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Goodness and Virtue: Selections from Gaius Musonius Rufus’ Teachings, Part 1 of 2

2022-02-09
Език:English

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Gaius Musonius Rufus was one of the great Stoic philosophers of the Roman Empire. He lived in the 1st century CE, and was born in Volsinii, an ancient city of Etruria which is now part of present-day Italy. His philosophy focused on the study and practice of virtue. He believed that everyone is capable of being virtuous, however, people who had not learned the skills of ethical living could not be expected to live without error. Thus, he lived and promoted a simple and frugal lifestyle, which included the training of self-control, modesty, courage, and benevolence. He was a vegetarian and taught that being mindful of one’s diet was a vital virtue.

Today, it is a pleasure to present the discourse entitled “That there is no need of giving many proofs for one problem” where the wise philosopher expounds the reasoning in deducting what is good and what is not.

“Thus, just as the physician who prescribes many drugs for his patients deserves less praise than the one who succeeds in helping them with a few, so the philosopher who teaches his pupils with the use of many proofs is less effective than the one who leads them to the desired goal with few. And the pupil too, the quicker his intelligence, the fewer proofs he will require, and the sooner he will assent to the conclusion of the argument in question, provided it be sound.”

“The Gods, we may assume, need no proof of anything in as much as nothing to them lacks clearness or is obscure, and it is only in reference to obscurity that there is any need of proof. Man, however, must seek to find out that which is not plain nor self-evident through the medium of the plain and obvious. That is the function of proof.”

“To come back to the starting point of my discussion, I repeat that it is mistaken zeal for the teacher, if he be a true philosopher, to rehearse a multitude of arguments and proofs to his pupils. He should rather touch upon each one with just measure, seek to penetrate to the very intellect of his hearer, and present persuasive arguments and such as cannot easily be refuted. But most of all, his treatment should consist in showing himself not only as one who utters words which are most helpful, but as one who acts consistently with them.”
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