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Cicero, De Officiis > De Officiis Week 5 - Book 3 cantos 65-121 (and the work as a whole)

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message 1: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments A somewhat aside: isn’t it interesting to see at times how much more advanced in law the Romans were than we are? In [65], for example, in Rome real property sellers had to disclose to buyers all defects in the property known to exist. That principle has only come into law, and perhaps only in some states, in the past decade or two. Caveat emptor may be a Latin term, but if Cicero is accurate, it is not a Roman legal principle.

However: we are now deep in the nitty-gritty of the cases of apparent difference between expediency and moral rectitude. The different ways in which the law and philosophers prohibit “wily practices.” [68] Though frankly I am more inclined to trust the legal way than the philosophical way.

In [72] we get Cicero reprising the myth of the Ring of Gyges, don’t we? “For how few will be found who can refrain from wrong-doing, if assured of the power to keep it an absolute secret and to run no risk of punishment!” But it seems to me that this conflicts with his premise that Nature (natural law) is the source of right. The logic here seems unfortunate and perhaps a bit twisted. Consider: Natural law is the source of right. But almost nobody would act rightly if they could act wrongly and not be discovered. Therefore, almost nobody would follow natural law if they weren’t forced to. How, then, can we say that acting rightly arises from natural law when it is so unnatural?

I’ll let that do for starters.


message 2: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1731 comments There's a difference between "natural law" and "law of nature". Everything follows the laws of nature willy-nilly, such as the law of gravity. Natural law identifies what we ought to do because of our nature as rational and moral creatures.


message 3: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Roger wrote: "There's a difference between "natural law" and "law of nature". Everything follows the laws of nature willy-nilly, such as the law of gravity. Natural law identifies what we ought to do because of ..."

Don't you think Cicero was referring to the second of these?

And if we "ought to" obey natural law, why do so few of us actually do it unless compelled by the force of human law?


message 4: by David (new)

David | 2696 comments Roger wrote: "There's a difference between "natural law" and "law of nature". Everything follows the laws of nature willy-nilly, such as the law of gravity. Natural law identifies what we ought to do because of ..."

How does the Law of Gravity follow the laws of nature willy-nilly? The law of gravity has been described to me as something with great mathematical precision, especially after Einstein enhanced it.

Cicero says of natural law that:
[1.11] It is a principle of Nature granted to all species that every animal must protect its body and life, avoid those things that are about to do it harm, and seek carefully and provide for all things that are necessary for living, such as nourishment, shelter, and other associated requirements.
He further explains that humans have the abilities to reason and to determine causes and to forecast results of choices. Thus, {21] while there is no such things as private property in nature we have decided it is in our nature to want private property and our natural ability to reason has determined that the best way to have it is by virtue of justice. This is why I previously posted this natural difference between man and {other] animals of reason was a very keen observation and a critical point to Cicero's arguments.


message 5: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1731 comments Everyman wrote: "Roger wrote: "There's a difference between "natural law" and "law of nature". Everything follows the laws of nature willy-nilly, such as the law of gravity. Natural law identifies what we ought to ..."

Cicero is certainly talking about Natural Law. He would say few follow it because few have the wisdom and virtue to understand what is truly in their best interest.


message 6: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1731 comments David wrote: "Roger wrote: "There's a difference between "natural law" and "law of nature". Everything follows the laws of nature willy-nilly, such as the law of gravity. Natural law identifies what we ought to ..."

The law of gravity is an example of a law of nature.


Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (theindefatigablebertmcguinn) | 304 comments This made me laugh when I read it:

"Suppose then, that a good man had such power that at a snap of his fingers his name could steal into rich men's wills, he would not avail himself of that power--no, not even though he could be perfectly sure that no one would ever suspect it. Suppose, on the other hand, that one were to offer a Marcus Crassus the power, by the mere snapping of his fingers, to get himself named as heir, when he was not really an heir, he would, I warrant you, dance in the forum."

I remember one time that some friends and I were around a television when an infomercial happened to be on. I asked them if they would ever consider going on camera like that whether they believed in the product or not, provided they were paid for it. The response was basically, 'how could you even question that? Of course we would.'

That reminded me of what Cicero was talking about with his 'sins of omission' questions, and the house seller. I think most people understand that infomercial actors are just actors, spouting whatever line they are paid to spout. So--we know they are lying to us (or 'acting'), but it is also their source of employment. That probably goes to feed their family. I wonder how Cicero would have looked at that


message 8: by David (new)

David | 2696 comments Roger wrote: "Everything follows the laws of nature willy-nilly, such as the law of gravity.

The law of gravity is an example of a law of nature. "


OK, but I am trying understand how gravity follows the laws of nature willy nilly. It seems to me that we call them laws of nature because they appear to us so fixed and ordered, and are expressed in remarkably consistent and predictable mathematical functions. It is not as if apples willy nilly fall down one day and up the next.

What about this statement? Reason is to the expression of natural law as mathematics is to the expression of the laws of nature?


message 9: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1731 comments David wrote: "Roger wrote: "Everything follows the laws of nature willy-nilly, such as the law of gravity.

The law of gravity is an example of a law of nature. "

OK, but I am trying understand how gravity foll..."


Gravity does not follow the laws of nature, it is itself a law of nature. Objects follow the laws of nature, including the law of gravity, willy-nilly.


message 10: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments David wrote: "Cicero says of natural law that:

[1.11] It is a principle of Nature granted to all species that every animal must protect its body and life, avoid those things that are about to do it harm,"


This, of course, is nonsense. If every human "must" protect its body and life, why are firefighters, police, even ordinary citizens willing to risk their lives to save others? Why were so many soldiers willing to storm the Normandy beaches?

Why was dueling an honorable necessity for certain societies?

How many recreational activities, completely unnecessary to sustain life, involve things that are about to do harm? Why do people die trying to climb Mt. Everest? Why do motorcycle racers enter the Isle of Man TT races, where three racers just died in one week, but the racing goes on?


message 11: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1731 comments Everyman wrote: "David wrote: "Cicero says of natural law that:

[1.11] It is a principle of Nature granted to all species that every animal must protect its body and life, avoid those things that are about to do ..."


No doubt Cicero would say that natural law bids humans to protect the state above themselves, and so become firefighters and police and soldiers. Of course, humans have a choice of whether to follow natural low or not, unlike irrational beasts.

I suspect he would have a dim view of dueling and taking risks for thrills, also.


message 12: by David (last edited Jun 10, 2017 05:46AM) (new)

David | 2696 comments Everyman wrote: "This, of course, is nonsense. If every human "must" protect its body and life, why are firefighters, police, even ordinary citizens willing to risk their lives to save others? Why were so many soldiers willing to storm the Normandy beaches?"

The professions listed here are not quite the extreme contradiction they may at first appear to be. While firefighters and policemen do take great risks, they have had a lot of training on how to perform their duties at an higher yet acceptable and reasonable level of risk. Nobody of sound mind becomes a fireman or a policeman with the goal of dying. The same can be said in some sense for soldiers. George S. Patton said:
No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. You won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.

You are not all going to die. Only two percent of you right here today would be killed in a major battle. Every man is scared in his first action. If he says he's not, he's a goddamn liar. But the real hero is the man who fights even though he's scared. Some men will get over their fright in a minute under fire, some take an hour, and for some it takes days. But the real man never lets his fear of death overpower his honor, his sense of duty to his country, and his innate manhood.
I ride a motorcycle, but I have had training and I keep up with it. While expect my training, practice, skill, safety gear, and safe habits, and I think I am old enough to say experience now, will help me avoid being hurt in an accident, I accept the fact that I don't control all the variables and I may be hurt or killed in an accident. Does this violate Cicero's principle of nature? I hope not, because if it did, there would be many other activities we would have to avoid and many other extreme safety measures we would have to fetter ourselves with. On the other hand there is more to consider here. We would not suffer a POTUS to ride a motorcycle. I know certain athletes are forbidden by contract to avoid riding them. I also know some guys that sold their motorcycles when and because they had children.

I am reminded of that viral email about kids of my generation drinking out of the hose, climbing trees, riding bicycles without knee pads and helmets, and playing outside unsupervised until dark when our parents called us in.


message 13: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1731 comments It was written in 44 BC, I'm afraid, and Christ had not yet come. I think the Stoics of the time, whom Cicero deeply admired, were groping towards monotheism, and much of their moral philosophy was ultimately adopted by the Church as in accord with God's natural law.


message 14: by Christopher (new)

Christopher (Donut) | 531 comments You know Cicero wrote an entire book De Natura Deorum.. on the nature of the gods.
I kind of wish we had read that instead.


message 15: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Patrice wrote: "is it on our bookshelf? "

Not yet.


message 16: by David (new)

David | 2696 comments its is like buying a car and suddenly seeing the same model everywhere. Now after having read Cicero, everywhere I turn I am reminded of Cicero.



message 17: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1731 comments Everyman wrote: "Patrice wrote: "is it on our bookshelf? "

Not yet."


I went to put "De Natura Deorum" on the bookshelf but found only moderators could do so. Can I request it? I am very curious to see how a morally very advanced pagan viewed the gods.


message 18: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1731 comments Patrice wrote: "actually i do think its often the best business plan. trust is important in business. cheating a customer may bring short term gains but ultimately will lose customers. i have often wondered at the..."

Perhaps this is the most profitable business policy, if you can carry it off: Act with scrupulous honesty until you have gained everyone's complete trust, then execute a huge scam that strips your mark clean, and disappear.


message 19: by David (new)

David | 2696 comments I am not sure that Socrates would be opposed to the murder of a tyrant if it were done to restore justice and thus the "health" of the city.


message 20: by David (new)

David | 2696 comments Roger wrote: "Everyman wrote: "Patrice wrote: "is it on our bookshelf? "

Not yet."

I went to put "De Natura Deorum" on the bookshelf but found only moderators could do so. Can I request it? I am very curious t..."


I will add my vote to add De Natura Deorum to the groups reading list. It would be interesting to follow it up with Hume's, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (1779).


message 21: by Christopher (new)

Christopher (Donut) | 531 comments It is not the exact same situation, but Socrates was opposed to the Athenian assembly's vote to execute the victorious generals who had been unable to retrieve the bodies of the slain:

... Now there came forward in the assembly a man, who said that he had escaped drowning by clinging to a meal tub. The poor fellows perishing around him had commissioned him, if he succeeded in saving himself, to tell the people of Athens how bravely they had fought for their fatherland, and how the generals had left them there to drown.

Presently Euryptolemus, the son of Peisianax, and others served a notice of indictment on Callixenus, insisting that his proposal was unconstitutional, and this view of the case was applauded by some members of the assembly. But the majority kept crying out that it was monstrous if the people were to be hindered by any stray individual from doing what seemed to them right.

And when Lysicus, embodying the spirit of those cries, formally proposed that if these persons would not abandon their action, they should be tried by the same vote along with the generals: a proposition to which the mob gave vociferous assent; and so these were compelled to abandon their summonses.

Again, when some of the Prytanes objected to put a resolution to the vote which was in itself unconstitutional, Callixenus again got up and accused them in the same terms, and the shouting began again. "Yes, summons all who refuse," until the Prytanes, in alarm, all agreed with one exception to permit the voting. This obstinate dissentient was Socrates, the son of Sophroniscus, who insisted that he would do nothing except in accordance with the law. [...]

"I stand here, men of Athens, partly to accuse Pericles, though he is a close and intimate connection of my own, and Diomedon, who is my friend, and partly to urge certain considerations on their behalf, but chiefly to press upon you what seems to me the best course for the State collectively.

I hold them to blame in that they dissuaded their colleagues from their intention to send a despatch to the senate and this assembly, which should have informed you of the orders given to Theramenes and Thrasybulus to take forty-seven ships of war and pick up the shipwrecked crews, and of the neglect of the two officers to carry out those orders.

And it follows that though the offence was committed by one or two, the responsibility must be shared by all; and in return for kindness in the past, they are in danger at present of sacrificing their lives to the machinations of these very men, and others whom I could mention.

In danger, do I say, of losing their lives? No, not so, if you will suffer me to persuade you to do what is just and right; if you will only adopt such a course as shall enable you best to discover the truth and shall save you from too late repentance, when you find you have transgressed irremediably against heaven and your own selves.

Hellenica


message 22: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Roger wrote: "I went to put "De Natura Deorum" on the bookshelf but found only moderators could do so. Can I request it?."

Sure. It too a bit of looking to find an affordable non-OCR edition, but I did.

We used to allow anybody to add books but the shelves became a mess because books are automatically added to the "read" shelf and people tended not to correct that and put them on the "to read" shelf before saving them, meaning that we had to go check the shelves carefully before every running of the random number generator, which was a drag. And some books were added that really didn't belong on the shelf (like books about classics, non-Western books, etc.) So we had to limit it to moderators (I wish there were a way of letting responsible members have access, but there isn't.)

But we're always glad to add books that aren't on the shelf and should be. Anybody should feel free to suggest additions.


message 23: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 148 comments Christopher wrote: "It is not the exact same situation, but Socrates was opposed to the Athenian assembly's vote to execute the victorious generals who had been unable to retrieve the bodies of the slain:

... Now the..."


THANK you. Nice insight into Socrates. Seems inline with his rejecting the opportunity to escape his own death sentence.


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