Friday, October 7, 2011

most complete...

I think it was Mark Twain who, when asked about the controversy over who really wrote the books attributed to Homer, said, "If Homer didnt write them, some other guy named Homer did" (that is, I think, a paraphrase.)  The first essay in Plutarch's "Morals," "On the Education of Children" was probably not written by Plutarch but by some other guy named Plutarch. This an excerpt...

 "...we ought to make philosophy the chief of all our learning. For though, in order to the welfare of the body, the industry of men hath found out two arts, — medicine, which assists to the recovery of lost health and gymnastics, which help us to attain a sound constitution, — yet there is but one remedy for the distempers and diseases of the mind, and that is philosophy. For by the advice and assistance thereof it is that we come to understand what is honest, and what dishonest; what is just, and what unjust; in a word, what we are to seek, and what to avoid. We learn by it how we are to demean ourselves towards the Gods, towards our parents, our elders, the laws, strangers, governors, friends, wives, children, and servants. That is, we are to worship the Gods, to honor our parents, to reverence our elders, to be subject to the laws, to obey our governors, to love our friends, to use sobriety towards our wives, to be affectionate to our children, and not to treat our servants insolently; and (which is the chiefest lesson of all) not to be overjoyed in prosperity nor too much dejected in adversity; not to be dissolute in our pleasures, nor in our anger to be transported with brutish rage and fury. These things I account the principal advantages which we gain by philosophy. For to use prosperity generously is the part of a man; to manage it so as to decline envy, of a well governed man; to master our pleasures by reason is the property of wise men; and to moderate anger is the attainment only of extraordinary men. But those of all men I count most complete, who know how to mix and temper the managery of civil affairs with philosophy; seeing they are thereby masters of two of the greatest good things that are, — a life of public usefulness as statesmen, and a life of calm tranquillity as students of philosophy. For, whereas there are three sorts of lives, — the life of action, the life of contemplation, and the life of pleasure, — the man who is utterly abandoned and a slave to pleasure is brutish and mean-spirited; he that spends his time in contemplation without action is an unprofitable man; and he that lives in action and is destitute of philosophy is a rustical man, and commits many absurdities. Wherefore we are to apply our utmost endeavor to enable ourselves for both; that is, to manage public employments, and withal, at convenient seasons, to give ourselves to philosophical studies."

   My reading project has been Plutarch (much loved by Emerson and many of the Boston Unitarians) and though the "Lives" have been finished for some time, the start of the Church year has caused some delay in taking up, again, the "Morals." I blog bits I like from my reading of and on Plutarch at Plutarchan Lustres.


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