Classical Quarterly 69 (2):858-879 (2019)

Benjamin Harriman
University of Edinburgh
In his Meditations, Marcus Aurelius repeatedly presents a disjunction between two conceptions of the natural world. Either the universe is ruled by providence or there are atoms. At 4.3, we find perhaps its most succinct statement: ἀνανεωσάμενος τὸ διεζευγμένον τό⋅ ἤτοι πρόνοια ἢ ἄτομοι. The formulation of the disjunction differs; at 7.32, being composed of atoms is contrasted with a stronger sort of unity that may survive death. In 10.6 and 11.18 Marcus simply offers φύσις in opposition. On the surface, the contrast between the theory of atomism and the acceptance of providence seems to not warrant the term ‘disjunction’; it seems possible to accept both atomism and a causally determined providential universe. Yet, it is agreed on all sides, in the recent literature, that the relevant contrast for Marcus is not between the atomist and the non-atomist views of the constitution of the natural world as such but between two entailments that follow from the atomist Epicurean and the non-atomist Stoic advocacy of these positions. The contrast is between the providential ordering of the Stoic universe and the chaotic chance-ridden Epicurean model.
Keywords Ancient philosophy  Roman philosophy  Epicureanism
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DOI 10.1017/s0009838820000051
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References found in this work BETA

The Stoic Criterion of Identity.David Sedley - 1982 - Phronesis 27 (3):255-275.
Heraclitus : The cosmic fragments.G. S. Kirk - 1956 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 146:128-133.
Contemplative Withdrawal in the Hellenistic Age.Eric Brown - 2008 - Philosophical Studies 137 (1):79-89.

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