Saturday, April 18, 2009

Stoic Free Will - The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius - Unpublished Selections Explained, Med. XI.36

Meditation XI.36 – Stoic Free Will - Translated by George Long and rewritten by Russell McNeil

No one can rob us of our free will.1,2 (Epictetus, iii. 22, 105)


(1) Human beings are completely autonomous with regard to opinion. No one can compel us to hold an opinion that we oppose. Of course it is opinion that drives the will. This then is the sense that the will is also autonomous or free. This does not mean that the opinion we hold, or that the will that we exercise is always right. Marcus also distinguishes between right opinion (opinion that is in accord with nature) and false opinion (opinion that is contrary to nature). In Stoicism right opinion comes from a careful exercise of reason following a process of multi-dimensional critical thinking, and is generally bound to ends revolving around the success of the human community in some form. A false opinion, in Stoic logic, is an opinion dictated by emotion or animal instinct, and is generally bound to ends revolving around maximizing of personal pleasure, fame, power, or the avoidance of discomfort. A fuller discussion of the Stoic position on free will is found in my book in Chapter 1, "The Promise of Stoicism," The Power of Opinion, p. 14.

(2) Image by Russell McNeil: "Sea Gull, Piper's lagoon, Nanaimo, British Columbia"

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 The unpublished selections presented in this Blog are provided as supplemental material to the published selections which are annotated and explained in the book.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

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