The Nature of the Gods: And, On Divination

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Prometheus Books, 1997 - Philosophy - 263 pages
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In The Nature of the Gods the eminent Roman statesman and philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 B.C.E.) analyzes the positions of the Stoic, Epicurean, and Academic schools on the existence and nature of the gods, and whether they act in the interests of humankind. Cotta, the Academic spokesman, criticizes his Epicurean and Stoic interlocutors for their failures, respectively, to account for human freedom and for the accidents and evils that occur in life. Lacking sure knowledge of what gods are, human beings are left to their own intelligence and natural abilities to make their way in an uncertain world. On Divination is closely related in subject-matter. In this dialogue between Cicero and his brother, Quintus, the latter upholds the truth of various sorts of divination on Stoic principles. Cicero counters that there is no such "science" of divination, and that the ambiguities and absurdities inherent in oracles, prodigies, and dreams preclude any divine agency. They are, rather, the result of natural phenomena or coincidence.

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About the author (1997)

Born in Arpinum on January 3, 106 B.C., Marcus Tullius Cicero was a Roman orator, writer, and politician. In Rome, Cicero studied law, oratory, philosophy, and literature, before embarking on a political career. Banished from Rome in 59 B.C. for the execution of some members of the Catiline group, Cicero devoted himself to literature. Cicero was pardoned by Julius Caesar in 47 B.C., and returned to Rome to deliver his famous speeches, known as the "Philippics," urging the senate to declare war on Marc Antony. Cicero's chief works, written between 46 and 44 B.C., can be classified in the categories of philosophical works, letters, and speeches. The letters, edited by his secretary Tiro, showcase a unique writing style and charm. The most popular work of the period was De Officiis, a manual of ethics, in which Cicero espoused fundamental Christian values half a century before Christ. Cicero was murdered in Formiae, Italy, on December 4, 43 B.C., by Antony's soldiers after the triumvirate of Antony, Lepidus, and Octavius was formed.

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