Ethics, Education, Self-Mastery, Philosophy

Socrates to Critobulus

[37]“It appears, Socrates, that you are the sort of friend to help me if I am in any way qualified to make friends: but if not, you won’t make up a story to help me.”“How do you think I shall help you best, Critobulus, by false praise, or by urging you to try to be a good man? [38] If you don’t yet see clearly, take the following cases as illustrations. Suppose that I wanted to get a shipmaster to make you his friend, and as a recommendation told him that you are a good skipper, which is untrue; and suppose that he believed me and put you in charge of his ship in spite of your not knowing how to steer it: have you any reason to hope that you would not lose the ship and your life as well? Or suppose that I falsely represented to the Assembly that you are a born general, jurist and statesman in one, and so persuaded the state to commit her fortunes to you, what do you suppose would happen to the state and to yourself under your guidance? Or again, suppose that I falsely described you to certain citizens in private as a thrifty, careful person, and persuaded them to place their affairs in your hands, wouldn’t you do them harm and look ridiculous when you came to the test? [39] Nay, Critobulus, if you want to be thought good at anything, you must try to be so; that is the quickest, the surest, the best way. You will find on reflection that every kind of virtue named among men is increased by study and practice. Such is the view I take of our duty, Critobulus. If you have anything to say against it, tell me.”“Why, Socrates,” said Critobulus, “I should be ashamed to contradict you, for I should be saying what is neither honourable nor true.”

Xenophon’s Memorabilia 2.6.37-39 trans. by E.C. Marchant 

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