There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.
Albert Camus, The Plague
The Roman philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero famously said that ‘to study philosophy is nothing but to prepare one’s self to die’. 1 Cicero wrote this in 45 BCE in a text of philosophical ruminations known as Tusculan Disputations . In the first book of this philosophical treatise Cicero challenges the widely held belief that death is an evil, and thus to be feared.
As I write this introduction, death is
French philosopher Michel de Montaigne (1533–92) famously said that facing our mortality is the only way to properly learn the ‘art of living’. He was right. This book is about what we can learn from COVID-19 about the art of living, as individuals but also collectively as a society: this crisis could potentially change our lives for the better, ushering in a more just society. The book will explore a number of key themes through philosophical lenses. Chapter 2 asks whether coronavirus is a misfortune, or an injustice. Chapter 3 focuses on the largest cohort of victims of coronavirus: people in old age. Chapter 4 asks whether life under coronavirus is comparable to life in the so-called ‘state of nature’. Chapter 5 explores the likely impact of coronavirus on the global phenomenon of populism. Chapter 6 investigates the relationship between post-truth and coronavirus. Chapter 7 focuses on the role of experts during this crisis. Chapter 8 looks at the spike of incidents of domestic violence during the lockdown via an analysis of Sally Rooney’s Normal People. Chapter 9 explores four key lessons that must be learned from the COVID-19 crisis: that politics matters; that central states are necessary; that taxation is important; and that radical reforms, including the introduction of a universal basic income, are crucial. Chapter 10 considers what philosophy can contribute to the debate on COVID-19, and why we have a moral duty not to become ill.
was thought to consist of in the Middle Ages. What did it mean to be a Stoic, or an Aristotelian, or a neo-Platonist for that matter, in this period? John’s poetic work Entheticus offers a discussion of the principal philosophical schools of the period and merits a closer examination prior to looking at the classical texts to which he would have had access. Near the opening of the poem John presents a scathing account of scholars of the time who ‘read little to learn much’, who praise Aristotle while scorning Cicero and rely on reputation rather than learning. 29
(confirmatio); refutation (confutatio or refutatio); and conclusion
(conclusio or peroratio). Within these two classificatory schemes,
• Rhetoric and the writing of history •
the methodological principles which informed a classical rhetorical analysis of, respectively, inventio and narratio came to have a
central bearing on the medieval understanding of argumentation
and narrative and, as such, on the concept and practice of writing
history in the Middle Ages.
According to Cicero and the Rhetorica ad Herennium, the dis
covery or ‘invention’ of
manuscripts during the 1740s when he wrote about
miracles. The chapter concludes by detailing Middleton’s failed effort during
the late 1730s and early 1740s to redeem himself in the eyes of the orthodox
by writing about Cicero. The process of bringing his life of Cicero to press
also casts light onto the business of publishing with which Middleton and all
other polemical divines had to deal.
Age did not diminish Middleton’s ambition. In late 1733, less than a
week after the death of Cambridge’s regius professor of modern history,
for instance, Middleton explained to Hervey
scrutiny. This is why there has never been a better time to go back 2,000 years to a philosophical work by Marcus Tullius Cicero, Cato the Elder on Old Age (44 BCE).
Cicero on old age
In this text, one of the earliest philosophical explorations of old age, Cicero defends the counter-intuitive view that old age is arguably the best part of one’s life, hence refuting the generally held prejudice against people in old age as weak, vulnerable, helpless, and dependent, incapable of making meaningful contributions, and thus a mere burden to society.