In Book One of On Duties Cicero examines the vital center of Stoicism – i.e. living in accordance with human nature. According to Cicero, human nature is underpinned by human action, and human action is supported by reason. Likewise, reason is balanced by virtue.
“A salient characteristic of humankind is our quest for truth. When we are free from necessary care and labor, we long to see, hear, and learn, and we regard knowledge of hidden and marvelous matters as essential to a happy life.
“For whenever it’s impossible for the majority to excel, competition becomes so intense that it’s extremely difficult to maintain the sacred bond of social order.
“For it is appropriate to refer to the basic elements of justice I described at the outset: first, not to harm anyone; second, to be of service to the common good.
“Of the two sources of injury, force and fraud, fraud is fit for foxes, force for lions, and neither is at all suited to human beings.
“The Stoics are thus correct to define courage as virtue struggling on behalf of fairness. This is why a person who acquires a reputation for courage through treachery or foul play does not deserve praise. For nothing is honorable if it is devoid of justice.
*All excerpts have been taken from Cicero: On Living and Dying Well, Penguin Classics.
On Living in Accordance with Nature – Cicero
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