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The intellectual road to happiness
on July 5, 2015
*Letters from a Stoic* is a first-person look at how an experienced Stoic applies philosophy to ordinary life and the world around him. From it you not only learn the core tenets of Stoicism, but get to witness the intellectual practice of someone who's wholly devoted to cultivating his mind, mastering philosophy, and achieving long-lasting happiness.
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.