The Idle Argument in Cicero’s De Fato

Kevin Smith


Throughout the course of this paper I examine Cicero’s analysis of the Idle Argument for fatalism and the two possible refutations of the argument that he mentions in his work entitled De Fato. Between the two refutations, one of which was originally given by the Stoic Chrysippus and the other by the Academic skeptic Carneades, Cicero clearly expresses preference for the one given by Carneades.  Cicero claims to prefer Carneades refutation for two reasons: because it is simpler than Chrysippus’ refutation and because it allows for praise and blame to be justly applied while Chrysippus’ refutation does not.  I argue that this was a mistake, due to the fact that both refutations are equally complicated and they both allow for praise and blame to be justly applied.  Upon showing that both of Cicero’s reasons for preferring Carneades’ refutation were false, I conclude that Cicero had no good reason for preferring one refutation over the other and that he therefor made a mistake when he claimed that Carneades’ refutation was better than the one given by Chrysippus.


philosophy; Cicero; Idle Argument

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