Cicero: Academica

-   Book 2 , sections 1-48

Translated by H. Rackham (1933). Click on ** to go to the translator's footnotes.   Click on the   L symbols to go to the Latin text of each section.

Book 1

BOOK 2 **   ( LUCULLUS )

    { Antiochus's attack on scepticism expounded and answered }

[1] L   The great talents of Lucius Lucullus and his great devotion to the best sciences, with all his acquisitions in that liberal learning which becomes a person of high station, were entirely cut off from public life at Rome in the period when he might have won the greatest distinction at the bar. For when as quite a youth, in co-operation with a brother possessed of equal filial affection and devotion, he had carried on with great distinction the personal feuds of his father, ** he went out as quaestor to Asia, and there for a great many years presided over the province with quite remarkable credit ; then in his absence he was elected aedile, and next praetor (since by a statutory grant ** this was permitted before the usual time) ; later he was appointed to Africa, and then to the consulship, which he so administered as to win universal admiration for his devotion to duty and universal recognition of his ability. Laterthe senate commissioned him to the war with Mithridates, ** in which he not only surpassed everybody's previous estimation of his valour but even the glory of his predecessors ; [2] and this was the more remarkable because military distinction was not particularly anticipated from one who had spent his youth in practice at the bar, and the long period of his quaestorship peacefully in Asia, while Murena was carrying on the war in Pontus. ** But intellectual gifts that even surpassed belief had no need of the unschooled training that is given by experience. ** Accordingly after spending the whole of his journey by land and sea partly in cross-questioning those who were experts and partly in reading military history, he arrived in Asia a made general, although he had started from Rome a tiro in military matters. For he had a memory for facts that was positively inspired, although Hortensius had a better memory for words, but Lucullus'smemory was the more valuable, inasmuch as in the conduct of business facts are of more assistance than words ; and this form of memory is recorded as having been present in a remarkable degree in Themistocles, whom we rank as easily the greatest man of Greece, and of whom the story is told that when somebody ** offered to impart to him the memoria technica that was then first coming into vogue, he replied that he would sooner learn to forget - no doubt this was because whatever he heard or saw remained fixed in his memory. Gifted with such natural endowments, Lucullus had also added the training which Themistocles had despised, and thus he kept facts engraved on his mind just as we enshrine in writing things that we desire to record. [3] L   Consequently he was so great a commander in every class of warfare, battles, sieges, sea-fights, and in the entire field of military equipment and commissariat, that the greatest king** since the time of Alexander admitted that he had discovered Lucullus to be a greater general than any of those that he had read of. He also possessed so much wisdom and justice in the work of establishing and reforming governments that Asia today continues to observe the institutions and follow in the footsteps of Lucullus. But although greatly to the advantage of the state, nevertheless those vast powers of character and of intellect were absent abroad, out of the sight of both the law-courts and the senate, for a longer time than I could have wished. Moreover when he returned ** victorious from the Mithridatic War, the chicanery of his enemies postponed his triumph three years later than it ought to have taken place ; for it was I as consul who virtually led into the city the chariot of this glorious hero, of the value to me of whose advice and influence at that period in the most important affairs ** I might speak if it didnot involve speaking about myself, which at this time is not necessary ; and so I will rob him of the tribute due to him rather than combine it with my own praise.

[2.] [4] However, the things in Lucullus's career that deserved the honour of a national celebration have fairly well won their tribute of fame in both Greek and Latin records. But my knowledge of these facts about his public life I share with many persons ; the following more private details I have often learnt from himself in company with few others - for Lucullus was more ardently devoted both to letters of all sorts and to philosophy than persons who did not know him supposed, and indeed not only at an early age but also for some years during his pro-quaestorship, and even on active service, when military duties are usually so engrossing as to leave a commander not much leisure when actually under canvas. But as Philon's pupil Antiochus was deemed the chief among philosophers for intellect and learning, he kept him in his company both when quaestor and when a few years later he became general, and having the powerful memory that I have spoken of already he easily learnt from frequent repetition doctrines that he would have been quite capable of learning from a single hearing. Moreover, he took a marvellous delight in reading the books about which Antiochus used to discourse to him.

[5] L   And I am sometimes afraid lest in regard to men of this character my desire to magnify their fame may actually diminish it. For there are many people who have no love for Greek literature at all, and more who have none for philosophy ; while the residue even if they do not disapprove of these studies nevertheless think that the discussion of such topics is not specially becoming for great statesmen. But for my own part, as I have been told that Marcus Cato learnt Greek Literature in his old age, while history states that Publius Africanus, on the famous embassy ** on which he went before his censorship, had Panaetius as absolutely the sole member of his staff, I need not look any further for someone to support the claims either of Greek literature or of philosophy.

[6] It remains for me to reply to the critics who are unwilling to have public characters of such dignity entangled in conversations of this nature. As if forsooth persons of distinction ought to hold their meetings in silence, or else engage in frivolous conversation or discussion on lighter topics ! In fact, if there is truth in the praise of philosophy that occupies a certain volume ** of mine, it is obvious that its pursuit is supremely worthy of all persons of the highest character and eminence, and the only precaution that need be observed by us whom the Roman nation has placed in this rank is to prevent our private studies from encroaching at all upon our public interest. But if at the time when we had official duties to perform we not only never removed our interest from the national assembly but never even put pen to paper save on matters of public business, who will criticise our leisure, if therein we not only arereluctant to allow ourselves to grow dull and slack but also strive to be of service to the greatest number of men ? At the same time in our judgement we are not merely not diminishing but actually increasing the fame of those persons ** to whose public and distinguished glories we also append these less known and less well advertised claims to distinction. [7] L   There are also people who declare that the personages who debate in our books did not really possess a knowledge of the subjects debated ; but these critics to my eye appear to be jealous of the dead as well as of the living.

[3.] There remains one class of adverse critics who do not approve the Academic system of philosophy. This would trouble us more if anybody approved any set of doctrines except the one of which he himself was a follower. But for our part, since it is our habit to put forward our views in conflict with all schools, we cannot refuse to allow others to differ from us ; although we at all events have an easy brief to argue, who desire to discover the truth without any contention, ** and who pursue it with the fullest diligence and devotion. For even though many difficulties hinder every branch of knowledge, and both the subjects themselves and our faculties of judgement involve such a lack of certainty that the most ancient and learned thinkers had good reason for distrusting their ability to discover what they desired, nevertheless they did not give up, nor yet will we abandon in exhaustion our zeal for research ; andthe sole object of our discussions is by arguing on both sides to draw out and give shape to ** some result that may be either true or the nearest possible approximation to the truth. [8] Nor is there any difference between ourselves and those who think that they have positive knowledge except that they have no doubt that their tenets are true, whereas we hold many doctrines as probable, which we can easily act upon but can scarcely advance as certain ; yet we are more free and untrammelled in that we possess our power of judgement uncurtailed, and are bound by no compulsion to support all the dogmas laid down for us almost as edicts by certain masters. For all other people in the first place are held in close bondage placed upon them before they were able to judge what doctrine was the best, and secondly they form judgements about matters as to which they know nothing at the most incompetent period of life, eitherunder the guidance of some friend or under the influence of a single harangue from the first lecturer that they attended, and cling as to a rock to whatever theory they are carried to by stress of weather. [9] L   For as to their assertion that the teacher whom they judge to have been a wise man commands their absolute trust, I would agree to this if to make that judgement could actually have lain within the power of unlearned novices (for to decide who is a wise man seems to be a task that specially requires a wise man to undertake it) ; but granting that it lay within their power, it was only possible for them after hearing all the facts and ascertaining the views of all the other schools as well, whereas they gave their verdict after a single hearing of the case, and enrolled themselves under the authority of a single master. But somehow or other most men prefer to go wrong, and to defend tooth and nail the system for whichthey have come to feel an affection, rather than to lay aside obstinacy and seek for the doctrine that is most consistent.

Beside many other occasions on which we have engaged in long investigations and discussions of these subjects, there was one at Hortensius's country-house at Bauli, Catulus, Lucullus and we ourselves having come there on the day after we had been at Catulus's. We had in fact arrived there rather early because Lucullus had the intention of sailing to his place at Naples and I to mine at Pompeii, if there was a wind. So after a little talk in the colonnade, we then sat down on a seat in the same walk. **

[4.] [10] Here Catulus said, "It is true that our inquiry of yesterday was almost fully cleared up, so that nearly the whole of the subject now appears to have been handled ; but nevertheless I am waiting with interest for you, Lucullus, to fulfil your promise of telling us the doctrines that you heard from Antiochus."   "For my part," said Hortensius, "I could wish that I had not gone so far, for the whole subject ought to have been reserved in its entirety for Lucullus. And yet perhaps it has been reserved, for it was the more obvious points that were expounded by me, whereas I look to Lucullus to give us the more abstruse doctrines."   "Your expectancy, Hortensius," rejoined Lucullus, "does not, it is true, upset me, although there is nothing that so much handicaps people desirous of winning approval, but I am less upset because I do not mind how far I am successful in gaining assent for the views that I expound ; for the doctrines that I am going to state are not my own, nor are they ones about which, if they are unsound, I should not wish rather to be refuted than to carry the day. But I protest that even though my case was shaken by yesterday's discussion, it nevertheless appears to me to be profoundly true - at least as it stands at present. I will therefore adopt what used to be the procedure of Antiochus (for I am familiar with the subject, since I used to hear him with undistracted attention and with great interest, even more than once on the same topic), so as to cause even more to be expected of me than Hortensius did just now." [11] L   On his beginning in this strain we aroused our attention to listen to him ; whereupon he proceeded : " When I was pro-quaestor at Alexandria, ** Antiochus was in my company, and Antiochus's friend, the Tyrian Heraclitus, was at Alexandria already ; he had been for manyyears a pupil of both Clitomachus and Philon, and was undoubtedly a person of standing and distinction in the school of philosophy in question, which after having been almost abandoned is now being revived ** ; I often used to hear Antiochus arguing with Heraclitus, both however in a gentle manner. And indeed those two volumes of Philon mentioned yesterday by Catulus had then reached Alexandria and had then for the first time come into Antiochus's hands ; whereupon though by nature one of the gentlest of people (in fact nothing could have been kinder than he was) he nevertheless began to lose his temper. This surprised me, as I had never seen him do so before ; but he kept appealing to Heraclitus's recollection and asking him whether he really thought that those doctrines were Philon's, or whether he had ever heard them either from Philon or from any member of the Academy. ** Heraclitusalways answered No ; but still he recognised it as a work of Philon's, and indeed this could not be doubted, for my learned friends Publius and Gaius Selius and Tetrilius Rogus ** were there to say that they had heard these doctrines from Philon at Rome and had copied down the two books in question from Philon's own manuscript. [12] Then Antiochus put forward the views that yesterday Catulus told us ** had been put forward in regard to Philon by his father, and also a number of others, and did not restrain himself even from publishing a book against his own teacher, ** the book to which is given ** the title of Sosus. On this occasion therefore when I heard both Heraclitus earnestly arguing against Antiochus and also Antiochus against the Academics, I gave my attention more closely to Antiochus, in order to learn from him his whole case. Accordingly when we had for quite a number of days had Heraclitus with usand quite a number of other learned men, among them Antiochus's brother Aristus, ** and also Ariston and Dion, to whom he used to assign the greatest authority next to his brother, we spent a great deal of time in this single discussion. But we must pass over the part of it that was directed against Philon, for he is a less keen opponent who declares that those doctrines maintained yesterday ** are not the doctrines of the Academy at all ; for though what he says is not true, he is a milder adversary. Let us come to Arcesilas and Carneades."

[5.] [13] L   When he had said this he started again as follows : "In the first place I feel that you gentlemen - it was to me that he was actually speaking, - "when you cite the names of the old natural philosophers, are doing just what citizens raising a sedition usually do, when they quote some famous personages of antiquity as having been of the people's party, so as to make themselves appear to resemble them. For they go back to Publius Valerius who was consul in the first year after the expulsion of the kings, and they quote all the other persons who when consuls carried popular legislation about processes of appeal ; then they come to the better known cases of Gaius Flaminius, who when tribune of the plebs some years before the Second Punic War carried an agrarian law against the will of the senate and afterwards twice became consul, and of Lucius Cassius and Quintus Pompeius ; indeed these peoplehave a way of including even Publius Africanus in the same list. But they say that the two very wise and distinguished brothers Publius Crassus and Publius Scaevola were supporters of the laws of Tiberius Gracchus, the former (as we read) openly, the latter (as they suspect) more covertly. They also add Gaius Marius, and about him at all events they say nothing that is untrue. After parading all this list of names of men of such distinction they declare that they themselves are following the principle set up by them. [14] Similarly your school, whenever you want to upset an already well-established system of philosophy just as they did a political system, quote Empedocles, Anaxagoras, Democritus, Parmenides, Xenophanes, and even Plato and Socrates. But neither had Saturninus - to cite in particular the name of the enemy of my family - any feature resembling those men of old, nor can the chicanery of Arcesilas be compared with the modesty of Democritus. ** And nevertheless your natural philosophers do rather rarely, when brought to a standstill at some topic, cry out in an excited sort of manner - Empedocles indeed in a way that sometimes makes me think him raving ? saying that all things are hidden and that we perceive nothing, discern nothing, are utterly unable to discover the real nature of anything ; although for the most part all your school seem to me at all events to be only too confident in some of their assertions and to profess to know more than they really do. [15] L   But if those old thinkers found themselves floundering like babies just born in a new world, do we imagine that all these generations and these consummate intellects and elaborate investigations have not succeeded in making anything clearer ? Is it not the case that, just as in the noblest of states Tiberius Gracchus arose to disturbthe atmosphere of peace, so when the most authoritative schools of philosophy had now come to a standstill, then there arose Arcesilas to overthrow the established philosophy, and to lurk behind the authority of those whom he asserted to have denied the possibility of all knowledge and perception ? From the list of these we must remove both Plato and Socrates - the former because he left behind him a most consummate system of thought, the Peripatetic School and the Academy, which have different names but agree in substance, and from which the Stoics themselves disagreed more in terms than in opinions. As for Socrates, he used to depreciate himself in discussion and to assign greater weight to those whom he wished to refute ; thus, as he said something other than what he thought, he was fond of regularly employing the practice of dissembling that the Greeks call irony, which Fannius says was also a feature of Africanus, and one not tobe deemed a fault in him, for the reason that Socrates had the same habit.

[6.] [16] "But let us grant if you wish that those ancient doctrines represented no real knowledge ; has nothing then been achieved by their having been under examination ever since the time when Arcesilas, criticising Zenon (so it is supposed) as making no new discoveries but only correcting his predecessors by verbal alterations, in his desire to undermine Zenon's definitions attempted to cover with darkness matters that were exceedingly clear ? His system was at first not very much accepted, although he was distinguished both by acuteness of intellect and by a certain admirable charm of style, and at the first stage it was preserved by Lacydes only, but afterwards it was completed by Carneades, who is the fourth in line from Arcesilas, having attended the courses of Hegesinus ** who had attended Evander, the pupil of Lacydes as Lacydes had been the pupil of Arcesilas. But Carneades himself held the school for a long time, for he livedto be ninety, and those who had been his pupils were of considerable eminence, Clitomachus being the one among them most distinguished for industry (as is proved by the large number of his books), though there was an equal amount of talent in Hagnon, of eloquence in Charmades, and of charm in Melanthius of Rhodes. But Metrodorus of Stratoniceia was believed to have been well acquainted with Carneades. [17] L   Again Philon of your school for many years gave his attention to Clitomachus ; and while Philon lived the Academy did not lack advocacy. But the undertaking upon which we are now entering, the refutation of the Academics, was entirely ruled out by some of the philosophers, and those indeed men of no inconsiderable standing, and they held that there was really no sense in arguing with thinkers who sanctioned nothing as proved, and they criticised the Stoic Antipater for spending much time in this ;and they also asserted that there was no need to define the essential nature of knowledge or perception or (if we wish to give a literal translation) 'mental grasp,' the Stoic term catalepsis, ** and maintained that those who tried to prove that there is something that can be grasped and perceived were acting unscientifically, because there was nothing clearer than enargeia ** (as the Greeks call it : let us term it perspicuousness or evidentness, if you will, and let us manufacture terms if necessary, so as not to let our friend here" - this was a jocular shot at me - "think that he has a monopoly of this licence) : well, they thought that no argument could be discovered that was clearer than evidentness itself, and they deemed that truths so manifest did not need defining. But others said that they would not have opened proceedings with any speech in defence of this evidentness, but held that the proper course wasfor argument to be directed to answering the case for the prosecution, so that they might not be somehow taken in. [18] Still a good many of them do not object to definitions even of evident things themselves, and they think that any fact is a suitable matter for investigation and that human beings deserve to have their views discussed. But Philon, in raising certain revolutionary doctrines because he was scarcely able to withstand the usual arguments against the obstinacy of the Academics, manifestly propounds what is not true, as he was blamed for doing by the elder Catulus, and also, as Antiochus proved, himself shpped into the very position that he was afraid of. For when he thus maintained that there was nothing that could be grasped (that is the expression that we choose in rendering acatalepton ** ), if that 'presentation' of which he spoke (for we have by this time sufficiently habituatedourselves by our yesterday's conversation to this rendering of phantasia) was, as Zenon defined it, a presentation impressed and moulded from the object from which it came in a form such as it could not have if it came from an object that was not the one that it actually did come from (we declare that this definition of Zenon's is absolutely correct, for how can anything be grasped in such a way as to make you absolutely confident that it has been perceived and known, if it has a form that could belong to it even if it were false ?) - when Philon weakens and abolishes this, he abolishes the criterion between the unknowable and the knowable ; which leads to the inference that nothing can be grasped - so incautiously does he come round to the position that he most wants to avoid. Therefore the whole defence of the case against the Academy is undertaken by us on the line of preserving the process of definition which Philon wished to overthrow ; and unless we succeed in upholding it, we admit that nothing can be perceived.

[7.] [19] L   "Let us begin therefore from the senses, whose verdicts are so clear and certain that if human nature were given the choice, and were interrogated by some god as to whether it was content with its own senses in a sound and undamaged state or demanded something better, I cannot see what more it could ask for. Nor indeed is it necessary to delay at this point while I answer about the case of the bent oar ** or the pigeon's neck, for I am not one to assert that every object seen is really such as it appears to be. Let Epicurus see to that, and a number of other matters ; but in my judgement the senses contain the highest truth, given that they are sound and healthy and also that all obstacles and hindrances are removed. That is why we often desire a change of the light and of the position of the objects that we are observing, and diminish or enlarge their distances from us, and take various measures,until mere looking makes us trust the judgement that it forms. The same is done in the case of sounds and smell and taste, so that among us there is nobody who desiderates keener powers of judgement in the senses, each in its class. [20] But when we add practice and artistic training, to make our eyes sensitive to painting and our ears to music, who is there who can fail to remark the power that the senses possess ? How many things painters see in shadows and in tlie foreground which we do not see ! how many things in music that escape us are caught by the hearing of persons trained in that department of art, who when the flute-player blows his first note say 'That is Antiope' or 'Andromache,' ** when we have not even a suspicion of it ! It is unnecessary to talk at all about the faculties of taste and smell, which possess a certain discernment, although it is of a defective sort. Why speak of touch, and indeed ofthe internal tactual sense, as the philosophers call it, perceptive of either pain or pleasure, the sole basis, as the Cyrenaics think, of our judgement of truth, caused by the mere process of sensation ? Is it therefore possible for anybody to say that there is no difference between a person experiencing pain and a person experiencing pleasure, or would not the holder of this opinion be a manifest lunatic ? [21] L   But then whatever character belongs to these objects which we say are perceived by the senses must belong to that following set of objects which are said to be perceived not by actual sensation but by a sort of sensation, as for example : 'Yonder thing is white, this thing is sweet, that one is melodious, this fragrant, this rough.' This class of percepts consists of comprehensions grasped by our mind, not by our senses. Then 'Yonder object is a horse, yonder a dog.' Next follows the rest of the series linking ona chain of larger percepts, for instance the following, which embrace as it were a fully completed grasp of the objects : 'If it is a human being, it is a rational mortal animal.' From this class of percept are imprinted upon us our notions of things, without which all understanding and all investigation and discussion are impossible. [22] But if false notions existed (I understood you to employ ** 'notions' to render ennoiai) - well, if there were these false notions or notions imprinted on the mind by appearances of a kind that could not be distinguished from false ones, how pray could we act on them ? how moreover could we see what is consistent with any given fact and what inconsistent ? At all events no place at all is left for memory, the one principal foundation not only of philosophy but of all the conduct of life and all the sciences. For how can there possibly be a memory of what is false ? or what can anyone remember that he does not grasp and hold in his mind ? But what science can there be that is not made up of not one nor two but many mental percepts ? And if you take away science, how will you distinguish between the craftsman ** and the ignoramus ? for we shall not pronounce one man to be a craftsman, and the other not, just casually, but when we see the one retain what he has perceived and grasped, and the other not. And as one class of sciences is of such a nature as only to envisage facts mentally, and another such as to do or to make something, how can the geometrician envisage things that are either nonexistent or indistinguishable from fictitious things, or the player on the harp round off his rhythms and complete his verses ? and the same result will also occur in the other crafts of the same class which are solely exercised in making and doing, for what can be effected by a craft unless its intending practitionerhas accumulated many percepts ?

[8.] [23] L   "The greatest proof however of our capacity to perceive and grasp many things is afforded by the study of Ethics. Our percepts alone we actually pronounce to form the basis of knowledge (which in our view is not only a grasp of facts but a grasp that is also permanent and unchangeable), and likewise of wisdom, the science of living, which is its own source of consistency. But if this consistency had nothing that it grasped and knew, whence, I ask, or how would it be engendered ? consider also the ideal good man, who has resolved to endure all torments and to be mangled by intolerable pain rather than betray either his duty or his promise ? why, I ask, has he saddled himself with such burdensome rules as this when he had no grasp or perception or knowledge or certainty of any fact that furnished a reason why it was his duty to do so ? It is therefore absolutely impossible that anybody should set so higha value upon equity and good faith as to refuse no torture for the sake of preserving it, unless he has given his assent to things that cannot possibly be false. [24] As for wisdom herself, if she does not know whether she is wisdom or not, how in the first place will she make good her claim to the name of wisdom ? next, how will she venture with confidence to plan or execute any undertaking when there will be nothing certain for her to act upon ? indeed, when she will be hesitating in ignorance of what the final and ultimate good to which all things are to be referred really is, how can she possibly be wisdom ? This other point moreover is manifest : there must be a first principle established for wisdom to follow when she embarks on any action, and this first principle must be consistent with nature ; for otherwise appetition (our chosen equivalent for the term hormē), by which we are impelled to action and seek to get an objectpresented to our vision, cannot be set in motion ; [25] L   but the thing that sets it in motion must first of all be seen, and must be believed in, which cannot take place if an object seen will be indistinguishable from a false one ; but how can the mind be moved to appetition if it does not perceive whether the object seen is consistent with nature or foreign to it ? And moreover if it has not struck the mind what its function is, it will never do anything at all, never be driven towards any object, never make a movement ; whereas if it is at some time to do something, what strikes it must seem to it to be true. [26] What about the total abolition of reason, 'life's dayspring and source of light,' ** that must take place if your doctrines are true ? will your school continue steadfast in such perversity all the same ? For it is reason that initiated research, reason ** which has perfected virtue, since reason herself is strengthened by pursuing research ; but research is the appetition for knowledge, and the aim of research is discovery ; yet nobody discovers what is false, and things that remain continually uncertain cannot be discovered : discovery means the 'opening up of things previously veiled' ** - this is how the mind holds both the commencement of research and the final act of perceiving and grasping. Therefore this is the definition of logical proof, in Greek apodeixis : 'a process of reasoning that leads from things perceived to something not previously perceived.'

[9.] [27] L   "In fact if all sense-presentations were of such a kind as your school say they are, so that they could possibly be false without any mental process being able to distinguish them, how could we say that anybody had proved or discovered anything, or what trust could we put in logical proof ? Philosophy herself must advance by argument - how will she find a way out ? And what will happen to Wisdom ? it is her duty not to doubt herself or her 'decisions,' which philosophers term dogmata, any of which it will be a crime to abandon ; for the surrender of such a 'decision' is the betrayal of the moral law, and that sin is the common source of betrayals of friends and country. Therefore it cannot be doubted that no ' decision ' of a wise man can be false, and that it is not sufficient for them not to be false but they must also be firmly settled and ratified, immovable by any argument ** ; but such a character cannot belong or seemto belong to them on the theory of those who maintain that the sense-presentations from which all decisions spring differ in no way from false presentations. [28] From this sprang the demand put forward by Hortensius, that your school should say that the wise man has perceived at least the mere fact that nothing can be perceived. But when Antipater used to make the same demand, and to say that one who asserted that nothing could be perceived might yet consistently say that this single fact could be perceived, namely that nothing else could, Carneades with greater acumen used to oppose him ; he used to declare that this was so far from being consistent that it was actually grossly inconsistent : for the man who said there was nothing that was perceived made no exception, and so not even the impossibility of perception could itself be grasped and perceived in any way, because it had not been excepted. [29] L   Antiochus used to seem to come more closely to grips with this position ; he argued that because the Academics held it as a 'decision' (for you realise by now that I use that term to translate dogma) that nothing could be perceived, they were bound not to waver in their own 'decision' as they did in everything else, particularly when it was the keystone of their system, for this was the measuring-rod that applied to the whole of philosophy, the test of truth and falsehood, of knowledge and ignorance ; and that since they adopted this method, and desired to teach what sense-presentations ought to be accepted and what rejected, they unquestionably ought to have perceived this decision itself, the basis of every criterion of truth and falsehood ; for (he said) the two greatest things in philosophy were the criterion of truth and the end of goods, and no man could be a sage who was ignorant of the existence of either a beginning ofthe process of knowledge or an end of appetition, and who consequently did not know from what he was starting or at what he ought to arrive ; but to be in doubt as to these matters and not to feel immovably sure of them was to be very widely remote from wisdom. On these lines therefore they ought to have been required rather to say that this one thing at least was perceived - the impossibility of perceiving anything. But about the inconsistency of the whole of their theory, if anybody holding no positive view at all can be said to have any theory, enough, as I think, may have been said.

[10.] [30] "Next comes ** a discussion which though very fully developed is a little more recondite, for it contains a certain amount of matter derived from natural philosophy ; so that I am afraid that I may be bestowing greater liberty and even licence upon the speaker who is to oppose me, for what can I suppose that one who is endeavouring to rob us of light ** will do about matters that are hidden in darkness ? ** Still, it would have been possible to discuss in minute detail the amount of craftsmanship that nature has employed in the construction first of every animal, then most of all in man, ? the power possessed by the senses, the way in which we are first struck by the sense-presentations, next follows appetition ** imparted by their impact, and then we direct the senses to perceive the objects. For the mind itself, which is the source of the sensations and even is itself sensation, has anatural force which it directs to the things by which it is moved. Accordingly some sense-presentations it seizes on so as to make use of them at once, others it as it were stores away, these being the source of memory, while all the rest it unites into systems by their mutual resemblances, and from these are formed the concepts of objects which the Greeks term sometimes ennoiai and sometimes prolepseis. When thereto there has been added reason and logical proof and an innumerable multitude of facts, then comes the clear perception of all these things, and also this same reason having been by these stages made complete finally attains to wisdom. [31] L   Since therefore the mind of man is supremely well adapted for the knowledge of things and for consistency of life, it embraces information very readily, and your catalepsis, which as I said we will express by a literal translation as 'grasp,' is loved by the mind both for itself (fornothing is dearer to the mind than the light of truth) and also for the sake of its utility. Hence the mind employs the senses, and also creates the sciences as a second set of senses, and strengthens the structure of philosophy itself to the point where it may produce virtue, the sole source of the ordering of the whole of life. Therefore those who assert that nothing can be grasped deprive us of these things that are the very tools or equipment of life, or rather actually overthrow the whole of life from its foundations and deprive the animate creature itself of the mind that animates it, so that it is difficult to speak of their rashness ** entirely as the case requires.

[32] "Nor indeed can I fully decide what their plan is or what they mean. For sometimes when we address them in this sort of language, 'If your contentions are true, then everything will be uncertain,' they reply, 'Well, what has that to do with us ? surely it is not our fault ; blame nature for having hidden truth quite away, in an abyss, as Democritus says.' ** But others make a more elaborate answer, and actually complain because we charge them with saying that everything is uncertain, and they try to explain the difference between what is uncertain and what cannot be grasped, and to distinguish between them. Let us therefore deal with those who make this distinction, and leave on one side as a hopeless sort of persons the others who say that all things are as uncertain as whether the number of the stars is odd or even. For they hold (and this in fact, I noticed, ** excites your school extremely) that something is 'probable,' or as it were ** resembling the truth, and that this provides them with a canon of judgement both in the conduct of life and in philosophical investigation and discussion.

[11.] [33] L   "What is this canon of truth and falsehood, if we have no notion of truth and falsehood, for the reason that they are indistinguishable ? For if we have a notion of them, there must be a difference between true and false, just as there is between right and wrong ; if there is none, there is no canon, and the man who has a presentation of the true and the false that is common to both cannot have any criterion or any mark of truth at all. For when they say that they only remove the possibility of anything ** presenting an appearance of such a sort that a false thing could not present the same appearance, but that they allow everything else, they act childishly. Having abolished the means by which all things are judged, they say they do not abolish the remaining sources of knowledge ; just as if anybody were to say that when he has deprived a man of his eyes he has not taken away from that man the possible objects of sight.For just as the objects of sight are recognised only by means of the eyes, so everything else is recognised by means of sense-presentations ; but they are recognised by a mark that belongs specially to what is true, and is not common to the true and the false. Therefore if you bring forward 'probable presentation,' or 'probable and unhampered presentation,' ** as Carneades held, or something else, as a guide for you to follow, you will have to come back to the sense-presentation that we are dealing with. [34] But if this has community with a false presentation, it will contain no standard of judgement, because a special property cannot be indicated by a common mark ; while if on the contrary there is nothing in common between them, I have got what I want, for I am looking for a thing that may appear to me so true that it could not appear to me in the same way if it were false. They are involved in thesame mistake when under stress of truth's upbraiding they desire to distinguish between things perceived and things perspicuous, and try to prove that there is such a thing as something perspicuous which although a true imprint on the mind and intellect is nevertheless incapable of being perceived and grasped. For how can you maintain that something is perspicuously white if it can possibly occur that a thing that is black may appear white, or how shall we pronounce the things in question either perspicuous or accurately imprinted if it is uncertain whether the mental experience is true or unfounded ? In this way neither colour nor solidity nor truth nor argument nor sensation nor anything perspicuous is left. [35] L   This is why it is their usual experience that, whatever they say, some people ask them 'Then anyway you do perceive that, do you ?' But they laugh at those who put this question ; for their effort is not aimed atproving that it cannot ever happen that a man may make a positive assertion about a thing without there being some definite and peculiar mark attached to the thing that he in particular professes to accept. What then is the probability that your school talk about ? For if what a particular person happens to encounter, and almost at first glance thinks probable, is accepted as certain, what could be more frivolous than that ? [36] While if they assert that they follow a sense-presentation after some circumspection and careful consideration, nevertheless they will not find a way out, first because presentations that have no difference between them are all of them equally refused credence ; secondly, when they say that it can happen to the wise man that after he has taken every precaution and explored the position most carefully something may yet arise that while appearing to resemble truth is really very far remote fromtruth, they will be unable to trust themselves, even if they advance at all events a large part of the way, as they are in the habit of saying, towards the actual truth, or indeed come as near to it as possible. For to enable them to trust their judgement, it will be necessary for the characteristic mark of truth to be known to them, and if this be obscured and suppressed, what truth pray will they suppose that they attain to ? What language moreover could be more absurd than their formula, 'It is true that this is a token or a proof of yonder object, and therefore I follow it, but it is possible that the object that it indicates may be either false ** or entirely non-existent' ? But enough on the subject of perception ; for if anybody desires to upset the doctrines stated, truth will easily conduct her own defence, even if we decline the brief.

[37] L   [12.] "Now that we are sufficiently acquainted with the matters already unfolded, let us say a few words on the subject of 'assent' ** or approval action : (termed in Greek syncatathesis) ? not that it is not wide topic, but the foundations have been laid a little time back. For while we were explaining ** the power residing in the senses, it was at the same time disclosed that many things are grasped and perceived by the senses, which cannot happen without the act of assent. Again, as the greatest difference between an inanimate and an animate object is that an animate object performs some action (for an entirely inactive animal is an utterly inconceivable thing), either it must be denied the possession of sensation or it must be assigned a faculty of assenting as a voluntary act. [38] But on the other hand persons who refuse to exercise either sensation or assent are in a manner robbed of the mind itself ; for as the scale ofa balance must necessarily sink when weights are put in it, so the mind must necessarily yield to clear presentations : since just as no animal can refrain from seeking to get a thing that is presented to its view as suited to its nature (the Greeks term it oikeion), so the mind cannot refrain from giving approval to a clear object when presented to it. Nevertheless, assuming the truth of the positions discussed, all talk whatever about assent is beside the mark ; for he who perceives anything assents immediately. But there also follow ** the points that without assent memory, and mental concepts of objects, and sciences, are impossible ; and most important of all, granting that some freedom of the will exists, none will exist in one who assents to nothing ; where then is virtue, if nothing rests with ourselves? [39] L   And what is most absurd is that men's vices should be in their own power and that nobody should sin except with assent, but that the same should not be true in the case of virtue, whose sole consistency and strength is constituted by the things to which it has given its assent and so to say approval. ** And speaking generally, before we act it is essential for us to experience some presentation, and for our assent to be given to the presentation ; therefore one who abolishes either presentation or assent abolishes all action out of life.

[13.] [40] Now let us examine the arguments usually advanced by this school on the other side. But before that, this is an opportunity for you to learn the 'foundations' ** of their whole system. Well, they begin by constructing a 'science of presentations' (as we render the term), and define their nature and classes, and in particular the nature of that which can be perceived and grasped, at as great a length as do the Stoics. Then they set out the two propositions that 'hold together' the whole of this investigation, namely, (1) when certain objects present an appearance of such a kind that other objects also could present the same appearance without there being any difference between these presentations, it is impossible that the one set of objects should be capable of being perceived and the other set not capable ; but (2), not only in a case in which they are alike in every particular is there no difference between them, but also in a case in which they cannot be distinguished apart. Having set out these propositions, they include the whole issue within a single syllogistic argument ; this argument is constructed as follows : 'Some presentations are true, others false ;and what is false cannot be perceived. But a true presentation is invariably of such a sort that a false presentation also could be of exactly the same sort ; and among presentations of such a sort that there is no difference between them, it cannot occur that some are capable of being perceived and others are not. Therefore there is no presentation that is capable of being perceived.' ** [41] L   Now of the propositions that they take as premisses from which to infer the desired conclusion, two they assume to be granted, and indeed nobody disputes them : these are, that false presentations cannot be perceived, and the second, that of presentations that have no difference between them it is impossible that some should be such as to be capable of being perceived and others such as to be incapable. But the remaining premisses they defend with a long and varied discourse, these also being two, one, that of the objects of presentations some are true, others false, and the other, that every presentation arising from a true object is of such a nature that it could also arise from a false object. [42] These two propositions they do not skim over, but develop with a considerable application of care and industry ; they divide them into sections, and those of wide extent : first, sensations ; next, inferences from sensations and from general experience, which they deem to lack clarity ; then they come to the section proving the impossibility of perceiving anything even by means of reasoning and inference. These general propositions they cut up into still smaller divisions, employing the same method with all the other topics as you saw in yesterday's discourse that they do with sensation, and aiming at proving in the case of each subject, minutely subdivided, that all true presentations are coupled with false ones in no way differing fromthe true, and that this being the nature of sense-presentations, to comprehend them is impossible.

[14.] [43] L   "In my own judgement this minuteness although no doubt highly worthy of philosophy is at the same time absolutely remote from the position of the authors of this line of argument. For definitions and partitions, and language employing figures ** of this class, as also comparisons and distinctions and their subtle and minute classification, are the weapons of persons who are confident that the doctrines they are defending are true and established and certain, not of those who loudly proclaim that they are no more true than false. For what would they do if, when they have defined something, somebody were to ask them whether that particular definition can be carried over to any other thing you like ? If they say it can, what proof could they put forward that the definition is true ? if they say it cannot, they would have to admit that, since even this true definition cannot be applied to a false object, ** the object explained by thedefinition can be perceived, and this they will not allow at any price. The same argument it will be possible to employ at every section of the discussion. [44] For if they say that they can see through the matters that they are discussing with complete clearness, and are not hampered by any overlapping ** of presentations, they will confess that they can 'comprehend' them. But if they maintain that true presentations cannot be distinguished from false ones, how will they be able to advance any further ? for they will be met as they were met before ; since valid inference is not possible unless you accept the propositions taken as premisses as so fully proved that there cannot possibly be any false propositions that resemble them : therefore if a process of reasoning that has carried through its procedure on the basis of things grasped and perceived arrives at the conclusion that nothing can be grasped, what more self-destructive argument could be discovered ? And when the very nature of accurate discourse professes the intention of revealing something that is not apparent, and of employing sensations and manifest presentations to facilitate the attainment of this result, what are we to make of the language of these thinkers who hold that everything does not so much exist as seem to exist ? But they are most completely refuted when they assume as mutually consistent these two propositions that are so violently discrepant, first, that some presentations are false, a view that clearly implies that some are true, and then in the same breath that there is no difference between false presentations and true ones : but your first assumption implied that there is a difference - thus your major premiss and your minor are inconsistent with one another.

[45] L   "But let us advance further and proceed in such a manner as not to appear to have been unduly partial to our own views ; and let us go through the doctrines of these thinkers so thoroughly as to leave nothing passed over. First then what we have termed 'perspicuity' has sufficient force of itself to indicate to us things that are as they are. But nevertheless, so that we may abide by things that are perspicuous with more firmness and constancy, we require some further exercise of method or of attention to save ourselves from being dislodged by 'trickeries' ** and captious arguments from positions that are clear in themselves. For Epicurus who desired to come to the relief of the errors that appear to upset our power of knowing the truth, and who said that the separation of opinion from perspicuous truth was the function of the wise man, carried matters no further, for he entirely failed todo away with the error connected with mere opinion.

[46] [15.] "Therefore inasmuch as things perspicuous and evident are encountered by two obstacles, it is necessary to array against them the same number of assistances. The first obstacle is that people do not fix and concentrate their minds on the perspicuous objects enough to be able to recognise in how much light they are enveloped ; the second is that certain persons, being entrapped and taken in by fallacious and captious arguments, when they are unable to refute them abandon the truth. It is therefore necessary to have ready the counter-arguments, of which we have already spoken, that can be advanced in defence of perspicuity, and to be armed so that we may be able to meet their arguments and shatter their captions ; and this I have decided on as my next step. [47] L   I will therefore set out their arguments in classified form, since even they themselves make a practice of orderly exposition. They first attemptto show the possibility that many things may appear to exist that are absolutely non-existent, since the mind is deceptively affected by non-existent objects in the same manner as it is affected by real ones. For, they say, when your school asserts that some presentations are sent by the deity - dreams for example, and the revelations furnished by oracles, auspices and sacrifices (for they assert that the Stoics against whom they are arguing accept these manifestations) - how possibly, they ask, can the deity have the power to render false presentations probable and not have the power to render probable those which approximate absolutely most closely to the truth ? or else, if he is able to render these also probable, why cannot he render probable those which are distinguishable, although only with extreme difficulty, from false presentations ? and if these, why not those which do not differ from them at all ? [48] Then,since the mind is capable of entirely self-originated motion, as is manifest by our faculty of mental imagination and by the visions that sometimes appear to men either when asleep or mad, it is probable that the mind may also be set in motion in such a manner that not only it cannot distinguish whether the presentations in question are true or false but that there really is no difference at all between them : just as if people were to shiver and turn pale either of themselves as a result of some mental emotion or in consequence of encountering some terrifying external object, with nothing to distinguish between the two kinds of shivering and pallor, and without any difference between the internal state of feeling and the one that came from without. Lastly, if no false presentations at all are probable, it is another story ; but if some are, why are not even those that are difficult to distinguish ? why not those that are so much like true ones that there is absolutely no difference between them ? especially as you yourselves say that the wise man when in a state of frenzy restrains himself from all assent because no distinction between presentations is visible to him.

Following sections (49-98)


75.   This Book belongs to the first edition of the work (in which it was dedicated to Lucullus and entitled by his name), and it is therefore designated Academica Priora by some editors.

76.   The elder Lucullus had been tried and found guilty of misconduct when commanding in the slave-war in Sicily, 103 B.C. His sons (in accordance with the Roman sentiment of filial duty) did their best to ruin his prosecutor Servilius.

77.   Probably Sulla, when re-enacting the old lex annalis by his lex de magistratibus, inserted a clause exempting his own officers as a special privilege, to reward their services.

78.   The third Mithridatic War, beginning 74 B.C., when Lucullus was consul.

79.   The second Mithridatic War, 83-82 B.C.

80.   i.e., the training provided by experience and not by study.

81.   The lyric poet Simonides of Ceos (556-467 B.C.), the inventor of the system.

82.   Mithridates the Great (120-63 b.c), king of Pontus.

83.   At the end of 67 B.C.

84.   Cicero is doubtless thinking chiefly of the suppression of thc revolutionary conspiracy led by Catiline.

85.   To the kings of Egypt and Asia in alliance with Rome, 144 B.C. Scipio Africanus Minor was censor 143 B.C.

86.   Cicero's Hortensius.

87.   i.e., the dramatis personae of the dialogues that follow.

88.   C.f. 'preach Christ of contention,' Philippians i. 16, and Hebrews i. 3, Thessalonians ii. 2.

89.   Exprimant, a metaphor from sculpture ; no doubt the word properly denoted the preliminary model in clay.

90.   i.e., the colonnade or xystus in which they had been strolling.

91.   Lucullus was sent by Sulla to Alexandria, 87-86 B.C., to try to raise a fleet.

92.   i.e., by Cicero.

93.   i.e., the New Academy, as 12 fin.

94.   These persons are otherwise unknown.

95.   i.e., at the beginning of the lost Book I. of the first edition of Academica ; in the second edition the topic was transferred to Cicero and occupied the lost Book II.

96.   Sosus, like Antiochus a native of Ascalon, seems to have gone over from the Academy to Stoicism.

97.   i.e., when a copy is made, that is the name written on it.

98.   See i. 12 n.

99.   i.e., by Catulus, in the lost Book I. of the first edition, which bore his name; the subject was given to Cicero in the lost Book n. of the second edition.

100.   i.e., to put Arcesilas in a list of philosophers that includes Democritus is like classing a modern demagogue with the democratic statesmen of history. Saturninus, the colleague of Marius, finally went beyond him, and was killed by the mob.

101.   Little or nothing is known of this philosopher or of the others mentioned in this section.

102.   See i. 41 n.

103.   A general term denoting things that are self-evident and do not require proof, used as a technical term by Zenon to denote the characteristic of katalēptikē phantasia.

104.   To be accurately expressed, the sense requires the positive catalepton.

105.   i.e., an oar half in the water, as seen from the boat ; this case of refraction and the changing colours of a pigeon's neck were instances of apparent deception of the senses much used by the Sceptics ; cf. 79.

106.   Plays of Pacuvius and Ennius respectively.

107.   i.e., in the dialogue of the day before, in the lost first edition of Book I.

108.   Artifex denotes the pursuer of an ars, an organised body of knowledge, a science, whether theoretical or applied in practice. It includes here the musician (also regarded as a poet), but the practice of music seems to be envisaged as based on knowledge of its theory. At 142 the craftsmen instanced are a painter and two sculptors.

109.   Cicero seems to be translating some such phrase as φῶς καὶ φέγγος τοῦ βίου.

110.   The sense seems to require 'research which' : for virtus, or its Stoic equivalcnt sapientia, as ratio perfecta cf. i. 20, ii. 30 fin.

111.   Involuta aperire is a translation of ἐκκαλύπτειν, denoting a process of argument ; the conclusion is seen to be contained in the premisses.

112.   ἀσφαλῆ καὶ ἀμετάπτωτον ὑπὸ λόγου   Sextus, A.M. vii. 151.

113.   i.e., in Antiochus's Sosus, see 12. Cf. 38.

114.   For this reproach against the Sceptics cf. 38, 61, 109.

115.   Cf. i. 19.

116.   Adpetitio is Cicero's version of hormē, see 24 n.

117.   The favourite charge of the Sceptics against the dogmatic schools.

118.   Cf. i. 44 n.

119.   Doubtless a reference to the exposition of Catulus at the beginning of the lost Book I. of the first edition.

120.   Quasi marks veri simile as an explanation of probabile used to translate pithanon.

121.   Perhaps we should emend 'any true thing,' cf. 34. The clause refers to the possibility that an hallucination, a visual image not corresponding to a real obiect, may exactly resemble a visual image presented by a real object.

122.   φαντασία πιθανὴ καὶ ἀπερίσπαστος , a sensation which (1) at first sight, without further inquiry, seems true, and also (2) when examined in relation to all the other sensations received at the same time (which might turn one's attention away from it, περισπᾶν) is found to be consistent with them.

123.   i.e., different from what it seems.

124.   i.e., the mental acceptance of a sensation as truly representing the object ; cf. i. 40.

125.   20.

126.   See 30 n.

127.   See i. 32 n.

128.   Quasi marks a tentative rendering of themelioi as does quandam just below one of technē phantasiōn; and apparently also quasi contineant renders some other Greek teclmical term, perhaps συνέχειν ; cf. 20, 107.

129.   Two objects entirely alike, A' and A", present the same appearance a ; but so also do two objects only superficially alike - though not really alike entirely, they are indistinguishable by the senses : X and Y both present the same appearance x. We may have the presentation x and think it comes from X when it really comes from Y, X not being there : in this case we do not perceive X. Therefore when we have the presentation x and think it comes from X and X is there, we cannot be said to perceive X. Therefore perception ia impossible.

130.   Lumina, a technical term of rhetoric, used to translate schēmata.

131.   i.e., a thing misconceived (not 'an unreal thing').

132.   Cf. 34 init.

133.   Quasi quibusdam mark praestigiis as a translation of sophismata, paraphrased by captionibus.

Following sections (49-98)

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