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On the Good Life

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  1,827 ratings  ·  78 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 (first published -46)
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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 infl…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.

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Cassandra Kay Silva
Jun 02, 2011 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
Stephen Heiner
Jun 12, 2017 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 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
Why does this book exist? Cicero wrote an entire book on what was essentially on living and dying well in the Tusculum Disputations but instead the publisher chose to create this franken book out of a barely coherent mix of excepts and essays. Its not like they had to cut down to save space either - the book was padded with unrelated maps and a biography.

For a rough analogy imagine someone creating a book called the life and teachings of Jesus and instead of getting the New Testament you instea
Sep 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Cicero pretty lit, Y'all.
Mar 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Good reading for servants of the nation.
Paul Haspel
May 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ancient-rome
On all levels, Marcus Tullius Cicero lived a memorable life. He was the best-known barrister and the most respected orator in republican Rome, a society where law and oratory were central to public life. His success was such that he could have sat back, watched the money flow in, and written philosophy to his heart’s content; but when he saw the republican form of government that he loved threatened by autocrats like Julius Caesar, he felt obliged to speak out. Targeted for assassination by orde ...more
Apr 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2020
The reason I could tell when I began this book so definitively is that I still have my purchase receipt. (Also on that sheet of paper is How to Win an Election: An Ancient Guide for Modern Politicians which I finished considerably before this one for a reason you will find out for yourself when you pick these books up as well!)
Normally I don't know whenever it is I start these things.

ANYWAY behold! This is a work by M. Tully Cicero, one of the people about whom I made one of my favourite Hallow
Dec 16, 2017 rated it liked it
On Friendship was incredible. On Duties was above average. Dream of Scipio was interesting. The Orator was unreadable.
Oct 17, 2009 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
Sep 30, 2007 rated it did not like it
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
Richard Munro
Aug 10, 2011 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
Jan 28, 2008 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.
Aug 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
This volume is worth reading if only for Discussions At Tusculum (V). That work can be summarized in the idea that moral goodness produces human happiness and sustains men and women throughout any hardship they may face. Cicero's words are often sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.
Audrey Saltarelli
Sep 24, 2014 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 rated it it was amazing
Still relevant today damn
Dennis Murphy
Feb 06, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Classicists, Historians, and Masochists
On Living and Dying Well by Cicero is a collection of essays and excerpts of essays chosen by the people at Penguin Classics. The purpose of the selections is to highlight different themes regarding living and dying, with the last section of the book taken over by Cicero's own reaction to death and a brief biography of him. It could be said that the hope of this project was to illuminate our lives with a little bit of wisdom from the past.

It failed. Some of this book was downright painful to re
Nov 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As some others have pointed out, Cicero never wrote a specific essay called "On Living and Dying Well". Rather, this is a collection of works that span over topics such as death, friendship, nature of the gods, and duties. There is a section at the end that gives a summary of his life and death, as well as a couple of maps. While I found this book to be very enjoyable, it would be better off titled "An Introduction to Cicero" or something similar. I enjoyed the essay's selected and I'll definite ...more
Oct 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another solid addition to the Stoic philosophy bookshelf. It helps to know some background of what Cicero was going through at the time he wrote each section of the book in order to have a deeper insight into his thought process and motivations. I find it interesting to contrast his writing with the stage of life he was in, in order to figure out what exactly he thought was most important.

On to 'In Defense of the Republic' next.
Zachary Rudolph
Dec 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“For who is so eager to observe and learn the nature of the universe that if, in the course of exploring and contemplating the most suitable topics possible, he was suddenly informed that the country was facing a crisis which he could relieve – who, under these circumstances, wouldn’t completely abandon his studies, even if he thought he could count all the stars or measure the universe?”
Chris Timmons
Jan 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Cicero, or rereading him, has been a pleasure. Cicero is engaging company and has all the virtues of a serious writer: felicity of phrasing, acuity in judgment, learning, and even better and rare, a wisdom that rewards sustained engagement. He is an ever lasting gift of the gods.
Tom Bennett
Nov 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
I found this in a pile of books in progress, with only The Dream of Scipio to read. Well worth a read.

In some ways, I came at On The Good Life in an unusual order - starting with Montaigne and then Sarah Bakewell’s How To Live.

And through the years, Cicero is as much a joy as you’d imagine.
This is a stunning book. The translation is really well written and easy to understand, which is hard to find when it comes to ancient philosophy. It's really enjoyable, too. Even though it is philosophy, it's a considerably light read, and it won't demand too much from you. It's also just a lovely, thoughtful work - it makes you think, and consider things you might never have considered, and in a way, it challenges your perspective and opinions. This is a really great introduction to Cicero's w ...more
Mar 03, 2017 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.
Zachary Rudolph
Dec 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“The seeds and causes of civil wars will always be with us for as long as people remember that blood-soaked spear in the Forum – and as long as they hope to see it come again.”
May 01, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
My favorite section was the one on friendship.
Gilles Demaneuf
Dec 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Also the introduction in itself is worth the money! Perfect for an overview of the Greek philosophy schools and their impact on learnt society and government in Rome. Must be read.
Feb 02, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Giving it two stars as it was not what I expected or hoped for.
Rachel Dows
Feb 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant, of course. The annotations were helpful and not overbearing.
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Reading this book 1 7 Nov 22, 2016 08:50PM  

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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.

Alternate profiles:
Marco Tulio Cicerón

Note: All editions should have Marcus Tullius Cicero as primary author. Editions with another name on the cover should have that name added as seco

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