SLRP: LXXXI. On Benefits (Part 3: 19b – 23a)



I’ll admit, when I hear other Stoics talk about gratitude, I found myself a little turned off.  Not because graciousness is bad, or even dispreferred, but mostly because there’s a large-ish push about gratitude in the fluffier self-help sections of the internet these days.  Of course, having a negative judgement against something because it might be popular in softer circles is just as much of an error of thinking about something positively because the cool kids are doing it.  So I’ve tried to set aside those preconceived notions, and read these section in the spirit in which their meant

“[T]he reward for all the virtues lies in the virtues themselves.”

This seems to me to be the test as to whether we’ve really internalized that virtue is the only good.  It’s not good because [something].  It simply is good.  When we get to the point that we can see the practice of inculcation of virtue as a self-fulfilling reward, I think we’re measurably closer to the goal.

“Let us therefore avoid being ungrateful, not for the sake of others but for our own sakes. When we do wrong, only the least and lightest portion of it flows back upon our neighbour; the worst and, if I may use the term, the densest portion of it stays at home and troubles the owner.”

In the Venn Diagram of “the golden rule” and “the Wiccan creed” lies your, Seneca, position on gratitude.  (;  This is a useful thought-model though.

“The ungrateful man tortures and torments himself; he hates the gifts which he has accepted, because he must make a return for them, and he tries to belittle their value, but he really enlarges and exaggerates the injuries which he has received. And what is more wretched than a man who forgets his benefits and clings to his injuries?”

This paragraph stuck out at me.  I recall getting gifts, and thinking immediately how I would repay it.  It never occurred to me that this was an ungrateful attitude.  That’s some serious food for thought today.


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

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