Cicero: Academica

-   Book 2 , sections 49-98

Translated by H. Rackham (1933). Click on ** to go to the translator's footnotes.   Click on the   L symbols to go to the Latin text of each section.

Previous sections (1-48)

[16.] [49] L   "In answer to all these 'unfounded sense-presentations' ** Antiochus indeed used to advance a great many arguments, and also he used to devote one whole day's debate to this single topic ; but I do not think that I had better do the same, but state merely the heads of the argument. And as a first point one must criticise them for employing an exceedingly captious kind of argument, of a sort that is usually by no means approved of in philosophy ? the method of proceeding by minute steps of gradual addition or withdrawal. They call this class of arguments sōritae ** because by adding a single grain at a time they make a heap. It is certainly an erroneous and captious kind of argument ! for you go on mounting up in this way : 'If a presentation put by the deity before a man asleep is of such a character that it is probable, why not also of such a character that it is extremely like a true one ? then, why not such that it can withdifficulty be distinguished from a true one ? then, that it cannot even be distinguished ? finally, that there is no difference between the one and the other ?' If you reach this conclusion owing to my yielding to you each successive step, the fault will have been mine ; but if you get there of your own accord, it will be yours. [50] For who will have granted you either that the deity is omnipotent, or that even if he can do as described he will ? and how do you make such assumptions that, if it is possible for X to resemble Y, it will follow that only with difficulty can X and Y be known apart ? and then, that they cannot even be known apart ? and finally, that they are identical ? for example, if wolves are like dogs, you will end by saying that they are identical. And it is a fact that some honourable things are like dishonourable ones and some good things like not good ones and some artistic things like inartistic ones ; why do we hesitate therefore to aver that there is no difference between these ? Have we no eye even for incongruities ? for there is nothing that cannot be carriedover from its own class into another class. But if it were proved that there is no difference between presentations of different classes, we should find presentations that belonged both to their own class and to one foreign to them ; how can this possibly occur ?

[51] L   Consequently there is only one way of routing the difficulty about unreal presentations, whether depicted by the imagination, which we admit frequently to take place, or in slumber or under the influence of wine or of insanity : we shall declare that all presentations of this nature are devoid of perspicuity, to which we are bound to cling tooth and nail. For who when feigning to himself an imaginary picture of some object, the moment he bestirs himself and recalls his self-consciousness does not at once perceive the difference between perspicuous presentations and unreal ones ? The same applies to dreams. Do you fancy that when Ennius ** had been walking in his grounds with his neighbour Servius Galba he used to say, 'Methought I was walking with Galba' ? But when he had a dream he told the story in this way :
  Methought the poet Homer stood beside me.

And the same in the case of Epicharmus ** :
  For methought I had a dream that I myself was dead and gone.

And so as soon as we wake up we make light of that kind of visions, and do not deem them on a par with the actual experiences that we had in the forum.

[17.] [52] "But you will say that at the time when we are experiencing them the visions we have in sleep have the same appearance as the visual presentations that we experience while awake ! To begin with, there is a difference between them ; but do not let us dwell on that, for our point is that when we are asleep we have not the same mental or sensory power and fulness of function as we have when awake. Even men acting under the influence of wine do not act with the same decision as they do when sober : they are doubtful and hesitating and sometimes pull themselves up, and they give a more feeble assent to their sense-presentations and, when they have slept it off, realise how unsubstantial those presentations were. The same happens to the insane : at the beginning of their attack they are conscious that they are mad, and say that something is appearing to them that is not real ; and also whenthe attack is subsiding they are conscious of it, and say things like the words of Alcmaeon ** :
  But my mind agrees in no way with the vision of my eyes.

[53] L   But you will say that the wise man in an attack of madness restrains himself from accepting false presentations as true. So indeed he often does on other occasions, if his own senses happen to contain an element of heaviness or slowness, or if the presentations are rather obscure, or if he is debarred by lack of time from a close scrutiny. Although this admission, that the wise man sometimes withholds his assent, goes wholly against your school ; for if presentations were indistinguishable, he would either withhold his assent always or never. But out of all this what is 'perspicuous' is the lack of substance in the case put by these thinkers, who aspire to introduce universal confusion. What we are looking for is a canon of judgement proper to dignity and consistency, to firmness and wisdom, what we find are instances taken from dreamers, lunatics and drunkards. Do we notice in all this department how inconsistent that talk is ? If we did, we should not bring forward people who are tipsy or fast asleep or out of their minds in such a ridiculous fashion as at one moment to say that there is a difference between the presentations of the waking and sober and sane and of those in other conditions, and at another moment to say that there is no difference. [54] Do they not even see that they make everything uncertain - a position which they repudiate (I use 'uncertain' to translate the Greek adela) - for if objects are so constituted that it makes no difference whether they appear to anybody as they do to a madman or as they do to a sane person, who can be satisfied of his own sanity ? to desire to produce this state of affairs is in itself no inconsiderable mark of insanity. But the way in which they harp on cases of resemblance between twins or between the seals stamped by signet-rings is childish. For which of us denies thatresemblances exist, since they are manifest in ever so many things ? but if the fact that many things are like many other things is enough to do away with knowledge, why are you not content with that, especially as we admit it, and why do you prefer to urge a contention utterly excluded by the nature of things, denying that everything is what it is in a class of its own and that two or more objects never possess a common character differing in nothing at all ** ? For example, granting that eggs are extremely like eggs and bees like bees, why therefore do you do battle ? Or what are you at in this matter of twins ? for it is granted that two twins are alike, and that might have satisfied you ; but you want them to be not alike but downright identical, which is absolutely impossible. [55] L   Then you fly for refuge to the natural philosophers, the favourite butts of ridicule in the Academy, from whom even you canno longer keep your hands, and you declare that Democritus says that there are a countless number of worlds, and what is more that some of them to such an extent not merely resemble but completely and absolutely match each other in every detail that there is positively no difference between them, and that the same is true of human beings. Then you demand that if one world so completely matches another world that there is not even the smallest difference between them, it shall be granted to you that in this world of ours likewise some one thing so completely matches some other thing that there is no difference or distinction between them ; for what is the reason, you will say, why whereas in the rest of the worlds, countless numbers as they are, there not only can be but actually are a countless number of Quintus Lutatius Catuluses, arisen out of those atoms out of which Democritus declares that everything comes intoexistence, yet in this vast world another Catulus cannot possibly be produced?

[18.] [56] "In the first place indeed you summon me before Democritus ; whose opinion I do not accept but rather reject, on the ground of the fact that is lucidly proved by more accomplished natural philosophers, ** that particular objects possess particular properties. For suppose that the famous Servilius twins of old days did resemble each other as completely as they are said to have done : surely you do not think that they were actually identical ? Out of doors they were not known apart, but at home they were ; they were not by strangers, but they were by their own people. Do we not see that it has come about that persons whom we thought we should never be able to know apart we have come by the exercise of habit to know apart so easily that they did not appear to be even in the least degree alike ? [57] L   At this point although you may show fight I shall not fight back ; indeed I will actually allow that the man himself who is the subject of all this discussion, when he encounters similar things that he has not got distinguished apart, will reserve his assent, and will never assent to any presentation unless it is of such a description as could not belong to a false presentation. But just as he has a definite technique applicable to all other objects to enable him to distinguish the true from the false, so to the resemblances you adduce he has to apply practice : just as a mother knows her twins apart by having familiarised her eyes, so you will know them apart if you habituate yourself. Are you aware that the likeness of one egg to another is proverbial ? yet we have been told that at Delos at the time of its prosperity a number of people were in the habit of keeping large numbers of hens for trade purposes ; these poultry-keepers used to be able to tell which hen had laid an egg by merelylooking at it. [58] Nor does that go against us, for we are content not to be able to know those eggs apart, since to agree that this egg is the same as that egg, is nevertheless not the same thing as if there really were no distinction between them ; for I possess a standard enabling me to judge presentations to be true when they have a character of a sort that false ones could not have ; from that standard I may not diverge a finger's breadth, as the saying is, lest I should cause universal confusion. For not only the knowledge but even the nature of true and false will be done away with if there is no difference between them, so that even the remark that you have a way of occasionally making will be absurd - namely, that what you assert is not that when presentations are impressed on to the mind there is no difference between the imprints themselves, but that there is no difference between their 'species,' or so to say theirclass-forms. ** As if forsooth presentations were not judged with reference to their class, and will have no reliability if the mark of truth and falsehood is abolished ! [59] L   But the height of absurdity is your assertion that you follow probabilities if nothing hampers you. In the first place how can you be unhampered when there is no difference between true presentations and false ? next, what criterion is there of a true presentation if one criterion belongs in common to a true one and a false ? These considerations necessarily engendered the doctrine of epochē ** that is, 'a holding back of assent,' in which Arcesilas was more consistent, if the opinions that some people hold about Carneades are true. For if nothing that has presented itself to either of them can be perceived, assent must be withheld ; for what is so futile as to approve anything that is not known ? But we kept being told yesterday that Carneades was also in thehabit of taking refuge in the assertion that the wise man will occasionally hold an opinion, that is, commit an error. For my part, moreover, certain as I am that something exists that can be grasped (the point I have been arguing even too long already), I am still more certain that the wise man never holds an opinion, that is, never assents to a thing that is either false or unknown. [60] There remains their statement that for the discovery of the truth it is necessary to argue against all things and for all things. Well then, I should like to see what they have discovered. 'Oh,' he says, 'it is not our practice to give an exposition.'   'What pray are these holy secrets of yours, or why does your school conceal its doctrine like something disgraceful ?'   'In order,' says he, 'that our hearers may be guided by reason rather than by authority.' What about a combination of the two - is not that as good ? All the same, there is one doctrine that they do not conceal - the impossibility of perceiving anything. Does authority offer no opposition at this point ? To me at all events it seems to offer a very great deal ; for who would have adopted doctrines so openly and manifestly wrong-headed and false, unless Arcesilas had possessed so great a supply of facts and of eloquence, and Carneades an even much greater ?

[19.] [61] L   "These virtually were the teachings advanced by Antiochus in Alexandria at the time mentioned, and also even much more dogmatically many years afterwards when he was staying with me in Syria a little before his death. But now that my case is established, I will not hesitate to give some advice to you as a very dear friend" - he was addressing myself - "and a person some years my junior : Will you, who have lauded philosophy so highly, and have shaken our friend Hortensius in his disagreement with you, follow a system of philosophy that confounds the true with the false, robs us of judgement, despoils us of the power of approval, deprives us of all our senses ? Even the Cimmerians, whom some god, or nature, or the geographical position of their abode, had deprived of the sight of the sun, nevertheless had fires, which they were able to employ for light ; but the individuals whose authority youaccept have so beclouded us with darkness that they have not left us a single spark of light to give us a glimpse of sight ; and if we followed them, we should be fettered with chains that would prevent our being able to move a step. [62] For by doing away with assent they have done away with all movement of the mind and also all physical activity ; which is not only a mistake but an absolute impossibility. Be careful too that you are not the one person for whom it is most illegitimate to uphold this theory of yours ; what, when it was you who exposed and brought to light a deeply hidden plot ** and said on oath that you 'knew about it' **(which I might have said too, ** having learnt about it from you), will you assert that there is no fact whatever that can be learnt and comprehended and perceived ? Pray take care again and again that you may not yourself cause the authority of that most glorious achievement also to be diminished." Having said this, he ended.

[63] L   Hortensius however, indicating emphatic admiration, as he had in fact done all through Lucullus's discourse, frequently even raising his hands in wonder (and that was not surprising, for I do not think the case against the Academy had ever been argued with more minute precision), began to exhort me also, whether in jest or earnest (for I could not quite make out), to abandon my opinion. Thereupon Catulus said to me, "If Lucullus's speech has won you over - and its delivery showed memory, concentration and fluency,- I am silent, and I do not think you ought to be frightened away from changing your opinion if you think fit to do so. But I should not advise your letting his authority influence you ; for he all but warned you just now," he said with a smile at me, "to be on your guard lest some wicked tribune of the plebs - and what a plentiful supply there will always be of them you are well aware -should arraign you, and cross-examine you in a public assembly as to your consistency in both denying the possibility of finding anything certain and asserting that you had discovered some certainty. Pray don't be alarmed by this ; but as to the actual merits of the case, although I should it is true prefer you to disagree with him, if you give in I shall not be greatly surprised, for I remember that Antiochus himself in spite of having held other views for a number of years abandoned his opinion as soon as he saw fit." After these words from Catulus, everybody looked towards me.

[20.] [64] Thereupon I, feeling quite as nervous as I usually do when I have a specially big case on, began what was almost a set speech on the following lines. "For my part, Catulus, Lucullus's speech on the actual merits of the issue has affected me as that of a scholarly, fluent and well-equipped person who passes by none of the arguments that can be advanced in support of the case put forward, though all the same not to the point of my distrusting my ability to answer him ; yet his great authority was unquestionably working upon me, had you not set against it your authority which is no smaller. I will therefore set about it, after a few preliminary remarks on the subject of my own reputation, if I may use the term. [65] L   For if my own motive in choosing this particular school of philosophy for my adherence was some sort of ostentation or combativeness, I consider that not merely my folly but even my moral character deserves condemnation. For if in the most trifling matters we censure obstinacy and actually punish chicanery, am I likely to want either to join battle with others for the sake of fighting, or to deceive not only others but myself also, when the entire system and principle of the whole of life is the issue ? Accordingly unless I thought it foolish in such a discussion to do what is customary occasionally in political controversy, I should swear by Jove and the gods of my household that I am fired with zeal for the discovery of the truth, and that I really hold the opinions that I am stating. [66] For how can I fail to be eager for the discovery of truth, when I rejoice if I have discovered something that resembles truth ?But just as I deem it supremely honourable to hold true views, so it is supremely disgraceful to approve falsehoods as true. And nevertheless I myself am not the sort of person never to give approval to anything false, never give absolute assent, never hold an opinion ; it is the wise man that we are investigating. For my own part however, although I am a great opinion-holder ** (for I am not a wise man), at the same time the way in which I steer my thinking is not by that tiny star, the Cynosure, in which
  Phoenicians place their trust by night
  To guide them on the deep,
- as Aratus ** puts it, and steer the straighter because they keep to her who
        . . . revolves upon
  An inner circle and an orbit brief,
but by Helice and the resplendent Septentriones, that is, by these theories of wider aspect, not fined down and over-subtilised. The result is that I roam and wander more widely ; but it is not I, as I said, but the wise man that is the subject of our inquiry. For when the presentations you talk of have struck my mind or my sense sharply I accept them, and sometimes I actually give assent to them (though nevertheless I do not perceive them, for I hold that nothing can be perceived) - I am not a wise man, and so I yield to presentations and cannot stand out against them ; whereas the strongest point of the wise man, in the opinion of Arcesilas, agreeing with Zenon, lies in avoiding being taken in and in seeing that he is not deceived ? for nothing is more removed from the conception that we have of the dignity of the wise man than error, frivolity or rashness. What then shall I say about the wiseman's firmness ? even you, Lucullus, allow that he never advances a mere opinion. And since you agree with this (to deal with you out of turn : I will soon return to a regular procedure), consider first the validity of this syllogism : [21.] [67] L   'If the wise man ever assents to anything, he will sometimes also form an opinion ; but he never will form an opinion ; therefore he will not assent to anything.' This syllogism Arcesilas used to approve, for he used to accept both the major premiss and the minor ( Carneades used sometimes to grant as minor premiss that the wise man sometimes assents, so that it followed that he also holds an opinion, which you will not allow, and rightly, as I think ). But the major premiss, that if the wise man did assent he would also hold an opinion, both the Stoics and their supporter Antiochus declare to be false, arguing that the wise man is able to distinguish the false from the true and the imperceptible from the perceptible. [68] But in our view, in the first place, even if anything could be perceived, nevertheless the mere habit of assenting appears dangerous and slippery, and therefore since it is agreed that to give assent to anything that is either false or unknown is so serious a fault, preferably all assent is to be withheld, to avoid having a serious fall if one goes forward rashly ; for things false he so close to things true, and things that cannot be perceived to things that can (assuming there are such things, which we shall see soon), that it is the duty of the wise man not to trust himself to such a steep slope. But if on the contrary I assume on my own authority that there is nothing at all that can be perceived, and accept your admission that the wise man forms no opinion, this will prove that the wise man will restrain all acts of assent, so that you will have to consider whether you prefer this view or theview that the wise man will hold some opinion. 'Neither of those views,' you will say. Let us therefore stress the point that nothing can be perceived, for it is on that that all the controversy turns.

[22.] [69] L   "But first let us have a few words with Antiochus, who studied under Philon the very doctrines that I am championing for such a long time that it was agreed that nobody had studied them longer, and who also wrote upon these subjects with the greatest penetration, and who nevertheless in his old age denounced this system, not more keenly than he had previously been in the habit of defending it. Although therefore he may have been penetrating, as indeed he was, nevertheless lack of constancy does diminish the weight of authority. For I am curious to know the exact date of the day whose dawning light revealed to him that mark of truth and falsehood which he had for many years been in the habit of denying. Did he think out something original ? His pronouncements are the same as those of the Stoics. Did he become dissatisfied with his former opinions ? Why did he not transfer himself to another school,and most of all why not to the Stoics ? for that disagreement with Philon was the special tenet of the Stoic school. What, was he dissatisfied with Mnesarchus ? or with Dardanus ? they were the leaders of the Stoics at Athens at the time. He never quitted Philon, except after he began to have an audience of his own. [70] But why this sudden revival of the Old Academy ? It is thought that he wanted to retain the dignity of the name in spite of abandoning the reality ? for in fact some persons did aver that his motive was ostentation, and even that he hoped that his following would be styled the School of Antiochus. But I am more inclined to think that he was unable to withstand the united attack of all the philosophers (for although they have certain things in common on all other subjects, this is the one doctrine of the Academics that no one of the other schools approves) ; and accordingly he gave way, and, just like peoplewho cannot bear the sun under the New Row, ** took refuge from the heat in the shade of the Old Academy, as they do in the shadow of the Balconies. ** [71] L   And as to the argument that he was in the habit of employing at the period when he held that nothing could be perceived, which consisted in asking which of his two doctrines had the famous Dionysius of Heraclea grasped by means of that unmistakable mark which according to your school ought to be the foundation of assent - the doctrine that he had held for many years and had accepted on the authority of his master Zenon, that only the morally honourable is good, or the doctrine that he had made a practice of defending afterwards, that morality is an empty name, and that the supreme good is pleasure - in spite of Antiochus's attempt to prove from Dionysius's change of opinion that no impression can be printed on our minds by a true presentation of a character that cannot also becaused by a false one, he yet ensured that the argument which he himself had drawn from Dionysius should be drawn by everybody else from himself. ** But with him I will deal more at length elsewhere ; I turn now, Lucullus, to what was said by you.

[23.] [72] "And first let us see what we are to make of your remark at the beginning, ** that our way of first recalling ancient philosophers was like the sedition-mongers' habit of putting forward the names of persons who are men of distinction but yet of popular leanings. Those people although they have unworthy designs in hand desire to appear like men of worth ; and we in our turn declare that the views we hold are ones that you yourselves admit to have been approved by the noblest of philosophers. Anaxagoras said ** that snow is black : would you endure me if I said the same ? Not you, not even if I expressed myself as doubtful. But who is this Anaxagoras ? surely not a sophist (for that is the name that used to be given to people who pursued philosophy for the sake of display or profit) ? Why, he was a man of the highest renown for dignity and intellect. [73] L   Why should I talk about Democritus ? Whom can we compare for not only greatness of intellect but also greatness of soul, with one who dared to begin, 'These are my utterances about the universe' ** ? - he excepts nothing as not covered by his pronouncement, for what can be outside the universe ? Who does not place this philosopher before Cleanthes or Chrysippus or the rest of the later period, who compared with him seem to me to belong to the fifth class ** ? And he does not mean what we mean, who do not deny that some truth exists but deny that it can be perceived ; he flatly denies that truth exists at all ; and at the same time says that the senses are (not dim but) 'full of darkness' - for that is the term he uses for them. His greatest admirer, Metrodorus of Chios, at the beginning of his volume 0n Nature says : 'I deny that we know whether we know something or know nothing, and even that we know the mere fact that we do not know (or do know), or know atall whether something exists or nothing exists.' [74] You think that Empedocles raves, but I think that he sends forth an utterance most suited to the dignity of the subject of which he is speaking ; surely therefore he is not making us blind or depriving us of our senses if he holds the opinion that they do not possess sufficient force to enable them to judge the objects that are submitted to them ? Parmenides and Xenophanes - in less good verse it is true but all the same it is verse - inveigh almost angrily against the arrogance of those who dare to say that they know, seeing that nothing can be known. Also you said ** that Socrates and Plato must not be classed with them. Why ? can I speak with more certain knowledge about any persons ? I seem to have actually lived with them, so many dialogues have been put in writing which make it impossible to doubt that Socrates held that nothing can be known ; hemade only one exception, no more - he said that he did know that he knew nothing. Why should I speak about Plato ? he certainly would not have set out these doctrines in so many volumes if he had not accepted them, for otherwise there was no sense in setting out the irony of the other master, especially as it was unending. [24.] [75] L   Do you agree that I do not merely cite the names of persons of renown, as Saturninus did, but invariably take some famous and distinguished thinker as my model ? Yet I had available philosophers who give trouble to your school, although they are petty in their method, Stilpon, Diodorus, Alexinus, the authors of certain tortuous and pungent sophismata (as the term is for little syllogistic traps) ; but why should I bring in them, when I have Chrysippus, supposed to be a buttress of the Stoics' Colonnade ** ? What a number of arguments he produced against the senses, and against everything that is approved in common experience ! But he also refuted those arguments, you will say. For my own part I don't think that he did ; but suppose he did refute them, yet undoubtedly he would not have collected so many arguments to take us in with their great probability if he had not been aware that they could not easily be withstood. [76] What do you think of the Cyrenaics, by no means despicable philosophers ? they maintain that nothing external to themselves is perceptible, and that the only things that they do perceive are the sensations due to internal contact, for example pain and pleasure, and that they do not know that a thing has a particular colour or sound but only feel that they are themselves affected in a certain manner.

"Enough about authority - although you had put the question ** to me whether I did not think that go with so many able minds carrying on the search with such zealous energy, after so many ages since the old philosophers mentioned, the truth might possibly have been discovered. What actually has been discovered permit me to consider a little later, with you yourself indeed as umpire. But that Arcesilas did not do battle with Zenon merely for the sake of criticising him, but really wished to discover the truth, is gathered from what follows. [77] L   That it is possible for a human being to hold no opinions, and not only that it is possible but that it is the duty of the wise man, had not only never been distinctly formulated but had never even been stated by any of his predecessors ; but Arcesilas deemed this view both true and also honourable and worthy of a wise man. We may suppose him putting the question to Zenon, whatwould happen if the wise man was unable to perceive anything and if also it was the mark of the wise man not to form an opinion. Zenon no doubt replied that the wise man's reason for abstaining from forming an opinion would be that there was something that could be perceived. What then was this ? asked Arcesilas. A presentation, was doubtless the answer. Then what sort of a presentation ? Hereupon no doubt Zenon defined it as follows, a presentation impressed and sealed and moulded from a real object, in conformity with its reality. There followed the further question, did this hold good even if a true presentation was of exactly the same form as a false one ? At this I imagine Zenon was sharp enough to see that if a presentation proceeding from a real thing was of such a nature that one proceeding from a non-existent thing could be of the same form, there was no presentation that could be perceived. Arcesilas agreed that this addition to the definition was correct, for it was impossible to perceive either a false presentation or a true one if a true one had such a character as even a false one might have ; but he pressed the points at issue further in order to show that no presentation proceeding from a true object is such that a presentation proceeding from a false one might not also be of the same form. [78] This is the one argument that has held the field down to the present day. For the point that the wise man will not assent to anything had no essential bearing on this dispute ; for he might perceive nothing and yet form an opinion - a view which is said to have been accepted by Carneades ; although for my own part, trusting Clitomachus more than Philon or Metrodorus, I believe that Carneades did not so much accept this view as advance it in argument. But let us drop that point. If the acts of opining and perceivingare abolished, it undoubtedly follows that all acts of assent must be withheld, so that if I succeed in proving that nothing can be perceived, you must admit that the wise man will never assent.

[25.] [79] L   "What is there then that can be perceived, if not even the senses report the truth ? You defend them, Lucullus, by a stock argument ** ; but it was to prevent your being able to do it in that way that I had gone out of my way yesterday to say so much against the senses. Yet you assert that the broken oar and the pigeon's neck don't upset you. In the first place why ? for in the instance of the oar I perceive that what is seen is not real, and in that of the pigeon that several colours are seen and really there are not more than one. In the next place, surely we said much beside that ! Suppose all our arguments stand, the case of you people collapses. His own senses, quoth he, ** are truthful ! If so, you always have an authority, and one to risk his all in defence of the cause ! for Epicurus brings the issue to this point, that if one sense has told a lie once in a man's life, no sense must ever be believed. [80] This is truecandour - to trust in one's own witnesses and persist in perversity ! Accordingly, Timagoras the Epicurean denies that he has ever really seen two little flames coming from the lamp when he has screwed up an eye, since it is a lie of the opinion, not of the eyes. As though the question were what exists, not what seems to exist ! However, Timagoras may be allowed to be true to his intellectual ancestry ; but as for you. who say that some sense-presentations are true and some false, how do you distinguish them apart ? And do pray desist from mere stock arguments : those are products we have a home supply of ! If a god, you say, were to inquire of you whether, given healthy and sound senses, you want anything more, what would you reply ? Indeed I wish he would make the inquiry ! he would be told how badly he was dealing with us ! For even granting that our sight is accurate, how wide is its range ? I can makeout Catulus's place at Cumae from where we are, and can see it straight in front of me, but I can't make out his villa at Pompeii, although there is nothing in between to block the view, but my sight is not able to carry any further. O what a glorious view ! We can see Puteoli, but we can't see our friend Gaius Avianius, who is very likely taking a stroll in the Colonnade of Neptune ** ; [81] L   whereas that somebody or other who is regularly quoted in lectures used to see an object two hundred and twenty-five miles off, ** and certain birds can see further. Therefore I should boldly answer that deity of your friends that I am by no means satisfied with the eyes that I have got. He will say that my sight is keener than that of the fishes down there, very likely, which we cannot see though they are under our eyes at the very moment, and which also themselves cannot see us above them ; it follows that we are shut in by anopaque envelope of air as they are by one of water. But, you say, we don't wish for more ! What, do you think a mole doesn't wish for light ? And I should not quarrel with the deity so much about the limited range of my sight as about its inaccuracy. Do you see yonder ship ? To us she appears to be at anchor, whereas to those on board her this house appears in motion. Seek for a reason for this appearance, and however much you succeed in finding one - though I doubt if you can - you will not have made out that you have got a true witness but that your witness is for reasons of his own giving false evidence. [26.] [82] Why do I talk about a ship ? for I saw ** that you think the illustration of the oar contemptible ; perhaps you want bigger examples. What can be bigger than the sun, which the mathematicians declare to be nineteen times the size of the earth ** ? How tiny it looks to us ! to me it seems about a foot in diameter. Epicurus on the other hand thinks that it may possiblybe even smaller than it looks, though not much ; he thinks that it is not much larger either, or else exactly the size that it appears to be, so that the eyes either do not lie at all or else not much. What becomes then of that 'once' ** of which we spoke ? But let us quit this gullible person, who thinks that the senses never lie, - not even now when the sun up there, that is travelling with such rapidity that the magnitude of its velocity cannot even be conceived, nevertheless appears to us to be standing still. [83] L   But to narrow down the controversy, pray see how small a point it is on which the issue turns. There are four heads of argument intended to prove that there is nothing that can be known, perceived or comprehended, which is the subject of all this debate : the first of these arguments is that there is such a thing as a false presentation ; the second, that a false presentation cannot he perceived : the third, that of presentations between which there is no difference it is impossible for some to be able to be perceived and others not ; the fourth, that there is no true presentation originating from sensation with which there is not ranged another presentation that precisely corresponds to it and that cannot be perceived. ** The second and third of these four arguments are admitted by everybody ; the first is not granted by Epicurus, but you with whom we are dealing admit that one too ; the entire battle is about the fourth. [84] If therefore a person looking at Publius Servilius Geminus ** used to think he saw Quintus, he was encountering a presentation of a sort that could not be perceived, because there was no mark to distinguish a true presentation from a false one ; and if that mode of distinguishing were removed, what mark would he have, of such a sort that it could not be false, to help him to recognise Gaius Cotta, who was twice consul withGeminus ? You say that so great a degree of resemblance does not exist in the world. You show fight, no doubt, but you have an easy-going opponent ; let us grant by all means that it does not exist, but undoubtedly it can appear to exist, and therefore it will cheat the sense, and if a single case of resemblance has done that, it will have made everything doubtful ; for when that proper canon of recognition has been removed, even if the man himself whom you see is the man he appears to you to be, nevertheless you will not make that judgement, as you say it ought to be made, by means of a mark of such a sort that a false likeness could not have the same character. [85] L   Therefore seeing that it is possible for Publius Geminus to appear to you to be Quintus, what reason have you for being satisfied that a person who is not Cotta cannot appear to you to be Cotta, inasmuch as something that is not real appears to be real ? You saythat everything is in a class of its own, ** and that nothing is the same as what some other thing is. That is, it is true, a Stoic argument, and it is not a very convincing one - that no hair or grain of sand is in all respects the same as another hair or grain. These assertions can be refuted, but I don't want to fight ; for it makes no difference to the point at issue whether an object completely within sight does not differ at all from another or cannot be distinguished from it even if it does differ. But if so great a resemblance between human beings is impossible, is it also impossible between statues ? Tell me, could not Lysippus, ** by means of the same bronze, the same blend of metals, the same graver and all the other requisites, make a hundred Alexanders of the same shape ? then by what mode of recognition would you tell them apart ? [86] Well, if I imprint a hundred seals with this ring onlumps of wax of the same sort, will there possibly be any mode of distinction to aid in recognising them ? Or will you have to seek out some jeweller, as you found that poultry-keeper ** at Delos who recognised eggs ? [27.] But you call in the aid of art ** to plead in defence even of the senses. A painter sees things that we do not, and a musical expert recognises a tune as soon as a flute-player has blown a note. Well, does not this seem to tell against you, if without great artistic acquirements, to which few people, of our race indeed very few, attain, we are unable either to see or to hear ? Again those were remarkable points ** about the high artistic skill shown in Nature's fabrication of our senses and mind and the whole structure of a human being. [87] L   Why should I not be extremely afraid of rashness in forming opinion ? Can you even assert this, Lucullus, that there is some force, united I suppose with providence **and design, that has moulded or, to use your word, ** fabricated a human being ? What sort of workmanship is that ? where was it applied ? When ? why ? how ? You handle these matters cleverly, and expound them in a style that is even elegant ; well then, let us grant that they appear, only provided that they are not affirmed. But with the natural philosophers we will deal soon (and that with the object of saving you, who said just now ** that I should go to them, from appearing to have told a falsehood) ; whereas, to come to matters less obscure, I will now pour forth the facts of the universe, about which volumes have been filled not only by our school but also by Chrysippus ; of whom the Stoics are in the habit of complaining that, while he carefully sought out all the facts that told against the senses and their clarity and against the whole of common experience and against reason, when answering himself he gotthe worst of it, and thus it was he that furnished weapons to Carneades. [88] My points are of the sort that have been handled very industriously by you. ** Your assertion was that presentations seen by people asleep and tipsy and mad are feebler than those of persons awake and sober and sane. How ? Because, you said, when Ennius ** had woken up he did not say that he had seen Homer but that he had seemed to see him, while his Alcmaeon says
  But my mind agrees in no wise . . .
There are similar passages about men tipsy. As if anybody would deny that a man that has woken up thinks that he has been dreaming, or that one whose madness has subsided thinks that the things that he saw during his madness were not true ! But that is not the point at issue ; what we are asking is what these things looked like at the time when they were seen. Unless indeed we think that, if Ennius merely dreamt that passage
  O piety of spirit . . . **
he did not hear the whole of it in the same way as if he had been listening to it when awake ; for when he had woken up he was able to think those appearances dreams, as they were, but he accepted them as real while he was asleep just as much as he would have done if awake. Again, in that dream of Iliona,
  Mother, on thee I call . . ., **
did she not so firmly believe that her son had spoken, that she believed it even after waking up ? For what is the cause of her saying
  Come, stand by me, stay and hear me ; say those words to me again - ?
does she seem to have less faith in her visual presentations than people have when they are awake ?

[28.] [89] L   "What shall I say about those who are out of their mind ? What pray are we to think of your relative Tuditanus, Catulus ? does anybody perfectly sane think that the objects that he sees are as real as Tuditanus thought that his visions were ? What was the condition of the character who says
  I see, I see thee. Live, Ulysses, whilst thou mayest - ? **
did he not actually shout out twice over that he saw, although he was not seeing at all ? Or Hercules in Euripides, when he was transfixing his own sons with his arrows as if they were those of Eurystheus, when he was making away with his wife, when he was attempting to make away with his father too, - was he not being affected by things false in the same manner as if the things by which he was affected had been true ? Again, Alcmaeon himself whom you quote, ** who says that 'his mind agrees not with his eyes,' - does he not in the same passage spur on his frenzy and cry
  Whence does this flame arise ?
- and then the words
  They come, they come ! Now, now they are upon me ! 'Tis me they seek !
What when he appeals to the maiden's loyalty for aid ?
  Help me, drive the venom off, the flaming violence that torments me !
  Girt with steely snake they come, they ring me round with burning torches ?
surely you do not doubt that he seems to himself to see these things ? And similarly the rest :
  Apollo of the flowing locks
  Against me bends his gilded bow
  With all the force of his left arm ** ;
  Diana flings her torch from the moon -

[90]   how would he have believed these things more if they had really been true than he actually did believe them because they seemed to be ? for as it was it seemed that 'mind with eyes agreeth.' But all these things are brought forward in order to prove what is the most certain fact possible, that in respect of the mind's assent there is no difference between true presentations and false ones. But your school achieve nothing when you refute those false presentations by appealing to the recollection of madmen or dreamers ; for the question is not what sort of recollection is usually experienced by those who have woken up or have ceased to be mad, but what was the nature of the visual perception of men mad or dreaming at the moment when their experience was taking place, But I am getting away from the senses.

[91] L   "What is it that the reason is capable of perceiving ? Your school says that dialectic was invented ** to serve as a 'distinguisher' ** or judge between truth and falsehood. What truth and falsehood, and on what subject ? Will the dialectician judge what is true or false in geometry, or in literature, or in music ? But those are not the subjects with which he is acquainted. In philosophy therefore? What has the question of the size of the sun to do with him ? what means has he to enable him to judge what is the supreme good ? What then will he judge ? what form of hypothetical judgement or of inference from alternative hypotheses is valid, what proposition is ambiguous, what conclusion follows from any given premiss and what is inconsistent with it ? If the reason judges these and similar matters, it judges about itself ; but the promise that it held out went further, as to judge merely these matters is not enoughfor all the other numerous and important problems contained in philosophy. [92] But since your school sets so much store by that science, ** see that it is not essentially entirely against you, when at the first stage it gaily imparts the elements of discourse, the solution of ambiguous propositions and the theory of the syllogism, but then by a process of small additions comes to the sōrites, ** - certainly a slippery and dangerous position, and a class of syllogism that you lately declared to be erroneous. [29.] What then ? is that an error for which we are to blame ? No faculty of knowing absolute limits has been bestowed upon us by the nature of things to enable us to fix exactly how far to go in any matter ; and this is so not only in the case of a heap of wheat from which the name is derived, but in no matter whatsoever - if we are asked by gradual stages, is such and such a person a rich man or a poor man, famous or undistinguished, are yonder objects many or few, great or small, long or short, broad or narrow, we do not know at what point in the addition or subtraction to give a definiteanswer. [93] L   But you say that the sōrites is erroneous. Smash the sōrites then, if you can, so that it may not get you into trouble, for it will if you don't take precautions. 'Precautions have been taken,' says he, 'for the policy of Chrysippus is, when questioned step by step whether (for example) 3 is few or many, a little before he gets to "many," to come to rest, or, as they term it, hesychazein.'   'So far as I am concerned,' says Carneades, 'you may not only rest but even snore ; but what's the good of that ? for next comes somebody bent on rousing you from slumber and carrying on the cross-examination : "If I add 1 to the number at which you became silent, will that make many ?" - you will go forward again as far as you think fit.' Why say more ? for you admit my point, that you cannot specify in your answers either the place where 'a few' stops or that where 'many' begins ; and this class of error spreads so widely thatI don't see where it may not get to. [94] 'It doesn't touch me at all,' says he, 'for like a clever charioteer, before I get to the end, I shall pull up my horses, and all the more so if the place they are coming to is precipitous : I pull up in time as he does,' says he, 'and when captious questions are put I don't reply any more.' If you have a solution of the problem and won't reply, that is an arrogant way of acting, but if you haven't, you too don't perceive the matter ; if because of its obscurity, I give in, but you say that you don't go forward till you get to a point that is obscure. If so, you come to a stop at things that are clear. If you do so merely in order to be silent, you don't score anything, for what does it matter to the adversary who wants to trap you whether you are silent or speaking when he catches you in his net ? but if on the contrary you keep on answering 'few' as far as 9, let us say, without hesitating, but stop at 10, you are withholding assent even from propositions that are certain, nay, clear as daylight ; but you don't allow me to do exactly the same in the case of things that are obscure. Consequently that science of yours gives you no assistance against a sōrites, as it does not teach you either the first point or the last in the process of increasing or diminishing. [95] L   What of the fact that this same science destroys at the end the steps that came before, like Penelope unweaving her web ? is your school to blame for that or is ours ? Clearly it is a fundamental principle of dialectic that every statement (termed by them axioma, that is, a 'proposition ') is either true or false ; what then ? is this a true proposition or a false one - 'If you say that you are lying and say it truly, you lie' ? Your school of course says that these problems are 'insoluble,' which is more vexatious than the things termed by us 'not grasped' and 'not perceived.'

[30.] "But I drop this point and ask the following question : if the problems in question are insoluble and no criterion of them is forthcoming to enable you to answer whether they are true or false, what becomes of the definition of a 'proposition' as 'that which is either true or false' ? Taking certain premisses I will draw the conclusion that, of two sets of propositions, to be classed as contradictory, one set is to be adopted and the other set to be rejected. ** [96] What judgement do you pass on the procedure of the following syllogism - 'If you say that it is light now and speak the truth, it is light ; but you do say that it is light now and speak the truth ; therefore it is light' ? Your school undoubtedly approve this class of syllogism and say that it is completely valid, and accordingly it is the first mode of proof that you give in your lectures. Either therefore you will approveof every syllogism in the same mode, or that science of yours is no good. Consider therefore whether you will approve the following syllogism : 'If you say that you are lying and speak the truth, you are lying ; but you do say that you are lying and speak the truth ; therefore you are lying' ; how can you not approve this syllogism when you approved the previous one of the same class ? These fallacies are the inventions of Chrysippus, and even he himself could not solve them ; for what could he make of this syllogism - 'If it is light, it is light ; but it is light ; therefore it is light' ? Of course he would agree ; for the very nature of hypothetical inference compels you to grant the conclusion if you have granted the premiss. What then is the difference between this syllogism and the former one ? 'If you are lying, you are lying ; but you are lying ; therefore you are lying' ? You say that you are unable either to agreeto this or to disprove it ; how then are you more able to deal with the other ? if science, reason, method, in fact if the syllogistic proof is valid, it is the same in either case. [97] L   But the farthest length they go is to demand that these insoluble problems should be deemed an exception. My advice to them is to apply to some tribune ** : they will never get that 'saving clause' from me. For as they will not get Epicurus, who despises and laughs at the whole of dialectic, to admit the validity of a proposition of the form 'Hermarchus will either be alive tomorrow or not alive,' whereas dialecticians lay it down that every disjunctive proposition of the form 'either X or not-X' is not only valid but even necessary, see how on his guard the man is whom your friends think slow ; for 'If,' he says, ' I admit either of the two to be necessary, it will follow that Hermarchus must either bealive to-morrow or not alive ; but as a matter of fact in the nature of things no such necessity exists.' Therefore let the dialecticians, that is, Antiochus and the Stoics, do battle with this philosopher, for he overthrows the whole of dialectic, if a disjunctive proposition consisting of two contrary statements - 'contrary' meaning one of them affirmative, the other negative - if a disjunctive proposition of this sort can be false, none is true ; [98] but what quarrel have they with me, who am a disciple of their own school ? When any situation of this nature occurred, Carneades used to play with the matter thus : 'If my conclusion is correct, I keep to it ; if it is faulty, Diogenes will pay me back a mina ** ' (for Diogenes as a Stoic had taught him dialectic, and that was the fee of professors of that subject). I therefore am following the methods of procedure that I learnt from Antiochus, and I cannot make out how I am to form the judgement that the proposition 'If it is light, it is light' is a true one (because I was taught that every hypothetical inference is true), but not form the judgement that 'If you are lying, you are lying' is an inference on the same lines. Either therefore I shall make both the former judgement and the latter one, or, if not the former, not the latter either.

Following sections (98-148)


134.   Apparently the technical term is jestingly used to describe the arguments just summarised.

135.   sōreitēs syllogismos, the conclusion of one syllogism forming the major premiss of the next. Each step may either add a small point, as in the example above, or subtract one, as in the practical illustration of the fallacy that gave it its name (ratio ruentis acerui, Horace) : from a heap of grain one grain at a time is taken away - at what point does it cease to be a heap ?

136.   The Italian Greek (239-169 B.C.) who initiated Latin poetry in Greek metres. He adapted Attic tragedies, e.g. Alcmaeon, quoted 52, 89, and wrote Roman ones; but his greatest work was Annales, an epic of Roman history from which comes the part of a hexameter quoted. Cf. 88.

137.   The chief Dorian comic poet, c. 540-450 B.C., lived at Hiero's court at Syracuse.

138.   The character in Ennius's tragedy : see 51 n. and 89.

139.   Ut non depends on both contenditis and non patitur and introduces both sit tale quale est and nec sit ulla communitas. The assertion refuted by nature is that uniqueness and heterogeneity are not universal (nulla re differens renders adiaphoros, and communitas epimixia or aparallaxia, 'undistinguishableness,' cf. 34).

140.   The Stoics, cf. 85.

141.   Species here combines the sense of 'appearances' with that of 'kinds' which it still bears in zoology ; it translates eidē, and quasdam marks formas as an explanatory synonym.

142.   i.e., a suspension of judgement.

143.   The Catilinarian conspiracy, 63 B.C.

144.   Cicero used this expression in the senate, and it became a cant phrase with which he was often taunted.

145.   A likely emendation gives 'and it was known to me too.'

146.   The word opinator is coined to suit the pretended self-depreciation of the speaker.

147.   See N.D. ii. 104 n., 106 : Cicero quotes his own translation.

148.   Novae Tabernae, a row of silversmiths' and money-changers' booths skirting the Forum.

149.   Timber balconies added to shops round the Forum, to accommodate spectators at the games. Maenius was consul 338 B.C.

150.   Antiochus had refuted the doctrine that truth can be discerned because it commands the instinctive assent of the mind by pointing out that a prominent exponent of this doctrine had at different times assented to two contradictory opinions. Yet he himself later on underwent an equally violent change of opinion.

151.   13.

152.   Apparently he argued that black was the real colour of snow because snow is water and water of very great depth is very dark in colour.

153.   Sextus, Adversus Mathematicos vii. 265 Δημόκριτος ὁ τῇ Διὸς φωνῇ παρεικαζόμενος καὶ λέγων "τάδε περὶ τῶν ξυμπάντων."

154.   This proverbial expression, derived from the classification of the population ascribed to King Servius Tullius, occurs here only. Horace, Sat. i. 11. 47, has 'in classe secunda' of 'second-class' merchandise.

155.   See 14.

156.   The Stoa Poikile at Athens, the meeting-place of the school, which took its name from it.

157.   In 16.

158.   19 ff.

159.   The third person, used of the person addressed, is rather contemptuous.

160.   Presumably a public resort at Puteoli, the modern Pozzuoli.

161.   Pliny, Nat. Hist. vii. 85, repeats this astounding story on Cicero's authority, although he gives the distance as 135,000 paces ; and he quotes from Varro that the telescopic person's name was Strabo, and that from Libybaeum in Sicily he saw the Punic fleet sail from Carthage.

162.   19.

163.   Latin arithmetic expressed the proportion of 19 to 1 by saying that '19 is greater than 1 by 18 parts.'

164.   See 79 fin.

165.   Identical pictures may be formed in the mind (1) truly, when one of the senses is affected by an external object, and (2) falsely, when we mistake one object for another, or when we merely imagine we see an object. In the latter case the mental picture is not 'perceived' in the technical sense here assumed. Therefore it is not 'perceived' in the former case either.

166.   See 56.

167.   See 50, 54, 56.

168.   Lysippus had sole permission from Alexander to make statues of him ; he made a great many.

169.   See 57.

170.   See 20.

171.   30.

172.   See i. 29 n.

173.   17.

174.   55.

175.   47-53.

176.   See 51 n.

177.   Presumably part of the dream about Homer, 51 n.

178.   Quoted from the Iliona of Pacuvius.

179.   Apparently this comes from an Ajax Furens, but no Latin tragedy on this subject is recorded.

180.   See 52.

181.   In bending a bow the left arm being more forward seenis to do more work than the right. ? The ms. text makes Apollo lean on the moon and Diana fling her torch from her left hand !

182.   See 26, 27.

183.   τῶν ἀληθῶν καὶ ψευδῶν λόγων διαγνοστική   Sext. P.H. ii. 229.

184.   i.e., dialectic, or rather logikē, which included both dialektikē, or logic in the modern sense, and rhetorikē, elementa loquendi below.

185.   See 49. The argument is that the mere existence of the Sorites shows that there is no such thing as logica) certainty or absolute knowledge.

186.   alias, alias = effata alia, alia (attracted to the gender of rebus).

187.   In civil suits the praetor did not try the facts but issued an instruction to an inferior court to cast the defendant if certain facts were proved, and sometimes also unless certain other facts were proved : the latter clause was an exceptio. If the praetor refused to grant an exceptio, the defendant might appeal to a tribune, who could procure the grant by threatening if it were not given to annul the whole of the praetor's instruction.

188.   The professor mentioned was a minor Stoic, a Babylonian ; he went with Carneades to Rome on the famous embassy, 137.

Following sections (98-148)

Attalus' home page   |   21.11.22   |   Any comments?