“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”
“This is why we shouldn't be afraid. There are two possibilities: One is that there's more to life than the physical life, that our souls "will find an even higher place to dwell" when this life is over. If that's true, there's no reason to fear failure or death. The other possibility is that this life is all there is. And if that's true, then we have to really live it - we have to take it for everything it has and "die enormous" instead of "living dormant," as I said way back on "Can I Live." Either way, fear is a waste of time.”
Ergo, what the clay should do is life a full, enjoyable and productive life, and pay little attention to that which is out of its hands.
There are volumes upon volumes of philosophical work spent discussing this one idea. I wouldn't think less of someone simply for having a different point of view, especially if it might be supported by more than a back-of-the-envelope argument.
A god could define rules. So can men (in fact, men can be observed to create rules all the time). Anybody can define rules if they wish to do so. I'm not quite sure of the point here.
> And if it is so, how would c know that it lives a good life? By whose standards?
As a Stoic philosopher, obviously Marcus Aurelius' answer would be along the lines of the standards embraced by Stoicism. In addition to a heavy emphasis on virtue, the Stoics were also avid logicians, and this informed their ethics.
The first parent comment implies the created can dictate on what basis the creator will "welcome you".
That can only happen if the creator has given the created that specific trait. How does the created know if it has that trait?
He might have other traits like e.g. free will, but that does not mean he can make rules on how the creator will welcome him.
How else should we interpret the lack of unambiguous instructions from our supposed Creator, if not as permission to speculate on said Creator's intentions and desires for us?
A God who communicates only with insane people is indistinguishable from no God at all.
And I am sure you are right, I probably am a little crazy :-)
But that is okay, as my hope in God is an anchor for my soul, firm and secure . . . (Hebrews 6.19)
Exactly. In this setup, the created can't know. Therefore it is pointless to worry about it.
Let's say this god entity as understood by any major religion, past or present, exists. Or would that be entities?
1. It doesn't communicate its rules to its created (C) in a way that would be undeniably from It. Books can be written by anyone. Give me letters of starfire in the sky, or floating letters of stone a mile tall, or something similarly miraculous that would be an undeniable mark of its divine provenance.
2. It gives C built-in rules (a moral sense), but enforces an external set of rules that often conflict with the internal rules. Why not just implant the rules in C in the first place?
3. There are rumors among C that they are being judged, and if they don't behave according to aforementioned poorly-communicated rules, they will be "rejected". Why? As the creator it's responsible for any defects in the created.
All together these seem like the actions of a cruel psychopath who gets off on its creations failing. But these are my internal rules, you say. Sure, but it planted them in me. What else am I supposed to use? The Book (any "Book") makes no sense by these rules. And I cannot respect a creator so childish and cruel, because my internal rules forbid me to and because by my rules, I am far superior to it - I don't torture those with less power than me.
I could pretend to respect it, but if it's omniscient as is always claimed, I couldn't fool it. So the only way to live is by my rules, and if at the end it turns out that there is a creator and that it is, indeed, as described in The Book and that I am, indeed, going to Hell, I can only hope for a chance to spit in its face when I meet it.
Either it's exactly what we should be doing, god's a complete idiot, or he doesn't exist.
Regardless, not much concerning ourselves with.
Manage all your actions, words, and thoughts
accordingly, since you may at any moment quit life.
And what great matter is the business of dying ? If
the gods are in being, you can suffer nothing, for
they will do you no harm. And if they are not, or take
no care of us mortals — why, then, a world without
either gods or Providence is not worth a man's while
to live in. But, in truth, the being of the gods, and
their concern in human affairs, is beyond dispute.
And they have put it entirely in a man's power not to
fall into any calamity properly so-called. And if
other misfortunes had been really evils, they would
have provided against them too, and furnished man
with capacity to avoid them. But how can that
which cannot make the man worse make his life so ?
However as it is trying not to make assumptions about the existence of gods then it really should take into account the possibility of infinite gods. Wager value now divided by infinity or negative as believing in infinite gods is tough on your wallet.
Given that there is no evidence that the Christian God is more likely to exist than, say, Zeus, we must provide equal statistical weight to Zeus as to J.C. And so on for all the other possibilities, ad infinitum.
But it doesn't stop there. Some religions' tenets conflict directly with the tenets of others. So it can be said that there are multiple sets of compatible religions that can be held at a given time. Most of these religions are polytheistic. By contrast, adopting a monotheistic religion limits you to just one chip on the cosmic roulette table.
Ergo, from a statistical standpoint, choosing a monotheistic religion (such as Christianity) for the Wager is taking the worst possible odds.
What do you think about a premise that if one of the gods of religion exists, it is more likely to be one that has been fairly successful or at least has not allowed his following to die out, perhaps on the assumption that such a god would be fairly powerless and not much worth following anyway. I suppose you could counter that such a metric of success would depend greatly on the time period you looked at. Still, I think it might be reasonable to assert that a god who let all his followers die out is less likely to exist than a god who has inspired his followers to successfully spread his name to every country on earth for two thousand years running. If so, you might at least restrict Pascal's wager to a few "major" religions and perhaps proceed from there.
Were that the case, however, it seems strange that the same being would demand more sacrifices of some than of others, or place stricter guidelines on one group versus another. (Though perhaps God is a behavioral economist, after all, and he's simply structuring different incentives for different groups, i.e., creating the frameworks the different groups need most? But, to your point, that wouldn't account for why some groups and gods died out altogether).
"So...which religion was the right one?" someone asks.
"Mormonism," he replies. It turns out Mormonism was the correct answer. Sorry."
For example, Pascal's Wager doesn't really consider the set of hypothetical gods who are violently offended by blind faith, but these gods are no less possible than the ones it does consider.
As you aren't the OP, you can't answer the intended relevance. I do not think his reasons would match your rationalization of it. I agree with you, but doubt the OP does.
"From my grandfather's father, [I learned] to dispense with attendance at public schools, and to enjoy good teachers at home, and to recognize that on such things money should be eagerly spent."
That does reveal a cultural difference between East and West, as the oldest Chinese quotation to speak to the issue of family education of children (a much older quotation from Mencius) specifically claims that education of children by their own families is a bad idea, because injecting the teacher relationship into the family wrecks family relationships. I respectfully disagree with Mencius, having homeschooled my half-Eastern, half-Western children while living both in Taiwan and in the United States. It's interesting that Marcus Aurelius was already concerned about "public schools" at a time when "public schools" just meant "schools outside one's home" rather than "schools funded by taxes and operated by state employees."
Mike Duncan's 'a history of Rome' podcast was very informative on this and though Marcus Aurelius would have had private tutors for these things that is really what he was likely talking about when he says to have in the home
My main concern with home-schooling is that it sort of sets an upper bound to the child's learning of that which the parent knows. (although I'd guess it works quite well at younger ages provided the social contact with peers is still maintained in some way).
From all the reading I've done on educational outcomes for kids, the number one predictor of educational outcome, is socio-economic status of the parents. Sometimes exceptional teachers can move kids outside of that, but most of the time, it's what (socio-economic) 'class' you are in, not classroom.
Surprisingly this doesn't hold true in Asia, their focus on education is amazing at bridging socio economic gaps (though the above observation still holds true, but to a much lesser degree).
The SATs have initially had this effect in the United States as well: they were initially fiercely opposed by the WASP elite as their immediate effect was to bring "undesirables" like Jews (and later Asians) into what were once the holiest of hollies (Ivy League universities, flag-ship state schools).
Today, however, SATs tend to be too susceptible to cramming: ironically the efforts at making SATs more culturally fair have turned them into reinforcements of existing class structure as now cramming and expensive tutoring become viable strategies.
I'd also recommend Epicurus's writings. Not exactly stoic, but they go hand-in-hand. See: http://classics.mit.edu/Epicurus/menoec.html
Also: if you're going to take self-help advice from anyone, might as well be the World's Most Important Man (at time of writing).
but I will say I picked this up about a year ago and started reading it and was absolutely blown away by how relevant it still is 1,000 years later
I think you just answered your own question.
I can't remember who first recommended The Meditations to me, but I've found this work to be very relevant as well. What I wish I had, was more time to follow up with the writers of other Stoics. One day... sigh
And I agree wholeheartedly with what the OP said :)
It is. I was the earlier discussion, was reminded of this, and - since Stoicism has been on my mind lately anyway - I thought now might be a good time to share this, and that some people might find it interesting.
That said, I was shocked to come back online after a couple of hours and find this at the top of the front page. I thought it would get 4-5 upvotes and maybe 1 comment. :-)
"The 1964 movie Fall of the Roman Empire and the 2000 movie Gladiator both posited that he was assassinated because he intended to pass down power to Aurelius's adopted son, a Roman general.." -- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcus_Aurelius#Legacy_and_rep...
I really highly recommend it myself. A bit of history of Stoicism, but also a lot of practical advice about how to put it into practice in modern times. (Always going back to the key Stoic thinkers.)
Tim Ferriss also talks a lot about stoicism on his blog.
When I saw it on the personal mba, saw it with a note of 10/10 in Sivers’s books notes, and understood it was about “the weird thing Tim Ferriss was talking about constantly” I knew this book was worth my attention. I haven’t been disappointed, even without practicing the principles depicted in the book as much as I should it as substantially made my life better.
I have a copy of Long's and it doesn't do it justice.
If you want to dive deeper consider Pierre Hadot's 'The Inner Citadel: The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius" - http://amzn.to/YuWyvh
I am also fond of these YouTube lectures on the Meditations: http://youtu.be/nLD09Qa3kMk
"Think of the universal substance, of which thou hast a
very small portion; and of universal time, of which a short
and indivisible interval has been assigned to thee; and of
that which is fixed by destiny, and how small a part of it
Matter. How tiny your share of it.
Time. How brief and fleeting your allotment of it.
Fate. How small a role you play in it."
Actually, I'm not even sure that's a consideration I'm interested in. I might be more interested in a translation that most efficiently communicates the intended message.
Notes by Derek Sivers available at http://sivers.org/book/StoicJoy
Tim Ferriss also frequently shows his admiration for Stoicism. A quick read that also provides a broad overview with a few reading recommendations.
Stoicism 101: A Practical Guide for Entrepreneurs
"Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one."
As someone who bought this book, I'd caution against a hasty purchases of it. I found it to be excessively dry and tedious. None of the original emotional content that make the meditations so moving is present. In the meditation you can clearly see - here is a dying man asking hard questions about life. In contrast the citadel book debates the various possible translations of specific words etc. Nothing wrong with it...just tread cautiously.
I will definitely look into the other suggested translation though.
Aurelius is recommended reading, but he needs to be cut with some Epicurus. They start from the same position but reach very different conclusions. I like to think of Aurelius as being noneuclidean epicureanism. :)
I know a lot of us are into -- or getting into -- some kind of "traditional wisdom," even if we're not traditionally religious.
For me, Buddhism resonates strongest, so I'm walking that path.
Whichever path, by walking it, you affect the world. Living ethically is a great gift; it makes you a source of safety and peace.
And that shines through in your work, and many of us have livelihoods with global effects. That's a powerful fact.
There are glaring differences between Stoicism and Buddhism, of course. The Stoic definition of ethical behavior is not rooted in compassion like Buddhism is, for example, and the Stoics did not create a practice of mental training anywhere near as well-elaborated as Buddhist meditation.
My favorite philosophy reading was Plato's Republic.
Discussion of politics and ethics: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/plato-ethics-politics/
Plato generally: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/plato/
The last two links are from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. I highly recommend it if you are interested in philosophy. http://plato.stanford.edu/
One thing that pops out of the Hays translation that isn't so obvious at first glance in the Long translation, is that _Meditations_ wasn't a philosophical treatise at all, but rather a series of philosophical "Notes to Self" -- the sorts of issues he was struggling with at the time.
When you think about how you'd like your life to be different, it gives you a little bit of perspective to realize that the Emperor of the Roman Empire appeared to be primarily preoccupied with (1) death, and (2) how much he hated his coworkers (the Imperial court). Reflecting on death, he mentions if you lived thousand lives, it would be just be the same stuff over and over again. How true.
"Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Stoicism, the third great philosophy of the Ancient World."
Angie Hobbs is always worth hearing, as is this program. It's a reason to pay the license fee.
"Nothing concerns the busy man less than the business of living: nothing is so difficult to learn"
"There is, therefore, no ground for thinking that, because of his white hair or wrinkles, someone has lived too long: he has not lived a long time, but existed a long time"
Epictetus's "handbook" is also very good. You will get a lot out of both.
I have about four copies of Meditations sitting on my bookshelf. What I really enjoy about reading it is that at any point, I can pore through a chapter, find something that "hits" and is relevant to something going on in my life, and I'll process it in pen, on the page, whether I actually agree or not with the line. I write down the date whenever I pick up the book, so it's a kind of diarying reflective process.
In my experience, reading it more than a chapter or two at a time is a bit of a waste. Too many ideas going in one ear and out the other - I hit two or three and that's all that's going to stick in my head.
I've still haven't found someone who open sourced their common book journey, their resources, and resources' resources, as linked data.
Thanks for all these reading lists comments though. I REALLY appreciate it!
From Rusticus I received the impression that my character required improvement and discipline; and from him I learned not to be led astray to sophistic emulation, nor to writing on speculative matters, nor to delivering little hortatory orations, nor to showing myself off as a man who practises much discipline, or does benevolent acts in order to make a display; and to abstain from rhetoric, and poetry, and fine writing; and not to walk about in the house in my outdoor dress, nor to do other things of the kind; and to write my letters with simplicity, like the letter which Rusticus wrote from Sinuessa to my mother; and with respect to those who have offended me by words, or done me wrong, to be easily disposed to be pacified and reconciled, as soon as they have shown a readiness to be reconciled; and to read carefully, and not to be satisfied with a superficial understanding of a book; nor hastily to give my assent to those who talk overmuch; and I am indebted to him for being acquainted with the discourses of Epictetus, which he communicated to me out of his own collection.
this screams out to me a man with principles and integrity and perhaps the reason why the roman civilization was so successful, the level of reasoning and education is astounding.
note that i live in china now (for the past 6 years) and find that there's a lack of general scruples because the environment is rife with corruption, greed, deception, cheating. but as the saying goes, when in rome, i find myself adapting to these circumstances in order not to get burned, so it's really, really nice to read these thoughts. i'm not saying ancient rome wasn't filled with similar things, and who knows if marcus was a man of moral fiber or just talked the talk, but surely i'd like to believe that his uprightness got him to where he was.
Here is the URL that worked for me:
Have there been any more recent translations. I could understand reading it (untouched) in the original language. But if you're going to translate it anyway...
His overall outlook in the project was to develop in the least demanding format possible: as worded in The Chronicle of Higher Education, to him, open access meant " open access without proprietary displays, without the need for special software, without the requirement for anything but the simplest of connections."
I'm halfway through Meditations, and I do find that there are similarities. But when you look at intense practice of stoicism vs. buddhism, they promote different goals. Buddhism encourages you to abandon a normal life to dissociate yourself so you don't have to be reborn. Stoicism seems to be neutral on what to actually do with your life, besides the broad "be a good person and grow yourself" aspect.
Oh, and your vinegar is sour. My vinegar rocks. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vinegar_tasters
This random Google Books result expands on a comparison along those lines: http://books.google.com/books?id=yLQ-GQTcwVkC&pg=PA67
Anyway, I don't think anything has "changed" I think it as just a case of somebody taking the initiative to post this, and it just happening to be somewhat timely (there was another thread discussing stoicism earlier) and being of interest to a broad cross-section of HN readers. shrug
Hackers are getting into Stoicism now? The world really is coming around to points of view that I thought were my individual peculiarities. Fantastic!
Couple of links to contribute something other than my amazement:
Well mindcrime, Stoicism has been on my mind for well over 20 years, and I'm simply agreeing with your "shock" that a simple link to the Meditations is on the front page.
Let me assure you, this level of recognition of the very word is new. It may be only the Tim Ferriss PR machine, but I think it's more than that.
Geek/hackers that I've come across over the last 30 years have much more in tune with such awful hackneyed dungeons and dragons/Tolkien crap than anything so sophisticated.
Of course, I'm FAR from an expert on this topic myself, and one thing I'm really happy about, from this thread, are all the great links and suggestions for other reading material.
PS - don't just read, take notes and write your own reflections. That's the way to learn.