SLRP: XIV. Reasons For Withdrawing (Part 1: 1 – 8)



I think I’ve said before in our letters that for the past year, thereabouts, I’ve been mostly a student of Musonius Rufus with some Epictetus tossed in for good measure.  Coming from that perspective, I must disagree with your statement of the previous letter which strikes me as decidedly Epicurean in nature.

“Let us, however, in so far as we can, avoid discomforts as well as dangers, and withdraw to safe ground, by thinking continually how we may repel all objects of fear.”

I would counter it with this Fragment of Musonius, in which he uses the metric of the Epicurean to show the position is untenable in regards to pleasure being a good, and avoidance of pain an evil:

“If one were to measure what is agreeable by the standard of pleasure, nothing would be pleasanter than self-control; and if one were to measure what is to be avoided by pain, nothing would be more painful than lack of self-control.”

— Musonius, Fragment XXIV

Musonius’ example, even by the Epicurean criteria, proves the Stoic doctrine.  How can it be then, dear Seneca, that you would hail back to the Epicurean valuation?  In the same piece, you note that an abundance of worry over the body results in a lesser valuation of virtue, yet you say one should bend to that same pressure and withdraw from worldly suffering.

Did not Socrates and Cato, and yes even your own self, choose death over the will of the tyrant?  How can it be then, that the Sage would avoid the civil authorities?  Your own integrity demanded death over acquiescence,and a truly noble one it was, Sir.

No, the Sage would do what is fitting:  which might mean exile, challenging the civil authorities in the face of injustice, or even death.

Come back to the porch, Seneca, we miss you!  (;


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

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