Introduction to Logic
Cicero’s idea of natural law is based on the assumption that all laws are derived from nature and the source of human ability to reason is also nature. Due to this ability derived from nature, human beings are able to discover and draw out the principles of justice and freedom that govern the law. According to him, the imposition of law by a ruler cannot be termed as a law. Therefore, any laws imposed by a single ruler cannot be a law. This is solely the premise of God to punish or reward humans appropriately.
In his De Res Publica Cicero states: “True law is right reason in agreement with Nature...it is of universal application, unchanging and everlasting.... we need not look outside ourselves for an expounder or interpreter of it. And there will not be different laws at Rome and at Athens, or different laws now and in the future, but one eternal and unchangeable law will be valid for all nations and for all times, and there will be one master and one rule, that is, God, over us all, for He is the author of this law, its promulgator, and its enforcing judge.”(Cicero, 1961)
Freedom and personal autonomy, for Cicero, cannot be limited or impeded by the external circumstances. Human beings should carve always ways to overcome the situations that would otherwise defeat them. He believes that human being must exercise the freedom they have to curb any such temptations that lead resourceful and authoritative people to bring about inhuman conditions in the society. Being a staunch opponent of dogmatism, he holds that civil government can be judged through the extent of freedom it grants to its subjects. The notion of freedom among human beings is thus relative, not absolute.
Liberty, in his view, is not the equality before law the equality of judicial rights. Cicero explains the Stoic view that if freedom is the power to live as you will then in fact only the wise are free.(Paul, Miller, 2003) That is to say, only wise people enjoy the privilege of living as they please.
Cicero attributes trust, honesty, and truth to his notion of a true friendship. He warns against comprising morals for anything wrong. According to him, ignorance is the root of all evils.
The word autonomy contains various meanings in the field of philosophy. In ethics, autonomy may be described the person's capacity for self-determination in terms of moral choices. Kant argues that personal autonomy is exhibited by people who prompt themselves to action considering it their moral duty. Autonomous person is always driven by the motive of doing something good.
Categorical imperative, coined by Immanuel Kant, is a key concept in understanding the human motivation for action. But the question arises why should human beings feel the need to act morally? Kant in his book draws on his concept of freedom arguing that the notions of morality stem from the very idea of refraining from immoral behavior and such limitation exercised by human being is highest expression of freedom. Freedom, in this context, is marked free of external influences that affect the human mind. Anyone influenced by the external causes such as the desire to attain fame or execute revenge for any reason is not freedom according to Kant. He dubs it as heteronomy.
Freedom also implies that one should adhere to moral law and such a will is not to be determined by the external causes as stated above but by its intrinsic manner.
For example, if you find somebody who is about to die after being hit by a raging car in the empty street, then it is your responsibility to have him taken to hospital. If this act of kindness and help is driven by the desire to have good name in the society then this may not be described as moral. Autonomy of the will is the property that the will has of being a law to itself (independently of any property of the objects of volition.(Kant,1993)
Duty, as Kant describes, is the need to act out of respect for the moral law established by the categorical imperative. The outcome of an act is not necessarily the source of its moral worth but the motive due to which the act is carried out is important.
All in all, human beings cannot escape their limitations placed on them by nature nor could they exercise absolute freedom. In my opinion, human freedom is relative as only God’s freedom is absolute. Human capacity for self-government and self-autonomy is always susceptible to a number of external influences.
Cicero, Tullius, Marcs, (1961) “De re publica”, Volume 16, CUP archive, p.533
Kant, Immanuel,(1993) “Grounding for metaphysics of morals”, translated by James Ellington, Hackett,
Paul, Jeffery, Miller, Fre, Paul, Ellen,(2003) “Autonomy, Part 2”, Cambridge University Press, p.340