The Ruins HTML version
Part II, Chapter 5
OF INDIVIDUAL VIRTUES
Q. Which are the individual virtues?
A. There are five principal ones, to wit: first, science, which comprises prudence and
wisdom; secondly, temperance, comprising sobriety and chastity; thirdly, courage, or
strength of body and mind; fourthly, activity, that is to say, love of labor and employment
of time; fifthly, and finally, cleanliness, or purity of body, as well in dress as in
Q. How does the law of nature prescribe science?
A. Because the man acquainted with the causes and effects of things attends in a careful
and sure manner to his preservation, and to the development of his faculties. Science is to
him the eye and the light, which enable him to discern clearly and accurately all the
objects with which he is conversant, and hence by an enlightened man is meant a learned
and well-informed man. With science and instruction a man never wants for resources
and means of subsistence; and upon this principle a philosopher, who had been
shipwrecked, said to his companions, that were inconsolable for the loss of their wealth:
"For my part, I carry all my wealth within me."
Q. Which is the vice contrary to science?
A. It is ignorance.
Q. How does the law of nature forbid ignorance?
A. By the grievous detriments resulting from it to our existence; for the ignorant man
who knows neither causes nor effects, commits every instant errors most pernicious to
himself and to others; he resembles a blind man groping his way at random, and who, at
every step, jostles or is jostled by every one he meets.
Q. What difference is there between an ignorant and a silly man?
A. The same difference as between him who frankly avows his blindness and the blind
man who pretends to sight; silliness is the reality of ignorance, to which is superadded the
vanity of knowledge.
Q. Are ignorance and silliness common?
A. Yes, very common; they are the usual and general distempers of mankind: more than
three thousand years ago the wisest of men said: "The number of fools is infinite;" and
the world has not changed.