Summum Bonum Meaning: Aim For The Highest Good
“Just that you do the right thing. The rest doesn’t matter. Cold or warm. Tired or well-rested. Despised or honoured. Dying… or busy with other assignments.”
– Marcus Aurelius
Summum Bonum – meaning “Highest Good” – is a phrase that has been used perennially in philosophy but is attributed to Cicero, one of Rome’s great orators during the time of the Stoics.
In the search for meaning in this life, many people ask the timeless questions “What should a Good person do?” and “What actually is Good?”
While there are many answers and interpretrations across various cultures and traditions, the Stoic’s answer was relatively simple.
Most of us know inherently what the right thing to do is in any given situation, all we are tasked with is actually doing it.
Summum Bonum in Stoicism
Although Cicero wasn’t considered to be a Stoic, he was still very much influenced by the works of Stoicism, particularly after the untimely death of his daughter.
His ideas surrounding Summum Bonum and “The Highest Good” were picked up by the great Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius and many other notable leaders of that time.
Marcus Aurelius instructs us to always act in accordance with Virtue, which is often considered to be the Highest Good.
Virtue constitutes a number of the core human values and fruits that include happiness or contentment, meaning, love, duty, justice and peace.
Aiming for the Highest Good in any and every circumstance is considered a sure – but not always easy – path to these qualities and states.
In Modern Times
The concept of Summum Bonum could be considered to have underwent a ‘revival’ of sorts in 1629.
Robert Fludd’s titlepage ‘Summum Bonum‘ depicts the striking image of a sevenfold rose – also known as the Rosicrucian symbol.
The Latin inscription of the image reads ‘Dat Rosa Mel Apibus’ or ‘The Rose Gives Honey to Bees’.
Although much symbolism is contained within the image, the primary is the rose and its thorns. The thorns representing the obstacles and pitfalls on the journey towards the sweetness of the rose.
In other words, a metaphor for the fruits that lie behind the challenges that we face each and every day throughout our lives.
Our Summum Bonum Coin
With all of this in mind, we decided to create our very own Summum Bonum coin.
Like with our other Stoic coins, it is designed to be kept either in your pocket, on your desk or anywhere else that is visible and easily accessible.
The front of the coin takes inspiration from Robert Fludd’s sevenfold rose and the symbolism behind it.
The back of the coin features the very simple but efffective message of “Do what is right, not what is easy.”
The Highest Good in any situation is sometimes easy, but most often not. The right thing to do from a personal point of view is often inconvenient, requires effort and can be difficult.
This doesn’t matter to those who are truly interested in living the best life for themselves and for those they care about.
See here for a link to our Summum Bonum Challenge Coin