SLRP: LXXI. On The Supreme Good (Part 4: 26 – 37)



When we talk of the good, it seems a discussion of the Sage necessarily soon follows.  The Stoic Sage is an idea I’ve been wrestling with for some time.  Of course, as a student, it’s easier (but a mistake) to assume the Stoic Sage is like a figure of other schools of thought, other religions, in Stoic garb.  But more and more, I do not see this as the case.  For instance, passingly similar figures are usually steeped in some sort of soteriology, or doctrine of salvation.  But the Sage does not bring us to salvation of any sort, there is no after-lifely reward for being a good Stoic, unless you could the soul living beyond the body but not past ἐκπύρωσις, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t count that as such.

Then maybe we start thinking of her less as a Messiah, and more of a Superman.  But this too seems to fall short.

“What element of evil is there in torture and in the other things which we call hardships? It seems to me that there is this evil, – that the mind sags, and bends, and collapses. But none of these things can happen to the sage; he stands erect under any load. Nothing can subdue him; nothing that must be endured annoys him. For he does not complain that he has been struck by that which can strike any man. He knows his own strength; he knows that he was born to carry burdens.”

The road to progress is long, but we read in Marcus and elsewhere of a “conversion” to philosophy which is mirrored by the suddent onset of Sagacity.  But this only comes, as I understand it speculatively, after a long, long time.

“Just as wool takes up certain colours at once, while there are others which it will not absorb unless it is soaked and steeped in them many times; so other systems of doctrine can be immediately applied by men’s minds after once being accepted, but this system of which I speak, unless it has gone deep and has sunk in for a long time, and has not merely coloured but thoroughly permeated the soul, does not fulfil any of its promises.”

The question of the Sage is an interest one, and I always seem to be left with more questions than answers.


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

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