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A Kingly Person, Justice and The Just: From the Teachings of Musonius Rufus (vegetarian), Part 1 of 2

2023-05-01
Lingua:English
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His philosophy focused on the study and practice of virtue. He believed that everyone is capable of being virtuous, however, people who had not learned the skills of ethical living could not be expected to live without error. Thus, he lived and promoted a simple and frugal lifestyle, which included the learning of self-control, modesty, courage, and benevolence. He was a vegetarian and taught that being mindful of one’s diet was a vital virtue.

Today, we would like to convey the discourse “That Kings also should study Philosophy,” where the philosopher expounds on the importance that leaders and people in authority must truly understand justice and be just in their actions.

“For the first duty of a king is to be able to protect and benefit his people, and a protector and benefactor must know what is good for a man and what is bad, what is helpful and what is harmful, what is advantageous and what is disadvantageous, inasmuch as it is plain that those who ally themselves with evil come to harm, while those who cleave to good enjoy protection, and those who are deemed worthy of help and advantage enjoy benefits, while those who involve themselves in things disadvantageous and harmful suffer punishment. But to distinguish between good and bad, advantageous and disadvantageous, helpful and harmful is the part of none other than the philosopher, who constantly occupies himself with this very question, how not to be ignorant of any of these things, and has made it his art to understand what conduces to a man's happiness or unhappiness. Therefore, it appears that the king should study philosophy.

Furthermore, it is fitting for a king, or rather it is an absolute necessity for him, to arbitrate justice between subjects so that no one may have more or less than his just deserts, but may receive honor or punishment as he deserves. But how would anyone who was not just ever be able to manage this?”

“In the next place, it is essential for the king to exercise self-control over himself and demand self-control of his subjects, to the end that with sober rule and seemly submission, there shall be no wantonness on the part of either. For the ruin of the ruler and the citizen alike is wantonness. But how would anyone achieve self-control if he did not make an effort to curb his desires, or how could one who was undisciplined make others temperate? One can mention no study except philosophy that develops self-control.”
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