Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

things, and the mere externals of mien, address; and the like. Cicero lays down the right principles of honourable conduct, and makes pleasing manners and agreeable bearing proceed from them as at once necessary consequences and beautiful results. He endeavours by several terms to convey the import of owopporúvin · it is verecundia, native modesty, which shrinks from giving offence to others; it is temperantia et modestia, self-restraint; it is sedatio perturbationum et rerum modus, the sway over the passions, the calm of the soul, and just propriety of conduct; it is deeorum, the becoming, and is the outgrowth of the honestum, from which it cannot be parted. It belongs to all its divisions, and can only be separated from them in idea. It is the bloom of virtue, and corresponds to beauty and colour in the complexion; as these show the vigorous constitution and sound health of the body, so does this become a proof and an exhibition of genuine probity in the soul. It gives lustre to the life, and secures the approbation of those about us by the due order, consistency, and regularity which it enforces in all our words and actions. It enjoins upon us to pursue the path which leads to harmony with nature, under whose guidance we shall never err or stray.

When we recall the extravagant perversion and contraction of this beautiful philosophical term, it is cheering, it is refreshing to get away

from the hot and foul breath of modern harangues, and to be borne aloft into the pure, pellucid air of writers of the olden time, who “use all gently," and understand as well as observe the temperance which they inculcate.

But time would fail us were we to attempt to string all the pearls, or to dive after all the corals, which shine in the transpareňt depths of this treatise. Without going into any further analysis, or attempting to trace more minutely the course of thought, we are entirely in earnest in pointing the reader to it as one of the purest sources of instrnction and enjoyment which have been transmitted to us by the ancients. The comparison of it as a whole-in its conception, extent, and soundness of views, execution, finish, and colouring, in its design and its adaptedness to secure that design with more modern and less unpretending works ;—the inquiry into the state of morals and manner of daily life likely to exist where such a pure and lofty scheme could be deliberately put forth, in a country illustrated by so many noble and self-sacrificing deeds, and where the compliment of Pyrrhus to Fabricius, that the sụn could more easily be turned from his course than he from honour, might have been extended to more individuals than among any other people who have ever lived ;-and incidentally, the probable sincerity of the opinions promulgated, and the amount of their influence upon their expounder and author—are topics which we are compelled at present to forego; but it is our purpose, or at least our wish, to resume the subject, and to give it more extended and articulate treatment.

.- The reader who bears in mind some passages near the beginning of this article, may now be disposed to inquire of us, what amount of originality do we attribute to Cicero in the “ De Officiis.”

There has been a general agreement in the schools of philosophy upon positive duties and practical rules. Epicurus even has ineuicated pure moral doctrine, though inconsistently with his general scheme. To ascertain their duties, men have interrogated nature, and receiving one uniform response from her, have come to entertain substantially uniform opinions upon them. The ideas of the “De Officiis are undoubtedly drawn from the Greek schools, and principally, as we have seen, from the Porch. What work on philosophy or morals can claim any other than a Grecian paternity? With faculties wonderfully subtle and perfectly trained, the Greeks engaged in abstruse investigations with a genuine relish. They possessed, above all people, that “philosophic talent” which Gibbon so highly extols. Their intellectual vision pierced through the dark recesses of speculative truth, and irradiated all the leading questions of morals, virtue, honour, beauty, etc. In every department of letters they were preëminent, and worthy of imitation. Cicero makes it a point to insist upon this, upon all suitable occasions, while he claims just as determinedly for his countrymen other and not inferior qualities, such as depend upon nature, not literary effort. What he anxiously desired was, that to the high native moral excellencies which they possessed, the Romans should join the elegance of Greek erudition, and the subtlety and profoundness of Greek speculation. It was his constant aim to develope and matnre fully the taste for philosophy, which, since the extraordinary impression produced by the celebrated embassy of the philosophers, Carneades; Critolaus, and Diogenes (155 B. Č.), and the influence exerted by Polybius and Panatius, who had lived and taught at Rome, had been gradually growing up in that city. Notwithstanding that many of the best and leading characters of the country approved of and encouraged it, this taste advanced but slowly. It was adverse to the peculiar tendencies of the Roman mind. "Oratory, statesmanship, forensic tact, legal acquirement, coolness, and far-reaching views in council, military success, agriculture, these were pursuits and merits of which they had a just, if not exalted appreciation. Their predilections were all for the tangible, the actual. They felt but slight inclination for cold and dry abstractions. The lines of Virgil, in which he concedes eloquence, statůary, astronomy—the arts of peace, in short-to the Greeks, express the swelling consciousness of the peculiar destiny of the Roman people to be conquest and supremacy, and are strictly true to the universal feeling upon the subject. In an exulting apostrophe to Greece, Ovid betrays the same feeling; he who fouglit well, says he, best knew the Roman art, and he was the true orator who hurled the javelin home.

In undertaking to treat philosophic questions, Cicero constantly discloses his sense of the national indifference, if not antipathy to them. He knew that a prejudice stood in the way of an attentive, candid hearing: “There are men,” he says, and they by nó means unenlightened, to whom application to philosophy is wholly displeasing."* His evident embarrassment at the thought of the reception which works upon such themes from his per would be likely to receive, shows that the prejudice against them was not yet overcome, and sufficiently illustrates the strong conviction which he entertained of the necessity of a wider diffusion and intenser appreciation of philosophic discussion. He justly thought that, in such matters, it is wrong to stop with a mere smattering | He undertook, therefore, the office of interpreter of Greek philosophy to his countrymen. It was his noble ambition to open up to their. “view, through the means of their own language, the conclusions of Greek sages on weighty subjects, with the purpose of enlarging their minds and reforming their morals." He sought to draw forth from the shades of the Greek Academy and the Porch, into the sunlight of public knowledge and general appreciation, precepts that were pleasing from their beauty, and suited to regulate the life and purify the heart.

It may be asked what particular considerations induced him to follow Panætius. In the first place, he was no doubt attracted by his style, which is said to have combined solid reasoning with delicate handling, deep erudition, and easy method. He had likewise abated much of the rigour of his school; he was not an unquestioning Stoic, but chose to submit their tenets to the test of reason, and relinquished such as seemed to him not to be well established. Besides, he had lived in Rome, and had been greatly admired, and followed there. Lælius and Scipio were his friends and scholars.

He had treated this subject (περί του καθήκοντος) in two books. The third, upon the resolution of cases 'growing out of the apparent conflict of virtue and utility, he had promised, but never executed. His discussion of the two first heads was brilliant and accurate. With some modifications--correctione quadam-Cicero proposes to follow him in these—not that he has any idea of merely and tamely translating him. He will add to, or omit,' as may suit his plans and opinions. In Aulus Gellius, we have preserved a chapter of the second book of Panætius, which we do not find in Cicero. By the way, the language of Gellius is to the effect, that Cicero emulated the work of Panætins with great ardour and exertion. Posidonius had supplied the omission of Panætius, we infer from Cicero's letter to Atticus (16–11); and he applied to

[ocr errors]

* De Fin., 1. 1.

| Tus. Ques., 2. 1.

# N. 4, 18, 97.

Calvus, a' scholar of Posidonius, for the heads of it. It does not appear that he received them, for he says, we believe subsequently, that, not approving anything which had come into his hands upon the subject, he will put the finishing touch to the incomplete work of Papætius, by his own unaided power. He has done it, we think, verị successfully, and conclusively demonstrated, that, in all possible 'cases, honesty is the best policy. He has reached that excellence which Rutilius Rufus thought all mortals must despair of, that of adding to the unfinished work of Panatius, a conclusion worthy of the original ; a task which he had compared in its difficulty to that of finishing the Coan Venus of Apelles.

We have several times met with the objection that this work is not sufficiently comprehensive. It is, it is said, not a dissertation upon the principles of morality applicable to mankind in general, but limiţed almost to those which pertain to man in society, and restricted, moreover, particularly to the ruling class—legislators, commanders of armies, high public functionaries, judges, teachers, and savans. The principal point of view is unquestionably politics, and there is exhibited throughout a tendency to run into political maxims. Kühner is probably correct in saying that Cicero, when he composed the work, had Plato's political writings before his eyes. We grant this, but we do not consider it a defect. The general principles here laid down admit of the widest extension, and are adapted to promote virtue and integrity in the lowest as well as in the highest condition. If those who preside at the altars of religion, who make the laws, administer the affairs of the State, conduct the education of the youth of a country—whose appropriate and delightful task it should be likewise to mould the character to goodness and generosity, and to confirm it in ingenuousness and simplicity_if they would make their laws, instructions, and, above all else, their examples, conform to these pure precepts, the good influence would necessarily descend through all orders, ranks, and conditions, and be felt at the furthest extremities of society. Cicero looks to the fountain heads of influence, and seeks to heal them, and to keep them pure.

We should not value, nor would the world have valued, this work half so highly, had it been a technical, inethodical affair. It is the Roman life which we see in its

pages,
the noble array

of historic and illustrious personages who are introduced so naturally, and attract while they awe us by their stately bearing and their exalted sentiments, that constitute its principal charm. The justest views and the most unexceptionable moral sentiments are richly illustrated by the amplest experience of men and things. The style, too, derives thènce a practical adaptation and an exquisite genial flavour, which is in the highest degree fascinating, and rarely met with in disquisitions of philosophy.

6. When he treats abstract subjects,” says Erasmus, “which are beyond the capacity of the vulgar to comprehend, and which

many of his contemporaries thought could not be explained in Latin, what neatness, brilliancy, facility, variety-in fine, what sprightliness ! Until the time of Socrates, philosophy was limited to physics. It was he, they say, who, treating it on the moral side, gave it entrance into the houses of individuals. Plato and Aristotle aimed to introduce it into the courts of kings and the tribunals of magistrates. Cicero, in my opinion, has made it appear in the theatre, and has taught it to speak so distinctly that even the pit can understand and appland. Many as are the works which he has left us on these important matters, he composed them in the most stormy times of the republic, and some even after all' hope was lost.” The “De Officiis” fitly concluded the brilliant series. Through the loopholes of retreat he kept an eye upon Rome and the senate, but discerning no star of hope, and despairing of any amelioration in the state of things, he turned to his favourite solace, and sought to relieve his disquietude and gloomy apprehensions, in the composition of a work which should be a monument at.once of pure morality, devoted patriotism, and sincere love for his distant son. Throughout it, there runs a mingled stream of tender, paternal affection, of despondency as regards the interests of liberty and right in the future, and, by way of offset, a strong sentiment of pride, rising sometimes into reverence for the past glories of his country. There are also, like the ruddy and golden hues of autumnal leaves, catching a brighter glow from the slanting rays of the setting sun poured through the arches of the forest, gleams of a high spiritual tone, of calm, charitable judgments, and of philosophic if not religious resignation to present evils and the impending doom.

[ocr errors]

* In note, p. 206, instead of “Kübner has shown,” read, Kühner. He has, &c.

ART. IX.-HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY.

A History of Philosophy in Epitome. By ALBERT SCHWEGĻER.

Translated from the original German, by JULIUS H. SEELYE.

New York: D. Appleton & Co. 1856. The intellectual dignity of philosophy will always insure for its history a profound interest amongst cultivated men. Tó trace the progress of human thought in the highest province of knowledge ; to sit in the seats of the philosophers, on the serene heights of speculation, and see the torch of truth as it passes from hand to hand, down the vista of time, cannot but be interesting to all but ignoble

« ElőzőTovább »