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Discourse 25

This webpage reproduces one of the
Discourses

by
Dio Chrysostom

published in the Loeb Classical Library, 1939

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though, please let me know!


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Discourse 27

(Vol. II) Dio Chrysostom
Discourses

p337 The Twenty-sixth Discourse:
On Deliberation

This is another of the twelve dialogues reported directly and probably all written by Dio while in exile. In this one Dio considers with his interlocutor the meaning of 'deliberation' (τὸ βουλεύεσθαι). It does not mean making a blind guess as to the truth of something. There must be some knowledge, however imperfect, upon which to base the conjecture. If, on the other hand, there is complete knowledge of the thing, no room is left for conjecture, that is, deliberation. Then Dio attempts to show that one cannot deliberate about the future because it is non-existent. One must have something real about which to deliberate. This position rather surprises us, because deliberation is most naturally about some course of action in the future. After this Dio, unconsciously perhaps, shifts his position and maintains that to deliberate is to form correct conclusions about a matter from a full knowledge of all factors involved. However, one must admit that it was Dio's companion, rather than Dio himself, who was so certain that deliberation comes into play only in those cases where there is some knowledge, but not enough to enable one to decide with certainty. Dio concludes by exhorting men earnestly to strive to gain full knowledge about the most important things in life in order that their deliberations in these matters may lead to the right conclusions.

Sonny (Ad Dionem Chrysostomum Analecta, p196 f.) expresses the view that this Discourse and the pseudo-Platonic Sisyphus, which apparently was written about 350 B.C., were drawn from a common source, while Dümmler (Academica, p194) would go further and name Antisthenes' paradox ὅ τι οὐκ ἔστι ζητεῖν (seeking that which is not) as this common source. On the other hand, Hirzel (Der Dialog II, p105), von Arnim, as one may infer from his note on §§ 4‑5, and Wegehaupt (De Dione Chrysostomo Xenophontis Sectatore, p65 ff.) maintain that Dio used the Sisyphus directly. Wegehaupt points to so many parallels between this Discourse and the Sisyphus as to make his theory appear very reasonable. If this theory is not correct, then Dio and the author of the Sisyphus followed their common source very closely.

p339 The Twenty-sixth Discourse:
On Deliberation1

Dio. For a long time, as I sat and listened to you men when you spent many hours at the home of one of our public men in deliberating about certain affairs of state, I have been considering by myself and examining the meaning of that which you call deliberation, or what deliberation in the abstract is.2 Does a person really deliberate about a matter which he knows and understands?

Interlocutor. I do not think that when a person knows certain things, he deliberates about them, but that he already knows them.

Dio. Well then, when there are things he does not know or understand, is it about these that he deliberates, casting about as it were like a diviner, and thus seeking to find out what he does not know?3

Int. It does not seem to me that this man, either, can deliberate about things when he has no knowledge about them.

2 Dio. Then can deliberation be something like this — that when men know some things but do not know other things, this is the subject about which they deliberate?4 And in order that we may follow the argument better, we shall make it clear by an illustration. For instance, we assume that we know p341Charicles and Charixenus, but do not know where they live, and so are making conjectures about their place of residence; 3 is not this deliberation — the drawing of inferences from what we do know about that which we do not yet know?5 Or, just as people playing at odd and even6 know that the challengers have something in their hands but now how much; yet sometimes they do hit upon the right answer and in that way come off victorious.7 May we conclude, then, that deliberation too is like this — that though there is something we do know, yet concerning all the other things which we do not know, we make a guess and sometimes accidentally hit it although without any knowledge?

4 Now come, let us see what the nature of the thing is:8 Things which are in being both are, and have come to be, and exist, while things that are not in being neither are, nor have come into be, nor do they exist. Now we do not need deliberation for things which are already in being; for there is no profit in deliberating about things which have come into being and exist. In fact, what imaginable reason will we have for deliberating about them? In order that things that have come into being may not come into being? It is impossible for them not to have come into being. Well, is it in order that things which are p343in being may not be? Absurd! Can we prevent their being just as they have come to be? Well, is it in order that they may not exist? Everything which is in being has existence. But about things that are in being why should a person deliberate anyway? 5 About what things, then, do we deliberate? About the future, as the argument suggests. But the future neither is, nor has been, nor exists. Hence, about things that are not and do not exist, who is able to deliberate? For the thing not in being is nothing, and about that which is not no one can deliberate. Hence no one can deliberate about things which are yet to be; for deliberation deals with a thing that is, and that which is yet to be does not exist. Therefore deliberation cannot possibly be about the future either.

6 Take another case: Would the unmusical person and the one who has no knowledge of harmony, melody, rhythm, and their arrangement and movement be able to deliberate successfully about music and the operations involved in music?9

Int. Certainly not.

Dio. Another point: Would the man who has no knowledge of geometry, in deliberating about a solid body, its length, width, and height, deliberate successfully?10

Int. No, he also would not.

Dio. Then further: Would the man who does not know how to command a ship, in deliberating about the command of a ship and the duties of the captain, deliberate competently?11

Int. No, he would not, either.

p345 7 Dio. Then a person who has had no competent education and no knowledge whatever about a thing is not competent to deliberate about it, either. Therefore it is necessary to give the greatest attention to prudence and education,12 in order that it may be easy for us to deliberate about all things whatsoever and to know what is going to suit each deliberation and not to make serious mistakes; but just as musicians, geometricians, and ship-captains consider with professional skill their own particular work, and as all persons who possess skill in any matter are also competent to understand their work, in like manner let us also be competent to deliberate and speak about our own business. 8 For it is absurd that while those playing at odd and even show intelligence, and that too when they are guessing and do not see the thing about which they make a guess, yet those who are deliberating about public matters should display neither intelligence, nor knowledge, nor experience, although these matters are sometimes of the greatest importance, such as concord and friendship of families and states, peace and war, colonization and the organization of colonies, the treatment of children and of wives.13


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 The Sisyphus has the same sub-title.

2 Cf. Sisyphus 387C.

3 Ibid. 387D.

4 Ibid. 388A.

5 Cf. Sisyphus 388C.

6 In the game ἀρτιασμός the challenger asked another to guess whether the objects held in his closed hand were odd or even in number. In Aristophanes, Plutus 816, where we read στατῆρσι δ᾽ οἱ θεράποντες ἀρτιάζομεν χρυσοῖς the game seems to have been to guess the number of coins, for the denomination of the stater was known — two drachmas. Ibid. 1057 the game proposed was merely guessing the number of teeth the old hag had left.

7 Cf. Sisyphus 387D.

8 von Arnim feels that §§ 4‑5 do not fit into the context. In the Sisyphus 390D-391C this part of the exposition does come in more naturally because Socrates had just expressed the view that one man cannot deliberate better than another because deliberating is like shooting an arrow at random when there is no target to aim at.

9 Cf. Sisyphus 389C-D.

10 Ibid. 388E.

11 Ibid. 389C-D.

12 Sisyphus 390B.

13 Herwerden in Mnem. XXXVII, p321, argues plausibly that the conclusion of this Discourse is missing.


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