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And what is shameful if those who do it don’t think it so?

[τί δ’ αἰσχρὸν ἢν μὴ τοῖσι χρωμένοις δοκῇ]

Euripides (485?-406? BC) Greek tragic dramatist
Æolus [Αἴολος], frag. 19 (TGF) [tr. Aleator (2012)]

This bit of moral relativism (likely coming from Macareus, the son of Aeolus, who committed incest with his sister, Canace) continues to provoke commentary, thus varied translations. Aristophanes includes a reference to this line in his The Frogs.

Nauck frag. 19, Barnes frag. 5, Musgrave frag. 1. (Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

But what is base, if it appear not base
To those who practice what their soul approves?
[tr. Wodhull (1809)]

What is shameful, if it does not seem to be so to those who do it?

What's wrong if they who do it think not so?
[Source (1902)]

Why shameful, if it does not seem so to those who practice it?
[Source (2018)]

Added on 6-Feb-24 | Last updated 6-Feb-24
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All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. A British Tory will defend self-determination in Europe and oppose it in India with no feeling of inconsistency. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“Notes on Nationalism” (May 1945)
Added on 13-Feb-12 | Last updated 9-Mar-21
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