Marcus Tullius Cicero.

Cicero's Tusculan disputations .. online

. (page 17 of 22)
Online LibraryMarcus Tullius CiceroCicero's Tusculan disputations .. → online text (page 17 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

phrase, "borrowing trouble," perhaps makes the nearest approach
to it.

On the Passions. 239

gladness and desire. To me, indeed, it seems that
in everything appertaining to perturbations of mind
the entire case is contained in the one fact that all
these perturbations are under our own control, all of
our own choice, all voluntary. The error that is
their source must, then, be removed, the opinion
from which they spring must be extirpated ; and as
of supposed evils such as we encounter are thus to
be made more tolerable, so among supposed goods
such as are called great and gladsome are to be re-
ceived with a calmer mind. Yet as to both evils
and goods, if it is difficult to convince any one that
none of those things that disturb the mind ought to
be accounted as among either goods or evils, differ-
ent modes of treatment must be applied to different
mental disorders, the malevolent must be cor-
rected in one way, the amatory in another, the anx-
ious, again, in another, the timid in yet another. It
were indeed easy, according to the most approved
mode of reasoning concerning good and evil, 1 to
show that an unwise man can have had no expe-
rience of happiness, inasmuch as he never possessed
any true good. But I am now using the language
of common life. Suppose then that those are really
goods which are regarded as such, honors, riches,
pleasures, and the like, yet exulting and extravagant
joy in their possession is shameful, just as while
laughter may be permitted, cachinnation may deserve
reproof. The same blame rests on exhilaration in
1 The Stoic philosophy.

240 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.

gladness as on depression in pain ; over-earnestness
in seeking objects of desire is on the same footing
with an excess of happiness in their enjoyment ;
and as those who are too much cast down by-
trouble, so those who are too much elated by joy
are fitly regarded as light-minded. Still further, as
envy comes under the head of grief, so does taking
pleasure in another's misfortunes under that of joy,
and both are usually chastised by the exposure of
their savageness and beastliness. Moreover, as it is
becoming to avoid rashness, unbecoming to fear, so is
it becoming to be happy, unbecoming to be immod-
erately glad ; for in order to be explict I distinguish
between the two. 1 I have already said that depres-
sion of the mind can never be right, that elation may
be ; 2 for the joy of Hector in the play of Xaevius,

" I joy to hear my praise from one who merits praise," 8

is of an entirely different type from that expressed
in these verses of Trabea,

" The kind procuress, by my money won,

Will meet my will. My touch will move the doors,
And Chrysis, who does not expect my coming,
Will rush with joyful greeting as I enter,
And gladly welcome my desired embrace." *

1 Between gaitdium and laetitia, which in ordinary use seem
synonymous, while yet laetitia is used when a stronger word than
gaudium is needed.

2 Under special conditions, not with regard to external goods,
but as to the only true good, conscious virtue.

8 From a tragedy of Naevius entitled Hector Proficiscens.

* The only passage of any length that has been preserved from

On the Passions. 241

How splendid the personage in the play regards
this, he himself shall tell :

" Fortune herself falls short of my good fortunes."

32. One needs only careful consideration to per-
ceive in his inmost soul how shameful is joy of this
type ; and as those are base who are transported
with gladness in the enjoyment of sensual pleasure,
so are those scandalously vile whose minds are in-
flamed with desire for such indulgence. Indeed, all
of what is commonly called " love " (nor, by Hercu-
les, can I find any other name for it) is so trivial
that I can see nothing to be compared with it. Yet
Caecilius 1 says of it :

" A fool is he, or in affairs unversed,
Who deems not Love supreme and sovereign God,
Whose hand dispenses madness, wisdom, health,
Disease, success, reciprocated love,
His own caprice his all-sufficient law."

poetry, what a pre-eminent corrector of life, which
seeks to place Love, the creator of profligacy and
levity, in the council of the gods ! I am speaking
of comedy, which, if we did not approve of these
vileuesses, would have no existence at all. But
what, even in tragedy, says that leader of the
Argonauts ?

" You saved my life for love, and not for honor." 2

any play of Trabea. If this is a fair specimen, the loss is not to
be deplored.

i See iii. 23, note.

3 From the Medea Exul of Ennius.

242 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.

What then ? What flames of wretchedness did the
love of Medea kindle ! And she, in the words of
another poet, says that she had a husband,

" The gift of Love, far dearer thau a father." J

33. But we may suffer some sportive freedom in
the poets, in whose fiction we see Jupiter himself
implicated in these scandalous affairs. Let us come
to philosophers, preceptors of virtue, who deny the
necessarily licentious character of love, and in this
are at variance with Epicurus, who, as I think, is
not far from the right. For what is that love of
friendship of which they speak ? Why is not a de-
formed young man or a beautiful old man the object
of love ? The worst form of licentiousness, as I
think, sprang from the Greek gymnasium, where
every improper liberty is permitted. It was well
said by Ennius,

" In public nudeness license had its birth."

To say nothing of the love of women, for which
Nature has granted a greater freedom, who can
doubt what the poets mean by the rape of Gany-
mede ? Or who does not understand what the
Laius of Euripides says and desires ? Or, finally,
what the most learned men and the greatest
poets publish about themselves in their songs and
poems ? What does Alcaeus distinguished for
courage in his own country write about the
love of young men ? Indeed, all Anacreon's verse

1 Probably from the Medea of Pacuvius.

On the Passions. 243

is amatory. But most scandalous of all in this
regard, if judged by his writings, was Ibycus of
Rhegium. 1

34. Now we see that the loves of all these
writers are licentious. There have also appeared
some of us philosophers chief among them my
favorite Plato, whom on this score Dicaearchus
rightly accuses who have given their sanction
to love. The Stoics, indeed, both say that a wise
man may be a lover, and define love as the en-
deavor to form friendship from personal beauty. If
there is in reality any one devoid of care, of desire,
incapable even of a sigh, I have nothing to say of
him ; for he is entirely free from sensuality, and it is
of this that I am now speaking. If, however, there
is any love, as there certainly is, which is quite or
almost insanity, such as is impersonated in the

" If there be one among the immortal gods,
Who makes indeed my happiness his care." 8

But all the gods ought to have taken care that his
love should be gratified.

" Oh wretched me, while Heaven withholds its aid."

Nothing more true ; and he is well answered :

" Art thou demented in thy senseless wailing?"

1 Anacreon and Ibycus both lived for many years at Samos,
under the patronage and at the court of Polycrates.

2 A comedy of Turpilius.

3 The sentence is left unfinished.

244 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.

Thus his friends look upon him as insane. But
what a tragedy is he making of it !

" Holy Apollo, help ! and, mighty Neptune,
On thee I call. Ye winds, I crave your aid."

He thinks that the whole universe will turn to in
aid of his love. Venus alone he excepts, as indis-
posed to do him justice.

" For why, Venus, should I call on thee ? "

He says that it is on account of her lustfulness
that she does not care for him, as if it were not in
very lustfulness that he is saying and doing such
abominable things.

35. In attempting to cure one thus affected it is
well to show him how trivial, how contemptible,
how utterly worthless is the indulgence that he
craves, how easily gratification may be sought from
other sources and in other ways, or the whole mat-
ter be dismissed from thought. Sometimes it is de-
sirable to lead one away to new pursuits, solicitudes,
cares, occupations. Then too, the cure may often
be effected by a change of place, as in the case of
invalids who are not convalescent. Some also think
that an old love is to be driven out by a new love,
as a nail is displaced by another nail. But espe-
cially should one be warned of the intensity of the
madness produced by love ; for of all perturbations
of mind there is certainly none more vehement, so
that, if you will not lay to its charge such crimes as
ravishing, seduction, adultery, and even incest, the

On the Passions. 245

vileness of all which may be put to its account, yet
omitting all these things, the very disturbance of
mind in love is in itself disgusting. To pass over
the symptoms indicative of madness, what fickleness
of character is implied in the very things that seem
harmless ! l

" Wrongs and suspicions, enmity and truce,
"War without cause, and peace succeeding war.
Of these caprices would you know the law,
The reason why ? Then may you fix by rule
The madman's fancies and his fits of rage." a

Whom ought not this inconstancy, this fickleness,
by its own unseemliness, to deter ? For what I
have said with regard to every perturbation should
be clearly shown, namely, that there is no perturba-
tion which is not a matter of opinion, of one's own
choice, voluntary. If love were natural, all would
love, and would love always, and would love the
same object, 3 nor would shame deter one, reflection
another, satiety another.

36. Anger, too, which, so long as it disturbs the
mind, leaves no doubt of its being madness, by
whose impulse there arises between brothers 4 a
quarrel like this,

" ' In shamelessness what mortal is thine equal ? '
' In malice whom can I compare with thee ? ' " 8

1 Latin, mediocria, i. e. neither good nor evil.
8 From the Eunuchus of Terence, i. 1.

* Latin, idem. I have translated it literally ; yet I think that
Cicero must have meant either "a similar object," or "in the
same way."

* Agamemnon and Menelaus.

6 From the Iphigenia of Ennius. This sentence is left unfin-

246 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.

You know what follows. The brothers in alternate
verses hurl at each other the severest contumely, so
as to make it plainly manifest that they are the sons
of Atreus, the man who plans a novel punish-
ment for his brother,

" Evil stupendous must I bring upon him,
That I may bruise and crush his bitter heart." 1

What then will this stupendous evil be ? Let
Thyestes tell:

" My impious brother caters for my table,
And for the viands serves my slaughtered sons."

Their entrails he places before their father. To what
length will not anger, like madness, go ? Therefore
we properly say that the angry have got beyond
their own control, beyond counsel, reason, intellect.
Those whom they endeavor to assail must be taken
out of their way till they collect themselves 2 (what
does " collecting themselves " mean, unless it be get-
ting together again into their place the scattered parts
of the mind ?), and the angry men themselves must
be begged, besought, that, if they have any power of
revenge, they will postpone its exercise to another
time, till their anger cools. 3 Now, cooling implies a
heat of mind without the consent of reason. Hence
the praise bestowed on that saying of Archytas

ished, perhaps designedly ; in which case anger, with the rest of
the sentence so far as it goes, is announced as the subject of what

1 These and the following verses are from the Atreus of Attius,

2 Latin, se ipsi colligant.

3 Latin, defcrvescat.

On the Passions. 247

when he was angry with his steward, " How would
I have dealt with you, if I had not been angry ! "

37. Where then are those who say that anger is
of use ? Can insanity be of use ? Or those who say
that anger is natural ? Can anything that has rea-
son for its antagonist be in accordance with nature ?
How, if anger were natural, could one man be more
irascible than another ? Or how could the desire
for revenge cease till it was gratified ? Or how
could any one repent of what he had done in an-
ger ? as we see in the case of king Alexander who,
after killing his friend Clitus, hardly refrained from
taking his own life, so strong was his feeling of re-'
morse. In view of these things who can doubt that
this movement of the mind in anger is wholly a
matter of opinion, and voluntary ? And who can
doubt that such diseases of the mind as avarice and
ambition spring from the unduly high estimate of
that which occasions the mind's disease ? Whence
it ought to be inferred that every perturbation of
mind also consists in opinion. Moreover, if con-
fidence, that is, firm assurance of mind, is the vir-
tual knowledge and settled opinion of one who does
not give his assent without reason, fear is lack of
confidence as to expected and impending evil ; and
if hope is the expectation of good, fear must neces-
sarily be the expectation of evil. Like fear, so are
the other perturbations involved in evil. As firm-
ness then belongs to knowledge, so does perturba-
tion belong to error. Those who are said to be

248 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.

irascible, or pitiful, or envious, or otherwise simi-
larly affected, by nature, have minds, so to speak,
constitutionally in bad health, yet are curable, as is
said to have been the case with Socrates. Zopyrus,
who professed to know a man's character from his
appearance, when in a public assembly he had given
a long catalogue of the faults of Socrates, and was
derided by others who did not recognize those faults
in him, was relieved from blame by Socrates him-
self, who said that these faults were implanted in
him by nature, but that he had exterminated them
by reason. Therefore, as one may seem to be in
perfect health, yet somewhat inclined by nature to
a particular disease, so in different minds is there a
propensity to different faults. The faults of those
who are said to be faulty, not by nature, but of their
own depraved will, spring from false opinions as to
things good and evil, so that from this source also
different persons have a proclivity to different move-
ments and perturbations of mind. But as it is in
bodies, so is it in minds, chronic disease of mind 1
is dispelled with greater difficulty than fresh per-
turbations, just as a sudden tumor of the eyes is
cured sooner than an inflammation of long standing
can be removed.

38. Now that we have ascertained the cause of
perturbations of mind, which all spring from opin-
ion and will, this discussion need not be continued

1 Diseases that are in a certain sense innate, caused by a nat-
ural proclivity.

On the Passions. 249

longer. But when we know, as far as they can be
known by man, the supreme good and the corre-
sponding extreme of evil, we ought to be aware that
nothing greater or more useful can be desired from
philosophy than the truth as to these subjects which
we have discussed for four successive days ; for to
the contempt of death and the relief of pain so as
to make it endurable, we added the appeasing of
grief, than which man is liable to no greater evil.
Although every perturbation of mind is indeed
severe, and differs little from insanity, yet we are
wont to speak of others when they are in some per-
turbation of fear, or joy, or desire, merely as agitated
and disturbed, while we call those who have given
themselves up to grief wretched, afflicted, miserable,
unfortunate. Therefore it seems to have been pro-
posed by you, not by chance, but for sufficient rea-
son, that we should discuss grief separately from
the other perturbations ; for in grief is the fountain
and source of misery. But the cure of grief and of
the other diseases of mind is the same, namely, the
conviction that they all are matters of opinion, and
voluntary, and are yielded to because they are
thought to be right. This error, as the root of all
evils, Philosophy promises thoroughly to eradicate.
Let us then submit ourselves to her culture, and suf-
fer ourselves to be cured ; for while these evils have
their seat within us, we not only cannot be happy,
we cannot even be sane. Let us therefore either
deny that anything is effected by reason, while, on

250 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.

the other hand, nothing can be rightly done without
reason ; or else, Philosophy consisting in the com-
parison of reasons, 1 let us, if we wish to be good
and happy, seek from her every furtherance and
help toward living well and happily.

1 Every act of judgment is a comparison. Comprehension is
the taking of two things together. We cannot comprehend a
single object by itself, but only by comparing it with some object
more or less similar, or with some assumed standard of quality or
quantity. Cicero here means to say, that reason is the only fit-
ting guide of conduct, and that as philosophy consists in compar-
ing the premises which reason furnishes, and framing judgments
or forming conclusions from them, philosophy is pre-eminently
the guide of life.


1. THE Tusculan Disputations, Brutus, close with
this fifth day, on which we discussed the subject
that above all others seems to you deserving of
attention ; for I am made aware both by the very
carefully written book 1 which you inscribed to me
and by many conversations with you, that you are
strongly of the opinion that virtue of itself suffices
for a happy life. Though it is difficult to prove
this, on account of the many and various adverse
strokes of fortune, yet it is a truth of such a char-
acter that we ought to endeavor to make the proof
of it easy of apprehension : for there is no subject
in the entire range of philosophy that admits of
more serious or more eloquent treatment. For
since the efficient motive of those who first devoted
themselves to the study of philosophy was the de-
sire to occupy themselves all things else being
held as of inferior account in quest of the best
condition of life, they certainly bestowed so large
an amount of time and labor on that inquiry with

1 A treatise on Virtue, referred to also in the De Finibus,
i. 3.

252 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.

the hope of living happily. Now if virtue was
discovered and perfected by them, and if virtue
indeed gives security for a happy life, who is there
that will not think that the work of philosophi-
zing was with pre-eminent fitness both initiated by
them and undertaken by me ? But if virtue is
merely the slave of fortune, subjected to various
uncertain chances without sufficient strength for
its own defence, I fear that we should be less ready
to rely on our confidence in virtue for the hope of
a happy life than to seek it by vows to the gods.
Indeed, when I consider within myself the calami-
ties in which fortune has severely exercised me, I
sometimes begin to distrust this opinion, and to
dread the weakness and frailty incident to the hu-
man race ; for I fear lest Nature, having given us
infirm bodies and annexed to them incurable dis-
eases and pains beyond endurance, may have given
us also souls both in sympathy with bodily pain,
and involved, beside, in vexatious and troubles of
their own. But in this matter I reprove myself,
because I perhaps judge of the strength of virtue
from the effeminacy of others' and my own, and not
from virtue itself. For virtue if there only is
such a thing as virtue, a question, Brutus, which
your uncle 1 settled in the affirmative has under
its control all things that can befall man; in de-
spising them scorns human fortunes ; and while

1 Cato Uticensis, whose half-sister Servilia was the mother of

Virtue sufficient for Happiness. 253

free from all blame, thinks that it has concern with
nothing outside of itself. But we, magnifying all
future adversities by fear, all present by grief, pre-
fer to pass condemnation on the nature of things
rather than on our own errors.

2. But the correction both of this offence and of
our other faults and sins is to be sought from Phi-
losophy, to whose bosom I had recourse in my ear-
liest years of my own free and earnest choice, and
now, tossed by the severest disasters, as by a heavy
storm, I flee to the same port whence I took sail.
O Philosophy, guide of life ! searcher out of
virtue, expeller of faults ! What would not only
my own life, but that of the whole race of man,
have been without thee ? Thou gavest birth to
cities. Thou didst call together scattered men to
live in society. Thou didst unite them with one
another, first by homes, then by marriages, then by
intercourse in writing and in speech. Thou art the
inventor of laws ; thou, the mistress of morals and
discipline. I flee to thee. I seek thine aid. As
formerly in great part, so now with my inmost soul
and entirely, I yield myself up to thee. A single
day well spent and conformed to thy precepts is to
be preferred to a sinful immortality. 1 Whose help

1 One cannot but be reminded of the parallelism between this
sentence and the verse of the Hebrew poet, "A day in thy courts
is better than a thousand [elsewhere spent]," or, as it stands in
Dr. "Watts' s well-known paraphrase,

" Is sweeter than ten thousand days
Of pleasurable sin. "

254 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.

then may I use rather than that which comes from
thee, who hast in thy bounty given me tranquillity
of life, and hast taken away the fear of death ? Yet
Philosophy is so far from being praised as she de-
serves for what she has done for human life, that,
neglected by most men, by some she is even spoken
of reproachfully. Yet who dares to reproach the
parent of life, to defile himself with this parricide,
and to be so impiously ungrateful as to accuse her
whom he ought to revere, even if unable fully to
understand her? But, as I think, this error and
this darkness are brought upon the minds of the
unlearned, because they cannot look so far back,
and do not imagine that those by whom the life of
men was first ordered were philosophers.

3. While the thing itself is of the greatest anti-
quity, we yet confess that philosophy, as its name,
is recent. 1 For who indeed can deny that wisdom 2
itself is ancient, not only in fact, but also in name ?
It attained this most illustrious name among the
men of early time by the knowledge of things
divine and human and of the beginnings and causes
of all things. Therefore we have learned that the
seven who were deemed and called by the Greeks
a-o(f)oi, 8 by our people " wise," * and many centuries

1 Comparatively recent. The age of Pythagoras could be called
recent only in a modified sense.

a Sapientia (including of course its Greek synonyme <ro<t>ia).

3 "Wise."

* Sapicntes, to which the English "sapient" corresponds in
derivation and sound, but less nearly in sense than "wise."

Virtue sufficient for Happiness. 255

earlier, Lycurgus, in whose time Homer is said to
have lived, before this city was built, and already in
the heroic age, Ulysses and Nestor were, and were
esteemed to be, wise. Nor would Atlas have been
said in tradition to support the sky, or Prometheus
to have been nailed to Caucasus, nor Cepheus, 1 with
his wife, son-in-law and daughter, to have been
placed among the stars, unless their superhuman
knowledge of things heavenly had given over their
names to fabulous story. With these as leaders,
thenceforth all who had for their pursuit the con-
templation of nature were esteemed and called wise,
and that designation of them came down even to
Pythagoras, who as Heraclides of Pontus, distin-
guished as a learned man and a disciple of Plato,
writes was said to have come to Phlius, and to
have discussed certain subjects learnedly and co-
piously with Leon, king of the Phliasians. Leon,
admiring his genius and eloquence, asked him what
art he regarded as specially his own. 2 He replied
that he knew no art, but that he was a philosopher.
Leon, surprised by the novelty of the name, asked
him who the philosophers were, and what was the
difference between them and other men. Pythag-
oras answered, that human life seemed to him like

1 King of Ethiopia, husband of Cassiopeia, father of Androm-
eda, whose husband was Perseus. All four, by different titles to
such elevation, became stars.

2 Latin, qua maxime arte confident, "in what art he reposed
the most confidence," i. e. as furnishing him subjects and materi-

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 17 19 20 21 22

Online LibraryMarcus Tullius CiceroCicero's Tusculan disputations .. → online text (page 17 of 22)