Philiosophy 1010 Mr. Alexander Nov 11th, 2014

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Sam McMahon

Philiosophy 1010

Mr. Alexander

Nov 11th, 2014

Marcus Aurelius

There is a lot to say about philosophy or the study of ideas about knowledge, truth, the nature and meaning of life, etc. The fact that every thought, is just a theory is mind bending enough, what people did with these theories is even more intresting. There has been many philiosohphers and thier philiosophies pretty much since the beginning of Man-kind. From Lao Tzu, and his philiosophy of Taoism or translated to english is "the way things are." all the way to Fredirch Nietzsche and his philiosophies of Nialism. I am a big fan of them all and philiosophy all together but one philosopher stood out to me and his believes are something that I can relate to and his name is Marcus Aurelius.

Marcus Aurelius was born on April 26th, 121 b.c. In Rome, Italy. Aurelius was born into a wealthy and predominate family, unfortunatly of which his father died when he was the age of three. Although Marcus didn't have a father growing up, his life was pleasent, with his mothers' large wealth and inheradence. Marcus was heavily toutered in his youth at which he excelled in all aspects of schooling but one subject stood out more than the rest. Marcus was especially talented at philiosophy, he was even said to have dressed like the philosophers in practice. Around the age of eighteen, Marcus Aurelius was adopted by Antoninus Pius who had previously been adopted by Emperor Hadrian as heir to the empire. Marcus Continued his studies of philosophy, excelling greatly in stoicism. Quintus Junius Rusticus was one of the many teachers of Marcus Aurelius and he was said to have given Marcus the writings of Epictetus which enthused Marcus into Stoicism

Epictetus lived from (55-135 C.E.) Epictetus was a student of Rome and formed his own teachings of stoicism. He taught in Greece, and believed that his students should live a philosophical life. It was said that he believed everyone who wants to learn should have the right to learn and not be constrained by the problems of money and power. Epictetus believed in this so much that he did his teachings for little to no nothing. Even when his classroom got too full and he couldn't pay for the building because he pretty much taught for free, he decided to just teach it from his home and mainly outside from his porch. This is where Stoicism got its name from, Stoicism was said to mean "the teachings of the porch" and his students(stoics) were considered, "men of the porch."

Stoicism is a very interesting philosophy. It has been greatly useful to many successful men and women of our time. It plays a vital role in the writings of Marcus Aurelius, he talks about "wiping out impression; checking impulse; quenching desire; doing nothing at random, and those who now bury will soon be buried.” There are many stoic references in his book "The Meditations." Marcus was greatly influenced by the stoic doctrine.

The Stoic doctrine is divided into three parts: logic, physics, and ethics. Stoicism is essentially a system of ethics which, however, is guided by a logic as theory of method, and rests upon physics as foundation. Briefly, their notion of morality is stern, involving a life in accordance with nature and controlled by virtue. It is an ascetic system, teaching perfect indifference to everything external, for nothing external could be either good or evil. Hence to the Stoics both pain and pleasure, poverty and riches, sickness and health, were supposed to be equally unimportant. I find this especially appealing because it creates a sense of nobility, taking nothing for granted, and being the best you can be.

First, stoic logic is, in all essentials, the logic of Aristotle. To this, however, the stoics added a theory, peculiar to themselves, of the origin of knowledge and the criterion of truth. All knowledge, they said, enters the mind through the senses. The mind is a blank slate, upon which sense-impressions are inscribed. It may have a certain activity of its own, but this activity is confined exclusively to materials supplied by the physical organs of sense. This theory stands, of course, in sheer opposition to the idealism of Plato, for whom the mind alone was the source of knowledge, the senses being the sources of all illusion and error. The Stoics denied the metaphysical reality of concepts. Concepts are merely ideas in the mind, abstracted from particulars, and have no reality outside consciousness.

Then there is stoic physics which is that "nothing incorporeal exists." This materialism coheres with the sense-impression orientation of their doctrine of knowledge. Plato placed knowledge in thought, and reality, therefore, in the ideal form. The Stoics, however, place knowledge in physical sensation, and reality (what is known by the senses) is matter. All things, they said, even the soul, even God himself, are material and nothing more than material. This belief they based upon two main considerations.

Firstly, the unity of the world demands it. The world is one, and must issue from one principle. We must have a monism. The idealism of Plato resolved itself into a futile struggle involving a dualism between matter and thought. Since the gulf cannot be bridged from the side of ideal realm of the forms, we must take our stand on matter, and reduce mind to it. Secondly, body and soul, God and the world, are pairs which act and react upon one another. The body, for example, produces thoughts (sense impressions) in the soul, the soul produces movements in the body. This would be impossible if both were not of the same substance. The corporeal cannot act on the incorporeal, nor the incorporeal on the corporeal. There is no point of contact. Hence all must be equally corporeal.

Lastly in stoicism is Stoic Ethics, the Stoic ethical teaching is based upon two principles already developed in their physics; first, that the universe is governed by absolute law, which admits of no exceptions; and second, that the essential nature of humans is reason. Both are summed up in the famous Stoic maxim, "Live according to nature." For this maxim has two aspects. It means, in the first place, that men should conform themselves to nature in the wider sense, that is, to the laws of the universe, and secondly, that they should conform their actions to nature in the narrower sense, to their own essential nature, reason. These two expressions mean, for the Stoics, the same thing. For the universe is governed not only by law, but by the law of reason, and we, in following our own rational nature, are ipso facto conforming ourselves to the laws of the larger world. In a sense, of course, there is no possibility of our disobeying the laws of nature, for we, like all else in the world, act of necessity. And it might be asked, what is the use of exhorting a person to obey the laws of the universe, when, as part of the great mechanism of the world, we cannot by any possibility do anything else?

It is not to be supposed that a genuine solution of this difficulty is to be found in Stoic philosophy. They urged, however, that, though we will in any case do as the necessity of the world compels us, it is given to us alone, not merely to obey the law, but to assent to our own obedience, to follow the law consciously and deliberately, as only a rational being can.

Marcus believed strongly in these points and around the time of 161 C.E. Marcus was crowned emperor after his adoptive father died naming him, Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus. Aurelius insisted that his adopted brother served as his co-ruler. His brother was Lucius Aurelius Verus Augustus (usually referred to as Verus). Together they co-ruled the empire, which during their rule was mostly garnished by war and disease.

As his accounts attest, and scholarship agrees, Marcus Aurelius was primarily a Stoic. Yet he was, as well, influenced by other schools of thought, in particular that of the Epicurean school. He also seems to have been influenced by those he often quoted, such as Antisthenes, Chrysippus, Democritus, Euripides, Heraclitus, Homer, and Plato. In addition to the established philosophy, Marcus Aurelius also sought the lessons of history and their political figures in guiding his rule as an ethical challenge such as that of Caesar and Brutus, and his desire to not become corrupted and yet another Caesar.

It was said that Marcus believed so strongly in his virtues of Stoicism that during his rule when he married. He heard rumors and talk about his wife sleeping with other men and he went on too promote some of those men to generals because he saw them, alright for the position. He believed everyone should get the spot they rightfully deserved. This also really stood out to me because, it stakes a lot of respect and mental capacity not to fall for the rumors and not to let feelings get involved with decisions.

A few years before his death Marcus Aurelius made his son, Commodus co-emperor (which would prove to be an unwise decision). He died while on the northern front in modern day Austria in the city of Vindobona, which became Vienna. He was glorified, even before his death, as a philosopher-king and memorialized for his campaigns against the Germanic tribes in what is now infamous column in Rome. Again, his writing was not of the caliber or density of the many philosophers that influenced him, but his practice of philosophy was erudite and exemplary. Marcus Aurelius was influential in how he lived and how he led, and obliges him a Stoic among Stoics.

Work Cited

  • Marcus Aurelius. (2014). The website. Retrieved 09:13, Dec 01, 2014, from

  • "Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy." Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Nov. 2014.

  • "Marcus Aurelius - Biography." Marcus Aurelius. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2014.

  • "Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy." Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2014.

  • "World Biography." Marcus Aurelius Biography. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Dec. 2014.

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