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Of general principles.

The same general principles are common to all men, nor does one such principle contradict another; for which of us does not admit that good is [p. 1074] advantageous and eligible, and in all cases to be pursued and followed? Who does not admit that justice is fair and becoming? Where, then, arises the dispute? In adapting these principles to particular cases; as when one cries, "Such a person has acted well, - he is a gallant man;" and another, " No, he has acted like a fool." Hence arise disputes among men. This is the dispute between Jews and Syrians and Egyptians and Romans, - not whether the right be preferable to all things, and in every instance to be sought; but whether the eating swine's flesh be consistent with right, or not. This, too, you will find to have been the dispute between Achilles and Agamemnon; for call them forth. What say you, Agamemnon, -ought not that to be done which is fit and right? "Yes, surely." Achilles, what say you, -is it not agreeable to you, that what is right should be done? "Yes; I desire it beyond everything." Apply your principles then. Here begins the dispute. One says, "It is not fit that I should restore Chryseis to her father." The other says, "Yes; but it is." One or the other of them, certainly, makes a wrong conception of the principle of fitness. Again, the one says, " If it be fit that I should give up Chryseis, it is fit, too, that I should take some of your prizes." The other answers, "What, that you should take my mistress?" "Ay; yours." "What, mine only? Must I only, then, lose my prize?"

What, then, is it to be properly educated? To [p. 1075] learn how to apply the principles of natural right to particular cases, and, for the rest, to distinguish that some things are in our power, while others are not. In our own power are the will, and all voluntary actions; out of our power, the body and its parts, property, parents, brothers, children, country, and, in short, all our fellow-beings. Where, then, shall we place good? In what shall we define it to consist? In things within our own power. "But are not health and strength and life good? And are not children, parents, country? You talk unreasonably."

Let us, then, try another point of view. Can he who suffers evil, and is disappointed of good, be happy? He cannot. And can he preserve a right behavior with regard to society? How is it possible that he should? I am naturally led to seek my own highest good. If, therefore, it is my highest good to have an estate, it is for my good likewise to take it away from my neighbor. If it is my highest good to have a suit of clothes, it is for my good likewise to steal it wherever I find it. Hence wars, seditions, tyranny, unjust invasions. How shall I, if this be the case, be able any longer to do my duty towards Zeus? If I suffer evil, and am disappointed, he takes no care of me. And what is he to me if he cannot help me; or. again, what is he to me if he chooses I should be in the condition that I am? Then I begin to hate him. What, then, do we build temples, do we raise statues, to Zeus. as to evil [p. 1076] demons, as to the goddess Fever? How, then, is he the preserver, and how the dispenser of rain and plenty? If we place the essence of good on any such ground, all this will follow. What, then, shall we do?

This is the inquiry which interests him who philosophizes in earnest, and to some result. Do I not now see what is good, and what is evil, or am I mad? Suppose I place good only in things dependent on my own will? Why, every one will laugh at me. Some gray-headed old fellow will come, with his fingers covered with gold rings, and will shake his head, and say, "Hark ye, child, it is fit you should learn philosophy; but it is fit, too, you should have common-sense. All this is nonsense. You learn syllogisms from philosophers; but how you are to act, you know better than they." Then what displeases you if I do know? What can I say to this unfortunate? If I make no answer, he will burst; so I must answer thus: "Bear with me, as with lovers. Granted; I am not myself. I have lost my senses."


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