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DOGMAS AND THEIR FORMULATIONS
These dogmas, or foundational and fundamental rules, were the subject of demonstrations within the Stoic schools. Marcus learned such demonstrations from his Stoic teachers Junius Rusticus, Apollonius, and Sextus, to whom he renders homage to the first book of the Meditations. Above all, he read about them in the Discourses of Epictetus as collected by Arrian. In his Meditations, Marcus mentions “the large number of proofs by which it is demonstrated that the world is like a city,” or else the teachings he has received on the subject of pleasure and pain, and to which he has given his assent (IV, 3, 5, 6).
With the aid of these demonstrations, the dogmas imposed themselves upon Marcus with absolute certainty, and he usually restricts himself to formulating them in form of a simple proposition, as he does in Book II, I, 3. The nature of the good, he says there, is moral good (to kalon); while that of evil is moral evil (to aischron). This condensed form is sufficient to evoke the theoretical demonstration of which they were the subject, and it allows the inner disposition which was a result of his clear view of these principles—that is, the resolution to do good—to be re-awakened within his soul. To repeat the dogmas to oneself, or write them down for oneself, is “to retreat,” as Marcus says (IV,3, I). “not to the countryside, the seashore, or the mountains,” but within oneself. It is there that one can find the formulas “which shall renew us.” “Let them be concise and essential,” Marcus continues, in order that their efficacy be complete. This is why, in order to be ready to apply the three rules of action, Marcus sometimes gathers together a series of chapter-heads(kepahlaia), extremely brief in form, which constitute an enumeration of points which, by their very accumulation, can increase their psychic efficacy (II, I; IV,3; IV,26; VII, 22, 2; VIII, 21, 2; XI, 18; XII, 7; XII, 8; XII, 26).
One example of the above being (XII, 26) in which eight kephalaia, or fundamental points, provide a group if resources with a view to the practice of that rule of action which prescribes that we must serenely accept that which happens to us, but does not depend on our will:
If you are annoyed at something, it is because you have forgotten:
(1) that everything happens in accordance with universal Nature;
(2) that whatever fault was committed is not your concern;
(3) and, moreover, that everything that happens has always happened thus and will always happen thus, and is, at this very moment, happening thus elsewhere;
(4) how close the relationship between man and the whole human race: for this is no community of blood or of seed, but of the intellect.
You have also forgotten that:
(5) that the intellect of each person is God, and that it flowed down here from above;
(6) and that nothing belongs to any of us in the strict sense, but that our child, our body, and our soul, come from above;
(7) and that everything is a judgment-value;
(8) and the only thing that each of us lives and loses is the present.
From the absolutely primary principle according to which the only good is moral good and the only evil is moral evil (II, I, 3), it follows that neither pleasure nor pain are evils (IV, 3, 6; XII, 8); that the only thing shameful is moral evil (II, I, 3); that faults committed against us cannot touch us (II, 1, 3; XII, 26); that he who commits a fault hurts only himself (IV, 26, 3); and that the fault cannot be found elsewhere than within oneself (VII, 29, 7; XII, 26). It further follows that I can suffer no harm whatsoever from the actions of anyone else (II, 1, 3; VII, 22, 2).
From the general principles
1. only that which depends on us can either be good or bad
2. our judgment and our assent depend on us (XII, 22),
It follows that the only evil or trouble there can be for us resides in our own judgment; that is to say, in the way we represent things to ourselves (IV, 3, 10; XI, 18, II); and that people are the authors of their own problems (IV, 26, 2; XII, 8). Everything, therefore, is a matter of judgment (XII, 8; XII, 22; XII, 26). The intellect is independent of the body (IV, 3, 6), and things do not come inside us in order to trouble us (IV, 3, 10). If everything is a matter of judgment, and proceeds from ignorance (II, I, 2; IV, 3, 4; XI, 18, 4-5).
In the enumeration of kephalaia in Book XI (XI, 18, 2), Marcus tells himself:
Go higher up still, starting from the principle that if we reject atoms, it must be Nature which governs the All.
In the list in Book IV, he says:
Remember the disjunction: either providence or atoms.
Translated by: Michael Chase
MORE TO COME IN PART IV !!!!