On Anger, Book I, XVI

We do not, therefore, need an angry chastiser to punish the erring and wicked: for since anger is a crime of the mind, it is not right that sins should be punished by sin.

“What! am I not to be angry with a robber, or a poisoner?”

No: for I am not angry with myself when I bleed myself.

I apply all kinds of punishment as remedies.

You are as yet only in the first stage of error, and do not go wrong seriously, although you do so often: then I will try to amend you by a reprimand given first in private and then in public.[17]

You, again, have gone too far to be restored to virtue by words alone; you must be kept in order by disgrace.

For the next, some stronger measure is required, something that he can feel must be branded upon him; you, sir, shall be sent into exile and to a desert place.

The next man’s thorough villainy needs harsher remedies: chains and public imprisonment must be applied to him.

You, lastly, have an incurably vicious mind, and add crime to crime: you have come to such a pass, that you are not influenced by the arguments which are never wanting to recommend evil, but sin itself is to you a sufficient reason for sinning: you have so steeped your whole heart in wickedness, that wickedness cannot be taken from you without bringing your heart with it.

Wretched man! you have long sought to die; we will do you good service, we will take away that madness from which you suffer, and to you who have so long lived a misery to yourself and to others, we will give the only good thing which remains, that is, death.

Why should I be angry with a man just when I am doing him good: sometimes the truest form of compassion is to put a man to death.

If I were a skilled and learned physician, and were to enter a hospital, or a rich [18] man’s house, I should not have prescribed the same treatment for all the patients who were suffering from various diseases.

I see different kinds of vice in the vast number of different minds, and am called in to heal the whole body of citizens: let us seek for the remedies proper for each disease.

This man may be cured by his own sense of honour, that one by travel, that one by pain, that one by want, that one by the sword. If, therefore, it becomes my duty as a magistrate to put on black [19] robes, and summon an assembly by the sound of a trumpet, [20] I shall walk to the seat of judgment not in a rage or in a hostile spirit, but with the countenance of a judge; I shall pronounce the formal sentence in a grave and gentle rather than a furious voice, and shall bid them proceed sternly, yet not angrily.

Even when I command a criminal to be beheaded, when I sew a parricide up in a sack, when I send a man to be punished by military law, when I fling a traitor or public enemy down the Tarpeian Rock, I shall be free from anger, and shall look and feel just as though I were crushing snakes and other venomous creatures. “Anger is necessary to enable us to punish.”

What? Do you think that the law is angry with men whom it does not know, whom it has never seen, who it hopes will never exist?

We ought, therefore, to adopt the law’s frame of mind, which does not become angry, but merely defines offences: for, if it is right for a good man to be angry at wicked crimes, it will also be right for him to be moved with envy at the prosperity of wicked men: what, indeed, is more scandalous than that in some cases the very men, for whose deserts no fortune could be found bad enough, should flourish and actually be the spoiled children of success?

Yet he will see their affluence without envy, just as he sees their crimes without anger: a good judge condemns wrongful acts, but does not hate them.

“What then? when the wise man is dealing with something of this kind, will his mind not be affected by it and become excited beyond its usual wont?”

I admit that it will: he will experience a slight and trifling emotion; for, as Zeno says, “Even in the mind of the wise man, a scar remains after the wound is quite healed.”

He will, therefore, feel certain hints and semblances of passions; but he will be free from the passions themselves.