XX. (65) This is that disposition in us which Moses characterised when he gave Cain his name, a name which being interpreted means possession, Cain himself being full of all folly or rather of all impiety; for instead of thinking that all possession belonged to God, he conceived that they all belonged to himself, though he was not only not able to possess even himself steadily, but he did not even know of what essence he consisted; but nevertheless he placed confidence in the outward senses, as being competent to attain the objects perceivable only by them. Let him tell us therefore how he will be able to avoid seeing wrongly, or being mistaken as to his hearing, or to escape even in any other of these outward senses. (66) And in truth it is inevitable that these errors should continually befall every one of us, even if we should happen to be endowed with the most accurately constructed organs possible; for it is difficult, or I might rather say impossible, for any one completely to avoid the natural blemishes and involuntary errors which arise, since the efficient causes of erroneous opinions are innumerable, both within us and around us, and outside of us, and since they are to be found in every mortal creature, man, therefore, very improperly conceives every thing to belong to himself, however proud he may be, and however high he may carry his head.

XXI. (67) And Laban, who relied greatly on his distinctive qualities, appears to me to have afforded great amusement to Jacob, who was beyond all other men, a clear-sighted contemplator of the nature, which was free from any such qualities, when he ventured to say to him that, “My daughter, and my sons, and my cattle, and all that you see, belong to me and to my Daughters.”{21}{genesis 31:43.} For adding the word “my” to each of these articles, he never ceases from speaking and boasting about himself. (68) Your daughters now, tell me–and they are the arts and sciences of the soul–do you say that your daughters are your own property? How so? In the first place did you not receive them from the mind which taught them? in the second place it is naturally possible for you to lose these also, as you might lose anything else, either forgetting them through the greatness of your other cares, or through severe and lasting sicknesses of body, or because of the incurable disease which is at all events destined for those who grow old, namely old age, or through ten thousand other accidents, the number of which it is impossible to calculate. (69) And what will you say about the sons?–and the sons are the reasonings which take place in portions of the soul, –if you pronounce that the sons belong to you, are you speaking reasonably, or are you downright mad for thinking so? For melancholic thoughts, and follies, and frenzies of the mind, and untrustworthy conjectures, and false ideas about things, and empty attractions of the mind, resembling dreams, and bringing with them convulsive agitation, and the disease which is innate in the soul, namely forgetfulness, and many other things beyond those that I have mentioned, take away the stability of your master-like authority, and show that these are the possession of some one else and not of you. (70) Again, what will you say about the cattle? Now the cattle are the outward senses, for the outward sense is something unreasonable and brutish, like cattle, will you dare to call the cattle your property? Tell me when you see erroneously, when you constantly hear erroneously, when you at one time think sweet flavours brackish, and at others look upon bitter flavours as sweet, when you in fact, in respect of every single one of these outward senses, are in the habit of being mistaken more frequently than you come to a correct decision, do you not blush? and if so, will you give yourself airs, and boast yourself as if you employed all the faculties and energies of the soul in such a way as never to err or to be mistaken.