1 Since I am about to exhibit the most philosophical (wisdom-lovingest) argument (logos : the word), whether pious reason is sovereign of passions, I would advise you rightly such that you readily cleave to philosophy (love-of-wisdom). 2 For indeed the word is necessary for knowledge in all things and even of the greatest virtue, indeed I speak of good judgement, it surpasses praise. 3 Whether, perhaps, reason is shown to get mastery of the passions that hinder prudence, both gluttony and lust, 4 but also it is plainly shown to be the lord of the passions that trammel righteousness, that is, malignant habit, and of those passions that trammel bravery, anger, fear and pain.
5 How then, some might ask, if reason has mastery of the passions, is it not the ruler of forgetfulness and ignorance?1—they are trying to say a laughable thing. 6 For reason does not have mastery of its own passions, but rather of those opposed to prudence, and bravery, and righteousness, and of those not so as to destroy them, but rather so as not to yield to them.
7 For many and various reasons, then, I should be able to show you that reason is the autocrat of the passions, 8 far and away I would show this out from the bravery of those who died for the sake of virtue, Eleazar and his seven brothers and their mother. 9 For all of them, by overlooking pains to the point of death, have proven that reason overcomes the passions. 10 For their virtues, then, it is up to me to praise those men, in the prime of life they died with their mother for the sake of the good and noble, and for their honours, I would consider them blessed. 11 For they are admired not only by all men for their bravery and endurance, but also by their torturers, they are conceded to be responsible for destroying the tyranny against their nation, conquering the tyrant with their endurance such that through them their homeland was cleansed. 12 And concerning this, it is possible for me to speak immediately to the main point of my discussion, which I am accustomed to do, and then I will turn to their story, giving glory to all-knowing god.
13 Accordingly, we are seeking whether reason is the autocrat of the passions. 14 We shall consider what reason is, and what passion, and how many are the forms of passions, and whether reason overcomes all of them. 15 Reason, therefore, is the intellect along with correct argument (logos) paying honour to the life of wisdom. 16 Wisdom, accordingly, is acquaintance with matters both human and divine, and the causes of these. 17 This, furthermore, is the cultivation of the law, through which we learn things, the divine with reverence and the human to our profit.
18 And the forms of wisdom are established as good judgement, righteousness, bravery, and prudence. 19 Good judgement is the lordliest of all, by this indeed reason gets mastery of the passions. 20 Two of the passions are an all embracing kinds, both pleasure and pain; of these each singly has begotten concerning the body and concerning the soul.
21 With respect to pleasure and pain, the retinue following from the passions is great. 22 Ahead of pleasure, then, is desire, and after pleasure is joy. 23 Ahead of pain is fear, and after pain is grief. 24 Anger is a passion sharing pleasure and pain, if one reflects what befalls him. 25 There is also within in pleasure a malicious condition, since it is the most fickle of all the passions, 26 and of the soul there is pretension, and avarice, and glory-seeking, and contentious striving, and envy, 27 whereas with respect to the body, over-eating, gluttony, secret eating.2
28 Therefore just as pleasure and pain are two plants of the body and the soul, many are the offshoots of these plants, 29 for each of which the master-gardener is reason, which cleanses, prunes, twines, irrigates and turns every pot, and reclaims the woodland of habits and passions. 30 For reason is chief of the virtues, autocrat of the passions. Therefore examine it first, through deeds that hinder prudence, because reason is sovereign over passions. 31 Prudence, accordingly, has mastery of lust, 32 and of lusts there are those of the soul and those of the body, and over both of these, reason is shown to have mastery. 33 Otherwise whence, stirred to forbidden foods, do we turn away from their pleasures? Is it not that reason has power to overcome the reach of our hand? Indeed, I know it is. 34 Well then, although we desire food of all kinds—whether that of the waters, or the birds, or four-footed— that forbidden to us according to the law, we abstain on account of reason’s mastery. 35 For the passions of our reaching hand are held back, restrained by measured thought, and all the stirrings of the body are muzzled by reason.
1. This makes more sense in Greek. The word used for passions or emotions, πάθα, can in another sense refer to misfortunes or ordeals, and means generally, things experienced.
2. More literally, everything-eating, gluttony, and alone-eating. Secret eating is a rather strained translation. The point behind alone-eating is not that the eater is shamefully hiding their activity, but rather that eating is supposed to be a social activity. The person who eats alone violates social norms, shunning the company of others.
1 And why is it astonishing if the lusts of the soul are cancelled by the communion of beauty? 2 In this, at least, temperate Joseph is praised, because, by his manner of thought, he prevailed over sensual pleasure. 3 For although he was young and in his prime for companionship, he cancelled the frenzy of the passions with reason.
4 And reason is shown to have mastery not only over the mad passion of sensual pleasure, but also all other lusts. 5 For the law says, Do not lust after your neighbour’s wife nor after your neighbour’s possessions. 6 And indeed when the law tells us not to lust, far and away I would persuade you that reason has power to get mastery of your lusts, and likewise the passions that hinder righteousness.
7 When someone who has a certain manner, being accustomed to secret-eating and gluttony or even drunkenness, is re-educated, is it not clear that reason is lord of the passions? 8 Immediately, at least, he who is a citizen under the law, if someone is avaricious, he breaks his manner toward those in need by lending without interest and sets himself to be defrauded the loan during the seventh year. 9 And if someone is miserly, he is mastered by the law through reason so that he does not cull the harvest, nor cut the grapes from the vines. And in each case it is possible to recognize this, that reason is master of the passions.
10 For the law even gets mastery of goodwill toward the parents so as not to utterly betray virtue on their account, 11 and it overcomes love for your wife, to chastise her for her transgressions, 12 and it masters your love for your children, to punish them when they are bad, 13 and it rules over the companionship of your friends, to charge them for their faults.
14 And do not make a custom of being contrary, where reason even has power to get mastery of hatred through the law, so that you do not cut down the cultivated plants of your enemies, and save those of your hated foes from being destroyed, and gathering together what has fallen.