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«udged by the conventional standard of the number of monoJ graphs, scholarly articles, and dissertations on Cicero's philosophy, regard for Cicero as ...»

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5o In a letter to Quintus about a year after Lucretius's poem appeared, Cicero seems to have praised the poem as sparkling with genius and at the same time skillfully executed. The original ( multis luminibus ingenii, multae tamen artes) has been differently interpreted as in E. S. Shuckburgh's translation: "The poems of Lucretius are as you say-with many flashes of genius, yet very technical." The Letters of Cicero (London: George Bell and Sons, 1908), vol. 1, p. 266.

51 Strauss, "Preface," op. cit., p. viii.

90 THE POLITICAL SCIENCE REVIEWER

ing of the end and nature of political life before and after Machiavelli. On each side of the divide between the ancients and moderns there are present representatives, at least, of the other side. And then too, the divide is one between the predominant understandings of political thinkers, and if only in the light of Athens' treatment of Socrates, it can be said that societies only more or less incorporate such understandings. As the "modern" Epicureans were present in ancient times, so, Strauss has suggested, there is in modern times an "ancient" way of thinking as well as reservoirs of common sense which can provide support for a healthy liberal democracy.

Even more noteworthy than Strauss' use of Cicero as reporter on Epicureanism and other ancient teachings was his regular reliance on Cicero to exemplify classical political philosophy. Strauss has chosen again and again to cite Cicero as he illustrated and documented the classical alternative with which Strauss sought above all to reacquaint the world. For Strauss, Cicero was one of three major spokesmen for the classical or ancient understanding of politics.

Strauss has looked away from possible ultimate differences in the thought of Cicero, Aristotle, and Plato in order to point up the common defining core of classical political philosophy. 53 For Strauss one of these defining characteristics was that classical political philosophy takes its bearing from an inquiry into the "human things";

it is Cicero who above all or most explicitly seemed to draw Strauss' attention to this characteristic or, what might be called, the Socratic focus for inquiry. 6 4 The "human things" are the "things good or bad," not "the nature of man."

Cicero draws our attention to the special effort which was required to turn philosophy toward the human things: philosophy turns primarily away from the human things toward the divine or natural things; no compulsion is needed or possible to establish philosophy in the cities or to introduce it into the households; but philosophy must be compelled to turn 55 back toward the human things from which it originally departed.

52 Leo Strauss, "The Three Waves of Modernity," Political Philosophy: Six Essays By Leo Strauss, ed. Hilail Gildin, (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1975), p. 98. Regarding common sense, see "An Epilogue" which follows in this volume.

Also see Leo Strauss, "Natural Law" in International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences (n.p.: The Macmillan Co., 1968), vol. 11, p. 84.

53 Gildin has noted this in Strauss. See p. xx of "Introduction" to Political Philosophy: Six Essays..., op. cit.

54 Strauss, The City and Man, op. cit., pp. 13-14; Natural Right..., op. cit., p. 120.

55 Strauss, The City and Man, op. cit.

CICERO AND THE REBIRTH OF POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY 91

In taking its bearings from "the human things" political philosophy is the branch of philosophy closest "to non-philosophic life, to human life." It is related directly "to political life" which is charged with the questions of the good and the bad as they "are raised in assemblies, councils, clubs and cabinets" and raised "in terms intelligible and familiar, at least to all sane adults," terms drawn "from everyday experience and everyday usage." 56 Another characteristic of classical political philosophy, related to its focus on "human things,'' concerns the addressees of the ancient teaching. Strauss wrote that "the political teaching of the classical philosophers, as distinguished from their theoretical teaching, was primarily addressed not to all intelligent men, but to all decent men." 57 These defining characteristics of classical political philosophy seem to point to a disproportion and a tension between political philosophy and philosophy, the search for the truth of the whole, the divine and the natural including the nature of man. Classical political philosophy was and understood itself as at least somewhat independent of philosophy or science.

And Socrates was so far from being committed to a specific cosmology that his knowledge was knowledge of ignorance. Knowledge of ignorance is not ignorance. It is knowledge of the elusive character of the truth, of the whole. Socrates, then, viewed man in the light of the mysterious character of the whole. He, held therefore that we are more familiar with the situation of man as man than with the ultimate causes of that situation. We may also say he viewed man in the light of the unchangeable ideas, i.e., of the fundamental and permanent problems. For to articulate the situation of man means to articulate man's openness to the whole. This understanding of the situation of man which includes, then, the quest for cosmology rather than a solution to the cosmological problem, was the foundation of classical political philosophy. 58 Later in a discussion of Aristotle, Strauss spoke of ancient prudence or practical wisdom as "in principle self-sufficient or closed" to the impact of theoretical science (physics and metaphysics); then he added that it is but a qualified self-sufficiency for "prudence is always endangered by false doctrines about the whole of which man is a part.........." Against such doctrines prudence is in need of defense and that "defense is necessarily theoretical." Prudence is "only Strauss,What Is.., op. cit., pp. 10, 27-28, 78, 80.





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de jure but not de facto wholly independent of theoretical science.

..." Theoretical opinions defending prudence are not, however, "the basis of prudence." 68 These considerations and others make "political philosophy..

more questionable than philosophy as such," at least to philosophers.80 It appears that the disproportion or tension between politi cal philosophy and philosophy is a special case of the disproportion or tension between political life and philosophy. Classical political philosophy is seen in Strauss' writings as a mediation between politics or the city and philosophy; it defends philosophy before the city, and it defends political concerns before those inclined to philosophy, if not actual philosophers. 61 Like all mediators the political philosopher (consider Cicero as well as Socrates) will find himself in tension with each pole between which he stands, between, in other words the city and philosophy as such. In the light of this understanding of classical political philosophy, Cicero must have been seen by Strauss not merely as an exemplification of the classical way but also as a superbly explicit one for just as Cicero drew attention to the Socratic focus on the "human things" so too he recurrently and unambiguously commends philosophy to the city and the city to philosophy. In fact, it would be speculation but not unreasonable speculation to assert that Cicero played an important part in Strauss' recovery of the distinctive characteristics of classical political philosophy and in his seemingly related decision to concentrate his later studies on the founding father Socrates.

Strauss drew upon Cicero in two significant ways which have not thus far been considered here. Each when examined opens to important and difficult issues in Strauss' and Cicero's understandings of the relationship between politics and philosophy. Strauss found in Cicero, as have so many, a version of the Stoic natural law teaching. Although at times he simply stated the conventional view that Cicero transmitted the Stoic teaching, on other occasions he elaborated so as to make clear that the version of that teaching which Cicero presented, but did not himself embrace, is an already rigidified or corrupted version of an original Stoic teaching that was much

–  –  –

more Socratic. G2 Cicero's own position on "natural law" was that of Socrates and Plato on natural right including the "hesitations and ambiguities" of that earlier view." Those hesitations and ambiguities seem, above all, to be doubts about or qualifications of the view that natural law or natural right is in "natural harmony with civil society." This is the view without mitigation or qualification that Strauss found represented in Cicero's De Re Publica and De Legibus but not approved of by Cicero.

Strauss' disengagement of Cicero from the version of Stoic natural law teaching presented in his most political dialogues is based on an interpretation of those dialogues, especially of their dramatic detail; the interpretation is followed and developed in Holton's essay. It is only possible here to cite some of the grounds for ques tioning this interpretation. In the De Re Publica it is Laelius who is spokesman for the natural law teaching (Cicero himself being spokesman in De Legibus). Strauss endeavored to sever Cicero's association with the natural law statement by Laelius by portraying the latter as "distrustful of philosophy in the full and strict sense of the term," as "absolutely at home on earth, in Rome," and as one who finds "no difficulty in reconciling natural law with the claims of the Roman Empire." The chief character of the dialogue, Scipio, is suggested as the representative of Cicero, and he "longs for the contemplative life" and understands that the Roman regime is not simply just, that it can be seen as the best regime only by a standard of "diluted" natural law. At the same time Strauss noted Cicero's identification with the Academic school and pointed out that another character in the De Re Publica, Philus, is an Academic skeptic and is called upon to attack the natural basis of right which Laelius above all defended. 64 This interpretation failed to address directly the friendship and respect between those equals or near equals Scipio and Laelius, that Cicero in his own name in an attack on Epicurean thought in De Finibus explicitly called upon the statement Laelius makes here, and the fact that Philus expresses his disgust and disagreement with the position he is here called upon 62 Leo Strauss, Persecution and the Art of Writing (Glencoe, Illinois: The Free Press, 1952), p. 11; see also "Natural Law, " op. cit., p. 82 and Natural Right..., op. cit., pp. 146, 152 if.

63 Ibid., p. 163.

64 Ibid., pp. 155-56.

THE POLITICAL SCIENCE REVIEWER

to take, 66 Nor has a persuasive case been made that Laelius is any less aware than Scipio of the imperfections of the Roman past and the model Roman regime. But perhaps most important is the fact that although Scipio is the Roman spokesman in this dialogue for the merits and uses of speculative philosophy, the emphasis on the priority of moral and political philosophy which is put in the mouth of Laelius is consistent with Cicero's position throughout his writings.

Much is made by Strauss and Holton of the "severe criticism" to which Cicero exposed Stoic metaphysics and theology in other writings, especially the De Nalura Deorum. Even that work, however, provides especially in its closing lines ground for arguing that Cicero regarded the Stoic teaching as the best even if wanting in many ways. Cicero clearly wanted to distinguish the Stoic moral and political teaching from the metaphysics and theology. And what do Cicero's objections and doubts concerning the latter have to do with establishing his embrace of an earlier rather than later version of Stoic teaching? Would not either version be dependent on a first or fundamental philosophy, a satisfactory version of which Cicero has failed to find? And in fact those parts of the Stoic teaching, which Cicero has found more acceptable than others were determined so not from a first philosophy but from the practical perspective, the fundamental concern with "human things" that Cicero shared with Socrates. It must be asked why for Strauss a Stoic teaching that asserts the harmony or congruence of natural law with the essence of civil society was regarded as inaccessible from the perspective of prudence.

Related to this problem is Strauss' remaining major reliance on Cicero. At least four times in Strauss' writings he credited Cicero with helping to expose a single important dimension of Plato's Republic. Strauss wrote that ".. as Cicero has observed, the Republic does not bring to light the best possible regime but rather the nature of political things-the nature of the city." 87 Whether 65 See De Re Publica i. 18, iii. 8-9 and De Finibus ii. 59 all of which are noted by Strauss after he made the interpretation under question here. So, clearly he considered these passages.

66 See especially De Re Publica i. 30, 33.

67 Strauss, "Plato," in History of..., op. cit., p. 41; The City and Man, op. cit., p. 138; Natural Right..., op. cit., p. 122; and in The Argument and the Action of Plato's "Laws", (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975), p. 1.

In the last reference Strauss wrote that the Republic does not present "the best political order," suggesting that in fact no regime is presented in the

CICERO AND THE REBIRTH OF POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY



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