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Tristan Sharp Professor McCain Ancient Philosophy

4 November 2011 The Meditations: Marcus Aurelius Section 2 One of the last great emperors of the Roman Empire Marcus Aurelius before the chaotic third century AD, he embraced the stoic philosophy whole heatedly and even went so far as to gain the nick name Graeculus (little Greek) do to his love of philosophy. Stoicism is system of thought that drew from the rich heritage of the Hellenistic thought. It viewed philosophy as a means to achieve an inner sense of balance or repose in an ever changing world. The Stoics called this ataraxia. The Mediations written when Marcus Aurelius was campaigning against the Allemani in what is now southern Germany and Austria, is a clear and lucid exposition of Stoic philosophy and an intimate view into one of the most morally upright man to have been given the title Augustus and Imperator. Marcus Aurelius believed that philosophy can provide a solace for the human condition, a tool unto which we can apply to live better and more ethical lives, while at the same time maintain a sense of inner calm and composure. His argument is as follows. If human life via nature is subject to ceaseless change and physical things are but a flowing stream, then we are led to become discontented with the universe. If we become discontented with the universe we rebel against nature. If we rebel against nature we are led to among many other things to do acts at random, without purpose which in turns violate our soul. This is negative and violates our souls, because we

violate our souls when we rebel against nature. It is our nature because we are rational beings and thus teleological beings that pursue ends. Therefore to not pursue ends is to rebel against our nature, which is the same as rebelling against nature in general. But, if we study philosophy we guard our inner spirit inviolate and unharmed because we will not violate our soul because we shall never act aimlessly thus pursuing ends which is in accordance with our nature. Therefore we should study philosophy. Marcus Aurelius present an interesting and convincing argument for the study of philosophy. However there are certain premises that could be open to dispute. The most disconcerting is that we violate our souls when we become discontented with universe for there are many things that happen in the universe that would be valid cause for discontentment such as war, death, famine, disease etc. If we acquiesce to all that happens in the universe we are liable to fall prey to apathy and not oppose that which is harmful to ourselves and those around us. This being stated his premise that human beings are end seeking beings is a profound insight into the human condition and one that I think is true, for are we not always oriented toward a task as Marcus Aurelius states even the most trifling actions must be directed toward the end.