Cicero on the Emotions: Tusculan Disputations 3 and 4

Cicero on the Emotions: Tusculan Disputations 3 and 4


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780226305776
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication date: 02/28/2002
Edition description: 1
Pages: 283
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Margaret Graver is an assistant professor of classics at Dartmouth College.

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Tusculan Disputations 3 and 4

By Margaret Graver
Copyright © 2002 The University of Chicago
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-226-30578-3

Chapter One
Book 3

Preface: Why We Need Philosophy

1 * What am I to think, Brutus? Are we not made up of a mind as well as a body? But while a method for the care and preservation of the body has been sought after and found, one so useful that it has been called the invention of gods immortal, for the mind no such method was thought necessary, until one was actually discovered. Why is this? And now that such a medical science has been recognized, why has it not been studied with the same devotion as the other? Why are so many people suspicious and hostile toward it? Perhaps it is because we make judgments about pain and afflictions of body by means of the mind, while sicknesses of the mind are not felt by the body. Because of this, the mind has to make judgments about its own case at a time when the judging faculty is itself infirm.

2 * If nature had made us such beings as would be able to see and comprehend that same nature, and to accomplish our life's journey under its excellent guidance, then we would have no need for any analytical teaching. But what nature has in fact given us are only the tiniest sparks of understanding, which we, corrupted as we are by our wrongful habits and beliefs, quickly put out again. Then nowhere can our natural light be seen. Seeds of the virtues are inborn in our characters, and if they were allowed to mature, nature itself would lead us to perfect happiness. But as it is, no sooner are we born and received into the family than we are surrounded by all kinds of corrupting influences, and the most wrongheaded beliefs, so that it seems almost as if we had drunk in error along with the milk of our wetnurses. And when we are returned to our parents, and then handed on to our teachers, we are steeped in such a variety of errors that truth gives way to foolishness, nature itself to hardened belief. 3 * The poets come in as well, making a grand show of wisdom and erudition: we listen to them, read them, learn them by heart, and so receive a deep and lasting impression.

But it is when we meet with society at large-that is, with the people, who with one accord give approval to our faults, and are what I might call the greatest of all our teachers-it is then that we become thoroughly infected with corrupt beliefs and secede from nature absolutely. As a result, we think the meaning of nature best understood by those who have made up their minds that public office, military commands, and the glory of popularity are the best and most honorable goals a person can have. These things attract the noblest among us, so that, even as they pursue that genuine distinction which is the one chief aim of their nature, they spend their lives in great emptiness, chasing not a solid figure of virtue but only a shadow-shape of glory.

For real glory is a solid thing, clearly modeled and not shadowy at all: it is the unanimous praise of good persons, approval sounded without bias by those who know how to judge excellence of character. It is, as it were, the reflection or echo of such excellence, and there is no need for good men to disown it, since it is the regular accompaniment to right actions. 4 * But there is another sort of glory, which pretends to imitate the fist, and which is rash and ill-considered, frequently praising misdeeds and faults. This is popular acclaim, which offers a perverted caricature of the beauty that belongs to true distinction; and people are blinded by it, so that they do not know where to find or how to recognize the fine things they desire. This is why some have overthrown their governments, and others have ruined even themselves.

Yet these, at any rate, were striving for something good; they did not go astray voluntarily so much as they were deceived by the meanderings of the path. What about those who are carried away by a desire for money, or by longing for pleasures, whose minds are so troubled by emotion that they are not far from insanity? And this happens to everyone who is not wise. Are these not in need of healing? Shall we say that the infirmities of the mind are less harmful than those of the body? Or that bodies can be cured, but a medical science for the mind does not exist?

5 * No, the sicknesses of the mind are both more destructive and more numerous than those of the body. They are troublesome, in fact, precisely because it is the mind they attack; for, as Ennius says,

The mind distressed is ever astray, can nothing bear, nothing endure; unending its desire.

Distress and desire-what sicknesses of body could be more irksome than these two of the mind? And I have not yet mentioned the others.

But surely we must admit that the mind is capable of healing itself. After all, it was the mind that invented the science of medicine for the body. And while bodily healings are largely dependent on the nature of the bodies themselves, so that not all those who submit to treatment show any immediate improvement, of the mind there can be no doubt: once it is willing to be healed, and heeds the precepts of the wise, it does indeed find healing. 6 * A medical science for the mind does exist: it is philosophy. And unlike medicine for the body, the help of philosophy is something we need not look to others to gain. Instead, we should make every possible effort to become capable physicians for ourselves.

But I have already discussed this topic in my Hortensius, which concerns the value of devoting oneself to philosophy in general; and what I said there was, I think, sufficient. Since that time I have been almost continuously employed in discussing and writing about these great subjects. In these present volumes, now, I have been setting forth the discussions I had with close friends at my villa near Tusculum. And just as the two previous books related our talk about death and pain respectively, this third book will comprise the discussions of a third day.

Part I : The Question to Be Addressed

A. Is the Wise Person Subject to Distress?

7 * As we were going down to our Academy in the early afternoon, I asked one of those who were there to suggest a topic for discussion. This is what followed.

"It seems to me that the wise person is subject to distress."

Would you say the same about the other emotions, about the various forms of terror, desire, and anger? For all such things are covered by the Greek term pathe. A literal translation for pathe would be "sicknesses," but that would run counter to normal Latin usage. For pity, envy, elation, gladness, and so forth are all called by the Greeks "sicknesses," as being movements of mind not obedient to reason. But I think I was right to refer to these same movements of the mind when aroused as "emotions," since "sicknesses" would sound peculiar. Or do you prefer another word?

8 * "My preference is the same as yours."

Well, then, do you think that the wise person is subject to these also?

"Indeed I do."

I tell you, I wouldn't give much for your kind of wisdom. For all its fine name, it's hardly better than insanity.

B. A Preliminary Investigation on the Basis of Latin Usage

"What? You think every emotion amounts to insanity?"

I'm not the only one to hold that opinion. It's a marvelous thing, but as I understand it, our ancestors held the same view many generations before Socrates, who was the originator of that whole branch of philosophy that deals with how we live and conduct ourselves.

"How on earth do you come to that conclusion?"

Because the term insania refers to an infirmity or sickness of the mind. 9 * For they judged that sanitas or "health" for the mind consisted in having a serene and consistent temper. Consequently, the state of mind that lacked such a temper was called by them insania or "insanity," on the grounds that health cannot be present in a disturbed mind, any more than in a disturbed body. 10 * It was with equal insight that they called that mental condition which lacks the light of thought amentia, "losing one's mind," or dementia, "being out of one's mind." From this terminology we may infer that those who invented it held the same view as has come down to us from Socrates in the scrupulous keeping of the Stoics, namely that all those who are not wise are insane. For a mind which is sick in some way cannot be healthy, just as a body cannot, and, as I said, philosophers apply the word "sickness" to all such emotional movements. This proves that wisdom is health for the mind, and the absence of wisdom is a kind of ill health, that is, insanity or being "out of one's mind." These things are much more clearly indicated by the Latin terminology than by the Greek-as is true in many other cases as well. But more on that elsewhere. Let's stick to the matter at hand.

11 * So the very meaning of the word makes clear for us the whole nature and substance of the problem we are investigating. Since the word "sane" has to refer to those whose minds are not disturbed by any movement or, as it were, sickness, those who are in the opposite condition must be termed "insane." Furthermore, nothing could be better than that usage by which we Latin speakers say that people have gone ex potestate, "out of control," when they are carried away by unbridled desire or anger. (Although really, anger is a species of desire, since it is defined as "a desire for revenge.") Thus when people are said to be "out of control," it is because they are not under the control of the intelligence, which nature appointed to rule over the mind as a whole.

Why the Greeks call this state "madness" (mania) I really cannot say. Our language makes clearer distinctions: we discriminate between insania, which has a wide application because its link with folly, and furor or "frenzy." The Greeks mean the same thing we do, but they do not have a good word for it. What we call "frenzy," they call melancholia, "biliousness," as if the mind were stirred up only by black bile and not by some more serious form of anger, fear, or grief, as happened with the frenzy (as we say it) of Athamas, Alcmaeon, Ajax, and Orestes. A person in such a condition is prohibited by the Twelve Tables from managing his own affairs. Hence the law reads not "if he be insane" but "if he be frenzied." For they judged that a person who is foolish and lacking in consistency-that is, in health-was still capable of handling ordinary responsibilities and of managing his life in the usual and customary way; but frenzy, they thought, was a complete darkening of the mind. This would seem to be worse than insania; nonetheless, frenzy is the sort of thing that can come upon a wise person, while insania cannot.

C. Distress Must Come First

But that is a different inquiry. Let us go back to our original question. 12 * I believe you expressed an opinion that the wise person is subject to distress.

"Yes, and that is what I actually believe."

It's very human to think that way. After all, people are not made of stone; it's natural that there should be some soft and tender element in our minds, something that would be shaken by distress as by a storm. There is some sense in what Crantor says (he was one of the most eminent members of the Academy, to which I adhere):

I cannot by any means agree with those who extol some kind of impassivity. Such a thing is neither possible nor beneficial. I do not wish to be ill, but if I am, and if some part of my body is to be cut open or even amputated, let me feel it. This absence of pain comes at a high price: it means being numb in body, and in mind scarcely human.

13 * But let us be careful. It may be that these are the words of those who choose to indulge the weak and womanish parts of us. Let us be bold enough not only to prune away the branches of unhappiness, but to yank out its very roots, down to the last fiber. Yet so deep are the roots of folly that there will perhaps be something left over. But we will leave no more than is necessary. Of this one thing you must be assured: unless the mind is healed-which cannot happen without philosophy-there will be no end to our unhappiness. Therefore, since we have made a beginning with philosophy, let us entrust ourselves to her care. We will be healed, if we are willing to be. And I will go even a step further, to explain not only distress -though that must come first-but every emotion or, as the Greeks would have it, every sickness of the mind.


A. Arguments in the Stoic Manner

If you don't mind, I will begin in the Stoic manner, with brief, compressed arguments. Later on, I will speak more freely, in my usual way 14 *

[A1] Anyone who is courageous is also confident (fidens).

I use the word fidens here, since confidens is applied by an unfortunate linguistic usage to the fault of overconfidence, even though the verb confidere, from which it is derived, has a positive connotation.

[A2] Moreover, anyone who is confident does not become greatly frightened.

Assuredly not, since being frightened is incompatible with confidence.

[A3] But anyone who is subject to distress is also subject to fear,

since the things we are distressed at when they are present are the very things we fear when they are impending. It follows that

[A4] distress is incompatible with courage.

In fact, it seems likely that anyone subject to distress would also be subject to timidity and a broken spirit, which means that he would also submit to servitude, or admit to being vanquished, if it should come to that. And one who can be enslaved or vanquished must also be capable of timorousness and cowardice. So, since a courageous man is not subject to timorousness and cowardice, he is not subject to distress either.

[A5] But no one is wise who is not also courageous.

[A6] Therefore, the wise person will not be subject to distress.

15 * Furthermore,

[B1] Anyone who is courageous must also be great in spirit.

[B2] A person great in spirit must also be indomitable.

[B3] The indomitable person must be able to disregard the circumstances of human life as matters beneath his notice.

[B4] But no one can disregard things that are capable of causing him distress.

[B5] Therefore, the courageous man cannot ever be distressed.

[B6] But everyone who is wise is courageous.

[B7] Therefore, the wise person is not subject to distress.

And just as the eye, when it is troubled in some way, is not in a proper condition to perform its function, nor can the whole body or any of its parts function as it should when in an altered state, so also

[C1] the troubled mind is not t to perform its function.

[C2] And the function of the mind is to make good use of its reasoning power.

[C3] But the mind of the wise person is always in a t condition to make the best possible use of reason.

[C4] Hence, the wise person's mind is never disturbed.

[C5] But distress is a disturbance of the mind.

[C6] Therefore, the wise person will always be free of it.

16 * Here is another plausible argument.

[D1] Anyone who is temperate ...

The Greek word here is sophron ("self-controlled"), and this virtue is called in Greek sophrosune ("self-control"), which I render sometimes as "temperance," sometimes as "self-control" or "moderation." It may be, though, that the best term for it is "frugality." The corresponding Greek term is too narrow in its application: they call frugal people chresimoi, that is, merely "useful." But frugalitas is a broader term, carrying with it not only abstinentia, "restraint" and innocentia, "harmlessness" (for which there is no Greek term in use, though ablabeia or "non-hurtfulness" might serve, since harmlessness is the disposition not to hurt anyone), but all the other virtues as well. If "frugality" had not been such a broad term, but had been restricted to that narrow meaning which many people assign to it, it would never have become the honored title of Lucius Calpurnius Piso.


Excerpted from CICERO ON THE EMOTIONS by Margaret Graver Copyright © 2002 by The University of Chicago. Excerpted by permission.
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Table of Contents

Abbreviations and Matters of Citation....................ix
About the Translation....................xxxvii
A Note on the Text....................xli
TUSCULAN DISPUTATIONS Book 3....................3
Book 4....................39
COMMENTARY Book 3: On Grief....................73
Book 4: On Emotions....................129
APPENDIXES: SOURCES FOR CICERO'S ACCOUNT Appendix A. Crantor and the consolatory Tradition....................187
Appendix B. Epicurus and the Cyrenaics....................195
Appendix C. The Early Stoics and Chrysippus....................203
Appendix D. Posidonius....................215
Index Locorum....................233
General Index....................245

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