Saturday, July 18, 2009

Straight Thinking - Unpublished Selections Explained, Med. VIII.60

Meditation VIII.60 - Straight Thinking - Translated by George Long and rewritten by Russell McNeil

In one way an arrow moves, in another way the mind. The mind indeed, both when it exercises caution and when it is employed about inquiry, moves straight onward not the less, and to its object.1


(1) This is a key idea in Stoic method. Stoicism is intensely cerebral. The chief activity of any Stoic - inquiry - is essentially scientific as outlined further in Meditation X.09. The heuristic methodology sketched out by Aurelius there involves the cautious application of both reductionist and synthetic tactics. This is in effect the core of the hypothetico-deductive scientific method, outlined by Stoics fifteen hundred years before Galileo's pioneering application of this method at the beginning of the modern era. The approach dismisses any recourse to occult or transcendent supernatural causes (which might deflect the mind from its straight course), and maintains that all natural occurrences are under the influence of a natural law, or a complex interaction of laws. The "object" of inquiry in Stoic terms is the law. Stoicism differs from modern science in its goal. In science an understanding of the law of nature is an end in itself. However the laws of nature to a Stoic serve as templates for virtue. The key to the Stoic imperative of living according to nature is to understand the moral implications embedded in all natural law.

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 The unpublished selections presented in this Blog are provided as supplemental material to the published selections which are annotated and explained in the book.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