Saturday, January 23, 2010

Look to Yourself for Answers - Unpublished Selections Explained, Med. VII.44

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Meditation VII.44 - Look to Yourself for Answers - Translated by George Long and rewritten by Russell McNeil

From Plato:(1) But I would make this man a sufficient answer, which is this: You say not well, if you think that a man who is good for anything at all ought to compute the hazard of life or death, and should not rather look to this only in all that he does, whether he is doing what is just or unjust, and the works of a good or a bad man.(2)


(1) Probably an allusion to an exchange between Socrates and Crito.

(2) Who should "compute the hazard of life or death?" In other words, on questions of morality where ought we seek advice? In the modern age of narrow specialization we tend to defer to those with demonstrated skills in theology, or philosophy, or situational ethics - that is we seek council from those who are "good for anything at all." But questions of right and wrong are not dependent upon specialized knowledge or demonstrated skill. We know we are just when we act rightly toward others and not in our self-interest. It is perfectly fine to engage in conversation with others about what is right or wrong - we ought to do that. But the ultimate decision about right and wrong is yours alone. You must be the judge. You must set your own moral compass. You must develop your own opinion. You must act independently of others. You must determine what is right based on your own carefully considered meditative exercise. The deferrment of a moral question to someone else represents a failure of reason. The Stoic views this as "thoughtlessness," one of the five so-called commandments of Stoicism - a disregard of any of which is a breach in our basic humanity and contrary to nature (for a thorough discussion of this please see Meditation II.16 in the book - Chapter 3, "Stoicism and Vice," p. 61).

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 The unpublished selections presented in this Blog are provided as supplemental material to the published selections which are annotated and explained in the book.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