Meditations | Study Guide

Marcus Aurelius

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Meditations | Book 9 | Summary



Book 9

Aurelius says the wise adopt a policy of neutrality that can exist only between the opposites of pain and pleasure. The discipline is one of perception. To exercise it conscientiously requires neither desiring nor avoiding these opposites. The same relationship exists between other kinds of opposites, and an understanding of how this works leads to a sustainable state of tranquility based on reason. Failing to exercise this discernment is a sin: "It is a sin to pursue pleasure as a good and to avoid pain as an evil." Continuing his discussion of sin, he states that the sinner sins against himself through the things he does and those he fails to do.

In this book Aurelius also touches on the cyclical nature of the universe; the idea that all that has happened will happen again, or that all living beings experience a kind of constant flow of change which, is ultimately unchangeable.


Of all the books in Meditations, it is in this one that Aurelius most clearly presents his understanding of Epicurus. The philosopher's mind was not on his own suffering or pain, but rather on those reasoned actions that can be taken to endure and survive. The attitude is an admirable one for a warrior/emperor to embrace during long campaigns. The exercise of this approach is designed to hone an understanding of what is transient (subject to change and decay) and what is eternal (the soul).

Aurelius suggests it is only by looking inward that a person can make this distinction. The sentiment is less connected to Stoicism than it is to an Epicurean attitude toward an unfathomable and random lack of patterns in the world. The discipline of enduring pain without complaint may refer to an account Epicurus made of his illness, which he struggled to endure with patience.

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