SLRP: LXXI. On The Supreme Good (Part 3: 16b – 25)

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Seneca,

The questions of virtue for Stoics is a tough one.  I suspect that’s because (so it seems) the tenor of virtue changed somewhat from the Early to the Late Stoa.  The virtue of the Early Stoa seems more attainable than the god-like perfection of the Late.

“[F]or unless a man is happy, he has not attained the Supreme Good; and the good which is supreme admits of no higher degree, if only virtue exists within this man, and if adversity does not impair his virtue, and if, though the body be injured, the virtue abides unharmed. And it does abide.”

This is proof that the questions we face to day are the same.  There are some Modern Stoics who want to mitigate virtue, who treat indifferents as goods, and expand the Dichotomy of Control to things not rightly in the domain of philosophy.  You, Seneca, hit the nail squarely on the head.  The things that the common folks say are goods, may even be anti-conducive to our progress.  Virtue is the measure, not mere proclivity or pleasure, or any other such thing.

“What,” you say, “do you call reclining at a banquet and submitting to torture equally good?” Does this seem surprising to you? You may be still more surprised at the following, – that reclining at a banquet is an evil, while reclining on the rack is a good, if the former act is done in a shameful, and the latter in an honourable manner. It is not the material that makes these actions good or bad; it is the virtue.

Farewell.


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

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