SLRP: VI. On Sharing Knowledge


Your letter today calls to my mind one of the Stoic “paradoxes,” or that which goes against the common understanding.  That is the total binary nature of virtue and vice, of the σοφός (sophós) and the ἰδιώτης (idiótés).

It seems to be a universal that we look for marks of progress, that we see how our tools have shaped the soul we are seeking to sculpt.  We even call the practicing Stoic προκόπτων (prokóptôn), the one who is making progress.

Now, that seems like the regular sort of ‘paradox’ meaning a contradiction, not just against the popular belief.

I look back on the past three years of my study, and I see a change in how I handle impressions, a change in my treatment and valuation of indifferents.  If the philosopher is merely the ‘sick person closer to the window, better able to see and describe the outside to the other patients,’ then the words of the Stoics have show me that I’m ‘closer to health’ as it were than I was before.

Even you yourself, Seneca, remark on the progress our School as helped us make.  Yet, we’re told, there is no value in this.  If the only good is our own moral good, and the only evil or own moral evil, isn’t the change from more of the latter to more of the former something worthy?

Maybe the firm statement that there are no levels of progress is not a prescriptive truth, but a pedagogic tool to help inculcate ἀπάθεια (apátheia) even for something like εὐδαιμονία (eudaimonia), the telos of our philosophy.

It is with the thoughts of hallmark state of the Sage in mind, and the Stoic paradoxes, that I bid you a fond farewell.


Part of Michel Daw’s Reading Plan of Seneca’s Letters.

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