Cicero on Moral Motivation and Seeing (How) to Be Good
Cicero declares that men are motivated to live well by the rewards given to those who win glory in public life. Men are also directly motivated by the exemplars they see, especially other men for whom they feel affection. Cicero’s advice to imitate the powerful and to cultivate ideas of virtue that mimic Roman ideals has suggested to many scholars that his moral beliefs and Roman elite social values are close to one and the same. This short essay argues that the role Cicero gives to sight in his De Officiis (On Moral Duties) hints that his account of moral motivation is driven by more than the desire to conform with Roman social mores; it suggests that the fundamental importance in his moral thought of the moral responsibilities engendered by one’s awareness of the other, an awareness triggered by sight.
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