Here is an nice accompaniment whilst you read (mind the shoddy sound quality)…it is still very worth a listen:

The Meditations have only one theme: philosophy.  We can see this from passages such as the following:

What is it that can escort you in order to protect you in this life? Only one thing: philosophy.   It consists in keeping your inner god free from pollution and from damage (II, 17, 3).

Be careful of becoming “caesarized”…Keep yourself simple, good, pure, grave, natural, a friend of justice.  Revere the gods, be benevolent, affectionate, and firm in accomplishing your duties.  Fight in order to remain as philosophy has wished you to be (VI, 30, 1-3).

For the ancients in general, but particularly for the Stoics and for Marcus Aurelius, philosophy was, above all, a way of life.  This is why the Meditations strive, by means of an ever-renewed effort, to describe this way of life and to sketch the model that one must have constantly in view: that of the ideal good man.  Ordinary people are content to think in any old way, to act haphazardly, and to undergo grudgingly whatever befalls them.  The good man, however, will try, insofar as he is able, to act justly in the service of other people, to accept serenely those events which do not depend on him, and to think with rectitude and veracity. (VII, 54):

Always and everywhere, it depends on you piously to be satisfied with the present conjunction of events, to conduct yourself justly toward whatever other people are present and to apply the rules of discernment to the inner representation you are having now, so that nothing which is not objective may infiltrate its way into you.

Marcus himself gives us good examples of the relationship between general principles and rules of life.  We have seen that one of the rules of life he proposes consists in consenting with serenity to events willed by Destiny, which do not depend on us.  But he also exhorts himself , in the following terms (IV, 49, 6):

On the occasion of everything that causes you sadness, remember to use this “dogma”: not only is this not a misfortune, but it is a piece of good fortune for you to bear it up courageously.

This dogma is deduced from the fundamental dogma of Stoicism, which is the foundation for all Stoic behavior: only moral good, or virtue , is a good, and only moral evil, or vice, is an evil.  Marcus formulates this explicitly elsewhere (VIII, I, 6):

What does happiness consist of?  It consists of doing that which the nature of mankind desires.  How shall we do this?  By possessing those dogmas which are the  principles of impulses and of action.  Which dogmas?  Those which pertain to the distinction of what is good from what is bad: there is no good for mankind but that which renders him just, temperate, courageous, and free, and there is no evil for mankind, except that which brings about in him the contrary vices.

Marcus also employs the word  theôrêma to designate the “dogmas,” inasmuch as every art entails principles, and consequently so too does that art of living called philosophy (XI, 5):

What art do you practice?  That of being good.  How can you practice this except by starting out from theorems, some of which concern the Nature of the All, and others of which deal with the constitution proper to mankind?

Dogmas, as Marcus says (VII, 2), run the risk of dying out, if one does not constantly reignite those inner images, or phantasiai, which make them present to us.

Thus, we can say that the Meditations—with the exception of Book I—are wholly made up of the repeated, ever-renewed formulation of the three rules of action which we have just seen, and of the various dogmas which are their foundation.

Translated by: Michael Chase



Author: mmartel

"If he's honest, he'll steal; if he's human, he'll murder; if he's faithful, he'll deceive. Being at a loss to resolve these questions, I am resolved to leave them without any resolution." I have so much to say to you that I am afraid I shall tell you nothing."

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