Seneca on anger: part III

I’m going to wrap up my extended commentary of Seneca’s pivotal essay, On Anger, which is one of the most important Stoic texts you’ll ever read. Not to mention one of the most useful. (Part I is here; part II here.) Book III opens up with Seneca telling his friend Novatus that it is now […]

Seneca on anger: part II

Let us continue our three-part examination of Seneca’s essay On Anger with what he writes in book II (my commentary on book I is here). Seneca addresses again his friend Novatus, who apparently has what we today would call anger management issues, by saying: “There is no doubt that anger is roused by the appearance […]

Seneca on anger, part I

Anger is a major concern for Stoics, and their attitude about it is often misunderstood, just like more broadly their take on emotions in general is. The contrast here is with the Aristotelians, who claimed that virtue lies in navigating the middle course between extremes. Concerning anger, they thought that the virtuous compromise is good […]

Seneca’s consolation letters, part I: Marcia

The consolation letter was a popular literary genre in antiquity, essentially being a vehicle for presenting crucial aspects of one’s philosophy while giving actual advice to friends or relatives on how to deal with loss and grief. Perhaps the most famous consolation letters were written by Seneca, to his friend Marcia, to his mother Helvia […]

Stoicism and Christianity, I: Seneca

On a number of times I have commented on the differences and similarities between Stoicism and Buddhism (insofar I understand the latter, I’m certainly no expert). But there are some interesting parallels between Stoicism and Christianity as well, parallels that were famously highlighted by Justus Lipsius, the founder of Neo-Stoicism, in the 16th century. The occasion […]

Seneca: on the shortness of life

Seneca wrote his 20-sections On the Shortness of Life in 49 CE, the year he returned to Rome from his exile in Corsica, as a moral essay addressed to his friend Paulinus. It begins: “The majority of mortals, Paulinus, complain bitterly of the spitefulness of Nature, because we are born for a brief span of […]

Seneca on Cato: the best quotes

The Stoics were big on both real life (Socrates) and fictional (Heracles) role models. That’s because virtue ethics is focused on the improvement of the individual character, something that can be achieved only by practice after other people’s examples. For the Stoics (unlike for Aristotle) virtue is both technē (i.e., craftsmanship) and epistēmē (i.e., knowledge), which is […]