Moralia "Villainy Is No Bad Weapon Against Villainy"


"Villainy Is No Bad Weapon Against Villainy"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: In this essay Plutarch is talking about the various evils of shyness, which is "an excess of modesty." He says, "We must avoid too much timidity and fear of censure, since many have played the coward, and abandoned noble ventures, more from fear of a bad name than of the dangers to be undergone, not being able to bear a bad reputation." "We must contrive a harmonious blending of the two, that shall remove the shamelessness of pertinacity, and the weakness of excessive modesty." Turning the coin over, Plutarch says, "All seemly and modest requests we ought to comply with, not bashfully but heartily," and should reject injurious or unreasonable ones. Zeno demonstrated this truth by his statement when he met a young man trying to avoid a friend who desired him to perjure himself on his behalf, "And dare not you stand up boldly against him for what is right?" Plutarch continues:

. . . For he that said "villainy is no bad weapon against villainy" taught people the bad practice of standing on one's defence against vice by imitating it; but to get rid of those who shamelessly and unblushingly importune us by their own effrontery, and not to gratify the immodest in their disgraceful desires through false modesty, is the right and proper conduct of sensible people.