March 02, 2007

Philosophia vitae magistra

In English: Philosophy is the teacher of life.

I thought this would be a good follow-up to yesterday's proverb, historia magistra vitae. This particular saying can be found in Cicero's Tusculan Disputations, and you can find similar sentiments elsewhere in Cicero. In another passage in the Tusculan Disputations, he exclaims, 0 vitae philosophia dux, o virtutis indagatrix expultrixque vitiorum!, "Philosophy, O leader of life, O seeker-out of excellence and driver-out of vices!" In the De Finibus, he writes that ars est enim philosophia vitae, "philosophy is the art of life."

Cicero is, of course, a very well-known figure from the ancient world. He is a hero to many, and his skills as an orator and politician are widely known and admired. Yet Cicero is probably not a name that springs to mind when people think about ancient philosophy. Still, as you can see from these quotes, Cicero's admiration for philosophy was profound and he is the author of an extensive number of philosophical treatises, all of which you can find at The Latin Library online. Some of the titles include De Fato (On Fate), Paradoxa Stoicorum (The Paradoxes of the Stoics), De Natura Deorum (On the Nature of the Gods), De Divinatione (On Divination), among many others. For a general overview of Cicero the philosopher, you can check out the extensive article in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

I will confess to not being of an especially philosophical bent, but my own special favorite among Cicero's philosophical treatises is his book on divination. This treatise is organized in two parts. In the first part, the argument in defense of the power of divination is put into the mouth of Cicero's brother, Quintus. Then, in the second part, Cicero speaks, and presents the case against divination. Thanks to the power of Google Books (what an astounding resource!), you can read an English translation online; the treatise on divination starts on p. 141.

Meanwhile, in honor of Cicero the philosopher, here is today's proverb read out loud:

32. Philosophia vitae magistra.

The number here is the number for this proverb in Latin Via Proverbs: 4000 Proverbs, Mottoes and Sayings for Students of Latin.

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