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Cicero and the Natural Law

Page history last edited by Mr. Mullen 2 years, 6 months ago


Natural Law

  • The universe and society operate according to immutable, demonstrable, self-evident laws that can be known through Reason by observing the harmony, balance, and intentionality of Nature. (innate ideas)
  • Human beings (microcosm) are part of nature (macrocosm) and are therefore subject to its laws.
  • Society and civil law must be based upon the natural law. Society must be as balanced and reasonable as nature.
  • Religious element: the ground of reason and intelligibility is a "god" or gods or some transcendent, eminently reasonable force or entity. 
  • Go to The Great Chain of Being

Textbook readings


    4th edition: pp.182-183
    5th edition: pp. 172-173

    4th edition: pp. 185-185
    5th edition: p. 178


"On The Laws"
    4th edition: pp. 197-199
    5th edition: pp. 189-190



An overview of Stoicism from The University of Tennessee at Martin:


Quotes from "On The Laws" for discussion and comment:


"Virtue, however, is nothing else than Nature perfected and developed to its highest point."


virtue Look up virtue at Dictionary.com
c.1225, "moral life and conduct, moral excellence," vertu, from Anglo-Fr. and O.Fr. vertu, from L. virtutem (nom. virtus) "moral strength, manliness, valor, excellence, worth," from vir "man" (see virile). Phrase by virtue of (c.1230) preserves alternative M.E. sense of "efficacy." Wyclif Bible has virtue where K.J.V. uses power. The seven cardinal virtues (c.1320) were divided into the natural (justice, prudence, temperance, fortitude) and the theological (hope, faith, charity). To make a virtue of a necessity (c.1374) translates L. facere de necessitate virtutem. [Jerome]
perfect (adj.) Look up perfect at Dictionary.com
c.1225 (implied in perfectiun), from O.Fr. parfit (11c.), from L. perfectus "completed," pp. of perficere "accomplish, finish, complete," from per- "completely" + facere "to perform" (see factitious). Often used in Eng. as an intensive (perfect stranger, etc.). The verb meaning "to bring to full development" is recorded from 1398. Perfectionist is 1657, originally theological, "one who believes moral perfection may be attained in earthly existence;" sense of "one only satisfied with the highest standards" is from 1934.

"Innumerable arts have been discovered through the teachings of Nature."

How does art imitate Nature? (mimesis)


"We are born for Justice, and right is based, not on men's opinions, but upon Nature."

What does Cicero mean when he says that human beings are born for justice?


"There is no difference in kind between man and man, [for] reason is certainly common to us all."



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