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last . —They are good , therefore , because they terminate in pleasure , and in the prevention of other pains ; and there is nothing on account of which things can be called good , except pleasure and pain . —Admitted . —Then pleasure is the same thing with good , and pain with
evil : and if a pleasure is bad , it is because it prevents a greater pleasure , or causes a ^ pain which exceeds the pleasure : if a pain is good , it is because it prevents a greater pain , or leads to a greater pleasure . For , if this were not so , you could point out some other end , with reference to which , things are good or evil : but you cannot . —Granted .
But if all this be true , ( still addressing the vulgar , ) how absurd , we may tell them , was the opinion you expressed , that a man often , although knowing evil to be evil , practises it nevertheless , being overpowered bv pleasure ? How ridiculous this is , will be plainly seen if ^ we drop some of the terms which we have hitherto used , and since the pleasant and the good are but one thing , call them by one name ; as likewise , the painful and the bad . You say , that knowing evil to be evil , a man yet practises it , being overpowered ; by what ? They cannot now say , by pleasure ; since we have now another name for it , viz . good . Being
overpowered by good ! It is strange , and absurd , if a man practises evil , knowing it to be evil , being overpowered by good . If we ask whether the good is worthy or not worthy to overpower the evil , they must answer , Not worthy ; for , otherwise , to be so overpowered would be no fault . How , then , we must answer , can good be unworthy to overpower evil , or evil to overpower good , but by reason of its smaller amount ? It is clear , then , that what you call , to be overpowered by pleasure , is to choose a greater evil for the sake of a less good . If we now drop the words good and evil , and resume the words pain and pleasure , we find , in like manner , that he who is said to be overpowered by pleasure , is overpowered by a pleasure which is unworthy to overpower : and a pleasure is unworthy to overpower a pain , only by being
less in amount . For , if it be said , The immediately pleasant differs greatly from the ultimately so , I answer , only in the degree of pleasure and pain . If we sum up the pleasure and the pain , and place them in opposite scales , we ought to choose the greater pleasure , or the less pain , whether they are immediate or remote .
Now , is it not true that magnitudes appear smaller at a distance , greater when close at hand ? that sounds appear louder when nearer , fainter when more distant , and the like?—Undoubtedly . —If , then , our well-doing depended upon our possessing great magnitudes , and avoiding small ones , what would our safety depend upon ? Upon the faculty of seeing things merely aa they appear , which leads to perpetual errors in the estimation of magnitudes ; or upon the art of measurement , which teaches us to detect false appearances , and ascertain the real magnitudes of bodies ?—Upon the latter . —If our safety in lifed epended upon always choosing the larger number , and eschewing the less , what would be our
safeguard ? surely knowledge : one of the kinds of knowledge of measurement , since it relates to excess and defect ; and ( since it relates to numbers ) , the knowledge of arithmetic ?—Undoubtedly . Since , then , it is upon the proper choice of pleasures and pains that our well doing in life depends , viz . upon choosing always the greater pleasure , or the smaller pain , what we here » tand in need of is likewise measurement , since this also relates to exceta and defect . But if it be
Plato ' s Dialogues ; the Protagoras . 209
No . 87 . Q
Monthly Repository (1806-1838) and Unitarian Chronicle (1832-1833), March 2, 1834, page 209, in the Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition (2008; 2018) ncse.ac.uk/periodicals/mruc/issues/vm2-ncseproduct2631/page/53/