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Cato's integritas

Prof. James Warren

University of Cambridge

January 28,  2021

Starts in New York 12.00 a.m. / Cambridge 5.00 p.m. / Budapest 6.00 p.m. / Athens 7.00 p.m.

I want to explore two related themes.  In the first place, I consider the notion of integrity as a kind of inability, specifically an inability to act incorrectly.  Here it will be important to distinguish various kinds of inability and, most of all, between those people of integrity who cannot do wrong even though they may be tempted to do so but always persevere in dedication to a principle from those people of integrity who cannot do wrong because they are simply free from any tendency even to want to do otherwise.  Cato, at least according to some of the portraits of him we can find in our sources, will stand as an example of this second category.  From there, we can pass to the second theme.  I look again at the question whether such a demand to be a person of integrity is in tension with some other requirements we might want to place on an ideal character.  It is often noted that our ancient sources sometimes lament Cato's intransigence and stubbornness and complain that his stance was ultimately of no use in the contemporary political scene.  I consider this as a consequence of a form of integrity that derives from a certain kind of inability.

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