the setting of the sun?
Then tell me, Socrates, why is suicide held not to be right? as I
have certainly heard Philolaus affirm when he was staying with us at
Thebes: and there are others who say the same, although none of them
has ever made me understand him.
But do your best, replied Socrates, and the day may come when you
will understand. I suppose that you wonder why, as most things which
are evil may be accidentally good, this is to be the only exception
(for may not death, too, be better than life in some cases?), and why,
when a man is better dead, he is not permitted to be his own
benefactor, but must wait for the hand of another.
By Jupiter! yes, indeed, said Cebes, laughing, and speaking in his
I admit the appearance of inconsistency, replied Socrates, but there
may not be any real inconsistency after all in this. There is a
doctrine uttered in secret that man is a prisoner who has no right
to open the door of his prison and run away; this is a great mystery
which I do not quite understand. Yet I, too, believe that the gods are
our guardians, and that we are a possession of theirs. Do you not
Yes, I agree to that, said Cebes.
And if one of your own possessions, an ox or an ass, for example
took the liberty of putting himself out of the way when you had
given no intimation of your wish that he should die, would you not
be angry with him, and would you not punish him if you could?
Certainly, replied Cebes.
Then there may be reason in saying that a man should wait, and not
take his own life until God summons him, as he is now summoning me.
Yes, Socrates, said Cebes, there is surely reason in that. And yet
how can you reconcile this seemingly true belief that God is our
guardian and we his possessions, with that willingness to die which we
were attributing to the philosopher? That the wisest of men should