Greek Models of Mind and Self () || Epilogue

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<ul><li><p>EPILOGUE</p><p>In t his book I have discussed a range of models of self in Greek literature and thought, starting with Homer and moving forward in time to Stoicism. Over the course of these centuries, we have seen many different ideas and questions unfold about human identity. Are human beings essentially mor-tal, as the Homeric epics emphatically assume, or do we have the possibility of achieving immortality, as Plato frequently maintains? When and why do ex-plicit ideas about the differences between body and soul start to emerge? Does the mind have a complex structure? What gave rise to the notion that the best life is a life ruled by reason, with desires and emo-tions subordinated to that rule? What did it mean to think of the human intellect as a divine faculty?</p><p>Homers great fi gures are brilliantly vivid in their energy and passion. We recognize many aspects of </p><p>Brought to you by | New York University Bobst Library Technical ServicesAuthenticated</p><p>Download Date | 12/8/14 11:23 PM</p></li><li><p>E P I L O G U E</p><p>1 9 9</p><p>our selves in their thoughts and feelings. But Hom-ers characters register only a fraction of human potential. At another extreme, we may recall the Platonists lovers of reason, subjugating their appe-tites and worldly ambitions in order to focus upon the timeless truths of perfect being. There, too, we encounter human potential, but only a fraction of it again. How could that be otherwise? How could any account of the mind encompass everything about us?</p><p>The Stoic tradition is strongly Socratic and Pla-tonic in its focus on the rule of reason and the indif-ference of material success for the human good. But Stoic phi los o phers were this- worldly in their rejec-tion of Platos supra- sensible Forms and the immor-tality of the soul. Rather than fl irting with utopia-nism or reformist aspirations, the thinkers of this school focused attention on making the best possi-ble use of ones immediate material circumstances, in what ever time and place and station persons fi nd themselves to be situated. What Stoicism chiefl y contributes to human potential is the idea of a mind in which autonomy, rationality, self- worth, integrity, and philanthropy can be fully integrated with one another. Here is the way Marcus Aurelius, Emperor of Rome (161 180 CE), formulated this prescription </p><p>Brought to you by | New York University Bobst Library Technical ServicesAuthenticated</p><p>Download Date | 12/8/14 11:23 PM</p></li><li><p>G R E E K M O D E L S O F M I N D A N D S E L F</p><p>2 0 0</p><p>in the Epictetus- infl uenced Meditations that he ad-dressed to himself. In light of my discussion in the preceding pages, and especially my citations from Epictetus, no further commentary is needed.</p><p>Never value as benefi cial to yourself something </p><p>that will force you one day to break your word, </p><p>abandon your integrity, hate, suspect, or curse </p><p>someone else, pretend, or desire something that </p><p>needs the secrecy of walls or curtains. The one </p><p>who has chosen to value above all his own mind </p><p>and divine spirit and the worship of its excellence </p><p>does not make a drama of his life or complain </p><p>and will not need either isolation or crowds of </p><p>people; most of all, he will live neither pursuing </p><p>nor avoiding things. He does not care in any </p><p>way whether he will have his soul enclosed by </p><p>his body for a longer or shorter time. Even if he </p><p>needs to leave right away, he departs as readily </p><p>as if he were performing any of the other actions </p><p>that can be done in a decent and orderly way, </p><p>exercising care for this alone throughout his life, </p><p>that his mind should never be in a state that is alien to </p><p>that of a rational and social being.1</p><p>Brought to you by | New York University Bobst Library Technical ServicesAuthenticated</p><p>Download Date | 12/8/14 11:23 PM</p></li><li><p>ANCIENT AUTHORS AND THINKERS</p><p>NOTES</p><p>INDEX</p><p>Brought to you by | New York University Bobst Library Technical ServicesAuthenticated</p><p>Download Date | 12/8/14 11:23 PM</p></li><li><p>Brought to you by | New York University Bobst Library Technical ServicesAuthenticated</p><p>Download Date | 12/8/14 11:23 PM</p></li></ul>