Cicero’s Philosophical Position in Academica and De Finibus
Date: 26 November 2013
University of Exeter
PhD in Classics
This thesis aims to examine the extent of consistency between Cicero’s epistemological position in Academica and his method of approaching ethics in De Finibus. I consider whether in both works he expresses a radically sceptical view or a more moderate one. I suggest that Cicero’s scepticism is best understood when we understand his ...
This thesis aims to examine the extent of consistency between Cicero’s epistemological position in Academica and his method of approaching ethics in De Finibus. I consider whether in both works he expresses a radically sceptical view or a more moderate one. I suggest that Cicero’s scepticism is best understood when we understand his dialectical inquiry as being, in both works, a positive procedure designed to find the most persuasive view by arguing for and against every opinion. In Chapter 1, I examine Cicero’s mode of writing in his later philosophical dialogues, distinguishing two levels of ‘Cicero’ (that is, Cicero the author and the persona in the dialogues). In Chapter 2, I examine how Cicero himself understands the key principles of scepticism (akatalēpsia and epochē) and whether his epistemological position in Academica is a consistent one. Chapters 3 and 4 form a bridge between the epistemological debate in Academica and the ethical debate in De Finibus by examining in detail two applications by Cicero of Carneades’ ethical division. In Chapter 3, I discuss the original philosophical context of Carneades’ division, and consider how Cicero applies it to the epistemological debate at Ac. 2.129-41. In Chapter 4, I discuss Cicero’s application of this division to ethical debate at Fin. 2.34-44 with reference to Cicero’s criticism of Epicurean ethics. Chapter 5 and 6 are concerned with Cicero’s attitude towards two competing (and more plausible) ethical theories, that is, the Stoic and Antiochean theories. By playing two roles (i.e. as the persona taking one side of the debate in each dialogue and as the author distancing himself from both of them), Cicero writes in a way that is consistent with his (moderate) Academic scepticism. He aims not only to free his readers from their dogmatic obstinacy, but also to help them to find out for themselves the most persuasive view on each philosophical issue.
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