Virtues, then, are natural things?
Yes, natural things.
If they are natural things, why, [then], do they not
exist in all men equally, since all men have an identical nature?
Maximus: But they do exist equally in all men because of the identical nature.
Pyrrhus: Then why is there such a great inequality [of virtues] in us?
Maximus: Because we do not all practise what is natural to us to an equal degree; indeed, if we did practise to an equal degree [those virtues] natural to us, as we were created to do, then one could be able to perceive one virtue in us all just as there is one nature [in us all], and that one virtue would not admit of a “more” or a “less”.
Pyrrhus: If virtue is something natural [to us, then,] and if what is natural to us exists in us not through asceticism but in virtue of our creation, then why is it that we acquire the virtues, which are natural, with [such] asceticism and labours?
Maximus: Asceticism, and the toils that go with it, were devised for those who love virtue simply in order to ward off from the soul the deceit that establishes itself through sensory perception. It is not as if the virtues have been newly introduced from outside, for they inhere in us from creation, as has been said already. Therefore, when deception is completely expelled, the soul immediately exhibits the splendor of [its] natural virtue. For example: he who is not foolish is intelligent, he who is not cowardly or foolhardy is bold, he who is not intemperate is temperate, and he who is not unrighteous is righteous…. Consequently, with the removal of the things that are contrary to nature only the things proper to nature [remain and) are manifest.
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