Lone Star College The Good Life Nietzsches Hardship Philosophy Essay


In a 750-1000 word essay, please respond to the following:Nietzsche famously proclaims that any worthwhile achievements in life come from the experience of overcoming hardship. For him, a life of comfortableness and ease is a worthless, wretched, and wasted life. Do you agree or disagree with this assessment of the good life? Why or why not? In support of your argument, please refer to specific passages from the video (Alain de Botton’s “Nietzsche on Hardship—Philosophy: A Guide to Happiness,” available on YouTube via the link below). Students are also required to include at least two MLA-formatted citations to the Nietzsche chapter in the textbook (I also attached the textbook for you). Submissions that do not fulfill the above criteria will only be eligible for partial credit.

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Chapter 1
Plato’s Allegory of the Cave
Chapter 2
Plato’s Euthyphro
Chapter 3
Plato’s Apology of Socrates
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
St. Thomas Aquinas
Chapter 6
Thomas Hobbes
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Jose Ortega y Gasset
Chapter 9
Jean-Paul Sartre
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It has been my experience that most Introduction to Philosophy textbooks
seem to fall into one of two categories: (1) anthologies consisting almost
entirely of primary source material without commentary or explanation, and
which therefore leave the hapless beginner to fend for himself, or (2) a series
of summaries of classic texts containing little of what the philosophers themselves actually wrote, so that one receives, at best, a secondhand report of
what this or that thinker had to say.
My purpose in arranging the present volume was to steer a middle course
between these two extremes: to present the ideas of some of the greatest
minds in as close to their original form as possible, while at the same time providing commentaries that I hope will guide students toward a clearer understanding of the rather complex and difficult primary source selections they will
encounter herein.
Philosophy (which means “love of wisdom” in ancient Greek) deals with the
most important questions of human existence, questions concerning good and
evil, justice, virtue, beauty, truth, the existence of God, etc. But perhaps the
most important question that each of us faces is this: What is the best way of
life for a human being? Or, to frame it another way: What is happiness, and
how do I achieve it? I have chosen to include in this volume selections from
primary texts that I believe are among the very best points of departure for
beginner students who wish to develop a deeper understanding of the competing visions of “the good life.”
Let me add, finally, that reading philosophy is a laborious and time-consuming
enterprise, most especially for beginners. Whereas any one of you could easily
finish a young adult novel in one sitting, an “A” student may find herself spending a whole hour on just one page of Nietzsche. However, you will soon discover
that the profound joys and satisfactions that await the patient, diligent, and
attentive reader of philosophy far outweigh whatever trivial amusements are to
be had leafing through the teenage vampire story of the moment. As the
philosopher Spinoza remarked, “All things excellent are as difficult as they are
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Chapter 1
Plato’s Allegory
of the Cave
At the beginning of Book VII of Plato’s Republic, Socrates famously invokes an image of human
nature with respect to education and the lack of it, likening our situation to that of prisoners in a
cave. Imagine an underground cave-like dwelling, its entrance entirely out of sight. Inhabiting this
cave are human beings whose feet and necks are chained so that they can neither get up nor turn
their heads; they can only see straight ahead. Above and behind them burns a fire, and between
them and the fire there is a raised path and a low wall, like the screen above which performers display their puppets. Behind this wall men pass to and fro carrying statues and figures of human
beings, animals, and other objects in such a manner that the artifacts appear over the top of the
screen, projecting onto the wall opposite the fire. The prisoners, unable to see neither the objects
carried behind them nor one another, behold only the shadows of themselves and of the statues
cast onto the wall in front of them.
The prisoners represent the vast majority of the human race: “they’re like us.” They live in a
world in which images are mistaken for realities. What is a shadow, after all, but a mere image of
something real (in this case a statue, which is itself an image of something even more real, namely
a living human being or animal)? Moreover, the prisoners have not the faintest clue that throughout their entire lives they have been exposed to nothing but distortions of the truth—they are, in
other words, unaware of their ignorance (just like Euthyphro, the fanatical young priest about whom
you will read shortly). The shadows represent the authoritative opinions that govern the hearts
and minds of whole communities, and give a transcendent purpose and meaning to our particular
existence.1 These shadows are to be contrasted with the light of truth illuminating the world
beyond the cave (but which also makes the shadows visible within it). The men carrying the statues are the lawgivers and poets who establish the cultural values and cosmic worldview that characterize and define any given society. In his excellent commentary on Plato’s Republic, Professor
Allan Bloom explains: “We do not see men as they are but as they are represented to us by legislators and poets. A Greek sees things differently from the way a Persian sees them. One need only
think of…the significance of cows to Hindus as opposed to other men to realize how powerful are
1. I am here reminded of the fundamental claims about the human being, as well as the nature and
scope of government, postulated in the Preamble to the U.S. Declaration of Independence—claims which
most Americans (as Americans) accept as indisputably true.
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the various horizons constituted by law or convention.”2 These authoritative opinions are not
accurate reflections of nature, but rather a curious amalgam of nature and convention. To quote
once again from Professor Bloom: “The first and most difficult of tasks is the separation of what
exists by nature from what is merely made by man.”3
This, precisely, is the business of philosophy, which literally means “the love of wisdom,” coming from the ancient Greek words philein, meaning “to love,” and sophia, meaning “wisdom.”
Philosophy is a rigorous, logical, and systematic activity of the mind that seeks to discover the ultimate nature of reality, including, and especially the nature of the human being. For Socrates, the
single most important question the philosopher grapples with is: “What is the best way of life for a
human being?” Socrates reasoned that if he could provide a correct answer to this question, he
would have solved the riddle of human happiness, which is what everyone longs for and actively,
if not always thoughtfully, pursues. We are, all of us, therefore, in need of philosophy. But let us
continue with the cave allegory.
Next, imagine that one of the prisoners is forcibly turned toward the firelight. He would be
pained by the sudden brightness in his eyes, and would be unable to make out the statues being
carried before the fire. Moreover, he would have difficulty believing that the statues are more real
than their pale shadows decorating the cave wall, as these latter are all that the prisoner has ever
known since childhood. And if the prisoner were compelled to look at the light, his eyes would hurt
and he would avert his gaze, turning instead toward the comfortable and familiar darkness. Lastly,
if someone dragged him away by force up the rough, steep path out of the cave and into the daylight, he would be distressed and annoyed at being so dragged. Once out of the cave, the glaring
sun would leave him temporarily blinded, unable to see objects in the natural world. Gradually,
however, he would recover his sight, first making out the shadows of things on the ground, then
seeing their reflections in pools of water, followed by a direct vision of the objects themselves.
Lifting his gaze still higher, he would behold the moon and the stars at nighttime, and then finally
see “the sun itself by itself in its own region.” The prisoner, having spent his whole life mistaking
the soiled fragments of the truth for the truth itself, has finally achieved liberation from the cave of
ignorance; he has literally become enlightened.
The sun represents what Socrates refers to at the end of your reading as “the idea of the good,”
which is the source of all being and intelligibility. That is, the idea of the good is responsible for
all that exists as well as for the fact that whatever exists is capable of being understood by us. It is
“the cause of all that is right and fair in everything…—and that man who is going to act prudently
in private or in public must see it.” This idea is the key to the mystery of the good life. Anyone who
is to live the best and most satisfying life—a life wherein one is in possession of the comprehensive
human good—must be emancipated from the prison house of ignorance, making the ascent to the
fundamental principle that informs not only the human condition, but the very cosmos itself.
(Exactly how we are to liberate our minds from false opinions and strive for and ultimately apprehend the truth about the ultimate nature of things is a question we will discuss in the next chapter.4)
To the one who has been liberated from the tyranny of shadows—and who is, therefore, genuinely happy because he has seen the light of truth—the habits, opinions, honors, customs, and
praises, indeed the very lives, of the prisoners languishing in the darkness below can only be seen
as pitiful, slavish, and crude. The philosopher, meditating on the lives of the cave dwellers, will echo
the sentiments of Achilles as he wandered miserably through Hades in Homer’s Odyssey: better it is
“‘to be on the soil, serf to another man, to a portionless man,’” and to undergo anything whatsoever rather than to think and live as they do.
2. Plato Republic, trans. Allan Bloom (New York: Basic Books, 1968), 404.
3. Ibid., 405.
4. It is important to note that Socrates himself never claims in the Republic to have made the ascent to
the idea of the good, a point we will come back to when discussing his paradoxical description of
“human wisdom” in the Apology.
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Upon re-entering the cave, the philosopher will be unable to see properly because of the darkness, and the other prisoners will ridicule him, thinking that the voyage into the light of day had
ruined his sight, thus rendering him incapable of competing with them in forming judgments
about the shadows. Finally, if the philosopher attempted to liberate and enlighten the other prisoners, he would be met not with gratitude and an open mind, but with violent hostility; they would
kill him.5 Why is this so?
You will notice from the above that the emancipated prisoner does not exit the cave on his own
initiative and by his own unaided efforts: rather, he must be compelled to escape. He must be
dragged away by force up the rough, steep path out of the cave and into the light of the sun, after
which he will be distressed and annoyed at being so dragged. Why the dogged resistance to enlightenment? One reason why so many people are disinclined to live “the examined life” is that, in addition to requiring a sharp mind, iron self-discipline, and a formidable memory, doing philosophy is
extremely hard work. The path out of the cave is not smooth and flat, but arduous and rugged. In
a sense, it is much easier and perhaps more superficially pleasant for us to remain smugly contented
prisoners in the cave, human beings tending as they do to follow the path of least resistance. It is
a lamentable fact of human nature that not everybody is willing to carefully examine his or her most
basic assumptions and thereby gain freedom from the uncritical acceptance of the beliefs that we
inherit from those who came before us. Do most human beings seem to prefer a comforting illusion to an unsettling truth? If the answer is “yes,” then we have discovered another reason why philosophy is a difficult enterprise: it requires a degree of courage on the part of the truth seeker,
namely, the courage to follow the argument wherever it may lead. This, in turn, forces us to risk abandoning some of our most comforting and emotionally sustaining beliefs once we discover them to
be philosophically unsound. For the lover of wisdom, this risk is worth taking. Why? Because by
doing philosophy, we achieve true freedom and independence of mind. As Socrates says near the end
of the Apology, “the unexamined life is not worth living for a human being.”
Allegory of the Cave
“Next, then,” I said, “make an image of our nature in its education and want of education,
likening it to a condition of the following kind. See human beings as though they were in an
underground cave-like dwelling with its entrance, a long one, open to the light across the
whole width of the cave. They are in it from childhood with their legs and necks in bonds so
that they are fixed, seeing only in front of them, unable because of the bond to turn their heads
all the way around. Their light is from a fire burning far above and behind them. Between the
Copyright © 19680101 PLATO. Reprinted by permission of Basic Books, a member of the Perseus Books Group.
5. This is exactly what happened to Socrates in the year 399 BC, when he was tried, convicted, and sentenced to
death by the city of Athens for corrupting the youth.
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fire and the prisoners there is a road above, along which see a wall, built like the partitions
puppet-handlers set in front of the human beings and over which they show the puppets.”
“I see,” he said.
“Then also see along this wall human beings carrying all sorts of artifacts, which project
above the wall, and statues of men and other animals wrought from stone, wood, and every
kind of material; as is to be expected, some of the carriers utter sounds while others are silent.”
“It’s a strange image,” he said, “and strange prisoners you’re telling of.”
“They’re like us,” I said. “For in the first place, do you suppose such men would have seen
anything of themselves and one another other than the shadows cast by the fire on the side of
the cave facing them?”
“How could they,” he said, “if they had been compelled to keep their heads motionless
throughout life?”
“And what about the things that are carried by? Isn’t it the same with them?”
“Of course.”
“If they were able to discuss things with one another, don’t you believe they would hold
that they are naming these things going by before them that they see?”
“And what if the prison also had an echo from the side facing them? Whenever one of the
men passing by happens to utter a sound, do you suppose they would believe that anything
other than the passing shadow was uttering the sound?”
“No, by Zeus,” he said, “I don’t.”
“Then most certainly,” I said, “such men would hold that the truth is nothing other than
the shadows of artificial things.”
“Most necessarily,” he said.
“Now consider,” I said, “what their release and healing from bonds and folly would be like
if something of this sort were by nature to happen to them. Take a man who is released and
suddenly compelled to stand up, to turn his neck around, to walk and look up toward the
light; and who, moreover, in doing all this is in pain and, because he is dazzled, is unable to
make out those things whose shadows he saw before. What do you suppose he’d say if someone were to tell him that before he saw silly nothings, while now, because he is somewhat
nearer to what is and more turned toward beings, he sees more correctly; and, in particular,
showing him each of the things that pass by, were to compel the man to answer his questions
about what they are? Don’t you suppose he’d be at a loss and believe that what was seen
before is truer than what is now shown?”
“Yes,” he said, “by far.”
“And, if he compelled him to look at the light itself, would his eyes hurt and would he flee,
turning away to those things that he is able to make out and hold them to be really clearer than
what is being shown?”
“So he would,” he said.
“And if,” I said, “someone dragged him away from there by force along the rough, steep,
upward way and didn’t let him go before he had dragged him out into the light of the sun,
wouldn’t he be distressed and annoyed at being so dragged? And when he came to the light,
wouldn’t he have his eyes full of its beam and be unable to see even one of the things now said
to be true?”
“No, he wouldn’t,” he said, “at least not right away.”
“Then I suppose he’d have to get accustomed, if he were going to see what’s up above. At
first he’d most easily make out the shadows; and after that the phantoms of the human beings
and the other things in water; and, later, the things themselves. And from there he could turn
to beholding the things in heaven and heaven itself, more easily at night—looking at the light
of the stars and the moon—than by day—looking at the sun and sunlight.”
“Of course.”
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“Then finally I suppose he would be able to make out the sun—not its appearances in
water or some alien place, but the sun itself by itself in its own region—and see what it’s like.”
“Necessarily,” he said.
“And after that he would already be in a position to conclude about it that this is the source
of the seasons and the years, and is the steward of all things in the visible place, and is in a certain way the cause of all those things he and his companions had been seeing.”
“It’s plain,” he said, “that this would be his next step.”
“What then? When he recalled his first home and the wisdom there, and his fellow prisoners in that time, don’t you suppose he would consider himself happy for the change and
pity the others?”
“Quite so.”
“And if in that time there were among them any honors, praises, and prizes for the man
who is sharpest at making out the things that go by, and most remembers which of them are
accustomed to pass before, which after, and which at the same time as others, and who is
thereby most able to divine what is going to come, in your opinion would he be desirous of
them and envy those who are honored and hold power among these men? Or, rather, would
he be affected as Homer says and want very much ‘to be on the soil, a serf to another man, to
a portionless man,’ and to undergo anything whatsoever rather than to opine those things and
live that way?”
“Yes,” he said, “I suppose he would prefer to undergo everything rather than live that
“Now reflect on this too,” I said. “If such a man were to come down again and sit in the
same seat, on coming suddenly from the sun wouldn’t his eyes get infected with darkness?”
“Very much so,” he said.
“And if he once more had to compete with those perpetual prisoners in forming judgments
about those shadows while his vision was still dim, before his eyes had recovered, and if the
time needed for getting accustomed were not at all short, wouldn’t he be the source of laughter, and wouldn’t it be said of him that he went up and came back with his eyes corrupted, and
that it’s not even worth trying to go up? And if they were somehow able to get their hands on
and kill the man who attempts to release and lead up, wouldn’t they kill him?”
“No doubt about it,” he said.
“Well, then, my dear Glaucon,” I said, “this image as a whole must be connected with what
was said before. Liken the domain revealed through sight to the prison home, and the light of
the fire in it to the sun’s power; and, in applying the going up and the seeing of what’s above
to the soul’s journey up to the intelligible place, you’ll not mistake my expectation, since you
desire to hear it. A god doubtless knows if it happens to be true. At all events, this is the way
the phenomena look to me: in the knowable the last thing to be seen, and that with considerable effort, is the idea of the good; but once seen, it must be concluded that this is in fact the
cause of all that is right and fair in everything—in the visible it gave birth to light and its sovereign; in the intelligible, itself sovereign, it provided truth and intelligence—and that the man
who is going to act prudently in private or in public must see it.”
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Plato’s Euthyphro, consists of a brief conversation between the philosopher Socrates and a
younger priest named Euthyphro, a man who boasts that he has superior knowledge of
divine things. The discussion takes place at the courthouse in Athens, where Socrates has
arrived to give his apology, or defense speech, before a large gathering of his fellowcitizens. Socrates stands accused by certain prominent members of his community of corrupting the youth. To corrupt here means to do harm or make worse. As Socrates explains,
his accusers say that he creates new gods while not believing in the old gods, the gods of
Athens, who are the protectors of her laws. By making innovations in the established religious tradition (presumably by way of his “divine sign”), and by calling the ancestral gods’
existence into question, Socrates is believed to undermine the youth’s attachment to
Athens’ laws as well as to the shared understanding of right and wrong, good and bad, just
and unjust, which gives purpose and meaning to his fellow citizens’ lives. In the eyes of the
political community, Socrates is a dangerous subversive.
Euthyphro, on the other hand, is at the courthouse for an altogether different matter:
he is prosecuting his father for murder. He relates that one of his servants had killed a
household slave in a drunken rage. Euthyphro’s father tied up the perpetrator and threw
him in a ditch (in order to prevent escape) and then sent someone to consult a priest
(homicide in ancient Greece being a religious crime) to find out what should be done.
Before the messenger returned, however, the servant died of exposure. In today’s legal
parlance we would probably describe what occurred as a “negligent homicide,” but in
Euthyphro’s eyes, his father has committed murder, thereby arousing the wrath of the
gods. In proceeding with the prosecution, Euthyphro aims to cleanse himself by bringing
his father to justice.
Euthyphro remarks that his relatives (to say nothing of his own father) consider it impious for a son to prosecute his father for murder, especially given the particular circumstances
of the case. Socrates himself expresses shock when he hears the news: most men, he says,
would not know how they could do this and be right. Euthyphro, says Socrates (and not
without a tinge of irony), must indeed be far advanced in wisdom regarding divine things
in order to move forward with the prosecution. Euthyphro (without the slightest trace of
irony) wholeheartedly agrees: his relatives’ understanding of piety is simply wrong. In fact,
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it is Euthyphro’s accurate knowledge of the divine attitude to piety and impiety that
accounts (in his mind at least) for his superiority to the majority of men.
Since Socrates is about to be put on trial on the charge of impiety, he proposes that he
become Euthyphro’s pupil, that he may once and for all acquire a correct understanding of
piety from one who purports to be preeminently wise in this regard. Euthyphro consents,
and so begins the discussion of the nature or essence of piety and impiety.
Socrates wants to know what kind of thing piety is, what form it takes such that one can
discern it in a multiplicity of pious actions. As he says a little later, Socrates wants to understand the “form itself that makes all pious actions pious…so that I may look upon it, and
using it as a model, say that any action of yours or another’s that is of that kind is pious,
and if it is not that it is not” (6d–e). Let us give an example to illustrate what Socrates
means by a “form.” Imagine you are in a room full of different varieties of chairs: you see
arm chairs, deck chairs, plush recliners, dining room chairs, bean bags, collapsible camping chairs. They all bear different shapes, colors, and styles: no two chairs are identical. And
yet somehow we immediately recognize them all as belonging to the same class because,
different as they are, they all exhibit the exact same form or essence—what we may call the
form of chair-ness, if you will. The overall purpose and design of the different styles of chair
is one and the same. This is precisely what Socrates seeks to elicit from Euthyphro with
respect to piety: what is the unifying form or essence which all pious actions exhibit?
Euthyphro responds that the pious thing to do is what he is doing now, namely to prosecute the wrongdoer, be it about murder or theft or anything else, and without regard to
whomever the wrongdoer happens to be. His understanding of piety is grounded in Greek
ancestral tradition or, more precisely, in the tales the poets tell about the gods. Euthyphro
appeals to the story in Hesiod’s Theogony where Zeus imprisons his father Kronos, who in
turn had castrated his own father, Ouranos. Zeus was believed to be the best and most just
of all the gods, which therefore makes him (in Euthyphro’s eyes at least) the most appropriate model for human conduct. Euthyphro denounces his indignant relatives as hypocrites
for accusing him of impiety while at the same time honoring Zeus as the best and most just
of the gods. Their self-contradiction is a sure sign of their ignorance of divine things.
Socrates then admits that he finds it difficult to accept such stories about the gods, and
that this is likely the reason for which he stands accused of impiety. How can Euthyphro
possibly believe such things to be true? Are we really to accept that there is perpetual war
among the gods, and terrible enmities and battles, and many other such things as are spoken of by the poets? (It is worth noting that Socrates casts doubt on the veracity of the
poets’ accounts of the gods on four different occasions between 6a and c.) Not only does
Euthyphro believe the above-mentioned stories about the gods, but he knows of still more
tales that are sure to amaze anyone who hears them. Socrates, however, shows no interest
in mere stories, but rather in arguments. As he says later in the dialogue: “…if one of us, or
someone else, merely says that something is so, do we accept that it is so? Or should we
examine what the speaker means?” (9e). For Socrates, the truth can only be discovered
through reasoning, not by an appeal to tradition or authority.
Socrates points out that Euthyphro’s first attempt at a definition of piety, that it is what
he is doing now (i.e., prosecuting his father for impiety), is defective insofar as it is (at best)
an example of piety rather than a definition of the form or standard of piety. For how can
we know this or that action to be an example of piety before we have even established a
definition of piety? Proud as he is of his own wisdom, Euthyphro clearly has not given the
matter very much thought.
At this point Socrates repeats the question: “Tell me then what this form itself is, so that
I may look upon it, and using it as a model, say that any action of yours or another’s that is
of that kind is pious, and if it is not that it is not” (6e). Euthyphro then comes up with a new
formulation: what is dear to (or loved by) the gods is pious, and what is not is impious.
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Socrates almost immediately seizes on a potential problem with Euthyphro’s second
attempt at a definition of piety: the gods (at least as the poets depict them) are in a state
of enmity and discord with one another. Now what, asks Socrates, are the kinds of subjects
which give rise to hatred and anger? If two people were to disagree as to which of two
numbers is greater, or which of two objects is larger, or heavier, they could turn to counting, measuring, and weighing, and soon resolve the disagreement once and for all. Thus,
quantifiable or measurable objects cannot be the cause of insoluble disagreement. But
what about such things as the just and the unjust, the beautiful and the ugly, the good and
the bad? Is it not because we humans differ about these things and cannot reach a sufficient decision about them that we become enemies to each other? This is as much the case
with human beings as it is with the Greek gods as portrayed by the poets Hesiod and
Homer; as we saw earlier, the gods constantly quarrel among themselves because they consider different things to be just and unjust, beautiful and ugly, good and bad. And since
they like what each of them considers beautiful, good, and just, and hate the opposite of
these things, it turns out that the same things are loved by some gods and hated by other
gods. In other words, if, as Euthyphro claims, piety is what is dear to the gods, and if, as
the poets tell us, different gods love and hate different things, then we are left with the
absurd conclusion that the same action will be both pious and impious. Euthyphro retorts
that on one subject in particular no gods would disagree with one another: that whomever
has killed anyone unjustly should be punished. Socrates agrees with this, and merely points
out that the gods (if indeed they have competing notions of the just and the unjust) may
differ as to who the wrongdoer is, what he did, and when.
We remarked earlier that Socrates has a difficult time taking seriously the poets’ portrayal of the Greek gods as being in constant enmity with one another. Why do you think
Socrates views such tales with suspicion? One might begin to formulate an answer to this
question by examining the nature of the divine. What does it really mean to be a god?
Perhaps we could start by distinguishing the divine from the merely human. Man is a mortal creature, and as such he is needy, incomplete, imperfect. His reason, as Socrates says in
the Apology, may be worth little or nothing. The divine, by contrast, emerges as perfect in
every conceivable way: the gods are immortal (they are indestructible, and hence beyond
natural necessity, i.e., they do not have to eat or sleep, they never get sick, etc.) and they
must be perfectly rational and wise (that is, they are not ignorant, because, as perfect beings,
they enjoy perfect rationality). Now if to be divine means to have perfect wisdom, then all
the gods would be in perfect agreement about what is good, beautiful, and just, because
they would each