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Keeping up Appearances: Shame and Oratory in Cicero's Thought
Unformatted Document Text:  Ethical decorum, then, is far from providing a strong account of individualism – rather, Cicero suggests that actions akin to those of Cato are not always to be preferred to “conventional social roles.” 80 The goal of the moral actor is, to be sure, consistency, yet this consistency does not involve us turning from our particular dispositions towards an exclusive focus on our universal dispositions, nor even complete consistency if we fin ourselves unable to maintain a current behavior; as Gill notes in another study of Panaetius, in the theory of the four personae we see observe that “maintaining one’s own natural characteristics and of treating one’s own nature as a key normative reference point in one’s choice of life and as a crucial factor in the achievement of a unified, self- consistent life.” 81 How one evaluates one’s own capacities, however, involves especially the roles one undertakes; just as not all moral actors can emulate their ancestors without being disharmonious with their individual natures, not all moral actors could have acted as Cato did without throwing their natures into confusion. What does this constraining notion of ethical decorum bring to bear on an evaluation of decorum in oratory? More importantly, what does this tell us about decorum as enabling the orator to navigate between manipulation and pandering? As we have seen, the way in which others evaluate our behavior, ranging from our speech to our actions, plays an important constraining role in Cicero’s account of ethical decorum; we ought to be concerned, for instance, “to win the approval of those with and among whom we live.” 82 This is precisely the concern of Cicero’s orator, in both On the Ideal Orator 80 Ibid. 194. 81 ———, "Panaetius on the Virtue of Being Yourself." 341. 82 Cicero, On Duties. I.126. 29

Authors: Kapust, Daniel.
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Ethical decorum, then, is far from providing a strong account of individualism –
rather, Cicero suggests that actions akin to those of Cato are not always to be preferred to
“conventional social roles.”
The goal of the moral actor is, to be sure, consistency, yet
this consistency does not involve us turning from our particular dispositions towards an
exclusive focus on our universal dispositions, nor even complete consistency if we fin
ourselves unable to maintain a current behavior; as Gill notes in another study of
Panaetius, in the theory of the four personae we see observe that “maintaining one’s own
natural characteristics and of treating one’s own nature as a key normative reference
point in one’s choice of life and as a crucial factor in the achievement of a unified, self-
consistent life.”
How one evaluates one’s own capacities, however, involves especially
the roles one undertakes; just as not all moral actors can emulate their ancestors without
being disharmonious with their individual natures, not all moral actors could have acted
as Cato did without throwing their natures into confusion.
What does this constraining notion of ethical decorum bring to bear on an
evaluation of decorum in oratory? More importantly, what does this tell us about
decorum as enabling the orator to navigate between manipulation and pandering? As we
have seen, the way in which others evaluate our behavior, ranging from our speech to our
actions, plays an important constraining role in Cicero’s account of ethical decorum; we
ought to be concerned, for instance, “to win the approval of those with and among whom
we live.”
This is precisely the concern of Cicero’s orator, in both On the Ideal Orator
80
Ibid. 194.
81
———, "Panaetius on the Virtue of Being Yourself." 341.
82
Cicero, On Duties. I.126.
29


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