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Stoic Philosophy, Lesson 3. Cicero, Duties, Book I, Chapter 3

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All questions concerning duty are of two sorts. The first relates to the final good ; the second consists of those rules which are to regulate the practice of life in all its relations.  Examples of the former are as follow:  Whether all duties are perfect in themselves ? Whether one duty is of more importance than another ? together with other questions of the same nature. Now the rules for moral duties relate, indeed, to the final good; but it is not so perceptible that they do, because they seem cliiefly to refer to the regulation of ordinary life, and of them we are to treat in this book.

But there is another division of duty: for one is called a mean duty, the other a perfect duty. If 1 mistake not, the complete or perfect duty is the same with what we call a direct one, and by the Greeks is called katorthōma. As to that duty which is mean they call it kathēcon, and they thus define those terms. Whatever duty is absolute, that they call a perfect duty; and they call that duty, for the performance of which a probable reason can be assigned, a mean duty.

In the opinion, therefore, of Panaetius, there is a threefold consideration for determining our resolution; for men doubt whether the thing which falls under their consideration be of itself virtuous or disgraceful, and in this deliberation minds are often distracted into opposite sentiments. They then examine and deliberate whether or not the subject of their consideration conduces to the convenience or enjoyment of life, to the improvement of their estate and wealth, to their interest and power, by which they may profit themselves or their relations; all which deliberation falls under the category of utility. The third kind of doubtful deliberation is, when an apparent utility seems to clash with moral rectitude; for when utility hurries us to itself, and virtue, on the other hand, seems to call us back, it happens that the mind is distracted in the choice, and these occasion a double anxiety in deliberation. In this division (although an omission is of the worst consequence in divisions of this kind), two things are omitted; for we are accustomed to deliberate not only whether a thing be virtuous or shameful in itself, but, of two things that are virtuous, which is the more excellent? And, in like manner, of two things which are profitable which is the more profitable? Thus, it is found that the deliberation, which he considered to be threefold, ought to be distributed into five divisions. We must, therefore, first treat of what is virtuous in itself, and that under two heads; in like manner, of what is profitable; and we shall next treat of them comparatively.

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