Anno Urbis - The Roman Empire Online
OR, MEDITATION ON THE REVOLUTIONS OF EMPIRES
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OF INDIVIDUAL VIRTUES.
Which are the individual virtues?
There are five principal ones, to wit: first, science, which
comprises prudence and wisdom; secondly, temperance, comprising
sobriety and chastity; thirdly, courage, or strength of body and
mind; fourthly, activity, that is to say, love of labor and
employment of time; fifthly, and finally, cleanliness, or purity of
body, as well in dress as in habitation.
How does the law of nature prescribe science?
Because the man acquainted with the causes and effects of
things attends in a careful and sure manner to his preservation,
and to the development of his faculties. Science is to him the eye
and the light, which enable him to discern clearly and accurately
all the objects with which he is conversant, and hence by an
enlightened man is meant a learned and well-informed man. With
science and instruction a man never wants for resources and means
of subsistence; and upon this principle a philosopher, who had been
shipwrecked, said to his companions, that were inconsolable for the
loss of their wealth: "For my part, I carry all my wealth within
Which is the vice contrary to science?
It is ignorance.
How does the law of nature forbid ignorance?
By the grievous detriments resulting from it to our existence;
for the ignorant man who knows neither causes nor effects, commits
every instant errors most pernicious to himself and to others; he
resembles a blind man groping his way at random, and who, at every
step, jostles or is jostled by every one he meets.
What difference is there between an ignorant and a silly man?
The same difference as between him who frankly avows his
blindness and the blind man who pretends to sight; silliness is the
reality of ignorance, to which is superadded the vanity of
Are ignorance and silliness common?
Yes, very common; they are the usual and general distempers of
mankind: more than three thousand years ago the wisest of men said:
"The number of fools is infinite;" and the world has not changed.
What is the reason of it?
Because much labor and time are necessary to acquire
instruction, and because men, born ignorant and indolent, find it
more convenient to remain blind, and pretend to see clear.
What difference is there between a learned and a wise man?
The learned knows, and the wise man practices.
What is prudence?
It is the anticipated perception, the foresight of the effects
and consequences of every action; by means of which foresight, man
avoids the dangers which threaten him, while he seizes on and
creates opportunities favorable to him: he thereby provides for his
present and future safety in a certain and secure manner, whereas
the imprudent man, who calculates neither his steps nor his
conduct, nor efforts, nor resistance, falls every instant into
difficulties and dangers, which sooner or later impair his
faculties and destroy his existence.
When the Gospel says, "Happy are the poor of spirit," does it
mean the ignorant and imprudent?
No; for, at the same time that it recommends the simplicity of
doves, it adds the prudent cunning of serpents. By simplicity of
mind is meant uprightness, and the precept of the Gospel is that of