Cicero

Cicero was a significant source of knowledge of ancient philosophy for the mediaeval Latin West; to a degree his philosophical attainments do not perhaps merit in their own right. Cicero took up the writing of philosophy seriously when he was debarred from public life in 44 BC. He was obliged to look for comfort in philosophy, as Boethius was later to find it helpful to do in even more painful political circumstances. He wrote on aspects of the good life, and his books On Friendship, On Old Age and On Duty were to become staples of mediaeval libraries; they and the Tusculan Disputations coincided at many points with Christian ethics, and although they did not envisage the beata vita of the life to come in a Christian way, they could be regarded as improving reading for monks as well as worth academic study.

Cicero translated part of Plato's Timaeus and in The Dream of Scipio he ventured into cosmology as a means of giving an altogether larger perspective to his reflections on politics. He explored the arguments then current about the nature of the gods, ranging before his readers the views of all the schools of Greek thought in De Natura Deorum, and discussing at some length the reasons for believing in the providential effects of divine wisdom

PHILOSOPHICAL SOURCES and power benevolently wielded. In his Academics he considers the case for scepticism. (This treatise provoked Augustine into writing his own Contra Academicos.) He also asks what place there can be for philosophical endeavour by later generations when the Greeks have surely said all that is necessary; and tries to divide philosophy in the Platonic way into three areas: the pursuit of truth; the pursuit of of virtue; the study of the natural world and of the mystery of what lies beyond it. Here, too, Augustine was stimulated;29 he borrows the scheme in the De Civitate Dei.

The Topics, which was valuable to logicians until the recovery of Aristotle's Topics, is also a work of Cicero's maturity. One early work, the De Inventione, became by a quirk of its transmission a staple treatise for the early mediaeval study of rhetoric, and in particular for its relevance to the study of argument, and thus of logic.

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