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The Nature of the Gods

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3.88  ·  Rating details ·  654 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews
'My present intention is to clear myself of any suspicion of partially by presenting the views of the generality of philosophers concerning the nature of the gods.'

In The Nature of the Gods, Cicero presents a detailed account of the Greek theories of deity, examining the theologies of the Epicureans and the Stoics, together with critical objections to these doctrines raise

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Paperback, First Oxford World's Classics Edition, 230 pages
Published July 23rd 1998 by Oxford University Press (first published -44)
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Katie
My goal to read this in the original Latin has emerged partially intact: I read big chunks of each book untranslated, but not quite all of it. I read the intervening sections in translation. It was a fascinating way to read a piece of history and piece of philosophy. The slowness (and, mostly, the fact that I was reading it for a class) allowed for a good bit of outside reading, which enriched the experience. It also allowed for an appreciation of Cicero's language, which is really pretty wonder ...more
Cassandra Kay Silva
I devoured this book. Behe you fool! You can come up with no greater argument than Cicero's own watchmaker hypothesis? Idiot. The same so called "Reasons" for the gods are still the best we can do with all of our technological advances since Rome? Bastards. In praise of Cicero who for his time was highly critical in his critique of not only the existence of gods but what their inherent nature must be. Good for you Cicero and shame to all those who have done no better since him, prattling the sam ...more
Evan Leach
On the Nature of the Gods is a philosophical dialogue by the Roman orator Cicero written in 45 BC. It is laid out in three "books", each of which discusses the theology of different Roman and Greek philosophers. The dialogue uses Stoic, Epicurean, and skeptical theories to examine fundamental questions of theology.

The dialogue is on the whole narrated by Cicero himself, though he doesn't play an active part in the discussion. Gaius Velleius represents the Epicurean school, Quintius Lucilius Balb
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David Withun
Jun 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
This is a magnificent book from beginning to end. Cicero, a generation before Christ, takes on the eternal question of the existence and nature of the divine. To do so, he presents us with a dialogue between representatives of the three greatest traditions of early Roman philosophy: Epicureanism, Stoicism, and the Academy of Athens. The three participants discuss whether there are gods or is a God, what their or his nature might be, what their or his relationship(s) to men might be, and many mor ...more
Jesse
Aug 31, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The direct antecedent to Hume's altogether superior Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, this book is, however, a treasure-trove for information about the various ancient philosophies: Epicurean, Stoic, Academic, Skeptic, Cynic, and Peripatetic as they stood in the 1st century BCE. It is a thought-provoking dialogue and, as always with Cicero, possesses that unctuous yet enjoyable prose, even though, in our age of disbelief, the work's immediacy is quite lost; that is, it is not exciting, as i ...more
A. J. McMahon
Nov 23, 2015 rated it liked it
The format of the book is that of a group discussion between the representatives of the three major religious philosophies of the day. Each representative puts forward his viewpoint, and there are question-and-answer sessions. What I found most interesting was the lack of theological sophistication present in the debate. The Epicurean, for example, goes as close to atheism as he dares, while the State-sanctioned commentary on the gods was merely empty pious talk. It seems clear that by this time ...more
Dewey
Apr 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having recently recognized a lack of knowledge of Ancient Greek and Roman philosophies – a field that many today seem proud to brag about knowing, but who most likely cannot differentiate Anaxarchus from Anaximander – I started reading this book by the eminent Roman orator Marcus Tullius Cicero. In it, he reflects on a conversation that may or may not be fictional with people who sound like they were real, but maybe were not (can’t say that I know: but given the context of the argument, it matte ...more
Nemo
Sep 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: greco-roman
"That which has been is what will be,
That which is done is what will be done,
And there is nothing new under the sun."

More than two thousand years ago, Cicero presented a detailed account of the theologies of ancient Greek philosophers, in the form of a brilliant, pungent and witty debate among the representatives of the Stoic, Epicurean and Academic schools. The discourse is centered around four questions: Do gods exist? What is the nature of the gods? Do they govern the universe? Do they take t
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James
Mar 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Interesting discussion/critique of Hellenistic (in particular, epicurean and stoic) philosophy of religion. Cicero clearly relishes criticizing these views. In doing so, he anticipates many of Hume's themes in the Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, most clearly aspects of the design argument and the problem of evil. This isn't really surprising, of course, given the extremely high regard given Cicero by Hume and his contemporaries (not to mention the preceding 18 centuries--it's only with th ...more
Daniel Swanger
Dec 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all esp artists thinkers religious college kids
Recommended to Daniel by: general knowledge
Ach, du liebe Augustine (dear St Augustine, theologian, reconciler of pagan and Christian, of the German college kids' song) meet Cicero! His book is now theology and mythology. In the final summary he explains that he is just ascertaining the nature of the gods not explaining or proving them. One would be surprised how many actual living (usually three or so) living past manifestations of these gods there were as of legacies of ancient Greek Latium and beyond, similar names or careers or not--t ...more
Charles Dalrymple-Fraser
A gift from my studied grandfather, I was warned "Be careful to avoid the introduction, and you will find this a most modern read". Indeed, Cicero's work, of a generation before Christ, penetrates through to contemporary matters of theology and theism in a cursory but thorough manner. I have not been one with interest in the philosophies of religion and the metaphysics of god, but here I found an amply concise history of ancients' beliefs about god, the arguments forwarded by the Stoic, Epicurea ...more
Ben
Apr 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: italy-rome
It's rare to find a book that presents the arguments it opposes in the best possible terms (Rapaport's rules) before annihilating them. Cicero's attempt at neutrality is a marvel today as much as it was in his own time.

The arguments for the god/s have not changed since Cicero even though the arguments against have become better and better, so it is amusing to watch a pseudo-science and mysticism attack each other with hammers made of feathers. Some of the arguments in this boo I haven't heard a
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Gavin
Sep 07, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
I have a soft spot for Cicero, he being a lawyer of great note. His Murder Trial speeches could give a few tips to modern lawyers even after over two millenia. This volume sets out, mostly in dialogue form, the three predominant philosophies of his day with respect to the title. They were, Stoicism, the Academy view and the Epicurean view.

The language used is easy to follow and the arguments put forward are effectively done. The Academy prevails on most of the issues, but there are few answers h
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Sebastián Quiroga
Sep 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
it's a very interesting book wherein is shown the three most important point of views on religion: the epicurean, the stoicism and the official religious system. The book it's equilibrate showing the different argument, although cicero is very critic whit Epicuro's ideas. It's a shame that the book is incomplete because the sources are so. This is a good book to know a little about the way of view the religion in elder time.
Red
Nov 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics
cicero has seen it from both sides now and still some how. he is clearly not an enthusiasticly devote of the roman gods. he respects them as part of his ancestral inheritance. to him only jupiter would be sufficient to sent him a dream. it's daring to read how someone reexamines his believes. if he was putting words to the general feeling it is no wonder that a century later in the vacuum place was created for a new concept of religion.
Pascal Christeller
Apr 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
Want to know what the Greeks thought about the gods? Read this. Cicero does a thorough job of maintaining a dialogue while going through many of the major Greek philosophers viewpoints on god. Whether or not you choose to believe in god, all the Greeks believed the gods were real. Lacan assigns this text in Seminar VIII on Transference. I now know why he says the gods are real in the symposium, and this means that love is probably not a god, more like a daemon? I'd read it again.
Paul Pellicci
Cicero is one of my favorite ancient authors. This book, although quite a chore to read at times, is a fascinating look into the ancient mind. I am always amazed at how the Roman pagan religion seemed to hold a republic together until the civil war and Octavian's postscriptions erased Cicero and others, many others from the scene.
Christopher
Nov 01, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This ancient book is surprisingly current in its subject-matter and logic. Here lie the arguments of the creationists, the skeptics, the atheists, and the Christians. Cicero does a remarkably good job of summarizing each position and making them interact. Best read in conjunction with Pilgirm's Regress.
Pierre
Nov 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Creo que leer este libro es una de las maneras más divertidas de conocer algo de la teología antigua. Las intervenciones de Cotta están cargadas de ironía y comicidad (de verdad que reí mucho) pero sumamente sabias, mientas que los argumentos de los otros dos participantes, Balbo y Villeio, son un gran aporte a la comprensión filosófica y teológica tanto del estoicismo como del epicureísmo
Richard Smith
Sep 20, 2013 rated it liked it
It definitely suffers from its lack of editing. But I do believe every issue that could be raised was raised. Very thoughtful arguments incorporated, though it might have done it better to follow a dialectic model of argumentation, rather than follow the model of extended accounts followed by various out of place refutations.
Brian
Feb 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: omnibus
Cicero is a little bit quiet and the authorial intention is very ambiguous, but the debate is still quite fascinating. The Stoic view of the cosmos was at times quite beautiful; yes, as insufferably self-righteous as they could be, the Stoics come off with a better cosmos than many moderns.
Maurice Halton
Feb 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Written about two-thousand years ago, The Nature of the Gods urges thought and reason. Not completely atheistic, it is nevertheless less than agnostic. I good insight into the educated Roman's pantheistic ideas.
Evo
Feb 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
For a long time, I was wondering about the past Gods (not the mythological ones), what was their purpose etc. And as I was searching for the right book to understand the Gods better, I picked up Cicero's book. Oh what a good decision I've made! This book was a real eye-opener for my belief-system!
Lysergius
Nov 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
An interesting albeit inconclusive discussion of the nature of the Gods. Written in the form of a discussion between a stoic and an epicurean, it attempts to establish if the Gods exists and their characteristics and nature.
James Violand
Jan 13, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: own
A convoluted dialogue that poorly mimics Plato. The author tries to establish conclusions by reciting myth and using poorly constructed arguments (say it ain't so, Cicero!). Some portions of this book are no longer extant, but these could hardly have redeemed such an uninteresting work.
Josh
Oct 30, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
If you think Richard Dawkins started the debate, think again.
rabbitprincess
Quoted in my Latin textbook. I decided to read it on my own. Probably wasn't in the right mood for it -- didn't end up finishing it.
Gwen Burrow
Oct 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
Quite fascinating. Really wish I had time to read every word.
London
Aug 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Shelf: Accepted. Favored Author status pending.
David
Jul 17, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: greek-roman
An interesting outlook on what are the gods and their relationship to humans from one of the most notable Roman writers.
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  • Natural History: A Selection
  • Essays
  • Rome and Italy: Books VI-X of the History of Rome from its Foundation
  • Philebus
  • Pharsalia: The Civil War
  • The Enneads
  • The Georgics
  • Proslogion
  • Selected Satires
  • Epigrams
  • Guide to Greece: Central Greece (Guide to Greece, #1)
  • The Athenian Constitution
  • The Discovery of the Mind: In Greek Philosophy and Literature
  • The Way Things Are: The De Rerum Natura
  • The Comedies
  • The Erotic Poems
  • The Odes
  • Myths of Greece and Rome
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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.
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