Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume III/Apologetic/A Treatise on the Soul/Chapter XXIX
Chapter XXIX.—The Pythagorean Doctrine Refuted by Its Own First Principle, that Living Men are Formed from the Dead.
It is indeed, manifest that dead men are formed from living ones; but it does not follow from that, that living men are formed from dead ones. For from the beginning the living came first in the order of things, and therefore also from the beginning the dead came afterwards in order. But these proceeded from no other source except from the living. The living had their origin in any other source (you please) than in the dead; whilst the dead had no source whence to derive their beginning, except from the living. If, then, from the very first the living came not from the dead, why should they afterwards (be said to) come from the dead? Had that original source, whatever it was, come to an end? Was the form or law thereof a matter for regret? Then why was it preserved in the case of the dead? Does it not follow that, because the dead came from the living at the first, therefore they always came from the living? For either the law which obtained at the beginning must have continued in both of its relations, or else it must have changed in both; so that, if it had become necessary for the living afterwards to proceed from the dead, it would be necessary, in like manner, for the dead also not to proceed from the living. For if a faithful adherence to the institution was not meant to be perpetuated in each respect, then contraries cannot in due alternation continue to be re-formed from contraries. We, too, will on our side adduce against you certain contraries, of the born and the unborn, of vision and blindness, of youth and old age, of wisdom and folly. Now it does not follow that the unborn proceeds from the born, on the ground that a contrary issues from a contrary; nor, again, that vision proceeds from blindness, because blindness happens to vision; nor, again, that youth revives from old age, because after youth comes the decrepitude of senility; nor that folly is born with its obtuseness from wisdom, because wisdom may possibly be sometimes sharpened out of folly. Albinus has some fears for his (master and friend) Plato in these points, and labours with much ingenuity to distinguish different kinds of contraries; as if these instances did not as absolutely partake of the nature of contrariety as those which are expounded by him to illustrate his great master’s principle—I mean, life and death. Nor is it, for the matter of that, true that life is restored out of death, because it happens that death succeeds life.
- Insipientiam. “Imbecility” is the meaning here, though the word takes the more general sense in the next clause.