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The Inner Citadel

The Inner Citadel by Pierre Hadot is an analysis of The Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. In The Inner Citadel, Hadot strives to organize the writings of Aurelius into stoic themes and provide a perspective of Aurelius, his context and his writings.

The book is excellent in explaining a lot of the stoic concepts. It starts providing a picture of who Aurelius was. The chapter on his upbringing is especially interesting and provides a view into his philosophical education. The background information on how The Meditations was lost and subsequently discovered is also fascinating but the lack of information here makes it hard to deduce anything from it. Lastly Hadot provides a primer into stoicism and how it evolved. Hadot also covers the structure of ancient philosophies of physics, dialectics and ethics. After providing the background, Hadot goes into the three central themes of The Meditations: assent, desire and action. Assent is how to see things as they are without judgment. Desire is how to accept fate - accept external events. Action is how to act in accordance with the universe. If you, like me, read The Meditations and didn’t quite like the descriptions of “Providence”, “Nature” and “Universe”, Hadot makes it much clearer on how these terms fit into a modern world view. It certainly made me appreciate The Meditations more.

A great work by Hadot and essential if you felt like you didn’t get that much out of The Meditations. This book can illuminate some of the points in The Meditations that feels too obscure.

4 out of 5 stars.