(Translated by Thomas Taylor)
Shrine of Wisdom No.79
In the following translation I have endeavored to render the profound meaning of Plotinus obvious to such as have been benefited by any of my former publications, and for whom alone the present work is designed. I shall present the reader with such additional information on the subjects which are here discussed, as I have obtained by a diligent study of Proclus and Olympiodorus, those two great luminaries of philosophy posterior to Plotinus, and by whom the doctrines of the ancients seem to have been interpreted in the greatest perfection possible to man.
In the first place, then, I shall observe, concerning FELICITY, that every being is then happy when it acquires the proper perfection of its nature; and consequently all vital beings are capable of receiving felicity that are capable of arriving at the perfection of their nature. Hence, as the nature or being of every thing consists in that part of the thing which is most excellent - for that which is most excellent is most principal, and nothing can have a more principal subsistence than being - as this is the case, human felicity consists in a perfect intellectual energy; for intellect is our principal part. Hence, too, as the form of life is different in different beings, the perfection likewise of each will be limited by different measures. The first form therefore of felicity, and which is at the same time all-perfect, is that of the universe. The second is that of the Mundane Gods, whom Plato in the Phaedrus calls the blessed Gods, and represents following the mighty Jupiter. The third form of felicity is that which subsists in the genera superior to the human nature; for the virtue of angels is different from that of daemons, and this last from that of heroes. The fourth subsists in those unpolluted souls, such as Hercules, Theseus, Pythagoras, and Plato, who descend into generation without being contaminated with its defilements, and who preserve an untamed and undeviating life. The fifth form of felicity subsists in gregarious and multiform souls, such as those of the bulk of mankind: and the last takes place in irrational animals.
In the next place, observe, that though the human soul may in this life partake of true felicity, by converting itself wholly to Intellect, yet it can then only be uninterruptedly blessed, when it ascends with its ethereal vehicle perfectly pure to the pure spheres, or to the more sublime air or aether; for then, on account of the prosperous condition of the body with which it is connected, and the place in which that body subsists, it is by no means hindered in the energies of Divine contemplation. As the power and amplitude, too, of the more elevated are greater than the inferior spheres, and as the virtue of the soul in the former is more excellent than in the latter, by how much the one surpasses the other, by so much longer will the soul live in the superior than in the subordinate spheres. Besides, by how much more powerful Intellect, which is elevated to supernal natures, is than the imagination, which verges to sensibles, by so much longer is the life of the rational soul, when converted to the luminous visions of Intellect, than when bound as it were to the dark figured eye of the phantasy, and beholding nothing but the ever-flowing and fallacious objects of sense. Lastly, those souls live for a shorter time on earth, and for a longer time in the celestial spheres, who, from possessing prerogatives superior to those of the herd of mankind, originally belong to more excellent Stars, and to daemons of a more exalted rank.
I only add further, concerning
this book ON FELICITY, that when Plotinus asserts in it, that we possess an
Intellect perpetually vigilant and in energy, without experiencing any
remission, it is in consequence of his believing that the whole of the rational
soul does not descend into body, but that its supreme part, Intellect, always
abides in the Intelligible World. This opinion he mentions explicitly at the end
of his book On the Descent of the Soul; but against this opinion Proclus
very justly objects that if our Intellect thus remains in the Intelligible
World, it either perpetually understands without transition, or transitively:
but if without transition, it will be Intellect alone, and not a part of the
soul; and if transitively, that which is perpetually, and that which is
sometimes intelligent, will form one essence. To which we may add (says he) the
absurdity resulting from supposing that the summit of the soul is perpetually
perfect, and yet does not rule over the other powers and give them perfection.
The fact is, indeed, that our intellect, though it subsists in energy, has a
remitted union with things themselves, and though it energizes from itself, and
contains intelligibles in its essence, yet, from its alliance to the discursive
nature of soul, and its inclination to that which is divisible, it falls short
of the perfection of an intellectual essence and energy profoundly indivisible
and united, and the intelligibles which it contains degenerate from the
transcendently fulgid and self-luminous nature of first Intelligibles. Hence, in
obtaining a perfectly indivisible knowledge, it requires to be perfected by an
Intellect whose energy is ever vigilant and unremitted, and its intelligibles,
that they may become perfect, are indigent of the light which proceeds from
separate Intelligibles. Aristotle, therefore, very properly compares the
Intelligibles of our Intellect to colors, because these require the splendour of
the sun; and denominates an intellect of this kind, intellect in capacity,
both on account of its subordination to an essential Intellect, and because it
is from a separate Intellect that it receives the full perfection of its nature.
Since it is universally believed that to live well and to be happy are placed in the same subject, may we not inquire whether felicity is to be attributed to other animals besides man? For if it is allowed them, as far as the condition of their birth permits, to pass through life without impediment, what should hinder their living well, that is, in such a manner as to be happy? For whether living well is supposed to consist in the sound and proper possession of being, or in acting agreeably to the design of nature, according to both these acceptations living well belongs to other animals as well as to man. Thus birds are well conditioned, or enjoy a sound existence, and sing agreeable to the institutions of nature in their formation, and after this manner they may appear to possess a desirable life. But if we constitute felicity as a certain end, which is something extreme in the appetite of nature, in this way all animals will be happy when they arrive at this extreme, and which, when obtained, nature in them makes a stop, as having accomplished the whole of their existence, and filled it with all that is wanting from beginning to end. But if anyone objects to felicity being transferred to brutes, asserting that in this case it must belong to creatures the most vile and abject, and even to plants, whose slender existence arrives at its proper end; such a one may appear to speak absurdly, while he affirms other animals cannot live well because they are reckoned of no worth; but he is not compelled to allow felicity to plants which he grants to all animals, because plants are destitute of sense. And, perhaps, some one may allow felicity to plants, since life is present even to these: but to live, partly happens well and partly the contrary; as a power is given to plants that they should be well conditioned and bear fruit peculiar to their nature, and sometimes that the contrary of this should take place. Hence, if pleasure is the end which all beings pursue, and living well consists in this, it will be absurd to take away living well from the brutes.
The same consequences will ensue if tranquility be supposed the universal end; as likewise from admitting that to live according to nature is to live well. But whoever denies felicity to plants because they are not endued with sentient powers, cannot assign this to all animated beings: since if by sensation they mean not to be ignorant of passion or affection, it is necessary that good itself should be a passion prior to that which is said not to be concealed, as this is the possession of a being according to nature, although such a possession is concealed and in the same manner that which is peculiar, although it may not yet be acknowledged as peculiar: besides it is necessary that that which is sweet should exist prior to our perception of its being sweet.
Hence, then, if wherever good is possessed a being is well conditioned, why is it necessary to add sensation? Unless they place good not in a certain present affection or constitution, but rather in knowledge and sensation. But, in this case, they should affirm that sense itself, and the energy of a sensitive life, is good, and ought to confess that good is present to every percipient being considered as percipient.
But if they affirm good to be constituted from both, as from the perception of a certain thing, or affection, after what manner, since both passion and its perception, considered by themselves, are indifferent, can they assert that to be good which is the result of both?
But if they say that to live well is a certain good affection and that state of being when any one acknowledges good as present to himself, it is proper to interrogate such whether any one from simply acknowledging this as present, lives well, or whether it is necessary he should not only know it is pleasant but that it is good? But if it be necessary he should know it to be good, there will not for this purpose be any need of sense, but of some power more excellent than sense.
To live well, therefore, will not belong to him who is diffused all over with pleasure, but to him who is capable of knowing that pleasure is good. And so the cause of living well will not be pleasure, but that power which is able to judge that pleasure is good: and indeed, that which judges is more excellent than passion and affection, for it is either reason or intellect, but pleasure is passion only. But that which is irrational is by no means more excellent than reason. How then can reason, neglecting itself, place that which exists in an opposite rank as more excellent than itself? But those who attribute to plants, and to a sense of this kind, a well-conditioned state of existence, appear to conceal from themselves that they inquire after living well as after something superior to mere sensation, and that they place a better condition of being in a life more perfect and entire.
Again, whatever of felicity, they say, consists in a rational life, but not in life simply considered (not even if it be sensual), is, perhaps, rightly said. But it is requisite to interrogate such, on what account they place felicity about the rational soul? Whether they connect reason with felicity because reason is more sagacious, and can more easily investigate those things which are first according to nature? Or whether it is united with felicity, though it should not be able to investigate with sagacity? But if reason participates more of felicity on account of its power of invention, felicity may be present where reason is absent, to those beings who are capable of pursuing things first according to nature. Reason, therefore, will perform the office of a minister, and will not by any means be eligible for its own sake, nor again will it be the perfection of that which we denominate virtue.
But if you should say that reason does not derive its dignity from things first according to nature, but is to be cultivated on its own account, it remains to inform us what besides this is the work of reason, what is its nature, and what causes its perfection? For, indeed, it is necessary it should be perfect, not on account of its inspection concerning things prior by nature, but that its perfection should consist in something else, and that it should inherit another nature; and again that it should not be in the number of things first according to nature, nor that from which these first beings are composed, nor at all of this kind, but that it should be of all these the most excellent; for otherwise I cannot see how they can be able to assign the cause of its venerableness and worth. But such as these, until they find out a better nature, must be permitted to doubt what it is to live well, to whom a power of this kind may belong, and after what manner, and among which of the preceding, felicity may be found.
Let us, therefore, resuming the question from the beginning, inquire in what felicity ought to consist: indeed, since we constitute felicity in life, if we should think life a term synonymous to vital beings, we ought to assign to all animals an ability of becoming happy, and should think that those beings live well in energy, to whom a life one and the same is present, and which all animals are naturally capable of receiving.
Nor ought we, on such a supposition, so to distribute a matter of this kind as to allow an ability of happiness to the rational nature and not to the irrational; for life will be that common something which, whoever participates, ought to be capable of obtaining felicity, since beatitude would consist in a certain life.
Hence those who affirm that felicity consists in a rational life, and not in life universal, do not, I think, sufficiently perceive that they establish felicity as something different from life: but they are compelled to call the rational power a quality, about which felicity abides. According to these, however, a rational life exists as the subject, since about the whole of this felicity is entirely conversant; on which account it seems to be placed about another species of life, distinguished from reason in the same manner as that which is prior from that which is posterior.
Since, then, life is multifariously predicated, and is diversified according to first and second, and so on in regular subordination; and since to live is affirmed equivocally in one respect of a plant, but in another of a brute, differing in plenitude and exility, certainly to live well, and simply to live, must be affirmed of all these in a certain analogical proportion. And if one vital being is but the image of another, doubtless one habit of living well ought to be judged but the image of another.
But if to whatever possesses a sufficiency of life, that is, which in no part is destitute of life, felicity belongs, certainly felicity will be present alone to beings possessing a sufficiency of life; since that which is best is present to these, and that is best in the order of beings which subsists truly in life, and is itself perfect life: for thus neither will its good be adventitious, nor will the approach of anything external cause its subject to be placed in good. For what can be added to a perfect life that it may become the best? But if any one should say that the nature of good must be added, his sentiments will be correspondent to our own, inquiring after this as abiding in the soul; for it has often been said by us that perfect and true life flourishes in an intellectual nature, but that others are imperfect, mere images of life, neither living perfectly nor purely; and again not possessing in reality more of life than its privation.
And now, since we have summarily affirmed that all vital beings live from one principle in such a manner as not equally to participate of life, it necessarily follows that the principle of life is the first life, and the first perfection.
Shrine of Wisdom No.80
If, then, man can possess a perfect life, certainly man from its possession must be happy; otherwise we must attribute felicity to the Gods alone, if They only possess a life of this kind. But, because we confess that felicity may likewise abide in men, let us consider after what manner this subsists; that man possesses a perfect life, not indeed if alone possessing one that is sensual, but from his participation of reason and true intellect, is already sufficiently evident; but it may be inquired whether he enjoys this perfect life as something different from himself. Certainly he is not a happy man unless he possesses this felicity either in capacity or in energy. But shall we say it abides in him as a part, and call it a perfect species of life? Or shall we not say that a man of a different description from the happy man, possesses this as a part, by possessing it in a certain capacity, but that he is happy who exists in energy in a perfect life, and is arrived to that degree of excellence as to become with it perfectly the same? External circumstances surround such a one, which he does not assert to be parts of himself; because he is unwilling they should surround him; but if he wished to be connected with them, they would, in this case, belong to him. To such a one as this, then, it may be asked, what is good? Perhaps he is good to himself from that which he possesses; but that which is of a superior nature is the cause of that which flourishes in himself, and which is participated as good by others in a manner different from that good which is considered in itself.
But an evidence from hence may be derived, that he who is so affected desires nothing further; for what should he inquire after? Nothing, surely, of a subordinate nature since he is conjoined with that which is best.
He, therefore, who lives in this manner possesses a sufficient life; and if he is endued with virtue he will be sufficient to the enjoyment of felicity and the possession of good; for there is no good which he does not possess; but that which he inquires after he seeks as necessary, not indeed for himself, but as requisite to something belonging to him, external and adventitious-that is, to body, with which he is connected, and not as peculiar, or belonging to the interior man. Indeed, this he well knows, and cares for his body in such a manner as may best promote his enjoyment of an intellectual life. Hence he is not the less happy in adverse fortune, for, as well as a life of this kind, he abides in the same state of felicity. Besides, in the death of his domestics and friends, he is not ignorant of the nature of death: and the deceased themselves, if worthy while living, were well acquainted with the nature of death. But if any molestation be produced by the dissolution of his familiars and necessary friends, it does not affect the true inward man, but that part alone in the worthy man which is destitute of intellect, the peculiar molestations of which the happy soul does not receive.
But against this definition of felicity it may be objected, can the soul be happy while its energies are prevented by pains of the body and disease? Besides, what is to be said if the worthy man should be delirious or mad? For this is sometimes effected by enchantments or desire. How can a man in such circumstances live well and be happy? Not to mention the miseries resulting from want and an abject fortune; and, perhaps, some one considering these, may adduce against us the calamities of Priam, and affirm that however he may bear these misfortunes with ease, yet his will can never concur with their endurance.
But, it will be said, a happy life ought to be agreeable to our desire, since the worthy man is not soul alone, but the nature of body must be enumerated with his essence, as far as the passions of the body are transferred to his soul; and, again, that for the sake of the body particular things are pursued or avoided by the worthy man. Hence, since pleasure is necessary to a happy life, how can a man be happy when surrounded with difficulties and pains? Even if he is a good man whom adversity of this kind oppresses? Indeed, to the Gods alone a disposition of this kind, blessed and self-sufficient, belongs: but to men, with whose souls something inferior is connected) felicity is to be inquired after about the whole composite, and not about one part alone, although the most excellent; which, as often as the subordinate part is ill-conditioned, is necessarily prevented from the proper energies of its nature; or, if this be not admitted, it is necessary to cast aside body and corporeal sense, and thus self-sufficient to inquire after felicity.
But if reason places felicity in being free from sickness and danger, and in never falling into great adversities, no one can be happy while things of such a contrary nature are dependent. But if felicity consists in the possession of true good, why is it requisite, neglecting this, to inquire after other things which ought not to be associated with felicity? For if felicity were the accumulation of things good, and at the same time necessary, or of goods greater and less, which are not only necessary but are called goods, it is requisite that these likewise should be present.
But if it is proper that there should be some one end, and not many ends (or else a man would not inquire after the end, but after ends), it is necessary to pursue that alone which is the last and most excellent, and which the soul seeks after as something which may reside in the depths of its essence. But inquiry and will do not tend to the non-possession of this most excellent end; for discursive reason does not choose a declination of things inconvenient from a principal desire of nature, but alone flies from and repels such as are present, or desires to conjoin things convenient. But the principal appetite of the soul is directed to that which is best, with which, when present, it is filled, and enjoys perfect repose: and this is the life which the prime desire of the soul pursues. But that something of necessaries should be present is not the wish of the soul, if we consider the soul's desire properly, and not according to the abuse of words; since we alone think the presence of these requisite, because, to the utmost of our ability, we decline from every thing evil. Nor yet is this employment of declination to be principally desired, for it is far more desirable never to want such a declination from evil.
The truth of this is sufficiently evident from necessaries when present, such as health, and a privation of pain; for which of these in a wonderful manner attracts the soul to itself? Since it is customary to neglect present ease and health, and to be unconscious of their possession. But such things as when present possess no gentle attractive power of converting the soul to themselves, cannot add anything to our felicity. And it is consonant to reason to believe that things whose absence is caused by the presence of their offending contraries, are necessary, rather than good; they are not, therefore, to be enumerated with the end, but while they are absent, and their contraries depend, the end of life is to be preserved perfect and entire.
But, it may be said, on what account does the happy man desire these to be present, and reject their contraries? Perhaps we may reply, not because they confer anything to felicity, but rather are, in some respects, necessary to existence itself, in the present state; but that their contraries either lead to non-existence, or disturb, by their presence, a man enjoying the end, at the same time not destroying that end; and because he who enjoys that which is best, desires to possess it alone, and not in conjunction with anything else. But though anything else should occur, it would not take away the end, which is not absent while this is present. And, indeed, though something should happen to the happy man against his desire, he will not, on this account, lose any part of his felicity. For, if this be admitted, he must be daily changed, and fall off from felicity; as when he loses a son, or suffers any loss in his domestic concerns; since there are innumerable accidents which take place contrary to the will, and which detract nothing from the true and invariable end of life.
But it may be said that great adversities only lessen felicity; but what is there among human concerns so great, which will not be despised by him who betakes himself to things far more excellent and sublime, and is no longer dependent on such as are subordinate? For since the worthy man would not esteem the greatest prosperity of any moment or worth, such as the sovereign command of nations, or the establishing of cities, why should he think the loss of dominion, or destruction of his country, a grievous misfortune? But if he thinks anything of this kind to be a great evil, or evil at all, he is to be reckoned ridiculous, and is no longer a truly worthy man while he accounts timber and stones, and by Jupiter, the death of mortals, as a matter of great concern, when he ought to esteem death far better than corporeal life. But what if he should be sacrificed, would he think death an evil to himself because he is to be slain near the altars? Will he likewise account it a great matter that he is to be buried ignobly and at a small cost, and is judged unworthy of a more lofty monument? But it is entirely pusillanimous to reckon such things worthy of concern: besides, if he should be led captive, he may possess a power of freeing himself, if he cannot in such a condition be happy. But if his domestic grandchildren are led captive, will he be less happy? What then shall we say should he depart from life without having beheld relatives of this kind; would he migrate from such a life with an opinion that such a connection could not have subsisted? But to think in this manner would be absurd. But may he not think it possible for his kindred to be oppressed by such casualties? Will he be less happy in futurity in consequence of the possibility of this opinion being realized? Rather, indeed, though he think so, he will be happy.
Hence, though such circumstances should take place at present, he will consider that the nature of the universe is such, that he should bear things of this kind, and that it is requisite he should follow the general order. Besides, many who are led captive, act better than before; and it is in the arbitration of those who are bound, to make themselves free. But if they abide in captivity, they either continue for some particular reason - and in this case there is nothing truly grievous in their condition - or they abide without reason, and in this case it is not proper to be the cause of their own perturbation.
Indeed, the worthy man is never oppressed with evil through ignorance of his own concerns, nor changed by the fortunes of others, whether prosperous or adverse. But when his pains are vehement, as far as it is possible to bear he bears them, and when they are excessive they may cause him to be delirious: yet he will not be miserable in the midst of the greatest pains, but his intellectual splendor will assiduously shine in the penetralia of his soul, like a bright light secured in a watch-tower, which shines with unremitting splendor though surrounded by stormy winds and raging seas. But what shall we say if, through the violence of pain, he is no longer sensible, or is just ready to destroy himself? Indeed, if the pain is so vehemently extended, he will, if sensible, consult what is requisite to be done, for in these concerns the freedom of the will is not taken away.
But it is requisite to know that circumstances of this kind do not appear to men excellent in virtue so dreadful as to others, nor yet reach to the inward man; neither torments, nor griefs, belonging to himself, nor the particular difficulties with which others are oppressed, or this would be a certain debility of our soul; which is then sufficiently evident, when we think it requisite that such misfortunes should be concealed from us, such as death, when imminent, or distant inconveniences, surveying ourselves, and not the seeming evils, lest we should be affected with any molestations. But all this is the fault of our imbecility, which we ought vigorously to repulse, nor (yielding to such weakness) fear lest anything of molestation should happen.
But if anyone objects that we are so constituted by nature that we ought to grieve for domestic misfortunes, he should understand that, in the first place, all men are not so affected, and, in the next place, that it is the business of virtue to reduce the common condition of nature to that which is better, and to something more honest than the decisions of the vulgar. But it is more honest to consider as things of no moment, all that appear grievous to our common nature; for the worthy man ought not to be as one rude and unskillful, but, like a strenuous wrestler, should vigorously repel the strokes of fortune endeavouring to throw his fortitude on the ground; since he knows that such things are displeasing to a common nature, but that to such a nature as his own they are not really grievous, but are terrible only, as it were, to boys.
Will he then, you will say, wish for things apparently afflictive? Perhaps he may be unwilling to be connected with them; but, when they happen, he opposes virtue to their attacks, by means of which the soul is not easily changed and affected.
But what shall we say when the worthy man is no longer himself, being overwhelmed either with disease or magic? We reply that, if in such a state they allow he may retain his proper virtue, like one in a deep sleep, what is there to prevent his being happy? Since they do not deprive him of felicity in sleep, nor esteem that interval of rest as any hindrance to the happiness of the whole of life: but if they deny such a one to be worthy, the same consequences will not ensue.
But we, supposing a man to be worthy, inquire whether, so far as worthy, he is always happy. Again, if it be said how can he be happy, although endued with virtue, while he does not perceive himself virtuous, nor energizes according to virtue? We reply, although a man does not perceive himself to be healthy, he may nevertheless be healthy; and, again, he will not be less beautiful in his body although not sensible of his beauty; and will a man be less wise if he does not perceive himself to be wise? But, perhaps, some one may say, that wisdom should be accompanied with sense and animadversion, for felicity is present with wisdom in energy. We reply, if this energy of wisdom were anything adventitious, there might be some weight in the assertion; but if the subsistence of wisdom is situated in a certain essence, or rather in essence itself, this essence will neither perish in him who is asleep or delirious, or is denied to be any longer conscious of his felicity, and, indeed, the energy of this essence resides in the soul of such a one, and is an energy perpetually vigilant; for then the worthy man, considered as worthy, energizes, whether in a dormant state, or overwhelmed with infirmity. But an energy of this kind is not concealed from the whole itself but rather from some particular part; just as with respect to the vegetable energy in its most flourishing state, an animadversion of such an energy does not transmigrate into the external man by means of a sentient nature; and if we were entirely the same with our vegetable power, there is no doubt but we should energize whenever such a virtue was in energy: but since the case is otherwise, and we are the energy of that which is intelligent, we energize in consequence of its energy. But perhaps such an energy is concealed from us because it does not reach any sentient power; for to this purpose it should energize through sense as a medium: but why should not intellect energize, and soul about intellect, preceding all sense and animadversion? For it is requisite there should be some energy prior to animadversion, since the energy of intellect is the same with its essence. But animadversion appears to take place when the energy of intellect is reflected; and when that which energizes according to the life of the soul rebounds, as it were, back again, like images in a mirror, quietly situated in a smooth and polished place, so as to reflect every form which its receptacle contains. For as, in things of this kind, when the mirror is not present or is not properly disposed, the energy from which the image was formed is indeed present, but the resemblance absent; so with respect to the soul, when it energizes in quiet, certain resemblances of thought and intellect beam on our imagination, like the images in the smooth and polished mirror; and in a sensible manner, as it were, we acknowledge that our intellect and thought energize together with the former knowledge. But when this medium is confounded, because the harmony of the body is disturbed, then thought and intellect understand without an image, and intellection is carried on without imagination.
Hence intelligence may be considered as subsisting together with the phantasy, while, in the meantime, intelligence is some-thing very different from the phantasy. Besides, it is easy to discover many speculations of men when vigilant and honest; actions, in the performance of which it is evident that we do not perceive ourselves to speculate and act; for it is not necessary that he who reads should be conscious he is reading, especially when he reads with the greatest attention; nor that he who acts vigorously should necessarily acknowledge his vigorous energy; and the same consequence ensues in a variety of other operations; so that animadversions appear to render more debile the actions which they attend; but when they are alone, they are then pure, and seem to possess more of energy and life. And hence when worthy men live in such a state it follows that they live in a more perfect manner; since their life is not at that time diffused into sense, and by this means remitted in its energy, but is collected into itself in one uniform, intellectual tenor.
But if it be objected that a man of this kind cannot be said to live, we, on the contrary, affirm that he truly lives, but that his felicity is concealed from him, as well as his life; and, if this is not consented to, we think it just that, allowing him to live and to be a worthy man, they inquire only whether, in such a state, he is happy, lest by detracting from him life, they should ask whether he lives well. It is likewise proper that they should not, by entirely taking away the nature of man, deliberate concerning his felicity; and, lastly, that they do not seek after the worthy man in external actions, after having granted that he is entirely conversant with that which lies deep in the soul. Nor ought they to think that his will is placed in external concerns; for felicity can have no subsistence if the worthy man is said to affect externals, and to place his desires in their possession.
All men, indeed, desire to live well, and free from the incursion of things evil; but if the worthy man does not find these succeed according to his wish, he will nevertheless be happy. But if any one should say that he is deceived, and wanders from reason, by only wishing for such things (since it is impossible for evil not to exist), he ought to assent to the propriety of our conduct in converting the will of such a one to that which is intimately his own.
But if pleasures are required in the life of such a man, they cannot be the pleasures of the intemperate, nor such as are corporeal; for it is impossible that these should be present without contaminating felicity. Nor, again, is the more abundant motion of gladness and mirth required; for why should things of this kind be requisite to true felicity? But those pleasures alone are necessary which accompany the presence of good, and which are neither placed in motion nor recently possessed. For things truly good are already present, and the worthy man is present to himself, and his pleasure and serenity ever abides; for he is always serene, his state is ever quiet, and his affection sufficient, and he is never disturbed, if truly worthy, by any of those circumstances of being which are denominated evil. But he who seeks after any other species of pleasure in the life of a worthy man, ceases any longer to inquire after a worthy life.
Nor are the good man's energies entirely prevented by the changes of fortune, but different energies will take place in different fortunes, yet all of them equally honest, and those perhaps more honest which rightly compose jarring externals. But the energies of his contemplation, if they respect things particular, will perhaps be such as he ought to produce from inquiry and consideration; but the greatest discipline always resides with him, and is perpetually at hand, and this the more so, though he should be placed in the Bull of Phalaris, which is ridiculously called pleasant, when twice or frequently pronounced; for what is there pronounced in agony, is pronounced by that which is placed in torment, the external and shadowy man, which is far different from the true man, who, dwelling by himself, so far as he necessarily resides with himself, never ceases from the contemplation of universal good.
But that the good man in particular is not a certain composite from soul and body, is evinced by a separation from body, and a contempt of all that is called corporeal good.
But it would be ridiculous to assert that felicity pertains to our common life, since felicity is a good life resident in the soul, and is an energy not of the whole soul nor of the animal or vegetable part, so as in any manner to border on corporeal sensations.
For felicity is not placed in the magnitude, beauty, or proper habit of the body; nor, again, in the vigour and perfection of the senses; since too much prosperity of body and the senses oppresses the soul with a dead weight, and draws her aside from herself. But it is proper, by a retrograde process, and by a departure from sense, converting the soul to that which is best, so to attenuate the body that the true man may appear to be perfectly different from externals.
But supposing a man to be beautiful, great, and rich, and to possess universal empire; such a one, deceived by such trifling concerns, is not to be envied. Circumstances indeed of this kind were perhaps never united in the person of one wise man; and if they were present, while he properly cultivates himself, he will break them in pieces and diminish their power; by negligence of his body, wearing away its luxuries, and resigning his sovereign command. Besides, he will so care for the health of his body, that he will desire not to be entirely unskilled in the cure of disease and pain; so that in his youth he will desire to learn arts of this kind, but in old age he will neither wish to be disturbed with such cares, nor with any corporeal pleasures or corporeal concern, whether pleasant or painful, lest he should be compelled to decline to the dark regions of body. But, when situated in a painful condition, he opposes, as his guard, virtue, ever present with him, and ever sufficient; and so prepares himself for every circumstance of life, that neither in pleasures, prosperous health, and vacation from labour, he may esteem himself more happy, nor less blessed, when their opposites succeed: for since the former cannot increase felicity, certainly it can never be diminished by the latter, their perfect contraries.
But, it may be said, if there are two wise men, the one possessing all that is judged consonant, and the other all that is reckoned contrary, to nature, can both be equally happy? Certainly both, if they are equally wise, for if the one should be beautiful in his body, and possess everything besides, which is neither subservient to the acquisition of virtue and wisdom, nor to the contemplation of that which is highest and best, nor to the enjoyment of the most excellent life, of what consequence is their acquisition? Since their possessor will be far from glorying, as if he were more happy than the wise man who is deprived of their possession: besides, an abundance of such things does not even confer to the end of the piper's art. But we, considering the happy man according to the infirmity of our nature, judge such things to be grievous and horrible which the happy man considers as of the smallest importance; for otherwise he will not yet be wise and blessed, unless he first banishes from himself all fallacies of imagination of this kind, and is able to confide in himself, as one who is no longer capable of enduring evil: for after this manner he will live intrepid in every state, but if he fears anything he is not yet perfect in virtue, but is virtuous only by halves.
And with respect to fear arising from some unexpected circumstances of being while the worthy man is intent upon other things, he will immediately endeavour to repel its attacks, and calm-either by threats or the assistance of reason-that conjoined sense which is moved, as it were, with childish grief, by threatening, I say, without suffering perturbation; just like a boy who is restrained from doing wrong by the awe excited from the presence of another greater than himself.
Nor will such a man, on this account, be void of friendship and gratitude; for he is both friendly and grateful to himself and to those with whom he is connected. And since he gives to his friends what he attributes to himself, he will be a peculiar friend, and will at the same time live in the enjoyment of intellect.
But he who does not place the worthy man in such an exalted intellect, but subjects him to the power of fortune and to the fear of evil, certainly adduces a different character from that which we think belongs to the worthy man, and presents us with a mixed character and life, composed from good and evil such indeed as is not easy to be found, and when found is not deserving of the name of felicity; possessing nothing great, either pertaining to the excellency of wisdom or the purity of goodness.
Felicity, therefore, cannot consist in a common life; and Plato rightly judges that the chief good is to be sought from above and must be beheld by him who is wise and wishes to become happy in futurity; and that he must study to approach to its similitude, and to live its exalted life. It is requisite therefore to possess this alone, in order to obtain the end of life, and the wise man will esteem all besides as certain mutations of place, which, in reality, confer nothing to felicity. In every circumstance of being he will conjecture what is tight, and act as necessity requires, as far as his abilities extend; and though living a life superior to sense, he will not be hindered from taking a proper care of the body with which he is connected, always acting in a similar manner to the musician, who cares for his lyre as long as he is able to use it, but when it becomes useless and ceases any longer to perform the office of a lyre, he either changes it for another, or abstains entirely from its exercise, having an employment independent of the lyre, and disregarding it lying near him, as no longer harmonious, he sings without its instrumental assistance. Yet this instrument was not bestowed on the musician from the first in vain, because it has often been used by him with advantage and delight.
Fintry Trust 2001