« AnteriorContinuar »
imperfect happiness to what the other would have afforded us.
If we reflect upon any one passion and disposition of mind, abstract from virtue, we shall soon see the disconnexion between that and true, solid happiness. It is of the very essence, for instance, of envy to be uneasy and disquieted. Pride meets with provocations and disturbances upon almost every occasion.
Covetousness is ever attended with solicitude and anxiety. Ambition has its disappointments to sour us, but never the good fortune to satisfy us; its appetite grows the keener by indulgence, and all we can gratify it with at present serves but the more to inflame its insatiable desires.
The passions, by being too much conversant with earthly objects, can never fix in us a proper composure and acquiescence of mind. Nothing but an indifference to the things of this world, an entire submission to the will of Providence here, and a well-grounded expectation of happiness hereafter, can give us a true, satisfactory enjoyment of ourselves. Virtue is the best guard against the many unavoidable evils incident to us; nothing better alleviates the weight of the afflictions, or gives a truer relish of the blessings, of human life.
What is without us has not the least connexion with happiness, only so far as the preservation of our lives and health depends upon it. Health of body, though so far necessary that we cannot be perfectly happy without it, is not sufficient to make us happy of itself. Happiness springs immediately from the mind; health is but to be considered as a condition or circumstance, without which this happiness cannot be tasted pure and unabated.
Virtue is the best preservation of health, as it prescribes temperance, and such a regulation of our passions as is most conducive to the well-being of the animal economy; so that it is, at the same
time, the only true happiness of the mind, and the best means of preserving the health of the body.
If our desires are to the things of this world, they are never to be satisfied. If our great view is upon those of the next, the expectation of them is an infinitely higher satisfaction than the enjoyment of those of the present.
There is no happiness, then, but in a virtuous and self-approving conduct. Unless our actions will bear the test of our sober judgments and reflections upon them, they are not the actions, and, conse, quently, not the happiness, of a rational being,
The following is a dialogue between Socrates, the great Athenian philosopher, and one Glaucon, a private man, of mean abilities, but ambitious of being chosen a senator and of governing the republic; wherein Socrates in a pleasant manner convinces him of his incapacity for public affairs, by making him sensible of his ignorance of the interests of his country in their several branches, and entirely dissuades him from any attempt of that nature. There is also added, at the end, part of another dialogue the same Socrates had with one Charmidas, a wor. thy man, but too modest, wherein he endeavours to persuade him to put himself forward and undertake public business, as being very capable of it. The whole is taken from Xenophon's Memorable Things of Socrates, Book Third.
" A certain man, whose name was Glaucon, the son of Ariston, had so fixed it in his mind to govern the republic, that he frequently presented himself before the people to discourse of affairs of state,
though all the world laughed at him for it; nor was it in the power of his relations or friends to dissuade him from that design. But Socrates had a kindness for him, on account of Plato, his brother, and he only it was who made him change his resolution. He met him, and accosted him in so winning a manner, that he first obliged him to hearken to his dis
He began with him thus : "You have a mind, then, to govern the republic? “I have so,' answered Glaucon.
You cannot,' replied Socrates, ‘have a more noble design; for if you can accomplish it so as to become absolute, you will be able to serve your friends, you will raise your family, you will extend the bounds of your country, you will be known, not only in Athens, but through all Greece, and perhaps your renown will fly even to the barbarous nations, as did that of Themistocles. In short, wherever you come, you will have the respect and admiration of all the world.'
“These words soothed Glaucon, and won him to give ear to Socrates, who went on in this manner : • But it is certain, that if you desire to be honoured, you must be useful to the state.'
6. Certainly,' said Glaucon.
“And in the name of all the gods,' replied Socrates, tell me, what is the first service that you intend to render the state ?'
“ Glaucon was considering what to answer, when Socrates continued : 'If you design to make the fortune of one of your friends, you will endeavour to make him rich, and thus, perhaps, you will make it your business to enrich the republic ?'
"I would,' answered Glaucon.
“ Socrates replied, “Would not the way to enrich the republic be to increase its revenue ?!
“It is very likely it would,' answered Glaucon. 4. Tell me, then, in what consists the revenue of the state, and to how much it may amount? I presume you have particularly studied this matter, to the end that, if anything should be lost on one hand, you might know where to make it good on another; and that, if a fund should fail on a sudden, you might immediately be able to settle another in its place ?'
“! I protest,' answered Glaucon, “I have never thought of this.'
“Tell me, at least, the expenses of the republic, for no doubt you intend to retrench the superfluous ?
"I never thought of this either,' said Glaucon.
6. You were best, then, to put off to another time your design of enriching the republic, which you can never be able to do while you are ignorant both of its expenses and revenue.'
“There is another way to enrich a state,' said Glaucon, of which you take no notice; and that is, by the ruin (spoils] of its enemies.'
46 You are in the right,' answered Socrates ; 'but to this end it is necessary to be stronger than they, otherwise we shall run the hazard of losing what we have. He, therefore, who talks of undertaking a war, ought to know the strength on both sides, to the end that, if his party be the stronger, he may boldly advise for war, and that, if it be the weaker, he may dissuade the people from engaging themselves in so dangerous an enterprise.'
666 All this is true.'
“Tell me, then,'continued Socrates,' how strong our forces are by sea and land, and how strong are our enemies.'
«« « Indeed,' said Glaucon, 'I cannot tell you on a sudden.'
“If you have a list of them in writing, pray show it me; I should be glad to hear it read.'
66. I have it not yet.' “'I see, then,' said Socrates, that we shall not engage in war so soon; for the greatness of the undertaking will hinder you from maturely weighing all the consequences of it in the beginning of your government. But,' continued he, ‘you have thought of the defence of the country; you know what garrisons are necessary, and what are not; you know what numbe of troops is sufficient in one, and not sufficient in another; you will cause the necessary garrisons to be re-enforced, and disband those that are useless ?
56" I should be of opinion,' said Glaucon, 'to leave none of them on foot, because they ruin a country on pretence of defending it.'
“* But, Socrates objected, 'if all the garrisons were taken away, there would be nothing to hinder the first comer from carrying off what he pleased; but how come you to know that the garrisons behave themselves so ill? Have you been upon the place ? Have you seen them ?! “ • Not at all; but I suspect it to be so.'
When, therefore, we are certain of it,' said Socrates, and can speak upon better grounds than simple conjectures, we will propose this advice to the senate.
• It may be well to do so said Glaucon. “• It comes into my mind, too,' continued Socrates, 'that you have never been at the mines of sil. ver, to examine why they bring not in so much now as they did formerly.'
You say true ; I have never been there.' “ Indeed, they say the place is very unhealthy, and that may excuse you.'
“You rally me now,' said Glaucon.
“Socrates added, “But I believe you have at least observed how much corn our land produces, how long it will serve to supply our city, and how much more we shall want for the whole year; to the end you may not be surprised with a scarcity of bread, but may give timely orders for the necessary provisions.