Saturday, May 9, 2009
A Stoic Must Engage in Philosophy - The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius - Unpublished Selections Explained, Med. XI.07
Meditation XI.07 - A Stoic Must Engage in Philosophy - Translated by George Long and rewritten by Russell McNeil
How plain does it appear that there is not another condition of life so well suited for philosophising as this in which you now happen to be.1
(1) Marcus would view modern society as having abrogated its central responsibility by allowing a hijacking of "philosophy" by intellectuals. In fact, many people in our world have marginalized the very word "philosophy." We conjure up images of worried academics philosophizing over conflicting arguments around the meaning of life. But the central task of the Stoic is philosophy, a word that means nothing more than seeking the truth. Philosophy, for the Stoic, is not the domain of the elite. It is what we all must do in order to be happy. The philosophy of 2nd century Rome did not require a university degree. Any time we reflect about how we ought to act in the world requires that we first check the rules. We ask ourselves if what we are about to do is self-serving, or other-serving. That is all that philosophy requires. The trick however is in the question. Many of us are unable to see the difference, or able to recognize that there even is a difference. To engage this question we need first to understand who and what we are in relationship to others. That requires that we "know ourselves." Knowing ourselves requires meditation. Meditation requires an inner journey. This inner journey is, paradoxically, a social act. It is a social act because the act of self-discovery will reveal that we are inextricably connected to the community: we come from nature; we live in nature; we return to nature at death. This is the method of Stoicism. The "Method of Stoicism" is examined in more detail in the book (Chapter 6, p. 129-151).
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 The unpublished selections presented in this Blog are provided as supplemental material to the published selections which are annotated and explained in the book.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.