Front Page Titles (by Subject) Cicero and Modern Political Philosophy - Literature of Liberty, July/September 1979, vol. 2, No. 3
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Cicero and Modern Political Philosophy - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, July/September 1979, vol. 2, No. 3 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Cicero and Modern Political Philosophy
“Cicero and the Rebirth of Political Philosophy.” The Political Science Reviewer 8 (Fall 1978): 63–101.
A tradition of hostile criticism—including Plutarch, Petrarch, and most of the nineteenth century, particularly the antiliberal historian Mommsen—has erroneously denigrated and underestimated the Cicero's achievement as a political thinker. This “fabric of criticism” has created the problem of the “two Ciceros”: Cicero the politician, the living man who was pragmatic, vainglorious, and overly attached to Roman power politics; and Cicero the author and moral philosopher, whose philosophic wisdom criticized unjust power and transcended the political and cultural limits of imperial Rome. Even after we dispose of the canard that Cicero was a “mindless eclectic,” we are left to resolve how he tried to reconcile power and philosophy, the city and man, in his political philosophy.
Though only partly successful, Cicero sought to encourage the birth and growth of moral and political philosophy in Rome. His significance as a principled defender of republican liberty and a mediator of the Socratic tradition of moral political philosophy was responsible for a more favorable estimate toward Cicero that was shared by early Christianity, the Renaissance humanists, and the liberal republican tradition in England and revolutionary America. Key works which trace how the classical republicanism associated with Cicero influenced later republicans, particularly the eighteenth century liberal Whigs are: Zera Fink, The Classical Republicans (1945), Robert Cummings, Human Nature and History (1968); Caroline Robbins, The English Common-wealthman (1959); and J.G.A. Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment (1975). Yet despite the ferment of recent American scholarship concerning classical republicanism, political philosophers have shown little interest in examining the political thought of Cicero, one of the central thinkers in that tradition because of such works as his fragmentary De Re Publica and his De Legibus.
Two of the chief names associated with the revival of American political philosophy during the past generation have, however, studied Cicero more intensely: Leo Strauss and Eric Voegelin. It would illuminate the central issues of politics, to see how these two modern mediators of the tradition of political philosophy deal with the ancient Roman mediator of that tradition. Both Strauss and Voegelin regard Cicero as of secondary interest; their deemphasis of Cicero derives from their underlying principles of political philosophy. Whereas Zera Fink and Robert Cummings stress the continuities of Cicero's political thought with the modern liberal tradition, Strauss and Voegelin stress the discontinuities between the ancients and moderns. Strauss views the moderns as too democratic and not concerned enough with the
moral qualities of a good citizen. Voegelin sees Cicero as “more implicated in the development of Gnosticism and disorder” in an “Ecumenic Age” than in grasping the Platonic insight into being. Yet Cicero, as a bridge between practical policies and philosophy, should have more to offer these two modern political philosophers.
Strauss sees Cicero as a spokesman for the ancient philosophical understanding of politics. Between politics (the city) and philosophy (man) there is a tension. The philosopher, as a defender of the autonomous claims of philosophy before the city, is a potential political subversive. Accordingly, Strauss's analysis of Cicero's De Re Publica stresses the difficulty of reconciling justice and natural law or right with the legitimacy of the Roman Empire. Strauss sees a “radical gap between the philosophic life and the civil or moral life, between philosophy and the city.”
Voegelin finds Cicero difficient as a penetrating philosopher and too Rome-centered a patriot. Indicting Cicero of “Gnostic immanentization,” he believes the De Re Publica chauvinistically favors Roman politics over the philosophically ideal city. Cicero, too much a man of his pragmatic “Ecumenic Age,” was not in touch with “the order of reality through the revelation of one divine ground of all being as the Nous.”