- Paperback: 254 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (July 30, 1969)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0140442103
- ISBN-13: 978-0140442106
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars See all reviews (143 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,033 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Letters from a Stoic (Penguin Classics) Paperback – July 30, 1969
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Text: English, Latin (translation)
About the Author
Lucius Annaeus Seneca (c.4BC-AD65) was born in Cordoba, Spain, where he was brought up studying the traditional virtues of republican Roman life. He became a teacher of rhetoric but attracted attention for his incisive style of writing. Closely linked to Nero, his death was ordered by the emperor in AD65. Seneca committed suicide.
Robin Campbell is a well-known translator.
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Top customer reviews
"Each day acquire something which will help you to face poverty, or death, and other ills as well. After running over a lot of different thoughts, pick out one to be digested throughout the day." --------- I'm completely with Seneca on this point. I approach the study of philosophy primarily for self-transformation. There is no let-up in the various challenges life throws at us - what we can change is the level of wisdom we bring to facing our challenges.
"It is not the man who has too little who is poor, but the one who hankers after more." ---------- This is the perennial philosophy from Aristotle to Epicurus to Epictetus to Buddha: we have to face up to our predicament as humans; we are in the realm of desire. The goal of living as a philosopher is to deal with our desires in such a way that we can maintain our tranquility and joy.
"But if you are looking on anyone as a friend when you do not trust him (or her) as you trust yourself, you are making a grave mistake, and have failed to grasp sufficiently the full force of true friendship." --------- Friendship was one key idea in the ancient world that modern philosophy seems to have forgotten. Seneca outlines how we must first test and judge people we consider as possible friends, but once we become friends with someone, then an abiding and complete trust is required.
"The very name of philosophy however modest the manner in which it is pursued, is unpopular enough as it is: imagine what the reaction would be if we started dissociating ourselves from the conventions of society. Inwardly everything should be different but our outward face should conform with the crowd. Our clothes should not be gaudy, yet they should now be dowdy either. . . . Let our aim be a way of life not diametrically opposed to, but better than that of the mob.". ---------- The call of true philosophy isn't an outward display but an internal attitude. There is a long, noble tradition of living the life of a philosopher going back to ancient Greece and Rome, that has, unfortunately, been mostly lost to us in the West. It is time to reclaim our true heritage.
"You may be banished to the end of the earth, and yet in whatever outlandish corner of the world you may find yourself stationed, you will find that place, whatever it may be like, a hospitable home. Where you arrive does not matter so much as what sort of person you are when you arrive there." -------- This is the ultimate Stoic worldview: our strength of character is more important that the particular life situation we find ourselves in. Very applicable in our modern world; although, chances are we will not be banished to another country, many of us will one day be banished to a nursing home.
"This rapidity of utterance recalls a person running down a slope and unable to stop where he meant to, being carried on instead a lot farther than he intended, at the mercy of his body's momentum; it is out of control, and unbecoming to philosophy, which should be placing her words, not throwing them around." --------- The ancient world had many people who talked a mile a minute, an unending gush of chatter. The Greco-Roman philosophers such as Seneca and Plutarch warn against garrulousness. Rather, we should mark our words well. From my own experience, when I hear long-winded pontifications, I feel like running away.
"The next thing I knew the book itself had charmed me into a deeper reading of it there and then. . . . It was so enjoyable that I found myself held and drawn on until I ended up having read it right through to the end without a break. All the time the sunshine was inviting me out, hunger prompting me to eat, the weather threatening to break, but I gulped it all down in one sitting." --------- Ah, the experience of being pulled into a good book! When we come upon such a book, go with it!
I've dabbled with philosophical texts before but have never felt like I've understood how philosophy is meant to be applied in every day life, or to what end. Unlike other texts I've read, *Letters from a Stoic* firmly grounds you in the root purpose of philosophy. In fact there were few themes throughout the book as recurrent as Seneca's view on the importance of philosophy, like in the following passage:
> Philosophy moulds and builds the personality, orders one's life, regulates one's conduct, shows one what one should do and what one should leave undone, sits at the helm and keeps one on the correct course as one is tossed about in perilous seas. Without it no one can lead a life free of free or worry. Every house of the day countless situations arise that call for advice, and for that advice we have to look to philosophy.
Seneca expresses dismay toward people who entertain or attempt to inspire themselves with philosophy but not actually study or practice it. Seneca also openly detests Epicureans, seeing them as pursuing a depraved form of happiness.
Consistent with Stoic tenets, Seneca preaches of avoiding vices and excess (he even discourages reading an abundant quantity of books). He especially warns of "the crowd", which he sees as the ultimate discourager of noble conduct. Seneca sees the ideal disposition as quiet, noble, and intellectual. Happiness is achieved not though anything external or material, but by devoted practice of philosophy and avoidance of all things that tempt or derail us from a cultivated disposition.