“Seeking after and investigating the truth is proper to man.”

Cicero (106–43 BC), Roman statesman, orator and philosopher. If you ever studied Latin in school, you probably studied his Latin. Easily the single most influential author on the course of his language as language, over time, in human history. Easily.

Cicero (106–43 BC), Roman statesman, orator and philosopher. If you ever studied Latin in school, you probably studied his Latin. Easily the single most influential author on the course of his language as language, over time, in human history. Easily.

In primisque hominis est propria veri inquisitio atque investigatio. Itaque cum sumus necessariis negotiis curisque vacui, tum avemus aliquid videre audire addiscere, cognitionemque rerum aut occultarum aut admirabilium ad beate vivendum necessarium ducimus. ex quo intellegitur, quod verum simplex sincerumque sit, id esse naturae hominis aptissimum. huic veri videndi cupiditati adiuncta est adpetitio quaedam principatus, ut nemini parere animus bene informatus a natura velit, nisi praecipienti aut docenti aut utilitatis causa iuste et legitime imperanti: ex quo magnitudo animi existit humanarumque rerum contemptio.

Cicero, De Officiis 1.4.13.

And in the first place the seeking after and investigation of truth is proper to man (hominis). Therefore when we are free from necessary business and concerns, then we are able to see, to hear, to learn about something, and we consider the discovery of things either secret or wonderful necessary to our living happily. From which it is understood that the truth is simple and pure, that it is most apt to the nature of man (hominis). To this desire of seeing the truth is joined a certain appetite for excellence, so that the mind (animus) well formed by nature (bene informatus a natura) wants to obey no one (homini), unless it be one who is instructing or teaching or, for the sake of his own utility, commanding him justly and in accord with law: from which have arisen magnanimity (magnitudo animi, lit. greatness of the mind) and the contempt of the things of man (humanarum rerum).

Cicero, On Duties 1.4.13.

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That’s why you and I are here, right, dear reader? While it is true that every man seeks to realize what is within himself, and is, one might say, driven to act, to express himself, to alter the course of human events according to this felt need, yet none of us is happy, but he seeks for some reality which he knows to be outside himself—and to form himself to that reality. We are driven by something within, but not content without that mysterious other, which is without.

This is that φιλανθρωπία, not philanthropy precisely, which has come to be used ambiguously as love of the other for the sake of the self, and love of the other for the sake of the other, of Paul’s letter to Titus, a philanthropy which is love of the other for the sake of his dignity, but not his proper, self-derived dignity. It is a dignity which he derives from something outside himself, which calls him to his perfection. For any unique perfection cannot be a force which drives entirely from within: then it must have been present at the origin of the thing—and no thing has its origin entirely within itself.

No, a unique perfection has to be an external power which draws us beyond the limits of what lies within, what drives us. It has to call us beyond our little selves.

You can never go wrong with some good old fashioned Cicero.

Thanks, dear reader, should you ever find me, for being my gadfly.

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About philokalos

Philologist, historian, and lover of great books, I started this blog to keep myself alert to the beauty of what I see amid the demands of my work.
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