On what is morality founded?

morality is founded on man’s nature, needs, and interests. That without it they cannot be happy in whatever position they might find themselves. In a word, that it is in the interest of every man to be virtuous.[ Baron d’Holdbach in the Elements of Universal Morality]

 

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Phocion

Here was a statesman whose stature measures to that of Solon, Themistocles, Lycurgus among others who was sentenced to death by his countrymen because he was too good for them! Plutarch writes

Phocion and he may be well compared together, not for any mere general resemblances, as though we should say both were good men and great statesmen. For, assuredly, there is difference enough among virtues of the same denomination, as between the bravery of Alcibiades and that of Epaminondas, the prudence of Themistocles and that of Aristides, the justice of Numa and that of Agesilaus. But these men’s virtue, even looking to the most minute points of difference, bear the same colour, stamp, and character impressed upon them, so as not to be distinguishable. The mixture is still made in the same exact proportions whether we look at the combination to be found in them, both of lenity on the one hand, with austerity on the other; their boldness upon some occasions, and caution on others; their extreme solicitude for the public, and perfect neglect of themselves; their fixed and immovable bent to all virtuous and honest actions, accompanied with an extreme tenderness and scrupulosity as to doing anything which might appear mean or unworthy; so that we should need a very nice and subtle logic of discrimination to detect and establish the distinctions between them.

A man moderate in his temperament, cool-headed and just. And a good teacher of discipline. Plutarch tells many examples of his justice and temper such as once when he had to take the Greeks to war and one young soldier feeling so brave left his rank and shortly after seeing the enemy developed cold feet, he reproached him thus

Young man, are you not ashamed twice in one day to desert your station; first than on which I placed you and second the one that on which you placed yourself.

On another occasion, one of his friends warns him that by running counter to the people they would kill him, he says

that will be unjust of them if I give them honest advice, if not, it will be just of them.

His wife says in response to a court jester

for my part, all my ornament is my husband Phocion, now for the twentieth year in office as general at Athens.

There are several more examples of instances of his justice, vision, temper and good sense in Plutarch’s lives. The world would be a better place if were ruled by such statesmen.

Phocion