Be kind to everyone? Says who!
June 11, 2010 2:10 PM   Subscribe

The aphorism "Be Kind, For Everyone You Meet Is Fighting A Hard Battle" is widely attributed (at least online) to Plato of Athens. I am having a difficult time finding the particular line in the dialogues where he makes this statement. Is this quote apocryphal?

The thousands of Google hits return Plato as the source of the quote but do not bother to cite a dialogue, much less a line number. Any Plato scholars out there who can help me track down the original line - if there is one?
posted by joe lisboa to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Some discussion of this here. Scroll down to September 15, 2005. The relevant text:

"I was just trying out the Google Blog Search,mentioned today by Mark Goodacre, and up came this slogan that I have seen from time to time, always attributed to PhiloBe Kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle. The problem is, however, that I have never read this in any of Philo's works. I may have overlooked it, that's possible,- of course. But searches in both the Greek text and in Whiston's old translation have given no 'hits'.

"Does any one out there know the background of this saying? How come it is attributed to Philo?

"UPDATE: Stephen Goranson e-mails:
"'Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.'
"This quotation (or a variant) is often attributed either to Philo or Plato, though I've never seen a specific citation.

"For what it's worth, here's the closest thing I found by searching JSTOR. In The Biblical World (retitled the next year as The Journal of Religion) v. 54 n. 6 (1920) page 606 Ozora S. Davis, in an article on preaching quoted II Peter 1:57 and then commented on each phrase, including: "_brotherly kindness_--Everyone is fighting a hard battle."

Seems like it is wrongly attributed at best.
posted by superlibby at 2:27 PM on June 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Doesn't it seem a bit feel-good for Plato?
posted by clockzero at 2:31 PM on June 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Doesn't it seem a bit feel-good for Plato?

My thoughts exactly.
posted by joe lisboa at 2:32 PM on June 11, 2010

Best answer: see my ask mefi question
posted by goethean at 2:40 PM on June 11, 2010

There's quite a distance between Plato and Bob Dylan, you know?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:03 PM on June 11, 2010

Response by poster: There's quite a distance between Plato and Bob Dylan, you know?

I think we would need Plotinus for the six-degreed separation thing to work.
posted by joe lisboa at 4:39 PM on June 11, 2010

Best answer: Going back before 2000 in Google Books, you find neither Plato nor Philo, but "attributed to T.H. Thompson [whoever he was] or John Watson". According to The Life of Rev. John Watson, published in 1904:

Watson had many who consulted him about the difficulties of faith. Here his quick insight served him well. He could distinguish between the earnest sceptic and the man who was playing with doubt. He had fought his own way and knew the conditions of the struggle. There was no trouble he would not take for those whose perplexities were real. His large and liberal conception of Christianity, his sharp discrimination between the essential and the non-essential, his vivid belief in Christ as the centre of his creed, all came out in such dealings. But for those who were merely trying to puzzle him he had small tolerance, and on occasion, though rarely, he would use his wit and sarcasm on their vanity. The result of it all may be summed up in his favourite motto, "Be kind, for every one is fighting a hard battle." He was never meddlesome, censorious, unsympathetic. Every year he saw more of the temptations of life and the goodness of human nature. For the innocent gaiety and lighter follies of youth he had a vast toleration, for the sudden disasters of manhood an unfailing charity, for the unredeemed tragedies of age a great sorrow. Life was a hard fight for every one, and it was not his to judge or condemn; his it was to understand, to help, to comfort, for these people were his children, his pupils, his patients; they were the sheep Christ has given him, for whom Christ died.
posted by dhartung at 7:53 PM on June 11, 2010 [4 favorites]

What clockzero said.
posted by paultopia at 11:45 PM on June 11, 2010

Yeah, that line has always sounded like something out of Schopenhauer to me.
posted by litleozy at 8:54 AM on June 12, 2010

« Older Pot Styles   |   Looking for Japanese bank address Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.