Cicero: Academica

-   Book 1   (Academica Posteriora)

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.


    { Letter dedicating second edition to Varro   (AdFam. ix.8) }

[1] L   Even the public, unless stirred up to do so, does not as a rule actually demand a gift, ** although somebody has held out an offer of one ; yet in my case eagerness for the present that you promised ** prompts me to send you, not a demand, but a reminder. But the four emissaries that I am sending to remind you ** are not excessively modest ones - for no doubt you are acquainted with the 'cheek' of this junior ** Academy - well, it is from the very heart of that School that my messengers have been summoned ; and I am afraid that they may perhaps present a demand to you, although my instructions to them are to make a request. Anyway I have now been a long time waiting and keeping myself from writing anything to you on my side before I had received something from you, so as to have the opportunity of making you as nearly as possible a repayment in kind. But as you have been acting rather slowly, that is (as I construeit) rather carefully, I have been unable to keep myself from making public, in such literary form as was within my powers, the community of studies and of affection that unites us. I have accordingly composed a dialogue, held between us at my place at Cumae, with Pomponius as one of the party ; I have cast you for the part of champion of Antiochus, whose doctrine I think I have understood you to approve of, while I have taken the role of Philon myself. When you read it I fancy you will be surprised at our holding a conversation that never actually took place ; but you know the convention as to dialogues. [2] On some later occasion, my dear Varro, we will if you think fit have a very full talk together about our personal affairs as well ; too late, perhaps, but let the destiny of the commonwealth bear the responsibility for the days that are past, it is our duty to answer for the present. And would that we had the power to carry on these joint studies in a period of tranquillity, and with the affairs of state settled in some definite if not satisfactory manner ! although in that case indeed perhaps certain other interests would afford us honourable subjects of thought and honourable fields of action ; whereas now without our present studies what reason have we to wish to be alive? For my own part, even with them scarcely any, but if they be taken from me, not even scarcely ! But we will discuss this when we meet, and repeatedly. I hope the move and the sale ** are turning out a success : I approve of your policy in that business. Farewell.

BOOK 1 **

    { Antiochus's dogmatism v. Philon's probability }

[1] L   My friend Atticus was staying with me lately at my country-place at Cumae, when a message came of the to us from Marcus Varro's house that he had arrived from Rome on the evening of the day before, and if not fatigued from the journey intended to come straight on to us. On hearing this, we thought that no obstacle must intervene to delay our seeing a person united to us by identity of studies as well as by old friendship ; so we hastily set out to go to him, and were only a short distance from his country-house when we saw him coming towards us in person. We gave our Varro a friend's embrace, and after a fairly long interval we escorted him back to his own house. [2] Here there was first a little conversation, and that arising out of my asking whether Rome happened to have been doing anything new ; and then Atticus said, "Do pray drop those subjects, about which we can neither ask questions nor hear theanswers without distress ; inquire of him instead whether he himself has done anything new. For Varro's Muses have kept silent for a longer time than they used, but all the same my belief is that your friend is not taking a holiday but is hiding what he writes." "Oh no, certainly not," said Varro, "for I think that to put in writing what one wants to be kept hidden is sheer recklessness ; but I have got a big task in hand, and have had for a long time : I have begun on a work ** dedicated to our friend here himself" - meaning me - "which is a big thing I can assure you, and which is getting a good deal of touching up and polishing at my hands." [3] L   At this I said, "As to that work of yours, Varro, I have been waiting for it a long time now, but all the same I don't venture to demand it ; for I have heard (since we cannot hide anything of that kind) from our friend Libo, an enthusiastic student as you know, that you are not leaving it off, but are giving it increased attention, and never lay it out of your hands. However, there is a question that it has never occurred to me to put to you before the present moment, but now, after I have embarked on the task of placing upon record the doctrines that I have learnt in common with you, and of expounding in Latin literary form the famous old system of philosophy that took its rise from Socrates, I do put the question why, though you write a great deal, you pass over this class of subject, especially when you yourself are distinguished in it, and also when this interest and this whole subject far outstrip all other interests and other sciences ?"

[2.] [4] "The question that you ask," replied Varro, "is one which I have often pondered and considered deeply. And so I will not beat about the bush in my reply, but will say what at once occurs to me, because I have, as I said, thought much and long upon the very point that you raise. For as I saw that philosophy had been most carefully expounded in Greek treatises, I judged that any persons from our nation that felt an interest in the subject, if they were learned in the teachings of the Greeks, would sooner read Greek writings than ours, and if on the other hand they shrank from the sciences and systems of the Greeks, they would not care even for philosophy, which cannot be understood without Greek learning : and therefore I was unwilling to write what the unlearned would not be able to understand and the learned would not take the trouble to read.

[5] L   "But you are aware (for you have passed through the same course of study yourself) that we Academics cannot be like Amafinius or Rabirius, ** who discuss matters that lie open to the view in ordinary language, without employing any technicality and entirely dispensing with definition and division and neat syllogistic proof, ** and who in fact believe that no science of rhetoric or logic exists. But we for our part while obeying the rules of the logicians and of the orators also as if they were laws, for our school considers each of these faculties a merit, are compelled to employ novel terms as well, for which the learned, as I said, will prefer to go to the Greeks, while the unlearned will not accept them even from us, so that all our toil will be undertaken in vain. [6] Then as for natural philosophy, if I accepted the system of Epicurus, that is of Democritus, I could write about it as lucidly as Amafinius ; for when once you haveabolished causation, in the sense of efficient causes, what is there remarkable in talking about the accidental collision of minute bodies - that is his name for atoms ? The natural science of my school you know ; being a system that combines the efficient force and the matter which is fashioned and shaped by the efficient force, it must also bring in geometry ; ** but what terminology, pray, will anybody have to use in explaining geometry, or whom will he be able to bring to understand it ? Even this department of ethics and the subject of moral choice and avoidance that school handles quite simply, for it frankly identifies the good of man with the good of cattle, but what a vast amount of what minute precision the teachers of our school display is not unknown to you. [7] L   For if one is a follower of Zenon, it is a great task to make anybody understand the meaning of the real and simple good that is inseparable from morality, because Epicurus entirely denies that he can even guess what sort of a thing good is without pleasures that excite the sense ; but if we should follow the lead of the Old Academy, the school that I as you know approve, how acutely we shall have to expound that system ! How subtly, how profoundly even, we shall have to argue against the Stoics ! Accordingly for my own part I adopt the great pursuit of philosophy in its entirety both (so far as I am able) as a guiding principle of life and as an intellectual pleasure, and I agree with the dictum of Plato ** that no greater and better gift has been bestowed by the gods upon mankind. [8] But my friends who possess an interest in this study I send to Greece, that is, I bid them go to the Greeks, so that they may draw from the fountain-heads rather than seek out mere rivulets ; while doctrines which nobody had been teaching up till now, and for which there wasnobody available from whom those interested could learn them, I have done as much as lay in my power (for I have no great admiration for any of my own achievements) to make them known to our fellow-countrymen ; for these doctrines could not be obtained from the Greeks, nor from the Latins either since the demise of our countryman Lucius Aelius. And nevertheless in those old writers of our country whom in my imitation ** (it is not a translation) of Menippus I treated with a certain amount of ridicule, there is a copious admixture of elements derived from the inmost depths of philosophy, ** and many utterances in good logical form ; and though in my funeral orations these were more easily intelligible to less learned readers if they were tempted to peruse them by a certain attractiveness of style, when we come to the prefaces to my Antiquities, in these my aim was, if only I attained it, to write for philosophers."

[3.] [9] L   "What you say, Varro, is true," I replied, "for we were wandering and straying about like visitors in our own city, and your books led us, so to speak, right home, and enabled us at last to realise who and where we were. You have revealed the age of our native city, the chronology of its history, the laws of its religion and its priesthood, its civil and its military institutions, the topography of its districts and its sites, the terminology, classification and moral and rational basis of all our religious and secular institutions, and you have likewise shed a flood of light upon our poets and generally on Latin literature and the Latin language, and you have yourself composed graceful poetry of various styles in almost every metre, and have sketched an outline of philosophy in many departments that is enough to stimulate the student though not enough to complete his instruction. [10] But though it is true that the case you bring forward has some probability, as accomplished students on the one hand will prefer to read the Greek writings, and on the other hand people who do not know those will not read these either, still, tell me now - do you quite prove your point ? The truth rather is that both those who cannot read the Greek books will read these and those who can read the Greek will not overlook the works of their own nation. For what reason is there why accomplished Greeks should read Latin poets and not read Latin philosophers ? Is it because they get pleasure from Ennius, Pacuvius, Accius and many others, who have reproduced not the words but the meaning of the Greek poets ? How much more pleasure will they get from philosophers, if these imitate Plato, Aristotle and Theophrastus in the same way as those poets imitated Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides ? At all events I see that any of our orators that haveimitated Hyperides or Demosthenes are praised.

[11] L   But for my own part (for I will speak frankly), so long as I was held entangled and fettered by the multifarious duties of ambition, office, litigation, political interests and even some political responsibility, I used to keep these studies within close bounds, and relied merely on reading, when I had the opportunity, to revive them and prevent their fading away ; but now that I have been smitten by a grievously heavy blow ** of fortune and also released from taking part in the government of the country, I seek from philosophy a cure for my grief and I deem this to be the most honourable mode of amusing my leisure. For this occupation is the one most suited to my age ; or it is the one more in harmony than any other with such praiseworthy achievements as I can claim ; or else it is the most useful means of educating our fellow-citizens also ; or, if these things are not the case, I see no other occupation that is within ourpower. [12] At all events our friend Brutus, who is eminent for every kind of distinction, is so successful an exponent of philosophy in a Latin dress that one could not feel the least need for Greek writings on the same subjects, and indeed he is an adherent of the same doctrine as yourself, as for a considerable time he heard the lectures of Aristus ** at Athens, whose brother Antiochus you attended. Pray therefore devote yourself to this field of literature also."

[4.] [13] L   "I will deal with your point," he rejoined, although I shall require your assistance. But what is this news that I hear ** about yourself ? "   "What about, exactly ? " said I. "That you have abandoned the Old Academy, and are dealing with the New."   "What then ? " I said. " Is our friend Antiochus to have had more liberty to return from the new school to the old, than we are to have to move out of the old one into the new ? Why, there is no question that the newest theories are always most correct and free from error ; although Philon, Antiochus's master, a great man as you yourself judge him, makes an assertion in his books which we used also to hear from his own lips, ? he says that there are not two Academies, and proves that those who thought so were mistaken."   "What you say is true," said he, "but I think that you are not unacquainted with what Antiochus wrote to combat those statements of Philon."   [14] "On the contrary, I should like you, if you do not mind, to recapitulate the arguments to which you refer, and also the whole theory of the Old Academy, with which I have been out of touch for a long while now ; and at the same time," I said, "let us if you please sit down for our talk."   " Let us sit down by all means," he said, "for I am in rather weak health. But let us see whether Atticus would like me to undertake the same task that I see you want me to."   "To be sure I should," said Atticus, "for what could I like better than to recall to memory the doctrines that I heard long ago from Antiochus, and at the same time to see if they can be satisfactorily expressed in Latin ?" After these remarks we took our seats in full view of one another.

[15] L   Then Varro began as follows : "It is my view, and it is universally agreed, that Socrates was the first person who summoned philosophy away from mysteries veiled in concealment by nature herself, upon which all philosophers before him had been engaged, and led it to the subject of ordinary life, in order to investigate the virtues and vices, and good and evil generally, and to realise that heavenly matters are either remote from our knowledge or else, however fully known, have nothing to do with the good life.[16] The method of discussion pursued by Socrates in almost all the dialogues so diversely and so fully recorded by his hearers is to affirm nothing himself but to refute others, to assert that he knows nothing except the fact of his own ignorance, and that he surpassed all other people in that they think they know things that they do not know but he himself thinks he knows nothing, and that he believed this to have been the reason why Apollo declared him to be the wisest of all men, ** because all wisdom consists solely in not thinking that you know what you do not know. He used to say this regularly, and remained firm in this opinion, yet nevertheless the whole of his discourses were spent in praising virtue and in exhorting mankind to the zealous pursuit of virtue, as can be gathered from the books of members of the Socratic school, and particularly from those of Plato. [17] L   But originating with Plato, a thinker of manifold varietyand fertility, there was established a philosophy that, though it had two appellations, was really a single uniform system, that of the Academic and the Peripatetic schools, which while agreeing in doctrine differed in name ; for Plato left his sister's son Speusippus as 'heir' ** to his system, but two pupils of outstanding zeal and learning, Xenocrates, a native of Calchedon, ** and Aristotle, a native of Stagira ** ; and accordingly the associates of Aristotle were called the Peripatetics, because they used to debate while walking in the Lyceum, ** while the others, because they carried on Plato's practice of assembling and conversing in the Academy, which is another gymnasium, got their appellation from the name of the place. But both schools drew plentiful supplies from Plato's abundance, and both framed a definitely formulated rule of doctrine, and this fully and copiously set forth, whereas they abandoned the famous Socratic custom of discussing everything in a doubting manner and without the admission of any positive statement. Thus was produced something that Socrates had been in the habit of reprobating entirely, a definite science of philosophy, with a regular arrangement of subjects and a formulated system of doctrine. [18] At the outset it is true this was a single system with two names, as I said, for there was no difference between the Peripatetics and the Old Academy of those days. Aristotle excelled, as I at all events think, in a certain copiousness of intellect, but both schools drew from the same source, and both made the same classification of things as desirable and to be avoided.

[5.] "But what am I about ? " he said, "am I quite all there, who teach these things to you ? Even if it is not a case of the proverbial pig teaching Minerva, ** anyway whoever teaches Minerva is doing a silly thing."   "Do pray go on, Varro," rejoined Atticus, "for I love our literature and our fellow-countrymen profoundly, and I delight in the doctrines of your school when set forth in Latin and as you are setting them forth."   "What do you suppose that I feel about it," said I, "seeing that I have already offered myself as an exponent of philosophy to our nation ? "   "Well then, let us proceed," said he, "as we are agreed. [19] L   There already existed, then, a threefold scheme of philosophy inherited from Plato : one division dealt with conduct and morals, the second with the secrets of nature, the third with dialectic and with judgement of truth and falsehood, correctness and incorrectness, consistency and inconsistency, in rhetorical discourse. And fur the first of these sections, the one dealing with the right conduct of life, they ** went for a starting-point to nature, and declared that her orders must be followed, and that the chief good which is the ultimate aim of all things is to be sought in nature and in nature only ; and they laid it down that to have attained complete accordance with nature in mind, body and estate ** is the limit of things desirable and the End of goods. Among goods of the body they laid it down that some resided in the whole frame and others in the parts : health, strength and beauty were goods of the whole, goods of the parts were sound senses and the particular excellences of the parts severally, for instance speed in the feet, power in the hands, clearness in the voice, and also an even and distinct articulation of sounds as a quality of the tongue. [20] Goodness of the mind consisted in the qualities conducive to the comprehension of virtue ; these they divided into gifts of nature and features of the moral character - quickness of apprehension and memory they assigned to nature, each of them being a mental and intellectual property, while to the moral character they deemed to belong the interests or 'habit' ** which they moulded partly by diligent practice and partly by reason, practice and reason being the domain of philosophy itself. In this philosophy a commencement not carried to completion is called 'progress' ** towards virtue, but the completed course is virtue, which is the 'consummation' ** of nature, and is the most supremely excellent of all the faculties of the mind as they define them. This then is their account of the mind. [21] L   To 'estate' - that was the third division - they said belonged certain properties that influenced the exercise of virtue. For virtue is displayed in connexion with the goods of the mind and those of the body, and with some that are the attributes not so much of nature as of happiness. Man they deemed to be, so to say, a 'part' ** of the state and of the human race as a whole, and they held that a man was conjoined with his fellow-men by the 'partnership of humanity.' ** And this being their treatment of the supreme good as bestowed by nature, all other goods they considered to be factors contributing either to its increase or to its protection,for instance wealth, resources, fame, influence. Thus they introduced a triple classification of goods.

[6.] [22] "And this corresponds with the three classes of goods which most people think to be intended by the Peripatetics. This is indeed correct, for this classification is theirs, but it is a mistake if people suppose that the Academics quoted above and the Peripatetics were different schools. This theory was common to both, and both held that the end of goods was to acquire either all or the greatest of the things that are by nature primary, and are intrinsically worthy of desire ; and the greatest of these are the ones which have their being in the mind itself and in virtue itself. Accordingly the whole of the great philosophy of antiquity held that happiness lies in virtue alone, yet that happiness is not supreme without the addition of the goods of the body and all the other goods suitable for the employment of virtue that were specified above. [23] L   From this scheme they used also to arrive at a first principle of conduct in life and of duty itself, which principle lay in safeguarding the things that nature prescribed. Hence sprang the duty of avoiding idleness and of disregarding pleasures, leading on to the undergoing of many great toils and pains for the sake of the right and noble, ** and of the objects in harmony with the plan marked out by nature, from which sprang friendship, and also justice and fairness ; and these they rated higher than pleasures and an abundance of the good things of life. This then was their system of ethics, the plan and outline of the department that I placed first.

[24] "The subject of nature (for that came next) they dealt with by the method of dividing nature into two principles, ** the one the active, and the other 'passive,' on which the active operated and out of which an entity was created. The active principle they deemed to constitute force, the one acted on, a sort of 'material' ** ; yet they held that each of the two was present in the combination of both, for matter could not have formed a concrete whole by itself with no force to hold it together, nor yet force without some matter (for nothing exists that is not necessarily somewhere). ** But when they got to the product of both force and matter, they called this 'body,' ** and, if I may use the term, 'quality' ** - as we are dealing with unusual subjects you will of course allow us occasionally to employ words never heard before, as do the Greeks themselves, who have now been handling these topics for a longtime."

[7.] [25] L   "To be sure we will," said Atticus ; "indeed you shall be permitted to employ even Greek words if Latin ones happen to fail you."   "That is certainly kind of you, but I will do my best to talk Latin, except in the case of words of the sort now in question, so as to employ the term 'philosophy' or 'rhetoric ' or 'physics' ** or 'dialectic,' ** which like many others are now habitually used as Latin words. I have therefore given the name of 'qualities' to the things that the Greeks call poiotetes ; even among the Greeks it is not a word in ordinary use, but belongs to the philosophers, and this is the case with many terms. But the dialecticians' vocabulary is none of it the popular language, they use words of their own ; and indeed this is a feature shared by almost all the sciences : either new names have to be coined for new things, or names taken from other things have to be used metaphorically. This beingthe practice of the Greeks, who have now been engaged in these studies for so many generations, how much more ought it to be allowed to us, who are now attempting to handle these subjects for the first time !"   [26] "Indeed, Varro," said I, "I think you will actually be doing a service to your fellow-countrymen if you not only enlarge their store of facts, as you have done, but of words also."   "Then on your authority we will venture to employ new words, if we have to. Well then, those qualities ** are of two sorts, primary and derivative. Things of primary quality are homogeneous and simple ; those derived from them are varied and 'multiform.' ** Accordingly air (this word also we now use as Latin) and fire and water and earth are primary ; while their derivatives are the species of living creatures and of the things that grow out of the earth. ** Therefore those things are termed first principles ** and (to translate fromthe Greek) elements ** ; and among them air and fire have motive and efficient force, and the remaining divisions, I mean water and earth, receptive and 'passive' capacity. ** Aristotle deemed that there existed a certain fifth sort of element, ** in a class by itself and unlike the four that I have mentioned above, which was the source of the stars and of thinking minds. [27] L   But they hold that underlying all things is a substance called 'matter,' entirely formless and devoid of all 'quality' (for let us make this word more familiar and manageable by handling), and that out of it all things have been formed and produced, so that this matter can in its totality receive all things and undergo every sort of transformation throughout every part of it, and in fact even suffer dissolution, not into nothingness but into its own parts, which are capable of infinite section and division, since there exists nothing whatever in the nature ofthings that is an absolute least, incapable of division ; but that all things that are in motion move by means of interspaces, ** these likewise being infinitely divisible. [28] And since the force that we have called 'quality' ** moves in this manner and since it thus vibrates to and fro, they think that the whole of matter also is itself in a state of complete change throughout, and is made into the things which they term 'qualified,' ** out of which in the concrete whole of substance, ** a continuum united with all its parts, has been produced one world, outside of which there is no portion of matter and no body, while all the things that are in the world are parts of it, held together by a sentient being, ** in which perfect reason is immanent, and which is immutable ** and eternal since nothing stronger exists to cause it to perish ; [29] L   and this force they say is the soul of the world, and is also perfect intelligence and wisdom, which theyentitle God, and is a sort of 'providence' ** knowing the things that fall within its province, governing especially the heavenly bodies, and then those things on earth that concern mankind ; and this force they also sometimes call Necessity, because nothing can happen otherwise than has been ordained by it under a 'fated and unchangeable concatenation of everlasting order' ** ; although they sometimes also term it Fortune, because many of its operations are unforeseen and unexpected by us on account of their obscurity and our ignorance of causes.

[8.] [30] "Then the third part of philosophy, consisting in reason and in discussion, ** was treated by them both as follows. The criterion of truth arose indeed from the senses, yet was not in the senses : the judge of things was, they held, the mind - they thought that it alone deserves credence, because it alone perceives that which is eternally simple and uniform and true to its own quality. This thing they call the Idea, a name already given it by Plato ; we can correctly term it form. [31] L   All the senses on the other hand they deemed to be dull and sluggish, and entirely unperceptive of all the things supposed to fall within the province of the senses, which were either so small as to be imperceptible by sense, or in such a violent state of motion that no single thing was ever stationary, nor even remained the same thing, because all things were in continual ebb and flow ; accordingly all this portion of things theycalled the object of opinion. [32] Knowledge on the other hand they deemed to exist nowhere except in the notions and reasonings of the mind ; and consequently they approved the method of defining things, and applied this 'real definition' ** to all the subjects that they discussed. They also gave approval to derivation of words, that is, the statement of the reason why each class of things bears the name that it does - the subject termed by them etymology and then they used derivations as 'tokens' or so to say marks ** of things, as guides for arriving at proofs or conclusions as to anything of which they desired an explanation ; and under this head was imparted their whole doctrine of Dialectic, that is, speech cast in the form of logical argument ; to this as a 'counterpart' ** was added the faculty of Rhetoric, which sets out a continuous speech adapted to the purpose of persuasion.

[33] L   "This was their primary system, inherited from Plato ; and if you wish I will expound the modifications of it that have reached me."   "Of course we wish it," said I, "if I may reply for Atticus as well."   "And you reply correctly," said Atticus, "for he is giving a brilliant exposition of the doctrine of the Peripatetics and the Old Academy."

[9.] " Aristotle was the first to undermine the Forms of which I spoke a little while before, which had been so marvellously embodied in the system of Plato, who spoke of them as containing an element of divinity. Theophrastus, who has a charming style and also a certain conspicuous uprightness and nobility of character, in a way made an even more violent breach in the authority of the old doctrine ; for he robbed virtue of her beauty and weakened her strength by denying that the happy life is placed in her alone. [34] As for his pupil Straton, although he had a penetrating intellect nevertheless he must be kept altogether separate from that school ; he abandoned the most essential part of philosophy, which consists in ethics, to devote himself entirely to research in natural science, and even in this he differed very widely from his friends. On the other hand Speusippus and Xenocrates, the first inheritors of the systemand authority of Plato, and after them Polemon and Crates, and also Crantor, gathered in the one fold of the Academy, were assiduous defenders of the doctrines that they had received from their predecessors. [35] L   Finally, Polemon had had diligent pupils in Zenon and Arcesilas, but Zenon, who was Arcesilas's senior in age and an extremely subtle dialectician and very acute thinker, instituted a reform of the system. This remodelled doctrine also I will expound, if you approve, as it used to be expounded by Antiochus."   "I do approve," said I, "and Pomponius, as you see, indicates his agreement."

[10.] "Well, Zenon was by no means the man ever to hamstring virtue, as Theophrastus had done, but on the contrary to make it his practice to place all the constituents of happiness in virtue alone, and to include nothing else in the category of Good, entitling virtue 'the noble,' ** which denoted a sort of uniform, unique and solitary good. [36] All other things, he said, were neither good nor bad, but nevertheless some of them were in accordance with nature and others contrary to nature ; also among these he counted another interposed or 'intermediate' class of things. He taught that things in accordance with nature were to be chosen and estimated as having a certain value, and their opposites the opposite, while things that were neither he left in the 'intermediate' class. These he declared to possess no motive force whatever, [37] L   but among things to be chosen ** some were to be deemed of more value and others of less ** : the morevaluable he termed 'preferred,' the less valuable, 'rejected.' And just as with these he had made an alteration of terminology rather than of substance, so between a right action and a sin he placed appropriate action ** and action violating propriety as things intermediate, classing only actions rightly done as goods and actions wrongly done, that is sins, as evils, whereas the observance or neglect of appropriate acts he deemed intermediate, as I said. [38] And whereas his predecessors said that not all virtue resides in the reason, but that certain virtues are perfected by nature or by habit, he placed all the virtues in reason ; and whereas they thought that the kinds of virtues that I have stated above can be classed apart, he argued that this is absolutely impossible, and that not merely the exercise of virtue, as his predecessors held, but the mere state of virtue is in itself a splendidthing, although no body possesses virtue without continuously exercising it. ** Also whereas they did not remove emotion out of humanity altogether, and said that sorrow and desire and fear and delight were natural, but curbed them and narrowed their range, Zenon held that the wise man was devoid of all these 'diseases' ** ; [39] L   and whereas the older generation said that these emotions were natural and non-rational, and placed desire and reason in different regions of the mind, he did not agree with these doctrines either, for he thought that even the emotions were voluntary and were experienced owing to a judgement of opinion, and he held that the mother of all the emotions was a sort of intemperance and lack of moderation. These more or less were his ethical doctrines.

[11.] "His views as to the natural substances ** were as follows. First, in dealing with the four recognised primary elements he did not add this fifth substance ** which his predecessors deemed to be the source of sensation and of intellect ; for he laid it down that the natural substance that was the parent of all things, even of the senses and the mind, was itself fire. He also differed from the same thinkers in holding that an incorporeal substance, such as Xenocrates and the older thinkers also had pronounced the mind to be, was incapable of any activity, whereas anything capable of acting, or being acted upon in any way could not be incorporeal. [40] In the third department of philosophy lie made a number of changes. Here first of all he made some new pronouncements about sensation itself, which he held to be a combination ** of a sort of impact offered from outside (which he called phantasia and we may call a presentation, and let us retain thisterm at all events, for we shall have to employ it several times in the remainder of my discourse), - well, to these presentations received by the senses lie joins the act of mental assent which he makes out to reside within us and to be a voluntary act. [41] L   He held that not all presentations are trustworthy but only those that have a 'manifestation,' ** peculiar to themselves, of the objects presented ; and a trustworthy presentation, being perceived as such by its own intrinsic nature, he termed 'graspable' - will you endure these coinages ? "   "Indeed we will," said Atticus, "for how else could you express ' catalepton' ? "   "But after it had been received and accepted as true, he termed it a 'grasp,' ** resembling objects gripped in the hand - and in fact he had derived the actual term from manual prehension, nobody before having used the word in such a sense, and he also used a number of new terms (for his doctrines were new). Well, a thing grasped by sensation he called itself a sensation, and a sensation so firmly grasped as to be irremovable by reasoning he termed knowledge, but a sensation not so grasped he termed ignorance, and this was the source also of opinion, an unstable impression akin to falsehood and ignorance. [42] But as a stage wisdom between knowledge and ignorance he placed that 'grasp' of which I have spoken, and he reckoned it neither as a right nor as a wrong impression, but said that it was only ** 'credible.' On the strength of this he deemed the senses also trustworthy, because, as I said above, he held that a grasp achieved by the senses was both true and trustworthy, not because it grasped all the properties of the thing, but because it let go nothing that was capable of being its object, and because nature had bestowed as it were a 'measuring-rod' ** of knowledge and a first principle of itself from which subsequently notions of things could be impressed upon the mind, out of which not first principles only but certain broader roads to the discovery of reasoned truth were opened up. On the other hand error, rashness, ignorance, opinion, suspicion, and in a word all the things alien to firm and steady assent, Zenon set apart from virtue and wisdom. And it is on these points more or less that all Zenon's departure and disagreement from the doctrine of his predecessors turned."

[12.] [43] L   When he had said this, I remarked : "You have certainly given a short and very lucid exposition of the theory both of the Old Academy and of the Stoics ; though I think it to be true, as our friend Antiochus used to hold, that the Stoic theory should be deemed a correction of the Old Academy rather than actually a new system."   "It is now your role," rejoined Varro, "as a seceder from the theory of the older period and a supporter of the innovations of Arcesilas, to explain the nature and the reason of the rupture that took place, so as to enable us to see whether the secession was fully justified."   [44] "It was entirely with Zenon, so we have been told," I replied, "that Arcesilas set on foot his battle, not from obstinacy or desire for victory, as it seems to me at all events, but because of the obscurity of the facts that had led Socrates to a confession of ignorance, as also previously his predecessors Democritus, Anaxagoras, Empedocles, and almost all the old philosophers, who utterly denied all possibility of cognition or perception or knowledge, and maintained that the senses are limited, the mind feeble, the span of life short, and that truth (in Democritus's phrase) is sunk in an abyss, ** opinion and custom are all-prevailing, no place is left for truth, all things successively are wrapped in darkness. [45] L   Accordingly Arcesilas said that there is nothing that can be known, not even that residuum of knowledge that Socrates had left himself - the truth of this very dictum ** : so hidden in obscurity did he believe that everything lies, nor is there anything that can be perceived or understood, and for these reasons, he said, no one must make any positive statement or affirmation or give the approval of his assent to any proposition, and a man must always restrain his rashness and hold it back from every slip, as it would be glaring rashnessto give assent either to a falsehood or to something not certainly known, and nothing is more disgraceful than for assent and approval to outstrip knowledge and perception. His practice was consistent with this theory - he led most of his hearers to accept it by arguing against the opinions of all men, so that when equally weighty reasons were found on opposite sides on the same subject, it was easier to withhold assent from either side. [46] They call this school the New Academy, - to me it seems old, at all events if we count Plato a member of the Old Academy, in whose books nothing is stated positively and there is much arguing both for and against, all things are inquired into and no certain statement is made ; but nevertheless let the Academy that you expounded be named the Old and this one the New ; and right down to Carneades, who was fourth ** in succession from Arcesilas, it continued to remain true to thesame theory of Arcesilas. Carneades however was acquainted with every department of philosophy, and as I have learnt from his actual hearers. and especially from the Epicurean Zenon, ** who though disagreeing very much with Carneades, nevertheless had an exceptional admiration for him, he possessed an incredible facility. . . ."


From Book I

[fr.1] Digladiari has been used in the sense of 'to disagree,' 'dissent' : it is derived from 'swords.' Cicero, Academica, Bk. I. : 'But why is Mnesarchus resentful ? Why does Antipater cross swords with Carneades in so many volumes ?'

[fr.2] (Under concinnare.) The same author in Academica Bk. I. : 'With whom by reason of the similarity of the word he seemed to himself to be completely in harmony . . . '

From Book II

[fr.3] The view that aequor is derived from aequum,'level,' is supported by Cicero, Academica, Book II. :'What seems so level as the sea ? This is actually the reason why the word for it in poetry is aequor.'

[fr.4] Adamare. 'For those who have fallen in love with office too late gain admission to it with difficulty, and cannot be enough in favour with the multitude.'

[fr.5] Exponere meaning 'to show examples of good' : 'To crush avarice, to put away crime, to exhibit one's own life for the young to imitate.'

[fr.6] Hebes, 'dull,' used in the sense of 'dark,' or else 'blunt' : 'Well, what are the outlines of the moon ? Can you say ? The horns of the moon both when rising and setting sometimes seem duller, sometimes sharper.'

[fr.7] Purpurascit. 'What, is not the sea blue ? But when its water is struck by oars it purples, and indeed a sort of dye and stain having come to the water's . . .'

[fr.8] Perpendicula and normae. 'Yet if we believed that, we should not require plumb-lines or rods or rulers.'

[fr.9] Siccum means 'dried-up,' devoid of moisture. . . . Siccum also means 'sober,' not a soaker. 'We notice a different complexion in grown-up people and the young, in invalids and the healthy, in the dry and in wine-bibbers.'

[fr.10] Urinantur. 'For whenever we stoop like men making water, we see nothing above us or only quite dimly.'

[fr.11] Alabaster. 'People who think even a scent-bottle full of perfume a stinking thing.'

From Book III

[fr.12] Digladiari . . . Cicero also writes in Book III. 'But to be always crossing swords and fighting to the end among criminals and desperadoes - who would not call this a most pitiable and also a most foolish occupation ?'

[fr.13] Exultare means 'to jump out.'   'And just as we are now sitting by the Lucrine Lake and see the little fishes jumping out of the water . . .'

[fr.14] Ingeneraretur in the sense of 'might be born in.'   'That in man alone among all this variety of living creatures might be born a desire for learning and knowledge.'

[fr.15] Vindicare 'to draw,' 'to set free.'   'Let him show some capacity, let him champion himself into freedom.'

[fr.16] Cicero . . . who in his third Academic volume has these words : 'Whereas if those who have pursued a devious path in life were allowed, like travellers who had wandered from the road, to remedy their mistake by repenting, the correction of recklessness would be easier.'

[fr.17] Varro in his third book dedicated to Cicero uses fixum, and Cicero in Academica, Book III. 'adfixed on the work with a hammer.' **

Fragments of uncertain Context

[fr.18] These are your own words, {Cicero} : 'To me however we seem not only blind to wisdom but dull and blunted even towards things that are in some measure visible.'

[fr.19] 'Such,' says the Academic speaker, 'seem to me to be all the things that I have thought fit to entitle "probable" or possessed of verisimilitude ; if you want to call them by another name I make no objection, for it satisfies me that you have already well grasped my meaning, that is, the things to which I assign these names : since it becomes the wise man to be not a manufacturer of words but a researcher into things.'

[fr.20] The books of Cicero that he wrote to champion this cause contain a certain passage that seems to me to have a remarkably witty flavour, while some people think it actually a powerful and strong piece of writing. Indeed it is hard to see how anybody could fail to be impressed by what is said there, that 'the Wise Man of the Academy is given the second role by all the adherents of the other schools that seem wise in their own eyes, though of course they each claim the first part for themselves ; and that from this the probable inference may be drawn that, since he is second by everybody else's verdict, his own verdict is right in placing him first.'

[There follows a page of imaginary dialogue between Zenon, Epicurus and an Academic, which some editors print as a verbatim quotation from Cicero ; but the style makes this unlikely, and it is not introduced as a quotation, as is the passage above.]

[fr.21] For he {Cicero} says that they 'had a habit of concealing their opinion, and did not usually disclose it to anybody except those that had lived with them right up to old age.'

[fr.22] Finally Tullius himself also bears such witness to this man { Marcus Varro } as to say in Academica that the discussion there set out took place between himself and Marcus Varro, 'a person who was easily the most penetrating of all men, and without any doubt extremely learned.

Book 2 (Lucullus)


1.   Munus denotes specially a gladiatorial show.

2.   Varro had promised to dedicate to Cicero his treatise De Lingua Latina, at which he was now working.

3.   The four volumes of Academica, second edition, of which the first volume forms Book I. of the extant text.

4.   This hints at the 'young-mannishness' and self-assertion of the New Academy.

5.   What Cicero refers to is not recorded.

6.   This Book as we have it belongs to the second edition of Cicero's work, and is therefore entitled Academica Posteriora by some editors.

7.   Varro's De Lingua Latina.

8.   Epicurean writers with a large sale ; their works are now entirely lost. Epicurus himself decried the use of technical language in philosophy. The speaker here touches on the three accepted departments of philosophy in their estabhshed order, Logic, Physics, Ethics, which study respectively the questions, how we know the facts of the world, what those facts are, and consequently what conduct will secure our welfare - 'Physics' for the ancients has not the limited sense that the term bears now, but denotes the whole of Natural Science, including Biology, which is indeed specially suggested by the term, as φυέσθαι often means 'to grow,' of a living organism.

9.   Interrogatio is a synonym for ratio, and renders erōtēma, properly denoting an argument developed in a series of questions, but also used for any form of proof, apodeixis. Concludere = syllogizesthai, denoting logical inference, and specially deduction.

10.   i.e. (with arithmetic) the whole of mathematics so far as then discovered.

11.   Timaeus 47 b.

12.   Only fragments are extant of Varro's Menippean Satires. Menippus was a Cynic philosopher and satirist living at Gadara in the middle of the second century B.C.

13.   i.e. Ethics, see note on 5.

14.   The death of his daughter Tullia.

15.   Succeeded Antiochus as head of the Old Academy.

16.   i.e., from Atticus.

17.   Plato, Apology, 21 a.

18.   Cicero is translating diadochos.

19.   At the entrance to the Bosporus, nearly opposite to Byzantium.

20.   On the coast of Macedon.

21.   This famous Athenian gymnasium had a much-frequented peripatos or promenade.

22.   A proverb of Greek origin ; the story on which it was based does not seem to be recorded. Theocritus has it in a rather different form, ὗς ποτ' Αθηναίαν ἔριν ἤρισεν (5. 23), suggesting perhaps a challenge to a competition in music.

23.   i.e., the original Academy.

24.   Vita denotes ektos agatha, 'external goods.'

25.   Quasi marks consuetudo as a translation of ethos and suggests its relation to ēthos.

26.   This translates Zeno's term prokopē.

27.   teleiōsis.

28.   Translates meros.

29.   ἡ ἀνθρωπινὴ κοινωνία.

30.   A dual rendering of to kalon.

31.   The two ἀρχαί ποιητική and παθητική. Quasi marks huic se praebens as a translation of the latter.

32.   Quandam apologises for the use of materia, 'timber,' as a philosophical term to translate hylē.

33.   This clause explains the preceding clause only and is traceable ultimately to Timaeus 52 b ***** (pd/ieu di^ayKalov ehai irov To bu dirav iv tlvl towlc, Apparently Antiochus with Plato identified matter and space.

34.   i.e., organised matter, materia being matter as yet unformed.

35.   Cicero apologizes for coining the word qualitas to render poiotēs, ' what-sort-ness,' a term coined by Plato, Theaetetus, 189 A ; the Latin abstract noun, like the Greek, is used for the concrete, 'a thing of a certain quality,' an object possessing certain properties.

36.   i.e., the whole of natural science, of which physics in the modern sense is a part.

37.   i.e., logic (including both formal logic and epistemology or the theory of knowledge, cf. ii. 142) ; logikē included both dialektikē and rhētorikē. Cf. 30 n.

38.   i.e., 'qualified objects,' classes of things, abstract for concrete, cf. 24.

39.   polyeidēs.

40.   A literal translation of phyta - the vegetable kingdom.

41.   archai.

42.   stoicheia.

43.   Halm's emendation gives 'and the remaining elements . . . the receptive and passive role.' But cf. Tusc. i. 40 'terram et mare . . . reliquae duae partes.'

44.   This pemptē ousia, quinta essentia, has floated down to us in the word 'quintessence.'

45.   i.e., spaces of void or vacuum that are between the solids and enable them to move.

46.   See 25 n. The Stoics asserted that everything real has two components, the active and the passive, force and matter, and they expressed the former as 'quality' ; but they emphasised their materiahsm by sometimes speaking of the qualifying force as a current of air.

47.   poia.

48.   Natura = ousia = hylē, cf. ii. 118.

49.   Cf. N.D. ii. 22, 75, 85.

50.   Eadem denotes self-identity.

51.   pronoia.

52.   κατηναγκασμένην τινὰ καὶ ἀπαράβατον συμπλοκήν.

53.   A dual rendering of logikē, or perhaps of dialektikē. See 27 n.

54.   i.e., definition of res, things, not of words.

55.   Quasi marks notis as an explanation of argumentis used to translate symbola.

56.   antistrophon.

57.   to kalon.

58.   Sumenda is carelessly put for neutra - unless indeed the text should be corrected by inserting "not to be chosen."

59.   i.e., of minus value, in grades of undesirability : this inaccuracy occurs in the Greek authorities.

60.   Officium is Cicero's rendering of kathēkon, 'a suitable act,' formally right in the circumstances, whatever the motive of the agent.

61.   So, in a later theology, faith is manifested in works.

62.   Morbus is a translation of pathos.

63.   i.e., the elements.

64.   See 26.

65.   i.e., a combination of external impression or presentation and internal assent ; but the sentcnce is interrupted by a parenthesis.

66.   enargeia, see ii. 18 n.

67.   Comprehensio is used for comprehensum, as katalēpsis was for katalēptikē phantasia. See ii. 145.

68.   The Mss. give 'that it alone was credible.'

69.   A translation of gnōmōn or kanōn,

70.   ἐν βυθῷ ἡ ἀλήθεια   Diog. L. ix. 72.

71.   We do not even know that nothing can be known : cf. ii. 73.

72.   See ii. 16.

73.   The contemporary of Cicero, who heard him at Athens.

74.   Malleo, Reid's conjecture for the unknown word malcho of the MSS.

Book 2 (Lucullus)

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