Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 BC - 43 BC) was a Roman statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and philosopher. Cicero is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists. Cicero once said; “The nature of law must be sought in the nature of man”... The aim of this essay is to explain Cicero’s idea about searching the nature of law in the nature of man. In order to do that I would try to explain the sources of law and what law is according to Cicero, and later I would try to combine these information with what Cicero suggests about the nature of mankind.
Cicero firstly claims that mankind is given many gifts by nature like their mind and reasoning and the duties that we have to carry out in order to go along the human life. Later on Cicero takes law as his second point and gives the definition of law. According to Cicero law is the highest reason which tells us what to do and what not to do. “Law is the highest reason inherent in nature, which enjoins what ought to be done and forbids the opposite. When that reason is fully formed and completed in human mind, it too, is law” (BK I, 17-19, p. 103). He uses the term highest law to explain justice. In his opinion, justice is the highest law, which existed even centuries before the first law was written or even any state was established.
After the explanations about what law and justice are, Cicero directly passes to his idea and he clarifies that human beings were created by supreme God with foresight, wisdom, variety, keenness, memory and most important of all with reason and judgment. Reason makes men more divine than all the other things that exist in nature that are created by God. Reason is present only in God and human beings and therefore it makes people partners of God. Those who share reason can also have right reason, which is called as law in Cicero’s thoughts; therefore they have a partnership with the God also in law. Since sharing law means sharing justice, these human beings with all these virtues must be sharing the universe with the gods. “The origin of justice must be derived from law. For law is a force of nature, the intelligence and reason of a wise man and the criterion of justice and injustice” (BK I, 17-19, p. 103). As we may see in this quotation law comes from reason and reason and intelligence are the two virtues that are given to human beings by God with using the nature as a bridge. The law that comes from nature creates justice and therefore it would not be wrong to claim that the nature of law lies in the nature of men or at least it is related to the nature of men. According to Cicero, we have origin and lineage and that makes us the unique species on nature, which has a conception of God. Again that is something distinctive for God and human beings. He suggests that nature has given us many things, like senses, that it looks like they have been given to us on purpose not by chance.
For all these reasons Cicero believes that human beings are born for justice and justice is based on nature but not on opinion. This as a result brings us the fact that the reason human beings have helps them to realize the standards of justice and with this knowledge on justice they become capable of law making. They use this ability of law making in their societies, since human beings by nature are like each other and they also need laws, like in the example of natural law, because they are not totally like the gods, shortly they are fallible creatures. As living in a society they become more like each other. “Since the whole human race is seen to be knit together, the final conclusion is that the principles of right living make everyone a better person” (BK I, 32-34, p. 108). Therefore human beings use justice to share it among themselves in order to become better people. Justice in Cicero’s opinion comes from nature and since human beings love other people as much as he loves himself he uses justice to make his society better. “We have been made by nature to share justice amongst ourselves and to impart it to one another” (BK I, 32-34, p. 108).
As a result Cicero tries to explain that justice derives from nature. He proves this first by talking about the gifts human beings have that are likewise to those of God. Secondly, he suggests that men live together and therefore they need justice. Thirdly, he says that in a society all live together by the help of a goodwill and kindliness and by a fellowship of justice. To sum up, he claims that justice derives from nature because of the position of men between nature and justice.
- Cicero, Marcus Tullius, The Republic and the Laws, 1998, Oxford University Press, USA