Marcus Aurelius: Death

In his Meditations, Marcus Aurelius seems preoccupied with death. But context matters. Infant mortality was high in the ancient world, and plague (which Marcus contracted but survived) was a constant threat. Marcus also spent much of his reign on the battlefield.  From Meditations by Marcus Aurelius Death is no loss Death: something like birth, a natural mystery, elementsContinue reading “Marcus Aurelius: Death”

Marcus Aurelius: Impermanence

Impermanence is usually associated with Buddhism. But it’s important in Stoicism too. From Meditations by Marcus Aurelius Existence is like a river Everything’s destiny is to change, to be transformed, to perish – so that new things can be born (12.21). Time is a river, a violent current of events, glimpsed once and already carried pastContinue reading “Marcus Aurelius: Impermanence”

Marcus Aurelius: Meditations on justice & providence

Marcus Aurelius claimed that everything that happens is just (4.10). This is so because divine providence determines everything (4.26). But his view is irrational because if everything is just then injustice doesn’t exist. Yet, if justice – the basis of all Stoic virtue (11.10) – is moot then Stoic virtue also is moot. Ancient Epicureans criticized Stoicism alongContinue reading “Marcus Aurelius: Meditations on justice & providence”

Marcus Aurelius and the soul

Ancient Stoic belief saw human beings as having a spark of the divine. Today that’s often seen as a metaphor for the human capacity for reason. From Meditations by Marcus Aurelius Soul as a spark of the divine “To live with the gods.” To do that is to show them that your soul accepts what itContinue reading “Marcus Aurelius and the soul”

Marcus Aurelius and the gods

Stoicism is usually described as pantheistic. But Marcus Aurelius and other Stoics also refer to the gods, which sounds polytheistic. Modern Stoicism is open to non-theistic and theistic perspectives. From Meditations by Marcus Aurelius God & Providence Everything is interwoven in a sacred bond. There is one God in the whole. There is one substance, oneContinue reading “Marcus Aurelius and the gods”

Nature, the Universe & the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius believed in an interconnected universe where everything is just and happens according to divine will – even if that means you’re oppressed. Modern science has not vindicated the ancient Stoic view of nature. Their rivals – the Epicureans – believed that nature is atomistic, impersonal, and that divine providence doesn’t exist.  From Meditations byContinue reading “Nature, the Universe & the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius”

Marcus Aurelius & Meditations: A 300 word summary

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius is a brilliant read, but not an easy one. Marcus called it To Himself. It’s a journal, not a polished book. He jumps from topic to topic, then back to the same topic, with many repetitions. What are the major themes? In future posts I’ll go into detail. For now I’ll sayContinue reading “Marcus Aurelius & Meditations: A 300 word summary”

Where do human rights come from?

Are human rights government creations? Or do human rights pre-exist government – being derived from nature – with government tasked with protecting those rights? These are important questions because the answers weigh heavily on what rights we have and whether they can legitimately be taken away. If we have free speech only because the governmentContinue reading “Where do human rights come from?”

Did Buddhism influence Stoicism?

Both teach nonattachment, impermanence, and interconnectedness. Both advise self-control, especially when strong emotions are involved. Both teach that how we think about things determines how we experience life. Both say that we create our own suffering by constantly yearning for more while failing to appreciate what we have. And most of all, both place a strongContinue reading “Did Buddhism influence Stoicism?”

Is everything that happens just?

Seems like a silly question. If everything is just then injustice doesn’t exist. Just like if everything were yellow then red wouldn’t exist. But in his Meditations, Marcus Aurelius writes, If you attend well, you will find that whatever happens, happens justly. I don’t mean only in an exact order and destined connexion, but alsoContinue reading “Is everything that happens just?”