Marcus Aurelius was a Stoic philosopher, and anyone who reads his book titled: Meditations, may agree he was a Stoic who lived trying to make Stoicism applicable in his life. He was born 121 A.D. and became a Roman Emperor in 161 A.D. until he died in 180 A.D. (Kamtekar). Understanding Marcus Aurelius’s philosophy and struggles with the application of Stoicism may help the philosopher understand Stoicism, which may result in assisting to make Stoic philosophy applicable to the reader’s life.
The Meditations is comprised of 12 books consisting of Marcus’s private notes and reflections on Stoic philosophy. Most of his rule as emperor was spent on military deployments; therefore, it is highly probable his books were written during his campaigns. This book is relevant toward understanding Aurelius’s thoughts of philosophy because there are not many sources outside the Meditation which clearly articulates his thought.
The following quotes from Marcus Aurelius correspond with the teachings of Stoic philosophy. Marcus wrote:
“If thou art pained by any external thing, it is not this that disturbs thee, but thy own judgment about it. And it is in thy power to wipe out this judgment now” (book 8).
“Put an end once for all to this discussion of what a good man should be, and be one” (book 10).
“Soon you’ll be ashes or bones. A mere name at most—and even that is just a sound, an echo. The things we want in life are empty, stale, trivial” (book 5).
“Whatever happens to you has been waiting to happen since the beginning of time. The twining strands of fate wove both of them together: your own existence and the things that happen to you” (book 5).
We see in these quotes, the Stoic phycological/philosophical applications of attempting to ignore or remove negative emotions such as; anger, grief, and anxiety, and instead focusing on positive emotions such as joy and tranquility. For the Stoics, it is not so much the outside events of life that bring joy or suffering, but instead; suffering can be manipulated and happiness attained by the power of the mind or merely changing one’s perspective. The third quote reflects on the Stoic concentration of death, and that it could happen at any moment, so one ought to take advantage of each day as if knowing it were their last. The last quote is interesting because it clearly demonstrates the Stoic concept of fatalism.
There is so much more to write regarding Stoic philosophy; and since my introduction to it, I will personally take the time to study it for my own edification; furthermore, the writings of Marcus Aurelius in the Meditations, in my opinion, may be considered the bible of the Stoics, and critical to understanding the application of Stoicism.
Kamtekar, Rachana. Marcus Aurelius. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 29 Nov. 2010.
Web. 11 May. 2017. [https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/marcus-aurelius/].
Aurelius, Marcus., Long, George. The Meditations. The Internet Classics Archive. 1994 – 2009.
Web. 11 May. 2017. [http://classics.mit.edu/Antoninus/meditations.html].