Meditations | Study Guide

Marcus Aurelius

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Meditations | Book 6 | Summary

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Summary

The opening statement in Book 6 suggests that the perfection of the universe unfolds over time and holds no evil or malice whatsoever. Aurelius augments this perspective by giving a number of examples that explore the passing nature of sensation. He draws these examples from nature, occupations from emperors to laborers, and daily activities, such as eating. Ordinary people are distracted by the appearances of things, and allow themselves to be influenced by superficial attributes that cause them to either praise or condemn others. Aurelius finds it curious that these people spend so much time and energy trying to figure out what others think of them, when it is insignificant. All that matters is what the individual thinks of himself. This perspective touches on skepticism, since the ultimate nature of the universe cannot be determined.

"We are all working together to one end," Aurelius says, and each man does his own part. Furthermore, what is good for one man is also good for others. Ultimately Aurelius returns to the idea that even the greatest of men die; what is important is to live in truth and justice and to consider the virtues of the living.

Analysis

The Stoics' attitude toward fate versus free will is that certain conditions are irrevocably placed upon all human beings by their fate. The only choice of the will is either to accept those conditions and make the best of them, or to reject them, resulting in damage to both the individual and society as a whole. The principle guiding this choice is logic and reason. Aurelius's goal in Book 6 is to remember that distractions keep one from fulfilling one's role as dictated by fate.

Aurelius specifies that even "Philistion, Phoebus and Origanion" are dead. It isn't known exactly who or what these people were. The point Aurelius wishes to remind himself of is that despite all their earthly might, all their accomplishments and fame have vanished. It is the present that matters: living a virtuous life himself while considering the good qualities in those around him.

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