De Officiis - Vol. 1

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

Book 2

2.1-21 introduces book 2. Taking the honestum of book 1 as the key to the blessed life, or happiness (vita beata or ɛὐδαιμονία) (2.1), A. sets out to explore the utile by way of a discussion of what makes for a happy life. The subject is not dealt with at any length by Cic. in Off., but A. probably takes his cue from Cic.'s brief reference in Off. 2.6 to the constant quest of the philosophers to investigate aliquid . . . quod spectet et valeat ad bene beateque vivendum (note too the references to life and living in Off. 2.1 and 2.7; Cic. had of course already discussed the theme of happiness at a popular level in Parad. 6-19, and much more thoroughly in Fin. and Tusc. 5). Cic. Off. 2 embarks on a discussion of the kinds of duties quae pertinent ad vitae cultum et ad earum rerum quibus utuntur homines facultatem, ad opes, ad copias (Off. 2.1), but digresses to clarify the author's own attitude towards philosophy and his reasons for writing (Off. 2.2-8). A. has already rejected an equation of what is beneficial with external advantages, and has maintained that the true utile is to do with winning eternal life (1.27-9). Cic.'s praise of philosophy is replaced with an extended demonstration of the differences between philosophical or popular conceptions of happiness and happiness as defined by Scripture. The ultimate vita beata is the vita aeterna. A. thus signals the elision of the honestum and the utile: the virtue advocated in book 1 is beneficial because it is God-centred and aims at eternal reward. But because the attainment of this goal is neither furthered by external advantages nor hindered by privations—epdeed, the contrary is true—A. also pictures earthly happiness in terms which assume (a) a quasi-Stoic ideal of detachment or superiority and (b) a quasi-Platonist vision of release from the world via purificatory suffering and spiritual ascent. The beatus vir of

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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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