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Marcus Aurelius' Meditations: How Stoic are They?

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Duration: 0:57:26 | Added: 13 Feb 2014
Christopher Gill (Exeter) gives a talk on Marcus Aurelius' Meditations and asks How Stoic are They?

Abstract: In this paper I address the longstanding question whether the Meditations present orthodox Stoic philosophy or a personal or eclectic selection of themes. In approaching this question I stress the importance of taking into account what seems to be Marcus’ core project in the Meditations (namely, promoting his own ethical self-development) and also of taking full note of the themes which recur most commonly in the work before focusing on the more exceptional and puzzling features. I suggest that Marcus’ core project in the work and many specific points made in the Meditations reflect key standard ideas in Stoic ethics, especially the distinctive account of development as oikeiōsis (Marcus, like us, seems especially familiar with Cicero’s presentations of this in de Finibus 3.17-22, 62-8). As in many other Stoic writings, the significance of the interface of ethics with logic/dialectic or physics is stressed by Marcus; standard themes that are evoked repeatedly include the ideal of wisdom as ‘dialectical virtue’ (D.L. 7.46-8 = LS 31 B) and the definition of the goal of life as bringing your daimōn into line with the rational direction of the whole (D.L. 7.88 = LS 63C(3-4)). Within this interface area, certainly, there are some unexpected motifs, including rather Platonic-looking mind-body dualism and (at least in a few cases) seemingly inappropriate use of the ‘providence or atoms’ disjunction. However, the best explanation for these features is, I think, premature or over-hasty moralisation within a fundamentally Stoic framework, rather than philosophical amateurishness or eclecticism.

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