SLRP: LXXXV. On Some Vain Syllogisms (Part 4: 28 – 32)



“That which is evil does harm; that which does harm makes a man worse. But pain and poverty do not make a man worse; therefore they are not evils.” 

The Stoic perspective is a difficult one.  This can be seen in the confusion with contemporary folks who even identify as Stoics.  There is often an undercurrent of “Yeah, yeah, virtue is the only good, but let’s talk about [insert social outreach goal, here].”

The idea that it is okay for us to be focused so much on our internal state, on the quality of our thoughts, on our souls is off-putting for the West post-Protestant Reformation.  “Good works!” is the battle cry even in the most secular of states, where its role as the  path to salvation has been entirely occluded.

No, sorry.  We Stoics are, or ought to be, worried more about being ourselves a good person, than any social endeavor.  A hard line to hold, it seems.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that we should just toss the whole social and political sphere aside, not at all.  But that’s focus is secondary.  The Sage will be involved in someway in the political and social life of the community.  But what that looks like is not strictly defined.  Socrates and Diogenes were both involved in the communities in which they live, but in many ways from an outside perspective.

Thank you for the letter, and I look forward to this rest.


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

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