Matthew Fox, Cicero’s Philosophy of History.

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Jonathan P. Zarecki, Associate Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: The purpose of Matthew Fox's (hereafter F.) latest book is to examine Cicero's use of historical exempla in his philosophical and rhetorical dialogues. These exempla reveal the depth and influence of Cicero's academic skepticism and his belief that Rome did not possess any sort of historical or ideological consistency. F. enjoins us to replace the "unseemly" desire (4) to discover Cicero's own thoughts in his philosophical works (which Cicero's own comments at Nat. Deo. 1.5.10 indicate to be a fruitless exercise) and instead look at them through the very lens that Cicero himself used, that of strict Academic skepticism. History is consistently treated by Cicero with an open-ended skepticism that denies certainty; we should not seek, nor will we find, coherence of thought regarding Rome, her history, or her future. Historical exempla open up the possibility of argument rather than closing it down. Cicero made no attempt to create a sort of dogmatic world view, for to do so would countermand his adherence to the Academy; history provides its own authority, and does not need Cicero's. A book on Cicero's philosophy of history would seem to be an impossible one to write because, as F. notes, "there was no such thing as 'philosophy of history' in the ancient world, and Cicero did not write it" (1). F. has nevertheless succeeded in writing a book which, though it will not satisfy the need to seek the "real" Cicero in Cicero's works, will at least give cause for a reexamination of the evidence.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2008
Cicero, classic literature, rhetoric, philosophy, history

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