Camp Seneca: Day 4- On the First Precept


“Rufus used to say, “If you have time to waste praising me, I am conscious that what I say is worth nothing.” (So far from applause on our part,) he spoke in such a way that each of us sitting there felt that someone had gone to him and told him our faults, so accurately he touched upon our true characters, so effectively he placed each one’s faults before his eyes.”

— Musonius Fragment XLVII

The first of the precepts in the Rule of Musonius is:

1. To speak plainly, and true.

We take it upon ourselves to speak truly, in the spirit of παρρησία, and with virtue in mind in the spirit of Musonius’ Lecture I in regards to speech.

In Lecture 1, we get an explanation about why many proofs for problem are unnecessary.  If what we say is true, and the listener is of a reasonable mind, we don’t need to beat the dead horse.  The other portion which lays the groundwork for this precept is an idea contained in several of the Fragments, one of which is:

“One begins to lose his hesitation to do unseemly things when one loses his hesitation to speak of them.”

— Fragment XXVI


Here we’re left with the impression that how we use our speech is an indication of our mental state, and indeed, that it can even influence it if we’re not careful.  From these, and other lessons, we understand that how speech is used matters to the practicing philosopher.  We should speak simply then, as Lecture 1 suggests, and we should speak the truth.

Each of the precepts is geared towards a certain mode of life, and an intentional focus in what is often done without clear attention.

This is part of the 2016 iteration of Camp Seneca.

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