Tuesday, May 5, 2009

We Imitate Nature as Nature Imitates Justice - The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius - Unpublished Selections Explained, Med. XI.10

Meditation XI.11 - We Imitate Nature as Nature Imitates Justice - Translated by George Long and rewritten by Russell McNeil

There is no nature which is inferior to art, for the arts imitate the nature of things.1 But if this is so, then nature which is the most perfect and the most comprehensive of all natures, cannot fall short of the skill of art.2 Now all arts do the inferior things for the sake of the superior; therefore the universal nature does so too.3 And, indeed, hence is the origin of justice, and in justice the other virtues have their foundation:4 for justice will not be observed, if we either care for middle things (things indifferent), or are easily deceived and careless and changeable.5


(1) This theory that all art is a form of imitation (mimesis) or re-presentation of nature originates in Plato's Republic where art is defined as twice removed, because every element in nature is itself an imitation of the form of an idea which gives rise to each of the elements in nature.

(2) A copy or imitation of anything can never be as perfect or authentic as the original. Modern science would support this on the basis of the second law of thermodynamics, or the law of entropy.

(3) Art is inferior to nature. The universal nature re-presents (imitates) justice (once removed) from the form of the idea of justice - which must be superior, just as the human mind re-presents nature (in the various arts - twice removed) from the superior original form of justice.

(4) Human justice is a virtue achieved through human actions. Human justice is imitative of a universal law of nature but that law itself is inferred from reason when we observe the various relationships in nature.

(5) The necessity of justice will never be understood if we observe only the "middle" things because, in caring only for middle things we are blind to the truths of nature which are observed only from a close and careful examination of nature.

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 The unpublished selections presented in this Blog are provided as supplemental material to the published selections which are annotated and explained in the book.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