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“And remember that the most splendid deeds you can do are those which serve your country. ... Political participation is a necessary preparation for the eternal happiness of the soul.” (Cicero, De Republica)
In essence, Cicero plans for the Roman senators and other patricians to return to the virtues that have lost, then begin to enact laws that based on virtuousness that will require all the people to act virtuously, which will culminate in Rome turning from monarchy back to the previous republican form of Roman government. The virtues Cicero recognized were justice, magnanimity, wisdom, courage, temperance and moderation. Cicero's plan for guiding the Roman government began with these and was founded upon an unequivocal rejection of monarchy in any form, whether with a king, dictator, tyrant or an emperor: Cicero did not wish to guide the Roman empire, rather he wished to guide the Roman government away from an empire and an emperor toward a republic, which in his view is a mixed form of government combining elements of aristocracy (i.e., the Senate), monarchy (i.e., a Caesar) and democracy (i.e., votes by the people). It was in the aristocracy--the patricians and senators--that Cicero identified moral decay because of the absence of virtue.
Justice through virtuous laws was one of the virtues and one of the pivotal elements by which Cicero defined republic. Justice depends upon virtuous politicians and upon virtuous laws. In On the Laws, Cicero presents the case, which John Locke and others later expanded upon, that establishes the argument for civil laws based upon the standard of the laws of nature: human reason leads to precepts of the virtue of justice; justice leads to virtuous laws; virtuous laws are grounded in the standard of natural laws. Human reason allows the perception of the laws of nature, which provide a higher standard of law than does, according to Cicero, civil legislated law. For Cicero, the beginning of the cycle of reason, justice and the laws of nature began with a life actively lived in accordance with virtue. Finding and actively living the virtues reveals nature's laws, thus the law of nature is what is right and it is from what humans derive knowledge of right and wrong.
Not only right and wrong are distinguished by nature but also in general all honorable and disgraceful things. For nature makes common understandings for us and starts forming them in our minds so that honorable things are based on virtue, disgraceful things on vices (Cicero, On Duties)
Cicero affirms the concept that deep thinking, deep contemplation about the characteristics and attributes observed in the cosmos leads to knowledge of the "common law of nature" that enlightens and informs privileges, rights and responsibilities/duties to those who actively live out the virtue of wisdom. Two precepts that emerge from this doctrine are (1) that justice prohibits doing harm and requires service to the common good (this is one reason Cicero advocated people engage in public service) and (2) that true utility does accord with the concept of what is right: true utility includes diligent attention to financial and other resources, acquisition of private property, and development and preservation of personal reputation.
[The images below show Cicero at various stages of life, with two sculptures and one painting in fresco done when he was a child.]
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