Marcus Tullius Cicero.

Cicero's Tusculan disputations .. online

. (page 11 of 22)
Online LibraryMarcus Tullius CiceroCicero's Tusculan disputations .. → online text (page 11 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

term those disturbed movements " diseases ") is no
more sound than is a diseased body. Thus it is, that
wisdom is saneness of the soul; unwisdom, a certain
kind of unsoundness, which is insanity, and also,
being out of one's mind. These things are much
better designated in the Latin than in the Greek,
a statement which will be found true as to many
subjects. But of this I will speak elsewhere, con-
fining myself now to the discussion in hand. As
to the whole subject of our present inquiry, the very
meaning of the word "insanity" shows what it is
and of what quality ; for since it must necessarily
be understood that those are sane whose minds are
disturbed by no movement that can be likened to a
1 Amentia. 2 Dementia,

On Gh-ief. 143

disease, those in the opposite condition must neces-
sarily be called " insane." Thus there is nothing
better than our Latin idiom by which we say that
those who are drawn without bridle by either lust
or anger have " passed out of their own power." 1
Anger itself, however, belongs under the head of
lust ; for anger is properly defined as the " lust for
revenge." Those then who are said to have passed
out of their own power are so spoken of, because
they are not under the power of the mind, to which
the sovereignty of the whole soul is assigned by
nature. But why the Greeks call this paviav 2 I
could not easily say. We, however, define it better
than they do ; for we distinguish this insanity,
which, as conjoined with foolishness, has a broader
meaning, from madness. The Greeks indeed want
to make the distinction ; but they lack the right
word. What we call " madness " they term ycteXay-
> Xp\iav? as if the mind were moved only by black
bile, and not often by excessive anger, fear, or pain,
in which sense we call Athamas, Alcmaeon, Ajax,
Orestes mad. The law of the Twelve Tables for-

1 Exisse ex potestate.

2 Mania, which in Greek, as in onr English use of the term,
generally denotes insanity of a violent type. .

8 Melancholy, literally meaning "black bile," which was sup-
posed to be the source or cause of the affection of mind thus
termed. The word in its Greek use, as it seems to me, denotes
not so much the utter loss of reason, as an intensity of passion
that can show itself in the most desperate acts. The word is
well defined by the examples given in the text.

144 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.

bids one thus affected to have the charge of his own
affairs. The text of the law is not "If one be
insane," l but " If one be mad ; " 2 for those who
wrote the law regarded the foolishness which lacks
consistency of character, that is, insanity, as
capable of attending to ordinary duties and observ-
ing the common and usual proprieties of life, while
they considered madness as blindness of mind on
every subject. While this seems to be more than
insanity, it is still of such a nature that madness
may befall a wise man, but not insanity. This,
however, is a question alien from our present pur-
pose. Let us return to our subject.

6. You said, I think, that a wise man seems to
you liable to grief.

A. Such, indeed, is my opinion.

M. It is in accordance with human nature for
you to think so ; for we are not born of flint. On
the other hand, there is in most souls by nature
something tender and soft, that can be shaken by
grief as by a storm. Nor did Grantor, who in our
New Academy held a distinguished place among
our greatest men, speak otherwise than sensibly
when he said, "I by no means agree with those

* Si insanus escit.

2 Sifuriosus escit. It is by no means probable that the law-
makers had in mind the distinction which Cicero here makes.
Under the term furiosus they undoubtedly meant to include all
types of insanity, as we have often seen "madness" used in this
broad sense, and as almost down to our own time an asylum for
the insane has been called a "madhouse."

On Grief. 145

who bestow great praise on a certain incapacity of
pain, which cannot be and ought not to be. I
would rather not be ill ; but if I were so, I should
choose to retain my sensibility, even in case of am-
putation or of the removal of a tumor; for this free-
dom from pain can be had only at the great price
of savageness in the soul or stupor in the body."
But let us beware lest this may be the language of
those who yield favor to our weakness and indulge
our effeminacy. Let us dare, on the other hand, not
only to lop off the branches of our miseries, 1 but
also to pluck up all the fibres of their roots. Yet
there will perhaps be something left, so deep do the
shoots of folly strike ; but there shall be nothing
left unnecessarily. 2 Take this indeed for granted,
that unless the mind be made sane, which it cannot
be without philosophy, there will be no end of
misery. Therefore, since we have begun, let us
commit ourselves to its curative treatment. We
shall be made sane, if we desire to be. I will
indeed go farther; for I will not treat of grief
alone, but of every kind of "mental disturbance,"
as I have termed it, " disease," as the Greeks call it.
First, if you please, let us follow the method of the
Stoics, who are wont to compress their arguments

1 Latin, miseriarum, meaning "causes of grief."
8 What Cicero means to say here is, that though, by the aid
of philosophy, much of the misery of human life may be de-
stroyed, root and branch, yet there will remain what seem causes
of grief, which philosophy cannot remove, but may virtually


146 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.

within a brief space, and then I will discourse more
at large in my own accustomed way.

7. The man who is brave is also trustful, 1 not to
say confiding; 2 for by a bad colloquial usage confid-
ingness is spoken of as a fault, though derived from
the word that means "to confide," 3 which is deemed
praiseworthy. But he who is trustful is certainly
not under the dominion of fear ; for trust and fear
are very far apart. Now he who is liable to grief
is liable also to fear ; for we fear those things im-
pending and coming, which, when present, occasion
us grief. Thus it is that grief is incompatible with
courage. It is then probable that he who is liable
to grief is also liable to fear and to a broken and
depressed state of mind. When these befall a man,
he must admit that he is in a servile condition
and overpowered. He who gives them room in his
soul gives room at the same time to timidity and
cowardice. But the brave man is not liable to
them ; therefore he is not liable to grief. Now no
man is wise who is not brave ; therefore the wise
man is not liable to grief. Still further, he who is
brave must of necessity have a great soul ; he who

1 Fidens.

2 Confidens.

3 Confidendo. The following is a more nearly literal transla-
tion of this sentence. "He who is brave is also trusting [i. e.
trustful] (fdens) . [I use this word] because by a bad habit of
speech ' confiding ' (coiifidcns) is employed to denote a fault,
though derived from the verb 'confide' (a confidendo), which
means something praiseworthy."

On Grief. 147

has a great soul must be unconquered ; he who is
unconquered must despise the vicissitudes of hu-
man fortune, and regard them as placed beneath
him : but no man can despise aught in consequence
of which he is affected by grief, whence it fol-
lows that a brave man is never affected by grief.
But all wise men are brave. Therefore the wise
man is not liable to grief. Moreover, as the eye
disturbed in its action is not in a proper state to
discharge its office, and as the other members and
the entire body when put out of their normal state
are wanting to their purpose and function, so the
disturbed mind is not fit to discharge its function.
But the function of the mind is to make use of
reason, and the mind of the wise man is always so
affected as to make the best use of reason. It is
therefore never disturbed, and grief is disturbance
of mind; therefore the wise man will always be
free from it. 1

8. It is also probable that he who is temperate
whom the Greeks call <r(t)<f)pova, z and they term the
virtue a-woavvrjv^ which I am accustomed to call

1 It will be seen that this section consists almost entirely of
syllogisms (including the sorites, which is a mass of truncated
syllogisms), which would need very slight verbal changes in order
to put them into a strictly scientific form.

2 "Discreet," or "prudent." The Latin temperatus has a much
broader meaning than we are accustomed to give to "temperate."

3 "Discretion," or "prudence." The sentence commencing
" It is also probable that he who is temperate," suddenly breaks
off, and is succeeded by what is virtually a long parenthesis, which
lasts as far as the words, "He then who is frugal," which is a

148 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.

sometimes "temperance," sometimes "moderation,"
sometimes also " modesty." J But I know not wheth-
er this virtue can be rightly termed " frugality," which
has a narrower signification with the Greeks, who
call frugal men jffiifirlpflutf which means merely
" useful." Our term has a broader meaning, for it
includes every form of abstinence and all that is
comprised in " innocence," which in the Greek has
no corresponding term in current use, though it might
employ with like meaning a/3\a/3eiai/ ; 3 for inno-
cence is such a frame of mind as can injure no one.
Frugality embraces also the rest of the virtues ; for
if it were not so comprehensive, but as narrow
as most persons think it, the surname of Lucius
Piso 4 would never have conveyed so much praise.
But because neither he who for fear has deserted
his post as sentinel, which is the part of cowardice,

continuation of what Cicero began to say in the first words of
the section.

1 Modestia. All the words denoting character derived from
modus signify the avoidance of extremes. "Modesty " in English
means the avoidance of extremes in ostentation or self-assertion,
while in Latin modestia often has something of the broader sense
of moderatio.

2 " Useful," or "gainful," is the primary meaning of the word,
which is applied to frugal people as serviceable rather than as

3 " Harmlessness," or " innocence." It corresponds closely in
meaning to the Latin innocentia, and there seems no reason why
it should not have been in equally current use.

* Frugi, a surname that seems to have been given to him, in
the sense which Cicero attaches to it, as including all the virtues
that constitute a truly honorable character.

On Grief. 149

nor he who for avarice has failed to return goods
intrusted to his charge, which is the part of dishon-
esty, nor he who from rashness has mismanaged
an enterprise, which is the part of folly, is wont
to be called " frugal," frugality, therefore, embraces
the three virtues, courage, honesty and prudence;
though it is a common characteristic of all the
virtues that they are connected and bound with
one another, so that there is room for our making
frugality a fourth virtue, having for its special office
to govern and appease all the mind's movements of
desire, and always to maintain a firmness of soul
hostile to lust and moderate in all things. The vice
opposite to this is called "prodigality." Frugal-
ity is derived from the fruits of the ground, 1 than
which the earth yields nothing better. Our word
for prodigality 2 it may seem a somewhat forced
derivation ; but let us try : if it is of no worth, it
may be thought that I am only in sport comes
from there being nothing at all 3 in the prodigal, for
which reason he is termed a "nothing." 4 He then
who is frugal, or, if you prefer the terms, moderate
and temperate, must of necessity be firm ; he who
is firm, calm ; he who is calm, free from every

1 From fruges, which denotes any kind of agricultural product,
but especially grain.

2 Nequitia, which in accordance with Cicero's derivation of it
might be rendered "good-for-nothingness."

8 Nequicquam, which may mean "nothing." This derivation
is by no means improbable.

* Nihil. So we call a worthless man a "cipher."

150 Cicero's Tttsculan Disputations.

perturbation of mind, therefore also free from grief;
and these are the characteristics of the wise man :
therefore grief will have no place with the wise

9. Therefore Dionysius of Heraclea shows his
clear understanding on this subject, in his reason-
ing about the complaint of Achilles in the Iliad,

" With sorrowing anger swells my heart within me
For fame and honor that were justly mine."

Is the hand as it ought to be, when swollen ? Is
not any other member of the body, when tumid or
swollen, in a bad condition ? Equally the mind
inflated and swollen is in a faulty state. But the
wise man's mind is always free from fault, is never
swollen, is never tumid ; while an angry mind is so.
Therefore the wise man is never angry. Moreover,
if one is angry, he has also inordinate desire ; for it
is characteristic of an angry man to desire to inflict
the greatest possible amount of pain on him by
whom he supposes himself to have been injured.
But he who desires this must of necessity have
great joy if his end be attained, so that he must
rejoice in another person's misfortune. Now since
this cannot be the case with a wise man, he cannot
be liable to anger. But if grief would befit a wise
man, anger might also, from which since he is free,
he will also be free from grief. 1 Then too, if a wise

1 Both being equally disturbances or perturbations of mind,
from which the wise man, as such, is free.

On Grief. 151

man were liable to grief, he would also be liable to
pity l and to enviousness. I say not " envy," which
exists only in specific instances ; while the term
that I have used has an unmistakable meaning, so
that we thus escape the ambiguous word "envy,"
which is derived from seeing too closely into anoth-
er's affairs, as in that verse in the Menalippa,
" Who envies me the flowering of my children ? "

which seems bad Latin ; while Attius is very clearly
in the right, inasmuch as the verb that means " to
see " (and in its compound form, " to see into," or
to envy) governs the case which he connects with
" envies." We indeed are not permitted by custom
to employ this idiom ; but the poet maintains the

1 The Stoics regarded pity, because it is an emotion, as out of
character for a wise man. He should have no self-pity, nor any
emotional feeling of his own pain, and equally little feeling of
another's pain. Seneca, whose ethical writings are full of pre-
cepts of humanity and kindness, writes : " Pity is a fault. The
wise man will not pity, but he will succor the distressed." This
part of the section can be fitly translated only by using the Latin
words. The following is a nearly literal rendering: "He would
be liable to pity and to enviousness (invidentia, a word coined by
Cicero and, I believe, peculiar to him). I do not say 'envy'
(invidiam), which is used only with reference to the specific act
of envying ; but invidentia, as derived from invidendo (envying),
may be correctly used, so as to escape the ambiguous term invidia
(envy), a word derived from excessive looking into another's
fortune (in and video), as in the Menalippa, ' Who envies (invi-
dif) the flower (florem) of my children ? ' which seems bad Latin,
yet is very properly used by Attius, inasmuch as video takes the
accusative after it, though modern usage would have connected
flori, and notflorem, with invidit."

152 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.

legitimate license of his craft, and writes under less

10. The same person then is liable to pity and
to envy ; for he who is pained by any person's ad-
versity is also pained by some other person's pros-
perity, as Theophrastus, lamenting the death of his
friend Callisthenes, expresses his vexation at Alex-
ander's prosperity, and thus says that Callisthenes
fell in with a man of very great power and the hap-
piest fortune, but ignorant of the fit ways of using
prosperity. As pity is grief for another's adversity,
so enviousuess is grief for another's prosperity. He
therefore who is liable to pity is liable also to envy.
But the wise man is not liable to envy ; therefore,
not to pity. But were a wise man wont to feel
grief, he would also be wont to feel pity. There-
fore grief has no place with the wise man. These
things are so said by the Stoics, and their reasoning
is very close and compact. 1 But there is need of a
broader and fuller statement. Yet paramount re-
gard should be felt for the opinions of those who
employ the most vigorous and, so to speak, the
most manly style of reasoning and thought. For
the Peripatetics, with whom I am the most nearly
connected, whose fluency, learning and solid sense
cannot be surpassed, do not satisfy me in what they
say about the moderateness of the soul's perturba-
tions or diseases. Every evil, though moderate, is
an evil, and what we want to prove is that in the

1 Latin, contorting, i. e. " somewhat tight-twisted."

On Grief. 153

wise man there is no evil whatsoever. Now as the
body, if moderately ill, is not sound, so in the soul
that same moderateness falls short of a healthy
state. Therefore our people, after the analogy of
sick bodies, have applied a name denoting sick-
ness, 1 as to many other things, to trouble, anxiety
and vexation. The Greeks apply a nearly equiva-
lent term to every kind of perturbation of the soul,
using the word 7ra#o9, 2 which includes disease, to
designate whatever disturbed movement there may
be in the mind. But we rightly make a distinction
which they do not ; for while sickness of soul bears
a strong resemblance to sickness of body, lust is
not like sickness, nor yet is excessive joy, which is
a high and exulting pleasure of the soul. Nor has
fear a very close likeness to sickness, though nearly
allied to grief. But sickness of soul, as sickness of
body, has properly a name not remote from pain.
We must then explain the origin of this pain, that
is, the cause that produces sickness in the soul, as
if it were sickness in the body. For as physicians,
when they have ascertained the cause of a disease,
think that its cure is found, so we, having deter-
mined the cause of the soul's sickness, shall discover
the mode of remedy.

11. Opinion then is the cause, not only of grief,
but also of all other perturbations of soul, of which

1 Aegritudo.

2 Which may mean any affection or emotion whatsoever, whether
glad, sorrowful, or neither. See 4, note.

154 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.

there are four kinds, with many subdivisions. Since
every disturbance is a movement of the soul, either
without reason, or in contempt of reason, or in dis-
obedience to reason, and since every such move-
ment is excited by a good or a bad opinion of its
object, 1 the four kinds of perturbations are equally
divided into two classes. There are two derived
from a good opinion of their objects, of which one
is exultant pleasure, that is, excessively ecstatic
joy, in our high estimation of some great present
good ; while the other may be fitly termed " lust,"
which is the immoderate desire, not under the con-
trol of reason, for what is regarded as a great good.
These two kinds then, exultant pleasure and lust,
are excited by a good opinion of their objects, as
the two others, fear and grief, are excited by a bad
opinion of their objects. For fear is an opinion
concerning some great impending evil, and grief is
an opinion concerning some great present evil, and
indeed an opinion freshly formed of an evil so
great that it seems right to be distressed by it; that
is, such that he whom it pains thinks that he ought
to be pained by it. But these perturbations, which,
like so many furies, folly lets loose and excites in
the lives of men, we must resist with all our
strength and with all the means at our command,
if we wish to pass our allotted term of life calmly

1 Latin, aut boni aut mali opinione, an idiom which is
employed with opinio throughout the section, but which, literally
translated, would not be readily understood.

On Grief. 155

and quietly. The others we will treat of else-
where. Let us now drive away grief, if we can,
inasmuch as you said that a wise man is liable to
grief, while I think that he is not so in any way or
measure. For grief is a thing noisome, wretched,
detestable, worthy of all contempt, to be fled from,
so to speak, with sails and oars.
12. What ought you to think of

" The son of him who stole Hippodamea,
And stained his nuptials with her father's blood I " *

He was indeed the great-grandson of Jupiter. Can
it be then that he is so abject aiid broken in
spirit ?

" Friends, come not near me, not within my shadow,
Lest foul contagion cast its blighting curse,
Such power of guilt inheres within my body."

1 From the Thyestes of Ennius. The literal rendering of these
two verses could not be forced into English rhythm, even by
repeating the liberty taken with the accents in Hlppodamta. The
literal rendering is : " The grandson of Tantalus, the son of Pe-
lops, who in former time by stolen nuptials obtained Hippodamea
from his father-in-law king Oenomaus." An oracle had predicted
to Oenomaus, king of Pisa in Elis, that he should die by means
of his son-in-law. He therefore proclaimed that he would give
his daughter to the suitor who should win a chariot-race of him,
while all who failed in the race should be put to death. Pelops
bribed the charioteer of Oenomaus to leave the wheels of his char-
iot imperfectly secured, and thus Oenomaus was thrown from it
and fatally injured. The myths concerning the Pelopidae do
not make Thyestes a better man than Atreus ; yet it is for the
atrocious crime of Atreus, in killing the sons of Thyestes and
serving them at their father's table, that the tragedian represents
Thyestes as in the lowest depth of sorrow.

156 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.

Will you, Thyestes, thus condemn yourself, and
bereave yourself of the light of life, because of the
greatness of another's guilt ? What ? Do you not
think that son of Phoebus unworthy of his father's
light, of whom it is said,

" His eyes are sunk, his fleshless body wasted,
His bloodless cheeks corroded by his tears ;
His bristling beard, unshaven and befouled,
Hangs filthily on his discolored breast ? " 1

These evils, most foolish Aeetes, were not among
those which fortune had brought upon you; but
you added them yourself to that evil, which had
grown old, so that the swelling of the soul for it
had subsided. Grief consists, as I shall show, in
the fresh feeling of evil; but you are mourning
because you miss your kingdom, not your daugh-
ter; for you hated her, and perhaps not without
reason, while you did not take calmly the loss of
your kingdom. It is indeed a shameless sorrow,
when a man consumes himself with grief because
he is not permitted to rule over men that have be-
come free. Dionysius, the tyrant, when expelled
from Syracuse, kept school at Corinth. He could

1 Probably from the Afedus of Pacuvius, or, as some commen-
tators say, of Ennius. Medea, the daughter of Aeetes, during her
flight slew her brother Absyrtus, and strewed his limbs on the
way, to delay her father in his pursuit of her. It is certainly
conceivable that he may not have lamented the loss of such a
daughter. He subsequently was driven from his kingdom by his
brother, and restored by Medea and her son Medus. The verses
from the tragedy describe the condition La which Medea found

On Grief. 157

not dispense with that continued opportunity of
commanding. But what was ever more shameless
than Tarquin's making war with those who had not
been able to endure his pride ? It is said that,
when he could not be reinstated in his kingdom
by the arms either of the Veientes or of the Latini,
he betook himself to Cumae, and in that city was
consumed by age and grief.

13. Do you then think that it can happen to a
wise man to be overcome by grief, that is, by mis-
ery ? Nay more, while every perturbation of the
soul is misery, grief is torture. Lust is attended
by ardor, ecstatic joy by levity, fear by abjectness ;
but grief has, worse than all these, wasting, tor-
ment, distress, noisomeness. It lacerates, corrodes
and utterly consumes the soul. Unless we so di-
vest ourselves of it as to throw it entirely away, we
cannot be otherwise than miserable. Moreover,
this is perfectly plain, that grief exists when any
object is so looked upon as to give the idea of a
great evil present and pressing. Epicurus thinks
that grief is naturally inseparable from evil, so

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 11 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

Online LibraryMarcus Tullius CiceroCicero's Tusculan disputations .. → online text (page 11 of 22)