I just learned about the "All things being equal" tool in philosophy and am trying to see if the following passage from Plato's Republic is an example of it. The snippet from the passage goes like this:

If it is complete lack of perception, like a dreamless sleep, then death would be a great advantage. For I think that if one had to pick out that night during which a man slept soundly and did not dream, put beside it the other nights and days of his life, and then see how many days and nights had been better and more pleasant than that night, not only a private person but the great king would find them easy to count compared with the other days and nights. If death is like this I say it is an advantage, for all eternity would then seem to be no more than a single night.

I have an inner intuition that this is an example of using Ceteris Paribus but I'm not really sure how to locate it exactly. English isn't my first language so I'm wondering if someone could help me pinpoint if this is actually an example or not.

  • 1
    A ceteris paribus clause is simply a stipulation added to a conditional claim to prevent it from being technically false without explicitly listing all preconditions and possible exceptions, e.g. "being rich is better than being poor, other things being equal" (so if poverty turned out to offer some spiritual advantages the claim does not apply). I suppose the passage you quote can be read as "if death were like a dreamless sleep, then it is better than most days, other things being equal", but that seems like a stretch.
    – Conifold
    Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 1:29
  • It would be helpful if you could give a reference for the quote, so that people can look up the context.
    – user2953
    Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 6:38

1 Answer 1


Whether or not one is using ceteris paribus (OTHER, not ALL things being equal), doesn't seem to me to be a useful question. One may employ it specifically, but a Plato is not explicitly employing it here.

Is he insinuating it? I would say yes, but only because most people insinuate it most of the time anyway. If one wishes to stress that one is aware of unaddressed differences that could render one's claim valid or invalid, then one would explicitly add "other things being equal."

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