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on September 27, 2015
As I progress on my quest for wisdom from the classical periods I recently read Cicero's "Selected Works" and Lurcreius' "On the Nature of Things" both of which I thought lacked in any deep knowledge and found them both to be greatly disappointing. So it was to my great delight that I stumbled on Seneca's "Letters From a Stoic" which I highly recommend. Some of my favorite passages loosely organized around a theme are as follows:

On One's Relationship to the Material World:
*It is not the man who has too little who is poor, but the one who hankers after more.
*You ask what is the proper limit to a person's wealth? First, having what is essential, and second having what is enough.
*Although the wise man does not hanker after what he has lost, he does prefer not lose them.
*The qualities of a just, a good and an enlightened character does not regard as valuable anything that can be taken away.
*I am not against possessing riches but I want to ensure that you possess them without tremors.

On One's Relationship to Society:
*Inwardly everything should be different but our outward face should conform to the crowd.
*The road is long if one poceeds by way of precepts but short and effectual if by way of personal example.
*You ask me to say what you should consider it particularly important to avoid. My answer is this: a mass crowd.
*Associating with people in large numbers is actually harmful.
*Retire into yourself as much as you can. Associate with people who are likely to improve you.
*Avoid whatever is approved of by the mob.
*If you shape your life according to nature, you will never be poor; if according to people's opinions you will never be rich.

On One's Relationship to the Body:
*Pick (any exercise) for ease and straightforwardness...but whatever you do, return from body to mind very soon.
*Where you arrive does not matter so much as what sort of person you are when you arrive there.
*A way of speaking which is restrained, not bold, suits a wise man in the same way as an unassuming sort of walk does.
*Refusal to be influenced by one's body assure one's freedom.
*People who know no self-restraint lead stormy and disordered lives.

On Death:
*Every day, therefore, should be regulated as if it were the one that brings up the rear, the one that rounds out and completes our lives.
*If God adds the morrow we should accept it joyfully.
*The man you should admire and imitate is the one who finds it a joy to live and in spite of that is not reluctant to die.
*You will go the way that all things go...This is the law to which you were born.
*You will die not because you are sick but because you are alive...In getting well again you may be escaping some ill health but not death.
*We are born unequal, we die equal.

On the Value of Philosophy/Stoicism:
*It molds and builds the personality, orders one's life, regulates one's conduct, shows one what one should do and what should leave undone, sits at the helm and keeps one on the course as one is tossed about in perilous seas.
*Only philosophy will wake us; only philosophy will shake us out of that heavy sleep. Devote yourself entirely to her.
*For the only safe harbor in this life's tossing, troubled sea is to refuse to be bothered about what the future will bring and to stand ready and confident, squaring the breast to take without skulking or flinching whatever fortune hurls at us.
*It is in not man's power to have whatever he wants; but he has it in his power not to wish for what he hasn't got.
*Part of the blame lies on the teachers of philosophy, who today teach us how to argue instead of how to live...The result has been the transformation of philosophy, the study of wisdom, into philology, the study of words.
*No man is good by accident, virtue has to be learned.

By the way, before renouncing all worldly possessions keep in mind that Seneca did not practice what he preached, was intimately attached to the material world, and readers interested in an excellent biography of Seneca's life and role during Nero's reign should consider reading James Romm's "Dying Every Day: Seneca at the Court of Nero."
33 comments| 22 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on June 17, 2016
What happened to the table of contents??? I used to be able to go to each of the letters individually and then after the "update" recently the table of contents changed and there is only a single link to ALL the letters. There are 124 letters!!! This is not a novel you read start to finish, one should be able to go to the letters the want to and search through them based on their title. I'm upset because the feature was there but then it was removed. What gives Amazon?? Change it back!

I have nothing against the content, my gripe is with the Kindle version of this book. If you want to read this book on your kindle get another version.
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on March 14, 2017
Simple practical wisdom to help you navigate chaotic life. There are so many jewels in this book that I've probably highland more things than I have not. I simply cannot recall the last work of literature that turned on as many lightbulbs for me except perhaps the bible when I first read it. This wisdom though transcends religion in my humble opinion. A must read, but I warn you; the wisdom and enlightenment you gain from reading Seneca's letters will only further estrange you form your dumb friends. They won't get it or your interest in it, and as they continue to fumble about in the dark, the sweetness of your metaphysical ascension will mingle with some bitterness for their blindness.
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on October 7, 2017
This is a book that I keep next to my bed, and when I take trips it goes in my suitcase. I've given this book away several times and plan to give it away more, but I always buy a new one. Sometimes it's like looking into the mirror of western civilization, others it's like looking at our cultural family tree, but most of the time it's a book that consoles me and offers new perspectives no matter what I'm dealing with in life.

On my shelf this book is next to the Bible, the Tao Te Ching, and Stephen King.

It's also a book I've read passages aloud to my younger siblings during a day in the park -- that was no easy task -- but they were held captive by the introspection this book helps to trigger.
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on September 14, 2017
Very nice addition to my stoic library. If you like the Stoics you need to give this a try. "Letters" is most of the best of Seneca's work. There are a few others I would recommend, such as Living the Good Life. This is an easy to read translation in a simple durable book. for the price there is a ton of wisdom here, why pay more? It's all here.
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on March 12, 2018
The letters are a cornerstone of stoic philosophy, but I seriously can't recommend the print version. It is the cheapest physical book I've ever seen, even the cover photo is a pixelated blown up thumbnail, and then it gets worse as you open it! The font is ridiculously small, while the line spacing is absurdly wide for the lines. But the paper is too thin and cheap for this to be for adding your own notes! I bought this as a gift, but threw it away as soon as I realized my error. This is a shame, and should be removed from circulation. Do not buy the physical copy, you will be disappointed.
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on April 25, 2016
One of the best pragmatic books out there on the usefulness of philosophy and its positive impacts on any person's character, regardless of one's material status in society. I deeply admire Seneca's sayings, precisely because he seemed to have tried his best to live according to what philosophy dictates; namely that we be logical as well as humane , strong as well as sensible, courageous, brave and cautious not out of fear but because one has impartially investigated any given issue and reason has dictated the right course.
This book and stoicism in general appeal to me immeasurably because the sense of community, hospitality and genuine kindness toward others is a unique African cultural practice. Perhaps this is what Africa can offer the world : Its humanity, humility and patience, despite the wars and diseases and sufferings. May we be all be blessed with sound minds,healthy souls and bodies as Seneca will be inclined to say.
I highly recommend this book!
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on September 9, 2016
Life lessons from the wise Seneca. This should required reading for anybody who turns 18. You should not be able to work, drive, or do anything outside of the house until you read this book. It should be taught in schools and on Sundays their should be churches open that simply talk about the philosophy. And I'm not overreacting. Seneca isn't the type of philosopher where you have to read it 100 times to understand it and he's just critiquing something about life to be doing it, he is like a life coach or psychologist that helps you get through tough times. Except you don't have to pay expensive counseling fees, you can just read from this cheap book.
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on February 3, 2018
This Penguin Classics was the book that introduced me to Stoicism, and ancient philosophy. It's a very readable translations of selections by a very humane philosopher. I have bought several copies to give to people over the years.

But note that the "Kindle Edition" is not the same book at all; but a completely unrelated translation of Seneca's Letters to Lucilius -- a self-published book, not by Penguin. Amazon is doing its usual thing of grouping together quite different books with similar names.
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on August 9, 2016
Generally I liked this book, because of the variety of topics, but that was also why I didn't like it so much. There are some lessons for living based on stoic beliefs, which I think still apply in our day and age. In fact I was quite amazed that the text that was written so long ago is still relevant today. Seneca writes in a very concise and lucid language, so everything is clear. He doesn't go into philosophical rants that put you to sleep. I just wish that there were more letters or a better selection of letters in the tome so that some topics wouldn't repeat so much
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