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394 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY not make this contrast clear, however modern, hardly provides an adequate "guide and key" to Aristotle's physical philosophy. ttAao~) D. II~Tz University o] Arkansas The Moral and Political Tradition o] Rome. By Donald Earl. (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1967.Pp. 167) This work, a condensed though by no means over-simplified synthesis addressed to the general reader, canvasses a theme of critical significance; for never before has it been so important that the moral and political traditions underlying our civilization be understood. Donald Earl's work is at least in part a protest against a type of historiography of ancient Rome, since it is written with an awareness of the important truth that it is necessary to understand the Romans in the terms in which they understood themselves, without imposing external criteria. Taking primarily the historians as distinguished from the philosophers of Rome as evidence, Earl contends that the Romans judged themselves by "moral" rather than economic or demographic criteria. As a fact about Romans, this seems trivially true, for every member of every society has judged himself in some moral terms; as a fact about Roman historians, it is both true and significant, for not all historians prefer moral to economic criteria. It is Earl's ancillary thesis that, Roman moral judgment being invariably hostile to philosophy, "the practice of politics and statecraft was not affected by the theories of philosophy" (p. 39). This contention is also true in a trivial sense if it is meant that the Romans did not apply philosophic theories to their everyday political actions; it is dubious, if not false, if it is meant that no Roman statesman believed or claimed there was an intimate connection between philosophic principles and statecraft. It would be hard to deny that certain actions of Marcus Aurelius or Julian are examples of the effects of philosophy on the practice of statecraft. It would be impossible to explain Cicero's contention that philosophy is in fact the master of statecraft, v/rtus, "political reasoning" and "discipline of the people" (De re pub. III, 4-5; Tusc. disp. V, 2). Cicero, in referring to the bene ]acta or virtutes of the Greek philosophers, integrated their moral teachings into the moral tradition of Rome. Earl doubtless would regard Cicero's claims as pieces of unRoman nonsense. However open this is to question, it seems dubious that the writings on moral subjects of Cicero, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius, not to mention Plotinus (who Romans could consult in Victorinus' translation) or Plutarch (who wrote in Greek but on subjects dear to Roman hearts) can be simply excluded from the "moral tradition" of Rome. Earl's exclusion of the philosophic evidence changes an old image of the moral tradition of Rome. What is the new image? Sallust, Livy, Tacitus, and Ammianus reveal the set of "attitudes, emotions and sentiments" which can scarcely be dignified with "the name of thought" (p. 131), the "most cherished cliches" (p. 132) of the Romans, gloria, lama and virtus. Virtus, the central clich6 (pp. 20ft.), "consisted in the winning of personal preeminence and glory by the commission of great deeds in the service of the Roman state" (p. 20). This means that Roman tradition was invariably hostile to "the private cultivation of personal virtue" (p. 23). It is notable that by virtus Sallnst, says Earl, means something "personal and individual" (p. 48). Earl has not asked himself how any concept of manly excellence can exclude the private "cultivation of personal virtue." He connects the Roman hostility towards private cultivation of virtue with the Roman hostility towards philosophy (cf. pp. 41-42, 71-72). But it might be argued that Roman philosophers like Cicero gave coherence to the notion of v/rtus, manly excellence, by scrutinizing it for its own presuppositions. Cicero's definition of virtus as "perfect mind" and "complete reason" (Tuse. disp. V, 39, never mentioned by Earl) is not merely Stoic and unRoman nonsense. Admittedly, Cicero says the philosophers despise belief in bodily strength, health, beauty, riches, distinctions, and wealth (Tusc. disp. V, 30), all things constitutive of the vulgar Roman idea of virtus. But Cato despised ostentation and luxury and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 394-395
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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