Discussions at Tusculum (V) – Cicero

Unless we adhere firmly to this conclusion, the things we have to call good form a very heterogeneous collection. We can disregard wealth, which I do not include in the category of good thinks because anyone, however unworthy, can get hold of it–and that could never  be true of things that are really good. I will likewise leave renown and popularity out of the list, since all that is needed to acquire them is for a stupid or mischievous crowd to shout loud enough. But consider, instead, certain things of trifling significance which people are accustomed to describe as good, such as nice white teeth or attractive eyes or an agreeable complexion or the attributes praised by Anticlea when she was washing the feet of Ulysses, ‘a pleasant way of talking, and softness of skin’. If we are really prepared to allow the term ‘good’ to be used in that sort of context, I cannot see how our supposedly serious philosophers are likely to produce anything more significant and elevated than emerges from the foolish sentiments of the common herd.

Cicero, “Discussions at Tusculum (V),” in On the Good Life (New York: Penguin Classics, 1971), 77.

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One thought on “Discussions at Tusculum (V) – Cicero

  1. The common herd, or as I like to call them “the Great Unwashed”. Indeed, it is truly unfortunate that there is so little seriousness and care taken in conversation and print as to these categories. It is too easily and far too often assumed that the “good” is “whatever I like” and hence is fair game for relativisation.

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