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On Obligations (Oxford World's Classics)

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  954 ratings  ·  33 reviews
Cicero wrote On Obligations (De Officiis) in late 44 BC after the assassination of Julius Caesar to provide principles of behavior for aspiring politicians. It has subsequently played a seminal role in the formation of ethical values in western Christendom. Adopted by the fourth-century Christian humanists, it became transmuted into the moral code of the high Middle Ages. ...more
Paperback, Oxford World's Classics, 288 pages
Published May 8th 2008 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published -44)
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Jared Smith
De Officiis, or “On Duties,” was the second book printed on Gutenberg’s printing press. Apparently, Gutenberg and his other contemporaries knew how important the press was so they wanted to give props to the Bible, as the most important book ever written/compiled—but along those lines he decided to print Cicero’s classic shortly thereafter. Cicero wrote this book as a series of letters to his prodigal child, who had little ambition to be a correct man, like his father was. Consequently, it reads ...more

Difficile de lire sans émotion ce texte, le dernier que Cicéron a laissé avant son assassinat par les spadassins de Marc Antoine : rédigé après la mort de César, il s'adresse à son fils et traite de la morale. C'est également le testament politique d'un homme qui a consacré sa vie à la République et qui, retiré dans sa maison de campagne, est le témoin impuissant de sa dissolution progressive. Le ton est donc lourd, car l'auteur ne peut pardonner à Caius César d'avoir déclenché la guerre civile,
The original, and until about a century ago, the most popular discussion of why it's better to be admired than feared. From the 16th through the 19 centuries anyone in public life who considered himself educated and moral had to be intimately familiar with this book, written by Cicero as an essay to his son in his last year, before he was murdered by some of Mark Antony's thugs. Machiavelli wrote specifically against this book in The Prince. If you want to know why it's ALWAYS wrong to torture, ...more
I hope that people still read Latin works. This is an especially good one, presenting Cicero's ethics as a letter written to his son. One gains insights in stoic philosophy, not irrelevant to our own times by any means. I like the Loeb Classical Library editions of Greek and Latin works; the original language on the left and English translation on the facing page enables one to read the original (If one can, and I'm somewhat limited with my Latin and a neophyte with Greek) and then easily check ...more
Cicero considered this work on moral duties to be his masterpiece. Given his large output, as well as the wide scope of his influence, this is saying something. The book is full of practical advice from an elder statesman. It is more practical and common-sensical than it is philosophically rigorous. That will likely only perturb the professional philosophers (well, many of them... it actually did not perturb this one too much). I enjoyed the book immensely - which is nice since I undertook its r ...more
Gregg Jones
Cicero was a small guy in a big pond where bigger fish lived. He did realize that most (including himself) were not equal under Roman Society and this brought him into trouble with guys like Ceaser and Anthony. Cicero's last theoretical work and contains his analysis, in a Greek theoretical framework, of the political and ethical values of the Roman governing class in the late Republic. It has often been treated merely as a key to the Greek philosophical works that Cicero used, but this volume a ...more
Nov 14, 2008 James rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all who aspire to understand justice
This is a book of political and philosophical advice from an internally-exiled father, a former ruler and lawmaker, to his coming-of-age son. It is by turns brilliant and maddening in its reasoning: if any reader can tell me what 'seemliness' actually means--aside from decorum and conventionality--I'd love to hear it. Book I at first reads like a Roman version of the speech delivered by windbag Polonius to his son Laertes in *Hamlet,* when Laertes is about to go off to school in Paris: good and ...more
Peter Lech
Written in the fall of 44 BCE, when any hope of salvaging the republic was lost, Cicero, in virtual exile, composes a book which draws from the ethical precepts of the Stoics, especially Panaetius of Rhodes, the 2nd cent. Stoic philosopher. Cicero is not writing a philosophical treatise, as he admits, but a work aimed at the general reader, and in particular his son, currently studying in Athens; it is claimed to be a sort of help for certain moral/ethical dilemmas. Cicero is at his best when he ...more
Richard Thomason
An excellent translation, with just the right of amount of introduction to set the context of philosophical thought. The prose is lucid and of utterly consistent register; it echoes Cicero well.
Ross Cohen
Despite his repetitive delivery, Cicero offers a sensible guide for understanding how our words and deeds can be, and ought to be, useful and honorable.
Jason Goetz
As a historical figure Cicero's achievements are second to none (or to very few, should I say), but as a writer he is irritating--vain, snooty, and not the easiest to read because he uses terms that sound like they mean the same thing but don't quite mean the same thing. In the realm of ethical treatises this falls well short of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics and Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments. I would therefore highly recommend his speeches--which made him the historical figure he is--above ...more
Aaron Crofut
Can't say I was really impressed. We live for pleasure, no matter what any Stoic may say. The last parts of Book 2 and most of Book 3 have some important points, in particular on the nature of the state and its maintenance, but most of that had already been covered in De Re Publica. I know Cicero had an important impact on philosophy (in particular in expanding the Latin language to include so many Greek concepts), but Cicero himself was not a first rate philosopher.
Christian Dibblee
Ancient, but one of the better treatises on ethics. For Cicero, justice is the ultimate virtue and anything that is honorable is also useful. I quite like the idea that men are bound by a common bond and that, therefore, honorable conduct is the most useful. Cicero is perhaps too Stoic for my taste, believing virtue to be the only good. That said, his advocacy for an anti-Macchiavellian political approach is encouraging.
Wisdom. Justice. Courage. Temperance. The parallels between Cicero's time during the disintegration of the Republic, and the rise of absolutist rule to the contemporary American (and to an extent, global) political situation should entice everyone to read his suggestions. Anyone seeking a little moral direction proffered in a straightforward manner need look no further.
That Machiavelli reverses several of this fellows maxims while in a similar political situation seems like more than coincidence to me. More evidence that The Prince is an occasional work.

But I've never taught this in relation to Machiavelli. Rather, it was a third and final step in preparing students to begin to take the Nicomachean Ethics said somewhat seriously.
Even two thousand years after it was written, this is still a paramount text on what an honorable man must do. Despite his lack of credentials as a philosopher, Cicero writes a very compact and concise discourse on duties and ethics that should be read by all people.
As far as sheer wisdom goes, I rank this book as on par with the collected essays of Thoreau. It's hard to imagine being able to live up to the virtuous man envisioned within, but it's a worthy goal.
A very readable translation of Cicero's book of advice to his son. While not all the advice applies to a modern world, it is an interesting book of lessons for people interested in ancient Rome.
Jeffrey Malone
Jun 23, 2012 Jeffrey Malone is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Re-reading this again - though in a new imprint - for the first time in two decades. Main interest here for me is to situate it within the tradition of 'mirror for princes' texts.
Joseph Siegel
One word...awesome. Cicero's letters to his son as the Roman Republic collapses. Every elected official should read this and reflect on the demise of republican Rome.
Recommended by James Schall in Another Sort of Learning, Chapter 4, as one of several Books You'll Never Be Graded on Except by Reality.
William Prueter
Mar 22, 2007 William Prueter rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Political philosophy
Shelves: ancientromans
Go to Click on my Latin page. Click on books read. Click on Marcus Tullius Cicero. Scrool down to 545.
Jim Hurley
A book that would benefit anyone that reads it. Amazingly, still pertinent today.
Rob Roy
Interesting how advise given over two thousand years ago is still relevant.
I will have to read this a dozen more times before I can say anything about it.
to quote Eusebius, "bless that pure heart."
Stephanos Athenasios
Not too far into this one, just yet...
Davin Vounasis
Must be read once a year.
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January 3, 106 BCE – December 7, 43 BCE

Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. Cicero is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.
More about Marcus Tullius Cicero...
Selected Works On the Republic/On the Laws Selected Political Speeches On the Good Life The Nature of the Gods

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“Law applied to its extreme is the greatest injustice” 56 likes
“Il y a encore de certains devoirs à remplir envers même de qui nous avons reçu une injure; car la vengeance et la punition ont aussi leurs bornes. Je ne sais même si repentir de celui qui a fait l'injure ne suffirait pas et pour l'empêcher d'en faire une semblable à l'avenir et pour retenir les autres dans le devoir.” 3 likes
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