Cicero's De Finibus

A series of short audio commentaries on the third and fourth books of Cicero’s On the Ends of Good and Evil.

III.1: At the onset of book III of Cicero’s De Finibus, Cato the Younger explain the difference between the Epicurean and Stoic positions on the respective values of pleasure and virtue.

III.4: Cicero explains why philosophy needs a technical vocabulary, and we look at the sort of issues this may cause when talking to people who are unfamiliar with such vocabulary.

III.16-17: Cicero has Cato the Younger explain a fundamental concept of Stoic developmental psychology: how virtue is rooted in innate self love, and how we do things that are good for us regardless of pleasure and pain.

III.17: Cicero explains that human beings are naturally drawn to the use of reason, beginning when they are children. He also talks about the Stoic concept of katalepsis, the kind of impression so strong that it is undeniable.

III.20: Things like health and wealth are choiceworthy. But what gives them value is, specifically, that they are the raw materials through which we exercise our chief good: virtue.

III.21: According to Stoic moral developmental psychology we begin life as self centered organisms, whose prosocial behavior develops initially by instinct, and then proceeds further with the aid of reason.

III.22: Cicero explains the notions of preferred indifferents and of the dichotomy of control by means of one of the most famous metaphors in Stoic literature: a discussion what is and is not up to an archer attempting to hit a target.

III.26: The wise person is happy because she is in complete control of the chief good in life: the moral good. Everything else is a preferred or dispreferred (moral) indifferent.

III.27-28: Cicero articulates a Stoic syllogism aiming at demonstrating that the good life is a moral life. We look at whether the syllogism is valid and sound.

III.31: Cicero reminds us of the quintessential Stoic motto: we should live in accordance with nature. It’s a crucial concept, spanning the arc of ancient Stoicism, from Zeno of Citium to Marcus Aurelius.

III.32: Unlike much modern thinking in moral philosophy, Stoicism is about intentions. Which doesn’t mean Stoics don’t care about consequences.

III.41: Aristotelianism and Stoicism differ in their conceptions of eudaimonia, the kind of life we should pursue. In a sense, they are both right.

III.42: Cicero reminds us that how we experience pain — both physical and emotional — in part depends on how we mentally approach the experience.

III.43-44: Cicero explains how Aristotelians and Stoics treat externals, such as health, wealth, and so on.

III.48: Virtue is all or nothing, and yet we can make progress toward it. How does this Stoic paradox work?

III.50-51: Stoicism occupies a logical space between the kin philosophies of Cynicism and Aristotelianism.

III.56: Cicero tells us that some indifferents are preferred for their own sake, some for the results they bring, some for both reasons.

III.57: Despite the fact that Stoics and Cynics treated externals differently, apparently both Chrysippus and Diogenes thought fame not worth stretching a finger for.

III.60: Cicero explains what criterion the Stoic uses to decide whether to walk through the open door.

III.62: We learn the rudiments of ethics within our family. But we cannot stop there.

III.65: Cicero proposes a simple argument for why sociability, not pleasure, is the ultimate human desire.

III.67: The Stoic take on private property is that it isn’t really property: it’s on temporary loan from the universe.

III.68: Cicero explains how the wise person is supposed to be involved in society, politics, and family.

III.70: Friendship is intrinsically choice-worthy, going beyond just instrumental value.

III.72-73: The Stoics adopted four ethical virtues, but also two epistemic ones: good reasoning and scientific understanding.

IV.14-15: Cicero provides three interpretations of the famous Stoic motto, live according to nature.

IV.17: Wisdom is what allows us to use everything well. Things like money or education have no intrinsic value, they become valuable if we use them correctly.

IV.34: Cicero deploys a beautiful metaphor to encapsulate the Stoic theory of moral developmental psychology.