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Epictetus, Discourses D. Diogenes Laertius Ep.


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Seneca, Epistulae Inst. It was an event to mark and, one might even say, to celebrate the renewal of serious interest in Cicero as a thinker that had occurred in the Western world over the previous two generations. Little more than a decade earlier, Jonathan Powell's col- lection of essays Cicero the Philosopher had appeared in Great Britain and sought then to mark the change in regard for Cicero by a presen- tation of a rich array of European scholarship on various aspects of his philosophical writings. The symposium at Notre Dame brought together a cross section of those who have done significant thinking and research about Cicero as philosopher.

A critical edge was not to be sacrificed to celebrating Cicero except, perhaps, in one respect, that being the shared recognition that Cicero was worthy of the renewed serious interest. The celebrations on both sides of the Atlantic were manifestations that Cicero had much to offer as a philosopher and that his writings withstood serious critical engagement. They were indications that the study of Cicero had finally been liberated from the long shadow 1 2 Cicero's Practical Philosophy Theodor Mommsen's mid-nineteenth-century critiques of Cicero had cast especially in the Anglo-American scholarly world.

They repre- sented some fulfillment of the nearly despairing hope expressed by A. Douglas as late as that there be some movement from the "contempt" for and "neglect" of Cicero's philosophical writings that was the bitter fruit of the previous century 1 That movement was on the way in the decades that followed. Over that period there was a collective reconsideration and deepening appreciation of Cicero as philosopher. Elizabeth Rawson, a judicious modern biographer of Cicero, reflected this larger development when, upon issuing the second edition of her life of Cicero, she confessed that after ten years of further work on Cicero she found him possessed of "greater intellectual maturity" than most of the thinkers of his time and in fact saw him usually tran- scending his time.

The repub- lication in the Appendix of my essay on the state of Cicero studies especially in political science allows a fuller view of where matters stood early in the renewal of the last two generations. It also reminds readers that criticism of Cicero the philosopher was not wholly absent from Western experience before Mommsen's severe judgment.

As a general biographer of Cicero, Rawson's judgment of Cicero's writing and thinking was likely bound up with a judgment of Cicero the man and political actor and leader. Though Mommsen's extension of his negative judgment on Cicero as politician and statesman to his character and his philosophical writings is abrupt, careless, and seemingly lacking in engagement with those writings, Cicero himself seems to have wanted to be judged as a whole, though, to be sure, he wanted to be judged fairly.

He looked at his life and writings as one fabric, the latter as but another form of his action for the long-term well-being of his political community. He would not have welcomed praise based on a distinction of his philosophical writings from his political efforts or, for that matter, on a separation of his style from his substance. The importance of overall consistency to Cicero, especially in his public actions, is highlighted and explored in Catherine Tracy's essay in this volume. Introduction 3 It is, however, a sensible and thus understandable tendency, espe- cially with respect to Cicero given all the controversies surrounding his life and achievements, that one be able to assess his practical politics a failure or disappointing in some ways and still embrace as significant the substance of his philosophical writings, that one be able to see him as a master of Latin prose and the supreme orator and yet think that he used these talents in political efforts that were on the whole not admirable.

In this spirit and even still in Mommsen's nineteenth century, J. Reid protested that the severe judgment of Cicero the philosopher that he frequently encountered was based on "wholly insufficient grounds. In the light of these, it is no surprise to find that he was for so many during the Renaissance the ancient model of what we have come to take as the Renaissance man.

His major achievements were sixfold: as orator, as student and scholar of the art of rhetoric, as lawyer and legal theorist, as statesman, as philosopher, and finally as a very active and revealing correspondent. In a sense, Cicero's orations are both first and last among his achievements. First, because through his oratorical ability he initially gained public notice and positioned himself for elevation to public office.

They are last for Cicero because they remain today the most ac- claimed and least controversial of Cicero's achievements. We now have the texts of some fifty-eight orations by Cicero, some polished toward perfection and never actually delivered.

DecoraciĆ³n cargada de estilo, personalidad y calidad.

His oratorical achievement seems clearly to be the fruit of the art of rhetoric coupled with his natural talent. He began to study the art at least as early as his ado- lescent years. His masterful achievement in that art was recorded in seven books of his, the chief being his three-book dialogue De Oratore. This work and all the other of his rhetorical writings but one appeared 4 Cicero's Practical Philosophy in the last thirteen years of his sixty-three years of life and after his formal political service was completed, after, in other words, he had held the highest office in Rome and had already begun to suffer from decisions he made in that office and from the overall condition of faction-ridden Rome in those last days of the Republic.

Like the study of the art of rhetoric, so the study of law Ob- serving law's leading practitioners and thinking about its foundations in the very nature of things was a discipline to which Cicero sub- mitted from his earliest years. First, his father it appears, then Cicero himself, held a conviction that rhetorical ability coupled with legal knowledge and skills would equip one to elevate oneself on the stage of Roman politics.

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Cicero in the courtroom represents then one of the two major venues for his oratorical ability as well, of course, for his legal knowledge and skills. His interests and achievements in this sphere as well as his deep probing of the foundations of all true law are represented in his dialogue De Legibus. The law then, like the art of rhetoric, was first taken up as a nec- essary piece of equipment for the life of political leadership, of states- manship. Cicero's achievement as political leader and statesman was indeed one of his significant accomplishments. He held all the major offices in the Roman Republic at the earliest possible age, including the highest elective office, that of consul.

Assessment of how he led and governed has often turned on how one thinks about his struggle for the Republic over against the emerging popularly based tyranny of Caesar. Cicero's achievement in philosophy is, of course, the basis for the scholarly renewal this volume celebrates. Cicero turned with a much- remarked-upon intensity to philosophical writing in the last dozen years of his life, after he had held the office of counsel and was suf- fering the recriminations just noted. In that time, from approximately 55 B. While his love of philosophy and recognition of its importance was evident from his earliest years, his turn to philosophy in late life was for him a way to serve the Republic's possible future when the emerging tyranny and violence of Roman politics was closing the forum and courts to his oral eloquence.

Introduction 5 It is fair to Cicero and necessary to completeness at this point to add a word about Cicero the letter-writer. Remarkably and again like no other ancient thinker in quantitative terms, Cicero has left more than nine hundred letters between himself and friends and family, allies and enemies, associates in business and those with philo- sophical interests.

In the material of these letters, we have in effect the first autobiography.


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These letters are not, of course, a polished whole book as is Augustine's Confessions, but in these letters the soul and struggles of Cicero are bared to view, sometimes embarrassingly so. He confesses his weaknesses and matters of confusion; he explains his intent and his efforts in constructing certain of his written texts, including the dialogue of special importance to this volume, De Re Publica.

So the very human Cicero at the center of his heroic-like ac- complishments is brought before readers. Besides the issue of fairness in how one handles disappointment with one or another of the many facets of Cicero's talents and achievements, there is the prudential consideration for some of not wanting to take on at once all or many of the controversies surrounding Cicero and thus necessarily a number of those regarding the complex politics of the late Roman Republic. This understandable desire to dis- tinguish aspects of Cicero's life and achievement seems to have brought Leo Strauss to a very interesting question.

Strauss appears at one point to want to bracket and set aside Cicero's concrete political judgments and actions while appreciating his philosophical work, in this instance appreciating the political defense of philosophy that constitutes an im- portant theme of that work. Strauss had compared Cicero's political action on behalf of philosophy to Plato's and then observed that this political action has nothing in common with Cicero's actions against Catiline and for Pompey.

It seems that Strauss is concerned that philosophy's defense in a certain way can give rise to a philosophy and science unrelated to the citizen's and statesman's horizons of political engagement, of necessary decisions about the good.

Rather, active political life and leadership may appear simply as forms of data to be explained in a science of politics, if not the science of psychology, both in the service of a comprehensive 6 Cicero's Practical Philosophy philosophy or science of humankind. Strauss's wonder then may allow us to understand better why Cicero's distinctively practical philosophy has often seemed alien and even unphilosophical to the dominant strains of philosophy in the post-Enlightenment world. However much Cicero's political actions are seen as related or unrelated to his philosophical work, there is an overlap in the meth- odology that students of each are now, in a period of greater respect for Cicero, drawn to follow.

It is the caveat that one must pay close attention to Cicero's own words, and we have, indeed, many words of his in various genres to which to attend. Early in the shift on Cicero in the last couple of generations, W. Lacey began his historical study of Cicero's role in the late Roman Republic with such sensible advice. How much of his testimony they believe, and which parts, will make them produce differing interpretations, but Cicero must himself always be consulted first about what he thought of the situation in the Roman res publica.

E Powell opens his essay here describing what he is doing and I would add, what is happening in this volume as a whole as in accord with the emphasis of recent times, namely, as an effort "to interpret Cicero on his own terms. Graver, early in her essay, remarks that "we do not neces- sarily deny Cicero's intellectual agency when we grant that many of the arguments he employs have a significant philosophical prehistory.

Earlier in intro- ducing her translation and commentary on the Tusculans Books 3 and 4 , she had noted her commitment to follow Cicero's "argument on its own terms," for he is "well-informed about his subject through many sources, oral and written, that are now lost to us, and his treatment is both intelligent and relatively impartial. The scholarship assembled here and developed from that basis makes clear again that, as T. Wiseman once remarked, Cicero matters.

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Writing well into this period of a Ciceronian renewal as he reviewed scholarship on Cicero the political leader and philosopher, Wiseman observed that "Cicero matters not just to classical scholars" but because his political career "for all its failings and compromises stood for the rule of law against the rule of force," and he matters because he gifted us with "a literary corpus that effectively defined our civilization's concepts of humanitas and the liberal virtues.

Mommsen was wrong," continued Wiseman. Present in the Notre Dame symposium was a celebration of the space and air for scholarly balance and with it a contribution to the growing rediscovery of the riches in thought and action of one of the truly remarkable figures in our Western tradition. Cicero's achievement, of course, transcends the conventional disciplinary lines, lines that too often have walled off various com- munities of scholars and their discourse from each other.

The Notre Dame symposium sought to bring into conversation specialists in po- litical theory, ancient philosophy, classics, history, Latin, and Roman literature. One of the delights of the meetings here was the confessed mutual discovery of the significance and quality of work focused on Cicero being done outside of one or another's specific community of discourse. Notre Dame's celebration of the renewal of Cicero studies sought also to contribute to building some bridges over the gaps in direct contact between different generations of Cicero scholars and between European and American Cicero nians.

Cicero and Latin Prose

It was also an effort to pay specific attention to Cicero's practical philosophy and thus to bring scholarly illumination to bear on a dimension of Cicero's thinking that has been especially valued by the educated public down 8 Cicero's Practical Philosophy through the years and that arguably might provide the key to a greater understanding of the coherence of Cicero's overall philosophy. A few words follow about this concept of "practical philosophy," which gave title to the symposium as it does to this book.

In the case of Cicero and his writings, this translates into his De Re Publica, De Legibus, De Finibus, and De Officiis, his primary writings on political community, law, the ultimate good, and moral duties. These texts and their primary topics should not be taken as narrowly and exclusively definitive of the range of concerns that might and often do enter Cicero's practical philosophy.