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Chapter XIII.—Argument:  Cæcilius at Length Concludes that the New Religion is to Be Repudiated; And that We Must Not Rashly Pronounce Upon Doubtful Matters.

“However, if you have a desire to philosophize, let any one of you who is sufficiently great, imitate, if he can, Socrates the prince of wisdom.  The answer of that man, whenever he was asked about celestial matters, is well known:  ‘What is above us is nothing to us.’  Well, therefore, did he deserve from the oracle the testimony of singular wisdom, which oracle he himself had a presentiment of, that he had been preferred to all men for the reason, not that he had discovered all things, but because he had learnt that he knew nothing.  And thus the confession 180of ignorance is the height of wisdom.  From this source flowed the safe doubting of Arcesilas, and long after of Carneades, and of very many of the Academics,17521752    This is otherwise read, “Academic Pyrrhonists.” in questions of the highest moment, in which species of philosophy the unlearned can do much with caution, and the learned can do gloriously.  What! is not the hesitation of Simonides the lyric poet to be admired and followed by all?  Which Simonides, when he was asked by Hiero the tyrant what, and what like he thought the gods to be, asked first of all for a day to deliberate; then postponed his reply for two days; and then, when pressed, he added only another; and finally, when the tyrant inquired into the causes of such a long delay, he replied that, the longer his research continued, the obscurer the truth became to him.17531753    Cicero, de Natura Deorum, i. 22.  In my opinion also, things which are uncertain ought to be left as they are.  Nor, while so many and so great men are deliberating, should we rashly and boldly give an opinion in another direction, lest either a childish superstition should be introduced, or all religion should be overthrown.”

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