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Stoic Philosophy, Lesson 1. Cicero, Duties, Book I, Chapter 1

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Lesson

Cicero, the Latin guide to our Catholic homeschool curriculum.
Cicero (106-43 BC)

My son Marcus,

Although, as you have for a year been studying under Cratippus, and that, too, at Athens, you ought to be well furnished with the rules and principles of philosophy, on account of the pre-eminent reputation both of the master and the city, the one of which can improve you by his learning, the other by its examples; yet as I, for my own advantage, have always combined the Latin with the Greek, not only in philosophy but even in the practice of speaking, I recommend to you the same method, that you may excel equally in both kinds of composition. In this respect, indeed, if I mistake not, I was of great service to our countrymen; so that not only such of them as are ignorant of Greek learning, but even men of letters, think they have profited somewhat by me both in speaking and reasoning.

Wherefore you shall study, nay, study as long as you desire, under the best philosopher of this age — and you ought to desire it, as long as you are not dissatisfied with the degree of your improvement; but in reading my works, which are not very different from the Peripatetic — because we profess in common to be followers both of Socrates and Plato — as to the subject matter itself, use your own judgment; but be assured you will, by reading my writings, render your Latin style more copious. I would not have it supposed that this is said in ostentation ; for, while I yield the superiority in philosophy to many, if I claim to myself the province peculiar to an orator — that of speaking with propriety, perspicuity, and elegance — I seem, since I have spent my life in that pursuit, to lay claim to it with a certain degree of right.

Wherefore, my dear Cicero, I most earnestly recommend that you carefully peruse not only my Orations, but even my philosophical works, which have now nearly equalled them in extent; for there is in the former the greater force of language, but you ought to cultivate, at the same time, the equable and sober style of the latter. And, indeed, I find that it has not happened in the case of any of the Greeks, that the same man has laboured in both departments, and pursued both the former — that of forensic speaking — and the latter qmet mode of argumentation; unless, perhaps, Demetrius Phalereus may be reckoned in that number — a refined reasoner, a not very animated speaker, yet of so much sweetness that you might recognize the pupil of Theophrastus. How far I have succeeded in both, others must determine; certain it is that I have attempted both. Indeed, I am of opinion that Plato, had he attempted forensic oratory, would have spoken with copiousness and power; and that had Demosthenes retained and repeated the lessons of Plato, he would have delivered them with gracefulness and beauty. I form the same judgment of Aristotle and Isocrates, each of whom was so pleased with his own pursuit that he neglected that of the other.

Assessment

Stoic Philosophy Lesson 01 Assessment