SLRP: XL. ON The Proper Style For A Philosopher’s Discourse

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Seneca,

It’s hard to believe that we’re almost through with ten weeks and forty letters.  I guess that puts us almost a fifth of the way through.  Tempus fugit, eh?

“Besides, this sort of speech contains a great deal of sheer emptiness; it has more sound than power. My terrors should be quieted, my irritations soothed, my illusions shaken off, my indulgences checked, my greed rebuked. And which of these cures can be brought about in a hurry? What physician can heal his patient on a flying visit?”

Stoic rhetoric is an interesting critter.  By all accounts, the writings of Chrysippus were more akin to technical manuals for an engine, than the prose we’re used to consuming today.  It was the writings of Hierocles, Cicero, and Seneca which brought the highly technical language down to a more common plane.

It’s sometimes hard to bridge the gap of needing to be incredibly specific with the meaning of words as a philosopher must, but also not to lose the ability to reach one’s audience.  I’ve written before about the steep learn curve of acquiring Stoic jargon, and mitigating that with the sorts of moral exhortations which the Stoics were known for.

In this project, and most of my others, I usually try to adopt a more conversational tone; something easy to read, and pleasant to think about.  There’s a good bit of highly technical philosophical treatises out there on Stoicism, and there’s a good bit of popular fluffery as well.  The lack, it seems to me, lies in handling the actually philosophy in a less academic way.

Even though I had not heard your advice, Seneca, until today.  I think I’ve been following it well.  Thank you for the letter.

Farewell.


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

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