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Gregory Hood and Chris Roberts discuss Meditations by Marcus Aurelius and his Stoic philosophy.

Thumbnail credit: Steven Zucker via Flickr. License.

(Republished from Left, Right, and White by permission of author or representative)
• Category: History, Ideology • Tags: Marcus Aurelius, Stoicism 
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  1. anonymous[393] • Disclaimer says:

    Yes that’s truly a great book. Stoicism seems to have echoes of the spirituality of ancient India … one wonders if it came from India, or if the West had a deeper tradition (Atlantis?) now lost

    The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, written in the 100s CE, was written in Greek … by the Roman Emperor … pointing to the whole curious question of why it was that most ‘classical’ Latin literature seems to disappear after the 1st century CE

    The standard explanation is that, given Greek teachers and the sway of Greek culture, by the mid 100s the Romans preferred to do their writing and serious intellectual discussion in Greek. But this isn’t really all that logical, if Latin really was the language of the empire … and Latin literature being quite glorious enough.

    A counter-theory is that classical Latin was not so much a living language but more a kind of short-hand, evinced in part by the much lower word count of a typical Latin passage, than the translation in most other European languages

    One of the truly epic intellectual discourses on Unz Review, was that of the ‘First Millennium Revisionist’, who showed the suprisingly large amount of scholarship and evidence that historical timelines have been fudged … ancient Rome is maybe 600 years closer to us than we think, the ‘Dark Ages’ only greatly ‘unknown’ because in fact in some ways they never happened

  2. a dissent.

    even though Roman history isn’t my real forte, I’ve always been of the opinion Marky Mark was kind of a dipshit. Stoicism is a philosophy designed to get one through a life of travails, because life was hard back then. A form of intellectual distraction that might let you survive dad being killed by the powerful clan in the next town over, and mom dying of plague, and your sisters being sold into slavery while your children starve to death, etc etc.

    But M.A., as Imperator of the Roman Empire, was essentially the most powerful person on earth. An opportunity of ten thousand lifetimes to Do As You Will, for good or evil. And he turned his back on that opportunity, because, we’re all told, because he was just such a peachy fellow. Yeah, no. Marcus Aurelius: rube? idiot? coward?

    Then there’s that whole ‘succession’ thing. Marcus came along at the tail end of Rome’s absolute peak – a hundred years of ‘good emperors.’ The way that worked was the emperor of the moment (literally) adopted the most powerful/capable military commander. Doing that seemed to bypass a lot of palace/senatorial intrigue, skip over messy battles of succession, and place the Empire into the hands of a strong, competent man *who had already proven himself* to be capable of running large-scale enterprises; and who was also – very importantly – loved by the army, which was a huge deal.

    Marcus knew all that, knew it very well indeed. Shoot, that’s how he became top dog. But nooo, mister super-wise stoic pissed away that hundred-year win streak and placed *his own idiot son* on the throne. With entirely predictable results: chaos. I believe that more than any other person that came along after Vespasian miraculously righted the ship of state, Marcus Aurelius doomed Rome. Nice work, stoic boy.

    I’m aware my view of M.A. is at odds with allll the many many books & articles TPTB put out extolling his extreme wonderfulness. But nowdays, that’s actually kind of a proof of my argument, nein?

    • Disagree: Bill Jones
  3. In several respects, Stoicism makes the same conceptual errors as Christianity, and is therefore dangerously inadequate as a philosophy for racists. Primary among these errors is minimizing the importance of the body. Just as Christianity asserts that the only important thing about a man is his “soul” (whatever that’s supposed to be), Stoicism similarly exalts reason. But if the body isn’t important, then why preserve race? If the body has nothing to do with the mind’s reasoning ability, how can there be any racial differences in cognition? Reducing the essence of a man to his reason allows no basis for discrimination, since every featherless biped has at least rudimentary reasoning ability.

    Then there is the problem of the similar treatment of free will in Christianity and Stoicism. This is a subsidiary problem that arises from Stoicism’s failure to understand the mind/body relationship. If everyone’s will is equally free, and constrained in no way by biological limitations, then it’s necessarily true that all races are equally free to behave in the same way; or in other words, that there are no racial characteristics that are fixed.

    Racism only makes sense in the context of a scientific view of reality; a view that holds we are nothing but our bodies, and that the mind, the “soul” or reason, is nothing but our subjective, internal perception of the brain’s operation. Neither Christianity nor pre-Christian Stoicism takes such a view, and thus they are rendered worthless as defenses of race.

  4. This will take me a while to internalize, but I see why it’s a good influence. I was lucky to read about Norse and Greek mythology, and the Crusades in children’s text books my parents gave me, at the same time I was first becoming influenced by TV. It gave me some idea about a Western or white code of honour that had ancient roots, and encouraged an inner strength and life. It’s good to find knowledge I only caught glimpses of as a child.

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