|Course: Philosophy 1000
Instructor: Alexander lzrailevsky
Date: April 16, 2012
Marcus Aurelius--- Your life is your fate; your fate is your life!
Your life is your fate; your fate is your life!
Fate, is a very interesting thing in the world. Somebodies believe in fate a lot; while somebodies do not even think it exits. Marcus Aurelius, a famous philosopher who talked about fate very much. He believed our life is actually our fate; or our fate is actually our life.
Marcus Aurelius was born in AD 121. His early education was overseen by the Emperor Hadrian, and he was later adopted by the Emperor Antoninus Pius in AD 138. After an initial education in rhetoric undertaken by Fronto, Marcus later abandoned it in favor of philosophy. Marcus became Emperor himself in AD 161, initially alongside Lucius Verus, becoming sole Emperor in AD 169. Continual attacks meant that much of his reign was spent on campaign, especially in central Europe. However, he did find time to establish four Chairs of Philosophy in Athens, one for each of the principal philosophical traditions (Platonic, Aristotelian, Stoic, and Epicurean).
He was the last of the "Five Good Emperors", and is also considered one of the most important Stoic philosophers. During his reign, the Empire defeated a revitalized Parthian Empire; Aurelius' general Avidius Cassius sacked the capital Ctesiphon in 164. Aurelius fought the Marcomanni, Quadi, and Sarmatians with success during the Marcomannic Wars, but the threat of the Germanic tribes began to represent a troubling reality for the Empire. A revolt in the East led by Avidius Cassius failed to gain momentum and was suppressed immediately. He died in AD 180.
In this paper, my thesis statement is Marcus Aurelius’ philosophy focus on fate very much! Fatalism is the basic concept of his philosophy. Your life Is your fate; Your fate is your life!
Stoicism is a vital concept of the philosophy of Marcus Aurelius. Stoicism is the western of the western philosophy, which is very comprehensive. It talked about “logos”. Logos is the spiritual Blueprint of nature; it is the law; it is the essence of life; it is the spirit of our existence; it is the structure of the world.
Logos is similar to “Tao” from Lao-tzu. They both are the essence of the universe. However, Tao is not a spiritual form of nature while Logos is a spiritual form of nature, like edioses. Also, Lao-tzu insists that Tao cannot be logically defined; we can only approximately understand it. In contrast, Logos is a structure and can be logically defined. It can be understood.
A very important concept of Marcus Aurelius’ philosophy is “Fatalism”. Your life is your fate! He said freedom of will is an illusion. Life is pre-shaped and pre-structured. We can never pretend to be a special guy. It is a kind of philosophy of self-sacrifice.
Therefore, we have to control our feelings and emotions. Serenity: we need a total acceptance with whatever happens to us. We have to accept our fate no matter we like it or even we suffer from it. In other words, the only way is to stay in scene. “You are formed by nature to bear everything, with respect to which it depends on your own opinion to make it endurable and tolerable, by thinking that it is either your interest or your duty to do this.” (Marcus Aurelius, P.95).
But Marcus Aurelius has a very interesting thinking. He believes that women and children have the right to be emotional, but men do not! Men are supposed to be stronger and have more responsibility.
Another concept form Marcus Aurelius is to control yourself and influence others. The only person you can be tough at is yourself. But you have to be very nice to others. If you find the others do something bad or wrong, you cannot control or ignore him or her, you have to influence him or her in a soft way.
Moreover, we have to fulfill our duty unconditionally, even if the others do not fulfill their duty to you. So you cannot say if you don’t do it for me, I will not do it for you either. For Marcus Aurelius, we should “if you don’t do it for me, I still do it for you”.
In addition, Marcus Aurelius had mentioned about values and anti-values. Values include simplicity, honesty, integrity, strength, generosity and compassion. It means we have to be simple (close to Lao-tzu) and honest. “Adorn yourself with simplicity and modesty and with indifference towards the things which lie between virtue and vice. Love mankind. Follow God” (Marcus Aurelius, P.66) How about anti-values? They include greed, dishonesty, hypocrisy, cruelty and weakness.
One more thing, which can prove the essence of the philosophy of Marcus Aurelius, is the concept about suffering. He believes Suffering is not a bad luck; it is a test of God. God always tests the strong, and it is your fate. “Because a thing is difficult for you, do not therefore suppose it beyond mortal power. On the contrary, if anything is possible and proper for a man to do, assume that it must fall within your own capacity.” You cannot go against our fate. Your life is your fate. So accidents are illusions, or accidents are tests. “Nothing can happen to any man which is not human accident, nor to an ox, which is not according to the nature of an ox, nor to a vine which is not according to the nature of a vine, nor to a stone which is not proper to a stone. If then there happens to each thing both what is usual and natural, why shall you complain? For the common nature brings nothing which may not be borne by you.” (Marcus Aurelius, P.80). Nothing is accident and nothing happens accidentally. Behind the accidents, Logos reminds you, or wants you, or warns you something. Everything has a meaning. Everything is meaningful.
To conclude, the fundamental concept of the philosophy of Marcus Aurelius is “Fatalism”: Your life is your fate; you fate is your life”. We can see so many of his philosophy are related to fate. And saying we have to accept our fate in our life.
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Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP), Marcus Aurelius (121-180CE)
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McLynn, Frank. Marcus Aurelius: Warrior, Philosopher, Emperor. London:
Bodley Head, 2009. ISBN 978-0-224-07292-2
Wikipedia, Marcus Aurelius