Our life is more wretched owing to Fortune or through our own fault. (PLUTARCH) | Part B’

Our life is more wretched owing to Fortune or through our own fault. (PLUTARCH) | Part B’

WHETHER THE DISORDERS OF MIND OR BODY ARE WORSE.

 

PART B

 

And so doctors wish a man not to be ill, or if he is ill to be ignorant of it, as is the case with all diseases of the soul. For neither those who are out of their minds, nor the licentious, nor the

unjust think themselves faulty-some even think themselves perfect.

 

For no one ever yet called a fever health, or consumption a good condition of body, or gout swift-footedness, or paleness a good colour; but many call anger manliness, and love friendship, and envy competition, and cowardice prudence.

 

Then again those that are ill in body send for doctors, for they are conscious of what they need to counteract their ailments; but those who are ill in mind avoid philosophers, for they think themselves excellent in the very matters in which they come short.

 

And it is on this account that we maintain that ophthalmia is a lesser evil than madness, and gout than frenzy.

 

For the person ill in body is aware of it and calls loudly for the doctor, and when he comes allows

him to anoint his eye, to open a vein, or to plaster up his head

 

Again he who is ill in body straightway gives up and goes to bed and remains there quietly till he is well, and if he toss and tumble about a little when the fit is on him, any of the people who are by saying to him,

 

Gently,

Stay in the bed, poor wretch, and take your ease (Euripides)

 

restrain him and check him. But those who suffer from a diseased brain are then most active and least at rest, for impulses bring about action, and the passions are vehement impulses.

 

And so they do not let the mind rest, but when the man most requires quiet and silence and retirement, then is he dragged into the open air, and becomes the victim of anger, contentiousness, lust, and grief, and is compelled to do and say many lawless things unsuitable to the occasion.

 

As therefore the storm which prevents one’s putting into harbour is more dangerous than the storm which will not let one sail, so those storms of the soul are more formidable which do not allow a man to take in sail, or to calm his reason when it is disturbed, but without a pilot and without ballast, in perplexity and uncertainty through contrary and confusing courses, he rushes headlong and falls into woeful shipwreck, and shatters his life. So that from these points of view it is worse to be diseased in mind than body, for the latter only suffer, but the former do ill as well as suffer ill.

 

But why need I speak of our various passions? The very times bring them to our mind.

 

Do you see yon great and promiscuous crowd jostling against one another and surging round the

rostrum and forum?

 

They have not assembled here to sacrifice to their country’s gods, nor to share in one another’s rites; they are not bringing to Ascraean Zeus the firstfruits of Lydian produce, nor arethey celebrating in honour of Dionysus the Bacchic orgies on festival nights with common revellings; but a mighty plague stirring up Asia in annual cycles drives them here for litigation and suits at law at stated

times: and the mass of business, like the confluence of mighty rivers, has inundated one forum, and festers and teems with ruiners and ruined.

 

What fevers, what agues, do not these things cause?

 

What obstructions, what irruptions of blood into the air-vessels, what distemperature of heat, what overflow of humours, do not result?

 

If you examine every suit at law, as if it were a person, as to where it originated, where it came

from, you will find that one was produced by obstinate temper, another by frantic love of strife, a third by some sordid desire.

 

 

 

Plutarch’s Morals

Plutarch

 



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