Sunday, November 25, 2012


I read somewhere that the French philosophes had an extraordinarly high opinion of Cicero and initially I thought that was because he was a great stylist but in light of the belief the philosophes had in the universality of reason, this excerpt from Cicero's Treatise on the Commonwealth gives another reason for their inordinate opinion:
There is a true law, a right reason, conformable to nature, universal, unchangeable, eternal, whose commands urge us to duty, and whose prohibitions restrain us from evil. Whether it enjoins or forbids, the good respect its injunctions, and the wicked treat them with indifference. This law cannot be contradicted by any other law, and is not liable either to derogation or abrogation. Neither the senate nor the people can give us any dispensation for not obeying this universal law of justice. It needs no other expositor and interpreter than our own conscience. It is not one thing at Rome and another at Athens; one thing to–day and another to–morrow; but in all times and nations this universal law must for ever reign, eternal and imperishable. It is the sovereign master and emperor of all beings. God himself is its author,—its promulgator,—its enforcer. He who obeys it not, flies from himself, and does violence to the very nature of man. For his crime he must endure the severest penalties hereafter, even if he avoid the usual misfortunes of the present life.
Today, many American conservatives embrace Cicero's concept of natural law and attempt to interpret our Constitution in its terms.

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