SLRP: LXXXVIII. On Studies (Part 6: 38b-46)

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Seneca,

“Have I so far forgotten that useful saw “Save your time”? Must I know these things? And what may I choose not to know?”

This brings to mind something I wrote a while back on “amistics.”  The idea of intentionally “choosing not to”something is one which I’ve been chewing on for some time now.  It touches on amistics, on right livelihood of the other day, on the philosopher’s cloak (I and II), on The Rule of Musonius: in short, the whole of living intentionally with virtue as the focus.

I don’t have firm conclusions yet, but I feel some hedging around the horizon…

Farewell.


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

SLRP: LXXXVIII. On Studies (Part 5: 31-38a)

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Seneca,

“One must learn about things divine and human, the past and the future, the ephemeral and the eternal; and one must learn about Time.”

It’s easy to forget in the midst of a letter such as this that we’re all supposed to set aside Stoic physics as an unnecessary anachronism of a primitive past.  What arrogance that is.

I do not think, dear Seneca, that I shall go as far as to expel all of these studies from the life of the one making progress, but a certain focusing in seems useful.  We do have a limited (and an unknown limit at that) amount of time in this life, and many things call us away from focusing on virtue and progress.

I look forward to tomorrow’s letter.

Farewell.


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

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.

SLRP: LXXXVIII. On Studies (Part 3: 16-23)

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Seneca,

“For what good does it do us to guide a horse and control his speed with the curb, and then find that our own passions, utterly uncurbed, bolt with us? Or to beat many opponents in wrestling or boxing, and then to find that we ourselves are beaten by anger?.”

Ah ha, this is an interesting question.  If the former is sought for its own sake, I agree with you, that it’s not worthwhile.  It’s worth noting, however, that humans are a mixture of πνεῦμα and σῶμα (in the common sense, not the ontological).  Musonius and Epictetus both recommend a mixture of trainings to effect the self.

Musonius’ distinction of two kinds of training is not seen in Epictetus, where he focuses on the Three Τόποι, but the ideas are not contradictory or mutually exclusive.  We might learn many useful things wrestling, a parallel which Marcus, too, would appreciate.

Thank you for the letter.

Farewell.


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