You Will Never Reach The End-Zone


Some want to reach a point of victorious finality.  They want to enter the end-zone of the football field, slam the ball down, and celebrate.  Finally, they say, I have arrived!

I have made it, they bray.  I can now coast a little, they assure us.  Listen to these asses bray, bray, bray. I can hardly stand it.  And then they tell us:  I can subsist on this victorious inertia for a while, and see where that takes me.

Oh, if only it were that simple.  The end-zone, sorry to say, does not exist.  Fortune hates inertia, and will snuff it out quickly.

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Cicero’s Four Cardinal Virtues


According to Cicero, the sources of moral righteousness are four in number (De Officiis I.15):

1.  The perception and intelligent development of truth (In perspicientia veri sollertiaque versatur);

2.  The preservation of civil society, with the faithful rendering to everyone what he is properly owed (In hominum societate tuenda tribuendoque suum cuique et rerum contractarum fide);

3.  The greatness and power of a noble and unconquerable spirit (In animi excelsi atque invicti magnitudine ac robore);

4.  In the order and moderation of things which consist of temperance and self-control (In omnium, quae fiunt quaeque dicuntur, ordine et modo, in quo inest modestia et temperantia).

What is moral and good, according to Cicero, has to spring from one or more of these sources.  They can be connected with each other, depending on the situation.  The first of these sources, as listed above, revolves around the search for truth.  The remaining three relate to our conduct within organized society.

And this is where Cicero makes an important point.  The search for truth is a morally righteous thing.

Truth is not primarily an intellectual pursuit; it is a moral one.  It is an impulse that arises from the deepest core of our moral being.


To learn more about Cicero’s views on conduct, self-improvement, and ethics, check out my translations of his timeless classics On Duties and Stoic Paradoxes.