De Officiis - Vol. 1

By Ambrose; Ivor J. Davidson | Go to book overview

truth that dishonourable conduct cannot be beneficial, and that the honourable end must be sought by honourable means. But whereas for Cicero the honourable is aligned with the advantage of pursuing whatever promotes the interests of human cohesion and equity, for Ambrose the honourable is about rightly relating to and mirroring the character of God, through whose design the ultimate interests of the individual and the interests of the universal human family which the individual is called to serve are consonant. The Christlike course (cf. 3.13, 15, 27, 36) and the law of nature are one. The good of humankind as a whole is naturally furthered by the observance of justice, the protection of the vulnerable, and the preservation of what is right and true: in the perspective of faith, these ends are synonymous with the working out of redemption for both individual and society. The key note is the supremacy of the honourable, rather than a comparison of the honourable and the beneficial. There is in the end no difference between the honestum and the utile because both can only be understood with reference to the purposes of God and the task of bringing people to appreciate them in this world and the next. If Cicero's desire to expound a relevant ethic of 'middle' duty remains wedded to an idealistic conception of political possibilities, Ambrose's effort to issue practical advice involves an unabashed appeal to perfection as the only applicable target for the moral agent called to dedicated Christian service. 43


IV Themes and Perspectives

Ambrose may sketch a somewhat different way of resolving the apparent difference between virtue and expediency, but he clearly follows Cicero in his choice of title, ethical categories, style of address, and basic structure. How in detail does he handle his subject? A number of his techniques are worth noting.

1. Ambrose goes to some lengths to justify his adoption of the classical subject-matter and terminology by appealing to the

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De Officiis - Vol. 1
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Ambrose iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • Abbreviations xii
  • Note on Cicero Citations xxiii
  • Abbreviations and Editions of Other Works by Ambrose xxiv
  • Introduction 1
  • II- Date 3
  • III- Model 6
  • IV- Themes and Perspectives 19
  • V- Composition 33
  • VI- Purpose of the Work 45
  • VII- Constructing an Ecclesial Community- Ambrose''s Ethical Vision 64
  • VIII- The Influence of de Officiis 96
  • IX- Latinity 105
  • Text and Translation 113
  • Book 1 439
  • Book 2 692
  • Book 3 802
  • Select Bibliography 909
  • Indexes 953
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