When we interviewed Robert Greene for DailyStoic.com, we were surprised to hear that one of his favorite passages from Marcus Aurelius was where Marcus discussed “seeing roasted meat and other dishes in front of you and suddenly realizing: This is a dead fish. A dead bird. A dead pig.” Robert explained why: “I’ve tried to bring that across in my writing. For instance, to deconstruct things like power and seduction and to see the actual elements in play instead of the legends surrounding them.”
People have complained that Robert Greene’s books are amoral. Some complain that Stoicism is pessimistic. People complain about a lot of things in life that they don’t like–stuff that is supposedly impolite, negative, improper or a downer. The Stoics don’t have time for semantic self-delusion.
They want to see the world as it is, bluntly, clearly, without blinders. No one–including Robert Greene–is saying that you should follow every ruthless law of power. But that doesn’t change what the laws are, or how they might be used by others. No one is saying you have to lose your appetite by envisioning where your food came from, but denial doesn’t change the reality of a slaughterhouse.
It’s better to see the world honestly and then decide how you wish to behave within it, rather than to be naive or willfully ignorant.