SLRP: L. On Our Blindness And Its Cure

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Seneca,

“…[Ye]t the first steps in the approach to [virtue] are toilsome, because it is characteristic of a weak and diseased mind to fear that which is unfamiliar. The mind must, therefore, be forced to make a beginning; from then on, the medicine is not bitter; for just as soon as it is curing us it begins to give pleasure. One enjoys other cures only after health is restored, but a draught of philosophy is at the same moment wholesome and pleasant.”

My own practice seemed to have plateaued a few months back.  More than a few, now maybe.  And in the last couple weeks, even begun to slip.  This is a good call to action.  Thank you for it.

Farewell.


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

CERP: Day 20 – To Crates, To Metrocles, do well, To Crates, do well, To the same, do well

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IX. To Crates (p. 103)

Ps-Diogenes relates to us the “initiation” of Crate into the Cynic life.  The thing that sticks out at me, is that he is bidden to come back, as it’s “not safe to linger where there is no one like you.”

This brings to mind Gadara, which is reported to have been a Cynic hub of sorts.  I usually picture Diogenes living alone, taking students irregularly.  But maybe that’s inaccurate.

X. To Metrocles, do well (p. 103)
Ps_Diogenes clearly here is making an argument for begging.  This tells us that like today, the idea of begging was distasteful to Diogenes’ audience.

Ps-Diogenes makes a couple arguments by analogy, showing how kings beg from their subjects; the sick beg from their doctors; and people from the objects of their desire.  Even Heracles begged, he says, as he received strength.

The issue is whether we request something fitting, or not fitting.  Then, if we give back something of greater value.  A Cynic’s begging, then, is a pedagogical tool as well as a necessity of life.  That we would go against the popular conception itself is a worthwhile thing in teaching the meaning of our respective philosophies.

XI. To Crates, do well (p. 105)
This letter contains an outlier.  Of course, Epictetus criticizes Diogenes’ statue-endeavors, even though he holds him generally in very high regard.  If the Cynic is only to be begging from the wise, would he ever meet with the frustrations that this letter suggests he inoculate himself against?

In the previous letter, it says even Heracles begged from these without sense, but we’ve been told up until now that such a thing is inappropriate.
XII. To the same, do well (p. 107)
Ps-Diogenes makes a good point, that philosophers and the untrained alike are moving towards what they believe to be good.  However, we’re focused on vastly differently things.  The fact that we discuss “apparent goods” and “actual goods” show that we recognize just how easy it is to make this mistake.  We ourselves made (still make?) it.

Indeed, then, as Ps-Diogenes notes, when the untrained person is nudged towards the actual good, and see show difficult the road, they’re turned aside.  Because they still see the “apparent good” a the place to end up.

I see lots of this in online Stoic communities.  Epictetus, Marcus, Seneca, and Musonius (so much of Musonius) state unequivocally that philosophers must engage in askesis, and folks trip over themselves to claim that it has no place in modern practice.

 


This is part of the Cynic Epistles Reading Plan.

SLRP: XLIX. On The Shortness Of Life (Part 2: 6b – 12)

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Seneca,

“You are mistaken if you think that only on an ocean voyage there is a very slight space a between life and death. No, the distance between is just as narrow everywhere. It is not everywhere that death shows himself so near at hand.”

This letter, as Friday’s was, is full of parable and analogy.  The call to simple writing is a good one for philosophers.  While we might baffle the crowd with bullshit, if we have something of value which can be stated simply, simply put, we should.

The image of the city preparing for the invaders, the men at arms preparing for battle, the old men and women heaping up fortifications, … and us, positing a riddle, or helping?

Thank you for the letter.

Farewell.


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

CERP: Day 19 – To Hicetas and to Eugnesius

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VII. To Hicetas (p. 99)
We read a praising of the title ‘dog’, and of the cloak, small bag, and staff.  Ps-Diogenes write to his father, asking him to note that he is happy with little.  The argument to the Gods seems more of a Stoic sort than a Cynic one… this seems to be a trend in these Epistles.  Or maybe it’s just a Roman flavor?

VIII. To Eugnesius (p. 101)
I’m pretty sure Ps-Diogenes just dropped the mic, to the tune of NWA’s most famous song.

diogenes_fuck-the-polis


This is part of the Cynic Epistles Reading Plan.

CERP: Day 18 – To Hipparchia, Antipater, Pediccas, and Crates.

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III. To Hipparchia (p. 95)
Interesting here that Hipparchia is shown as the student of Diogenes, and it even suggests that letters were a common and prized method of instruction.  Seneca argues the opposite in some of his Epistles, that while they are better than nothing, a face to face discussion is best for philosophical instruction.

IV. To Antipater (p. 95)
I can’t imagine Diogenes begging the pardon of any King, except he be a philosopher.

V. To Pediccas (p. 97)
The parallel between worldy enemies, and enemies of the self is an interesting one.  Yet, the Ps-Diogenes also presents a binary.  One is either concerned in the world of appearances, or one is concerned with the world of appearances (more formidable).  The world, or philosophy.  Pick one, and then do the thing.

VI. To Crates (p. 97)
Ah, the cup lesson.  This is one of my favorite stories of Diogenes.  That he sees someone (field hand, boy, etc) drinking with his hands and tosses away his cup.

I like the closing moral, that wisdom might be garnered in any place, and from any teacher:  even if the person is unaware that they are teaching.  We’re constant students, nonetheless.

 


This is part of the Cynic Epistles Reading Plan.

SLRP: XLVIII. On Quibbling As Unworthy Of The Philosopher

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Seneca,

Your letter today has a sobering message.  Rather than the “intellectual masturbation” of handling certain logical problems, our focus on ourselves, and thence our aid to others, is about our manner of life.

Does handling The Liar instil self-control?  Not by itself.  I can see a case in which such sorts of academic works could be a spiritual discipline of sorts however that doesn’t often seem to be the case.

Thank you for letter.  I’m thinking on it quite a bit this morning.

Farewell.


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