Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Bogeyman - The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius - Unpublished Selections Explained, Med. XI.23

Meditation XI.23 - The Bogeyman - Translated by George Long and rewritten by Russell McNeil

Socrates used to call the opinions of the many by the name of Lamiae,1 bugbears2 to frighten children.3


(1) The reference is to a mythological Libyan Queen named Lamia who became a child-killing demon (or daemon). In Greek mythology the single demon multiplied into many lamiae.

(2) Known also as boogerbear (or bogeyman).

(3) Socrates clearly did not have much regard for widely held opinions. Such opinions he generally was able to show (using his storied Socratic method of questioning) as false. One ought not take this to mean that Socrates had little respect for common people. Socrates was himself a commoner, a poor working-class stone mason, and a former soldier. If he lived today he would be identified as a blue collar worker. But the opinions he holds as false were indeed widely held in the ancient world (Socrates would likely find most widely held opinions in the modern world as false), but these opinions were widely held by those who were generally deemed, by the majority of people, to be very wise opinion leaders. Socrates spent most of his adult life seeking out and engaging in dialog with those who were generally regarded to be wise by reputation. During the course of his many discussions, he was able to demonstrate that those opinions were almost universally false. His frequent humiliations of these rich and powerful opinion leaders was the primary - albeit unstated - reason Socrates was eventually charged and condemned to death.

The central thesis of Stoicism is that true opinion can only be deduced from living according to nature, and that it is in the emulation of nature that happiness can be found. Since most people live lives in opposition to nature (that is, ruled by the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain), they are in effect alienated from the only source of contentment in life. As a consequence, most people live in fear of various non-existent bogeymen, or "lamiae".

Russell McNeil, PhD, is the author of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius: Selections Annotated and Explained by Skylight Paths Publishing. The unpublished selections presented in this Blog are provided as supplemental material to the published selections which are annotated and explained in the book. The published selections are referenced in this Blog by page number and section.

No comments: