XXXVII. (159) But in all these different circumstances, at the beginning, or in the progress, or at the end of any undertaking, it is alike becoming to men to live without contention, and not engage in the war of the sophists, which is always stirring up a quarrelsome confusion, which tends to the adulteration of the truth; since the truth is dear to peace, which is at variance with their interests. (160) For if they come to this contest, being private individuals engaging in a struggle against men experienced in warfare, they will by all means be defeated; and one who is only beginning, because he is destitute of experience; the one who is in a state of progress, because he is still imperfect; and the one who is perfect, because he is not yet thoroughly practised in virtue. But just as it is necessary that plaster, after it has been applied to a wall, must become solid and acquire firmness, so also it is indispensable that the souls of those who have attained to perfection, must become strengthened, and be established on firmer foundations by continual study and incessant practice. (161) And those who do not arrive at this point are by philosophers indeed called wise men, but it is without their own knowledge: for they say that it is impossible for them who have advanced as far as the perfection of wisdom, and who have now for the first time reached its summit to be aware of their own perfection; for they affirm that it is impossible for both these things to happen at the same time, namely the arrival at the desired goal, and the apprehension that one has arrived there; but they affirm that on the border between the two, there is ignorance, of such a sort, that it is not far removed from knowledge, but that it is very near to it, and close to its doors. (162) When a man has acquired this, and thoroughly comprehends it, and is entirely acquainted with the powers of his adversaries, it will be his task to war against the company of contentious sophists, for there is good hope that such a man may conquer; but he who is still impeded by the cloud of ignorance in front of him, and who is not yet able to pour forth the light of knowledge, may safely remain at home; that is to say, it is well for him not to enter into a contest with respect to those matters with which he is not thoroughly acquainted, but he had better rest and keep quiet. (163) But the man who is elevated by selfsufficiency, not being acquainted with the skill or power of his adversaries, will undoubtedly meet with disaster before he can do anything, and will endure the death of knowledge, which is a more grievous death than that which separates the soul from the body. (164) And this ought to happen to those who allow themselves to be deceived by the sophists; for when they are not able to find a solution for their sophisms, believing their fallacies as if they were true statements, they die as to the life of knowledge, suffering the same thing that they do who are cajoled by flatterers; for in the case of those men too, their soul, while in a healthy and genuine state, is driven off and overthrown by a friendship which is diseased in its very nature.