Cicero studied philosophy under the Epicurean Phaedrus (c. 140–70 bce), the Stoic Diodotus (died c. 60 bce), and the Academic Philo of Larissa (c. 160–80 bce), and thus he had a thorough grounding in three of the four main schools of philosophy. I love Cicero’s perspective on Old Age.
Thanks for this piece too.
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Marcus Tullius Cicero - Marcus Tullius Cicero - Philosophy: Cicero studied philosophy under the Epicurean Phaedrus (c. 140–70 bce), the Stoic Diodotus (died c. 60 bce), and the Academic Philo of Larissa (c. 160–80 bce), and thus he had a thorough grounding …
So while the intensity of sensual pleasure diminishes with age, it can be appreciated in new ways. For clearly (the impact of) death is negligible if it utterly annihilates the soul, or even desirable, if it conducts the soul to some place where it is to live forever. 6.
Charge #2 – Old age “makes the body weaker …”, Cicero acknowledges that aging negatively affects the body, but. This loss of virtue was, he believed, the cause of the Republic's difficulties.
Charge #1 – “Old age withdraws us from active pursuits …”.
(Research has found that elders outperformed younger adults in understanding and solving complex social situations.)
A new book on the topic that I recommend is Greenstein and Holland’s Lighter as We Go: Virtues, Character Strengths, and Aging (Oxford University Press).
Older people should be assertive. My generation would do well to follow some of Cicero’s advice. It is always intrigues me to learn that someone from over 2,000 years ago has already articulated some of the wisdom that we are rediscovering in this day and age.
“A good actor knows when to exit the stage.” This really caught not only my eye but also my heart. But to the extent that old age detracts from enjoying such pleasures, this is mostly beneficial: the fact that old age feels little longing for sensual pleasures not only is no cause for reproach, but rather is ground for the highest praise.
Yet (the old man ) is in better case than the young man, since what the latter merely hopes for, the former has already attained; the one wishes to live long, the other has lived long. It is not by muscle, speed, or physical dexterity that great things are achieved, but by reflection, force of character, and judgment; in these qualities old age is usually not … poorer, but is even richer. Cicero subordinated philosophy to politics, so it should not surprise us to discover that his philosophy had a political purpose: the defense, and if possible the improvement, of the Roman Republic.
Cicero responds by dismissing the fear of death: death should be held of no account! A steadily higher percentage of humankind is “old.” We can generate enough wise elders to steady the tiller like the ship’s pilot whom Cicero described over 2000 years ago. Writing to Atticus, he says of them, “They are transcripts; I simply supply words, and I’ve plenty of those.” His aim was to provide Rome with a kind of philosophical encyclopaedia. At my age, I don’t yearn for the physical vigor of a young man … any more than in my youth I yearned for the vigor of a bull or an elephant. I am a woman and I think what he has written is for either male or female. As a group, my generation clearly failed to steer the American ship. Charge #3 – Old age “deprives us of almost all physical pleasures …”.
Learn how your comment data is processed. – Older people will be respected only if they aren’t too passive. Gray, “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”, Dickinson, “Because I could not stop for Death “, Noonan: “An Almost Absolute Value in History”, Warren: “On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion”, Williams: “The Wrongfulness of Euthanasia”, Steinbock: “The Morality of Killing Human Embryos”, Kass: “Beyond Therapy: Biotechnology & …”, Lauritzen: “Stem Cells, Biotech & Human Rights …”, Mappes: “Sexual Morality and the Concept of Using …”, Dwyer: “Illegal Immigrants, Health Care, & Social …”, Dickinson: “The Brain is wider than the Sky”, Frost, “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening”, Lighter as We Go: Virtues, Character Strengths, and Aging, Summary of Eric Hoffer’s, The True Believer, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/11/09/behind-trumps-victory-divisions-by-race-gender-education/, A Philosopher’s Lifelong Search for Meaning, Summary of Bill Joy's, "Why the future doesn't need us,”, Summary of Aristotle's Theory of Human Nature, END OUR NATIONAL CRISIS: The Case Against Donald Trump. Cicero called himself an Academic, but this applied chiefly to his theory of knowledge, in which he preferred to be guided by probability rather than to allege certainty; in this way, he justified contradictions in his own works (see also epistemology: Ancient Skepticism). He says that for Homer, Sophocles, Pythagoras, Plato, and others, old age did not “destroy their interests or take away their powers of expression.” Old age can be a busy time where we continue lifelong projects or develop new interests. Don’t fear death.
4. Required fields are marked *. By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. In fact, death should be seen as something to look forward to after a life well-lived: Therefore, when the young die I am reminded of a strong flame extinguished by a torrent; but when old men die it is as if a fire had gone out without the use of force and of its own accord, after the fuel had been consumed; and, just as apples when they are green are with difficulty plucked from the tree, but when ripe and mellow fall of themselves, so, with the young, death comes as a result of force, while with the old it is the result of ripeness.
Thanks to medical miracles and improved nutrition, longevity has been expanding at the rate of three months a year since 1840. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. – Don’t cling to life—a good actor knows when to leave the stage. It has remained popular because of its profound subject matter as well as its clear and beautiful language. 5.
Marcus Tullius Cicero, English byname Tully, (born 106 bce, Arpinum, Latium [now Arpino, Italy]—died December 7, 43 bce, Formiae, Latium [now Formia]), Roman statesman, lawyer, scholar, and writer who vainly tried to uphold republican principles in … … granting that youth enjoys pleasures of that kind with a keener relish … although old age does not possess these pleasures in abundance, yet it is by no means wanting in them. Do whatever is to be done in proportion as you have the strength to do it … Use the advantages you have while you have them; when they are gone, don’t sit around wishing you could get them back.
Cicero’s importance in the history of philosophy is as a transmitter of Greek thought. And from all the media accounts, our entrenched leaders in Washington are still failing. In ethics he was more inclined to dogmatism and was attracted by the Stoics, but for his authority he looked behind the Stoics to Socrates.
The treatise defends old age against its alleged disadvantages: “first, that it withdraws us from active pursuits; second, that it makes the body weaker; third, that it deprives us of almost all physical pleasures; and, fourth, that it is not far removed from death.” He examines each claim in turn. In this age of anxiety when the earth and all of the life on it appear to be threatened, Cicero’s essay “On Ageing” brings hope. In religion he was an agnostic most of his life, but he had religious experiences of some profundity during an early visit to Eleusis and at the death of his daughter in 45. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. My initial reaction to Cicero’s essay was very positive.
The bulk of his philosophical writings belong to the period between February 45 and November 44. We can be active in old age, with limitations. – We should continually learn new things.
While they may less physically adept, they may do more for their community, or they be more introspective and philosophical. The form he used was the dialogue, but his models were Aristotle and the scholar Heracleides Ponticus rather than Plato. He derived his material from Stoic, Academic, Epicurean, and Peripatetic sources. I’m so grateful to be introduced to it at my age 84.
However, I am chastened by the fact that in the last election “Older voters (ages 65 and older) preferred Trump over Clinton 53%-45%.” (from the Pew Research Center, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/11/09/behind-trumps-victory-divisions-by-race-gender-education/). So for Cicero, the prudence and wisdom that accompanies aging more than compensates for declining physical vigor. Liked it?
Except in the last book of De officiis, Cicero lays no claim to originality in these works. These writings were an attempt to interpret Roman history in terms of Greek political theory. Marcus Tullius Cicero.
Cicero’s treatise is ageless, and I believe it stands as well today as it did 2000 years ago.
Just as (a great actor) gives greater delight to the spectators in the front row at the theatre, and yet gives some delight even to those in the last row, so youth, looking on pleasures at closer range, perhaps enjoys them more, while old age, on the other hand, finds delight enough in a more distant view.
Cicero (106 BC – 43 BC) was a Roman politician and lawyer who is considered one of Rome’s greatest orators and prose stylists.
He usually writes as a theist, but the only religious exaltation in his writings is to be found in the “Somnium Scipionis” (“Scipio’s Dream”) at the end of De republica. Your email address will not be published. 3. Both Plato and Aristotle had thought in terms of the city-state. Subscribe to ReasonandMeaning and receive notifications of new posts by email.
This very old treatise is ageless, as Jerry says, and has no gender. His output and range of subjects were astonishing: the lost De consolatione, prompted by his daughter’s death; Hortensius, an exhortation to the study of philosophy, which proved instrumental in St. Augustine’s conversion; the difficult Academica (Academic Philosophy), which defends suspension of judgement; De finibus, (is it pleasure, virtue, or something more complex?
First, Cicero’s discourses offered the young Latin the equivalent of those of the Greek Demosthenes, and, second, Cicero’s theoretical treatises provided a technical vocabulary obviating the need for Greek manuals. 8. Cicero did not write seriously on philosophy before about 54, a period of uneasy political truce, when he seems to have begun De republica, following it with De legibus (begun in 52). Still, it is our intellect that we should cultivate as we age.
Often it merely changes simple stupidity into arrogant conceit.” (from Robert Heinlein’s book Time Enough for Love). Your post demonstrates the value of studying philosophy. Charge #4 – Old age “is not far removed from death …”. My greatest challenge in retirement is to become that mellow, ripe apple that Cicero talked about – and not be rotten at the core.
Old age can be a good part of life – You can live well in old age if you are wise. To me, indeed, the thought of this “ripeness” for death is so pleasant, that the nearer I approach death the more I feel like one who is in sight of land at last and is about to anchor in his home port after a long voyage. Despite obstruction from Verres’ friends, Cicero collected massive evidence against him, presented his case to fit into the political…. But Aristotle’s pupil Alexander the Great swamped the cities of old Greece and brought them into a vast empire that included Egypt, Persia, and the Levant. 2. enjoy the blessing of strength while you have it and do not bewail it when it is gone unless… you believe that youth must lament the loss of infancy, or early manhood the passing of youth. Moreover, old age is the final scene … in life’s drama, from which we ought to escape when it grows wearisome and, certainly, when we have had our fill.
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