MMRP: Book IV, Chapters 1-4

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One of the things Marcus discusses today is a term which we inherit from Diogenes of Sinope, cosmopolitanism.  During his lifetime, citizenship in a city was a defining characteristic for Hellenes, in much the same way as nation-states are today.  When asked where his allegiance lay, he responded that he was a citizen of the world.  A bold assertion then and now.

The Stoics inherited this doctrine from the Cynics, and Marcus uses it to remind himself that all rational creatures share in the logos.  That men do evil not of their own accord but through ignorance, and that he must work with his fellows without regard for honor or reputation.

He gives himself reminders that he can, at any time, retreat into himself, and take shelter from the world should he need it.  That he doesn’t need to actually flee from this problems of life.  He notes that if his ruling faculty is in accord with nature, even these problems become of the fodder for progress.

A group I recently was exposed to by a follower of the blog and Patron is Stoics In Action.  They are trying to apply Stoicism to modern problems, there is even a recent post on cosmopolitanism.  I noted earlier this week, that it is a non-trivial problem to apply Stoicism in a way which doesn’t simply use it to prop up preexisting political commitments.  I hope they’re successful.

One of the models we get from the classics comes from Hierocles, and deals with the doctrine of Affinity/Familiarity, or in the Greek οἰκείωσις.  This process involves imagining that there are concentric circles of affinity, with each individual at the center.  We have self, then family, then townsfolk, then countrymen, then foreigners, then all rational beings.  The process of οἰκείωσις is to treat each of these groups as if they are at least one circle closer to us.  So the benefit of the family is treated as our own benefit, and at the far end, all people are treated as if they are our fellow citizens and countrymen.  It’s a useful, quick-and-dirty model for helping to shape and think about ethical behavior.  You can see that the Stoics In Action folks have used this for their logo, which seems to me to be appropriate.

If this kind of project interests you, swing by and see what they’re doing.

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This post is part of Michel Daw’s Reading Plan of Marcus’Meditations.

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