Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Inhumanity - Unpublished Selections Explained, Med. VII.65
Meditation VII.65 - Inhumanity - Translated by George Long and rewritten by Russell McNeil
Take care not to feel towards the inhuman, as they feel towards the human.1
(1) Marcus Aurelius does not dispute that we humans are animals. But unlike animals we humans are endowed with reason, and it is reason that sets us apart from other forms of life because - according to Stoic philosophy - our capacity for reason is linked materially to a universal intelligence or Logos which is also sometimes referred to as the world soul. Because this world soul is identified with divinity (in the sense that it is eternal and invincible) and with nature (in the sense that it is not supernatural but physical and in theory measurable), we - as humans - are also endowed with divine potential. When we reach out to other human beings (or other sentient life forms) we are connected in ways that no non-human life form can achieve. Marcus is not disparaging the relationships that human beings may form with other animals - or for that matter with human beings who act in inhuman ways. The human capacity for kindness and compassion is generally lacking in those who act inhumanely - toward other human beings or toward animals. Inhumanity is usually equated with cruelty. Animals are not capable of cruelty, but human beings are. When we are treated in cruel ways we should never respond in kind. We have only one way in which to respond - with love and compassion - even toward our enemies. No Stoic will ever identify with revenge or advocate the punishment of a wrong doer. This does not mean we ought not restrain inhuman actions. In fact we must. Our duty is to enlighten, to educate, to reform. As with all aspects of Stoic philosophy, what is important is not how we restrain, but the attitude we take toward restraint. Our objective in response to all forms of inhumanity must always be to do so humanely. This is what we - as humans - are meant to do.
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 The unpublished selections presented in this Blog are provided as supplemental material to the published selections which are annotated and explained in the book.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.