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On the Good Life

3.98  ·  Rating Details ·  1,360 Ratings  ·  51 Reviews
Librarian Note: See Alternate Cover Edition HERE.

This volume brings together his tentative and undogmatic reflections on the good life, in which he discusses duty, friendship, the training of a statesman, and the importance of moral integrity in the search for happiness.

1. discussions at Tusculum (V)- 2. on duties (Ii) --
3. Laelius: On Friendship --
4. on the orator (I) --
Paperback, Penguin classic, 384 pages
Published September 30th 1971 by Penguin
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Richard Munro This is a very good question. Especially when one considers the historic popularity of Cicero prior to the 19th century. The reason has to be the…moreThis is a very good question. Especially when one considers the historic popularity of Cicero prior to the 19th century. The reason has to be the influence of the German school of philosophy and the German historical school. A good book to read about Cicero's influence is the CLASSICAL TRADITION by Gilbert Highet. The Ciceronian style was the style of the church, of the universities, of the Jesuits. So there was a reaction against his style and influence. And of course, most philosophers consider Cicero unoriginal and merely an interpreter of other, greater philosophers. So the 19th century so an eclipse of Cicero's reputation, especially, as Michael Grant writes, "as regards to his philosophical writings." Grant offers that the German condemnations of Cicero and Republicanism (instead turning to Nietzche and Marx) helped German politics down its disastrous path of 1914-1945. But I would argue that Cicero combines the best aspects of Stoicism and other Greek philosophies in an eclectic way. As Grant writes "Cicero believe in individual human beings. He believed in their rights and their responsibilities and their freedom to make decisions without detailed interference from heaven and destiny." Read the 44 page introduction by Michael Grant in this book and Highet's commentary on the influence of Cicero.

Community Reviews

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Cassandra Kay Silva
Jun 02, 2011 Cassandra Kay Silva rated it it was amazing
One of the main issues that I think atheists have to contend with is the question "if there is no god, why be moral?" or to say that morality cannot exist without religion. This provides a lot of answers that are though old very sound to such an argument. He gives a lot of ideas why morality leads to happiness. Why people would choose virtue over vice and so forth, leaving religion out of the question. He offers stories of many in the town and those of popular favor (luckily I had just read Plat ...more
Jacob Stubbs
Jan 11, 2012 Jacob Stubbs rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
So, it's always nice when I read an author that I agree with. I loved Cicero's "On Friendship" dialogue. His view of friendship is both Stoic and Christian in its own sort of way. His "Discussions at Tusculum (Book V)" is a little more tricky. At first glance, it seems that he is advocating a Stoic view; however, his last paragraph, where he explains that he, himself, cannot even live up to the conditions he set forth for attaining Happiness. This means that something more is going on (Rumour ha ...more
Stephen Heiner
Jun 12, 2017 Stephen Heiner rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics
Of course, Cicero never wrote a book called, "On the Good Life." Rather, this is a collection named such by a translator. The texts we consider in this little volume include:

Discussions at Tusculum
On Duties
Laelius: On Friendship
On the Orator
The Dream of Scipio

Each of these works has their highlights and while many of us remember Cicero as the major part of our third year Latin studies (rightfully so, his Latin is wonderful), he's also a great transmitter of Greek thought, not simply in repeating
Oct 06, 2013 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Cicero, after more than two-thousand years, remains a delight to read. This edition, selected and translated by Thomas Habinek, consists mainly of two long excerpts, from the Tusculan Disputations and On Duties. What On Living and Dying Well accomplishes is to remind us once again that the writings of the ancients are as relevant to us today in a way that contemporary philosophers are not.

Nothing is more basic to the human experience than the great Tusculan Disputations. It answers the question
Sep 30, 2007 Erica rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned, classics
I expected grand truths. What else from a writer whose works have survived so long, who's influenced so many philosophers and authors over centuries? Apparently not. I kept plowing through all the circular rubbish ("All good things are enjoyable. What is enjoyable deserves credit and pride; that is to say, it is glorious: and, if so, it must be praiseworthy. What is praiseworthy has to be morally good: therefore goodness means moral goodness" - ???) deciding that, "hey, if it's not making any se ...more
Jan 28, 2008 Danielle rated it it was amazing
In a world where religiosity is often confused with 'goodness', it is always refreshing to read an ancient treatise on true 'goodness', and to realize that is aligns nicely with your own philosophy. Cicero states in a manner very difficult to refute that to attain those ideals that makes up the very best of humans automatically leads to happiness- courage, wisdom, and moral integrity.
Jul 15, 2011 Alston rated it it was ok

The further I went with this text, the more predictable and tiresome it became. Perhaps my expectations were too high— with someone who's as influential and interesting a figure as Cicero is, I believed this book was going to be more than it turned out to be. To me, Cicero, the writer, did not live up to his reputation as Cicero, the Roman.

The book itself wasn't without redeeming qualities. What we do have, is a splendid historical document! For that purpose, this information is priceless. We

Oct 17, 2009 umberto rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
I also longed to read Cicero's works since I have known that he was brilliant as a second-to-none orator and writer in the Roman world. Moreover, he was a true scholar dedicated to serve the Romans, not merely to serve his superiors for his materialist greed or political position/power.
We readers can learn a lot from his works written some 2,000 years ago as well as from his cool character and scholarly ways of looking at things or at any contemporary event then with unique wisdom and appropriat
Paul Haspel
Jul 25, 2011 Paul Haspel rated it it was amazing
The essays collected in On the Good Life do much to show Cicero's force of intellect, and his influence on the West's intellectual history. Many of these essays date from the grim years after Rome's Civil War, when Cicero saw his beloved Roman Republic falling, to be replaced by an unwelcome new empire. The essays make clear Cicero's dedication to duty, honor, restraint, and personal dignity as core values. My favorites among these essays include “On the Orator,” still essential reading for anyo ...more
Richard Munro
Aug 10, 2011 Richard Munro rated it it was amazing
I have probably read this book a dozen times. I have it in two editions. The introduction by Michael Grant (about 50 pages) is worth the price of this book. I have the original Penguin (which I have had for over 30 years) and I have a beautiful FOLIO edition. Curiously, the FOLIO edition lacks the appendices and index of the PENGUIN book (probably a cost saving measure). This is essentially an anthology of Cicero's philosophic and political essays. Michael Grant was a wonderful author and transl ...more
Feb 07, 2011 Shawn rated it really liked it
Cicero - Roman philosopher, statesman and lawyer from 1st century BC.

The only thing that prevented this from being a 5-star book was the last section (the book is divided into 5 sections) on rhetoric and speeches. Kinda boring.
The section "On Duties" was very good.
The first and main section of the book that deals with morality and happiness was excellent.
But my favorite read was the section "On Friendship." This topic was one of the top 3 philosophical works I've ever read and will probably re-r
Aug 24, 2010 Jesse rated it it was amazing
Extolled endlessly until the industrial revolution, these philosophical writings are a great pleasure to read and contemplate upon. Though they are easy and leisurely, rather than vigorous and thorough, they have impacted the world to an inestimable degree, and were the impetus to much thinking during the Enlightenment, of Hume's and Jefferson's to name but two. Recreational reading of the highest order, this collection is a great inspiration towards the "good," and may even cajole your mind int ...more
Audrey Saltarelli
Sep 24, 2014 Audrey Saltarelli rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed this much more than I thought I would. His thoughts on dying and not fearing death were particularity good.
Oct 07, 2015 Shelley rated it it was amazing
Still relevant today damn
Mar 03, 2017 AJ rated it it was amazing
Awesome book on how to live a life worth living!
Wade, Rosario, and Marco
Rosario loves philosophy and so he usually gives 5 stars to all the philosophy books he reads.
Rick Folker
Jan 13, 2017 Rick Folker rated it it was amazing
essential to understanding the ancient Roman idea of friendship and virtue
Daniel Wright
This book is not actually a work by Cicero as such, but a collection of excerpts and shorter works. In fact, you can tell it's not a work of Cicero from the title, which can't be rendered in Latin (as soon as you say 'on living', you've made 'living' a gerund, so it can't take an adverb like 'well'). The underlying theme is, in a word, ethics. But this ethics is not quite what modern philosophers think about, with their tricky moral dilemmas and grand schemes. It is about how to live a good life ...more
Aug 28, 2012 Scott rated it really liked it
Last December I sat myself a task of reading back through the philosophical canon, either re-reading some works or reading ones I never read before. I have taken it very slowly, as there have been so many other things to read as well.

In my library since college days were three paperback Penguin Classics of Cicero. Each an anthology of excerpts from varied writings of his. I decided to read one, and after asking for advice on Facebook, the consensus pooled around this one. While reading it this a
Jeffrey  Sylvester
Nov 12, 2013 Jeffrey Sylvester rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“On Living and Dying Well” by Cicero is a great read and is entirely relevant to today’s society.

During my undergraduate, I was required to read and dissect numerous classics and it was tough going at times. For example, many authors ran the risk of displeasing whatever arbitrary tyrant happened to be in power so they wrote in metaphor, or set up dialogue between fictional characters that would enable them to side with whichever character the authorities deemed was right. The problem with this f
Jan 15, 2016 David rated it it was amazing
Such sound wisdom from ca. 50 BCE! Delightful reading, as if Cicero were sitting down and talking with me about his life the last years of his life. Each of the 23 short chapters makes for great reading just before turning out the light at bedtime.

Originally titled "De Senectute" and my edition with title "On a Life Well Spent", this slender is well designed for Levenger Press of Delray Beach, Florida, using the translation chosen by Benjamin Franklin when he printed it in 1744. The translated t
Aug 03, 2013 Al rated it liked it
Overall, a decent look at why moral behavior is necessary for personal good life and the good life of the state. As another reviewer noted, Cicero's arguments tended to be rather circular and as a result, I think he failed to conclusively prove the point. As applied ethics, I think it succeeds in illustrating the material advantage of good morals. Grant's selections are okay, but I don't think "Discussion at Tusculum V" should be a stand alone piece. The entire "Tusculan Disputation" is one of C ...more
Daniel Kukwa
Mar 12, 2014 Daniel Kukwa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Four of these five stars go to Cicero himself: a vain, hard to like genius who certainly loves the sound of his own words, and doesn't believe in being concise. I don't agree with all of his heavily-Platonic views, but they have been worth reading for two thousand years. The final star goes to the quality of this volume, which includes: (1) an excellent introduction to set the stage for what is to come; (2) a concise bio of the famous orator; (3) numerous fascinating epitaphs from various Roman ...more
George Shetuni
Jun 07, 2014 George Shetuni rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Cicero is the world’s most logical writer. There is nothing that lies beyond his reach. If Cicero says something you know it is true. He is a talented writer as well as a good thinker. And for this reason, he is not considered a philosopher-because he has literary merit. At times he is funny, at other times perhaps too exact, but always on the money. Latin is the world’s most logical language and it has spurned numerous writers of Rome who said the most fundamental things. Of them, Cicero is the ...more
Sep 18, 2016 Jessie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An enjoyable and inciteful read for anyone with a passion for history and philosophy. my only criticisms are, firstly, that this text is a collection of excerpts from select of Cicero's more influential writings- this is not made clear from the description on the back of the book, if it were, I likely would have bought the full translations of each work represented rather than this. I would also have preferred mirrored text (english/ latin) so that the quality of the translation could be confirm ...more
Apr 06, 2015 Joey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is indeed astonishing to think that if Cicero is this good in translation, how good must he be in his native Latin. Cicero covers, in his own stoic way, a number of topics regarding virtue and the preservation of a good life. The book ends with a heartfelt, at least for Cicero, Truly a delight to read!
Sophy Laughing
I was fortunate to have one of my professors recommend this book at a very young age. I have carried his poem, "The best Armour of Old Age is a well spent Life preceding it ... together with the Remembrance of past good Actions, yields an unspeakable Comfort to the Soul" with me since I first read those highly profound words. It is a poem upon which I have enjoyed many times over.
Anthony Nuccio
Apr 02, 2013 Anthony Nuccio rated it liked it
A good philosophical text that should be read as open-minded and as non-judgmental as possible. Contradictions might come up, but Cicero is one that you should not take at face value. The 3 star rating is due to reading this only partially for a History of Ideas class. Nonetheless, I still recommend this book.
James Violand
Aug 01, 2014 James Violand rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
This is a good read - the result of an excellent translation. One of the greatest minds of ancient Rome, Cicero comes to life and declaims on how a moral man leads a good life even when he suffers. Although counter-intuitive (especially today!) he makes a very compelling case.
Mike Barretta
not as good as I'd hoped; most of the essays' arguments use ancient greek and "contemporary" roman analogies. Perhaps I'm not learned enough, but I guess I prefer axiomatic arguments instead. That being said, the short _Dreams of Scipio_ was pretty good.
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Reading this book 1 4 Nov 22, 2016 08:50PM  
  • Essays
  • The Enneads
  • Dialogues and Essays
  • Discourses and Selected Writings
  • The First and Second Apologies (Ancient Christian Writers)
  • Creeds of the Churches: A Reader in Christian Doctrine from the Bible to the Present
  • Natural History: A Selection
  • The History of Rome, Books XXI-XXX: The War With Hannibal
  • The Major Works
  • Bonaventure: The Soul's Journey into God, the Tree of Life, the Life of St. Francis (Classics of Western Spirituality)
  • The Essential Epicurus
  • Protagoras/Meno
  • The Letters of the Younger Pliny
  • The Cynic Philosophers: from Diogenes to Julian
  • The Rise of the Roman Empire
  • The Roman History: The Reign of Augustus
  • The Consolation of Philosophy
  • Fragments
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.
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“Since it's clear then that what sets itself in motion is eternal, who could fail to attribute such a nature to the soul. Anything set in motion by external impetus is inanimate; what is animate moves by its own interior impulse. This is the nature and power of soul. And because it is the one thing out of all that sets itself in motion, then surely it was never born and will last forever.” 6 likes
“The essence of Ciceronian philosophy is a sense of wonder at the interconnectedness of human beings to one another and to the universe that encompasses them.” 1 likes
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