Please help support the mission of New Advent and get the full contents of this website as an instant download. Includes the Catholic Encyclopedia, Church Fathers, Summa, Bible and more all for only $19.99...
1. A. Long enough has our work been intermitted, and impatient is Love, nor have tears a measure, unless to Love is given what is loved: wherefore, let us enter upon the Second Book. R. Let us enter upon it. A. Let us believe that God will be present. R. Let us believe indeed, if even this is in our power. A. Our power He Himself is. R. Therefore pray most briefly and perfectly, as much as you can. A. God, always the same, let me know myself, let me know You. I have prayed. R. Thou who will know yourself, do you know that you are? A. I know. R. Whence do you know? A. I know not. R. Feelest you yourself to be simple, or manifold? A. I know not. R. Knowest you yourself to be moved? A. I know not. R. Knowest you yourself to think? A. I know. R. Therefore it is true that you think. A. True. R. Knowest you yourself to be immortal? A. I know not. R. Of all these things which you have said that you know not: which do you most desire to know? A. Whether I am immortal. R. Therefore you love to live? A. I confess it. R. How will the matter stand when you shall have learned yourself to be immortal? Will it be enough? A. That will indeed be a great thing, but that to me will be but slight. R. Yet in this which is but slight how much will you rejoice? A. Very greatly. R. For nothing then will you weep? A. For nothing at all. R. What if this very life should be found such, that in it it is permitted you to know nothing more than you know? Will you refrain from tears? A. Nay verily, I will weep so much that life should cease to be. R. Thou dost not then love to live for the mere sake of living, but for the sake of knowing. A. I grant the inference. R. What if this very knowledge of things should itself make you wretched? A. I do not believe that that is in any way possible. But if it is so, no one can be blessed; for I am not now wretched from any other source than from ignorance of things. And therefore if the knowledge of things is wretchedness, wretchedness is everlasting. R. Now I see all which you desire. For since you believe no one to be wretched by knowledge, from which it is probable that intelligence renders blessed; but no one is blessed unless living, and no one lives who is not: you wish to be, to live and to have intelligence; but to be that you may live, to live that you may have intelligence. Therefore you know that you are, you know that you live, you know that you exercise intelligence. But whether these things are to be always, or none of these things is to be, or something abides always, and something falls away, or whether these things can be diminished and increased, all things abiding, you desire to know. A. So it is. R. If therefore we shall have proved that we are always to live, it will follow also that we are always to be. A. It will follow. R. It will then remain to inquire concerning intellection.
2. A. I see a very plain and compendious order. R. Let this then be the order, that you answer my questions cautiously and firmly. A. I attend. R. If this world shall always abide, it is true that this world is always to abide? A. Who doubts that? R. What if it shall not abide? Is it not then true that the world is not to abide? A. I dispute it not. R. How, when it shall have perished, if it is to perish, will it not then be true, that the world has perished? For as long as it is not true that the world has come to an end, it has not come to an end: it is therefore self-contradictory, that the world is ended and that it is not true that the world is ended. A. This too I grant. R. Furthermore, does it seem to you that anything can be true, and not be Truth? A. In no wise. R. There will therefore be Truth, even though the frame of things should pass away. A. I cannot deny it. R. What if Truth herself should perish? will it not be true that Truth has perished? A. And even that who can deny? R. But that which is true cannot be, if Truth is not. A. I have just conceded this. R. In no wise therefore can Truth fail. A. Proceed as you have begun, for than this deduction nothing is truer.
3. R. Now I will have you answer me, does the soul seem to you to feel and perceive, or the body? A. The soul. R. And does the intellect appear to you to appertain to the soul? A. Assuredly. R. To the soul alone, or to something else? A. I see nothing else besides the soul, except God, in which I believe intellect to exist. R. Let us now consider that. If any one should tell you that wall was not a wall, but a tree, what would you think? A. Either that his senses or mine were astray, or that he called a wall by the name of a tree. R. What if he received in sense the image of a tree, and you of a wall? May not both be true? A. By no means; because one and the same thing cannot be both a tree and a wall. For however individual things might appear different to us as individuals, it could not be but that one of us suffered a false imagination. R. What if it is neither tree nor wall, and you are both in error? A. That, indeed, is possible. R. This one thing therefore you had past by above. A. I confess it. R. What if you should acknowledge that anything seemed to you other than it is, are you then in error? A. No. R. Therefore that may be false which seems, and he not be in error to whom it seems. A. It may be so. R. It is to be allowed then that he is not in error who sees falsities, but he who assents to falsities. A. It is assuredly to be allowed. R. And this falsity, wherefore is it false? A. Because it is otherwise than it seems. R. If therefore there are none to whom it may seem, nothing is false. A. The inference is sound. R. Therefore the falsity is not in the things, but in the sense; but he is not beguiled who assents not to false things. It results that we are one thing, the sense another; since, when it is misled, we are able not to be misled. A. I have nothing to oppose to this. R. But when the soul is misled, do you venture to say that you are not false? A. How should I venture? R. But there is no sense without soul, no falsity without sense. Either therefore the soul operates, or cooperates with the falsity. A. Our preceding reasonings imply assent to this.
4. R. Give answer now to this, whether it appears to you possible that at some time hereafter falsity should not be. A. How can that seem possible to me, when the difficulty of discovering truth is so great that it is absurder to say that falsity than that Truth cannot be. R. Do you then think that he who does not live, can perceive and feel? A. It cannot be. R. It results then, that the soul lives ever. A. Thou urgest me too fast into joys: more slowly, I pray. R. But, if former inferences are just, I see no ground of doubt concerning this thing. A. Too fast, I say. Therefore I am easier to persuade that I have made some rash concession, than to become already secure concerning the immortality of the soul. Nevertheless evolve this conclusion, and show how it has resulted. R. You have said that falsity cannot be without sense, and that falsity cannot but be: therefore there is always sense. But no sense without soul: therefore the soul is everlasting. Nor has it power to exercise sense, unless it lives. Therefore the soul always lives.
5. A. O leaden dagger! For you might conclude that man is immortal if I had granted you that this universe can never be without man, and that this universe is eternal. R. You keep a keen look-out. But yet it is no small thing which we have established, namely, that the frame of things cannot be without the soul, unless perchance in the frame of things at some time hereafter there shall be no falsity. A. This consequence indeed I allow to be involved. But now I am of opinion that we ought to consider farther whether former inferences do not bend under pressure. For I see no small step to have been made towards the immortality of the soul. R. Have you sufficiently considered whether you may not have conceded something rashly? A. Sufficiently indeed, but I see no point at which I can accuse myself of rashness. R. It is therefore concluded that the frame of things cannot be without a living soul. A. So far as this, that in turn some souls may be born, and others die. R. What if from the frame of things falsity be taken away? will it not come to pass that all things are true? A. I admit the inference. R. Tell me whence this wall seems to you to be true. A. Because I am not misled by its aspect. R. That is, because it is as it seems. A. Yes. R. If therefore anything is thereby false because it seems otherwise than it is, and thereby true because it is as it seems; take away him to whom it seems, and there is neither anything false, nor true. But if there is no falsity in the frame of things, all things are true. Nor can anything seem except to a living soul. There remains therefore soul in the frame of things, if falsity cannot be taken away; there remains, if it can. A. I see our former conclusions somewhat strengthened, indeed; but we have made no progress by this amplification. For none the less does that fact remain which chiefly shakes me that souls are born and pass away, and that it comes about that they are not lacking to the world, not through their immortality, but by their succession.
6. R. Do any corporeal, that is, sensible things, appear to you to be capable of comprehension in the intellect? A. They do not. R. What then? Does God appear to use senses for the cognition of things? A. I dare affirm nothing unadvisedly concerning this matter; but as far as there is room for conjecture, God in no wise makes use of senses. R. We conclude therefore that the only possible subject of sense is the soul. A. Conclude provisionally as far as probability permits. R. Well then; do you allow that this wall, if it is not a true wall, is not a wall? A. I could grant nothing more willingly. R. And that nothing, if it be not a true body, is a body? A. This likewise. R. Therefore if nothing is true, unless it be so as it seems; and if nothing corporeal can appear, except to the senses; and if the only subject of sense is the soul; and if no body can be, unless it be a true body: it follows that there cannot be a body, unless there has first been a soul. A. You urge me too strongly, and means of resistance fail me.
7. R. Give now still greater heed. A. Behold me ready. R. Certainly this is a stone; and it is true on this condition, if it is not otherwise than it seems; and it is not a stone, if it is not true; and it cannot seem except to the senses. A. Yes. R. There are not therefore stones in the most secluded bosom of the earth, nor anywhere at all where there are not those who have the sense of them; nor would this be a stone, unless we saw it; nor will it be a stone when we shall have departed, and no one else shall be present to see it. Nor, if you lock your coffers well, however much you may have shut up in them, will they have anything. Nor indeed is wood itself wood interiorly. For that escapes all perceptions of sense which is in the depth of an absolutely opaque body, and so is in no wise compelled to be. For if it were, it would be true; nor is anything true, unless because it is so as it appears: but that does not appear; it is not therefore true: unless you have something to object to this. A. I see that this results from my previous concessions; but it is so absurd, that I would more readily deny any one of these, than concede that this is true. R. As you please. Consider then which you prefer to say: that corporeal things can appear otherwise than to the senses, or that there can be another subject of sense than the soul, or that there is a stone or something else but that it is not true, or that Truth itself is to be otherwise defined. A. Let us, I pray you, consider this last position.
8. R. Define therefore the True. A. That is true which is so as it appears to the knower, if he will and can know. R. That therefore will not be true which no one can know? Then, if that is false which seems otherwise than it is; how if to one this stone should seem a stone, to another wood? will the same thing be both false and true? A. That former position disturbs me more, how, if anything cannot be known, it results from that that it is not true. For as to this, that one thing is both true and false, I do not much care. For I see one thing, compared with diverse things, to be both greater and smaller. From which it results, that nothing is more or less of itself. For these are terms of comparison. R. But if you say that nothing is true of itself, do you not fear the inference, that nothing is of itself? For whereby this is wood, thereby is it also true wood. Nor can it be, that of itself, that is, without a knower, it should be wood, and should not be true wood. A. Therefore thus I say and so I define, nor do I fear lest my definition be disapproved on the ground of excessive brevity: for to me that seems to be true which is. R. Nothing then will be false, because whatever is, is true. A. You have driven me into close straits, and I am wholly unprovided of an answer. So it comes to pass that whereas I am unwilling to be taught except by these questionings, I fear now to be questioned.
9. R. God, to whom we have commended ourselves, without doubt will render help, and set us free from these straits, if only we believe, and entreat Him most devoutly. A. Nothing, assuredly, would I do more gladly in this place; for never have I been involved in so great a darkness. God, Our Father, who exhortest us to pray, who also bringest this about, that supplication is made to You; since when we make supplication to You, we live better, and are better: hear me groping in these glooms, and stretch forth Your right hand to me. Shed over me Your light, revoke me from my wanderings; bring Yourself into me that I may likewise return into You. Amen. R. Be with me now, as far as you may, in most diligent attention. A. Utter, I pray, whatever has been suggested to you, that we perish not. R. Give heed. A. Behold, I have neither eyes nor ears but for you.
10. R. First let us again and yet again ventilate this question, What is falsity? A. I wonder if there will turn out to be anything, except what is not so as it seems. R. Give heed rather, and let us first question the senses themselves. For certainly what the eyes see, is not called false, unless it have some similitude of the true. For instance, a man whom we see in sleep, is not indeed a true man, but false, by this very fact that he has the similitude of a true one. For who, seeing a dog, would have a right to say that he had dreamed of a man? Therefore too that is thereby a false dog, that it is like a true one. A. It is as you say. R. And moreover, if any one waking should see a horse and think he saw a man, is he not hereby misled, that there appears to him some similitude of a man? For if nothing should appear to him except the form of a horse, he cannot think that he sees a man. A. I fully concede this. R. We call that also a false tree which we see in a picture, and a false face which is reflected from a mirror, and a false motion of buildings to men that are sailing from them, and a false break in the oar when dipped, for no other reason than the verisimilitude in all these things. A. True. R. So we make mistakes between twins, so between eggs, so between seals stamped by one ring, and other such things. A. I follow and agree to all. R. Therefore that similitude of things which pertains to the eyes, is the mother of falsity. A. I cannot deny it.
11. R. But all this forest of facts, unless I am mistaken, may be divided into two kinds. For it lies partly in equal, partly in inferior things. They are equal, when we say that this is as like to that as that to this, as is said of twins, or impressions of a ring. Inferior, when we say that the worse is like the better. For who, looking in a mirror, would dream of saying that he is like that image, and not rather that like him? And this class consists partly in what the soul undergoes, and partly in those things which are seen. And that again which the soul undergoes, it either undergoes in the sense, as the unreal motion of a building; or in itself from that which it has received from the senses, such as are the dreams of dreamers, and perhaps also of madmen. Furthermore, those things which appear in the things themselves which we see, are some of them from nature, and some expressed and framed by living creatures. Nature either by procreation or reflection effects inferior similitudes. By procreation, when to parents children like them are born; by reflection, as from mirrors of various kinds. For although it is men that make the most of the mirrors, yet it is not they that frame the images given back. On the other hand, the works of living creatures are seen in pictures, and creations of the like kind: in which may also be included (conceding their occurrence) those things which demons produce. But the shadows of bodies, because with but a slight stretch of language they may be described as like their bodies and a sort of false bodies, nor can be disputed to be submitted to the judgment of the eyes, may reasonably be placed in that class, which are brought about by nature through reflection. For every body exposed to the light reflects, and casts a shadow in the opposite direction. Or do you see any objection to be made? A. None. I am only awaiting anxiously the issue of these illustrations.
12. R. We must, however, wait patiently, until the remaining senses also make report to us that falsity dwells in the similitude of the true. For in the sense of hearing likewise there are almost as many sorts of similitudes: as when, hearing the voice of a speaker, whom we do not see, we think it some one else, whom in voice he resembles; and in inferior similitudes Echo is a witness, or that well-known roaring of the ears themselves, or in timepieces a certain imitation of thrush or crow, or such things as dreamers or lunatics imagine themselves to hear. And it is incredible how much false tones, as they are called by musicians, bear witness to the truth, which will appear hereinafter: yet they too (which will suffice just now) are not remote from a resemblance to those which men call true. Do you follow this? A. And most delightedly. For here I have no trouble to understand. R. Then, to press on, do you think it is easy, by the smell, to distinguish lily from lily, or by the taste honey from honey, gathered alike from thyme, though brought from different hives, or by the touch to note the difference between the softness of the plumage of the goose and of the swan? A. It does not seem easy. R. And how is it when we dream that we either smell or taste, or touch such things? Are we not then deceived by a similitude of effects and images, inferior in proportion to its emptiness? A. You speak truly. R. Therefore it appears that we, in all our senses, whether by equality or inferiority of likeness, are either misled by deceptive similitude, or even if we are not misled, as suspending our consent, or discovering the difference, yet that we name those things false which we apprehend as like the true. A. I cannot doubt it.
13. R. Now give heed, while we run over the same things once more, that what we are endeavoring to show may come more plainly to view. A. Lo, here I am, speak what you will. For I have once for all resolved to endure this circuitous course, nor will I be wearied out in it, hoping so ardently to arrive at length whither I perceive that we are tending. R. You do well. But take note whether it seems to you, when we see a resemblance in eggs, that we can justly say that any one of them is false. A. Far from it. For if all are eggs, they are true eggs. R. And when we see an image reflected from a mirror, by what signs do we apprehend it to be false? A. By the fact that it cannot be grasped, gives forth no sound, does not move independently, does not live, and by innumerable other properties, which it were tedious to detail. R. I see you are averse to delay, and regard must be borne to your haste. Then, not to recall every particular, if those men also whom we see in dreams, were able to live, speak, be grasped by waking men, and there were no difference between them and those whom when awake and sane we address and see, should we then have any reason to call them false? A. What possible right could we have to do so? R. Therefore if they were true, in exact proportion as they were likest the truth, and as no difference existed between them and the true and false so far as they were, by those or other differences, convicted of being dissimilar; must it not be confessed that similitude is the mother of truth, and dissimilitude of falsehood? A. I have no answer to make, and I am ashamed of my former so hasty assent.
14. R. It is ridiculous if you are ashamed, as if it were not for this very reason that we have chosen this mode of discourse: which, since we are talking with ourselves alone, I wish to be called and inscribed Soliloquies; a new name, it is true, and perhaps a grating one, but not ill suited for setting forth the fact. For since Truth can not be better sought than by asking and answering, and scarcely any one can be found who does not take shame to be worsted in debate, and so it almost always happens that when a matter is well brought into shape for discussion, it is exploded by some unreasonable clamor and petulance, and angry feeling, commonly dissembled, indeed, but sometimes plainly expressed; it has been, as I think, most advantageous, and most answerable to peace, that the resolution was made by you to seek truth in the way of question by me and answer by you: wherefore there is no reason why you should fear, if at any point you have unadvisedly tied yourself up, to return and undo the knots; for otherwise there is no escape from hence.
15. A. You speak rightly; but what I have granted amiss I altogether fail to see: unless perchance that that is rightly called false which has some similitude of the true, since assuredly nothing else occurs to me worthy of the name of false; and yet again I am compelled to confess that those things which are called false are so called by the fact that they differ from the true. From which it resuits that that very dissimilitude is the cause of the falsity. Therefore I am disquieted; for I cannot easily call to mind anything that is engendered by contrary causes. R. What if this is the one and only kind in the universe of things which is so? Or are you ignorant, that in running over the innumerable species of animals, the crocodile alone is found to move its upper jaw in eating; especially as scarcely anything can be discovered so like to another thing, that it is not also in some point unlike it? A. I see that indeed; but when I consider that that which we call false has both something like and something unlike the true, I am not able to make out on which side it chiefly merits the name of false. For if I say: on the side on which it is unlike; there will be nothing which cannot be called false: for there is nothing which is not dissimilar to some thing, which we concede to be true. And again, if I shall say, that it is to be called false on that side on which it is similar; not only will those eggs cry out against us which are true on the very ground of their excessive similarity, but even so I shall not escape from his grasp who may compel me to confess that all things are false because I cannot deny that all things are on some side or other similar to each other. But suppose me not afraid to give this answer, that likeness and unlikeness alike give a right to call anything false; what way of escape will you give me? For none the less will the fatal necessity hang over me of proclaiming all things false; since, as has been said above, all things are found to be both similar, on some side, and dissimilar, on some side, to each other. My only remaining resource would be to declare nothing else false, except what was other than it seemed, unless I shrank from again encountering all those monsters, which I flattered myself that I had long since sailed away from. For a whirlpool again seizes me at unawares, and brings me round to own that to be true which is as it seems. From which it results that without a knower nothing can be true: where I have to fear a shipwreck on deeply hidden rocks, which are true, although unknown. Or, if I shall say that that is true which is, it follows, let who will oppose, that there is nothing false anywhere. And so I see the same breakers before me again, and see that all my patience of your delays has helped me forward nothing at all.
16. R. Attend rather; for never can I be persuaded, that we have implored the Divine aid in vain. For I see that, having tried all things as far as we could, we found nothing to remain, which could rightly be called false, except what either feigns itself to be what it is not, or, to include all, tends to be and is not. But that former kind of falsity is either fallacious or mendacious. For that is rightly called fallacious which has a certain appetite of deceiving; which cannot be understood as without a soul: but this results in part from reason, in part from nature; from reason, in rational creatures, as in men; from nature, in beasts, as in the fox. But what I call mendacious, proceeds from those who utter falsehood. Who in this point differ from the fallacious, that all the fallacious seek to mislead; but not every one who utters falsehood, wishes to mislead; for both mimes and comedies and many poems are full of falsehoods, rather with the purpose of delighting than of misleading, and almost all those who jest utter falsehood. But he is rightly called fallacious, whose purpose is, that somebody should be deceived. But those who do not aim to deceive, but nevertheless feign somewhat, are mendacious only, or if not even this, no one at least doubts that they are to be called pleasant falsifiers: unless you have something to object.
17. A. Proceed, I pray; for now perchance you have begun to teach concerning falsities not falsely: but now I am considering of what sort that class of falsities may be, of which you have said, It tends to be, and is not. R. Why should you not consider? They are the same things, which already we have largely passed review. Does not your image in the mirror appear to will to be you yourself, but to be therefore false, because it is not? A. This does, in very deed, seem so. R. And as to pictures, and all such expressed resemblances, every such thing wrought by the artist? Do they not press to be that, after whose similitude they have been made? A. I must certainly own this to be true. R. And you will allow, I believe, that the deceits under which dreamers, or madmen suffer, are to be included in this kind. A. None more: for none tend more to be such things as the waking and the sane discern; and yet they are hereby false, because that which they tend to be they cannot be. R. Why need I now say more concerning the gliding towers, or the dipped oar, or the shadows of bodies? It is plain, as I think, that they are to be measured by this rule. A. Most evidently they are. R. I say nothing concerning the remaining senses; for no one by consideration will fail to find this, that in the various things which are subject to our sense, that is called false which tends to be anything and is not.
18. A. You speak rightly; but I wonder why you would separate from this class those poems and jests, and other imitative trifles. R. Because forsooth it is one thing to will to be false, and another not to be able to be true. Therefore these works of men themselves, such as comedies or tragedies, or mimes, and other such things, we may include with the works of painters and sculptors. For a painted man cannot be so true, however much he may tend into the form of man, as those things which are written in the books of the comic poets. For neither do they will to be false, nor are they false by any appetite of their own; but by a certain necessity, so far as they have been able to follow the mind of the author. But on the stage Roscius in will was a false Hecuba, in nature a true man; but by that will also a true tragedian, in that he was fulfilling the thing proposed: but a false Priam, in that he made himself like Priam, but was not he. From which now arises a certain marvellous thing, which nevertheless no one doubts to be so. A. What, pray, is it? R. What think you, unless that all these things are in certain aspects true, by this very thing that they are in certain aspects false, and that for their quality of truth this alone avails them, that they are false in another regard? Whence to that which they either will or ought to be, they in no wise attain, if they avoid being false. For how could he whom I have mentioned have been a true tragedian, had he been unwilling to be a false Hector, a false Andromache, a false Hercules, and innumerable other things? Or how would a picture, for instance, be a true picture, unless it were a false horse? Or how could there be in a mirror a true image of a man, if it were not a false man? Wherefore, if it avails some things that they be somewhat false in order that they may be somewhat true; why do we so greatly dread falsity, and seek truth as the greatest good? A. I know not, and I greatly marvel, unless because in these examples I see nothing worthy of imitation. For not as actors, or specular reflections, or Myron's brazen cows, ought we, in order that we may be true in some character of our own, to be outlined and accommodated to the personation of another; but to seek that truth, which is not, as if laid out on a bifronted and self-repugnant plan, false on one side that it may be true on the other. R. High and Divine are the things which you require. Yet if we shall have found them, shall we not confess that of these things is Truth itself made up, and as it were brought into being from their fusion — Truth, from which every thing derives its name which in any way is called true? A. I yield no unwilling assent.
19. R. What then think you? Is the science of debate true, or false? A. True, beyond controversy. But Grammar too is true. R. In the same sense as the former? A. I do not see what is truer than the true. R. That assuredly which has nothing of false: in view of which a little while ago you took umbrage at those things which, be it in this way or that, unless they were false, could not be true. Or do you not know, that all those fabulous and openly false things appertain to Grammar? A. I am not ignorant of that indeed; but, as I judge, it is not through Grammar that they are false, but through it, that, whatever they may be, they are interpreted. Since a drama is a falsehood composed for utility or delight. But Grammar is a science which is the guardian and moderatrix of articulate speech: whose profession involves the necessity of collecting even all the figments of the human tongue, which have been committed to memory and letters, not making them false, but teaching and enforcing concerning these certain principles of true interpretation. R. Very just: I care not now, whether or not these things have been well defined and distinguished by you; but this I ask, whether it is Grammar itself, or that science of debate which shows this to be so. A. I do not deny that the force and skill of definition, whereby I have now endeavored to separate these things, is to be attributed to the art of disputation.
20. R. How as to Grammar itself? If it is true, is it not so far true as it is a discipline? For the name of Discipline signifies something to be learned: but no one who has learned and who retains what he learns, can be said not to know; and no one knows falsities. Therefore every discipline and science is true. A. I see not what rashness there can be in assenting to this brief course of reasoning. But I am disturbed lest it should bring any one to suppose those dramas to be true; for these also we learn and retain. R. Was then our master unwilling that we should believe what he taught, and know it? A. Nay, he was thoroughly in earnest that we should know it. R. And did he, pray, ever set out to have us believe that Dædalus flew? A. That, indeed, never. But assuredly unless we remembered the poem, he took such order that we were scarcely able to hold anything in our hands. R. Do you then deny it to be true that there is such a poem, and that such a tradition is spread abroad concerning Dædalus? A. I do not deny this to be true. R. You do not then deny that you learned the truth, when you learned these things. For if it is true that Dædalus flew, and boys should receive and recite this as a feigning fable, they would be laying up falsities in mind by the very fact that the things were true which they recited. For from this results what we were admiring above, that there could not be a true fiction turning on the flight of Dædalus, unless it were false that Dædalus flew. A. I now grasp that; but what good is to come of it, I do not yet see. R. What, unless that that course of reasoning is not false, whereby we gather that a science, unless it is true, cannot be a science? A. And what does this signify? R. Because I wish to have you tell me on what the science of Grammar rests: for the truth of the science rests on that very principle which makes it a science. A. I know not what to answer you. R. Does it not seem to you, that if nothing in it had been defined, and nothing distributed and distinguished into classes and parts, it could not in any wise be a true science? A. Now I grasp your meaning: nor does the remembrance of any science whatever occur to me, in which definitions and divisions and processes of reasoning do not, inasmuch as it is declared what each thing is, as without confusion of parts its proper attributes are ascribed to each class, nothing peculiar to it being neglected, nothing alien to it admitted, perform that whole range of functions from which it has the name of Science. R. That whole range of functions therefore from which it has the name of true. A. I see this to be implied.
21. R. Tell me now what science contains the principles of definitions, divisions and partitions. A. It has been said above that these are contained in the rules of disputation. R. Grammar therefore, both as a science, and as a true science, has been created by the same art which has above been defended from the charge of falsity. Which conclusion I am not required to confine to Grammar alone, but am permitted to extend to all sciences whatever. For you have said, and truly said, that no science occurs to you, in which the law of defining and distributing does not lie at the very foundation of its character as a science. But if they are true on that ground on which they are sciences, will any one deny that very thing to be truth through which all the sciences are true? A. Assuredly I find it hard to withhold assent: but this gives me pause, that we reckon among the sciences even that theory of disputation. Wherefore I judge that rather to be truth, whereby this theory itself is true. R. Your watchful accuracy is indeed most highly to be commended: but you do not deny, I suppose, that it is true on the same ground on which it is a theory and science. A. Nay, that is my very ground of perplexity. For I have noted that it also is a science, and is on this account called true. R. What then? Do you think this could be a science on any other ground than that all things in it were defined and distributed? A. I have nothing else to say. R. But if this function appertains to it, it is in and of itself a true science. Why then should any one find it wonderful, if that truth whereby all things are true, should be through itself and in itself true? A. Nothing stands now in the way of my giving an unreserved assent to that opinion.
22. R. Attend therefore to the few things that remain. A. Bring forth whatever you have, if only it be such as I can understand, and I will willingly agree. R. We do not forget, that to say that anything is in anything, is capable of a double sense. It may mean that it is so in such a sense as that it can also be disjoined and be elsewhere, as this wood in this place, or the sun in the East. Or it may mean anything is so in a subject, that it cannot be separated from it, as in this wood the shape and visible appearance, as in the sun the light, as in fire heat, as in the mind discipline, and such like. Or seems it otherwise to you? A. These distinctions are indeed most thoroughly familiar to us, and from early youth most studiously made an element of thought; wherefore, if asked about these, I must needs grant the position at once. R. But do you not concede that if the subject do not abide, that which is in the subject cannot inseparably abide? A. This also I see necessary: for, the subject remaining, that which is in the subject may possibly not remain, as any one with a little thought can perceive. Since the color of this body of mine may, by reason of health or age, suffer change, though the body has not yet perished. And this is not equally true of all things, but of those whose coexistence with the subject is not necessary to the existence of the subject. For it is not necessary that this wall, in order to be a wall, should be of this color, which we see in it; for even if, by some chance, it should become black or white, or should undergo some other change of color, it would nevertheless remain a wall and be so called. But if fire were without heat, it will not even be fire; nor can we talk of snow except as being white.
23. But as to your question, who would grant, or to whom could it appear possible, that that which is in the subject should remain, while the subject perished? For it is monstrous and most utterly foreign to the truth that what would not be unless it were in the subject, could be even when the subject itself was no more. R. Then that which we were seeking is found. A. What do you mean? R. What you hear. A. And is it then now clearly made out that the mind is immortal? R. If these things which you have granted are true, with most indisputable clearness: unless perchance you would say that the mind, even though it die, is still the mind. A. I, at least, will never say that; but by this very fact that it perishes it then comes about that it is not the mind, is what I do say. Nor am I shaken in this opinion because it has been said by great philosophers that that thing which, wherever it comes, affords life, cannot admit death into itself. For although the light wheresoever it has been able to gain entrance, makes that place luminous, and, by virtue of that memorable force of contrarieties, cannot admit darkness into itself; yet it is extinguished, and that place is by its extinction made dark. So that which resisted the darkness, neither in any way admitted the darkness into it, and yet made place for it by perishing, as it could have made place for it by departing. Therefore I fear lest death should befall the body in such wise as darkness a place, the mind, like light, sometimes departing, but sometimes being extinguished on the spot; so that now not concerning every death of the body is there security, but a particular kind of death is to be chosen, by which the soul may be conducted out of the body unharmed, and guided to a place, if there is any such place, where it cannot be extinguished. Or, if not even this may be, and the mind, as it were a light, is kindled in the body itself, nor has capacity to endure elsewhere, and every death is a sort of extinction of the soul in the body, or of the life; some sort is to be chosen by which, so far as man is allowed, life, while it is lived, may be lived in security and tranquillity, although I know not how that can come to pass if the soul dies. O greatly blessed they, who, whether from themselves, or from whom you will, have gained the persuasion, that death is not to be feared, even if the soul should perish! But, wretched me, no reasonings, no books, have hitherto been able to persuade of this.
24. R. Groan not, the human mind is immortal. A. How do you prove it? R. From those things which you have granted above, with great caution. A. I do not indeed recall to mind any want of vigilance in my admissions when questioned by you: but now gather all into one sum, I pray you; let us see at what point we have arrived after so many circuits, nor would I have you in doing so question me. For if you are about to enumerate concisely those things which I have granted, why is my response again desired? Or is it that you would wantonly torture me by delays of joy, if we have in fact achieved any solid result? R. I will do that which I see that you wish, but attend most diligently. A. Speak now, here I am; why do you slay me? R. If everything which is in the subject always abides, it follows of necessity that the subject itself always abides. And every discipline is in the subject mind. It is necessary therefore that the mind should continue forever, if the science continues forever. Now Science is Truth, and always, as in the beginning of this book Reason has convinced you, does Truth abide. Therefore the mind lasts forever, nor dead, could it be called the mind. He therefore alone can escape absurdity in denying the mind to be immortal, who can prove that any of the foregoing concessions have been made without reason.
25. A. And now I am ready to plunge into the expected joys, but yet I am held hesitating by two thoughts. For, first, it makes me uneasy that we have used so long a circuit, following out I know not what chain of reasonings, when the whole matter of discourse admitted of so brief a demonstration, as has now been shown. Wherefore, it renders me anxious that the discourse has so long held so wary a step, as if with some design of setting an ambush. Next, I do not see how a science is always in the mind, when, on the one hand, so few are familiar with it, and, on the other, whoever does know it, was during so long a time of early childhood unacquainted with it. For we can neither say that the minds of the untaught are not minds, nor that that science is in their mind of which they are ignorant. And if this is utterly absurd, it results that either the science is not always in the mind, or that that science is not Truth.
26. R. You may note that it is not for naught that our reasoning has taken so wide a round. For we were inquiring what is Truth, which not even now, in this very forest of thoughts and things, beguiling our steps into an infinity of paths, have we, as I see, been able to track out to the end. But what are we to do? Shall we desist from our undertaking, and wait in hope that some book or other may fall into our hands, which may satisfy this question? For many, I think, have written before our age, whom we have not read: and now, to give no guess at what we do not know, we see plainly that there is much writing upon this theme, both in verse and prose; and that by men whose writings cannot be unknown to us, and whose genius we know to be such, that we cannot despair of finding in their works what we require: especially when here before our eyes is he in whom we have recognized that eloquence for which we mourned as dead, to have revived in vigorous life. Will he suffer us, after having in his writings taught us the true manner of living, to remain ignorant of the true nature of living? A. I indeed do not think so, and hope much from thence but one matter of grief I have, that we have not opportunity of opening to him our zealous affection either towards him or towards Wisdom. For assuredly he would pity our thirst and would overflow much more quickly than now. For he is secure, because he has now won a full conviction of the immortality of the soul, and perhaps knows not that there are any, who have only too well experienced the misery of this ignorance, and whom it is cruel not to aid, especially when they entreat it. But that other knows indeed from old familiarity our ardor of longing; but he is so far removed, and we are so circumstanced, that we have scarcely the opportunity of so much as sending a letter to him. Whom I believe to have lately in Transalpine retirement composed a spell, under whose ban the fear of death is compelled to flee, and the cold stupor of the soul, indurate with lasting ice, is expelled. But in the meantime, while these helps are leisurely making their way hither, a benefit which it is not in our power to command, is it not most unworthy that our leisure should be wasting, and our very mind hang wholly dependent on the uncertain decision of another's will?
27. What shall we say to this, that we have entreated God and do entreat, that He will show us a way, not to riches, not to bodily pleasures, not to popular honors and seats of state, but to the knowledge of our own soul, and that He will likewise disclose Himself to them that seek Him? Will He, indeed, forsake us, or shall He be forsaken by us? R. Most utterly foreign to Him is it indeed, that He should desert them who desire such things: whence also it ought to be strange to our thoughts that we should desert so great a Guide. Wherefore, if you will, let us briefly go over the considerations from which either proposition results, either that Truth always abides, or that Truth is the theory of argumentation. For you have said that these points wavered in your mind, so as to make us less secure of the final conclusion of the whole matter. Or shall we rather inquire this, how a science can be in an untrained mind, which yet we cannot deny to be a mind? For this seemed to give you uneasiness, so as to involve you again in doubt as to your previous concessions. A. Nay, let us first discuss the two former propositions, and then we will consider the nature of this latter fact. For so, as I judge, no controversy will remain. R. So be it, but attend with the utmost heed and caution. For I know what happens to you as you listen, namely, that while you are too intent upon the conclusion, and expecting that now, or now, it will be drawn, you grant the points implied in my questions without a sufficiently diligent scrutiny. A. Perchance you speak the truth; but I shall strive against this kind of disease as much as I can: only begin now to inquire of me, that we linger not over things superfluous.
28. R. From this truth, as I remember, that Truth cannot perish, we have concluded, that not only if the whole world should perish, but even if Truth itself should, it will still be true that both the world and Truth have perished. Now there is nothing true without truth: in no wise therefore does Truth perish. A. I acknowledge all this, and shall be greatly surprised if it turns out false. R. Let us then consider that other point. A. Allow me, I pray you, to reflect a little, lest I should soon come back in confusion. R. Will it therefore not be true that Truth has perished? If it will not be true, then Truth does not perish. If it were true, where, after the fall of Truth, will be the true, when now there is no truth? A. I have no further occasion for thought and consideration; proceed to something else. Assuredly we will take order, so far as we may, that learned and wise men may read these musings, and may correct our unadvisedness, if they shall find any: for as to myself, I do not believe that either now or hereafter I shall be able to discover what can be said against this.
29. R. Is Truth then so called for any other reason than as being that by which everything is true which is true? A. For no other reason. R. Is it rightly called true for any ground than that it is not false? A. To doubt this were madness. R. Is that not false which is accommodated to the similitude of anything, yet is not that the likeness of which it appears? A. Nothing indeed do I see which I would more willingly call false. But yet that is commonly called false, which is far removed from the similitude of the true. R. Who denies it? But yet because it implies some imitation of the true. A. How? For when it is said, that Medea flew away with winged snakes harnessed to her car, that thing on no side imitates truth; inasmuch as the thing is naught, nor can that thing imitate anything, when itself is absolutely nothing. R. You say right; but you do not note that that thing which is absolutely nothing, cannot even be called false. For if it is false, it is: if it is not, it is not false. A. Shall we not then say that monstrous story of Medea is false? R. Assuredly not; for if it is false, how is it a monstrous story? A. Admirable! Then when I say
The mighty winged snakes I fasten to my car,
do I not say false? R. You do, assuredly: for that is which you say to be false. A. What, I pray? R. That sentence, forsooth, which is contained in the verse itself. A. And pray what imitation of truth has that? R. Because it would bear the same tenor, even if Medea had truly done that thing. Therefore in its very terms a false sentence imitates true sentences. Which, if it is not believed, in this alone does it imitate true ones, that it is expressed as they, and it is only false, it is not also misleading. But if it obtains faith, it imitates also those sentences which, being true, are believed true. A. Now I perceive that there is a great difference between those things which we say and those things concerning which we say anything; wherefore I now assent: for this proposition alone held me back, that whatever we call false is not rightly so called, unless it have an imitation of something true. For who, calling a stone false silver, would not be justly derided? Yet if any one should declare a stone to be silver, we say that he speaks falsely, that is, that he utters a false sentence. But it is not, I think, unreasonable that we should call tin or lead false silver, because the thing itself, as it were, imitates that: nor is our sentence declaring this therefore false, but that very thing concerning which it is pronounced.
30. R. You apprehend the matter well. But consider this, whether we can also with propriety call silver by the name of false lead. A. Not in my opinion. R. Why so? A. I know not; except that I see that it would be altogether against my will to have it so called. R. Is it perchance for the reason that silver is the better, and such a name would be contemptuous of it; but it confers a certain honor, as it were, on lead, if it should be called false silver? A. You have expressed exactly what I had in mind. And therefore I believe that it is with good right that those are held infamous and incapable of bearing witness, who flaunt themselves in female attire, whom I know not whether I should more reasonably call false women, or false men. True actors, however, and truly infamous, without doubt we can call them; or, if they lurk unseen, and if infamy implies an evil repute, we may call them not without truth, true specimens of worthlessness. R. We shall have another opportunity of discussing these things: for many things are done, which in the mere guise of them appear base, yet, done for some praiseworthy end, are shown to be honorable. And it is a great question whether one, for the sake of liberating his country, ought to put on a woman's garment to deceive the enemy, being, perhaps, by the very fact that he is a false woman, apt to be shown the truer man: and whether a wise man who in some way may have certainly ascertained that his life will be necessary to the interests of mankind, ought to choose rather to die of cold, than to indue himself in female vestments, if he can find no other. But concerning this, as has been said, we will consider hereafter. For unquestionably you discern how careful an inquisition it requires, how far such things can be carried, without falling into various inexcusable basenesses. But now — which suffices for the present question — I think it is now evident, and beyond doubt, that there is not anything false except by some imitation of the true.
31. A. Go on to what remains; for of this I am well convinced. R. Then I ask this, whether, besides the sciences in which we are instructed, and in which it is fitting that the study of wisdom itself should be included, we can find anything so true, that it is not, like that Achilles of the stage, false on one side, that it may be true on another? A. To me, indeed, many such things appear capable of being found. For no sciences contain this stone, nor yet, that it may be a true stone, does it imitate anything according to which it would be called false. Which one thing being mentioned, you see there is opportunity to dwell upon things innumerable, which of themselves occur to the thought. R. I see, I see. But do they not seem to you to be included in the one name of Body? A. They might so seem, if either I had ascertained the inane to be nothing, or thought that the mind itself ought to be numbered among bodies, or believed that God also is a body. If all these things are, I see them not to be false and true in imitation of anything. R. You send us a long journey, but I will use all compendious speed. For certainly what you call the Inane is one thing, what you call Truth another. A. Widely diverse, indeed. For what more inane than I, if I think Truth anything inane, or so greatly seek after anything inane? For what else than Truth do I desire to find? R. Therefore perchance you grant this too, that nothing is true which does not by Truth come to be true. A. This became manifest at an early stage. R. Do you doubt that nothing is inane except the Inane itself, or certainly that a body is not inane? A. I do not doubt it at all. R. I suppose therefore, you believe that Truth is some sort of body. A. In no wise. R. What is a body? A. I know not; no matter: for I think you know that even that inane, if it is inane, is more completely so where there is no body. R. This assuredly is plain. A. Why then do we delay? R. Does it then seem to you either that Truth made the inane, or that there is anything true where Truth is not? A. Neither seems true. R. The inane therefore is not true, because neither could it become inane by that which is not inane: and it is manifest that what is void of truth is not true; and, in fine, that very thing which is called inane, is so called because it is nothing. How therefore can that be true which is not or how can that be which is absolutely nothing? A. Well then, let us desert the inane as being inane.
32. R. What do you say concerning the rest? A. What? R. Because you see how much stands on my side. For we have remaining the Soul and God. And if these two are true for the reason that Truth is in them of the immortality of God no one doubts. But the mind is believed immortal, if Truth which cannot perish, is proved to be in it. Wherefore let as consider this last point, whether the body be not truly true, that is, whether there be in it, not Truth, but a certain image of Truth. For if even in the body, which we know to be perishable, we find such an element of truth, as there is in the sciences, it does not then so certainly follow, that the art of discussion is Truth, whereby all sciences are true. For true is even the body, which does not seem to have been formed by the force of argument. But if even the body is true by a certain imitation, and is on this account, not absolutely and purely true, there will then, perchance, be nothing to hinder the theory of argument from being taught to be Truth itself. A. Meanwhile let us inquire concerning the body; for not even when this shall have been settled, do I see a prospect of ending this controversy. R. Whence do you know what God purposes? Therefore attend: for I at least think the body to be contained in a certain form and guise, which if it had not, it would not be the body; if it had it in truth, it would be the mind. Or does the fact stand otherwise? A. I assent in part, of the rest I doubt; for, unless some figure is maintained, I grant that it is not a body. But how, if it had it in truth, it would be the mind, I do not well understand. R. Do you then remember nothing concerning the exordium of this book, and that Geometry of yours? A. You have mentioned it to purpose; I do indeed remember, and am most willing to do so. R. Are such figures found in bodies, as that science demonstrates? A. Nay, it is incredible how greatly inferior they are convicted of being. R. Which of them, therefore, do you think true? A. Do not, I beg, think it necessary even to put that question to me. For who is so dull, as not to see that those figures which are taught in Geometry, dwell in Truth itself, or even Truth in these; but that those embodied figures, inasmuch as, they seem, so to speak, to tend towards these, have I know not what imitation of truth, and are therefore false? For now that whole matter which you were laboring to show, I understand.
33. R. What need is there any longer than that we should inquire concerning the science of disputation? For whether the figures of Geometry are in the Truth, or the Truth is in them, that they are contained in our soul, that, is, in our intelligence, no one calls in question, and through this fact Truth also is compelled to be in our mind. But if every science whatever is so in the mind, as in the subject inseparably, and if Truth is not able to perish; why, I ask, do we doubt concerning the perpetual life of the mind through I know not what familiarity with death? Or have that line or squareness or roundness other things which they imitate that they may be true? A. In no way can I believe that, unless perchance a line be something else than length without breadth, and a circle something else than a circumscribed line everywhere verging equally to the centre. Why then do we hesitate? Or is not Truth where these things are? A. God avert such madness. R. Or is not the science in the mind? A. Who would say that? R. But is it possible, the subject perishing, that that which is in the subject should perdure? A. When could I imagine such a thing? R. It remains to suppose that Truth may fail. A. Whence could this be brought to pass? R. Therefore the soul is immortal: now at last yield to your own arguments, believe the Truth; she cries out that she dwells in you, and is immortal, and that her seat cannot be withdrawn from her by any possible death of the body. Turn away from your shadow, return into yourself; of no meaning is the destruction you fear, except that you have forgotten that you can not be destroyed. A. I hear, I come to a better mind, I begin to recollect myself. But I beg you would expedite those things which remain; how, in an undisciplined mind, for a mortal one we cannot call it, Science and Truth are to be understood to be. R. That question requires another volume, if you would have it treated thoroughly: moreover also I see occasion for you to review those things, which, after our best power, have been already examined; because if no one of those things which have been admitted is doubtful, I think that we have accomplished much, and with no small security may proceed to push our inquiries farther.
34. A. It is as you say, and I willingly yield compliance with your injunctions. But this at least I would entreat, before you decree a term to the volume, that you would summarily explain what the distinction is between the true figure, which is contained in the intelligence, and that which thought frames to itself, which in Greek is termed either Phantasia or Phantasma. R. You seek that which no one except one of purest sight is able to see, and to the vision of which thing you are but poorly trained; nor have we now in these wide circuits anything else in view than to exercise you, that you may be competent to see: yet how it is possible to be taught that the difference is very great, perhaps I can, with a little pains, make clear. For suppose you had forgotten something, and that others were wishing that you should recall it to memory. They therefore say: Is it this, or that? Bringing forward things diverse from it as if similar to it. But you neither see that which you desire to recollect, and yet see that it is not this which is suggested. Seems this to you, when it happens, by any means equivalent to total forgetfulness? For this very power of distinguishing, whereby the false suggestions made to time are repelled, is a certain part of recollection. A. So it seems. R. Such therefore do not yet see the truth yet they cannot be misled and deceived; and what they seek, they sufficiently know. But if any one should say that you laughed a few days after you were born, you would not venture to say it was false: and if he were an authority worthy of credit, you are ready, not, indeed, to remember, but to believe; for to you that whole time is buried in most authentic oblivion. Or do you think otherwise? A. I thoroughly agree with this. R. This oblivion therefore differs exceedingly from that, but that stands midway. For there is another nearer and more closely neighboring to the recollection and rekindled vision of truth: the like of which is when we see something, and recognize for certain that we have seen it at some time, and affirm that we know it; but where, or when, or how, or with whom it came into our knowledge, we have enough to do to search our memory for an answer. As if this happens in regard to a man, we also inquire where we have known him: which when he has brought to mind, suddenly the whole thing flashes upon the memory like a light, and we have no more trouble to recollect. Is this sort of forgetfulness unknown to you, or obscure? A. What plainer than this or what is happening to me more frequently?
35. R. Such are those who are well instructed in the liberal arts; since they by learning disinter them, buried in oblivion, doubtless, within themselves, and, in a manner, dig them out afresh: nor yet are they content, nor refrain themselves until the whole aspect of Truth, of which, in those arts, a certain effulgence already gleams forth upon them, is by them most widely and most clearly beheld. But from this certain false colors and forms pour themselves as it were upon the mirror of thought, and mislead inquirers often, and deceive those who think that to be the whole which they know or which they inquire. Those imaginations themselves are to be avoided with great carefulness; which are detected as fallacious, by their varying with the varied mirror of thought, whereas that face of Truth abides one and immutable. For then thought portrays to itself, for instance, a square of this or that or the other magnitude, and, as it were, brings it before the eyes; but the inner mind which wishes to see the truth, applies itself rather to that general conception, if it can, according to which it judges all these to be squares. A. What if some one should say to us that the mind judges according to what it is accustomed to see with the eyes? R. Why then does it judge, that is, if it is well trained, that a true sphere of any conceivable size is touched by a true plane at a point? How has eye ever seen, or how can eye ever see such a thing, when anything of this kind cannot be bodied forth in the pure imagination of thought? Or do we not prove this, when we describe even the smallest imaginary circle in our mind, and from it draw lines to the centre? For when we have drawn two, between which there is scarce room for a needle's point, we are no longer able, even in imagination, to draw others between, so that they shall arrive at the centre without any commixture; whereas reason exclaims that innumerable lines can be drawn, without being able to touch each other except in the centre, so that in every interval between them even a circle could be described. Since that Phantasy cannot accomplish this, and is more deficient than the eyes themselves, since it is through them that it is inflicted on the mind, it is manifest that it differs much from Truth, and that that, when this is seen, is not seen.
36. These points will be treated with more pains and greater subtlety, when we shall have begun to discuss the faculty of intelligence, which part of our theme is proposed by us, as something which is to be developed and discussed by us, when anything gives anxiety concerning the life of the soul. For I believe you to stand in no slight fear lest the death of man, even if it do not slay the soul, should nevertheless induce oblivion of all things, and of Truth itself, if any shall have been discovered. A. It cannot be expressed how much this evil is to be feared. For of what sort will be that eternal life, or what death is not to be preferred to it, if the soul so lives, as we see it live in a child just born? To say nothing of that life which is lived in the womb; for I do not think it to be none. R. Be of good courage; God will be present, as we now feel, to us who seek, who promises a certain most blessed body after this, and an utter plenitude of Truth without any falsehood. A. May it be as we hope.
Source. Translated by C.C. Starbuck. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 7. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1888.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/170302.htm>.
Contact information. The editor of New Advent is Kevin Knight. My email address is feedback732 at newadvent.org. (To help fight spam, this address might change occasionally.) Regrettably, I can't reply to every letter, but I greatly appreciate your feedback — especially notifications about typographical errors and inappropriate ads.