, should be stripped of his tunic for some offence or other and flogged. They had begun to beat him, and the slave kept protesting that he did not deserve the flogging; that he was guilty of no wrong, no crime. Finally, while the lashing still went on, he began to shout, no longer uttering complaints or shrieks and groans, but serious reproaches. Plutarch's conduct, he said, was unworthy of a philosopher; to be angry was shameful: his master had often descanted on the evil of anger and had even written an excellent treatise περὶ ᾿αοργησίας; 1 it was in no way consistent with all that was written in that book that its author should fall into a fit of violent rage and punish his slave with many stripes. Then Plutarch calmly and mildly made answer: ' What makes you think, scoundrel, that I am now angry with you. Is it from my expression, my voice, my colour, or even my words, that you believe me to be in the grasp of anger? In my opinion my eyes are not fierce, my expression is not disturbed, I am neither shouting madly nor foaming at the mouth and getting red in the face; I am saying nothing to cause me shame or regret; I am not trembling at all from anger or making violent gestures. For all these actions, if you did but know it, are the usual signs of angry passions.' And with these words, turning to the man who was plying the lash, [p. 119] he said: 'In the meantime, while this fellow and I are arguing, do you keep at it.'” Now the sum and substance of Taurus' whole disquisition was this: he did not believe that ἀοργησία or “freedom from anger,” and ἀναλγησία, or “lack of sensibility,” were identical; but that a mind not prone to anger was one thing, a spirit ἀνάλγητος and ἀναίσθητος, that is, callous and unfeeling, quite another. For as of all the rest of the emotions which the Latin philosophers call affects or affectiones, and the Greeks πάθη, so of the one which, when it becomes a cruel desire for vengeance, is called “anger,” he did not recommend as expedient a total lack, στέρησις as the Greeks say, but a moderate amount, which they call μετριότης.
1 On Freedom from Anger; the work has not survived.
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