Plato, Alcibiades 2 (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [lemma count] [Pl. Alc. 2].
<<Pl. Alc. 2 141a Pl. Alc. 2 143a (Greek) >>Pl. Alc. 2 144e

142bthat they had been anything but commanders rather than have held such appointments. Of course, if these dangers and toils were conducive to our advantage, there would be some reason for them; but the case is quite the contrary. And you will find it is just the same in regard to children: some people have been known to pray that they might have them, and when they have got them have fallen into the greatest disasters and pains. For some have had children that were utterly bad, and have spent their whole lives in repining; while others, though they had good ones, 142cwere bereft of them by disasters that overtook them, and thus were cast into as great misfortune as the others, and wished that no children at all had been born to them. But nevertheless, with all this plain evidence, and a great deal more of a similar kind, before men's eyes, it is rare to find anyone who has either declined what was offered to him or, when he was likely to gain something by prayer, refrained from praying. Most men would not decline the offer of either a monarchy or a generalship 142dor any of the various other things which bring with them harm rather than benefit, but would even pray to be granted them in cases where they were lacking: but after a little while they often change their tune, and retract all their former prayers. I question therefore if men are not really wrong in blaming the gods as the authors of their ills, when “they themselves by their own presumption”Hom. Od. 1.32—or unwisdom, shall we say?— 142e“have gotten them more than destined sorrows.”Hom. Od. 1.32 It would seem, at any rate, Alcibiades, that one old poet had some wisdom; for I conceive it was because he had some foolish friends, whom he saw working and praying for things that were not for their advantage, though supposed to be by them, that he made a common prayer on behalf of them all, in terms something like these: 143a King Zeus, give unto us what is good, whether we pray or pray not;
But what is grievous, even if we pray for it, do thou avert.
Anth. Pal. 10.108.
So then, to my mind the poet spoke well and soundly; but if you have thought of an answer to his words, do not be silent.

Alcibiades

It is difficult, Socrates, to gainsay what has been well spoken: one thing, however, I do observe —how many evils are caused to men by ignorance, when, as it seems, we are beguiled by her not only into doing, 143bbut—worst of all—into praying to be granted the greatest evils. Now that is a thing that no one would suppose of himself; each of us would rather suppose he was competent to pray for his own greatest good, not his greatest evil. Why, that would seem, in truth, more like some sort of curse than a prayer!

Socrates

But perhaps, my excellent friend, some person who is wiser than either you or I may say we are wrong to be so free with our abuse of ignorance, 143cunless we can add that it is ignorance of certain things, and is a good to certain persons in certain conditions, as to those others it is an evil.

Alcibiades

How do you mean? Can there be anything of which it is better for anybody, in any condition whatsoever, to be ignorant than cognizant?

Socrates

I believe so; and do not you?

Alcibiades

No, indeed, upon my word.

Socrates

But surely I shall not have to tax you with an inclination to commit such an act against your own mother as Orestes and Alcmaeon, 143dand any others who have followed their example, are said to have committed against theirs.

Alcibiades

No unlucky words, in Heaven's name, Socrates!

Socrates

Why, it is not the person who says, Alcibiades, that you would not like to be guilty of such an act, whom you should bid avoid unlucky words, but much rather him who might say the contrary; since the act seems to you so very dreadful as to be unfit even for such casual mention. But do you think that Orestes, if he had had all his wits about him and had known what was best for him to do, would have brought himself to commit any act of the sort?

Alcibiades

No, indeed. 143e

Socrates

Nor would anyone else, I imagine.

Alcibiades

No.

Socrates

Then it seems that ignorance of what is best, and to be ignorant of the best, is a bad thing.

Alcibiades

I agree.

Socrates

And not only for the person himself, but for everyone else?

Alcibiades

Yes.

Socrates

Then let us consider this further case. Suppose it should quite suddenly occur to your mind that you had better take a dagger and go to the door of Pericles, your own guardian and friend, 144aand ask if he were at home, with the design of killing just him and no one else, and his servants said he was at home: now, I do not say you would be inclined to do any such thing, but I suppose, if you are under the impression which at some moment may well be present, surely, to the mind of a man who is ignorant of the best—that what is really the worst is best at some moment—or do you not agree?

Alcibiades

Quite so.

Socrates

Well then, if you went indoors and saw Pericles himself,



Plato, Alcibiades 2 (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [lemma count] [Pl. Alc. 2].
<<Pl. Alc. 2 141a Pl. Alc. 2 143a (Greek) >>Pl. Alc. 2 144e

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