Pierre Hadot's book The Inner Citadel: The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius (translation by Michael Chase) is by turns pedantic and brilliant, impenetrable and pellucid, repetitious and terse. It's a scholarly work, rather heavy going in my current unenlightened and impatient state. But in between his footnotes and cross-references, Hadot wrestles with the most important questions imaginable. A few examples follow.

from Chapter 3, "The Meditations as Spiritual Exercises":

The goal is to reactualize, rekindle, and ceaselessly reawaken an inner state which is in constant danger of being numbed or extinguished. The task --- ever-renewed --- is to bring back to order an inner discourse which becomes dispersed and diluted in the futility of routine.

As he wrote the Meditations, Marcus was thus practicing Stoic spiritual exercises. He was using writing as a technique or procedure in order to influence himself, and to transform his inner discourse by meditating on the Stoic dogmas and rules of life. This was an exercise of writing day by day, ever-renewed, always taken up again and always needing to be taken up again, since the true philosopher is he who is conscious of not yet having attained wisdom.

from Chapter 5, "The Stoicism of Epictetus":

Thus, from the point of view of logic, we have here a contrary opposition between the sage and the foolish, who are unaware of their state. This opposition does, however, admit of a middle term: the non-foolish non-sages --- in other words, philosophers.

The ideal sage would thus be one who could, at each moment and definitively, make his reason coincide with that universal Reason which is the Sage that thinks and produces the world.

An unexpected consequence of this Stoic theory of the sage is that Stoic philosophy --- and I do mean Stoic philosophy; that is, the theory and the practice of training for wisdom --- allows for a great deal of uncertainty and simple probability. After all, only the Sage possesses a perfect, necessary, and unshakable knowledge of reality; the philosopher does not. The goal, project, and object of Stoic philosophy are thus to allow the philosopher to orient himself or herself within the uncertainties of daily life, by proposing probable choices which our reason can accept, even if it is not always sure it ought to. What matters are not results or efficiency, but the intention to do good. What matters is to act out of one motive alone, without any other considerations of interest or pleasure: that of the moral good. This is the only value, and the only one we need.

from the Conclusion:

In world literature one finds lots of preachers, lesson-givers, and censors, who moralize to others with complacency, irony, cynicism, or bitterness; but it is extremely rare to find a person training himself to live and to think like a human being (Meditations V, 1): "In the morning, when you have trouble waking up, let the following thought be present to you: 'I'm getting up to do the job of a human being.' "

.... [W]e feel a highly particular emotion when we enter, as it were, into the spiritual intimacy of a soul's secrets, and are thus directly associated with the efforts of a man who, fascinated by the only thing necessary --- the absolute value of moral good --- is trying to do what, in the last analysis, we are all trying to do: to live in complete consciousness and lucidity; to give each of our instants its fullest intensity; and to give meaning to our entire life. Marcus is talking to himself, but we get the impression that he is talking to each one of us.

(see also LivingPhilosophy (12 Jun 1999), BeyondTheInnerCitadel (26 Sep 1999), HeadlineSocrates (30 May 2000), My Religion (6 Nov 2000), ChangeYourLife (25 Sep 2002), ...)

TopicPhilosophy - TopicLife - TopicJournalizing - TopicWriting - TopicLiterature - 2002-10-15

(correlates: IncomParable, BeingObjective, VitalAndNegligible, ...)