Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Stoics Must Walk the Walk - The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius - Unpublished Selections Explained, Med. XI.29
Meditation XI.29 – Stoics Must Walk the Walk - Translated by George Long and rewritten by Russell McNeil
Neither in writing nor in reading will you be able to lay down rules for others before you shall have first learned to obey rules yourself.1 Much more is this so in life.2
(1) Marcus makes frequent reference to reading and writing in his meditations. Stoic methodology is based on objective inquiry - in many respects it anticipates the modern hypothetico-deductive model of the scientific method, with one notable difference. The goal of Stoic inquiry is to discover the rules of engagement in life through an objective examination of nature. Scientific method, in contrast, is detached from moral inquiry. In Stoicism the laws of nature are abstract templates for virtue. They are the "rules" Marcus refers to in the meditation. because we have free will, it is possible, of course, to acquire an intellectual understanding of these rules, and then to ignore them. But it is only in acting in accord with those rules that a Stoic can truly understand what living rightly means. Living rightly in Stoic terms confers enlightenment (serenity) on the actor. This is a state of being that is the goal of all Stoics. Without this experience it is not possible to effectively guide or advise others. To attempt to do so would be false and inauthentic.
(2) A sage Stoic, qua Stoic, must walk the walk before attempting to lead. Marcus must certainly be reflecting about himself - about his writing, his reading, his teaching, and about his leadership - in this deeply personal reflection.
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 The unpublished selections presented in this Blog are provided as supplemental material to the published selections which are annotated and explained in the book.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.