Ringo Starr rebukes the Stoics

I’ve been reading Marcus Aurelius and he keeps returning to the theme that one must live “according to one’s nature” in order to live a good life.  He really believes in nature.  In fact, he reasons as follows:  nature wouldn’t cause bad things to happen to the virtuous as well as the wicked, and we see that both the virtuous and the wicked often die young, so early death must not be a bad thing.

Apparently this focus on doing what is according to one’s nature is a standard feature of Stoic philosophy.  It makes me think of this song, one of the few times the Beatles let Ringo sing.  It’s not even a Beatles original; it’s a cover of a Buck Owens hit from a couple of years previously.  Released as a B-side to “Yesterday” and then on the Help! LP.

Ringo has a different view on the virtues of acting according to one’s nature:

They’re gonna put me in the movies
They’re gonna make a big star out of me
We’ll make a film about a man that’s sad and lonely
And all I gotta do is act naturally
Well, I’ll bet you I’m a-gonna be a big star
Might win an Oscar you can’t never tell
The movie’s gonna make me a big star,
‘Cause I can play the part so well
Well, I hope you come and see me in the movie
Then I’ll know that you will plainly see
The biggest fool that’s ever hit the big time
And all I gotta do is act naturally

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4 thoughts on “Ringo Starr rebukes the Stoics

  1. Thomas Quinoa says:

    I do not think it is more accurate to describe Stoic doctrine by saying “live according to nature”, rather than “live according to one’s own nature”. The latter places way more emphasis on individual character and propensities than I’ve seen any Stoic philosopher doing.

    You are completely right that implicit in Stoic philosophy is this whole metaphysics of nature. It is at the bottom of many of the arguments of both Marcus and (the much greater) Epictetus. But imho one should not immediately dismiss this as superstition or some sort of magical get-out-of-jail-free card. The vast majority of Stoic philosophical texts have been lost, and there are no writers from the early or middle Stoa of whom any substantial texts have come down to us. I think it is not unreasonable to suppose that the doctrine of nature had been worked out previously by the likes of Zeno and Chrysippus. Since the emphasis of the later Stoics was on ethics rather than physics, they would naturally have felt little need to delve into these matters at any extended length.

  2. Thomas Quinoa says:

    Sorry, I meant to start that comment by *I think it is more accurate*. Badly rewritten sentence, my apologies.

  3. Andy P. says:

    The original version by Buck Owens (with the great Don Rich on guitar) is a stone-cold classic. The Beatles’ version can’t hold a candle to it, though this opinion might just reflect the fact that I’ve never quite understood their appeal. Here you go: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0eaPX8JDyTo

  4. […] Dec 2018:  Meditations of Marcus Aurelius (Gregory Hays, trans.) […]

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