Volume 20, Issue 2, Spring 2016
Joshua M. Hall
A Divinely Tolerant Political Ethics
Dancing with Aurelius
Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations constitutes an important source and subject for Michel Foucault’s 1981 lectures at the Collège de France, translated into English as Hermeneutics of the Subject. One recurring theme in these lectures is the deployment by Hellenistic/Roman philosophers such as Aurelius of the practice and figure of dance. Inspired by this discussion, the present essay offers a close reading of dance in the Meditations, followed by a survey of the secondary literature on this subject. Overall, I will attempt to show that, despite Aurelius’s self-consciously critical comportment toward dance, dance nevertheless performs a critical function in the construction of what I will term his “political ethics.” This political ethics, I will argue, is composed of an ethics of patient tolerance funded by the generosity that flows from the micro-political power generated by cultivating the god (or daemon) that Aurelius identifies within each of us.