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The Nature of the Gods by Marcus Tullius…

The Nature of the Gods

by Marcus Tullius Cicero

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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    The Nature of Things by Lucretius (booksontrial)
    booksontrial: These two books can serve as counter arguments of each other.

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The little I know about Cicero, I learned from the series "Rome." I haven't read much Latin literature, but I've always been fascinated by the stories of the ancient gods. In this book, a group of friends gather at Cicero's house to discuss whether gods exist, and what the nature of these gods would be if they did exist. Different characters represent different schools of thought (Epicurean, Stoic, etc.) and they present their views using logic and evidence such as it was. Lest this sounds extremely esoteric and boring, well, it could be. I, however, found that it was interesting to learn how the Greeks and Romans perceived the natural world and used their knowledge to build a case for one belief or another. It was also interesting to me to find that some of their arguments are still used today to defend the existence of god: intelligent design, for example. I learned a lot about philosophy, natural science, and mythology and rites of the ancient Greeks and Romans, and also how to present an argument logically, though not always convincingly.

The problem I saw with this edition was that there were very few notes for the reading. Yes, there is a lengthy (too lengthy) introduction by J. M. Ross, which didn't really give too much useful information. It spoke about Cicero's life and writing, and then was a detailed retelling of the various points of view. Just skip it. I also really disliked the "Appendix II" which is also written by Ross. It is a continuation of Cicero's discussion in which a Christian apologist and an atheist present their arguments. I found it tedious and embarrassing following Cicero's wonderful style. ( )
  Marse | Jan 17, 2016 |
A look at the nature of Greek religion by an early Roman. This is written in the dialogue format that was so popular at the time. It's interesting to read the arguments that are used to argue in favor of the gods and their properties, because most, if not all, of them are quite familiar to anyone following this topic today. The argument from design was apparently as popular then as it is now, and also the argument from personal incredulity. Both of these arguments were discussed, and disposed of by the other partner in the dialogue. The arguments currently being put out as "the argument that atheists can't answer" were nicely answered more than 2000 years ago; with modern scientific knowledge, it is actually easier, though for some reason few modern writers can do it so lucidly or clearly. ( )
1 vote Devil_llama | Jun 11, 2015 |
"That which has been is what will be,
That which is done is what will be done,
And there is nothing new under the sun."

More than two thousand years ago, Cicero presented a detailed account of the theologies of ancient Greek philosophers, in the form of a brilliant, pungent and witty debate among the representatives of the Stoic, Epicurean and Academic schools. The discourse is centered around four questions: Do gods exist? What is the nature of the gods? Do they govern the universe? Do they take thought for humans?

Today the same arguments are still being rehashed in the debates between the creationist and evolutionists, atheists and Christians, proponents of determinism and free will. Yet few can match the eloquence, erudition and wit of Cicero.

Is Reason a Divine Gift?

The Stoic Balbus stated that the gods had bestowed on humans many gifts, including reason. Cicero, in the person of Cotta, argued almost with passion rarely shown in the course of the intellectual debate, that few men made good use of reason whereas most used it for evil, it would be better if reason had not been granted. He quoted many instances in the Greek tragedies where men used reason for deceit, treachery and murder. It's especially poignant, even prophetic, as Cicero himself, an outstanding man of reason, was murdered by the sword.


"You take refuge in a thicket of philosophical jargons ... It is not that you are hiding things from me, as Pythagoras used to do from outsiders; nor do you purposely make things obscure as Heraclitus did. Let us be frank with each other; you do not understand the doctrine either!"

"So I do beg you all kindly to refrain from wasting that wit of yours in jeering at us -- after all, it is in short supply in your tribe!"

"How splendid too and divine is the power of utterance ... In the first place, it provides the means of learning things which we do not know, and of teaching others the things which we do know; and second, we employ it to cajole and to persuade, to console the afflicted and to dispel the fears of the apprehensive. We deploy it to rein in the impetuous, to snuff out immoderate desires and flashes of anger. It is this which has united us in the fellowship of justice and laws and citizenship, and has weaned us from the barbaric life of savagery."
( )
  booksontrial | Jan 4, 2013 |
Quoted in my Latin textbook. I decided to read it on my own. Probably wasn't in the right mood for it -- didn't end up finishing it. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Mar 19, 2011 |
Cicero's famous work, De Natura Deorum - on the Nature of the Gods, is important evidence of the theological beliefs of the major philosophical schools during the Late Republic of Rome. It is an important work - and still relevant today in philosophical studies as it is the major text that underlies David Hume's great treatise, Dialogues concerning Natural Religion. It is also important evidence of two fragmentary works of the Epicurean philosopher Philodemus - in parts following closely - On Signs and On Piety. I go back to this work often as an important witness to understand the thoughts of other major philosophers both ancient and modern. ( )
2 vote hypatiaa | Dec 4, 2010 |
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» Add other authors (27 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Marcus Tullius Ciceroprimary authorall editionscalculated
McGregor, Horace C. P.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Walsh, P. G.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140442650, Paperback)

Towards the end of his life, Cicero turned away from his oratorical and political career and looked instead to matters of philosophy and religion. The dialogue The Nature of the Gods both explores his own views on these subjects, as a monotheist and member of the Academic School, and considers the opinion of other philosophical schools of the Hellenistic age through the figures of Velleius the Epicurean and Balbus the Stoic. Eloquent, clearly argued and surprisingly modern, it focuses upon a series of fundamental religious questions including: is there a God? If so, does he answer prayers, or intervene in human affairs? Does he know the future? Does morality need the support of religion? Profoundly influential on later thinkers, such as Saint Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, this is a fascinating consideration of fundamental issues of faith and philosophical thought.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:46 -0400)

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