SLRP: LXXXVIII. On Studies (Part 4: 24-30)

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Seneca,

“Now philosophy asks no favours from any other source; it builds everything on its own soil; but the science of numbers is, so to speak, a structure built on another man’s land – it builds on everything on alien soil; It accepts first principles, and by their favour arrives at further conclusions. If it could march unassisted to the truth, if it were able to understand the nature of the universe, I should say that it would offer much assistance to our minds; for the mind grows by contact with things heavenly and draws into itself something from on high. There is but one thing that brings the soul to perfection – the unalterable knowledge of good and evil. But there is no other art which investigates good and evil.”

I read often in modern Stoic forums that this or that piece of our school needs to be “updated” or modernized or entirely cast aside.  Many of those folks, ironically those who decry the religious nature of Stoicism, have turned a method for description (science) into a religion itself.

They believe so much, rather than using it as the tool it is.  They even have a priesthood who with holy artifacts beyond the ken the average person bring down TRUTH to them.  They misconstrue the falsification of hypotheses for the discovery of truth.

Here, you discuss about math a similar utility.  I wonder if you’d be surprised to find out that selections of your writings are held up by these same folks as evidence of the atheism in ancient philosophy?  I wonder if they read Natural Questions, and these Letters, and see your references to God and Providence.

Your final question of the section, do these studies produce loyalty, kindness, courage, bravery and more?  That seems to be a decided no.

Farewell.


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

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