XIX[19arg] That a sin is not removed or lessened by citing in excuse similar sins which others have committed; with a passage front a speech of Demosthenes on that subject.
THE philosopher Taurus once reproved a young man with severe and vigorous censure because he had turned from the rhetoricians and the study of eloquence to the pursuit of philosophy, declaring that he had done something dishonourable and shameful. Now the young man did not deny the allegation, but urged in his defence that it was commonly done and tried to justify the baseness of the fault by citing examples and by the excuse of custom. And then Taurus, being the more irritated by the very nature of his defence, said: “Foolish and worthless fellow, if the authority and rules of philosophy do not deter you from following bad examples, does not even the saying of your own celebrated Demosthenes occur to you? For since it is couched in a polished and graceful form of words, it might, like a sort of rhetorical catch, the more easily remain fixed in your memory. For,” said he, “if I do not forget what as a matter of fact I read in my early youth, these are the words of Demosthenes, spoken against one who, as you now do, tried to justify and excuse his own sin by those of others: 1 'Say not, Sir, that this has often been done, but that it ought to be so done; for if anything was ever done contrary to the [p. 267] laws, and you followed that example, you would not for that reason justly escape punishment, but you would suffer much more severely. For just as, if anyone had suffered a penalty for it, you would not have proposed this, so if you suffer punishment now, no one else will propose it.'” Thus did Taurus, by the use of every kind of persuasion and admonition, incline his disciples to the principles of a virtuous and blameless manner of life.