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Keeping up Appearances: Shame and Oratory in Cicero's Thought
Unformatted Document Text:  and Orator. Indeed, we see that Cicero suggested that when faced with discussing certain topics, we ought to “follow nature and avoid anything that shrinks from the approval of eyes and ears.” 83 More importantly, in expanding upon his advice on decorum Cicero argued that the different aspects of our lives – our four personae – must agree with each other, just as if our life were “a speech that has constancy.” While some faults are clearly evident to most people, other faults “cannot be recognized by many people;” in this regard, we saw that Cicero likens the educated moral agent to someone with expert musical knowledge: only someone with knowledge of music can hear if a musical instrument is slightly out of tune, as one who understands the relationship of the roles we play ought to be sure that “nothing in our lives happens to be discordant.” Yet non-experts can tell if an instrument is grossly out of tune. In this regard, we saw that, for Cicero, achieving this harmony is facilitated by looking to “small indications” – “a glance of the eyes…the relaxation or contraction of an eyebrow…sadness, cheerfulness or laughter, from speech or from silence, from a raising or lowering of the voice.” We may thus observe what is decorous in our own behavior by observing others, but we may also observe what is decorous by keeping in mind their perceptions of our own behavior – the latter is especially the case with those faults that can be recognized by many, though in the case of faults that are not readily perceived by the many, the prior is more important. 84 Similarly, we saw in Brutus that while Cicero wishes his discussion of oratory to satisfy experts, he also wishes that his practice of oratory would “win the approval of the 83 Ibid. I.128. 84 I. 144-146. 30

Authors: Kapust, Daniel.
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and Orator. Indeed, we see that Cicero suggested that when faced with discussing certain
topics, we ought to “follow nature and avoid anything that shrinks from the approval of
eyes and ears.”
More importantly, in expanding upon his advice on decorum Cicero argued that
the different aspects of our lives – our four personae – must agree with each other, just as
if our life were “a speech that has constancy.” While some faults are clearly evident to
most people, other faults “cannot be recognized by many people;” in this regard, we saw
that Cicero likens the educated moral agent to someone with expert musical knowledge:
only someone with knowledge of music can hear if a musical instrument is slightly out of
tune, as one who understands the relationship of the roles we play ought to be sure that
“nothing in our lives happens to be discordant.” Yet non-experts can tell if an instrument
is grossly out of tune. In this regard, we saw that, for Cicero, achieving this harmony is
facilitated by looking to “small indications” – “a glance of the eyes…the relaxation or
contraction of an eyebrow…sadness, cheerfulness or laughter, from speech or from
silence, from a raising or lowering of the voice.” We may thus observe what is decorous
in our own behavior by observing others, but we may also observe what is decorous by
keeping in mind their perceptions of our own behavior – the latter is especially the case
with those faults that can be recognized by many, though in the case of faults that are not
readily perceived by the many, the prior is more important.
Similarly, we saw in Brutus that while Cicero wishes his discussion of oratory to
satisfy experts, he also wishes that his practice of oratory would “win the approval of the
83
Ibid. I.128.
84
I. 144-146.
30


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