Extracted discussion on Stoicism, the philosophy most associated with the emperor Marcus Aurelius (26 April 121 - 17 March 180 AD).
Marcus Aurelius was Roman emperor from 161 to 180, ruling jointly with Lucius Verus until Verus' death in 169 and jointly with his son, Commodus, from 177. He was known to be one of the last of the so-called Five Good Emperors.
Scepticism it is said is an easy way out. A way of avoiding the real burden of Socratic enquiry. The third and most important Hellenistic philosophy is stoicism. Stoicism is probably one of the greatest achievements of the Hellenistic philosophers.
Marcus Aurelius was a practitioner of Stoicism, and his untitled writing, commonly known as Meditations, is considered the most significant source of modern understanding of ancient stoic philosophy. It is considered by many commentators to be one of the greatest works of philosophy.
During his reign, the Roman Empire defeated a revitalized Parthian Empire in the East: Aurelius' general Avidius Cassius sacked the capital Ctesiphon in 164. In central Europe, Aurelius fought the Marcomanni, Quadi, and Sarmatians with success during the Marcomannic Wars, although the threat of the Germanic peoples 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. Persecution of Christians increased during his reign.
What never achieved the poetic and grandeur of the Hellenistic synthesis on the platonic overarching system which makes statements about the entire human condition Stoicism.
Stoicism is in fact a noble philosophy an excellent philosophy for silver haired men for the men who are going to be guardians a philosophy for military men and an excellent philosophy for people who are going to be practical politicians. That is if they do intend to be virtuous politicians and if they intend to pursue the public good.
Stoicism is characterised by the rejection of pleasure. It takes the position that the wise man the good man the philosophical man is a man who lives in accordance with nature. He fears only abdicating his moral responsibility not afraid of pain, death, hypocrisy, poverty or in fact any other human condition. His only real fears are that he should lie, that he should let himself down and become less than a complete human being.
According to the doctrine produced by the Stoics, the only real matter of concern to a wise and philosophical individual are the things completely under a person's control.
You can't control the movements of the sun and the planets. You cannot control whether or not a leaky ship is going to sink. You can't control the weather, you can't control other people and you most certainly can't control society around you.
There is only one thing you are in control of and that is your own willpower. Your intentions, yourself. In other words the wise man, the truly philosophical man is a man who is entirely in control of his own soul.
The man who takes utter and complete moral responsibility for his actions. A man who is indifferent to everything else not because he doesn't care about other people, not because he is somehow bad or he doesn't care about his fellow human. But quite simply because it is simply not under his control.
There really is no use in wondering or worrying about what tomorrow will bring, since tomorrow is not under your control. Just do what is right today and tomorrow will look after itself.
The stoic philosopher is the man who has liberated himself from fear, a man who is not afraid of death, is not afraid of pain and he's not afraid of other people's dismissal. He really only cares about meeting his moral obligations.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (May 25, 1803 - April 27, 1882) was once quoted as saying greatness is the perception that virtue is enough. This elegant and beautiful line was most likely stolen from one of the stoics, or at least it could have been. Pretty much this is what all of the Stoics basically believe.
Virtue is an organised soul which pursues rationally the eggs which are good for all human beings. That's the stoic conception of virtue. They finally understand that their greatness consists in the fact that they perceive that virtue is enough.
We do not need wealth and physical gratifications. In fact we do not need life itself. In fact if we must die in the pursuit of some good end, the protection of our family, our home, the Innocent or in the doing of right, then nothing should be spared not even our lives.
The wise stoic man is a man who has trained his mind, his soul and his very being, in such a way that he becomes unafraid of apparent evils. He's only afraid of real evil. He is afraid only of losing the control of his soul. He fears becoming a slave two desires, emotions and lust. He is the honourable philosopher who is steadfast to his duty. He understands it. The stoic man is serious minded!
The death of Marcus Aurelius in 180 is considered the end of the Pax Romana and the increasing instability in the west that followed has traditionally been seen as the beginning of the eventual Fall of the Western Roman Empire.
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