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The Inner Citadel: The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius (Meditations of Marcus Aurelius) [Paperback]

Pierre Hadot , Michael Chase
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 27, 2002 0674007077 978-0674007079

The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius are treasured today--as they have been over the centuries--as an inexhaustible source of wisdom. And as one of the three most important expressions of Stoicism, this is an essential text for everyone interested in ancient religion and philosophy. Yet the clarity and ease of the work's style are deceptive. Pierre Hadot, eminent historian of ancient thought, uncovers new levels of meaning and expands our understanding of its underlying philosophy.

Written by the Roman emperor for his own private guidance and self-admonition, the Meditations set forth principles for living a good and just life. Hadot probes Marcus Aurelius's guidelines and convictions and discerns the hitherto unperceived conceptual system that grounds them. Abundantly quoting the Meditations to illustrate his analysis, the author allows Marcus Aurelius to speak directly to the reader. And Hadot unfolds for us the philosophical context of the Meditations, commenting on the philosophers Marcus Aurelius read and giving special attention to the teachings of Epictetus, whose disciple he was.

The soul, the guiding principle within us, is in Marcus Aurelius's Stoic philosophy an inviolable stronghold of freedom, the "inner citadel." This spirited and engaging study of his thought offers a fresh picture of the fascinating philosopher-emperor, a fuller understanding of the tradition and doctrines of Stoicism, and rich insight on the culture of the Roman empire in the second century. Pierre Hadot has been working on Marcus Aurelius for more than twenty years; in this book he distills his analysis and conclusions with extraordinary lucidity for the general reader.


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Editorial Reviews

Review

The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius has been a popular text since the sixteenth century, and is a vital source in understanding the ideas of the Stoic School. Hadot seeks to demonstrate the context and background to Marcus Aurelius's writings, and helps to explain them to a modern readership. He makes the crucial point that Stoics considered the sole purpose of studying philosophy was to improve one's moral conduct. Hence Marcus's writings are in the form of a personal journal designed to develop the practice of acting morally and reflectively...Throughout the book Hadot stresses the depth of Stoic thought, and the interest it holds for modern philosophy...I would particularly recommend this book to those whose education in Ancient Philosophy has centred on Plato and Aristotle, and who are interested in finding out how their ideas were developed by later philosophers. (Matthew Clark JACT Review)

In The Inner Citadel, Hadot applies to Marcus Aurelius' Meditations his characteristic interpretive approach: treating ancient philosophy as a 'way of life,' in particular one which provides its students with 'spiritual exercises' to enable them to make progress towards wisdom, and treating ancient philosophical texts with attention to the 'forms of discourse,' or constraints of genre, tradition, and audience that affected their production...The Inner Citadel is a rich and substantial book and will certainly affect future scholarship on Marcus Aurelius. (Rachana Kemtekur Bryn Mawr Classical Review)

Hadot probes Marcus Aurelius's guidelines and convictions and discerns the until now unperceived conceptual system that grounds them. Abundantly quoting the Meditations to illustrate his analysis, he allows Marcus Aurelius to speak directly to us. Hadot unfolds for us the general philosophical context of the Meditations, commenting on the philosophers Marcus Aurelius read and giving special attention to the teachings of Epictetus, whom Marcus followed closely...Hadot's study offers a fresh picture of the fascinating philosopher-emperor, a fuller understanding of theories and doctrines of Stoicism, and rich insight on the culture of the Roman empire in the second century. Hadot has been working on Marcus Aurelius for more than twenty years; in this book he distills his analysis and conclusions with extraordinary lucidity for the general reader and specialist. (Word Trade)

Plato used to talk of philosopher-kings; Marcus Aurelius was something even better: He was a philosopher-emperor. The leader of the Roman Empire spent most of his life in troubling times, campaigning against the barbarians, dealing with conspiracy at home, even combatting an upstart cult that revered one of those Galilean wonder-workers. Yet the most powerful man in the world still managed to live the life of a Stoic, and to record his reflections on how we should live. Those meditations, as these inner pep talks are usually called, became one of the best-loved books of antiquity...This study--by a leading authority on Marcus--provides background matter and analysis of the main themes in the Meditations, as well as fresh translations of many of the sayings. (Washington Post Book World)

Because both translator and author are contemporaries, discussions between them contributed to an excellent and faithful translation....[Hadot argues] that The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius must be understood primarily as a 'philosophical' work not in the sense of speculative philosophy, but as philosophy that represents a way of life in the tradition of the Stoics...This is an excellent study of the Meditations. (P. A. Streveler Choice)

The power and vigour of H.'s interpretation derive partly from his belief in the importance and continuing value of Stoic philosophy at least broadly interpreted in terms of a stoic outlook on life...In this book, as in his work as a whole, he sets a demanding standard, and an example which we can all applaud. (R. B. Rutherford Classical Review)

Pierre Hadot, Professeur Honoraire of the College de France, aims in The Inner Citadel to discover what the emperor wanted to accomplish by writing [the Meditations]…The book he has written (published in French in 1992) achieves these aims superbly while also offering a broad introduction to the intellectual world of the second century…Through his analysis of the Meditations, Hadot exposes to our view the mind of those who ruled the Roman world at the height of its prosperity. (Kenneth D. Bratt Calvin Theological Journal)

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Series: Meditations of Marcus Aurelius
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (January 27, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674007077
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674007079
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #157,632 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Hadot's study of the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius is undoubtedly the best educational discussion of one of the most underrated philosophers in history. A text like Meditations deserves a dedicated scholarly (but readable) supplement and Hadot has delivered it to us some thousand and a half years later.

Hadot's believes that the Meditations were not simply notes Marcus wrote to himself but rather a series of cognitive techniques practiced by many Stoics. He calls them "Imaginative Exercises." For example, there is the practice of "turning an obstacle upside down." Suppose you are helping someone (a virtue) and they make that difficult by being surly or unwilling to cooperate: patience and understanding. With this logic, there is rarely an excuse to ever find yourself at a philosophical impasse and is the epitome of Stoicism's adaptability.

Rather than think of Meditations as little bits of wisdom that Marcus jotted down, Hadot says, we should think of them a personal study of the tenets of Stoicism. Marcus is practicing what he has been taught as opposed to doing the teaching himself. This is a new interpretation as most other biographers have gotten caught up in comparing Marcus's actions and his words - analyzing whether or not he was a hypocrite, a drug addict, a warrior or an enfeebled emperor.

In Hadot's book we not only get a deep understanding of Marcus but we can see the love the author has for his subject. Hadot, through his discussion of Marcus, manages to also give the reader one of the best books on Epictetus and Seneca. His original translations of all three authors are welcome additions to the canon for the group. In short, if you liked Meditations or are researching the great Marcus Aurelius, this book is THE book on the topic. Starting anywhere else would be a waste of time.
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50 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice analysis of the Meditations October 15, 2000
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Hadot manages an academically rigorous analysis of the _Meditations_ while also bringing out the vibrancy and robust spirituality which must have accompanied the ancient philosophies. Where most secondary sources for the Stoics focus upon dry-as-dust technical logistics (which the ancients universally decried), Hadot brings to the foreground the true purpose of ancient meditation techniques, and provides readers some hints of what it might have been like to study Stoicism as a life-philosophy instead of merely an academic curiosity. The book also provides a wonderful synopsis of Epictetus' teaching and style, which strongly influenced M.A. A fine companion with Hadot's _Philosophy As a Way of Life_.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Book About a Great Book August 17, 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Until I read this marvelous book, I regarded the "Meditations" of Marcus Aurelius as somber reflections on life by a wise and sensitive observer -- but not as much more. "The Inner Citadel" shows that the "Meditations" were really spiritual exercises shaped by a coherent Stoic philosophy, and intended to entrench a Stoic outlook in Marcus Aurelius' soul. The book connects Marcus Aurelius to other Stoic thinkers such as Seneca and Epictetus, and shows that Stoicism was both a sophisticated ethical system and an appealing form of non-supernatural piety. Anyone who enjoyed the "Meditations" will love "The Inner Citadel." It's a thoughtful and eye-opening book. Six stars.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Just finished Hadot's The Inner Citadel; and am astounded at Hadot's insights and depth of analysis. It leads me to understand Aurelius, his Meditations, and Stoicism. This provides a broader understanding of the context of the times as well as the contents of Aurelius' searching to be that "good man". Such is the unversal search of all.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Book July 7, 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am not familiar with any other books by Hadot, but this one is phenomenal. He takes a rather terse subject and presents it in a very clear manner by breaking the philosophy down into three major components. He then dedicates a chapter to each component while giving many examples from Aurelius, but also, and this is one of the great parts, from Epictetus and Seneca. Hadot's choice of the translations of the ancient works tend to be the more user friendly versions, if one reads reviews of different translations of Meditations on Amazon, one finds that some are horribly dry and complex. (i.e. poor translations exist)

Hadot also takes the time to outline the development of Stoic philosophy, tracing the teacher/student relation through a few generations. He makes a point to explain to the reader the circumstances in which Meditations was written, why it was written, and for whom it was written. All of these are important aspects to consider when one wants to understand the books more fully. Hadot also takes the time to give examples of how this ancient school of thought can be implemented in the modern world (although that is not the point of this book, as there are others which focus on that topic more exclusively.)

If you have any interest in understanding Meditations, or any interest in Stoic philosophy, then this book is a must read.
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