point of a series, the topmost good. To this was naturally opposed an extreme of minus value, the topmost, or rather bottommost, evil. Hence arose the expressions τέλος ἀγαθῶν, τέλος κακῶν, ‘End of Goods, of Evils,’ which occur in Philodemus, Rhetoric I, 218. 8 ff. (Südhans), and are translated by Cicero finis bonorum, malorum. As a title for his book he throws this phrase into the plural, meaning ‘different views as to the Chief Good and Evil.’1 Hence in title and to some extent in method, the de Finibus may be compared with such modern works as Martineau’s Types of Ethical Theory and Sidgwick’s Methods of Ethics.
Cicero as a writer on philosophy.Cicero belongs to a type not unknown in English life, that of the statesman who is also a student and a writer. From his youth he aspired to play a part in public affairs, and the first step towards this ambition was to learn to speak. He approached Greek philosophy as part of a liberal education for a political career, and he looked on it as supplying themes for practice in oratory. But his real interest in it went deeper; the study of it formed his mind and humanized his character, and he loved it to the end of his life.
In his youth he heard the heads of the three chief Schools of Athens, Phaedrus the Epicurean, Diodotus
- 1This use of the plural occurs in Academica II, 132, ‘omnibus eis finibus bonorum quos exposui malorum finis esse contrarios’; although ib. II, 114, ‘fines bonorum et malorum instituas’ means ‘finem bonorum et finem malorum,’ and some scholars so interpret the phrase in the present titles: see Philippson Philologische Wochenschrift, 1913, p. 613 (published after the first edition of this book had gone to press) and ib. 1923, p. II.
the Stoic, and Philo the Academic, who had come to Rome to escape the disturbances of the Mithradatic War. When already launched in public life, he withdrew, at the age of 27 (79 b.c.), to devote two more years to philosophy and rhetoric. Six months were spent at Athens, and the introduction to de Finibus Book V gives a brilliant picture of his student life there with his friends. No passage more vividly displays what Athens and her memories meant to the cultivated Roman. At Athens Cicero attended the lectures of the Epicurean Zeno and the Academic Antiochus. Passing on to Rhodes to work under the leading professors of rhetoric, he there met Posidonius, the most renowned Stoic of the day. He returned to Rome to plunge into his career as advocate and statesman; but his Letters show him continuing his studies in his intervals of leisure. For many years the Stoic Diodotus was an inmate of his house.
Under the Triumvirate, as his influence in politics waned, Cicero turned more and more to literature. His earliest essay in rhetoric, the de Inventione, had appeared before he was twenty-five; but his first considerable works on rhetoric and on political science, the de Oratore, de Republica, and de Legibus, were written after his return from exile in 57. The opening pages of de Finibus Book III give a glimpse of his studies at this period. In 51 he went as Governor to Cilicia; and he wrote no more until the defeat of Pompey at Pharsalus had destroyed his hopes for the Republic.
After his reconciliation with Caesar and return to Rome in the autumn of 46, Cicero resumed writing on rhetoric. In February 45 came the death of his