Thus the first stage of aphoristic or unconscious morality is shown to
be inadequate to the wants of the age; the authority of the poets is set
aside, and through the winding mazes of dialectic we make an approach
to the Christian precept of forgiveness of injuries. Similar words
are applied by the Persian mystic poet to the Divine being when the
questioning spirit is stirred within him:--'If because I do evil, Thou
punishest me by evil, what is the difference between Thee and me?' In
this both Plato and Kheyam rise above the level of many Christian (?)
theologians. The first definition of justice easily passes into the
second; for the simple words 'to speak the truth and pay your debts' is
substituted the more abstract 'to do good to your friends and harm to
your enemies.' Either of these explanations gives a sufficient rule
of life for plain men, but they both fall short of the precision of
philosophy. We may note in passing the antiquity of casuistry, which not
only arises out of the conflict of established principles in particular
cases, but also out of the effort to attain them, and is prior as well
as posterior to our fundamental notions of morality. The 'interrogation'
of moral ideas; the appeal to the authority of Homer; the conclusion
that the maxim, 'Do good to your friends and harm to your enemies,'
being erroneous, could not have been the word of any great man, are all
of them very characteristic of the Platonic Socrates.