Similarities and Contrasts
Marcus Tullius Cicero had been born on January 3, 106 B.C.E; and he demised on December 7, 43 B.C.E. in a murder. His life overlapped with the downfall and eventually decimation of the Roman realm, during which time he has been a significant factor in political affairs, and as such, his writings are a valued source of information and knowledge regarding those events. He was a philosopher, politician, lawyer, orator, among other things. To grasp the logic of his work and to appreciate his philosophy necessitates us to have that in mind. Philosophical study was important but it was even more significant as a way to a more effectual action politically, so he put politics higher than philosophical study. During times when he was inhibited to take part in politics against his will, he made his philosophical writings. St. Augustine’s submission that Hortensius (an exhortation to philosophy) by Cicero that transformed him from his sinful life and to philosophy and eventually to God, is the best example of Cicero’s influence. According to Clayton (2016), Augustine later embraced the definition of Commonwealth by Cicero, using the former in his argument that the Rome’s ruin by the barbarians cannot be attributed to Christianity.
A Catholic bishop of Hippo in northern Africa, St. Augustine (354-430 C.E.) was formerly known as Aurelius Augustinus. He was the first Christian philosopher, an expert Roman-instructed rhetorician, an inexhaustible writer who delivered over 110 works, with extensive approval, continually for over 30 years. His political views and social philosophy creates a significant intellectual channel between late antiquity and the medieval world that was evolving. This is because he was writing from an inimitable background and having an advantageous position as an ardent viewer of the society preceding the collapse of the Roman Empire. a lot of scholars revere him as the most significant and instrumental Western philosopher. According to Mattox (2016), although Augustine would not have considered himself as a philosopher, politically or socially, per se, but his writings on subjects such as the nature of human society, the nature and the part of the state, justice, just and unjust war, peace, and the association between church and state; all have contributed significantly in determining the evolution of Western civilization.
Clayton proposed that Cicero thought of philosophy as inferior to politics, therefore, it must not shock us to learn that there is a political goal behind his philosophy: the protection and security, and if possible the advancement, involving the Roman Republic. He held that during his time, the politicians had been corrupt without possession of a noble appeal that was the major Romans quality in the primal Roman days. He believed that the reason for the Republic’s difficulties was the loss of virtue. He wished that the forerunners of Rome, specifically within Senate, might heed his pleas to restore the Nation. This is possible only if the elite Romans chose to mould their personality and be dedicated to social stability as well as individual virtue more than their aspiration for recognition, fortune, and power. If such character transformation were to manifest, the elite might pass legislation that may oblige others to stick to identical benchmarks, and the Republic might regain its lost glory. Whether this idea illustrates a venerable vow to the ideas of nobility and virtue or sightlessness to the nature of the extraordinarily unsettled and vicious politics of Cicero’s time, or maybe both, is difficult to claim with conviction.
In his time, the Epicureans and the Stoics represented the left and the right wing in ethical philosophy, respectively. The Peripatetics assumed middle ground. The Epicureans held happiness or, according to their initiator, painlessness as the only objective and conclusion of moral conduct. They thus set all virtue into prudence, or sensible self-love, a dogma that recognized virtue in the ultimate self-culture, that solely by itself was favorable to the happiness of the absolute selfhood – intellectually, spiritually, as well as physically. The Stoics viewed virtue as the solitary objective and conclusion of life, and in their philosophy, virtue is the submission of the will and conduct to collective nature, inherent fitness hence being the rule and the gauge of the right. Complete conformity or faultless virtue is rendered by this school as achievable only by strictly prudent. Its earlier followers, although not sure that humans, even Zeno, the grand master, had ever achieved this idyllic perfectness, thus far acknowledged no moral difference among those who fell slightly short of perfection and those who had been unable to make any significant advancement toward it. The later Stoics, nevertheless, acknowledged gradation of goodness, and were persistent expositors and instructors of the responsibilities within the range of those who are not wise, by the exercising which there may perhaps be an ever-closer move toward perfection. According to Cicero, from the time of Cicero until Christianity achieved domination, this belief was the lone antidote that saved Roman society from absolute and remediless dishonesty.
The Peripatetic viewpoint makes virtue to involve in moderation, or the dilution of extremes, and identifies each of the distinct virtues midway among opposite iniquity, as sobriety between excess and abstinence; openhandedness between prodigality and greed; humbleness between quick-temperedness and timidity. Cicero (1887) further explains that it acknowledges the certainty of the inherently right as separate from the purely beneficial and valuable. However, that happiness is the absolute objective and conclusion of life; and virtue, though important, is not enough without peripheral goods, so that the astutely upright man, though he will never violate the right, will follow by all valid means such external benefits as possibly within his grasp.
Cicero illustrates the significance of a committed life of virtue, the groundwork of society, as well as the community of all human beings, the function of the statesman, and the theory of natural law. Moral value is the solitary good; virtue is adequate for happiness; all iniquities and virtues are equivalent; every fool is unreasonable; only the prudent man is truly free; only the prudent man is truly rich. Cicero claims that virtue that originates from philosophy is enough for a happy life. These views are all consistent with Stoicism. He also explains the kind of genuine friendship, which is achievable only amongst noble men who are virtuous and abide by nature. According to Cicero, Griffin & Atkins (1991), this friendship is founded on virtue and though it offers visible advantages, it is not targeted at them or even pursues them.
Augustine’s social and political views come directly from his religious belief. The historical framework is important towards understanding his intention. Augustine lived at the time when Christianity, politics, and philosophy was flourishing. He believes that the main objects of nature should be sought for their own benefit. He also believes that virtue, which can be taught, is the art of living and the most outstanding of all spiritual goods.
According to him, a person can be called virtuous if he lives well since virtue is the art of living well. The question is: what does it mean to live well? Augustine believed that man’s happiness lies on virtue and how he makes use of the good things in life. If a man has many good things in life but has no virtue, these good things are not for his good. Thus, they should not be called good things while the person who possesses them uses them inappropriately, and makes them useless. Living well means knowing how to use his possessions well, and this is what makes people happy. According to Dyson (1998), happiness is the ultimate end of using your resources, wealth, and even your own body well, as guided by virtues.
Similarities and Contrasts
According to Neste (2016), Augustine’s beliefs on virtue and source of justice, in general, are based on Christian ideals as he was a Christian. His belief that moral acts are generally intellectual acts proves that he is in agreement with the Stoic principle that virtue can be found in the conscience of a person who has proper moral intention.
He agreed with Cicero and the Stoics that virtue is internal to humans and that it comes from proper moral intentions. However, he believes that correct moral intentions are not inherent to humans. Humans have Original Sin and thus are incapable of producing justice alone. This sin stole their original inherent ability to do justice. Thus, according to Augustine, God must have given humans justice and the other virtues. Therefore, only Christians or the true believers of God are capable of performing true justice. The central idea is that only those people who have true piety, implying Christian piety, are capable of true virtue, and that through Christians’ submission to Gods commands, they have the ability to receive and exercise true virtue that includes justice.
Augustine’s belief differs from Cicero’s beliefs about the source of virtue. He believes that virtue is produced by reason, controlling the vices. He also believes that true law is correct in unison with nature; it is everlasting and unchanging, and its application is universal. According to him, one’s action is governed by reason, that reason restrains vice and forms virtue, and that it is inherent in humans. According to Neste (2016), this is the main source of contradiction between their definitions of justice.
However, Augustine asserts by Cicero’s original meaning of justice as a civic virtue despite his Christianization of its definition. He encouraged the use of virtue to keep social order in much the same way as Cicero affirms that justice be used to improve the connections of society. Augustine believes that your virtues will be true virtues if you believe that God gave these to you, you thank Him for giving you these virtues, and you use these virtues to serve Him even in a non-religious manner. They both believe that virtue is evident in the way a person treats other people. According to Neste (2016), both agree that when some wrong is done to the commonwealth, the person or group of people who committed the act must be penalized or punished, and it does not matter whether that person or group is a commonwealth’s internal or external enemy.
Cicero points out that vices are controlled by reason, and that virtue is produced by reason, too. According to him, a person lives in accordance with natural law and practices virtue, which is “right reason in agreement with nature,” as a way of expressing his submission to God. He said that there is no implication of personal relationship. Augustine stated that God is the master of the universe and all nature, and thus need not change Cicero’s idea of natural law. He agreed with Cicero that in order to adhere to natural law, people must practice virtue, and this makes them submit to God. According to Neste (2016), Augustine however believed that a person moves toward absolute spiritual goal by following natural laws.
In conclusion, Neste (2016) opines that Augustine thought that man could only produce virtue if God would give him the ability to produce virtue. He also believes that it is only vice that man can produce alone. According to him, political systems are God’s creation, so that they can restrain themselves from sin and evil; finally, that the commonwealth can only be unified ultimately by Christians who have received virtue from God.
Cicero, Marcus Tullius. “Cicero De Officiis.”Translation by Andrew P. Peabody, Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1887.
Clayton, Edward. “Cicero (106 — 43 B.C.E.).” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ISSN 2161-0002, http://www.iep.utm.edu/cicero/. Accessed 4 December 2016.
Dyson, R. W. “Augustine: The City of God Against the Pagans.” Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
Cicero, Marcus Tullius, Griffin, M. T., Atkins, E. M.”Cicero: On Duties.” Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
Mattox, J. Mark. “Augustine: Political and Social Philosophy.” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ISSN 2161-0002, http://www.iep.utm.edu/aug-poso/. Accessed 4 December 2016.
Neste, Berit Van. “Cicero and St. Augustine’s Just War Theory: Classical Influences on a Christian Idea.” 12 April 2006. Scholar Commons, University of South Florida.http://scholarcommons.usf.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=4978&context=etd. Accessed 4 December 2016.
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