Cicero's De Natura Deorum

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Cicero's De Natura Deorum

Postby Tiberius Publicius Gracchus » Fri Oct 28, 2016 12:00 am

Salvete

I have been reading Cicero's book the Nature of the Gods which features a philosophical discussion on the nature of deity. I have read the first part of the first book which presents the Epicurean case as told by Gaius Velleius. I have not yet read Cotta's criticism, which represents the Academic school. Only a few pages are spent describing the actual philosophy rather than criticizing other schools of philosophy. Id like to discuss this book as I am reading it if anyone else here has read it.

But from what I got, according to Epicureans, we know Gods exist because most of humanity believes they do. That the gods are made of a type of matter which is so fine it strikes the mind directly, and because of that most of humanity has an idea that they exist. And that if all people naturally agree on an idea, that idea must be true. Sounds like the "Ad populum" fallacy. He argues that the Gods must be human shaped because that is the most beautiful form and that the Gods possess virtue and you can't have virtue without reason, and that only the human form is capable of reason. He argues that there must be an infinite number of Gods. He also argues that the Gods must be inactive. From what I understand, the gods are blessed, and because of that they must not work hard. So the Gods are free from any duties and spend their time in relaxation and contemplation. They do not interfere in the world. The world was created through natural processes and did not need a creator. Because they do not interfere in human affairs, humans should not fear them. He appears to argue against divination but for me it was unclear.
Cicero himself appears to have been against Epicureanism, so this may not be the best source of information on the topic, but before reading Cotta’s criticism of this philosophy, my main argument is that the Gods did seems to have supported the Roman cause for as long as the Romans worshipped them. Livy contains many examples of signs and prodigies that had to be expiated, and when they were ignored, lead to disaster. And when the Romans started actively suppressing the old religion, their empire collapsed not long after. The Gods withdrew their support of the Roman state.
And in my own life I have had a few experiences of praying to certain Gods or Goddesses, and getting exactly what I asked for. And my general luck has seemed to have improved since I started worshiping them. He did not prove that the Gods exist. Today monotheism is the predominant view of deity and I do not support that viewpoint. I do believe that most people have a sense that there is more to this world than meets the eye, but it has not been conclusively proven. But my own experience is highly suggestive, for me, that Gods exist and will help those who acknowledge them.

I will post my reaction to the rest of the work as I get to them.
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Re: Cicero's De Natura Deorum

Postby Quintus Furius Camillus » Fri Oct 28, 2016 9:34 am

SALVETE!

I would like to remind everyone that most of Cicero's books are available for free at this location - http://romanrepublic.org/bibliotheca/wi ... urces.html

This includes the Nature of the Gods.

VALETE!
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Re: Cicero's De Natura Deorum

Postby Gaia Cassia Longina » Thu Nov 03, 2016 1:51 pm

All of Cicero's works can be read in Latin at the Latin Library:
http://www.thelatinlibrary.com

More sources for Cicero can be found here:
http://catalog.perseus.org
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Re: Cicero's De Natura Deorum

Postby Tiberius Publicius Gracchus » Mon Nov 07, 2016 8:10 pm

The second part of Book One present's Cotta's criticisms. Cotta had many criticisms for this philosophy. Not everyone believes in Gods, so the argument that Gods exist because people agree that they do is invalid. Cotta dis not believe in atoms, but argues that if the Gods are composed of them they must not be immortal. He argues that humans believe their own shape is the most beautiful because animals are only attracted to their own kind – a wolf would find the form of another wolf to be the most beautiful. And further more, not all humans are beautiful! Painters and sculptors depict the Gods in human form because of convention, and not all nations see their Gods as human shaped. And if the Gods are human shaped that means that some Gods and Goddesses must be more beautiful than others, which must not be the case. Cotta argues that the Planets, Stars, and Sun demonstrate a form of intelligence and Gods might take their shape. Cotta ridicules the notion that the Gods have arms and legs and various organs but have no apparent use for them because they are inactive. He also points out that people have images in their minds of beings other than Gods, some of which never existed. He ridicules the idea that Gods who do not do anything can experience the range of pleasures that even humans can do. Gods composed of atoms must be mortal, and therefore cannot be blessed. Cotta concludes by arguing that Gods who do not interfere in the world and do not help humanity do not deserve to be revered by humans. Why sacrifice to beings who will do nothing in return?

I do not believe it is really possible to know for sure what the Gods are like. In my opinion, they live in other spiritual planes, and might not have any form at all unless they chose to do so. They can appear in dreams in human form. As I said in my previous post, I do believe they can play an active role in human civilization should they chose to do so. On the other hand, humans are free to make their own decisions, even if they are bad ones. They may help us if we pray to them, and doing so might change your luck for the better. It sure has for me!
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