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Obligations towards the state

Skepsikyma
Posts: 8,280
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5/12/2016 8:57:25 PM
Posted: 6 months ago
Are men of great character obligated to work in politics? Cicero, I think, makes a rather convincing argument in De Re Publica:

"The existence of virtue depends entirely upon its use; and its noblest use is the government of the State, and the realization in fact, not in words, of those very things that the philosophers, in their corners, are continually dinning in our ears. For there is no principle enunciated by the philosophers -- at least none that is just and honorable -- that has not been discovered and established by those who have drawn up codes of law for States. For whence comes our sense of duty? From whom do we obtain the principles of religion? Whence comes the law of nations, or even that law of ours which is called 'civil'? Whence justice, honor, fair-dealing? Whence decency, self-restraint, fear of disgrace, eagerness for praise and honor? Whence comes endurance amid toils and dangers? I say, from those men who, when these things had been inculcated by a system of training, either confirmed them by custom or else enforced them by statutes. Indeed Xenocrates, one of the most eminent of philosophers, when asked what his disciples learned, is said to have replied: 'To do of their own accord what they are compelled to do by the law.' Therefore the citizen who compels all men, by the authority of magistrates and the penalties imposed by law, to follow rules of whose validity philosophers find it hard to convince even a few by their admonitions, must be considered superior even to the teachers who enunciate these principles. For what speech of theirs is excellent enough to be preferred to a State well provided with law and custom? Indeed, just as I think that 'cities great and dominant,' as Ennius calls them, are to be ranked above small villages and strongholds, so I believe that those who rule such cities by wise counsel and authority are to be deemed far superior, even in wisdom, to those who take no part at all in the business of government. And since we feel a mighty urge to increase the resources of mankind, since we desire to make human life safer and richer by our thought and effort, and are goaded on to the fulfillment of this desire by Nature herself, let us hold to the course which has ever been that of all excellent men, turning deaf ears to those who, in the hope of even recalling those who have already gone ahead, are sounding the retreat.

As their first objection to these arguments, so well founded and so obviously sound, those who attack them plead the severity of the labor that must be performed in the defense of the State -- surely a trifling obstacle to the watchful and diligent man, and one that merits only scorn, not merely with reference to matters of such moment, but even in the case of things of only moderate importance, such as a man's studies, or duties, or even his business affairs. Then too they allege the danger to which life is exposed, and confront brave men with a dishonorable fear of death; yet such men are wont to regard it a greater misfortune to be consumed by the processes of Nature and old age, than to be granted the opportunity of surrendering for their country's sake, in preference to all else, that life which in any event must be surrendered to Nature. On this point, however, the objectors wax wordy and, as they imagine, eloquent, going on to cite the misfortunes of eminent men and the wrongs they have suffered at the hands of their ungrateful fellow-citizens. For at this point they enumerate, first the famous illustrations taken from Greek history -- the story of Miltiades, vanquisher and conqueror of the Persians, who, before the wounds had yet healed which he had received full in the front on the occasion of his glorious victory, was cast into chains by his own fellow-countrymen, and at their hands lost the life which the enemy's weapons had spared; and that of Themistocles, who, when driven in terror from his country, the land which he had set free, took refuge, not in the harbors of Greece, saved by his prowess, but in the recesses of the barbarian land which he had laid prostrate. Indeed there is no lack of instances of the fickleness and cruelty of Athens toward her most eminent citizens; and this vice, originating and spreading there, has, they say, overflowed even into our own powerful republic. For we are reminded of the exile of Camillus, the disgrace suffered by Ahala, the hatred directed against Nasica, the exile of Laenas, the condemnation of Opimius, the flight of Metellus, the bitter disaster to Gaius Marius, and, a little later, the slaughter and ruin of so many eminent men. In fact they now include my name also, and presumably because they think it was through my counsel and at my risk that their own peaceful life has been preserved to them, they complain even more bitterly and with greater kindness of the treatment I have received. But I find it difficult to say why, when these very men cross the seas merely to gain knowledge and to visit other countries, they should expect us to be deterred by considerations of danger from the much more important task of defending our native land. For if the philosophers are repaid for the dangers of travel by the knowledge they gain thereby, statesmen surely win a much greater reward in the gratitude of their fellow-citizens."
"The Collectivist experiment is thoroughly suited (in appearance at least) to the Capitalist society which it proposes to replace. It works with the existing machinery of Capitalism, talks and thinks in the existing terms of Capitalism, appeals to just those appetites which Capitalism has aroused, and ridicules as fantastic and unheard-of just those things in society the memory of which Capitalism has killed among men wherever the blight of it has spread."
- Hilaire Belloc -
Greyparrot
Posts: 14,268
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5/12/2016 9:03:13 PM
Posted: 6 months ago
At 5/12/2016 8:57:25 PM, Skepsikyma wrote:
Are men of great character obligated to work in politics? Cicero, I think, makes a rather convincing argument in De Re Publica:

"The existence of virtue depends entirely upon its use; and its noblest use is the government of the State, and the realization in fact, not in words, of those very things that the philosophers, in their corners, are continually dinning in our ears. For there is no principle enunciated by the philosophers -- at least none that is just and honorable -- that has not been discovered and established by those who have drawn up codes of law for States. For whence comes our sense of duty? From whom do we obtain the principles of religion? Whence comes the law of nations, or even that law of ours which is called 'civil'? Whence justice, honor, fair-dealing? Whence decency, self-restraint, fear of disgrace, eagerness for praise and honor? Whence comes endurance amid toils and dangers? I say, from those men who, when these things had been inculcated by a system of training, either confirmed them by custom or else enforced them by statutes. Indeed Xenocrates, one of the most eminent of philosophers, when asked what his disciples learned, is said to have replied: 'To do of their own accord what they are compelled to do by the law.' Therefore the citizen who compels all men, by the authority of magistrates and the penalties imposed by law, to follow rules of whose validity philosophers find it hard to convince even a few by their admonitions, must be considered superior even to the teachers who enunciate these principles. For what speech of theirs is excellent enough to be preferred to a State well provided with law and custom? Indeed, just as I think that 'cities great and dominant,' as Ennius calls them, are to be ranked above small villages and strongholds, so I believe that those who rule such cities by wise counsel and authority are to be deemed far superior, even in wisdom, to those who take no part at all in the business of government. And since we feel a mighty urge to increase the resources of mankind, since we desire to make human life safer and richer by our thought and effort, and are goaded on to the fulfillment of this desire by Nature herself, let us hold to the course which has ever been that of all excellent men, turning deaf ears to those who, in the hope of even recalling those who have already gone ahead, are sounding the retreat.

As their first objection to these arguments, so well founded and so obviously sound, those who attack them plead the severity of the labor that must be performed in the defense of the State -- surely a trifling obstacle to the watchful and diligent man, and one that merits only scorn, not merely with reference to matters of such moment, but even in the case of things of only moderate importance, such as a man's studies, or duties, or even his business affairs. Then too they allege the danger to which life is exposed, and confront brave men with a dishonorable fear of death; yet such men are wont to regard it a greater misfortune to be consumed by the processes of Nature and old age, than to be granted the opportunity of surrendering for their country's sake, in preference to all else, that life which in any event must be surrendered to Nature. On this point, however, the objectors wax wordy and, as they imagine, eloquent, going on to cite the misfortunes of eminent men and the wrongs they have suffered at the hands of their ungrateful fellow-citizens. For at this point they enumerate, first the famous illustrations taken from Greek history -- the story of Miltiades, vanquisher and conqueror of the Persians, who, before the wounds had yet healed which he had received full in the front on the occasion of his glorious victory, was cast into chains by his own fellow-countrymen, and at their hands lost the life which the enemy's weapons had spared; and that of Themistocles, who, when driven in terror from his country, the land which he had set free, took refuge, not in the harbors of Greece, saved by his prowess, but in the recesses of the barbarian land which he had laid prostrate. Indeed there is no lack of instances of the fickleness and cruelty of Athens toward her most eminent citizens; and this vice, originating and spreading there, has, they say, overflowed even into our own powerful republic. For we are reminded of the exile of Camillus, the disgrace suffered by Ahala, the hatred directed against Nasica, the exile of Laenas, the condemnation of Opimius, the flight of Metellus, the bitter disaster to Gaius Marius, and, a little later, the slaughter and ruin of so many eminent men. In fact they now include my name also, and presumably because they think it was through my counsel and at my risk that their own peaceful life has been preserved to them, they complain even more bitterly and with greater kindness of the treatment I have received. But I find it difficult to say why, when these very men cross the seas merely to gain knowledge and to visit other countries, they should expect us to be deterred by considerations of danger from the much more important task of defending our native land. For if the philosophers are repaid for the dangers of travel by the knowledge they gain thereby, statesmen surely win a much greater reward in the gratitude of their fellow-citizens."
user13579
Posts: 822
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5/12/2016 10:06:18 PM
Posted: 6 months ago
At 5/12/2016 8:57:25 PM, Skepsikyma wrote:
Are men of great character obligated to work in politics? Cicero, I think, makes a rather convincing argument in De Re Publica:

Why should they bother? It's totally rigged against such people.
Science in a nutshell:
"Facts are neither true nor false. They simply are."
"All scientific knowledge is provisional. Even facts are provisional."
"We can be absolutely certain that we have a moon, we can be absolutely certain that water is made out of H2O, and we can be absolutely certain that the Earth is a sphere!"
"Scientific knowledge is a body of statements of varying degrees of certainty -- some most unsure, some nearly sure, none absolutely certain."
Skepsikyma
Posts: 8,280
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5/12/2016 10:09:24 PM
Posted: 6 months ago
At 5/12/2016 10:06:18 PM, user13579 wrote:
At 5/12/2016 8:57:25 PM, Skepsikyma wrote:
Are men of great character obligated to work in politics? Cicero, I think, makes a rather convincing argument in De Re Publica:

Why should they bother? It's totally rigged against such people.

But if they had fought it, it wouldn't be, and the only way to unrig the system is to fight it. Cicero absolutely skewers that argument by pointing out that if people are willing to risk something for any reward, the highest one should be for the institutions which shapes their entire society. No matter how great the risk, there is no larger cost of failure.
"The Collectivist experiment is thoroughly suited (in appearance at least) to the Capitalist society which it proposes to replace. It works with the existing machinery of Capitalism, talks and thinks in the existing terms of Capitalism, appeals to just those appetites which Capitalism has aroused, and ridicules as fantastic and unheard-of just those things in society the memory of which Capitalism has killed among men wherever the blight of it has spread."
- Hilaire Belloc -