An outline of philosophy from ancient times concerning Inspired Reason. Civilization has never achieved higher thought. A discussion of "Repressions." Verse 48 sums up the whole Philosophy of mankind.
PHILOSOPHICAL in the highest degree is the question I propose to discuss, namely whether the Inspired Reason is supreme ruler over the passions; and to the philosophy of it I would seriously entreat your earnest attention.
2 For not only is the subject generally necessary as a branch of knowledge, but it includes the praise of the greatest of virtues, whereby I mean self-control.
3 That is to say, if Reason
is proved to control the passions adverse to temperance, gluttony and lust, it is also clearly shown to be lord over the passions, like malevolence, opposed to justice, and over those opposed to manliness, namely rage and pain and fear.
4 But, some may ask, if the Reason is master of the passions, why does it not control forgetfulness and ignorance? their object being to cast ridicule.
5 The answer is that Reason is not master over defects inhering in the mind itself, but over the passions or moral defects that are adverse to justice and manliness and temperance and judgement; and its action in their case is not to extirpate the passions, but to enable us to resist them successfully.
6 I could bring before you many examples, drawn from various sources, where Reason has proved itself master over the passions, but the best instance by far that I can give is the noble conduct of those who died for the sake of virtue, Eleazar, and the Seven Brethren and the Mother.
7 For these all by their contempt of pains, yea, even unto death, proved that Reason rises superior to the passions.
8 I might enlarge here in praise of their virtues, they, the men with the Mother, dying on this day we celebrate for the love of moral beauty and goodness, but rather would I felicitate them on the honours they have attained.
9 For the admiration felt for their courage and endurance, not only by the world at large but by their very executioners, made them the authors of the downfall of the tyranny under which our nation lay, they defeating the tyrant by their endurance, so that through them was their country purified.
10 But I shall presently take opportunity to discuss this, after we have begun with the general theory, as I am in the habit of doing, and I will then proceed to their story, giving glory to the all-wise God.
11 Our enquiry, then, is whether the Reason is supreme master over the passions.
12 But we must define just what the Reason is and what passion is, and how many forms of passion there are, and whether the Reason is supreme over all of them.
13 Reason I take to be the mind preferring with clear deliberation the life of wisdom.
14 Wisdom I take to be the knowledge of things, divine and human, and of their causes.
15 This I take to be the culture acquired under the Law, through which we learn with due reverence the things of God and for our worldly profit the things of man.
16 Now wisdom is manifested under the forms of judgement and justice, and courage, and temperance.
17 But judgement or self-control is the one that dominates them all, for through it, in truth, Reason asserts its authority over the passions.
18 But of the passions there are two comprehensive sources, namely, pleasure and pain, and either belongs essentially also to the soul as well as to the body.
19 And with respect both to pleasure and pain there are many cases where the passions have certain sequences.
20 Thus while desire goes before pleasure, satisfaction follows after, and while fear goes before pain, after pain comes sorrow.
21 Anger, again, if a man will retrace the course of his feelings, is a passion in which are blended both pleasure and pain.
22 Under pleasure, also, comes that moral debasement which
exhibits the widest variety of the passions.
23 It manifests itself in the soul as ostentation, and covetousness, and vain-glory, and contentiousness, and backbiting, and in the body as eating of strange meat, and gluttony, and gormandizing in secret.
24 Now pleasure and pain being as it were two trees, growing from body and soul, many offshoots of these passions sprout up; and each man's Reason as master-gardener, weeding and pruning and binding up, and turning on the water and directing it hither and thither, brings the thicket of dispositions and passions under domestication.
25 For while Reason is the guide of the virtues it is master of the passions.
26 Observe, now, in the first place, that Reason becomes supreme over the passions in virtue of the inhibitory action of temperance.
27 Temperance, I take it, is the repression of the desires; but of the desires some are mental and some physical, and both kinds are clearly controlled by Reason; when we are tempted towards forbidden meats, how do we come to relinquish the pleasures to be derived from them?
28 Is it not that Reason has power to repress the appetites? In my opinion it is so.
29 Accordingly when we feel a desire to eat water-animals and birds and beasts and meats of every description forbidden to us under the Law, we abstain through the predominance of Reason.
30 For the propensions of our appetites are checked and inhibited by the temperate mind, and all the movements of the body obey the bridle of Reason.
31 And what is there to be surprised at if the natural desire
of the soul to enjoy the fruition of beauty is quenched?
32 This, certainly, is why we praise the virtuous Joseph, because by his Reason, with a mental effort, he checked the carnal impulse. 1 For he, a young man at the age when physical desire is strong, by his Reason quenched the impulse of his passions.
33 And Reason is proved to subdue the impulse not only of sexual desire, but of all sorts of covetings.
34 For the Law says, 'Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor anything that is thy neighbour's.'
35 Verily, when the Law orders us not to covet, it should, I think, confirm strongly the argument that the Reason is capable of controlling covetous desires, even as it does the passions that militate against justice.
36 How else, can a man, naturally gormandizing and greedy and drunken, be taught to change his nature, if the Reason be not manifestly the master of the passions?
37 Certainly, as soon as a man orders his life according to the Law, if he is miserly he acts contrary to his nature, and lends money to the needy without interest, and at the seventh-year periods cancels the debt.
38 And if he is parsimonious, he is overruled by the Law through the action of Reason, and refrains from gleaning his stubbles or picking the last grapes from his vineyards.
39 And with regard to all the rest we can recognize that Reason is in the position of master over the passions or affections.
40 For the Law ranks above affection for parents, so that a man may not for their sakes surrender his virtue, and it overrides love for a wife, so that if
she transgress a man should rebuke her, and it governs love for children, so that if they are naughty a man should punish them, and it controls the claims of friendship, so that a man should reprove his friends if they do evil.
41 And do not think it a paradoxical thing when Reason through the Law is able to overcome even hatred, so that a man refrains from cutting down the enemy's orchards, and protects the property of the enemy from the spoilers, and gathers up their goods that have been scattered.
42 And the rule of Reason is likewise proved to extend through the more aggressive passions or vices, ambition, vanity, ostentation, pride, and backbiting.
43 For the temperate mind repels all these debased passions, even as it does anger, for it conquers even this.
44 Yea, Moses when he was angered against Dathan and Abiram did not give free course to his wrath, but governed his anger by his Reason.
45 For the temperate mind is able, as I said, to win the victory over the passions, modifying some, while crushing others absolutely.
46 Why else did our wise father Jacob blame the houses of Simeon and Levi for their unreasoning slaughter of the tribe of the Shechemites, saying, 'Accursed be their anger!'
47 For had not Reason possessed the power to restrain their anger he would not have spoken thus.
48 For in the day when God created man, he implanted in him his passions and inclinations, and also, at the very same time, set the mind on a throne amidst the senses to be his sacred guide in all things; and to the mind he gave the Law, by the which if a man order himself, he shall reign over a kingdom that is temperate, and just, and virtuous, and brave.
179:1 See The Testament of Joseph, page 260.