Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

Whether The Disorders Of Mind Or Body Are Worse
by [?]

Sec. I. Homer, looking at the mortality of all living creatures, and comparing them with one another in their lives and habits, gave vent to his thoughts in the words,

“Of all the things that on the earth do breathe,
Or creep, man is by far the wretchedest;”[312]

assigning to man an unhappy pre-eminence in extreme misfortune. But let us, assuming that man is, as thus publicly declared, supreme in infelicity and the most wretched of all living creatures, compare him with himself, in the estimate of his misery dividing body and soul, not idly but in a very necessary way, that we may learn whether our life is more wretched owing to Fortune or through our own fault. For disease is engendered in the body by nature, but vice and depravity in the soul is first its own doing, then its settled condition. And it is no slight aid to tranquillity of mind if what is bad be capable of cure, and lighter and less violent.

Sec. II. The fox in AEsop[313] disputing with the leopard as to their respective claims to variety, the latter showed its body and appearance all bright and spotted, while the tawny skin of the former was dirty and not pleasant to look at. Then the fox said, “Look inside me, sir judge, and you will see that I am more full of variety than my opponent,” referring to his trickiness and versatility in shifts. Let us similarly say to ourselves, Many diseases and disorders, good sir, thy body naturally produces of itself, many also it receives from without; but if thou lookest at thyself within thou wilt find, to borrow the language of Democritus, a varied and susceptible storehouse and treasury of what is bad, not flowing in from without, but having as it were innate and native springs, which vice, being exceedingly rich and abundant in passion, produces. And if diseases are detected in the body by the pulse and by pallors and flushes,[314] and are indicated by heats and sudden pains, while the diseases of the mind, bad as they are, escape the notice of most people, the latter are worse because they deprive the sufferer of the perception of them. For reason if it be sound perceives the diseases of the body, but he that is diseased in his mind cannot judge of his sufferings, for he suffers in the very seat of judgement. We ought to account therefore the first and greatest of the diseases of the mind that ignorance,[315] whereby vice is incurable for most people, dwelling with them and living and dying with them. For the beginning of getting rid of disease is the perception of it, which leads the sufferer to the necessary relief, but he who through not believing he is ill knows not what he requires refuses the remedy even when it is close at hand. For amongst the diseases of the body those are the worst which are accompanied by stupor, as lethargies, headaches, epilepsies, apoplexies, and those fevers which raise inflammation to the pitch of madness, and disturb the brain as in the case of a musical instrument,

“And move the mind’s strings hitherto untouched.”[316]

Sec. III. 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; but you hear mad Agave in her frenzy not knowing her dearest ones, but crying out, “We bring from the mountain to the halls a young stag recently torn limb from limb, a fortunate capture.”[317] 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,