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Meditations (Penguin Classics)

4.8 out of 5 stars 85 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0140441406
ISBN-10: 0140441409
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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Here, for our age, is [Marcus’s] great work presented in its entirety, strongly introduced and freshly, elegantly translated.” —Robert Fagles --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Inside Flap

A series of spiritual exercises filled with wisdom, practical guidance, and profound understanding of human behavior, Marcus Aurelius's "Meditations remains one of the greatest works of spiritual and ethical reflection ever written. Marcus's insights and advice--on everything from living in the world to coping with adversity and interacting with others--have made the "Meditations required reading for statesmen and philosophers alike, while generations of ordinary readers have responded to the straightforward intimacy of his style.
In Gregory Hays's new translation--the first in a generation--Marcus's thoughts speak with a new immediacy: never before have they been so directly and powerfully presented.

"From the Trade Paperback edition. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Mass Market Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (October 30, 1964)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140441409
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140441406
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.5 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #367,972 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Other reviewers here have commented about the work itself, so I would just add a note about this specific translation.

One of the most difficult tasks for a reader interested in non-English language work (and works from classical times in particular) is to choose an appropriate translation. Of course, what counts as `appropriate' is somewhat subjective.

What I was looking for was a translation that is clear and accurate; one that manages to convey something of a feeling for the both the person who wrote, and the times they wrote in. In this Staniforth excels.

Unlike say, the Benjamin Jowett translation of Plato which (at least to my ears) has a distinctly Victorian ring, or the popular new age paraphrases of many of the Stoics (and in truth they are paraphrases or adaptations rather than translations), to me Staniforth (whose translation dates from 1964) strikes just the right balance.

The words of Marcus Aurelius are rendered intelligibly and with a dignity and awareness of the historical context. The reader is neither forced to re-read and ponder (i.e., speculatively re-translate), nor wince at inappropriate colloquialisms of 21st century English. Better still, one can immediately perceive and appreciate the times in which the work was written. No mean accomplishment, to say the least.

Of course, each reader needs to make this judgment for themselves. Amazon provides an excellent (and free) way of doing this with its `search inside this book' feature, which is enormously useful for anyone making this decision.
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"Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill will, and selfishness-all of them due to the offenders' ignorance of what is good or evil. But for my part I have long perceived the nature of good and its nobility, the nature of evil and its meanness, and also the nature of the culprit himself, who is my brother; therefore none of those things can injure me, for nobody can implicate me in what is degrading" (To Himself, II.1). This selection from "Meditations" ("To Himself" was the original Greek title)captures so much of the essence of this incredibly powerful book. Marcus Aurelius at times sounds more like the Buddha, Lao Tzu, Hesiod, or James Allen than he does his Stoic forerunners: proof once again that true wisdom resides in every man's heart and mind and transcends the boundaries of time, place, ethnicity,and doctrine. The job of the philosopher is to reintroduce his pupils to THEMSELVES, and once the self is realized, the reality of the universe becomes much clearer ("evil" derives from delusions)and the temptations of excess and the fears of deprivation become less powerful. These are true words to live by, more so now than they have ever been before. Happiness can be found in simplicity; hard work DOES pay off; the cooler head always prevails; immoderate pleasures can kill and fear is often unfounded. Marcus, like Buddha, was born in the lap of luxury, but he was destined to hold a position in society for which he was not well suited by virtue of his sensitive and studious nature: the ruler of an ancient and corrupt civilization that dominated most of the known world.Read more ›
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If you like stoicism, this is the book for you; there is no better exemplar of the paradigm than the present example. If you dislike stoicism, then this is most assuredly not the book for you. That is, unless you have such an overwhelming interest for either Roman history or of Marcus Aurelius that it would offset your distaste for stoicism.
The great Marcus Aurelius was the closest the world has ever come to realizing Socrates' dream of the infamous "philosopher king." Aurelius was a highly educated, sagacious and kindly man whose reign formed the very apex of the Antonine emperors. Following in the lineage of Hadrian and Antonius Pious, his rule was one of the most magnanimous the world has ever seen.
Aurelius was a deeply troubled man; what follows in these pages are his intensely personal thoughts on the tribulations of the human condition. Why are people so prone to screwing up? Why are cruelty and ignorance the norms of human existence, instead of the exceptions?
Like all of the best Roman emperors, Aurelius held contempt for the human race, but he was also humble enough to realize that he was a part of it. To read these private musings of a long-suffering, sensitive mind is riveting. It is a book well worth reading for the philosopher and historian alike.
I will leave you with one of Aurelius' meditations; one which strikes to the very heart of his stoicism:
"Have I done an unselfish thing? Well then, I have my reward. Keep this thought ever present, and persevere." [p.166]
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I don't read a lot of philosophy. I'm not sure why, since philosophy is really the province of the Liberal Arts graduate, and that's what I am. Even worse, I was a political science major, and pol-sci is really just applied philosophy. You ask yourself questions like, "What is man's obligation to man?" and "How can a society best benefit everyone involved in it?" and the next thing you know it's three in the morning and you're on your twelfth cup of Denny's coffee.

Arguing the meaning of life in a diner, however, isn't considered to be "real" philosophy. Philosophy these says means making up your own lexicon, creating words to describe concepts that you have spun out of the rhetorical ether - or, in philosophical terminology, "just made up." So you get phrases in modern philosophy that go on for pages and pages, and have so many recursive clauses that you wind up having to go back to the beginning just to figure out where you left off.

So, if you're like me - and it's not impossible that you are - and you don't feel like delving into the murkiest depths of intellectual waters, I can solidly recommend Marcus Aurelius' immortal Meditations. There is no beginning, there is no end - you can open up the book anywhere, read for a while, and then put it down.

Written back in the 2nd century, Meditations is a collection of Marcus' thoughts on life, existence, and how to be a good and moral man. Some of those observations are long, a page or two, but most of them are just a few lines. It's kind of as though Marcus was hanging out at his camp in Carnuntum and he had a Thought. "Pen!" he would yell, "and paper!" He'd scribble his idea down and put it away to be filed away later. Whether he had any great plans for this collection of ideas, we'll never know.
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