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Philosophical Life in Cicero's Letters by…

Philosophical Life in Cicero's Letters

by Sean McConnell

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Cicero’s trove of over 800 letters has long served as an essential window into late-republican politics as lived experience. In the last three decades, seminal works from Rawson, Lévy, Graver, Sedley, Griffin, Powell, and many others have proven the centrality of philosophy to Cicero’s corpus, and the pertinence of the late treatises to his public career. In “Philosophical Life in Cicero’s Letters”, Sean McConnell takes the restoration of Cicero philosophus another step forward, offering the first book-length treatment of the epistolae as vectors of ideas in themselves.

For McConnell, the philosophical references in these letters go well beyond winking philhellenism or rehearsals for the treatises. Rather, the epistolae deserve recognition as free-standing and worthy attempts to apply philosophy to real and urgent problems. As Cicero’s problems were so often political, McConnell focuses his work on Cicero’s engagement with political philosophy and practical ethics, rather than attempting a broader analysis of the letters en entier. The five case studies he chooses thus serve to illuminate, rather than synthesize, the evolutions in the statesman’s use of philosophy through a long and turbulent career.
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