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Cicero's Practical Philosophy

Walter Nicgorski

Publication Year: 2012

Cicero’s Practical Philosophy marks a revival over the last two generations of serious scholarly interest in Cicero’s political thought. Its nine original essays by a multidisciplinary group of distinguished international scholars manifest close study of Cicero’s philosophical writings and great appreciation for him as a creative thinker, one from whom we can continue to learn. This collection focuses initially on Cicero’s major work of political theory, his De Re Publica, and the key moral virtues that shape his ethics, but the contributors attend to all of Cicero’s primary writings on political community, law, the ultimate good, and moral duties. Room is also made for Cicero’s extensive writings on the art of rhetoric, which he explicitly draws into the orbit of his philosophical writings. Cicero’s concern with the divine, with epistemological issues, and with competing analyses of the human soul are among the matters necessarily encountered in pursuing, with Cicero, the large questions of moral and political philosophy, namely, what is the good and genuinely happy life and how are our communities to be rightly ordered.

The volume also reprints Walter Nicgorski’s classic essay “Cicero and the Rebirth of Political Philosophy,” which helped spark the current revival of interest in Cicero the philosopher.
“This well-planned and exceptionally well-written collection of articles brings together leading Cicero scholars of our day on a carefully chosen set of topics. As such, this book is an invaluable account of the current state of Cicero studies, while advancing those studies.” —Gerard Wegemer, University of Dallas

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

The publication of this volume of essays on Cicero’s practical philosophy is indebted to those who helped conceive of the symposium that brought together the scholars whose work is presented here, those who supported and facilitated it, and those who participated either as authors and primary speakers or as commentators...


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p. xiii-xiii

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pp. 1-13

The first nine essays featured in this book were presented in initial form at a symposium on Cicero’s practical philosophy late in 2006 at the University of Notre Dame. 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...

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1. Cicero’s De Re Publica and the Virtues of the Statesman

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pp. 14-42

In dealing with a fragmentary philosophical text such as Cicero’s De Re Publica,1 it is more than usually difficult to perform the basic tasks of scholarly interpretation: to characterize plausibly the main lines of argument and the structure of the exposition, to notice the deployment of recurring themes, to examine the relationship to any literary models...

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2. The Fourth Virtue

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pp. 43-57

This essay is a study of a marriage between two ways of conceptualizing officia, our duties or obligations, as what the morally “fine” or the virtues require of us, or as what is incumbent upon us on account of the roles or characters we play in life—our persona or personae. The text in which the harmonization of these two different approaches to officia is attempted is Book 1 of...

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3. Philosophical Life versus Political Life: An Impossible Choice for Cicero?

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pp. 58-78

The ways of life in antiquity have been the subject matter of many studies.1 Some of these studies are focused specifically on the case of Cicero, who is indeed especially interesting since he presents a fine example of the assimilation of philosophical themes into a different society from the one out of which those themes had arisen. We shall not dwell on the works we evoked, but we shall...

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4. Cicero’s Constantia in Theory and Practice

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pp. 79-112

Cicero’s interest in philosophy was both theoretical and practical. He wrote extensively on the philosophical schools of his day and also related his own practical circumstances to the philosophical views that he held.1 The extent to which his theoretical philosophical affiliations affected his practical and political behavior is a subject that interested Cicero himself...

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5. Cicero and the Perverse: The Origins of Error in De Legibus 1 and Tusculan Disputations 3

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pp. 113-132

I am here concerned with what we might call the problem of the perverse in Cicero’s ethics. Briefly put, the problem is this. Though presenting himself as a skeptic in some matters, Cicero does not wish to give up on the concept of a divinely conferred human nature. He strongly favors a cosmology in which all events are arranged for the...

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6. Radical and Mitigated Skepticism in Cicero’s Academica

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pp. 133-151

Throughout his philosophical dialogues, Cicero characterizes the Academic method as a mitigated skepticism: certainty is beyond our reach, but by arguing pro and contra, one is able to draw out and give shape to the truth or its nearest approximation (Acad. 2.7). Given the consistency with which Cicero practices and defends this method, it is surprising that he also appears to endorse an incompatible...

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7. The Politico-Philosophical Character of Cicero’s Verdict in De Natura Deorum

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pp. 152-180

“The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.”1 Those words begin Cosmos, the widely hailed book by the eminent scientist Carl Sagan. Sagan made great contributions to our thinking about the universe by applying to it the method of modern science. That method required him to be open to new suggestions about the cosmos and skeptical of received wisdom...

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8. Between Urbs and Orbis: Cicero's Conception of the Political Community

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pp. 181-211

The articulation of models of political community in the Western philosophical tradition was, before Cicero’s time, a distinctively Greek enterprise carried on by Plato, Aristotle, and their successors in the various schools of Hellenistic philosophy. The models available to Cicero in this tradition thus bear the imprint of Greek, not Roman, experiences: the experience of the Greek...

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9. Cicero on Property and the State

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pp. 212-241

Even a cursory reading of Cicero’s letters reveals a man who took a keen interest in his properties and who devoted a great deal of attention to managing his wealth. We know, too, from his activities in the courts and in the Senate, that he made a career out of courting Rome’s wealthy classes and working steadfastly on their behalf. Perhaps it would come as no surprise to find that a member...

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Appendix: Cicero and the Rebirth of Political Philosophy

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pp. 242-282

Judged by the conventional standard of the number of monographs, scholarly articles, and dissertations on Cicero’s philosophy, regard for Cicero as a serious thinker or even a serious political thinker is indeed low. The number of such items appearing in America in the last generation can be tallied on one hand, or perhaps two, depending on how one would classify several marginal...


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pp. 283-297

Index of Citations of Cicero

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pp. 298-304

General Index

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pp. 305-313

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780268087630
E-ISBN-10: 0268087636
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268036652
Print-ISBN-10: 0268036659

Page Count: 336
Illustrations: NA
Publication Year: 2012