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What possible form of argument, my dear Sosius Senetio, will keep alive in a mak the consciousness that he is growing better in regard to virtue, if it is a fact that the successive stages of his progress produce no abatement of his unwisdom, but, on the contrary, vice constantly besets all progress, and with countervailing weight drags him down,
As leaden weights submerge the fisher's net?1
For, by the same token, in music or grammar a man would not realize that he was making any improvement if in the process of learning he should in no wise lower the level of his ignorance about these subjects, and his lack of proficiency should all the time persist to the same degree. So, too, in the case of a sick man, a course of treatment that should not in some way effect an easing and alleviation of the malady, by making it to yield and let go its hold on him, would not afford him any perception of a change for the better until the opposite condition had been unmistakably engendered, his body having completely recovered its strength. On the contrary, just as in these cases persons make no progress unless their progress is marked by such an abatement of what is oppressing them, that, when the scale turns [p. 403] and they swing upward in the opposite direction, they can note the change, so too, in the study of philosophy, neither progress nor any sense of progress is to be assumed, if the soul does not put aside any of its gross stupidity and purge itself thereof, and if, up to the moment of its attaining the absolute and perfect good, it is wedded to evil which is also absolute. Why, if this be so, the wise man in a moment or a second of time changes from the lowest possible depravity to an unsurpassable state of virtue ; and all his vice, of which he has not in long years succeeded in removing even a small portion, he suddenly leaves behind for ever. Yet you doubtless know that, on the other hand, the authors of such assertions make for themselves much trouble and great difficulties over the unwitting man,2 who has as yet failed to apprehend the fact that he has become wise, but does not know, and hesitates to believe, that his advancement, which has been effected by the gradual and longcontinued process of divesting himself of some qualities and adding others, has, as walking brings one where he would be, imperceptibly and quietly brought him into virtue's company. But if there were such a swiftness in the change and a difference so vast, that the man who was the very worst in the morning should have become the very best at evening, or should the change so come about that he who was a worthless dolt when he fell asleep should awake wise, and, having dismissed from his soul his gross stupidities and false concepts of yesterday, could exclaim :
False dreams, farewell! Ye are but naught, it seems,3
[p. 405] —who would fail to recognize that a great difference like this had been wrought in his own self, and that the light of wisdom had all at once burst upon him ? Why, it seems to me that anyone who, like Caeneus,4 were made man from woman in answer to prayer, would sooner fail to recognize the transformation. than that anyone made temperate, wise, and brave, from being cowardly, foolish, and licentious, and transferred from a bestial to a godlike life, should for a single second not perceive what had happened to him.

1 From an unknown drama of Sophocles; Nauck, Trag. Graec. Frag., Sophocles, No. 756.

2 Plutarch deals more fully with this topic in the essay, ‘Inconsistencies of the Stoics,’ Moralia, 1042 F.

3 Euripides, Iphigenia in Tauris, 569.

4 Cf. Ovid, Metamorphoses, xii. 189 ff.

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