Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Stoic Method - The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius - Unpublished Selections Explained, Med. XI.39

Meditation XI.39 – Stoic Method - Translated by George Long and rewritten by Russell McNeil

Socrates used to say, What do you want? Souls of rational people or irrational? - Souls of rational people. - Of what rational people? Sound or unsound? - Sound. - Why then do you not seek for them? - Because we have them. - Why then do you fight and quarrel?1,2


(1) Although Socrates (ca. 469-399 BCE) predates Stoicism, he is viewed within the tradition as a model Stoic actor in both his actions and his methods of questioning. In this meditation Marcus draws on Socratic logic to uncover a fundamental contradiction between truth and behavior. Although there may be rational grounds for fighting and quarreling (Marcus was a warrior, as was Socrates), this behavior is intrinsically in opposition to nature, if there are no rational grounds for a conflict. The three fold method of Stoicism is examined in detail in Chapter 6 of my book, The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius: Selections Annotated and Explained. The goal of the method is to act rightly (virtuously) in all circumstances, but action must be preceded by a thorough self-searching (the goal of meditation being self knowledge, that is know thyself), followed by a relent rationally based critical examination of nature designed to uncover the Law of nature, which in turn becomes the template or guideline for virtue or morality.

(2) The image file is of Rodin's The Thinker at the Musée Rodin is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0

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 The unpublished selections presented in this Blog are provided as supplemental material to the published selections which are annotated and explained in the book.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.

1 comment:

Miguel said...

I love how Marcus starts his book by honouring all the people that made him into the man he was.

He wrote meditations in his 50s yet he humbly recalls his initial influences since childhood. This excerpt is actually referring to his adoptive father I believe, and he also praises his natural father's memory from his reputation.

There is a line where he mentions how refreshing and powerful it is to see virtues embodied by someone else - how that's the best way to appreciate them.

That's how he saw him.