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On Duties

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  1,611 Ratings  ·  66 Reviews
De Officiis (On Duties) is Cicero's last theoretical work and contains his analysis, in a Greek theoretical framework, of the political and ethical values of the Roman governing class in the late Republic. It has often been treated merely as a key to the Greek philosophical works that Cicero used, but this volume aims to render De Officiis, which had a profound impact upon ...more
Paperback, 241 pages
Published by Cambridge University Press (first published -44)
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Jun 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
This was difficult to read. Every idea was so familiar, it made me constantly want to put it down for something else new and exciting. But when I look at society, pragmatic duties are not what I see the majority observe (or so it seems). So homily or not, it's usefulness or truth is not negated.

Cicero writes to his son who, according to Tom Holland's Rubicon, was the campus drunk. Cicero wants his son to concern himself with moral obligations. “For no phase of life...can be without its moral dut
Ying Ying
Originally written for his son Marcus, this treatise expounds principles for a honorable life. The three books deal with 1) what is honorable, 2) what is useful and 3) what to do when the honorable "conflicts" with the useful.

In the end, Cicero argues that that which is honorable is also useful and that which is not honorable is not useful. Hence, we should pursue that which is honorable, which can come from 4 sources: 1) wisdom/prudence, 2) justice, 3) greatness of soul and 4) fitting.

The book
Apr 14, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Difficile de lire sans émotion ce texte, le dernier que Cicéron a laissé avant son assassinat par les spadassins de Marc Antoine : rédigé après la mort de César, il s'adresse à son fils et traite de la morale. C'est également le testament politique d'un homme qui a consacré sa vie à la République et qui, retiré dans sa maison de campagne, est le témoin impuissant de sa dissolution progressive. Le ton est donc lourd, car l'auteur ne peut pardonner à Caius César d'avoir déclenché la guerre civile,
Justin Evans
Jul 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
Cicero's book is intelligent and charming, though his usual--how can I put this?--hatred of poor people does dull through the brilliance. But you shouldn't really need a goodreads review to convince you to read this book, which is tremendously important for the history of ideas Europe.

You might need a review to suggest a particular edition, and I heartily recommend this one. It's an ideal of its kind. Walsh's notes are full, relevant, and broad (they cover biography, history, and philosophy); h
Sep 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Cicero, like thoughtful men of every age, knew that the reason vicious leaders like Caesar could rise to power was because the Roman population itself had been corrupted and no longer pursued the old virtues; a leader is, after all, a mirror of the people who choose him or at least allow him to retain power.” – Wes Callihan, Foreword to On Duties

Last Spring, I began the most lovely tradition: I had a morning coffee date with Cicero nearly every weekday morning. Sadly, that tradition came to a b
Jun 12, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I hope that people still read Latin works. This is an especially good one, presenting Cicero's ethics as a letter written to his son. One gains insights in stoic philosophy, not irrelevant to our own times by any means. I like the Loeb Classical Library editions of Greek and Latin works; the original language on the left and English translation on the facing page enables one to read the original (If one can, and I'm somewhat limited with my Latin and a neophyte with Greek) and then easily check ...more
Feb 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
De Officiis, or “On Duties,” was the second book printed on Gutenberg’s printing press. Apparently, Gutenberg and his other contemporaries knew how important the press was so they wanted to give props to the Bible, as the most important book ever written/compiled—but along those lines he decided to print Cicero’s classic shortly thereafter. Cicero wrote this book as a series of letters to his prodigal child, who had little ambition to be a correct man, like his father was. Consequently, it reads ...more
Sep 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
The original, and until about a century ago, the most popular discussion of why it's better to be admired than feared. From the 16th through the 19 centuries anyone in public life who considered himself educated and moral had to be intimately familiar with this book, written by Cicero as an essay to his son in his last year, before he was murdered by some of Mark Antony's thugs. Machiavelli wrote specifically against this book in The Prince. If you want to know why it's ALWAYS wrong to torture, ...more
Jun 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i had to think a bit about how to rate this book. is it a page turner? no.
but i gave it five stars because for the last few weeks i have felt as though Cicero was sitting on my shoulder. i see everything through his lens.
what did i learn from him? mostly what i already knew. his ethics are ours.
its obvious that the west has looked to him for so much. he seems to summarize plato, Aristotle, and others and forecasts christian thinking. How can it be? I still don't know. Its the missing piece of t
May 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: latin, philosophy
This is amazing writing. I started underlining sentences in every other paragraph. Its message is so akin to Judeo-Christian values and virtues that it’s incredible that this was written in the first Century BC and is secular though he does refer to the “immortal gods” occasionally.

It’s a set of instructions to his son. He recommends combining Greek philosophy, his own, and oratory. He tells him that the teachings on moral duties have the widest practical application and are worth seeking for t
Aug 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have to admit, I'm not so great with reading the philosophers but I started reading this book from the library but had to go out and buy my own edition so I could mark it up to my heart's content!! I didn't "learn" anything new as the values and ethics espoused in this treatise are akin to the U.S founding values. And it wasn't so abstract, but very pragmatic, at times a little too repetitive as he pounds home his point. Although it took me a long time, it wasn't difficult reading. Just had al ...more
I feel pretty ambivalent about this--Cicero's ideas on duties, for me, was better as an insight into Roman ideals as opposed to our ideals. And even that may be a stretch--Cicero's ideals may have been even stringent for Romans; he was, after all, making a pretense of guiding his son in the pursuit of duties; and even if he meant to reach a broader audience, that still indicates that Cicero thought there were people who needed a refresher on what their ideals ought to have been.

Personally, my i
Roger Burk
Written near the end of his life, as a letter to his son, who was studying in Athens at the time. It does not have a lot of notably original thought in it, but it is a strong exposition of the idea that being just and honorable is more important than any consideration of expediency; that the good of the state is the most important thing; that there is a natural law that all men are obliged to follow. Marc Antony had him murdered a few months after writing this, of course.
Ashley Adams
Cicero's advice to his son on what it means to live a good life, be a good person, and a good citizen. A philosophical and moralistic treatise about what Cicero hoped to see for the progeny.
Jeffrey Malone
Jun 22, 2012 is currently reading it
Re-reading this again - though in a new imprint - for the first time in two decades. Main interest here for me is to situate it within the tradition of 'mirror for princes' texts.
Nicole Seitler
Sep 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In all honesty, I only had time this year to read Book 1, but I enjoyed it. I found it amazing to see how the British took to Cicero‘s philosophy. At times I couldn’t help but read his words with an Edwardian accent. I hope to return to Books 2 and 3 the next time I cycle around to ancient history.
Deniz Günal
Jul 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
İnsan bazan elini bir kitaba uzatır, o kitap eline yapışır kalır. Tam orada, iki apayrı şeyin uyumlu birleşmesi olur.

Kitabın rastgele açtığım sayfasında gözüme çarpan sözler şunlardı: “ Yaşamımızdaki hiç bir şeyin uyumsuz olmadığını görmek zorundayız, aynı şekilde ya da daha fazla, neticede eylemler arasında, seslerde olduğundan daha büyük bir uyum vardır.”

“Yükümlülükler Üzerine” Cicero'nun oğlu Markus’a yazdığı mektupların oluşturduğu üç kitap.

Birinci kitapta, oğluna yükümlülüklerin kaynağı o
Alp Turgut
Socrates ve Platon'un "iyi ve kötü vardır" düşüncesini Aristoteles "iyi, kötü ve uygun vardır" olarak geliştirmişti. Romalı ünlü filozof Cicero ise oğlu için yazdığı "De Officiis / On Duties / Yükümlülükler Üzerine" adlı eserinde bu düşünceyi "iyi, kötü ve uygunun da kendi içinde en iyisi vardır" diyerek bir üst seviyeye taşıyor. Platon ve Aristoteles'ten sonra Felsefe 301 olarak görülebilecek Cicero, ahlaken doğru ile yararlı olanın arasındaki bağıntıyı örneklerle tartışırken zamanının liderler ...more
Nov 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all who aspire to understand justice
This is a book of political and philosophical advice from an internally-exiled father, a former ruler and lawmaker, to his coming-of-age son. It is by turns brilliant and maddening in its reasoning: if any reader can tell me what 'seemliness' actually means--aside from decorum and conventionality--I'd love to hear it. Book I at first reads like a Roman version of the speech delivered by windbag Polonius to his son Laertes in *Hamlet,* when Laertes is about to go off to school in Paris: good and ...more
Aug 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Cicero considered this work on moral duties to be his masterpiece. Given his large output, as well as the wide scope of his influence, this is saying something. The book is full of practical advice from an elder statesman. It is more practical and common-sensical than it is philosophically rigorous. That will likely only perturb the professional philosophers (well, many of them... it actually did not perturb this one too much). I enjoyed the book immensely - which is nice since I undertook its r ...more
Gregg Jones
Feb 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Cicero was a small guy in a big pond where bigger fish lived. He did realize that most (including himself) were not equal under Roman Society and this brought him into trouble with guys like Ceaser and Anthony. Cicero's last theoretical work and contains his analysis, in a Greek theoretical framework, of the political and ethical values of the Roman governing class in the late Republic. It has often been treated merely as a key to the Greek philosophical works that Cicero used, but this volume a ...more
Peter Lech
Feb 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written in the fall of 44 BCE, when any hope of salvaging the republic was lost, Cicero, in virtual exile, composes a book which draws from the ethical precepts of the Stoics, especially Panaetius of Rhodes, the 2nd cent. Stoic philosopher. Cicero is not writing a philosophical treatise, as he admits, but a work aimed at the general reader, and in particular his son, currently studying in Athens; it is claimed to be a sort of help for certain moral/ethical dilemmas. Cicero is at his best when he ...more
Jason Goetz
May 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a historical figure Cicero's achievements are second to none (or to very few, should I say), but as a writer he is irritating--vain, snooty, and not the easiest to read because he uses terms that sound like they mean the same thing but don't quite mean the same thing. In the realm of ethical treatises this falls well short of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics and Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments. I would therefore highly recommend his speeches--which made him the historical figure he is--above ...more
J'ai du mal à le considérer comme terminé, car j'ai sauté plusieurs morceaux à la lecture, mais je sais que je n'y retournerai pas...
Un traité intéressant d'éthique stoïcienne, une belle occasion d'aborder Cicéron comme philosophe et le médio-stoïcisme panétien, bien que le fond très conservateur de Cicéron tappe parfois sur les nerfs. J'ai particulièrement aimé le livre I, où les vertus et les devoirs sont introduits, ainsi que la théorie des quatre personae. Cette dernière est très riche et j
Zachary Rudolph
Nov 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“As long as the empire of the Roman People maintained itself by acts of service, not of oppression, wars were waged in the interest of our allies or to safeguard our supremacy; the end of our wars was marked by acts of clemency or by only a necessary degree of severity; the senate was a haven of refuge for kings, tribes, and nations; and the highest ambition of our magistrates and generals was to defend our provinces and allies with justice and honour. And so our government could be called more ...more
Gene Bales
Sep 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting essay on the nature of duties. It has a personal tone (Cicero wrote it for his son), but is filled with exhilarating though sometimes overbearing rhetoric. Unlike Kant and his view of duties, Cicero was a bit of a pragmatist in resolving conflicts among duties, though he is a Stoic at heart. While I can see why Hume admired him, I suspect it was because of his pragmatic mind-set.
Aaron Crofut
Can't say I was really impressed. We live for pleasure, no matter what any Stoic may say. The last parts of Book 2 and most of Book 3 have some important points, in particular on the nature of the state and its maintenance, but most of that had already been covered in De Re Publica. I know Cicero had an important impact on philosophy (in particular in expanding the Latin language to include so many Greek concepts), but Cicero himself was not a first rate philosopher.
Christian Dibblee
Ancient, but one of the better treatises on ethics. For Cicero, justice is the ultimate virtue and anything that is honorable is also useful. I quite like the idea that men are bound by a common bond and that, therefore, honorable conduct is the most useful. Cicero is perhaps too Stoic for my taste, believing virtue to be the only good. That said, his advocacy for an anti-Macchiavellian political approach is encouraging.
That Machiavelli reverses several of this fellows maxims while in a similar political situation seems like more than coincidence to me. More evidence that The Prince is an occasional work.

But I've never taught this in relation to Machiavelli. Rather, it was a third and final step in preparing students to begin to take the Nicomachean Ethics said somewhat seriously.
Feb 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Cicero discusses morality that remains applicable today. There was nothing earth shattering in this read. The moral dilemmas of the past are the same as the present.

The simple example is what a seller of a house is obligated to tell a potential buyer. Overall, this was a taxing read but worth the time. If nothing else, it supports the argument that there is nothing new under the sun.
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  • The Poems
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  • Moral Essays: Volume I De Providentia. De Constantia. De Ira. De Clementia
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  • Lives of Eminent Philosophers, Vol 1, Books 1-5
  • Virgil, Vol 2: Aeneid Books 7-12, Appendix Vergiliana
  • Outlines of Scepticism
  • Discourses, Books 1-2
  • Metamorphoses (The Golden Ass), Vol 1: Books 1-6
  • The Fall of Troy
  • The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus
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  • Catiline's War, The Jugurthine War, Histories
  • The Last Pagan: Julian the Apostate and the Death of the Ancient World
  • The Comedies
Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. Cicero is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.
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“Law applied to its extreme is the greatest injustice” 80 likes
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