Monday, June 27, 2011

Seneca - Stoic Philosopher (Blog 3)

One of Rome's greatest philosopher's could be just as vital now has he was during the first century. In a letter Seneca stated, "Look around at the huge influx of people which even a city as large and diverse as Rome can scarcely house. From the whole world they converge, ambition draws some, others are compelled by duty. Many thirst for liberal studies, others crave spectacles. Some put their beauty on sale, others sell their eloquence. The entire human race has flocked here, a city offering rich returns for both virtues and vices" (The Roman Empire in the First Century, Virtual Library: Seneca On Rome).

This was Seneca’s depiction of Rome which could very well describe any large city in the United States  like New York or Los Angeles. I believe that more of his basic viewpoints need to be practiced in our world today. Similar to the 1970's with the Make Peace not War Movement, he believed in the power of positive thinking, teaching philosophies of love and how to apply these ideals for one and all, "If you want to receive love you need to love yourself first.". . .“If you wish to be loved, love.” ... “Where there is a human being there is an opportunity for a kindness” (Seneca, and Campbell).

Seneca was born in 4 BC at Cordoba, Spain with a relatively undistinguished  background, however rose quickly to prominence at Rome with careers in both the courts and political life (Seneca, and Campbell). Considered a statesman, philosopher, writer − author of tragedies, and essays that considered moral, literary, and scientific subject matter. Seneca was educated in the philosophy of Sextii which was the heavily influenced by stoicism where virtue is based on knowledge and the challenges of everyday life should be accepted calmly. All knowledge enters the mind through the senses. No reason to stress over an issue, all the worry causes is more stress, worrying will not solve the problem. Recently I found myself so stressed that the work I was trying to accomplish was taking hours instead of minutes. The stress caused more stress, instead of being accepted calmly as a Stoicism practitioner.

Stoicism as a belief system based it's beliefs on the fundamental proposition "nothing incorporeal exists" only physical sensations matters, reality is what is known by the senses, and nothing else exists, everything else is imagination. There are no extremes, both pain and pleasure are acceptable parts of life, to be accepted with dignity. Stoics accept virtue as the highest good in life. and only by putting aside passion, unjust thoughts, and indulgence and by performing duty with the right disposition can people attain true freedom and rule as lords over their own lives. From my reading so far on this subject my interpretations of Stoic moral thought follows the concept that emotion leads to negative reactions so by living a life emotionlessly or with complete control over our own emotions we are able to conquer fear therefore the evils of the world. As an ideal, or a goal it might be worth pursuing, but I am not sure I want to be just like Mr. Spock, logic based. The Stoics believed that destructive emotions resulted from errors in judgment, and that a sage, or person of "moral and intellectual perfection," would not suffer such emotions."

Seneca expanded on these beliefs with a contexts that might be more valid today than in ancient Rome. He believed in making peace with death and living in accordance with nature. Many of his teachings are more like axioms to live by. Some of my favorite Seneca quotes:

On Anger
On Surpassing Difficulties

On Direction:

On Loving
If you wish to be loved, love.

On Living or Death:
Death you'll think of as the worst of all bad things, though in fact there's nothing bad about it at all except the thing which comes before it - the fear of it" (Seneca, and Campbell).
No man's good by accident. Virtue has to be learnt. Pleasure is a poor and petty thing. No value should be set on it: it's something we share with dumb animals - the minutest, most insignificant creatures scutter after it. Glory's an empty, changeable thing, as fickle as the weather. Poverty's no evil to anyone unless he kicks against it. Death is not an evil. What is it then? The one law mankind has that is free of all discrimination" (Seneca, and Campbell).

Basic Instructions on Life
The bravest sight in the world is to see a great man struggling against adversity" (Seneca, and Campbell).

In conclusion Seneca didn't believe that philosophy should be a word game or a practice of arguing for the sake of having an arguments for their own sake. Instead − and I agree with this concept − that philosophy is a way of life that all those who seek the good should investigate and adopt.

Works Cited

       Seneca, Lucius Annaeus, and Robin Campbell. Letters from a Stoic: Epistulae morales ad Lucilium. New York: Penguin Classics, 1969. 7-67. Print.


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