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How One May Be Aware Of One’s Progress In Virtue
by [?]

Sec. V. Either precisely the same as this or very similar is Hesiod’s[261] very ancient definition of progress in virtue, namely, that the road is no longer very steep or arduous, but easy and smooth and level, its roughness being toned down by exercise, and casting the bright light of philosophy on doubt and error and regrets, such as trouble those who give themselves to philosophy at the outset, like people who leave a land they know, and do not yet descry the land they are sailing to. For by abandoning the common and familiar, before they know and apprehend what is better, they frequently flounder about in the middle and are fain to return. As they say the Roman Sextius, giving up for philosophy all his honours and offices in Rome, being afterwards discontented with philosophy from the difficulties he met with in it at first, very nearly threw himself out of window. Similarly they relate of Diogenes of Sinope,[262] when he began to be a philosopher, that the Athenians were celebrating a festival, and there were public banquets and shows and mutual festivities, and drinking and revelling all night, and he, coiled up in a corner of the market-place intending to sleep, fell into a train of thought likely seriously to turn him from his purpose and shake his resolution, for he reflected that he had adopted without any necessity a toilsome and unusual kind of life, and by his own fault sat there debarred of all the good things. At that moment, however, they say a mouse stole up and began to munch some of the crumbs of his barley-cake, and he plucked up his courage and said to himself, in a railing and chiding fashion, “What say you, Diogenes? Do your leavings give this mouse a sumptuous meal, while you, the gentleman, wail and lament because you are not getting drunk yonder and reclining on soft and luxurious couches?” Whenever such depressions of mind are not frequent, and the mind when they take place quickly recovers from them, after having put them to flight as it were, and when such annoyance and distraction is easily got rid of, then one may consider one’s progress in virtue as a certainty.

Sec. VI. And since not only the things that in themselves shake and turn them in the opposite direction are more powerful in the case of weak philosophers, but also the serious advice of friends, and the playful and jeering objections of adversaries bend and soften people, and have ere now shaken some out of philosophy altogether, it will be no slight indication of one’s progress in virtue if one takes all this very calmly, and is neither disturbed nor aggravated by people who tell us and mention to us that some of our former comrades are flourishing in kings’ courts, or have married wives with dowries, or are attended by a crowd of friends when they come down to the forum to solicit some office or advocateship. He that is not moved or affected by all this is already plainly one upon whom philosophy has got a right hold; for it is impossible that we should cease to be envious of what most people admire, unless the admiration of virtue was strongly implanted in us. For over-confidence may be generated in some by anger and folly, but to despise what men admire is not possible without a true and steady elevation of mind. And so people in such a condition of mind, comparing it with that of others, pride themselves on it, and say with Solon, “We would not change virtue for wealth, for while virtue abides, wealth changes hands, and now one man, now another, has it.”[263] And Diogenes compared his shifting about from Corinth to Athens, and again from Thebes to Corinth, to the different residences of the King of Persia, as his spring residence at Susa, his winter residence at Babylon, and his summer residence in Media. And Agesilaus said of the great king, “How is he better than me, if he is not more upright?” And Aristotle, writing to Antipater about Alexander, said, “that he ought not to think highly of himself because he had many subjects, for anyone who had right notions about the gods was entitled to think quite as highly of himself.” And Zeno, observing that Theophrastus was admired for the number of his pupils,[264] said, “His choir is, I admit, larger than mine, but mine is more harmonious.”