Man cannot possibly be good unless he stands in the right relation to the common good,

Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica

By , on September 8, 2011

Truth and Ethics

Marcus Aurelius on Impiety Towards Nature

He who does an injury is guilty of impiety. For, since the nature of the whole has formed the rational animals for one another; each for being useful to the other according to his merit, and never hurtful; he who transgresses this her will, is thus guilty of impiety against the most ancient and venerable of the Gods. For the nature of the whole is the nature of all things which exist; and things which exist, are a-kin to their causes. Further, she is called truth; and is the first cause of all truths: He, then, who willingly lyes, is guilty of impiety, in as far as, by deceiving, he does an injury: and he, who lyes unwillingly; in as far as his voice dissents from the nature of the whole; as he is acting ungracefully, in opposing the comely order of the universe: For he fights against its nature and design, who sets himself against truth; since nature had furnished him with means for distinguishing falsehood from truth, by neglecting which he is now unable to do it. He, too, who pursues pleasure as good, and shuns pain as evil, is guilty of impiety: for such a one must needs frequently blame the common nature, as making some unworthy distributions to the bad and the good; because the bad oftimes enjoy pleasures, and possess the means of them; and the good often meet with pain, and what causes pain; besides, he who dreads pain, must sometimes dread that which must be a part of the order and beauty of the universe: this, now, is impious: and, then, he who pursues pleasures will not abstain from injury; and that is manifestly impious. But, in those things to which the common nature is indifferent, (for she had not made both, were she not indifferent to either); he who would follow nature, ought, in this too, to agree with her in his sentiments, and be indifferently dispos’d to either. Whoever, then, is not indifferently dispos’d to pain and pleasure, life and death, glory and ignominy, all which the nature of the whole regards as indifferent, it is plain he is guilty of impiety. When I say the common nature regards them as indifferent; I mean she regards their happening or not happening as indifferent events in the grand establish’d series, in which things exist, and ensue upon others, suitably to a certain ancient purpose of that providence and design, according to which, at a certain period, she set about this fair structure and arrangement of the universe; after she had conceived and fixed the plan of all that was to exist; and appointed the distinct powers which were to produce the several substances, changes, and successions. (Meditations, Book IX)

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