Ancients’ philosophy

Clear communication is a sign of understanding. Understanding the idea to be communicated is necessary, but not sufficient, for clear communication. I think in language (I point this out because I wonder if some people don’t think in language) and that leads me to word-smithing. I’m often searching for just the right word or phrase, and then delighted with myself if I find it. Having such labels for larger ideas is a check-point for myself, internally, that I actually have understanding.

Gregory Hays, one of Marcus Aurelius’s best translators, writes in his introduction to Meditations, “If he had to be identified with a particular school, [Stoicism] is surely the one he would have chosen. Yet I suspect that if asked what it was that he studied, his answer would not have been ‘Stoicism’ but simply ‘philosophy.’”

He then notes that in the ancient world, “philosophy” was not perceived the way it is today. It played a much different role. “It was not merely a subject to write or argue about,” Hays writes, “but one that was expected to provide a ‘design for living’—a set of rules to live one’s life by.”

~ Ryan Holiday from,

Just because I have a label for something—Stoicism in this case—doesn’t mean I label myself as that. The obvious reason is that my label has a lot of other context attached (in my mind) and chances are little to none that any of that context is present for another person. Labels are useful as shorthand, but only if we have the shared understanding.

Life is short. There are ends—things I have done which others can observe. There are the means I’ve chosen to those ends. And then there’s justification. I don’t have the time (nor the inclination) to explain everything—and frankly no one wants to hear that much from me (or from anyone.) I just find it interesting when I discover something I do (or say or think) for which I’ve not really thought through the labels… thought through the justification.