Cicero on the Study of Nature
This chapter disputes the scholarly view that Cicero, in his various treatments of Stoic theory and especially in De finibus 3, downplays the importance of physics relative to ethics even to the point where it is possible to make sense of Stoic ethics quite independently of physics. True, Cicero’s stress on the claims of the active, political life generates reservations about immersion in the study of theoretical philosophy and physics. But despite this ambivalence Cicero acknowledges that under the right circumstances all branches of philosophy, physics included, can be of benefit to the statesman and the community, especially if the study of nature can underscore the social aspect of ethics by countering the excesses of self-oriented ambition. This more positive valorization of physics allows for a new interpretation of the ending of De officiis 1, extended in turn to De finibus 3.
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