CERP: Day 42 – Heraclitus Ep. 4.


IV. Heraclitus to Hermodorus (p. 191)
The Ps-Heraclitus makes a passionate defense of the charge of impiety.  His argument is based in several claims:
– How can you know impiety if you do not know the gods?
— He then shows the many ways in which his subject is ignorant of God.
– If Heracles can be made god-like through goodness, cannot also others?
— And Heraclitus states he is good, that his labors are against vice and suffering.

Heraclitus ends with an inflammatory statement that he and his goodness will last basically forever, while his subject will be lost to time even five-hundred years out.

The deist, or natural theological perspective in this letter are interesting, but seem to me more of a Stoic stripe.  There is a Cynic message, however, in pointing to a natural religion of goodness and virtue than the man-made temples and dogma found therein.

This is part of the Cynic Epistles Reading Plan.

SLRP: LXIV. On The Philosopher’s Task



This is an interesting section:

“The cures for the spirit also have been discovered by the ancients; but it is our task to learn the method and the time of treatment. 9 Our predecessors have worked much improvement, but have not worked out the problem. They deserve respect, however, and should be worshipped with a divine ritual. Why should I not keep statues of great men to kindle my enthusiasm, and celebrate their birthdays? Why should I not continually greet them with respect and honour? The reverence which I owe to my own teachers I owe in like measure to those teachers of the human race, the source from which the beginnings of such great blessings have flowed.”

It’s not always clear to me when you are engaging in figurative language versus telling us what you actually do.  I suspect, however, that here at least, you mean what you say and say what you mean.

I also suspect that the apotheosis of teachers which is intimated here would be distasteful to many these days.  The god-like nature of Sages seem well established, if only because most folks believe it to be an unattainable state.

Did Zeno and the folks of the early Stoa believe themselves to be Sages?  I think that answer is yes, despite the middle and late Stoa’s stepping away from that title.

It seems, though, that you, Seneca, are harkening back to that early Stoic doctrine of the pseudo-apotheosis of the Sage in treating your teachers in this way.



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

Enchiridion 1:5



“Straightway then practise saying to every harsh appearance, You are an appearance, and in no manner what you appear to be. Then examine it by the rules which you possess, and by this first and chiefly, whether it relates to the things which are in our power or to things which are not in our power: and if it relates to any thing which is not in our power, be ready to say, that it does not concern you.”

“Seek at once, therefore, to be able to say to every unpleasing semblance, “You are but a semblance and by no means the real thing.” And then examine it by those rules which you have; and first and chiefly, by this: whether it concerns the things which are within our own power, or those which are not; and if it concerns anything beyond our power, be prepared to say that it is nothing to you.”

“εὐθὺς οὖν πάσῃ φαντασίᾳ τραχείᾳ μελέτα ἐπιλέγειν ὅτι ‘φαντασία εἶ καὶ οὐ πάντως τὸ φαινόμενον.’ ἔπειτα ἐξέταζε αὐτὴν καὶ δοκίμαζε τοῖς κανόσι τούτοις οἷς ἔχεις, πρώτῳ δὲ τούτῳ καὶ μάλιστα, πότερον περὶ τὰ ἐφ᾽ ἡμῖν ἐστιν ἢ περὶ τὰ οὐκ ἐφ᾽ ἡμῖν: κἂν περί τι τῶν οὐκ ἐφ᾽ ἡμῖν ᾖ, πρόχειρον ἔστω τὸ διότι ‘οὐδὲν πρὸς ἐμέ’.”

CERP: Day 40 – Heraclitus Eps. 1 and 2.


I. King Darius greets Heraclitus of Ephesus, a wise man (p. 187)
Darius of Persia writes to convince Heraclitus to come to him and explain his teachings, since they seem to fly in the face of the common understanding but still bear the stamp of a reasoned position.  Not only does he make the request, but he offers what he suspects will be enticing benefits.

II. Heraclitus to King Darius, Son of father Hystaspes, greetings (p. 189)
Heraclitus replies:  “Nah.”


This is part of the Cynic Epistles Reading Plan.

SLRP: LXIII. On Grief For Lost Friends (Part 1: 1 – 7a)



Today’s letter touches on a tough subject for most folks.  Grief is a hard thing.  I’m not sure that I entirely agree that our greiving is for others, but I do entirely agree that our watching over ourselves contributes to the extended suffering.

It’s a funny thing, our intuition, whether natural or acculturated, is such that after a great loss, if we find ourselves enjoying some small thing or laughing, we reprimand ourselves severely.  As if our every waking moment is to build a monument of grief.  The extent of our pain is not a measure of our love, and that’s a strangely bitter pill to swallow.

My reading today was just the first part of the letter, and I look forward to finishing it.



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

Reading: Plutarch, “How a Man May Become Aware of His Progress in Virtue.”


How a Man May Become Aware of His Progress in Virtue.

This is an argument against several Stoic positions are relates to the Sage and the conversion to wisdom.  Plutarch takes issue, as most folks might, with the idea that all vices are equal, and if one has one vice you effectively have them all.

Who would deny the degrees of difference between a lie about a man's beard, or condemning Socrates to death?  Or a lie to your boss about something in your personal life, and murder?

Our common sense experience of the world and the systems we've created in it recognize these distinctions.  But the classic Stoics did not.  Let's look at why that might be. 

The problems with the common conception and Plutarch's argument are the external focus of them.  The Stoic positions is not to be used in matters of jurisprudence, or punishment, or to correct the behavior of others.  Rather, it's a tool for ourselves to correct vicious intent.

If we are trying to divest ourselves of vice, and instill virtue, then we must account for every wrong, no matter how small.  The Stoic position that all evils (here as always, our own moral evil) are equal prevents us from deluding ourselves about the nature of our intent.

"Well, I may have lied to my spouse about this small thing, but at least I stopped doing something worse.  So that's okay…"

The Stoic cannot with any intellectual integrity make such a justification.

Plutarch's opening assumption focuses on comparing the actions of two humans, which is an inappropriate use of the doctrine.

Despite that, and the general polemic nature of the piece, this discussion does tell us quite a bit about the Stoic positions which we don't see in many other places.

It's well worth the read time.