Cicero and Kant: Personal Autonomy and Freedom

Topics: Philosophy, Ethics, Immanuel Kant Pages: 5 (1486 words) Published: January 29, 2011
Paper Topic 2, Week 11

HUM200: Section 018016

Professor Holton

Cicero and Kant: Personal Autonomy and Freedom

CERTIFICTION OF AUTHORSHIP: I certify that I am the author of this paper and that any assistance received in it presentation is acknowledged and disclosed in the paper (at the end). I have also cited any sources from which I used data, ideas, or words, either quoted directly or paraphrased. I also certify that this paper was prepared specifically for this course and has not been used for another course (and will not be) either in whole or substantial part.


Marcus Tullius Cicero, one of the greatest philosophers of Rome, was born January 3, 106 B.C. and was killed on December 7, 43 B.C. Cicero spent most of his time “devoted to studying and writing about philosophy and he produced the rest of his philosophical writings,” after Caesar permitted his return to Rome but forbid his participation in politics. (Clayton, 2006). The Commonwealth, written by Cicero, was recovered by Angelus Maio in 1822. Cicero wrote this book in an effort to express his philosophy on topics such as the Origin and Principles of Government, Justice, and Morals and Education to name a few.

Cicero’s philosophy was aimed at improving the defense of the Roman Republic. He felt that the politicians did not have the honest values that were characteristic of the Romans. He blamed the dishonesty as the reason the Republic was having difficulties. Cicero wanted to restore the democracy but could only do so if the Roman leaders “chose to improve their characters and place commitments to individual virtue and social stability ahead of their desires for fame, wealth, and power. Having done this, the elite would enact legislation that would force others to adhere to similar standards, and the Republic would flourish once again.” (Clayton, 2006). There was speculation that Cicero commented that “the true citizen ought to serve his country for its own sake and without regard to honours and dignities; and in this point, the rigorous practice he had recommended, was, perhaps, above his own efforts.” (Barham,1841-42). Cicero felt that honesty should come before popularity, friendships or corruption. “We must therefore impress upon good men that, should they become inevitably involved in friendships with men of this kind, they ought not to consider themselves under any obligation to stand by friends who are disloyal to the republic.” (Halsall,1998).

Another well known logician, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), was one of the most influential philosophers in Western philosophy’s history. In Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant analyzed rational thoughts concerning morality. His belief was that only laws “that would benefit all of mankind should be made, and those therefore are the only ethical laws.” (McPhee, 2008).

Kant fought the government in an effort to liberate the political power so that they “would allow subjects to argue among themselves, so long as they remained obedient to authority.” (Fiala, 2006). In Groundworks, Kant makes “repeated appeals to empirical facts (that our wills are determined by practical principles, that various motivations are variable in producing right actions, and so on).” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2008). Kant believes that a universal law should be put in place if it acts only on truism. If everyone takes the responsibility of being honest then it would not be an impossible idea.

Both philosophers cited their works on honesty and morals. Realizing everything was connected to the universe, Cicero wrote “God and the world of Nature must be one, and all the life of the world must be contained within the being of God.” (Haselhurst, Howie, 1997-2008) Cicero believed that the capabilities of the human mind were given to us by nature. “Philosophy teaches us that by nature human beings have reason, that...

Bibliography: Barham, Francis Esq., (London: Edmund Spettigue,1841-42). Cicero’s Commonwealth. Retrieved on June 19, 2008 from The Online Library of Liberty: 287
Clayton, Edward. (2006). Cicero (c. 106-43 B.C.). Central Michigan University. Retrieved on June 15, 2008 from The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
Fiala, Andrew. (2006). Toleration. Retrieved on June 15, 2008 from The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
Halsall, Paul. (August 1998). Cicero: On Friendship, or Laelius. Ancient History Sourcebook: Translation by Evelyn S. Shuckburgh. Retrieved on June 17, 2008 from
Haselhurst, Geoff and Howie, Karene. ((1997-2008). Cicero. Retrieved June 18, 2008 from Space and Motion:
Kant’s Moral Philosophy. (First published Mon Feb 23, 2004, substantive revision Sun Apr 6, 2008). Retrieved on June 18, 2008 from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
McCormick, Matt. (2006). Immanuel Kant (1724 – 1804) Metaphysics. California State University, Sacramento. Retrieved on June 18, 2008 from The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
McPhee, Isaac M. (February 15, 2008). Kant’s Categorical Imperative. Retrieved on June 18, 2008 from Suite101:
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