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The Harvard Classics, Volume 2: The Apology, Phaedo and Crito of Plato, the Golden sayings of Epictetus, the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius

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Contents: The Apology, Phaedo and Crito of Plato translated by Benjamin Jowett. The Golden Sayings of Epictetus translated by Hastings Crossley. The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius Translated by George Long.


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Contents: The Apology, Phaedo and Crito of Plato translated by Benjamin Jowett. The Golden Sayings of Epictetus translated by Hastings Crossley. The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius Translated by George Long.

30 review for The Harvard Classics, Volume 2: The Apology, Phaedo and Crito of Plato, the Golden sayings of Epictetus, the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius

  1. 5 out of 5

    Harold Griffin

    In these days of spewing oil, fuming volcanos, babbling talking heads, untrustworthy politicians (forgive redundancy) and a hate-filled citizenry, there's nothing quite like a bracing cold shower of Stoic philosophy to face another day. It's good to imagine that all that happens happens to fulfill a preordained purpose of a benevolent creator, that a virtuous life is all-important, and that life's evils and injustices should not sting, since there's nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so. In these days of spewing oil, fuming volcanos, babbling talking heads, untrustworthy politicians (forgive redundancy) and a hate-filled citizenry, there's nothing quite like a bracing cold shower of Stoic philosophy to face another day. It's good to imagine that all that happens happens to fulfill a preordained purpose of a benevolent creator, that a virtuous life is all-important, and that life's evils and injustices should not sting, since there's nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so. It's good to face death with a clear eye and calm heart, remembering that all that is created is meant to perish, and that great civilizations have come and gone, leaving less behind than the legs of Ozymandias. I purchased this volume, one of the Harvard Classics, at a library sale, decades ago, for twenty-five cents. It has a rich brown leather cover, gold embossing, and a built in silk bookmark, so it looks good on the shelf, where it has sat unmoving for many years. As a younger dinosaur I never was able to get through more than a few pages without dozing at the sometimes tedious text. I read it last month to rid myself of guilt and obligation, rather than as a labor of love or a de novo choice. But it was well worth the read. It was inspirational to consider Plato's Socrates dealing indifferently with an unjust death, rejecting expedients that would have saved his life. The "golden" sayings of former slave Epictetus were a somewhat meandering way at looking again and again on the precepts of Stoicism, but looking at the blackbird of Stoic thought in 1013 ways was a good means of digesting and absorbing it, and if for only a few fleeting moments enjoying the tranquility that comes with acceptance. I was originally going to decry George Long's translation of the meditations of the good Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus as the flaw of this volume. But Long himself in a chapter about the good Emperor observes that Antoninus left behind disorganized, half-formed and self-contradictory thoughts in jottings that were not intended for publication. Long suggests that his translation was dictated by fidelity to the original material. I ain't no classics translator, so I'll accept this as an explanation for the often dense and obscure translation. But I'll note that there seem to be modern translations out there to make the sayings of Marcus Aurelius "accessible" (translate, intelligible). If you wanted to read these things you might therefore want to start with sources other than my edition. Of course you would have to ante up more than a quarter to do so, and you might have to pay for your own bookmark. Philosophy is the love of wisdom. You may or may not buy into the Stoic philosophy of life. But if you love wisdom, you'll get much more of it from reading these philosophers than from any modern self-help twaddle or from most of what passes for literature.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Curtiss

    The first time I ever heard of Epictetus was when he was quoted to me in response to a discussion I was having about the dilema faced by the Captain of the Aegis Cruiser U.S.S. Vincennes, who according to the news reports had given the order to fire at an unidentified 'bogey' which had turned out to be an unarmed, civilian, Iranian jetliner. A lawyer in the booth behind me then quoted Epicteus's response to having been publicly criticized: "He could not know all my faults, or he would not have m The first time I ever heard of Epictetus was when he was quoted to me in response to a discussion I was having about the dilema faced by the Captain of the Aegis Cruiser U.S.S. Vincennes, who according to the news reports had given the order to fire at an unidentified 'bogey' which had turned out to be an unarmed, civilian, Iranian jetliner. A lawyer in the booth behind me then quoted Epicteus's response to having been publicly criticized: "He could not know all my faults, or he would not have mentioned merely these." The lawyer claimed he often used that particular quote to help defuse a tense courtroom situation, especially when he confronted a hostile judge and jury. The other quote I looked up in this volume was from an episode of Perry Mason, in which Perry teased his favorite restaurant manager for having neglected to make his usual flattering compliment to Della Street about her appearance. The manager responded, "As an IRISH philsopher once said, 'Perfect beauty has NO NEED of praise'," which Perry Mason went on to complete, saying, "...not more than law, not more than truth, nor benevolence nor modesty." Then Mason objected, "But, Marcus Aurelius was Roman, not Irish!" Whereupon the friendly manager replied with a wink, "'Tis a false lie, his real name was Marcus O'Reilly-us." Profound philosophical truths and Gaelic self-mocking HUMOR too! ;-)

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    I appreciated this one a lot as an introduction to stoicism. It's cleverly put together, taking you first through the smooth and easy-flowing dialogues by Plato concerned with the death of Socrates, which prepare you somewhat for the far more intense and stringent doctrines of Epictetus, which (I feel) are then tempered by M. Aurelius' more intimate and personal beliefs. Since it's a compilation of others' works, and it would take a large amount of characters to even start to touch the surface of I appreciated this one a lot as an introduction to stoicism. It's cleverly put together, taking you first through the smooth and easy-flowing dialogues by Plato concerned with the death of Socrates, which prepare you somewhat for the far more intense and stringent doctrines of Epictetus, which (I feel) are then tempered by M. Aurelius' more intimate and personal beliefs. Since it's a compilation of others' works, and it would take a large amount of characters to even start to touch the surface of three separate philosophers' works, I'll simply talk about the editing. I think that it worked relatively well, but the structure of each section was headed by a different person, and there are elements in one section that are conspicuously absent in others (Epictetus has an index, for example, while Aurelius has a section at the end contextualising his life and discussing his philosophy in detail with reference to other philosophers). It's certainly enough for a layperson like myself to make it through, though reading becomes very slow after Plato due to the fact that the unconnected ideas demand you to contemplate them rather than flowing as a metaphor or the progression of dialogue, and most of my time was spent in the second half of the book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Justin Weiss

    I found this at a library sale, it's an absolutely beautiful book. Kind of the archetype of what I imagine when I think, "book." I had never read any of the books in here before, though most of them were books I'd been hoping to read someday. The Apology, Phaedo, and Crito were interesting. The arguments seemed primitive, but the logic was fun to follow. I had a really hard time getting through the Epictetus section. I think that was mostly because of the translation. Meditations was definitely t I found this at a library sale, it's an absolutely beautiful book. Kind of the archetype of what I imagine when I think, "book." I had never read any of the books in here before, though most of them were books I'd been hoping to read someday. The Apology, Phaedo, and Crito were interesting. The arguments seemed primitive, but the logic was fun to follow. I had a really hard time getting through the Epictetus section. I think that was mostly because of the translation. Meditations was definitely the highlight. I had been introduced to some Stoic ideas through online friends, and I was very surprised how much the philosophy matched parts of my personality that I've had since as long as I can remember. For me, it works. Really, really well. As for the book itself, the translation was often hard to read, and the book itself can be rambling, but when it's good, it's REALLY good. Overall, I struggled with this one, but I'm very glad I read it. I'll probably come back to parts (or a different translation), and I think it will be better and easier the next time around.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Wilson

    I inherited a complete set of 1910 Harvard Classics decades ago from my grandmother. A few volumes actually came in handy in college and grad school, and I saved some money at the bookstore. But recently, my spouse suggested we read them all collectively; ie, he would read 25 and I would read 25. I thought it was a good idea, so we'll see how it goes. He's still working through Vol. 1 (Franklin, Woolman, Penn), while Vol. 2 has been my first true introduction to the Stoics. (I say "true" because I inherited a complete set of 1910 Harvard Classics decades ago from my grandmother. A few volumes actually came in handy in college and grad school, and I saved some money at the bookstore. But recently, my spouse suggested we read them all collectively; ie, he would read 25 and I would read 25. I thought it was a good idea, so we'll see how it goes. He's still working through Vol. 1 (Franklin, Woolman, Penn), while Vol. 2 has been my first true introduction to the Stoics. (I say "true" because Ryan Holiday's The Obstacle Is the Way is definitely THE most lightweight, cherrypicked, bullshit chunk of pseudo-philosophy I've ever read, ugh.) Anyway, I skipped Plato because I had read all of these works multiple times and Socratic dialogue drives me bananas. Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius were great, though! The language in these is very King James Bible, so I couldn't read more than five pages at a time before my mind started to wander. But I found that I like philosophy that holds me to a higher standard—contrary to what the Internet Buddhists say, I'm pretty sure I'm not actually perfect just the way I am. Stoicism isn't particularly joyful, but it is a really good kick in the ass for handling life's challenges both large and small. So much of philosophy and religion strives to plumb the hearts of man, but here, a person's behavior is what matters most, and we all have an obligation to each other and ourselves. Also, I always find it comforting to see how little people have changed over the millennia.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sandy

    Excellent read and inspiring for developing clarity about stoicism. This beautiful book sat in my mother’s basement since my adolescence at which point I attempted to digest its words. Fifty years and this time I could understand and digest the ideas. Much of the stoic philosophy feels so appealing especially the parts about simplicity and courage. Not all of it is suitable for my life, but striving for kindness, straightforward honesty and optimism are possible.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Mark

    Plato provides a strong and clear grounding in the philosophical principles which are then made applicable in every day situations by Epictetus and Aurelius. Reading Epictetus, and then Aurelius, is like having your mind cleaned, swept and set neatly in order. This particular edition is very readable. Recommended highly.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Peter Talbot

    Superb and worthy collation of Socratic and Stoic texts: the Platonic dialogues dealing with Socrates' trial, imprisonment and capital punishment are wonderful literature even though what passes for logic in them is often just madcap error. The Golden Sayings of Epictetus (the ex slave philosopher banished by Domitian to Nicopolis) compiled by Arrian; and the tortured and often obscure "Meditations" of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius are fascinating, and not part of "Great Books" canon these d Superb and worthy collation of Socratic and Stoic texts: the Platonic dialogues dealing with Socrates' trial, imprisonment and capital punishment are wonderful literature even though what passes for logic in them is often just madcap error. The Golden Sayings of Epictetus (the ex slave philosopher banished by Domitian to Nicopolis) compiled by Arrian; and the tortured and often obscure "Meditations" of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius are fascinating, and not part of "Great Books" canon these days. The accompanying biographical and philosophically critical notes of the translator George Long are inciteful but often wrong-headed in their repeated attempts to "save" Aurelius and Stoicism generally for the Catholic Church and its traditions. A must read and a recommended re-read for everyone. Remember that Aurelius wrote in Greek, and issues of translation are relevant throughout.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ixby Wuff

    Three of Plato's dialogues, Apology, Phaedo and Crito which epitomize the Socratic question-and-answer style turned philosophy, with the inevitable conclusion of Socrates' death. Like those of Socrates and Christ, the Golden Sayings were transcribed by the disciples of the great Stoic. Marcus Aurelius, the great Roman Stoic and Emperor, hands down the day-to-day principles on which an all-powerful Emperor ruled for the welfare of the people in his Meditations.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Joel Everett

    An older translation, but a marvelous read nonetheless. There is much wisdom in all 5 works as humans are still humans even after 2,0oo plus years. Appended at the end was also two interesting lectures on the life and philosophy of Aurelius.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Adrian

    "Thou God Thou."- Epictetus

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    A bit dated of a translation of these things, but the wisdom of good men preserved for all to read and learn from.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Talbot Hook

    Can one ever really "finish" any of these works? I think not. Onward and upward.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    This book contains three very different authors each of whom is presenting a different perspective on classical (primarily Greek) philosophy. Plato's writings are dictations of speeches and dialogs by Socrates. These writings express Socrates' thoughts about philosophy and the "right way" to live (and die). The second set of writings are the precepts from Epictetus, an early Christian philosopher. The final collection are a set of philosophical observations by Marcus Arelius, the Roman emperor. This book contains three very different authors each of whom is presenting a different perspective on classical (primarily Greek) philosophy. Plato's writings are dictations of speeches and dialogs by Socrates. These writings express Socrates' thoughts about philosophy and the "right way" to live (and die). The second set of writings are the precepts from Epictetus, an early Christian philosopher. The final collection are a set of philosophical observations by Marcus Arelius, the Roman emperor. Arelius was a Stoic who encouraged moral living through sheer willpower and the ability to choose for yourself the wise way to live. Of the three I think I found Arelius the most interesting. Not because I agreed with his philosophy the most, but because I found it so curiously ironic. For instance, he strongly proposed that people live humbly and without ostentation, but then took pride in the fact that he did that. He berated those who sought after fame because he said after you died no one would remember who you are, yet his writings are still being read almost 2000 years after he wrote them. He was a proponent of "live and let live" but was extremely judgmental towards anyone who didn't think as he did. Finally, he admonished people to live strong moral lives (avoiding all of the standard "sins") yet he disliked Christians and the Christian religion about as strongly as he disliked anything. As emperor Arelius was responsible for much of the brutal second century persecution of the Christian church. A final note about Arelius and his attitude toward Christianity. I believe that this was due to his view of life and death. He did not see death as an evil but instead just another stage in a sequence of changes that everyone goes through. He advocated people approaching death fearlessly and with dignity and with a sense of adventure when moving onto the next stage of life. But for Christians the Resurrection of Christ is the central pillar of their doctrine. Death IS evil. Death IS the opposite of life. Christ's resurrection was a victory over death. But if Arelius is correct in his view of death then the resurrection was "going backwards" and placing any value on that act would undermine his entire belief system. This is all conjecture. Arelius didn't mention Christ or the resurrection in any of the writings in this volume but I can't help but think that he was aware of this Christian doctrine. So it is surprising that it is missing. This book has been a tough and difficult read. Lots of philosophy and brain twisting. But it's been good to see these other points of view and to learn how others think.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Brendan

    A very interesting volume. Plato's philosophy is interesting, and I plan on reading more about his metaphysics in Timaeus. I was very intrigued when I discovered that Plato used the phrase 'through a glass darkly' many years before its inclusion in the Bible. It's very insightful to realize that Paul was well educated and that he thought it worthwhile to make allusions to the philosophical thought of th e time when writing his epistles (1 Cor. 13, for example). Epictetus provided an interestin A very interesting volume. Plato's philosophy is interesting, and I plan on reading more about his metaphysics in Timaeus. I was very intrigued when I discovered that Plato used the phrase 'through a glass darkly' many years before its inclusion in the Bible. It's very insightful to realize that Paul was well educated and that he thought it worthwhile to make allusions to the philosophical thought of th e time when writing his epistles (1 Cor. 13, for example). Epictetus provided an interesting introduction to the Stoics' philosophy. The have some very fascinating and practical thoughts on living properly, and I found them to be very insightful in some regards. Marcus Aurelius Antoninus drew much from the Stoics, and his meditations were fascinating to read. Of no little interest to me was his use of the term daemon (which we've seen make a recent appearance in Northern Lights / The Golden Compass. Aurelius uses the daemon as another component of the human being, similar to but separate from the soul. The daemon represents the Deity within, and is unique to each person. Understanding a little bit the ancient idea of a daemon, I wonder how much Philip Pullman is drawing on this old definition and how much he's redefining it for his own purposes. My guess is that there is little truth in the former and much in the latter; Pullman seems like the type of author who would redefine balk at the Greek and Roman definition of Deity, but would love to "reclaim" the word in order to effectively express the stature and fortitude of enlightened modern day humanists. All told, this volume was most intriguing.

  16. 4 out of 5

    tENTATIVELY, cONVENIENCE

    As usual, the edition listed is a more recent one than the one that I just added the bk cover image to but they're both reissues of the same bk. The cover I added is from the Harvard Classics edition published by P. F. Collier & Son Corporation. This was probably the 1st philosophy bk I ever read. I remember reading it while I was a research volunteer for the University of Maryland hospital in downtown Baltimore. I might've been 21. My memories of it are more vividly associated w/ that circumsta As usual, the edition listed is a more recent one than the one that I just added the bk cover image to but they're both reissues of the same bk. The cover I added is from the Harvard Classics edition published by P. F. Collier & Son Corporation. This was probably the 1st philosophy bk I ever read. I remember reading it while I was a research volunteer for the University of Maryland hospital in downtown Baltimore. I might've been 21. My memories of it are more vividly associated w/ that circumstance than they are w/ its contents. I was the freak in the study who was composing a piece called "d composition" & reading classic philosophy. One of my roomies seemed to be fascinated by me. Somehow, from observing this intellectual behavior of mine, he concluded that I was some sort of hard-core orgy participant or something? He was a gigolo. After I was out of the hospital, he & I stayed in touch. I invited him to a party, he arrived w/ a friend in tow w/ a camera - both practically w/ their tongues lolling out. Their disappoinment at finding this a fairly tame painter's party was all too clear. Where's the orgy? But back to the bk: Marcus Aurelius was the one who made the most impression on me. An emperor who was abstinent & tried to be fair? Or was the editor of the series trying to perpetuate ruling class myths that an elite university like Harvard was all too happy to use as a PR smokescreen for its own agenda? Hard to say in retrospect, but I doubt that I'll read Aurelius again to reform an opinion. I give it 4 stars anyway just b/c the whole experience of reading such a thing was important to me at that time in my life.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Steven

    When I was 17 an elderly French-Canadian friend of the family allowed me to choose three books from his library as my grad present. I chose this as one of my three, largely because I admired the romans and I recognized a Latin name. I carried it with me to university and hauled it through student rootlessness and poverty and change. For perhaps 8 years, I never read it. During a particularly hard period, where I was unemployed, in debt, and genuinely feeling like I might end up on the street, I When I was 17 an elderly French-Canadian friend of the family allowed me to choose three books from his library as my grad present. I chose this as one of my three, largely because I admired the romans and I recognized a Latin name. I carried it with me to university and hauled it through student rootlessness and poverty and change. For perhaps 8 years, I never read it. During a particularly hard period, where I was unemployed, in debt, and genuinely feeling like I might end up on the street, I finally read the book. It was powerful and remedial and remains my favorite book. Marcus Aurelius and this volume pulled me from a pit of despair in my early 20s. 14 years later, it holds up after a re-read. It has its problems, of course. Stoicism does. But there is something both stern and centering in M. Aurelius, and when it counted, it lit a flame where light was fading. I will always have a soft spot for it. Plato and Epictetus are a bonus, too.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sally

    [only reading Apology and Crito] Discussed in our meeting today. The translation by Benjamin Jowett (online) was more readable, in my experience, than this version. For a more serious study, this translation may be preferable; I don't know. I was striving for an introduction to Plato for youth, and I think Apology and Crito served well for that purpose. It certainly pays to understand the context and history of the dialogues, and to know that these are recreations by Plato - creative nonfiction, [only reading Apology and Crito] Discussed in our meeting today. The translation by Benjamin Jowett (online) was more readable, in my experience, than this version. For a more serious study, this translation may be preferable; I don't know. I was striving for an introduction to Plato for youth, and I think Apology and Crito served well for that purpose. It certainly pays to understand the context and history of the dialogues, and to know that these are recreations by Plato - creative nonfiction, if you will. A few of the kids today admitted to not understanding the accusations against Socrates, even after reading the entire essays. Would I use these readings in the future? Yes. Am I a changed person because of them? No(t yet).

  19. 4 out of 5

    Amy Stanitis

    It was a bit clunky to read with some older way of speaking, but it was worth the effort. Even the writer admitted he used more ambiguous language to keep the meaning consistent to original, which I began to appreciate after hearing there was a purpose to the word choice. The ending gave a brief background. I'm a big fan of biographies, so a brief summary of the times and people was a strong selling point for me. Also, I enjoyed hearing the author's thought process since he had to do much resear It was a bit clunky to read with some older way of speaking, but it was worth the effort. Even the writer admitted he used more ambiguous language to keep the meaning consistent to original, which I began to appreciate after hearing there was a purpose to the word choice. The ending gave a brief background. I'm a big fan of biographies, so a brief summary of the times and people was a strong selling point for me. Also, I enjoyed hearing the author's thought process since he had to do much research and translating to create the book. Overall, I'd recommend it.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Bob Miller

    I have read Plato many times, its still tedious and antiquated, and interesting. The golden sayings were new to me and quite enjoyable. I have not read any other Greek literature from C.E., mostly just from 300-500 B.C. Finally, I read Marcus Aurelius in a separate volume not long ago and did not read it again.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Quinn

    I found a treasure trove of classics at my parents home and though I have studied The Apology in high school it has greater meaning to me now. Looking forward to Dantes Inferno!!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Edmond

    Three most powerful advisers any king could wish for in this book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Clifford

    Plato and Marcus Aurelius aren't exactly easy reading, but it is worthwhile engaging with the real thing. Gives more insight into the "Socratic Method."

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly

    The Apology, Phaedo and Crito of Plato; The Golden Sayings of Epictetus; The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Tlaloc

    Worth getting for the 3-in-1 appeal. That is, if you can find it. Getting it in hardcover, like I did, is only better.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Michele at A Belle's Tales

    Beautiful book -- I'd love to collect every volume!

  27. 4 out of 5

    David Redden

    This is an excellent collection of ancient Greek and Roman philosophical thought with a religious bent. I had trouble putting it down.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Carlos Rendon

    really enjoyed Plato. I wil have to read more of his works. Epictectus and Marcus Aurelius were good but not as good as Plato. in general I like the Stoic philosophy.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Allen

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

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