Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Marcus Aurelius' "Meditations": A Summary

Look, there's a lot of unavoidable bullshit out there. Tons of it, in fact, and there is precisely nothing you can do about it. The sooner you accept that, the better your life will be; rather than bitching and complaining, learn to deal with it. Or, of course, you could keep whining like a little bitch; sure, maybe that'll fix everything.


There are two ways your existence could turn out: either there are no gods, in which case nothing means anything, so fuck it; or there are gods and they'll take care of us in the life to come. And by two ways, I actually mean only one way, since I think we can all agree that the gods definitely exist. If there's one thing I'm absolutely sure about, it's those bros. Still, your body is going to be dust in a hundred years, and all that really matters is your mind. Does anyone here remember who won the first Olympics? Yeah, I didn't think so. Only things of the mind last; therefore, it's supremely important to cultivate your mind on your own, to think for yourself. And the best way to do that? You guessed it - fucking philosophy, bro.



You absolutely must elevate your mind above the petty bullshit, the shallow and superficial. And that means the shit you think is 'good' as well as bad. Money is meaningless to the gods, whether you have none or plenty. Trust me, we emperors are rich motherfuckers. It's not that great. Pleasure too - Caesar had several servants assigned exclusively to the royal penis. He's famous as shit - there are those creepy-ass statues of his head everywhere. For all that, he's still dead. There's nothing intrinsically good or evil to money or pleasure or anything else common to all or fleeting in this life. Only philosophy helps us know the will of the gods, and serve them, which is, in the end, the only thing that really matters.


Philosophy isn't just reading what dead guys said or contemplating the sun. It's about putting the will of the gods into action, no matter what they've given you to do. We should all be dignified public servants, fearless, striving for what's good instead of what's popular. Seriously, if you have something to say, fucking say it; the truth always comes out. Until then, it is better to live in the favor of the gods who see all and be hated by fallible men than the other way around. If some petty motherfucker hates you, maybe he spreads a rumor or throws a rock.  So what? On the other hand, if Jupiter isn't thrilled with you, well, you're pretty much fucked then, huh?


The gods don't speak directly to us. It's even easier than that: they have given us all reason and conscience to figure out our duty, and fortune will correct our mistakes; no matter what, they get what they want. Fighting it won't get you anywhere. No one who earnestly and eagerly sought the will of the gods has ever gone wrong. Don't pray to 'score hot bitches' or 'make mad money' - if the gods want that, it'll happen. If not, you're just going to piss them off. You can't control the world. All you can control is your interior life. Pray, then, only to desire what the gods desire for you, to desire what you know is good, and let the chips fall where they may.


In conclusion, get over yourself. Nothing outside of you is within your control, so don't waste your effort. You'll only make yourself more miserable. Be serene, dignified, patient, and honest at all times; that, and that alone, is within your power.

16 comments:

  1. These are just the perfect length.

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  2. A leader of a massive empire writing his own philosophy. Seriously, we have decayed tremendously now.

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    1. yeah. feels bad man.

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  3. decayed? no... Marcus Aurelius was just a badass.. only other person I can think of that led a country and write anything that resembled philosophy before or since is Benito Mussolini. And on a side note, I don't think anybody would say we've regressed from the time of such great leaders as Mussolini.

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  4. seems like a pretty half-baked philosophy. It starts with "I know the gods exist" and goes downhill from there. How is pleasure not intrinsically good? How exactly are we equipped to know the will of the gods? And fuck, tons of people who purported to be following the ways of their respective god(s) have fucked up majorly. Aurelius may have been a badass, but he could have let this one marinate a little longer.

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    1. this is true as well, but even though the points aren't as fleshed out as say Aristotle's were, for a guy who was fighting wars and running an empire too, I would say that we can let the vagueness not bring his philosophy down too too much. He said what he wanted to say without too much bullshit. He didn't need to say what he believed Gods exist, as the reason has always been the same- faith.

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  5. Look at Taoism, Existentialism, Justice as Fairness (contract theory in general), Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, etc. Pleasure is not necessarily intrinsically good, it is only treated as such in hedonistic theories such as utilitarianism (actually it is the definition of hedonistic ethical theory).... umm, dude.

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  6. @Captain Spaceman: I think the problem is the misunderstanding of Marcus Aurelius's argument for the existence of the gods. The logos is identified as the reasoning force of nature, thus anything that happens outside of one's control is good, since it is an effect of the logos (and essentially reason, which, following Aristotle, is the greatest good).

    His argument for the gods, however, is an argument for living virtuously. If the gods exist and they are good, then they would want me to live virtuously; if they exist and are evil, then I would not want to worship them, and if they do not exist I will have no regrets so long as I live virtuously.

    Lastly, pleasure is defined as a hedonistic pleasure to the Stoics. The problem with it is that if the logos is the greatest good and causes something that is not pleasurable, then how can pleasure be the greatest good? This is why the Stoics disagree with Epicurus, even though Epicurus defines pleasure as the absence of pain. If pain is caused by the logos, the Stoics claim to accept it willingly.

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  7. Also, the Stoics are pantheists, therefore their gods are nature and vice versa. As a side note to agreeing with Adam, following the will of the gods is doing good for nature, the general good, for the public, exercising and developing inner strength and perseverance. This last part also agrees with PB's summary, even though I personally don't agree with his explanation that this makes us powerless and that therefore we have no control over anything but our own mind.

    However, then again, this depends on what we look upon as "control", as most of Aurelius' views involve interaction, and generally speaking, I think (perhaps a little bit out of the bounds of his philosophy) that by doing what is "right" and by putting inner strengths into action we eventually grow to become leaders of our own sort and develop both internal and external control. The usage of this control is what determines whether you are following Aurelius.

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  8. Even setting all of the arguments about gods aside, one of the most helpful bits to come out of Stoicism is the notion that you really have no guaranteed power over anything outside your mind and, thus, that that's where happiness comes from.

    Situations change, everything around you's impermanent, so relying on those for happiness just doesn't work. You have to learn to be happy ('choose' to be happy) regardless of the shit that goes on.

    Stoicism has a lot in common with Cynicism and Buddhism in these ways, with focus on minimizing attachments. Buddhism focuses more on peace and transience, Cynicism focuses more on brutal honesty and simplicity, and Stoicism focuses more on iron will and forsaking inspired emotion (because when other things decide your emotions, they control you), but they've all got a similar foundation in regard to the pursuit of happiness.

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  9. Sorry Bros. Think you got it all wrong. Stoicism isn't the pursuit of happiness at all. It's limiting unhappiness in your life. Not to be confused with pursuing happiness, which is something else entirely and quite pointless as the Stoics and Buddhists point out.

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  10. For the matter. Indifference is also a major concept exclusive to Stoicism. So, no mixing up Buddhism (compassion) with Stoicism plz thx bros.

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  11. which paragraph(s) would apply to books 6 through 9?

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  12. haha thank you this makes my life easier

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  13. you are a fcukin' genius :D

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  14. How about appreciating the mans wisdom, his intrinsic closeness to himself and the world around him. His writings are as relevant today, as they have always been. For those who have not read meditations, it's never too late. Some of the writings are difficult to follow, but the message is there nonetheless. It can help to clear a clogged up mind. Mmmwah bitches

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