« ZurückWeiter »
Thus Socrates put a stop to the disorderly ambition of this man: but on an occasion quite contrary, he in the following manner exhorted Charmidas to take an employment. He was a man of sense, and more deserving than most others in the same post; but as he was of a modest disposition, he constantly declined, and made great difficulties of engaging himself in public business. Socrates therefore addressed himself to him in this manner: If you knew any man that could gain the prizes in the public games, and by that means render himself illustrious, and acquire glory to his country, what would you say of him if he refused to offer himself to the combat? I would say, answered Charmidas, that he was a mean-spirited effeminate fellow. And if a man were capable of governing a republic, of increasing its power by his advice, and of raising himself by this means to a high degree of honor, would you not brand him likewise with meanness of soul, if he would not present himself to be employed? Perhaps I might, said Charmidas; but why do you ask me this question? Socrates replied, because you are capable of managing the affairs of the republic; and nevertheless you avoid doing so, though in quality of a citizen you are obliged to take care of the commonwealth. Be no longer then thus negligent in this matter; consider your abilities and your duty with more attention, and let not slip the occasions of serving the republic, and of rendering it, if possible, more florishing than it is. This will be a blessing whose influence will descend not only on the other citizens, but on your best friends and yourself.
SELF-DENIAL NOT THE ESSENCE OF VIRTUE, From the Pennsylvania Gazette, No. 324, Feb. 18, 1735.
It is commonly asserted, that without self-denial there is no virtue, and that the greater the selfdenial the greater the virtue.
If it were said, that he who cannot deny himself any thing he inclines to, though he knows it will be to his hurt, has not the virtue of resolution or fortitude, it would be intelligible enough, but as it stands it seems obscure or erroneous.
Let us consider some of the virtues singly.
If a man has no inclination to wrong people in his dealings, if he feels no temptation to it, and therefore never does it, can it be said that he is not a just man? If he is a just man, has he not the virtue of justice?
If to a certain man idle diversions have nothing in them that is tempting, and therefore he never relaxes his application to business for their sake, is he not an industrious man? Or, has he not the virtue of industry?
I might in like manner instance in all the rest of the virtues; but, tc make the thing short, as it is certain that the more we strive against the temptation to any vice, and practise the contrary virtue, the weaker will that temptation be, and the stronger will be that habit, till at length the temptation has no force, or entirely vanishes; does it follow from thence, that in our endeavors to overcome vice we grow continually less andless virtuous, till at length we have no virtue at all 1
If self-denial be the essence of virtue, then it follows, that the man who is naturally temperate, just, &c. is not virtuous; but that in order to be virtuous, he must, in spite of his natural inclinations, wrong his neighbors, and eat and drink, &c. to excess. >
But perhaps it may be said, that by the word virtue in the above assertion, is meant merit; and so it should stand thus: without self-denial there is no merit, and the greater the self-denial the greater the merit.
The self-denial here meant, must be when our inclinations are towards vice, or else it would still be nonsense.
By merit is understood desert; and, when we say a man merits, we mean that he deserves praise or reward.
We do not pretend to merit any thing of God, for he is above our services; and the benefits he confers on us, are the effects of his goodness and bounty.
All our merit then is with regard to one another, and from one to another.
Taking then the assertion as it last stands,
If a man does me a service from a natural benevolent inclination, does he deserve less of me than another, who does me the like kindness against his inclination i -.'..;.•.
If I have two journeymen, one naturally industrious, the other idle, but both perform a day's work equally good, ought I to give the latter the most wages? . • .
Indeed lazy workmen are commonly observed to be more extravagant in their demands than the industrious, for if they have not more for their work, they cannot live as well; but though it be true to a proverb, that lazy folks take the most pains, does it follow that they deserve the most money?
If you were to employ servants in affairs of trust, would you not bid more for one you knew was naturally honest, than for one naturally roguish, but who has lately acted honestly? for currents whose natural channel is dammed up, till the new course is by time worn sufficiently deep, and become natural, are apt to break their banks. If one servant is more valuable than another, has he not more merit than the other? and yet this is not on account of superior self-denial.
Is a patriot not praiseworthy if public spirit is natural to him? . i i
Is a pacing-horse less valuable for being a natural pacer? .•.-•■.
Nor, in my opinion, has any man less merit for having in general natural virtuous inclinations.
The truth is, that temperance, justice, charity, &c. are virtues, whether practised with, or against our inclinations, and the man who practises them, merits our love and esteem; and self-denial is neither good nor bad, but as it is applied: he that denies a vicious inclination, is virtuous in proportion to his resolution; but the most perfect virtue is above all temptation, such as the virtue of the saints in heaven; and he who does a foolish, indecent, or wicked thing, merely because it is contrary to his inclination (like some mad enthusiasts I have read of, who ran about naked, under the notion of taking up the cross), is not practising the reasonable science of virtue, but is a lunatic.
ON THE USEFULNESS OF THE MATHEMATICS. From the Pennsylvania Gazette, No. 360, Oct. :!0, 1735.
Mathematics originally signifies any kind of discipline or learning, but now it is taken for that science which teaches or contemplates whatever is capable of being numbered or measured. That part of the mathematics which relates to numbers only, is called arithmetic; and that which is concerned about measure in general, whether length, breadth, motion, force, &c. is called geometry.
As to the usefulness of arithmetic, it is wellknown that no business, commerce, trade, or em