An exhortation to pursue knowledge 对寻求知识的劝勉

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Marsilio Ficino to Niccolo degli Albizzi: greetings. 马奇里奥·斐奇诺致Albizzi的尼库洛:问安。

You have heard that proverb, my dear Niccolo: Nothing is sweeter than profit. But what man does profit ? He who takes possession of that which will be his. What we know is ours, everything else depends on fortune. Let small-minded men envy the rich, that is those whose coffers are rich but not their minds. You should emulate those wise and good men whose mind is like God. Warn your fellow students to beware of Scylla and Charybdis; that is, the attractions of pleasure and the noisome fever of the mind given to opinion rather than knowledge.[1] Let them remember that one day the highest delight for each will be that which is experienced in the highest part of the mind, in the supreme treasury of truth itself, when they discard the shadow of worthless pleasures for the sake of knowledge. The tree of knowledge, even if it seems to have rather bitter roots brings forth the sweetest possible fruit. Let them remember too that there will never be too much of this fruit because there is never enough.1 我亲爱的尼库洛,你曾听见这个箴言:得益比万事更甘美。但人可从何处得益?就是那占有属于自己之物的人。我们所知的一切是我们已有的,其他的都依靠命运。让眼光狭小的人嫉妒富人,就是那些钱箱满满但心思空空之人。你当效法智慧良善之人,他们的心灵像神一样。提醒你的学生们不要陷入左右为难的境地;一方面为欢乐所吸引,另一方面顺从知识之外那令人厌恶的内心狂热。让他们记住,有一天至高的欢乐将由我们的心灵是否曾获得至高的体验而决定,那是对真理本身这弥足珍贵的宝库的体验,心灵因着知识的缘故摆脱了无益的欢乐的暗影。知识树,从它那看来苦涩的根却长出最甜美的果实。让他们记住这种果实永不会太多,因为它们从来就短缺。

He who still doubts has not yet learnt enough, yet we doubt as long as we live; and so as long as we live we should learn. Indeed we should imitate2 the wise Solon, who even when dying sought to learn something, for he was nourished by the food of truth and to him death was no more than rebirth. A man can never die who enjoys immortal nourishment. Socrates was first called the wisest of all men by Apollo,[2] when he began to say publicly that he knew nothing. Pythagoras told his disciples that they should look at themselves in a mirror, not by the light of a lamp, but by the light of the sun. What is the light of a lamp, if it is not a mind as yet too little instructed by knowledge? What the light of the sun, if not the mind totally under its instruction? 那还在怀疑之人尚未充分学习,但怀疑伴随我们每个人的一生;所以我们当活到老学到老。我们实在应当效法智慧的梭伦(Solon),他临死还在寻求知识,因为他以真理为食物,所以死亡对他而言毋宁说是重生。乐享不朽的营养之人是不死之人。苏格拉底开始公开所他一无所知的时候,他首先被阿波罗称为所有人中最聪明之人。毕达哥拉斯告诉他的门徒,他们应该从镜中看看自己,不要依靠灯光而要借助阳光。灯光是什么,不就是无知的心灵吗?阳光是什么,难道不是全然受知识指引的心灵吗?

When, therefore, anyone wants to know about the state of his mind,a he should compare it not with the ignorant, but on the contrary with the wisest; thus he may see more clearly how much he has gained and how much remains. In feeding the mind we ought to imitate gluttons and the covetous, who always fix their attention on what is still left. What is there further ? 任何时候,人若愿意了解自己心灵的状态,他不要和无知之人比较,却当与最有智慧的人比较;这样他可以更清楚他已经获得的和尚未获得的知识。喂养心灵当如饕餮之徒,又如贪婪之人,他们的注意力总在未得之物上面。还能做到更好吗?

The Lord of Life says, ‘No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is worthy of reward’[3] You have heard too of that woman who, because she turned back, was changed into a pillar.[4] You have also heard how Orpheus, when he looked back, lost Eurydice; in other words, his depth of judgment. Ineffective and empty-handed is the hunter who goes backwards rather than forwards. 生命的主(Lord of Life)说,手扶着犁向后看的,不配进神的国。你也听说那个女人,因为回头观望变成一根盐柱。你也听见Orpheus回望之时失去了Eurydice;换言之,他受到严厉的审判。向后而不向前看的猎人,将徒劳地空手而回。

Farewell. 再见。

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