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Cicero on Moral Duties

Cicero on Moral Duties

The distinctive faculty of man is his eager desire to investigate the truth. Thus, when free from pressing duties and cares, we are eager to see or hear, or learn something new, and we think our happiness incomplete unless we study the mysteries and the marvels of the universe.

From this it is evident that what is true, simple, and pure, is most in harmony with human nature. With the instinct of curiosity is allied the desire of independence; a well-constituted character will bow to no authority but that of a master or a just and legitimate ruler who aims at the public good: hence arises fortitude or indifference to the accidents of fortune. How precious should we deem the gift of reason since man is the only living being that has a sense of order, decorum and moderation in word and deed.

No other creature is touched by the beauty, grace and symmetry of visible objects; and the human mind transferring these conceptions from the material to the moral world recognizes that this beauty, harmony and order are still more to be maintained in the sphere of purpose and of action; reason shuns all that is unbecoming or unmanly, all that is wanton in thought or deed. These are the constituent elements of the conception of honor which is the subject of our inquiry: honor even when cast into the shade loses none of its beauty; honor, I say, though praised by no one, is praiseworthy in itself.