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[5arg] That it is by no mears true, as some meticulous artists in rhetoric affirm, that Marcus Cicero, in his book On Friendship, made use of a faulty argument and postulated “the disputed for the admitted”; with a careful discussion and examination of this whole question.

MARCUS CICERO, in the dialogue entitled Laelius, or On Friendship, wishes to teach us that friendship ought not to be cultivated in the hope and expectation of advantage, profit, or gain, but that it should be sought and cherished because in itself it is rich in virtue and honour, even though no aid and no advantage can be gained from it. This thought he has expressed in the following words, put into the mouth of Gaius Laelius, a wise man and a very [p. 217] dear friend of Publius Africanus 1 “well, then, does Africanus need my help? No more do I need his. But I love him because of a certain admiration for his virtues; he in turn has affection for me perhaps because of some opinion which he has formed of my character; and intimacy has increased our attachment. But although many great advantages have resulted, yet the motives for our friendship did not arise from the hope of those advantages. For just as we are kindly and generous, not in order to compel a return—for we do not put favours out at interest, but we are naturally inclined to generosity —just so we think that friendship is to be desired, not because we are led by hope of gain, but because all its fruit is in the affection itself.”

When it chanced that these words were read in a company of cultured men, a sophistical rhetorician, skilled in both tongues, a man of some note among those clever and meticulous teachers known as τεχνικοι, or “connoisseurs,” who was at the same time not without ability in disputation, expressed the opinion that Marcus Tullius had used an argument which was neither sound nor clear, but one which was of the same uncertainty as the question at issue itself; and he described that fault by Greek words, saying that Cicero had postulated ἀυφισβητούμενον ἀντὶ ὁμολογουμένου, that is, “what was disputed rather than what was admitted.”

“For,” said he, “he took benefci, 'the kindly,' and liberales, 'the generous,' to confirm what he said about friendship, although that very question is commonly asked and ought to be asked, with what thought and purpose one who acts liberally and kindly is kind and generous. Whether it is [p. 219] because he hopes for a return of the favour, and tries to arouse in the one to whom he is kind a like feeling towards himself, as almost all seem to do; or because he is by nature kindly, and kindness and generosity gratify him for their own sakes without any thought of a return of the favour, which is as a rule the rarest of all.” Furthermore, he thought that arguments ought to be either convincing, or clear and not open to controversy, and he said that the term apodixis, 2 or “demonstration,” was properly used only when things that are doubtful or obscure are made plain through things about which there is no doubt. And in order that he might show that the kind and generous ought not to be taken as an argument or example for the question about friendship, he said: “By the same comparison and the same appearance of reason, friendship in its turn may be taken as an argument, if one should declare that men ought to be kindly and generous, not from the hope of a return, but from the desire and love of honourable conduct. For he will be able to argue in a very similar manner as follows: ' Now just as we do not embrace friendship through hope of advantage, so we ought not to be generous and kindly with the desire of having the favour returned.' He will indeed,” said he, “be able to say this, but friendship cannot furnish an argument for generosity, nor generosity for friendship, since in the case of each there is equally an open question.”

It seemed to some that this artist in rhetoric argued cleverly and learnedly, but that as a matter of fact he was ignorant of the true meaning of terms. For Cicero calls a man “kind and generous” in the [p. 221] sense that the philosophers believe those words ought to be used: not of one who, as Cicero himself expresses it, puts favours out at interest, but of one who shows kindness without having any secret reason which redounds to his own advantage. Therefore he has used an argument which is not obscure or doubtful, but trustworthy and clear, since if anyone is truly kind and generous, it is not asked with what motive he acts kindly or generously. For he must be called by very different names if, when he does such things, he does them for his own advantage rather than for that of another. Possibly the criticism made by this sophist might have some justification, if Cicero had said: 3 “For as we do some kind and generous action, not in order to compel a return.” For it might seem that anyone who was not kindly might happen to do a kind action, if it was done because of some accidental circumstance and not through a fixed habit of constant kindliness. But since Cicero spoke of “kindly and generous people,” and meant no other sort than that which we have mentioned before, it is “with unwashed feet,” 4 as the proverb says, and unwashed words that our critic assails the argument of that most learned man.

[p. 223]

1 §30.

2 That is, ἀπόδειξις.

3 As quoted in § 2.

4 Cf. i. 9. 8 (vol. i, p. 49) with the note, and Plautus, Poen. 316, illotis manibus. The reference is to washing before handling sacred objects or performing religious rites. Et verbis is an addition by Gellius, in the sense of “hasty, inconsiderate language.”

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  • Cross-references to this page (2):
    • Harper's, Liber
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), LIBER
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