Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Marcus Aurelius on Civil Disobedience, Passive Resistance, and Non-Violence - Unpublished Selections Explained, Med. VI.50

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Meditation VI.50 - Marcus Aurelius on Civil Disobedience, Passive Resistance, and Non-Violence - Translated by George Long and rewritten by Russell McNeil (click on photograph for larger image).

Let us try to persuade everyone to be just.(1) But whenever the principles of justice require we must resist the will of others.(2) If others attempt to use force to prevent you from doing what is right, respond with gentle tranquillity.(3) Do not respond to force with anger, but with temperance.(4) Remember that you can never do what is impossible. All that you can ever desire is to be just in your own reactions. In being just you will have have achieved your goal.(5)


(1) We have a civic duty not only to to model justice, but to teach others the meaning of justice. In the modern social context persuading others to be just can be achieved through social protest movements.

(2) If the "will of others" is in the form of unjust laws, we have a duty to resist. In other words we must engage in civil disobedience when facing injustice.

(3) The Stoic response to the "use of force" must take the form of passive resistance.

(4) A Stoic can never engage in the use of force. To do so would be to act in anger, something a Stoic can never display. Temperance however is itself a virtue. A peaceful or non-violent response is the only rational response to anger, and the only strategy that has any possibility of achieving results.

(5) Marcus asks us to recall that we can be responsible only for our own actions. We may never change those who are determined to do what is wrong through violence. However our primary goal in any action must always be to do what is right ourselves - not to expect that we will reform others.

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 The unpublished selections presented in this Blog are provided as supplemental material to the published selections which are annotated and explained in the book.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

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Do you think Marcus was against the wars even himself was involved with? But did he feel he was doing what was best for rome? When is right to go to war? When is it just? If Britain had dictator like hilter would it be best to passively resist the laws or join the resistance?