That courage is not inconsistent with caution.There is an assertion of the philosophers which may perhaps appear a paradox to many; yet let us fairly examine whether it be true, - that it is possible, in all things, to act at once with caution and courage. For caution seems, in some measure, contrary to courage; and contraries are by no means consistent. The appearance of a paradox in the present case seems to me to arise as follows. If indeed we assert that courage and caution are to be used in the same instances, we might justly be accused of uniting contradictions; but in the way that we affirm it, where is the absurdity? For if what has been so often said, and so often demonstrated, be certain, that the essence of good and evil consists in the use of things as they appear, and that things inevitable are not to be classed either as good or evil, what paradox do the philosophers assert, if they say, " Where events are inevitable, meet them with courage, but otherwise with caution "? For in these last cases only, if evil lies in a perverted will, is caution to [p. 1109] be used; and if things inevitable and uncontrollable are nothing to us, in these we are to make use of courage. Thus we shall be at once cautious and courageous, and, indeed, courageous on account of this very caution; for by using caution with regard to things really evil, we shall gain courage with regard to what are not so. But we are in the same condition with deer; when these in a fright fly from the plumes [which hunters wave], whither do they turn, and to what do they retire for safety? To the nets. And thus they are undone, by inverting the objects of fear and confidence. Thus we, too. When do we yield to fear? About things inevitable. When, on the other hand, do we behave with courage, as if there were nothing to be dreaded? About things that might be controlled by will. To be deceived, then, or to act rashly or imprudently, or to indulge a scandalous desire, we treat as of no importance, in our effort to bring about things which we cannot, after all, control. But where death, or exile, or pain, or ignominy, is concerned, then comes the retreat, the flutter, and the fright. Hence, as it must be with those who err in matters of the greatest importance, we turn what should be courage into rashness, desperation, recklessness, effrontery; and what should be caution becomes timid, base, and full of fears and perturbations. Let one apply his spirit of caution to things within the reach of his own will, then he will have the subject of avoid- [p. 1110] ance within his own control; but if he transfers it to that which is inevitable, trying to shun that which he cannot control and others can, then he must needs fear, be harassed, and be disturbed. For it is not death or pain that is to be dreaded, but the fear of pain or death. Hence we commend him who says:
Courage, then, ought to be opposed to death, and caution to the fear of death; whereas we, on the contrary, oppose to death, flight; and to these our false convictions concerning it, recklessness, and desperation, and assumed indifference. Socrates used, very properly, to call these things masks; for as masks appear shocking and formidable to children from their inexperience, so we are thus affected with regard to things for no other reason. For what constitutes a child? Ignorance. What constitutes a child? Want of instruction; for they are our equals, so far as their degree of knowledge permits. What is death? A mask. Turn it on the other side and be convinced. See, it doth not bite. This little body and spirit must be again, as once, separated, either now or hereafter; why, then, are you displeased if it be now? For if not now it will be hereafter. Why? To fulfil the course of the universe; for that hath need of some things present, others to come, and others already completed. [p. 1111] What is pain? A mask. Turn it and be convinced. This weak flesh is sometimes affected by harsh, sometimes by smooth impressions. If suffering be beyond endurance, the door is open; till then, bear it. It is fit that the final door should be open against all accidents, since thus we escape all trouble. What, then, is the fruit of these principles? What it ought to be; the most noble, and the most suitable to the wise, - tranquillity, security, freedom. For in this case we are not to give credit to the many, who say that none ought to be educated but the free; but rather to the philosophers, who say that the wise alone are free. "How so?" Thus: is freedom anything else than the power of living as we like? "Nothing else." Well; tell me then, do you like to live in error? " We do not. No one who lives in error is free." Do you like to live in fear? Do you like to live in sorrow? Do you like to live in perturbation? " By no means." No one, therefore, in a state of fear, or sorrow, or perturbation, is free; but whoever is delivered from sorrow, fear, and perturbation, by the same means is delivered likewise from slavery. How shall we believe you, then, good legislators, when you say, " We allow none to be educated but the free "? For the [p. 1112] philosophers say, "We allow none to be free but the wise; " that is, God doth not allow it. " What, then; when any person hath turned his slave about before the consul,1 has he done nothing? " Yes, he has. "What? " He has turned his slave about before the consul. " Nothing more? " Yes. He pays a fine for him. "Well, then; is not the man who has gone through this ceremony rendered free?" Only so far as he is emancipated from perturbation. Pray, have you, who are able to give this freedom to others, no master of your own? Are you not a slave to money; to a girl; to a boy; to a tyrant; to some friend of a tyrant? Else why do you tremble when any one of these is in question? Therefore, I so often repeat to you, let this be your study and constant pursuit, to learn in what it is necessary to be courageous, and in what cautious; courageous against the inevitable, cautious so far as your will can control. " But have I not read my essay to you? Do not you know what I am doing?" In what? " In my essays." Show me in what state you are as to desires and aversions; whether you do not fail of what you wish, and incur what you would avoid; but, as to these 1 The prescribed form of manumission. - H. [p. 1113] commonplace essays, if you are wise, you will take them, and destroy them. "Why? Did not Socrates write?" Yes; who so much? But how? As he had not always one at hand to argue against his principles, or be argued against in his turn, he argued with and examined himself, and always made practical application of some one great principle at least. These are the things which a philosopher writes; but such commonplaces as those of which I speak he leaves to the foolish, or to the happy creatures whom idleness furnishes with leisure, or to such as are too weak to regard consequences. And yet will you, when opportunity offers, come forward to exhibit and read aloud such things, and take a pride in them? "Pray, see how I compose dialogues." Talk not of that, man, but rather be able to say, See how I accomplish my purposes; see how I avert what I wish to shun. Set death before me; set pain, a prison, disgrace, doom, and you will know me? This should be the pride of a young man come out from the schools. Leave the rest to others. Let no one ever hear you waste a word upon them, nor suffer it, if any one commends you for them; but admit that you are nobody, and that you know nothing. Appear to know only this, never to fail nor fall. Let others study cases, problems, and syllogisms. Do you rather contemplate death, change, torture, exile; and all these with courage, and reliance upon Him [p. 1114] who hath called you to them, and judged you worthy a post in which you may show what reason can do when it encounters the inevitable. And thus this paradox ceases to be a paradox, that we must be at once cautious and courageous; courageous against the inevitable, and cautious when events are within our own control.
“Death is no ill, but shamefully to die.
”Euripides, Fragments. - H.