Horace: Ethical Cause and Effect

Horace, a Roman poet, wrote in a way that conveyed the belief that resembled a Stoic: the golden mean is the recipe for satisfaction.

Money and wealth didn’t mean much to him because he wrote that wealth and power corrupt.  “What’s the point of piles of gold?”  He didn’t understand, or want to at that, the search and strive for money.  Inheritance wasn’t something Horace was concerned with either.  The belief that money doesn’t reflect you or your character was the basic idea of Horace.  Ultimately, the golden mean is what all should strive for.  Not too much, yet not too little.  Like the ant, consume what you gather, and you shall obtain contentedness. Sounds like a Stoic to me.

He offered a warning about being overly critical of things.  “Regard others faults lightly, as we do our own”.  On friends, he wisely says that they are supports: build them up, do not focus on their faults but strengthen their good characteristics, and they will return the favor.  On friends publicly, he adds that they will warn you when you might embarrass yourself.  Virtuous people shouldn’t be dismissed either, Horace says.  When dealing with criminals, he added that a crime should be punished rightly, or more simply, the punishment should fit the crime.  Do not execute someone for a minor offense.  Equality of justice is also included in the golden mean.

Epicureanism was yet another philosophy Horace accepted.  “Eat, drink, be merry, but don’t overdo it”, because death levels all, equals all.  And because of this, do not make important plans for the future since you will leave it behind anyway.  “Even big trees fall in the wind”, and in this, the man must not go through life working to hard for money or power, because the bad times will come.

Good times and bad take their turns in the lives and fortunes of men.  “Jove (Jupiter) [Zeus] isn’t concerned with the affairs of men”, he decides randomly when such times happen, for men are the playthings of the gods.  “Thus we travel alone in life and we must endure whatever may come our way”.  That is the basic belief of Stoicism.  A non-emotional wall one must build.  In fact, suicide was a common practice among stoics.

The highest goal one should attain is the golden mean.  That is the message in Horace’s writings and poems.  In all aspects of life, seek equality and you will obtain tranquility. Don’t strive for money, it has no point.  Build strong friendships.  Don’t become gluttonous; take a little wine but don’t become drunk.  Sanctions are random, they have nothing to do with ethical decisions and actions.  Deal justice fairly to fit the crime.

What we can take away from Horace: The golden mean.  Every single thing should be balanced.  Tranquility is the result of this, and life will be easier and more endurable. Enjoy what you have, like the ant.  Ethical cause and effect doesn’t exist according to Horace, therefore, he implies, live life to the fullest.


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