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by the powers of law and example, but harking back to its origin, I found its basis so weak[1] that I was almost out of conceit with it — I who had to assert it to another.

(c) It is by this remedy (which he considers the chief and most potent one) that Plato undertakes to expel the unnatural [and preposterous[2]] passions of his age: namely, that public opinion condemns them; that the poets, that every one speaks ill of them — a remedy by whose operation the fairest daughters no longer arouse the love of their fathers, nor the brothers who most excel in beauty the love of their sisters; the very legends of Thyestes, of Œdipus, and of Macareus having, with the charm of their music, instilled this profitable belief[3] in the tender brains of children.[4] In truth, chastity is an excellent virtue, whose utility is very well known; but to treat of it and show its value by natural conditions is as difficult as it is easy to show its value in custom, laws, and precepts. The fundamental and universal reasons for it are difficult of investigation, and our masters skim lightly over them, or, not daring even to touch them, throw themselves from the first into the sanctuary of custom, where they can strut and triumph easily. Those who do not choose to let themselves be carried away from the original source err even more, and are subjected to uncivilised opinions: witness Chrysippus, who scattered about in so many places in his writings the small importance he attributed to incestuous unions, of whatever nature they might be.[5] (a) Whoever would make a similar attempt and rid himself of this violent pre-judgement of custom, will find several things to be accepted with unquestioning resolution, which have no support save in the gray beard and wrinkles of the wontedness that is associated with them. But when that mask is torn away, these things being brought into relation with truth and right, he will feel that his judgement has been turned topsy-turvy, but is consequently reëstablished much more surely. For example, I will ask them what can

  1. In 1580-1588: si chetif et si foible.
  2. These two words added in 1595.
  3. Of their condemnation.
  4. See Plato, Laws (Jowett, Amer. Ed., V, 217-221).
  5. See Diogenes Laertius, Life of Chrysippus.