« EelmineJätka »
aim, and forms his hand to a proper direction of whatever he throws from it; and when by instruction and practice he hath made himself a master in this art, he useth it as he pleases; for he hath learned not to hit this or that thing in particular, but whatever he thinks hit; so he that instructeth himself in the whole duty of life, needs no particular admonition; being taught in general, not how to live, with regard to his wife or his children, but to live well, which includes every relative obligation. Cleanthes likewise allows the Parænetic Philosophy, or knowledge of particulars to be in some measure profitable; but weak and defective; unless as it flows from the universal understanding of the principles, and decrees of philosophy.
Here then is started a question or two; whether this preceptive philosophy be useful, or not useful; whether alone it can make a good man; i. e. whether it be superfluous itself, or so important as to ren.der all other parts of philosophy superfluous? They who maintain it to be superfluous, argue thus; If any thing placed before the eyes obstructs the sight, the impediment must be removed, or else it is to nd purpose to bid a man walk to such a place, or to reach such a thing with bis band. In like manner, when any thing so darkens the mind as to prevent an insight into the whole order of duty, it is in vain to direct a man, saying, thus you fall live with your father, or thus with your wife; for precepts avail nothing, so long as ignorance and error cloud the understanding; these must be removed, and every requisition of -duty will be manifeft. Otherwise, you teach him what a sensible man ought to do, but do not make him so; you fhew one that is
poor how to act the rich man, which it is impossible for him to do so long as he continues poor; you bid the hungry man behave himself as with a full ftomach; whereas you ought first to satisfy the painful cravings within (a).
Now I will maintain the same concerning all manner of vice: there must be removed, or, so long as these remain, precepts will have no effect: unless all such false opinions, as we generally labour under, are expelled, the covetous man will not hear how he may put his money VOL. II.
to a right use; nor the timorous, how he may contemn danger. Yous
be encreased ;--and if it be great indeed, it cannot last much longer * :-that all things therefore, which the necef-. fity of the world brings upon us, are to be endured with courage and. patience.
When by these and the like axioms a man is brought to a thorough sense of his condition, and is perfectly assured that the happiness of life consists not in being pleasurable, but in its correspondency with nature; when he shall be enamoured with virtue, as the chief good of man; and fly from turpitude, as the only evil; looking upon all other things, as riches, honour, health, strength, power and dominion, with . indifference, as being neither good nor bad in themselves: he will no longer want a monitor to instruct him in particulars, , saying, thus you : must walk; thus you must sup; frich a behaviour becomes a man; and such : is proper for the fair sex; thus fiould a married man act, and thus a batchelor: for they who most industriously offer their prescriptions, follow them not always themselves: they are nothing more than what the
pedagogue teacheth his scholar, and the grandmother her darling: and. you shall often hear the most choleric man in the world proving that it is not a right thing to be passionate; nay, were you to go
of our schools, you would find that the lofty precepts of the philosophers, pronounced with a supercilious air, are nothing more than the usual lessons given to children.
And, after all, are the precepts given manifest or doubtful? if manis fest, they need no teacher; if doubtful, they can gain the philosopher:
but little credit from his audience. The giving therefore such particular precepts is superfluous. Or, take it thus ; if what you propose to teach or advise be ambiguous or obscure, you must explain, and prove it, by dint of argument; and if you prevail, such proofs and arguments are what do the business, and are suflicient of themselves, without the particular precept: thus use your friend; thus a fellowcitizen; thus a companion : but why? because it is juft. Commonplace then, relating to justice, will teach me all these things. Hence I find that equity is to be pursued upon its own account; that we are not to be compelled thereto by fear ; nor bribed by reward : that he is not a just man who approves of any particular in this virtue, but the virtue itself. When I am persuaded, and have imbibed this principle, what signify those particular precepts towards the edification of one thoroughly instructed before? To give precepts to the knowing, is superfluous, and too much; to give them to those who know nothing, is by no means enough; for they are not only to be told what they are to do, but why they are to do so.
Again; are these precepts necessary for one who hath true notions of good and evil; or for one who hath them not? He that hath them not, will never be moved by any thing you can say to him; having his ears prejudiced with such common notions, as militate against your admonitions; and he that forms a right judgment of what he ought to avoid, and what to pursue, knows already how to act under every
circumftance, without further instructions from All this part of philofophy therefore may well be spared.
you. All this
There are two errors, to which is owing the commission of evil; either the mind hath contracted a malignity from false opinions; or, if not already infected, it hath a propensity thereto; and by this wrong bias, under some specious resemblance of truth, is foon corrupted: it behoveth us therefore to cure the sick mind, and purge it from every vicious principle; or, if it be free, and as yet only prone to evil, to pre-engage it as soon as possible before it comes to an ill habit. Now in both these cases the solemn decrees of philosophy will sufficiently enable us; when the manner of giving precept upon precept would avail nothing
Besides, were we to give precepts to every individual, the labour would be infinite : for we must give one fort to the usurer; another to the husbandman; another to the merchant; another to such as dangle after the favour of princes, or of great men; another to those who make their court to their equals; and another to those who are obsequious to their superiors: in matrimony you must teach a man how to behave to his wife, whom he married a virgin; and how to a widow; how to one who brought him a large fortune; and to one whom be thought sufficiently portioned with virtue and good senfe. And think not some difference is to be made between a barren and a fruitful woman; between one advanced in years and a mere girl; between a mother and a step-dame? the different forts are inconceivable; yet every individual requires a particular charge. But the laws or decrees of philosophy are brief, and contain every obligation.
Add now, that the precepts of a wise man ought to be limited and. certain; if infinite, they pertain not to wisdom; for wisdom knoweth the bounds of all things: therefore is this preceptive part of philosophy. to be rejected; because what it promiseth to few it cannot make good to all; but wisdom extends to all,
All the difference between the common madness of the world (6) and of such as are delivered into the hands of the physician, is, the one sort labours under a disease, the other under false opinions. The one hath drawn the causes of his frenzy from an indisposition of the body, the other is the sickness of the mind. Should
any one pretend to prescribe to the madman, how he ought to speak, how to walk, how to behave himself in public, and how in private, such a doctor would be thought not less mad than his patient. No; the black bilious humour must first be purged off, and the very cause of the disease removed; and in like manner must we proceed with any other frenzy of the mind; 4
this must first be discussed and driven away; or otherwise all manner of precepts and admonitions will at present have no effect.-So far Aristo, whom we propose to answer in every particular.
And first, in regard to the eye, it is said, if any thing obstructs the fight, it must be removed. I own that in this case there is no need of precepts to make a man fee; but of medicines proper to clear the light, by removing the film or suffusion, or whatever else obstructs it: for by. nature we see; and whoever removes any obstacle, restores the eye to its proper use. But nature points not out the obligation of every duty. Besides, he that is cured of a suffusion in the eye, though he immediately recovers fight himself, cannot give it to others; whereas he that is: cured of any malignity of mind, may possibly cure others. There is no need of any exhortation or advice to understand the qualities of colours: the eye will customarily distinguish white from black without a teacher; but the mind wants many precepts before it can see the fitness of every action in life. Howbeit, the physician not only cures the diseased
but also gives his advice, saying to his patient, you must not expose the eye as yet to too glaring a light, but must proceed from darkness to a gloomy Shade; and then venture further, 'till by degrees you accustom it to endure broad day-light: you must not study immediately after dinner, nor impose a duty upon the eye when fwoln or watery (c). Keep also the wind or wintery cold from beating on your face; with the like admonitions, that are as requisite and useful as medicine itself. Thus I fay physicians think it necessary to add good advice to their prescriptions:
But error is said to be the cause of fin; and that precepts are of little avail, either in removing this, or in conquering false opinions concerning good and evil. I
that precepts are not effectual of theinselves to drive a perverse opinion from the understanding; yet it does not follow but that in some measure they may prove useful: for first, they undoubtedly refresh the memory; and, secondly, as they bring us to a distinct view of the parts, which we saw but confusedly in the whole.