SLRP: XVII. On Philosophy And Riches



“Take my advice; call wisdom into consultation; she will advise you not to sit for ever at your ledger. Doubtless, your object, what you wish to attain by such postponement of your studies, is that poverty may not have to be feared by you. But what if it is something to be desired? Riches have shut off many a man from the attainment of wisdom; poverty is unburdened and free from care.”

It has been my position for some time now, that when folks say ‘wealth is a preferred indifferent,’ they misunderstand the issue.  Preference in the ἀδιάφορα (adiaphora) is determined by the thing’s conduciveness to our own virtue.

The words we’re using here are :

  • προηγμένα (proêgmena) meaning ‘preferred indifferents,’
  •  ἀπροηγμένα (aproêgmena) meaning ‘dispreferred indifferents.’

It might stand to reason, then, that what is preferred to one is dispreferred to another.  For instance, if having a certain amount of money keeps one from doing unvirtuous things to live, then it could be argued that such an amount of wealth is preferred (albeit not required).  However, for another, he may find that austerity and temperate use of things is more conducive to his virtue, in which case that amount of wealth that the first man prefers is dispreferred by the second man.

I suppose the rub lie in being able to accurately determine where those lines fall in regards to ourselves.

We see the common list of προηγμένα (proêgmena), life, health, pleasure, beauty, strength, wealth, good reputation, and noble birth.  However, it seems to me that such a thing is much more personal than this mere list could suggest.

With those thoughts in mind, I bid you a fond farewell.

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

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