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BOOK IV - 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. When the governing part is in its natural state, it can easily change and adapt itself to whatever occurs as the matter of its exercise. It is not fondly set upon any one sort of action. It goes about what seems preferable, with a proper * reservation.1 And if any thing contrary be cast in, makes this also the matter of its proper exercise. As a fire, when it masters the things which fall on it, tho’ they would have extinguished a small lamp: the bright fire quickly assimilates to itself and consumes what is thrown into it, and even thence increases its own strength.
2. Let nothing be done at random, but according to the complete rules of art.
3. They seek retirements in the country, on the sea-coasts, or mountains: you too used to be fond of such things. But this is all from ignorance. A man may any hour he pleases retire into himself; and no where will he find a place of more quiet and leisure than in his own soul: especially if he has that furniture within, the view of which immediately gives him the fullest tranquillity. By tranquillity, I mean the most graceful order. Allow yourself continually this retirement, and refresh and renew your self. Have also at hand some short elementary maxims, which may readily occur, and suffise to wash away all trouble, and send you back without freting at any of the affairs to which you return. What vice of mankind can you be chagrined with, when you recollect the maxim, that “all rational beings were formed for each other”; and that, “bearing with them is a branch of justice,” and that, “all mistakes and errors are involuntary,” and “how many of those who lived in enmity, suspicion, hatred, and quarrels, have been stretched on their funeral piles, and turned to ashes?” Cease, then, from such passions. Will you fret at that distribution which comes from the whole, when you renew in your remembrance that disjunctive maxim: “either it is providence which disposes of all things, or atoms”; or recollect how many have proved the universe to be a regular state, under one polity. Or will you be touched with what regards your body, when you consider, that the intellectual or governing part, when it once recovers itself, and knows its own power, is not concerned in the impressions made on the animal soul, whether grateful or harsh. Recall, too, all you have heard and assented to, about pleasure and pain. Or shall the little affair of character and glory disturb you, when you reflect how all things shall be involved in oblivion; and the vast immensity of eternal duration on both sides; how empty the noisy echo of applauses; how fickle and injudicious the applauders; how narrow the bounds within which our praise is confined: the earth itself but as a point in the universe: and how small a corner of it the part inhabited: and, even there, how few are they, and of how little worth, who are to praise us! For the future, then, remember to retire into this little part of yourself: Above all things, keep yourself from distraction, and intense desires. Retain your freedom, consider every thing as a man of courage, as a man, as a citizen, as a mortal. Have these two thoughts ever the readiest in all emergencies: one, that “the things themselves reach not to the soul, but stand without, still and motionless. All your perturbation comes from inward opinions about them.” The other, that “all these things presently change, and shall be no more.” Frequently recollect what changes thou hast observed. The world is a continual change; life is opinion.
4. The intellectual part is the same to all rationals, and therefore that reason also, whence we are called rational, is common to all. If so, then that commanding power, which shews what should be done or not done, is common. If so, we have all a common law. If so, we are all fellow-citizens: and if so, we have a common city. The universe, then, must be that city; for of what other common city are all men citizens?3 Hence, therefore, even from this com-mon city, we derive our intellectual power, our reason, our law; as my earthly part is derived to me from some common earth, my moisture from some common element of that kind, my aerial part from its proper fountain, and the warm or fiery part from its proper fountain too. For, nothing can arise from nothing, or return into it. Our intellectual part hath also come from some common fountain of its own nature.
5. Death is, like our birth, a mystery of nature; the one a commixture of elements, the other a resolution into them: In neither is there any thing shameful, or unsuitable to the intellectual nature, or contrary to the intention of its structure.
6. From such men such actions must naturally and necessarily proceed. He who would have it otherwise, may as reasonably expect figs should be without juice. This, too, you should always remember, that in a very short time both you and he must die; and, a little after, not even the name of either shall remain.
7. Take away opinion, and you have removed the complaint, “I am hurt.” Remove “I am hurt,” and you remove the harm.
8. What makes not a man worse than he was, makes not his life worse; nor hurts him either without or within.
9. ’Tis for some advantage in the whole, that nature acts in this manner.
10. If you attend well, you will find that whatever happens, happens justly. I don’t mean only in an exact order and destined connexion, but also according to justice, and from one who distributes according to merit. Go on in observing this, as you have begun: and whatever you do, do it so as you may still remain good, according to the intellectual and true notion of goodness. Observe this in all your actions.
11. Don’t entertain such opinions as the man who affronts you has, or wishes you to entertain: but look into these things as they truly are.
12. You should always have these two rules in readiness; one, to act only that which the reason of the royal and legislative faculty suggests for the interests of mankind; the other, to be ready to change your conduct, when any one present can rectify you, and make you quit any of your opinions. But let this change be always made upon some probable species of justice, or public utility, or such like; and not any view of pleasure, or glory to yourself.
13. Have you reason? I have. Why don’t you use it? When it performs its proper office, what more do you require?
14. You have arisen as a part in the universe, you shall disappear again, returning into your source; or, rather, by a change shall be resumed again, into that productive intelligence from whence you came.
15. Many pieces of frankincense are laid on the altar: One falls, then another. And there’s no difference, whether sooner or later.
16. Within ten days you’ll appear a God to them, who now repute you a wild beast or an ape, if you turn to observe the moral maxims, and to reverence your intellectual part.
17. Don’t form designs, as if you were to live a thousand years. Death hangs over you. While you live, while you may, become good.
18. What agreeable leisure does he procure to himself, who takes no notice what others say, do, or intend; but at-tends to this only, that his own actions be just and holy; and, according to Agathon,4 that there be nothing black or ill-natured in his temper? He ought not to be looking around, but running on the straight line, without turning aside.
19. The man who is solicitous about a surviving fame, considers not that each one of those who remember him, must soon die himself, and so must his successor a little after him, till at last this remembrance be extinguished, which is handed down through a series of stupid perishing admirers. Grant your memory were immortal, and these immortal, who retain it; yet what is that to thee? Not to say, what is that to the dead? but what is it to the living, except * for some further view? In the mean time, you unseasonably quit what nature hath put in your power, by grasping at something else dependent on another.
20. Whatever is beautiful or honourable, is so from itself, and its excellence rests in itself: its being praised is no part of its excellence. It is neither made better nor worse by being praised. This holds too in lower beauties, called so by the vulgar; in material forms, and works of art. What is truly beautiful and honourable, needs not any thing further than its own nature to make it so. Thus, the law, truth, benevolence, a sense of honour. Are any of these made good by being praised? Or, would they become bad, if they were censured? Is an emerauld made worse than it was, if it is not praised? Or, is gold, ivory, purple, a dagger, a flower, a shrub, made worse on this account?
21. If the animal souls remain after death, how hath the aether contained them from eternity? How doth the earth contain so many bodies buried, during so long a time? As in this case the bodies, after remaining a while in the earth, are dissipated and changed, to make room for other bodies, so the animal souls removed to the air, after they have remained some time, are changed, diffused, rekindled, and resumed into the original productive spirit, and give place to others in like manner to cohabit with them. This may be answered, upon supposition that the souls survive their bodies. We may consider, beside the human bodies which are buried, the bodies of so many beasts, which we and other animals feed on. What a multitude of them is thus consumed, and buried in the bodies of those who feed on them, and yet the same places still afford room, by the changes into blood, air and fire. The true account of all these things is by * distinguishing between the material, and the active or efficient principle.
22. Don’t suffer the mind to wander. Keep justice in view in every design. And in all imaginations which may arise, preserve the judging faculty safe.
23. Whatever is agreeable to thee, shall be agreeable to me, O graceful universe! Nothing shall be to me too early, or too late, which is seasonable to thee; whatever thy seasons bear, shall be joyful fruits to me, O nature! From thee are all things; in thee they subsist; to thee they return. Could one say, “thou dearly beloved city of Cecrops!” And wilt thou not say, “thou dearly beloved city of God!”6
24. “Mind few things,” said one, “if you would preserve tranquillity.” He might rather have said, mind only what is necessary, and what the reason of the creature formed for social life and public good recommends, and in the way it directs. And this will not only secure the tranquillity arising from virtuous action, but that also which arises from having few things to mind. Would we cut off the most part of what we say and do, as unnecessary, we should have much leisure and freedom from trouble. We should suggest to ourselves on every occasion this question; is this necessary? But we ought to quit, not only unnecessary actions, but even imaginations; and, thus, superfluous actions, diverting us from our purpose, would not ensue.
25. Make trial how the life of a good man would succeed with you, of one who is pleased with the lot appointed him by providence, and satisfied with the justice of his own actions, and the benevolence of his dispositions.
26. You have seen the other state, try also this. Don’t perplex yourself. Has any man sinned or offended? The hurt is to himself. Hath any thing succeeded with you honourably? Whatever befalls you was ordained for you, by the providence of the whole, and spun out to you by the destinies. To sum up all, life is short. You must make the best use of the present time, by a true estimation of things, and by justice: and retain sobriety in all relaxations.
27. Either there is an orderly well disposed universe, or a mixture of parts cast together, without design, which, yet, make an orderly composition. Or, can there subsist in thee a regular structure, and yet no regular constitution be in the universe? and that when we see such very different natures blended together, with conspiring harmony?8
28. Consider the deformity of these characters, the black or malicious, the effeminate, the savage, the beastly, the childish, the foolish, the crafty, the buffoonish, the faithless, the tyrannical.
29. He is a foreigner, and not a citizen of the world, who knows not what is in it; and he too, who knows not what ordinarily happens in it. He is a deserter, who flies from the governing reason in this polity. He is blind, whose intellectual eye is closed. He is the beggar, who always needs something from others, and has not from himself all that is necessary for life. He is an abscess of the world, who withdraws or separates himself from the reason which presides in the whole, by repining at what befalls: That same nature produces this event which produced thee. He is the seditious citizen, who * separates his private soul from that one common soul of which all rational natures are parts.
30. One acts the philosopher without a coat, and another without any books; and a third half-naked. Says one, I have not bread, and yet I adhere to reason. Says another, I have not even the spiritual food of instruction, and yet I adhere to it.
31. Delight yourself in the little art you have learned, and acquiesce in it. And spend the remainder of your life, as one who with all his heart commits all his concerns to the Gods; and neither acts the tyrant or the slave, toward any of mankind.
32. Recollect, for example, the times of Vespasian;9 you will see all the same things you see now. Men marrying, bringing up children, sickening, dying, fighting, feasting, trading, farming, flattering, obstinate in their own will, suspicious, undermining their neighbours, wishing the death of others, repining at their present circumstances, courting mistresses, hoarding up, pursuing consulships and kingdoms: This life of theirs is past, and is no more. Come down to Trajan’s days;10 you’ll see the same things again: That life too is past. Consider other periods of time, and other nations, and see how many, after their keen pursuits of such kinds, presently fell, and were dissolved into their elements. But chiefly represent to your mind those whom you yourself knew vainly distracted with such pursuits, and quitting that course which suited the structure of their nature, not adhering to it, nor contented with it. But you must also remember, that, in each action, there is a care suited and proportioned to the importance of the affair: And thus you’ll not be disgusted, that you are not allowed to be employed longer than is proper, about matters of less value.
33. Words formerly the most familiar are now grown obscure, and in like manner, the names of such as were once much celebrated, are now become obscure, and need explication; such as, Camillus, Caeso, Volesus, Leonnatus; soon after them, Scipio, Cato; and then Augustus; after him, Hadrian, and Antonine.11 All things hasten to an end, shall speedily seem old fables, and then be buried in oblivion. This I say of those who have shone in high admiration. The rest of men, as soon as they expire, are unknown and forgotten. And then, what is this eternal memory? ’Tis wholly vain and empty. About what then should we employ our diligence and solicitude? This alone, that our souls be just, our actions social, our speech entirely sincere, and our disposition such as may chearfully embrace whatever happens; as being necessary; as well known; and as flowing from such springs and causes.
34. Resign yourself willingly to your destiny, allowing it to involve you in what matters it pleases.
35. All things are transitory, and, as it were, but for a day; both those who remember; and the things, and persons remembred.
36. Observe continually, that all things exist in consequence of changes. Enure yourself to consider that the nature of the universe delights in nothing more than in changing the things now existing, and in producing others like them. The things now existing are a sort of seed to those which shall arise out of them. You may conceive that there are no other seeds than those that are cast into the earth or the womb; but such a mistake shews great ignorance.
37. You must die presently, and yet you have not attained to the * true simplicity and tranquillity; nor to that freedom from all suspicion of hurt by external things; nor have you that kind affection toward all; nor do you place your true wisdom solely in a constant practice of justice.
38.† Look well into their governing part, and their cares, what things they study to avoid, and what they pursue.
39. Thy evil cannot have its subsistence in the soul of another; nor in any change or alteration of the body which surrounds thee. Where, then? In that part of thee, which forms opinions concerning evils. Let this part form no such opinions, and all is well. Tho’ this poor body, which is nearest to thee, be cut, or burned, or suppurated, or mortify, let the opinionative power be quiet; that is, let it judge that, what may equally befall a good man or a bad, can be neither good or evil. For what equally befalls one who lives according to nature, and one who lives against it, can neither be * according to nature, nor against it.13
40. Consider always this universe as one living being or animal; with one material substance, and one spirit; and how all things are referred to the sense of this spirit; and how it’s will accomplishes all things, and how the whole concurs to the production of every thing; and what a connexion and contexture there is among all things.
41. “Thou art a poor spirit, carrying a dead carcase about with thee,” says Epictetus.14
42. There is no evil befalls the things which suffer a change; nor any good in arising into being from a change.
43. Time is a river, or violent torrent of things coming into being; each one, as soon as it has appeared, is swept off and disappears, and is succeeded by another, which is swept away in its turn.
44. Whatever happens, is as natural, and customary, and known, as a rose in the spring, or fruit in summer. Such are diseases, deaths, calumnies, treache-ries, and all which gives fools either joy or sorrow.
45. Things subsequent are naturally connected with those which preceeded: They are not as numbers of things independent of each other, yet necessarily succeeding; but they are in a regular connexion. And as things now existing are joined together in the most apposite contexture; so, those which ensue, have not barely a necessary succession, but a wonderful suitableness and affinity to what preceeded.
46. Remember always the doctrine of Heraclitus, that “the * death of the earth, is its becoming water; that of water its becoming air; that of air, its becoming fire. And so back again.”16 Think of † him who forgot whither the road led him: And that men are frequently at variance with that reason or intelligence, with which they have always to do, and which governs the universe: and are surprised at those things as strange, which they meet with every day. That we ought not to speak or act like men asleep; (for even in sleep we seem to speak and act); nor like children; merely because we have been so instructed by our parents.
47. If any God would assure you, you must die either to morrow, or the next day at farthest, you would little matter whether it were to morrow or the day after; unless you were exceedingly mean-spirited: for how trifling is the difference? Just so, you should repute it of small consequence, whether you are to die in extreme old age, or to morrow.
48. Consider frequently how many physicians, who had often knit their brows on discovering the prognostics of death in their patients, have at last yielded to death themselves: And how many astrologers, after foretelling the deaths of others, with great ostentation of their art; and how many philosophers, after they had made many long dissertations upon death and immortality; how many warriors, after they had slaughtered multitudes; how many tyrants, after they had exercised their power of life and death with horrid pride, as if they had been immortal; nay, how many whole cities, if I may so speak, are dead: Helice, Pompeij, Herculanum,17 and others innumerable. Then run over those whom, in a series, you have known, one taking care of the funeral of another, and then buried by a third, and all this in a short time. And, in general, all human affairs are mean, and but for a day. What yesterday was a trifling embryo, to morrow shall be an embalmed carcase, or ashes. Pass this short moment of time according to nature, and depart contentedly; as the full ripe olive falls of its own accord, applauding the earth whence it sprung, and thankful to the tree that bore it.
49. Stand firm like a promontory, upon which the waves are always breaking. It not only keeps its place, but stills the fury of the waves. [Wretched am I, says one, that this has befallen me. Nay, say you, happy I, who, tho’ this has befallen me, can still remain without sorrow, neither broken by the present, nor dreading the future. The like might have befallen any one; but every one could not have remained thus undejected. Why should the event be called a misfortune, rather than this strength of mind a felicity? But, can you call that a misfortune, to a man, which does not frustrate the intention of his nature? Can that frustrate the intention of it, or hinder it to attain its end, which is not contrary to the will or purpose of his nature; What is this will or purpose? Sure you have learned it. Doth this event hinder you to be just, magnanimous, temperate, prudent, cautious of rash assent, free from error, possessed of a sense of honour and modesty, and of true liberty; or from meriting those other characters, which whoever enjoys, hath all his nature requires, as its proper perfection? And then, upon every occasion of sorrow, remember the maxim, that this event is not a misfortune, but the bearing it courageously is a great felicity.]18
50. ’Tis a vulgar meditation, and yet a very effectual one, for enabling us to despise death; to consider the fate of those who have been most earnestly tenacious of life, and enjoyed it longest. What have they obtained more than those who died early? They are all lying dead some where or other. Caedicianus, Fabius, Julian, Lepidus,19 and such like, who carried out the corpses of multitudes, have been carried out themselves. In sum, how small is the difference of time! and that spent amidst how many troubles! among what worthless men! and in what a mean carcase! Don’t think it of consequence. Look backward on the immense antecedent eternity, and forward into another immensity. How small is the difference between a life of three days, and of three ages like Nestor’s?20
51. Haste on in the shortest way. The shortest way is that according to nature. Ever speak and act what is most sound and upright. This resolution will free you from much toil, and warring, and artful management, and dissimulation, and ostentation.
[* ] The word here translated reservation, is a noted one among the Stoics, often used in Epictetus, Arrian, and Simplicius.2 It means this, that we be still aware that all external things depend on fortune, and are not in our power; and that our sole good is in our own affections, purposes, and actions: If therefore we meet with external obstacles to our outward actions, we may still retain our own proper good; and can exert proper affections and actions upon these very obstacles; by resignation to God, patience under injury; good-will toward even such as oppose us, and by persisting in any good offices, which remain in our power.
[* ] All vice is such a separation, as the Stoics define virtue to be an agreement or harmony with “nature” in our affections and actions. They tell us this nature is two-fold, the common nature presiding in the universe, or the deity, and the individual or proper nature in each one. We conform to the common nature, by acquiescence in all events of providence, and by acting the part which the structure of our proper nature requires and recommends, especially the governing part of it, we at once conform to both the common nature and the proper; since our constitution was framed by God, the common nature.
[† ] This is designed to abate our desire of esteem from weak injudicious men; not, to recommend a prying into the business or characters of others.
[* ] That is, such things are neither agreeable nor contrary to the nature of the rational soul, or the divine part: nor are they either its good or its evil. But when one speaks of the whole animal, made up also of an animal soul and a body, these things are agreeable or contrary to this compound, and this the Stoics strongly assert against the Pyrrhonists. See, Cicero de finib. l. 3. c. 5. 6. but they would not call them good or evil.15
[* ] See above, B. II. 4.
[† ] This person or proverbial expression, is unknown. ’Tis applicable to such as either live extempore, without any fixed view or end in life: or to such as in pursuit of apparent goods, are involved in great miseries, by their want of consideration.
[1.] The Greek terms hypexairesis, translated by Hutcheson as “reservation,” and hegemonikon, as “the governing part,” were technical terms in the vocabulary of the Stoics. On Marcus’s employment of this technical language and its significance for his thought, see Hadot, The Inner Citadel, pp. 52, 122–23, and 193. See also bk. V, art. 20, p. 65, and bk. XI, art. 37, p. 143, where Marcus cites Epictetus: “That we may form every purpose with reservation; take care they be kind and social, and proportioned to the worth of objects.” On Hutcheson’s use of the term hegemonikon, see also “On the Natural Sociability of Mankind,” in Hutcheson, Logic, Metaphysics, and Natural Sociability (2006), 199n25.
[2.] See also bk. VIII, art. 57, p. 105n.
[3.] On the Stoic citizenship of the world, see also bk. IV, art. 29, p. 52. See also the editors’ introduction, p. xxi.
[4.] Gataker’s Greek text differs from his Latin translation here (1697, p. 26). His Greek text has to agathon (“the good”), whereas his Latin translation, following Xylander’s emendation kata ton Agathona, takes Agathon as a personal name, and in his annotation to the text (1697, p. 137) Gataker says that he approves of Xylander’s emendation.
[5.] See also note to bk. II, art. 6, p. 35, and other references noted there.
[6.] This section was quoted in part by Henry More, An Account of Virtue (1690), bk. III, chap. 9, sec. xviii, p. 251, in support of a theory of liberty, properly understood, where the will is resigned to Divine Providence. The same section was quoted in full by Adam Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments, pt. VII, sec. ii.1, p. 289, as illustrative of a moral system “too absurd to deserve any serious consideration.” See the editors’ introduction to this edition, p. xxvii.
[7.] See also bk. V, art. 13, p. 63n.
[8.] Shaftesbury took this article to be an expostulation directed against Lucretius: “Miscellany II,” chap. 1, in Characteristics, ed. Klein, p. 353n.
[9.] Vespasian, emperor 69–79.
[10.] Trajan, emperor 98–117.
[11.] Marcus proceeds from some mostly obscure figures of early Roman history through Scipio and Cato, heroes of the Republic, to Augustus, the first Roman emperor, and ends with Hadrian and Antoninus Pius, his immediate predecessors.
[12.] See also bk. V, art. 14, p. 63; bk. VI, art. 17, p. 74n; bk. X, art. 1, p. 119; and bk. XII, art. 27, p. 150n. Henry More, An Account of Virtue, bk. II, chap. III, sec. II, p. 105, and bk. II, chap. VIII, sec. XX, p. 145, took the simplicity or sincerity of the soul, as represented by Marcus Aurelius, to be one of the three primitive virtues, together with prudence and patience.
[13.] In Cicero, De finibus, bk. III, chaps. 5 and 6, secs. 16–22 (Loeb ed., pp. 233–41), Cato defends the Stoic theory that all creatures must first preserve themselves, but they must then proceed to live in conformity with nature: “It is only at this final stage that the Good first emerges and comes to be understood in its true nature.”
[14.] This article is attributed to Epictetus on the authority of Marcus and reproduced among the otherwise unauthorized fragments in Epictetus, Discourses (Loeb ed., vol. II, pp. 470–71).
[15.] Cicero, On the Ends of Good and Evil, III.v–vi, 16–22 (Loeb ed., pp. 232–41).
[16.] Heraclitus, fragments B76, 71–74 (Diels-Kranz). Diels, Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, vol. I, pp. 167–68.
[17.] Helice, a town in the district of Achaea in Greece, was overwhelmed by the sea in 373 bc (Brill’s New Pauly, vol. 6, p. 70, s.v. “Helice”). Pompeii and Herculaneum (as it is usually now spelled) were destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in ad 79.
[18.] The sentences placed within square brackets have also been attributed to Epictetus. See Epictetus, Discourses, fragment 28 (Loeb ed., vol. II, pp. 470–73).
[19.] These cannot be identified.
[20.] The legendarily long-lived king of Homer’s Iliad. See Iliad I.250ff.: “In his time two generations of mortal men had perished, / those who had grown up with him and they who had been born to / these in sacred Pylos, and he was king in the third age” (trans. Lattimore).