Saturday, May 9, 2009

13 Marcus Tulius Cicero

The Romans were pratical people, not like the Greek primarily interested in abstract epistemological discourse. And Cicero was such a Roman.

His style is eclectic, which means that he selected ideas of several philosophical schools to serve his purposes, schools like the Academic Skeptics, descendants of Plato's school, Aristotelian views, the Stoics and Epicureans.

It would be too much to elaborate on all these specific philosophical schools and how they influenced Cicero. Let is have a closer look on how they played a part in Cicero's philosophical ideas.

Cicero was a politician and lawyer and his main concern was the proper functioning of the community. And in his days it wasn't a simple matter with all kinds of political changes and events(106 - 43 B.C)

The Academic Skeptics had adopted the Socratic method of questioning everything, especially the question whether man could be certain in his knowledge. The Skeptics criticized all claims of certainty.

Cicero didnt embrass this view fully. In some areas it micht be true bur not in ethics and politics. In these areas he was more inclined to follow the Stoics, who claimed than man should pursue virtue.

The Stoics argued, as Socrates had, that the best, most virtuous, and most divine life was one lived according to reason, not according to the search for pleasure. Through reason man would know the natural law.

We all share reason and knowledge of the natural law and this made humanity as a whole a kind of community. And by following reason we improve this community. That is what politics, public debates on community issues, are for, to make human laws that followed the natural law.

Circero had a disdain for the Epicurean philosophy. He interpreted Epicurus views as a plea for pursueing pleasure only. Not a correct interpretation because for Epicurus was pleasure also the abscence of pain. So drinking a lot of wine might be a pleasure but at the end a headache, so unlimited drinking of wine as such is not a pleasure to pursue.

In Circero we don't meet primarily an original thinker, but a man who collected a number of ideas which were popular in his time and used them for his political goals.

He wanted a society in which we could accept that in certain areas we can not have certainty in knowledge and that we should go on questioning things, but as a community we should also be guided by reason. Not striving for the greatest pleasure, but trying to live according to natural law, which we learn to understand through reason.

And with him we have entered an aera in which the well-being of man will be the main theme and the question how to live a good life.

As a final remark.....there is a high quality philosophy site, which I happened to find: The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy ( It is worth is visit , if you want good articles. ut one warning: they are more difficult than Wikipedia articles.

The Discussion

[13:13] herman Bergson: As you Cicero we see all ideas of his time..
[13:13] herman Bergson: If you have any remarks or questions..plz feel free
[13:14] You: would it be right to say that we see his thougths appear with Hobbes thinking on man and society
[13:15] herman Bergson: there will be several philosopher throughout history that think along these lines
[13:15] herman Bergson: Thomas More with Utopia for instance too
[13:15] herman Bergson: Leviathan of Hobbes, yes
[13:15] You: ok ta
[13:16] herman Bergson: I think we'll see two main streams ...
[13:16] herman Bergson: actually it already started with the Politeia by Plato...
[13:16] herman Bergson: the philosopher thinking about society and the philosopher thinking about science
[13:17] herman Bergson: the later will arise in the Renaissance
[13:18] AristotleVon Doobie: I see a pattern in the inclination to suppress man's primative urges.
[13:19] herman Bergson: yes....with Epicurus and with the Stoa it was strong
[13:19] Cailleach Shan: Herman would you talk a little about Cicero's 6 Paradoxes.... I disagree with all but one.
[13:20] herman Bergson: A kind of general tendency in man....the striving for pleasure and the dinial of pleasure...and the searching for a balance...
[13:20] herman Bergson: I am sorry I missed that ine Cailleach..which paradoxes?
[13:21] Cailleach Shan: Oh... Moral worth is the only good. Virture is sufficient for happiness, All sins and virtues are equal, Every fool is insane, Only the wise man is really free, Only the wise man is really rich...... I am copying these.
[13:22] herman Bergson: I see....
[13:22] herman Bergson: Well these are in line with greek philosophy....
[13:23] herman Bergson: the believe that reason is the highest thing to value in man
[13:23] herman Bergson: Morally good is following reason for instance
[13:24] herman Bergson: and there is one interesting point to mention...
[13:25] herman Bergson: To know that something was true, when based on sensory input, was deduced by reason, but more important according to the feeling...
[13:26] herman Bergson: Kind of saying that to know that one sensory experience is true (what I see e.g.) and another is false ( a dream e.g.) was justified by refering to the accompanying feeling
[13:27] herman Bergson: It may be a reference to Platonism in the sense, that our reason 'remembers the real thing
[13:28] herman Bergson: dont forget....a heavy debate is beginning to take shape here....
[13:28] herman Bergson: reason or sensory impressions as source of certainty in knowledge
[13:28] AristotleVon Doobie: Is the Stoics 'feeling' intuitive?
[13:29] herman Bergson: It is closely linked to know
[13:29] herman Bergson: if you can use that word in this context
[13:30] AristotleVon Doobie: Then it must be reasonable.
[13:30] herman Bergson: for the future you constantly should listen to every philosopher and ask yourself: what is prevailing in his approach.....reason or senses
[13:31] Cailleach Shan thinks... boy that's a big 'ask'
[13:31] herman Bergson: Yes Aristotle....I would read it more like reason recognizing the truth in the sensory data becaus of a feeling (of certainty)
[13:31] AristotleVon Doobie: I see.
[13:31] herman Bergson: dont worry Cailleach....
[13:31] herman Bergson: in a way it is my philosophical theme, being educated in epistemology
[13:32] herman Bergson: so I always will pay attention to that discourse
[13:33] You: using that particular lense to view the ideas
[13:33] Maphisto Mapholisto: that's what so good about having you for a teacher, herman
[13:33] herman Bergson: you are right is because of my own philosophical background
[13:33] herman Bergson: thnx Maff
[13:33] You: do you use other lenses ?
[13:34] You: other dicourses
[13:34] herman Bergson: Well.......I am not sure.....I think I do because of my views on man
[13:34] herman Bergson: in a philosophical antropological way
[13:35] herman Bergson: but I wont give you all that now....keep it as a surprise...when the moment is there..:-)
[13:35] Laila Schuman: smiles
[13:35] Cailleach Shan: Whew!!
[13:35] Maphisto Mapholisto: staying tuned
[13:35] You: my brain hurts !
[13:37] hope63 Shepherd: hermans view of man.. i wonder how each of us will fit into the picture:9 but he promised now to tell us :)
[13:37] Rodney Handrick: anyone who is a forward thinker scares the general public
[13:37] herman Bergson: I dont think that is true Cailleach...Plato and Aristotle were very respected scholars in their days
[13:37] Cailleach Shan: eg. Didn't Cicero get beaten up?
[13:37] herman Bergson: His throat was cut and his hands cut off indeed.
[13:37] hope63 Shepherd: dabbbled woith politics..
[13:37] herman Bergson: but Cicero was a politician...and maybe a bit oportunistic...:-)
[13:38] AristotleVon Doobie: Did Cicero have any original thought or would you consider him a plagiarizer?
[13:38] Rodney Handrick: hmm...that makes sense Herman
[13:38] herman Bergson: as he was in his philosophical choices you could say....but they will kill me for that..:-)
[13:38] Maphisto Mapholisto: he was a roman - says it all
[13:38] herman Bergson: Cicero wasnt an original thinker.....
[13:39] hope63 Shepherd: we could all be called a plagiarizer after the greek..
[13:39] Rodney Handrick: A politician taking credit...some things never change
[13:39] herman Bergson: he was practical...used the philosphical ideas for his political statements in the senate..
[13:39] herman Bergson: I disagree Hope....:-)
[13:40] You: science is built one idea at a time
[13:40] You: and then on to each other
[13:40] hope63 Shepherd: well. aren't we all based on the concepts of the greeks,,
[13:40] hope63 Shepherd: we don't use eatern philosophy..
[13:41] AristotleVon Doobie: Well I feel a need to only discern the cream from each Greek.
[13:41] herman Bergson: well....the problems that the greek tried to solve are pretty universal....
[13:41] You: Greek thinking How Hebrew thinking Why any comment
[13:41] herman Bergson: I mean when it rains you get wet....all over the world
[13:41] hope63 Shepherd: konfuzius'
[13:41] hope63 Shepherd: ?
[13:42] Maphisto Mapholisto: true herman
[13:42] herman Bergson: so it is about the answer to that to stay dry that is what we see in history
[13:42] herman Bergson: and these answers to questions develop in time
[13:43] Maphisto Mapholisto: i think epicurus gets a rough deal, falsely accused of shallowness, when i think what he was doing was systematically looking at what made life worthwhile
[13:43] hope63 Shepherd: using a system to stay out of the rain..
[13:43] herman Bergson: I agree Maff.....Epicurus was a man pleading for reason and modesty
[13:44] Maphisto Mapholisto: right on, herman
[13:44] You: why stay out of the rain
[13:44] You: after a drought its great to stand in to
[13:44] AristotleVon Doobie: Indeed.
[13:44] You: the WHY Q
[13:44] Maphisto Mapholisto: because in the rain life is nasty brutish and short, Os
[13:44] herman Bergson: dont take the metaphore too far...
[13:44] hope63 Shepherd: ever been to a desert maff?
[13:44] You: seen
[13:45] herman Bergson: what I meant is that not the question but the development of answers make history
[13:46] hope63 Shepherd: sorry. herman.. no interaction between studends.. does get us further
[13:46] Cailleach Shan thought life was quite simple really
[13:46] herman Bergson: Well.......I think we made a number of good remarks and observation...
[13:47] hope63 Shepherd: development through questions..
[13:47] herman Bergson: yes...the questions may look the same through time..the answers arent
[13:47] herman Bergson: so I dont think we just copied the greek all the time
[13:48] hope63 Shepherd: i didn't say copy.. but we base our way of thinking on theirs..

[13:48] herman Bergson: Let's leave it to this and see that the next philosopher has to say
[13:48] Cailleach Shan: They gave us some good foundations stones Ithink
[13:48] herman Bergson: an interesting fellow...Philo of Allexandria
[13:49] herman Bergson: Yes Cailleach...and many more to come..:-)
[13:49] hope63 Shepherd: finally egypt.. my favorite :)
[13:49] herman Bergson: yes....and eastern influences..:-)
[13:50] herman Bergson: Thank you for your attention and good discussion..:-)

Posted by herman_bergson on 2007-10-31 05:03:44

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