Marcus Aurelius

“To read the Meditations, you would not imagine them to be the writings of a man encamped in barbarian lands in the midst of war, nor of a man commanding the largest army ever assembled on the frontier of the Roman empire, nor of a man whose empire and army were in the grip of a deadly plague. The Meditations’ lack of political or worldly anguish and anxiety is a mark of the philosophy they profess: Stoicism.”

. . .

“Beyond the realm of professional philosophy, an ever-expanding tribe of self-appointed lay philosophers profess practical strategies for worldly success: how to win friends and influence, how not to sweat the small stuff, how to free ourselves from shyness, anxiety, phobias, poverty, extra pounds, how to ensnare the perfect mate, how to care for and feed a husband or be a domestic goddess. But, again, these regimes, while they might indeed make you thinner, more confident, or more productive, do not answer life’s great metaphysical questions.

“Between the hyper-intellectual abstractions of university philosophers and the calculating, materialistic schemes of self-help gurus, lies another philosophy. This is the philosophy of the ancients, of Marcus Aurelius. It is a practice that intends to help individuals answer life’s great metaphysical questions in both material and spiritual terms: What is my place is the world, the cosmos? What is the purpose of existence? How do I live a good life? What is happiness and how do I achieve it?”

At In Character (“a journal of everyday virtues”), Emily Colette Wilkinson reviews Frank Lynn’s biography Marcus Aurelius: A Life in Stoicism Is Just So Yesterday.

Published in: on June 22, 2010 at 12:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

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