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BOOK III - Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, The Meditations of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus 
The Meditations of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, trans. Francis Hutcheson and James Moor, edited and with an Introduction by James Moore and Michael Silverthorne (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2008).
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1. One ought to consider, not only that, each day, a part of his life is spent, and the remainder grown less, but that it is very uncertain, tho’ he should live longer, whether his understanding shall continue equally sufficient for his business, and for those theories which make one skilled in things divine and human. For if one begin to dote in these things, he may, perhaps, continue to breathe, to receive nourishment, to have vain imaginations, and exert the low appetites; but the true power of governing himself, of performing completely the duties of life, of considering distinctly all appearances which strike the imagination, and of judging well this very point, whether he should depart from life or not, and all other powers which require a well exercised vigorous understanding, must be intirely extinguished in him. We should, therefore, make haste, not only because death is every day so much nearer, but because the power of considering well and under-standing things, often leaves us before death.
2. This also should be observed, that such things as ensue upon what is well constituted by nature, have also something graceful and attractive. Thus, some parts of a well baked loaf will crack and become rugged. What is thus cleft beyond the design of the baker, looks well, and invites the appetite. So when figs are at the ripest, they begin to crack. Thus in full ripe olives, their approach to putrefaction gives the proper beauty to the fruit. Thus, the laden’d ear of corn hanging down, the stern brow of the lyon, and the foam flowing from the mouth of the wild boar, and many other things, considered apart, have nothing comely; yet because of their connexion with things natural, they adorn them, and delight the spectator. Thus, to one who has a deep affection of soul, and penetration into the constitution of the whole, scarce any thing connected with nature will fail to recommend itself agreeably to him. Thus, the real vast jaws of savage beasts will please him, no less than the imitations of them by painters or statuaries. With like pleasure will his chaste eyes behold the maturity and grace of old age in man or woman, and the inviting charms of youth. Many such things will he experience, not credible to all, but only to those who have the genuine affection of soul toward nature and its works.1
3. Hippocrates2 after conquering many diseases, yielded to a disease at last. The Chaldeans foretold the fatal hours of multitudes, and fate afterwards carried themselves away.3 Alexander, Pompey, and Caius Caesar,4 who so often razed whole cities, and cut off in battle so many myriads of horse and foot, at last departed from this life themselves. Heraclitus,5 who wrote so much about the conflagration of the universe, died swollen with water, and bedaubed with ox-dung. Vermin destroyed Democritus,6 [the inventor of the atomical philosophy:] and another sort of vermin destroyed Socrates.7 To what purpose all this? You have gone aboard, made your voyage, arrived to your port, go ashore. If into another life and world, the Gods are also there: if into a state of insensibility; at least you shall be no longer disturbed by sensual pleasure or pain, or be in slavery to this mean cor-poreal vessel. Is not the soul, which is often enslaved to it, much more excellent than the body? The soul is intelligence and deity. The body, earth, and putrifying blood.
4. Spend not the remainder of your life in conjectures about others, except where it is subservient to some public interest: conjecturing what such a one is doing, and with what view, what he is saying, what he is thinking, what he is projecting, and such like; this attention to the affairs of others, makes one wander from his own business, the guarding of his own soul. We ought, therefore, to exclude from the series of our thoughts, whatever is superfluous or vain; and much more every thing intermeddling and ill-natured; and enure ourselves to think on such things, as, if we were of a sudden examined, what are we now musing upon, we could freely answer, such or such matters: so that all within might appear simple and good-natured, such as becomes a social being, who despises pleasure, and all sensual enjoyment, and is free from emulation, envy, suspicion, or any other passion that we would blush to own we were now indulging in our minds. A man thus disposed wants nothing to entitle him to the highest dignity, of a priest and fellow-worker with the Gods, who rightly employs the divinity within him; which can make the man undefiled by pleasure, invincible by pain, inaccessable to reproach, or any injuries from others: A victorious champion in the noblest contention, that against the passions: deeply tinctured with justice; embracing with all his heart whatever befalls, or is appointed by providence. Seldom solicitous, and that not without some generous public view, what another says, does, or intends: Solely intent on his own conduct, and thinking continually on what is appointed to him by the governor of the universe. Making his own conduct beautiful and honourable; and persuaded that what providence orders is good. For, each one’s lot is brought upon him by providence, and is advantageous to him. Remember, that, whatever is rational, is a-kin to thee, and that it suits human nature to take care of every thing human. Nor ought we to desire glory from all, but only from those who live agreeably to nature. For others; still remember, how they live at home, how abroad, how in the dark, how in the light, and with what a wretched mass they are blended. Thus, one won’t value the praise of such men, for they cannot please or applaud themselves.
5. Do nothing with reluctance, or forgetting the* kind social bond, or without full inquiry, or hurried into it by any passion. Seek not to set off your thoughts with studied elegance. Be neither a great talker, nor undertaker of many things. And let the God within thee find he rules a man of courage, an aged man, a good citizen, a Roman, who regulates his life, as waiting for the signal to retreat out of it, without reluctance at his dissolution; who needs not for a bond of obedience, either the tie of an oath, or the observation of others. Join also a chearful countenance, an independence on the services of others, a mind which needs not retirement from the world, to obtain tranquillity; but can maintain it without the assistance of others. One should rather ap-pear to have been always straight and right, and not as amended or rectified.
6. If you can find any thing in human life better than justice, truth, temperance, fortitude; or, to sum up all, than to have your mind perfectly satisfied with what actions you are engaged in by right reason, and what providence orders independently of your choice: if you find any thing better, I say, turn to it with all your soul, and enjoy the noble discovery. But if nothing appears more excellent than the divinity seated within you, when it hath subjected to its self all its passions, examined all appearances which may excite them, and, as Socrates expresses it, has torn itself off from the attachments to sense; has subjected it self to the Gods, and has an affectionate care of mankind: If you find all things mean and despicable in comparison with this, give place to nothing else: for, if you once give way, and lean towards any thing else, you will not be able, without distraction of mind, to preserve the preference of esteem and honour to your own proper and true good. For it is against the law of justice, that any thing of a different kind withstand the proper good of the rational and social nature; such as the views of popular applause, power, riches, or sensual enjoyments. All these things, if we allow them even for a little to appear suitable to our nature, immediately become our masters and hurry us away. But do you I say, with liberty, and simplicity of heart, chuse what is most excellent, and hold to it resolutely. What is most excellent is most advantageous. If so to the rational nature, retain it; but if only to the animal, renounce it. And preserve the judging power unbyassed by external appearances, that it may make a just and impartial inquiry.
7. Never value that as advantageous, which may force you to break your faith; to quit your modesty, or sense of honour; to hate, suspect, or imprecate evil on any one; to dissemble; or to desire any of these things which need walls or curtains to conceal them. He who to all things prefers the soul, the divinity within him, and the sacred mysteries of its virtues, makes no tragical exclamations, complaints, or groans. He needs neither solitude nor a croud; and, what is greatest of all, he lives without either desires or fears of death. And whether the soul shall use this surrounding body, for a longer or shorter space, gives him no solicitude. Were he to depart this moment, he is as ready for it, as for any other work, which can be gracefully, and with honour, accomplished; guarding in the whole of life against this alone, that his soul should ever decline, or be averse to any thing which becomes the rational and social nature.
8. In the well-disciplined and purified mind you will find nothing putrid, impure, or unsound. Fate can never surprise his life unfinished, as one says of a tragedian who goes off before he ends his part: You will find nothing servile or ostentatious, or subjected to others by any partial bond; nor yet broken off from them, by any hatred; nothing which needs correction or concealment.
9. Cultivate with all care that power which forms opinions: All depends on this, that no opinion thy soul entertains, be inconsistent with the nature and constitution of the rational animals. Our natural constitution and furniture is intended to secure us from false and rash assent, to engage us in kindness to all men, and in obedience to the Gods.
10. Quit, therefore, other things, and retain these few. Remember also that each man lives only the present moment: The rest of time is either spent and gone, or is quite unknown. It is a very little time which each man lives, and in a small corner of the earth; and the longest surviving fame is but short, and this conveyed through a succession of poor mortals, each presently a-dying; men who neither knew themselves, nor the persons long since dead.
11. To the former subjoin this further rule: To make an accurate definition or description of every thing which strikes the imagination, so as to view what sort of thing it is in its own nature, and in all its parts considered distinctly; and give it, with thy self, its proper name, and to all the parts in its composition, into which also it must be resolved. Nothing is more effectual for giving magnanimity, than a methodical true examination of every thing which may happen in life, and while you consider them, to revolve at the same time, in what sort of regular universe they happen, for what use they are fit, of what importance they are to the whole, of what to man, the citizen of that higher city, of which the other cities and states are but as families. To examine what that is which affects the mind, of what compounded, how long it can endure, and what virtue it is fit to exercise; such as meekness, fortitude, truth, fidelity, simplicity, contentment, or the rest? We should therefore say of each event, this comes from God; this happens according to that destined contexture and connexion of events, or by conjunction with them in fortune; this comes from one of my own tribe, my kinsman, my friend, ignorant, perhaps, of what is agreeable to nature: but I am not ignorant of what is so; and, therefore, I must behave toward him with good-will and justice, according to the natural and social law. As to things* indifferent, I pursue them according to their real estimation or value.
12. If, in consequence of right reasoning upon natural principles you discharge your present duty with diligence, resolution, and benignity, without any bye views, and keep unviolated and pure the divinity within you as if just now about to restore it to the Gods who gave it: If you adhere to this without further desires or aversions, completely satisfied in discharging your present offices according to nature, and in the heroic sincerity of all your professions, you will live happily. Now your doing this none can hinder.
13. As † physicians have always their machines and instruments at hand for sudden occasions, so have you always at hand the grand maxims requisite for understanding things divine and human, and for doing every thing, even the most minute, as aware of the connexion between these two. For, neither will you rightly discharge any duty to men, nor any duty to God, if, at the same time, you regard not the connexion between things human and divine.
14. Quit your wandering: for you are neither like to read over again your own commentaries and meditations, or the actions of the ancient Greeks and Romans, or the collections you have made out of the writings of others, which you have been storing up for your old age. Make haste, then, to your proper end: cast away vain hopes and speedily succour yourself if you have that care of yourself; you may at present.
15. Men don’t understand how many things are signified by these words,‡ to steal, to sow, to purchase, to be in tranquillity, to discern what’s to be done. The bodily eye sees not these things: another sort of sight must discern them.
16. The body, the* animal soul, the intellectual. To the body belong the senses: to the animal soul, the appetites and passions: to the intellectual, the maxims of life. To have sensible impressions exciting imaginations, is common to us with the cattle. To be moved, like puppets, by appetites and passions, is common to us with the wild beasts, with the most effeminate wretches, Phalaris,10 and Nero, with atheists, and with traitors to their country.11 If these things, then, are common to the lowest and most odious characters, this must remain as peculiar to the good man; to have the intellectual part governing and directing him in all the occurring offices of life; to love and embrace all which happens to him by order of providence; to preserve the divinity placed in his breast, pure, undisturbed by a croud of imaginations, and ever calm and well-pleased, and to follow with a graceful reverence the dictates of it as of a God; never speaking against truth, or acting against justice. And, tho’ no man believe he thus lived, with simplicity, modesty, and tranquillity; he neither takes this amiss from any one; nor quits the road which leads to the true end of life; at which he ought to arrive pure, calm, ready to part with life, and accommodated to his lot without reluctance.
[* ] The Stoics always maintained, that by the very constitution of our nature, all men are recommended to the affectionate good-will of all: which would always appear, were it not for the interfering of falsely imagined interests.8
[* ] Thus the Stoics call all the goods or evils of fortune, relating to our bodies or estates: Which they allowed to have some value, or estimation, or importance, but would not call them absolutely good or evil.9
[† ] The same person was physician, chirurgeon, and apothecary among the antient Greeks and Romans.
[‡ ] The Stoics made frequent use of these words metaphorically in their moral reasonings about the virtues and vices of their conduct, and the natural events in the universe. See, B. IV. 36. for one Instance.
[* ] See above, B. II. art. 2.
[1.] Hutcheson referred to this section of The Meditations and to others in the third edition of An Essay on the Nature and Conduct of the Passions and Affections (1742), V.III, p. 137 (Liberty Fund ed., p. 93). Hutcheson’s use of this section in An Essay had a strictly moral application. It was that we must separate ideas of wealth and other external things from ideas of friendship, generosity, and public spirit: “consider things barely and apart from each other: and in opposition to these Desires, set but the weakest moral Species, and see if they can prevail against it.” Marcus’s point in this section appears rather to have been an aesthetic observation: he was reminding himself and his readers that everything in nature, however rugged or aging or deformed, is beautiful if one considers the nature of things as a whole. See also Adam Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments, VII, ii, 1, p. 288: “The good-natured Emperor … delights in expressing contentment with the ordinary course of things, and in pointing out beauties even in those parts of it where vulgar observers are not apt to see any.” Hutcheson returns to the moral significance of separating images in the imagination in bk. VII, art. 54, p. 90n. It may be added that Marcus, like Shaftesbury and Hutcheson, linked the beautiful and the moral. See bk. IV, art. 20, pp. 50–51.
[2.] Hippocrates of Cos, the great physician and author of some of the medical treatises in the Hippocratic Corpus.
[3.] The Babylonians (or Chaldeans) were the source of the astrology that was very popular in Rome in the imperial period.
[4.] Gaius Julius Caesar.
[5.] Heraclitus of Ephesus, Greek philosopher of the sixth century bc, from whom the Stoics derived their doctrine of the periodic conflagration of the universe. For his death, see Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers, bk. IX, chap. 1, sec. 3 (Loeb ed., pp. 410–11).
[6.] Democritus of Abdera, atomist philosopher of the fifth century bc Gataker, p. 93, notes that this death story is told of Pherecydes of Syros rather than of Democritus (from Diogenes Laertius, Lives, bk. I, chap. 11, sec. 118 [Loeb ed., pp. 124–25]).
[7.] The reference to “vermi’ here seems to be to the accusers of Socrates, as Gataker suggests (Gataker 1697, p. 93).
[8.] It was one of the dominant themes of Hutcheson’s moral philosophy that all mankind would be naturally sociable if it were not for misleading associations of ideas and “falsely imagined interests.” See especially his inaugural lecture as Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Glasgow (1730) in Francis Hutcheson, Logic, Metaphysics, and the Natural Sociability of Mankind (2006).
[9.] See also bk. VII, art. 59, p. 91, where Hutcheson writes: “the dissipating pursuits of external things, stupify the nobler powers”; and bk. XI, art. 1, p. 133, the daggered note, and bk. XI, art. 6, p. 135, the daggered note, where obstacles encountered in the pursuit of external things or things indifferent are taken to be opportunities for actions which may be more properly denominated virtuous or good. In his dedication “to the students in universities,” prefaced to A Short Introduction to Moral Philosophy, p. 111, Hutcheson summarizes the Stoic position on this matter: “Now ’tis well known that the Stoicks made such difference between virtue, which they counted the sole good, and the officia, or external duties of life, that they counted the duties among the things indifferent, neither good nor evil.” In this assertion, Hutcheson was expressing a reservation about the subject matter of Cicero’s De officiis and explaining why it should not be mistaken for a complete system of morals.
[10.] Phalaris, tyrant of Acragas (Agrigento) in Sicily in the sixth century bc and a byword for cruelty and sensuality. The supposed Letters of Phalaris had given rise to a celebrated controversy between Richard Bentley, who first definitively proved that they were spurious (A Dissertation upon the Epistles of Phalaris, 1699), and Charles Boyle, who had edited the Letters and was inclined to accept their authenticity. See Jebb, Bentley, 40–85.
[11.] The translation here omits a clause in the Greek text, which is itself mutilated: “and those who … when they have closed their doors.” Some phrase like “commit all sorts of depravity” seems to be missing from the Greek, and some commentators have seen here a derogatory reference to the Christians, who were believed to commit all kinds of depravity behind closed doors. Others, including Gataker (1697, p. 119), apply it to evil men generally; Gataker quotes Ephesians 5:12, “For it is a shame even to speak of the things that they do in secret.”