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What is the test of error.

Every error implies a contradiction; for since he who errs does not wish to err, but to be in the right, it is evident that he acts contrary to his wish. What does a thief desire to attain? His own interest. If, then, thieving be really against his interest, he acts contrary to his own desire. Now, every rational soul is naturally averse to self-contradiction; but so long as any one is ignorant that it is a contradiction, nothing restrains him from acting contradictorily; but whenever he discovers it, he must as necessarily renounce and avoid it, as any one must dissent from a falsehood whenever he perceives it to be a falsehood; only while this does not appear, he assents to it as to a truth.

He, then, is gifted in speech, and excels at once in exhortation and conviction, who can disclose to each man the contradiction by which he errs, and prove clearly to him that what he would he doth not, and what he would not, that he doth. For, if that be shown, he will depart from it of his own accord; but, till you have shown it, be not surprised that he remains where he is; for he proceeds on the semblance of acting rightly. Hence Socrates, relying on this fac- [p. 1221] ulty, used to say. "It is not my custom to cite any other witness for my assertions; but I am always contented with my opponent. I call and summon him for my witness; and his single evidence serves instead of all others." For he knew that if a rational soul be moved by anything, the scale must turn whether it will or no. Show the governing faculty of Reason a contradiction, and it will renounce it; but till you have shown it, rather blame yourself than him who remains unconvinced. [p. 1222]


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