4 Maccabees 1 (A philosophical examination of reason over passion)

4 Maccabees Chapter 1

A philosophical examination of reason over passion
Listen to "4 Maccabees 1 - A philosophical examination of reason over passion" on Spreaker.

1 As I am going to demonstrate a most philosophical proposition, namely, that religious reasoning is absolute master of the passions, I would willingly advise you to give the utmost heed to philosophy. 2 For reason is necessary to every one as a step to science: and more especially does it embrace the praise of prudence, the highest virtue.

3 If, then, reasoning appears to hold the mastery over the passions which stand in the way of temperance, such as gluttony and lust, 4 it surely also and manifestly has the rule over the affections which are contrary to justice, such as malice; and of those which are hindrances to manliness, as wrath, and pain, and fear. 5 How, then, is it, perhaps some may say, that reasoning, if it rule the affections, is not also master of forgetfulness and ignorance? They attempt a ridiculous argument. 6 For reasoning does not rule over its own affections, but over such as are contrary to justice, and manliness, and temperance, and prudence; and yet over these, so as to withstand, without destroying them.

7 I might prove to you, from many other considerations, that religious reasoning is sole master of the passions; 8 but I shall prove it with the greatest force from the fortitude of Eleazar, and seven brethren, and their mother, who suffered death in defence of virtue. 9 For all these, contemning pains even unto death, by this contempt, demonstrated that reasoning has command over the passions.

10 For their virtues, then, it is right that I should commend those men who died with their mother at this time in behalf of rectitude; and for their honours, I may count them happy. 11 For they, winning admiration not only from men in general, but even from their persecutors, for their manliness and endurance, became the means of the destruction of the tyranny against their nation, having conquered the tyrant by their endurance, so that by them their country was purified.

12 But we may now at once enter upon the question, having commenced, as is our wont, with laying down the doctrine, and so proceed to the account of these persons, giving glory to the all wise God.

13 The question, therefore, is, whether reasoning be absolute master of the passions. 14 Let us determine, then, What is reasoning? and what passion? and how many forms of the passions? and whether reasoning bears sway over all of these? 15 Reasoning is, then, intellect accompanied by a life of rectitude, putting foremost the consideration of wisdom. 16 And wisdom is a knowledge of divine, and human things, and of their causes. 17 And this is contained in the education of the law; by means of which we learn divine things reverently, and human things profitably. 18 And the forms of wisdom are prudence, and justice, and manliness, and temperance. 19 The leading one of these is prudence; by whose means, indeed, it is that reasoning bears rule over the passions. 20 Of the passions, pleasure and pain are the two most comprehensive; and they also by nature refer to the soul. 21 And there are many attendant affections surrounding pleasure and pain. 22 Before pleasure is lust; and after pleasure, joy. 23 And before pain is fear; and after pain, sorrow.

24 Wrath is an affection, common to pleasure and to pain, if any one will pay attention when it comes upon him. 25 And there exists in pleasure a malicious disposition, which is the most multiform of all the affections. 26 In the soul it is arrogance, and love of money, and vaingloriousness, and contention, and faithlessness, and the evil eye. 27 In the body it is greediness and gormandizing, and solitary gluttony.

28 As pleasure and pain are, therefore, two growth of the body and the soul, so there are many offshoots of these passions. 29 And reasoning, the universal husbandman, purging, and pruning these severally, and binding round, and watering, and transplanting, in every way improves the materials of the morals and affections. 30 For reasoning is the leader of the virtues, but it is the sole ruler of the passions. Observe then first, though the very things which stand in the way of temperance, that reasoning is absolute ruler of the passions.

31 Now temperance consists of a command over the lusts. 32 But of the lusts, some belong to the soul, others to the body: and over each of these classes the reasoning appears to bear sway. 33 For whence is it, otherwise, that when urged on to forbidden meats, we reject the gratification which would ensue from them? Is it not because reasoning is able to command the appetites? I believe so. 34 Hence it is, then, that when lusting after water-animals and birds, and fourfooted beasts, and all kinds of food which are forbidden to us by the law, we withhold ourselves through the mastery of reasoning. 35 For the affections of our appetites are resisted by the temperate understanding, and bent back again, and all the impulses of the body are reined in by reasoning.

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