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Letters from a Stoic (and Biography)

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“In the last three years, I’ve begun to explore one philosophical system in particular: Stoicism. Through my preferred Stoic writer, Lucius Seneca, I’ve found it to be a simple and immensely practical set of rules for better results with less effort.” Timothy Ferriss, author of Four Hour Workweek (4HWW). Stoicism is a philosophical system often used by successful entreprene “In the last three years, I’ve begun to explore one philosophical system in particular: Stoicism. Through my preferred Stoic writer, Lucius Seneca, I’ve found it to be a simple and immensely practical set of rules for better results with less effort.” Timothy Ferriss, author of Four Hour Workweek (4HWW). Stoicism is a philosophical system often used by successful entrepreneurs, artists, and athletes, which focuses on self possession, emotional control, and humility. “It sets out to remind us of how unpredictable the world can be. How brief our moment of life is. How to be steadfast, and strong, and in control of yourself. And finally, that the source of our dissatisfaction lies in our impulsive dependency on our reflexive senses rather than logic.” –Ryan Holiday Seneca’s Letters from a Stoic is a piece of classic literature which serves as an excellent introduction to this school of thought, by using common sense advise that still rings true. Nearly every sentence of his writings offers invaluable ancient wisdom that can be singled out as words to live by. Add Letters from a Stoic to your Kindle Library today and apply these lessons to your life as you strive to reach your goals and unlock your highest potential. About this Edition: Doma Publishing House has carefully gone through all the letters written by Lucius Annaeus Seneca belonging to the compilation on Stoic Philosophy commonly known as Seneca's “Letters from a Stoic”. This version was designed and formatted specifically for your Amazon Kindle to match the layout and feel of a physical copy. The letters were translated by noted scholar and Seneca expert, Richard M. Gummere. The modern translation breathes life into this classic text and shows that, even two millenniums apart, wisdom is timeless. As an added bonus, we have included Richard M. Gummer's Seneca biography titled, 'Seneca, the philosopher and his modern message,' for your reading pleasure. Thank you for choosing Doma Publishing House. We look forward to creating many more affordable 'Kindle Thought' works for you to enjoy.


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“In the last three years, I’ve begun to explore one philosophical system in particular: Stoicism. Through my preferred Stoic writer, Lucius Seneca, I’ve found it to be a simple and immensely practical set of rules for better results with less effort.” Timothy Ferriss, author of Four Hour Workweek (4HWW). Stoicism is a philosophical system often used by successful entreprene “In the last three years, I’ve begun to explore one philosophical system in particular: Stoicism. Through my preferred Stoic writer, Lucius Seneca, I’ve found it to be a simple and immensely practical set of rules for better results with less effort.” Timothy Ferriss, author of Four Hour Workweek (4HWW). Stoicism is a philosophical system often used by successful entrepreneurs, artists, and athletes, which focuses on self possession, emotional control, and humility. “It sets out to remind us of how unpredictable the world can be. How brief our moment of life is. How to be steadfast, and strong, and in control of yourself. And finally, that the source of our dissatisfaction lies in our impulsive dependency on our reflexive senses rather than logic.” –Ryan Holiday Seneca’s Letters from a Stoic is a piece of classic literature which serves as an excellent introduction to this school of thought, by using common sense advise that still rings true. Nearly every sentence of his writings offers invaluable ancient wisdom that can be singled out as words to live by. Add Letters from a Stoic to your Kindle Library today and apply these lessons to your life as you strive to reach your goals and unlock your highest potential. About this Edition: Doma Publishing House has carefully gone through all the letters written by Lucius Annaeus Seneca belonging to the compilation on Stoic Philosophy commonly known as Seneca's “Letters from a Stoic”. This version was designed and formatted specifically for your Amazon Kindle to match the layout and feel of a physical copy. The letters were translated by noted scholar and Seneca expert, Richard M. Gummere. The modern translation breathes life into this classic text and shows that, even two millenniums apart, wisdom is timeless. As an added bonus, we have included Richard M. Gummer's Seneca biography titled, 'Seneca, the philosopher and his modern message,' for your reading pleasure. Thank you for choosing Doma Publishing House. We look forward to creating many more affordable 'Kindle Thought' works for you to enjoy.

30 review for Letters from a Stoic (and Biography)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Glenn Russell

    These letters of Roman philosopher Seneca are a treasure chest for anybody wishing to incorporate philosophic wisdom into their day-to-day living. By way of example, below are a few Seneca gems along with my brief comments: “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 philos These letters of Roman philosopher Seneca are a treasure chest for anybody wishing to incorporate philosophic wisdom into their day-to-day living. By way of example, below are a few Seneca gems along with my brief comments: “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!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Holiday

    I tore this book to pieces. My copy is overflowing with tabbed pages and highlighted lines and notes in the margins. Seneca of course, is a fascinating figure. Gregory Hays once said about Marcus Aurelius that "not being a tyrant was something he had to work at one day at a time" and often, Seneca lost that battle. He was the Cardinal Richelieu behind Nero. He sat back and enjoyed the spoils of his student who had clearly lost his way--at least Aristotle didn't profit from Alexander's lust for p I tore this book to pieces. My copy is overflowing with tabbed pages and highlighted lines and notes in the margins. Seneca of course, is a fascinating figure. Gregory Hays once said about Marcus Aurelius that "not being a tyrant was something he had to work at one day at a time" and often, Seneca lost that battle. He was the Cardinal Richelieu behind Nero. He sat back and enjoyed the spoils of his student who had clearly lost his way--at least Aristotle didn't profit from Alexander's lust for power. However, there is some interesting evidence put forth in a paper titled - Seneca: The Case of the Opulent Stoic in which Lydia Motto presents that what we know of Seneca's reputation comes almost entirely from a single, less than objective source. And in fact, if we can trust the way in which Seneca faced his forced suicide there was not much difference between practice and philosophy. The book is profoundly insightful, it calls you to action, and it has that 'quit your whining--this is life' attitude that so defines the Roman Stoics. This is by no means an all inclusive list but is Seneca on some important topics: On doing more than consuming: He should be delivering himself of such sayings, not memorizing them. It is disgraceful that a man who is old or in sight of old age should have wisdom deriving solely from his notebook. 'Zeno said this.' And what have you said? 'Cleanthes said that.' What have you said? How much longer are you going to serve under others? Assume authority over yourself and utter something that may be handed down to posterity. Produce something from your own resources. On endurance: Life's no soft affair. It's a long road you've started on: you can't but expect to have slips and knocks and falls, and get tired and openly wish--a lie--for death. On freedom from perturbation: Show me a man who isn't a slave; one who is a slave to sex, another to money, another to ambition; all are slaves to hope or fear. I could show you a man who has been a Consul who is a slave to his 'little old woman', a millionaire who is the slave of a little girl in domestic service. And there is no state of slavery more disgraceful than one which is self-imposed. On quoting what you read: There is no enjoying the possession of anything valuable unless one has someone to share it with. I shall send you, accordingly, the actual books themselves, and to save you a lot of trouble hunting all over the place for passages likely to be of use to you, I shall mark the passages so that you can turn straight away to the words I approve and admire."

  3. 5 out of 5

    Roy Lotz

    Philosophy is good advice; and no one can give advice at the top of his lungs. One of the most persistent criticisms made of modern philosophy is that it isn’t useful. The critics have a point. Modern philosophy largely concerns itself with a variety of theoretical problems. Even though many of these problems do have practical ramifications, many do not; and regardless, the debates can often get so technical, so heated, and so abstract, that it is difficult to see modern philosophy as the pat Philosophy is good advice; and no one can give advice at the top of his lungs. One of the most persistent criticisms made of modern philosophy is that it isn’t useful. The critics have a point. Modern philosophy largely concerns itself with a variety of theoretical problems. Even though many of these problems do have practical ramifications, many do not; and regardless, the debates can often get so technical, so heated, and so abstract, that it is difficult to see modern philosophy as the path to wisdom it once professed to be. People don’t have time or patience for logic-chopping; they want useful advice. Those of this persuasion will be happy to find a forerunner and a sage in Seneca. As the opening quote shows, he conceived philosophy to be, above all, the giving of good advice. Seneca thus finds a perfect vehicle for his thought in the form of the letter. Although this book apparently consists of the private correspondence between Seneca and his friend Lucilius, it is obvious from the first page that these were expressly written for publication and posterity. This book should rather be thought of as a collection of moral essays and exhortations. Even in translation, Seneca is a master stylist. He is by turns intimate, friendly, self-deprecating, nagging, mundane, and profound. He has an enormous talent for epigram; he can squeeze a lifetime into a line, compress a philosophy into a phrase. He is also remarkably modern in his tolerant, cosmopolitan, and informal attitude. Indeed I often found it difficult to believe that the book was written by a real Roman. Montaigne and Emerson obviously learned a great deal from Seneca; you might even say they ripped him off. The only thing that marks Seneca as ancient is his comparative lack of introspection. While Montaigne and Emerson are mercurial, wracked by self-doubt, driven by contrary tides of emotion, Seneca is calm, self-composed, confident. Perhaps because of his professed aversion to abstract argument, Seneca is not a systematic thinker. Emerson wrote “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” and Seneca apparently would agree, for there are many inconsistencies to be found in these pages. Sometimes God is conceived of as an impersonal order of the universe, and at other times a personal deity; sometimes Lucilius is advised not to take the opinions of friends and family into account, other times to do so. Seneca’s metaphysical arguments are weak and confused affairs; he is not one for disputation. But for all this, there is a core of good sense contained within these pages, which Seneca himself summarizes: No man is good by chance. Virtue is something which must be learned. Pleasure is low, petty, to be deemed worthless, shared even by dumb animals—the tiniest and meanest of whom fly towards pleasure. Glory is an empty and fleeting thing, lighter than air. Poverty is an evil to no man unless he kick’s against it. Death is not an evil; why need you ask? Death alone is the equal privilege of mankind. Like Marcus Aurelius, a prominent statesman in troubled times, Seneca is very concerned with how to be happy in spite of circumstances. There is no satisfaction to be had through external goods, like fame and riches, because these cannot be gotten unless fortune is kind, and fortune is notoriously fickle. Even in good times, this can only lead you into an empty, meaningless competition, valuing yourself for something that isn’t really yours, causing you to ceaselessly measure yourself against others. You must rather become content with yourself, taking pleasure in life whether fortune smiles or frowns: “We have reached the heights if we know what it is that we find joy in and if we have not placed our happiness in externals.” Of course, this is easier said than done, and Seneca does not have a fully worked-out system for reaching this state. He offers, instead, an unsystematic mass of advice. It is here that Seneca is most charming and helpful, for most other philosophers would not deign to offer such workaday recommendations and observations. Here is Seneca on negative thinking: The mind at times fashions for itself false shapes of evil when there are no signs that point to evil; it twists into the worst construction some word of doubtful meaning; or it fancies some personal grudge to be more serious than it really is, considering not how angry the enemy is, but to what lengths he may go if he is angry. It is in these sections, of plain, friendly advice, that I think Seneca is at his best. Certainly not all of his advice is good; every reader will pick and choose what suits them best. But much of Seneca's advice is timeless, and phrased in deathless prose. Most refreshing is Seneca’s insistence that his advice is for action and not reflection. This is more than slightly ironic, considering that Seneca is often accused of being a hypocrite whose lifestyle was far removed from his doctrines; but, to quote a modern philosopher, “There is no contradiction, or even paradox, in describing someone as bad at practising what he is good at preaching.” So preach on, Seneca.

  4. 4 out of 5

    João Fernandes

    I have to admit, I started this book with some hesitations. I had read Marcus Aurelius' Meditations (easily one of my favourite books) and Epictetus' Discourses, the other two big pillars of Stoic philosophy. I also knew, from gossip girl Suetonius, how Seneca was a Stoic more in name than in practice. Marcus Aurelius was a Roman Emperor, the ruler of the known world , and yet he embraced the Stoic ideals like no other, feeling repulsion for his own political power and trying to rule Rome in a I have to admit, I started this book with some hesitations. I had read Marcus Aurelius' Meditations (easily one of my favourite books) and Epictetus' Discourses, the other two big pillars of Stoic philosophy. I also knew, from gossip girl Suetonius, how Seneca was a Stoic more in name than in practice. Marcus Aurelius was a Roman Emperor, the ruler of the known world , and yet he embraced the Stoic ideals like no other, feeling repulsion for his own political power and trying to rule Rome in accordance with the Stoic 'virtue over happiness' headline. Epictetus, on the other hand, was born and raised a slave, legally born with absolutely no rights or property. Yet, when he was freed and free to embrace all the pleasures he had been denied, he cast it all aside and started a Stoic school. Seneca's own story falls slightly short in contrast. At one point, he was no less powerful than Marcus Aurelius would be; Seneca was the tutor of teenage sociopath/arsonist/psychopath/"great" harp rockstar Emperor Nero, and served as the de facto political ruler during his adolescence. He therefore wielded tremendous power, and power rises to men's heads faster than opiates. He preached his Stoic ways, but was no stranger to lending money unfairly for economic gain (allegedly), hoarding a fortune comparable to the emperor's (allegedly), and possibly but very unlikely having known some members of the imperial family carnally (double allegedly, but probably the most unfounded accusation). I was therefore expecting a hypocrite. I was pleasantly ashamed of myself to find Seneca's philosophy and morals not falling short of any of the other two master Stoics. He did not present himself as a great philosopher to Lucilius, to whom Letters from a Stoic is addressed. He describes himself as a sick mind in recovery: “We who are recovering from a prolonged spiritual sickness are in the same condition as invalids who have been affected to such an extent by prolonged indisposition that they cannot once be taken out of doors without ill effects” But he did bring something new to the table. Seneca, as a 'reformed sinner', and a man of public office, has seen that the strict ideals of self-sufficiency and apathetic restraint will never be embraced by the common people. He therefore proposes a humanised version of Stoicism, more tolerant of the natural feelings of love and friendship that Stoics would try to repress. I leave only one of the many amazing quotes that Seneca left his pen pal, a mark of the human, approachable Stoicism he meant to follow: “Trusting everyone is as much a fault as trusting no one (though I should call the first the worthier and the second the safer behaviour).”

  5. 5 out of 5

    Erick

    This book was quite good. One would think that a collection of letters would have much material that is of little utility to those outside the correspondents, but that isn't the case. Seneca was a notable later Stoic. Very little of the first generation of Stoics survive, and we are left with mainly later Stoics like Epictetus, Rufus and Seneca; some may also include Marcus Aurelius to that list as well. Seneca was probably not the typical Stoic; indeed, he actually quotes Epicurus more times in This book was quite good. One would think that a collection of letters would have much material that is of little utility to those outside the correspondents, but that isn't the case. Seneca was a notable later Stoic. Very little of the first generation of Stoics survive, and we are left with mainly later Stoics like Epictetus, Rufus and Seneca; some may also include Marcus Aurelius to that list as well. Seneca was probably not the typical Stoic; indeed, he actually quotes Epicurus more times in here than any other philosopher is even mentioned. One is tempted to consider Seneca a closet Epicurean. He seemed to have more respect for Epicurus' philosophy than he may have even cared to admit. It is of course possible that he quoted him because he was also well respected by Lucilius, his correspondent, as well. But, whatever the case, Seneca was open to other philosophical influences besides just the Stoical, and Epicurus is a notable secondary, if not a primary, influence. Often these letters come across as highly aphoristic. I highlighted quite a few lines of pithy wisdom in here. Mainly, I would say, Seneca was given to ethical philosophy. While there are some metaphysical thoughts here and there, his main focus is in regards to living a good life. Many of his thoughts focus on the need to live simply, and, in typical Stoical fashion, to live according to nature. His philosophy of moderation is still highly relevant today, and maybe even more than it was then, because we have many more frivolous distractions than were available in his day. His thoughts on slaves and slavery were years of head of their time, maybe hundreds of years. His ideas on God are also often sublime. He does comment on Plato a bit, and at the end of this work, he even provides some discussion relating to physics and metaphysics. A great book overall. I cannot find much in here that I took issue with, so I can see no reason to give the work less than 5 stars.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Parthiban Sekar

    No man’s good by accident. Virtue has to be learnt. Pleasure is a poor and petty thing. No value should be set on it: it’s something we share with dumb animals – the minutest, most insignificance creatures scutter after it. Glory’s an empty changeable thing, as fickle as the weather. Poverty’s no evil to anyone unless he kicks against it. Death is not an evil. What is it then? The one law mankind has that is free of all discrimination. Superstition is an idiotic heresy: it fears those it should No man’s good by accident. Virtue has to be learnt. Pleasure is a poor and petty thing. No value should be set on it: it’s something we share with dumb animals – the minutest, most insignificance creatures scutter after it. Glory’s an empty changeable thing, as fickle as the weather. Poverty’s no evil to anyone unless he kicks against it. Death is not an evil. What is it then? The one law mankind has that is free of all discrimination. Superstition is an idiotic heresy: it fears those it should love: it dishonours those it worships. For what difference does it make whether you deny the gods or bring them into disrepute? These are things which should be learnt and not just learnt but learnt by heart. .::Stoic::. Many of us are mistaken to think that word “ Stoic ” means inactive or even indifferent to Worldly pleasures, pains, and emotions. But, that is not entirely correct. It is all about bringing our soul to a state of inner calmness; In other words, Inner Peace! Stoicism is not about avoiding emotions and pleasures but to judge with clear conscience and free ourselves from the unwanted or unneeded. “Enjoy present pleasures in such a way as not to injure future ones.” .::Seneca::. Seneca is one of the famous Roman philosophers, following Zeno’s stoicism. Though Seneca is often believed or questioned to be not much of a stoic himself, these letters help us know how he might have lived his life stoic way. Keeping aside his early life and his forced suicide … .::Letters::. 'No man was ever wise by chance' This collection of letters from Seneca is easily one of the pearls in the sea of stoicism (So, there are other pearls and the word “sea” here simply symbolizes the vastness) It is not undisputable how stoic Seneca is. But, what I think is that we should see if there is anything good we can learn from him, rather than questioning about his life. These letters are like soul-health-capsules to make your spirit grow better only when taken as prescribed and the ingested capsule simmers deep down within you. “As it is with a play, so it is with life - what matters is not how long the acting lasts, but how good it is.” Seneca says, for better living and living free of filthy temptations and unrealistic desires, one should dedicate himself to her – philosophy – For which only she can save us! Well, Philosophy is not just about wisdom, but she also comprises Courage, Justice, and Temperance. “But only philosophy will wake us; only philosophy will shake us out of that heavy sleep. Devote yourself entirely to her. You're worthy of her, she's worthy of you-fall into each other's arms. Say a firm, plain no to every other occupation.” Each of these letters addresses a different topic or an emotion or an issue in a more detailed fashion, sometimes with the help of Epicurus, Virgil, etc… His sayings on how to live and how one should not be afraid of the death which would visit one or one’s friends or family, rather acknowledging and welcoming it as if it were an expected guest whose visit has been only unpredictable! This Inuit word Iktsuarpok I recently learnt, sort of, explains what Seneca has to say about the Death. You want to live—but do you know how to live? You are scared of dying—and, tell me, is the kind of life you lead really any different from being dead? Again, the way Seneca died or to be precise, the way he invited his death was something, I think, questionable or disputable. But, there is a lot to learn from these gems of letters. What I am saying is to take away what is good and take not what is not. A good character is the only guarantee of everlasting, carefree happiness. Living in accordance with reason, nature and virtue, he says, is the way to live in harmony. Now, that is some difficult thought for most of us to even think of. “If you live in harmony with nature you will never be poor; if you live according what others think, you will never be rich.” I am going to see how much I myself can follow. But, it never hurts to try. Does it? Be harsh with yourself at times...

  7. 5 out of 5

    Evan Leach

    Along with his tragedies, treatises and longer dialogues, the philosopher Seneca wrote 124 letters addressed to his friend Lucilius. Whether these letters were actually sent is unknown, but their style indicates that they were intended for publication at some point. These letters are really mini-essays in disguise, discussing Seneca’s Stoic beliefs and his outlook on life in general. This collection contains about a third of Seneca’s surviving letters, some of which are abridged. For readers inte Along with his tragedies, treatises and longer dialogues, the philosopher Seneca wrote 124 letters addressed to his friend Lucilius. Whether these letters were actually sent is unknown, but their style indicates that they were intended for publication at some point. These letters are really mini-essays in disguise, discussing Seneca’s Stoic beliefs and his outlook on life in general. This collection contains about a third of Seneca’s surviving letters, some of which are abridged. For readers interested in Stoicism and Roman philosophy generally, I think these letters do just as good a job (if not better) of expressing Seneca’s beliefs as his dialogues do, and are more pleasant reading to boot. Stoicism (which had been around much longer than Seneca) held that men should live ‘in accordance with nature,’ learning to live in conformity with the world as it is and accepting whatever fate should bring their way. People should value and cultivate reason, and discipline the pleasures and the passions. Only in this way can true happiness be achieved. The duties Stoicism glorified – courage, self-control, simple habits, rationality and obedience to the State – corresponded closely to traditional Roman values, and Stoicism was the most influential philosophy in the Roman world for a long time. To some degree, it contrasted with Epicurean thought, which placed more value on the pursuit of individual pleasure. But in his letters Seneca displayed a remarkably open mind regarding Epicurus and his disciples, and the two schools of thought were not entirely at odds. Many of the values Stoicism promoted were universal ones with wide appeal. Also, although the Stoics believed in a supreme providence that governed the universe, they were not particularly concerned with how this force was labeled: nature, divine reason, god, destiny, etc. This flexibility helped Stoicism adapt and fit within all kids of belief systems. Interestingly, the early Christian Church (which was very disfavorably disposed to most pagan writings) viewed Seneca as ‘one of them’ for this reason. This popularity was to continue into medieval times – in the Inferno Dante placed Seneca in Limbo, the highest place a non-Christian could aspire to, and Queen Elizabeth I “did much admire Senca’s wholesome advisings.” However, Seneca has had his critics too over the centuries. He preached simple living and a rejection of luxury in his writings, but Seneca was one of the most powerful men in Rome and one of the wealthiest in the Western world during his lifetime. He was Emperor Nero’s chief advisor, and ‘the real master of the world’ for a while according to one modern writer. As chief imperial advisor, he almost certainly assisted Nero in the murder of the emperor’s own mother. Wealth and virtue are certainly not mutually exclusive, but extravagent wealth, advising a tyrant and being an accessory to murder do not scream good Stoic living. Whether Seneca lacked the courage of his own convictions, or was unable to practice what he preached, is at least in doubt. Also, Seneca is rarely (if ever) praised as a groundbreaking philosophical thinker. He did not invent Stoicism, but instead “spiritualized and humanized it” in his writings. Readers expecting Plato or Aristotle will probably be disappointed. But readers interested in learning about Stoicism in general will be well served by this book. As I said earlier, I thought these letters were on the whole better than Seneca’s longer dialogues (which are not really ‘dialogues’ at all in any traditional sense, with one exception). As an introduction to Stoic philosophy, which was an important school of thought in the Greco-Roman world and beyond, you could do a lot worse. 3.5 stars.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Cassandra Kay Silva

    Seneca you wastrel! To teach of stoicism while living in such opulence. Eh-gads! Fabulous writing, I think I blushed unbeckoned during the blushing scene, and stop trying to get us all to give up oysters, they are both erotic and have the potential to profit a pearl or two. Unacceptable I say! Also very forward thinking in regards to slavery I must say.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Simon Ri

    In his book concering the time he spent in Auschwitz famous austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl came to the conclusion that when you're no longer able to change the situation you find yourself in, you are challenged to change yourself. Being a best-selling book this ethos dawned the rebirth of stoicism for a society which is desperately longing for a way to cope with all cruelties life serves up. Seneca provided the philosophical foundations and Frankl knew how to transpose them when being faced In his book concering the time he spent in Auschwitz famous austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl came to the conclusion that when you're no longer able to change the situation you find yourself in, you are challenged to change yourself. Being a best-selling book this ethos dawned the rebirth of stoicism for a society which is desperately longing for a way to cope with all cruelties life serves up. Seneca provided the philosophical foundations and Frankl knew how to transpose them when being faced with the atrocities of the 20th century. “If you really want to escape the things that harass you, what you’re needing is not to be in a different place but to be a different person”, as Seneca puts it. The beauty of this book rests upon its ease. Everyone should be able to derive uplifting thoughts from it and stick with them while facing the chaos life throws at you at times. Don't regard suffering per se as an unnecessary part of life but as an opportunity to acquire meaning for the decisions and actions you take.

  10. 4 out of 5

    booklady

    People have the wrong idea about Stoics, the ones with a capital ‘S’, the philosophical ones, not those folks who go around making everyone uncomfortable because nothing bothers them—which is what I used to think being a stoic was all about. It isn’t. In Seven Deadly Sins, author, Kevin Vost, recommends Seneca as an excellent guide for living a good life, free from these deadly vices. I agree with him. In the second letter, for example, he hit on one of my weaknesses, my gluttonous reading. Okay People have the wrong idea about Stoics, the ones with a capital ‘S’, the philosophical ones, not those folks who go around making everyone uncomfortable because nothing bothers them—which is what I used to think being a stoic was all about. It isn’t. In Seven Deadly Sins, author, Kevin Vost, recommends Seneca as an excellent guide for living a good life, free from these deadly vices. I agree with him. In the second letter, for example, he hit on one of my weaknesses, my gluttonous reading. Okay, booklady, if you would be a booklady and not a bookslut, you must heed the Master. (Seneca tried to teach another once and that student never learned his lessons. Rather, Nero became the very opposite of all Seneca tried to teach him: tyrant, matricide, and cruel to his subjects as well as his family*. I pray I do a better job of heeding the good advice in these letters!) In these letters Seneca is writing to his young friend, Lucilius, on a wide range of topics, such as: Saving Time; True and False Friendship; the Terrors of Death; Sharing Knowledge; Crowds; the Good which Abides; Progress; the Futility of Learning Maxims; the Value of Retirement; Allegiance to Virtue; Quiet Conversation; the Proper Style for a Philosopher’s Discourse and the God within Us, just to name a few. There are over 120 letters (topics) and Seneca has excellent, straightforward and reasonable advice on every subject. Indeed, I would take him for a tutor over Socrates or Plato however much I enjoy reading those Greek philosophers. Call me lazy, but with Socrates you have to answer endless questions and Plato requires sifting through a plentitude of dialogs. And when you have done as those illustrious gentlemen bid, you still can’t be sure if the answer you have arrived at is what was intended. With Seneca, there are no guessing games. He says what he has to say and then even clarifies his position/argument further by giving illustrative examples. Lovely! This book can be read straight through or approached just one topic at a time. It isn’t a book to be rushed, nor ever completely finished, but returned to again and again. Make friends with Seneca. He is an excellent teacher, a sage of the first order, someone I hope to meet in the afterlife. The way he talks about God, he knows Him. Big mistake Nero! *Nero is accused of many crimes which subsequent historians debate, but all agree he failed this marvelous teacher!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Simon Robs

    This epistolary glimpse into Roman life between a retiring and reflecting upper echelon diplomat Seneca and a presumably peer and friend lays out in didactic form the tenants of Stoic philosophy as held by those among that elite school of thought. Seneca's tone indicates he's the elder more learned communicant proffering wisdom earned through experience as one in near proximity to both power and servanthood/slavery. He trots out all the main themes and ties them into regular day examples of how This epistolary glimpse into Roman life between a retiring and reflecting upper echelon diplomat Seneca and a presumably peer and friend lays out in didactic form the tenants of Stoic philosophy as held by those among that elite school of thought. Seneca's tone indicates he's the elder more learned communicant proffering wisdom earned through experience as one in near proximity to both power and servanthood/slavery. He trots out all the main themes and ties them into regular day examples of how one ought conduct behavior as well thought processes to gird those actions. For instance how one should treat his slaves - mostly a golden rule aspect albeit master/slave dynamic. Much ado about death and the Socratic example of non-concern over when, how, but rather if it is good or/and satisfactory. To die well is the pinnacle of having lived well in getting there. Virtue must be sought for and learned by first overcoming the desires of self. Topics and antipathies like body/mind, soul/or lack thereof, city/state, ruler/slave, time/infinity are repeatedly woven into his missives like a series of mini-lectures building his overarching all or wholeness. There are fascinating commentaries on everyday life at the top of privileged status including food/drink/entertainment/architecture/dress/sexual mores/travel/etc., Politics gets its due of course. In referring to earlier Greek polity he muses: "Among human beings the highest merit means the highest position. So they used to choose their ruler for his character. (Just like today, right!?) Hence peoples were supremely fortunate when among them a man could never be more powerful than others unless he was a better man than they were. For there is nothing dangerous in a man's having as much power as he likes if he takes the view that he has power to do only what is his duty to do." Well, so, even if Seneca's right Stoic ways were said to be often at odds with objective reality it doesn't detract from his firm understanding of and efforts to inculcate stoic equanimity as right path. Who can fault human aspiration towards righteousness falling off or short of full enactment. His words as rhetoric makes believable an enduring thought for living as well dying.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Cody

    Full review to come!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Shyam

    We should develop a fondness for some good man and keep him always before our eyes, to live as though he were watching and act in all things as though he could see. —Epicurus (in 11.8) __________ I send you greetings from my villa at Nomentum, wishing you excellence of mind. (110.1) The work that I am doing is for posterity. (8.2) __________ The right path, which I myself discovered late in life when weary from wandering, I now point out to others. (8.3) The things I say will benefit you whether yo We should develop a fondness for some good man and keep him always before our eyes, to live as though he were watching and act in all things as though he could see. —Epicurus (in 11.8) __________ I send you greetings from my villa at Nomentum, wishing you excellence of mind. (110.1) The work that I am doing is for posterity. (8.2) __________ The right path, which I myself discovered late in life when weary from wandering, I now point out to others. (8.3) The things I say will benefit you whether you like it or not. It’s time for a candid voice to reach you. (89.19) This is how you should speak; this is how you should live . . . These should be our reflections, dear Lucilius, these are the ways to shape our minds. 10.4, 117.25) __________ I will tell you what is my own state of mind when I read him: I yearn to challenge every stroke of fortune—to shout, “Why let up fortune? do your worst! See, I am ready!” (64.4) All his work has progress as its goal, and excellence of mind. It does not look for applause. (100.11) So this is what philosophy will do for you—and indeed, I think it is the greatest gift of all: you will never regret what you have done . . . [Cf. To be able to enjoy one's past life is to live twice —Martial 10.23.7] . . . A mind made flawless, a mind that rivals the divine, that elevates itself above the human sphere and places nothing beyond itself . . . Do not judge yourself to be happy until all your joys arise from yourself, until, after viewing the objects of human competition, covetousness, and possessiveness, you find—I will not say nothing to prefer, but nothing to set your heart on. (115.18, 124.23,24) __________ I will write more about the book when I have been over it a second time. (46.3) I started reading Seneca's Letters for the second time at the start of last year. I started reading a couple of letters each day before bed, then stopped for whatever reason. Read always from authors of proven worth; and if ever you are inclined to turn aside to others, return afterward to the previous ones. (2.4) I then resumed and started reading a few first thing in the morning after I was fully dressed and perfumed and sat down with my cup of coffee. I think this is the best way to do it What other endeavour do you have than to make yourself a better person each day—to lay aside some error, to come to understand that what you think are flaws in your situation are in fact flaws in yourself? (50.1) No matter what is going on in your life, stresses, anxieties, whatever; reading Seneca every morning reminds you that you’re not seeing things clearly, that it’s really not as bad as you think it is More things frighten us than really affect us, and we are more often afflicted in thought than in fact. (13.4) That what you think is bad, is really only your opinion about the thing, not the thing itself. And your opinion is always within your power to control. Your mind is always within your power to control. No one is happy who does not believe himself to be. —Unknown (9.21) It’s not easy. Most times it’s incredibly difficult. And just reading Seneca, just reading Epictetus, just reading Marcus Aurelius won’t help you There are two parts to virtue: one is the study of truth, and the other is action. (94.45) You can’t just read these people’s works, scribbling down passages but not putting them to any use Who regards his doctrine, not as a vain display of knowledge, but as a rule of life; who obeys himself and complies with his own precepts —Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, 2.4 You need to apply them. “But it’s not easy!” you say. No, it’s not. Maybe you’re addicted to something. Maybe you lost your job. Or a friend. Or a parent. Or a partner . . . I frequently encounter people who think that what they themselves cannot do is impossible, and who say that our Stoic theories are beyond the capacities of human nature. I myself have a much higher opinion of human beings: they are actually capable of doing these thing, but they are unwilling. Has anyone who really made the effort ever found the task beyond him? Hasn’t it always been found easier in the doing? It is not the difficulty of things that saps our confidence, but our lack of confidence that creates the difficulty. (104.25-26) . . . In fact, though, there’s something else involved: our love for our own faults. We defend them and we would rather make excuses for them than shake them off. Human nature has been endowed with sufficient strength if only we use it. We have only to assemble our resources and get them all to fight on our behalf rather than against us. Inability is just an excuse; the real reason is unwillingness. (116.8) So no, it's not easy. But it’s possible. So many things to know: when will you learn them? When will you fix them in your mind so that they cannot be forgotten? When will you try them out? For these are not like other objets of study. With these, memorisation is not enough: you must out them into effect. The happy person is not the one who knows them but the one who performs them. (75.7) So do it. Perform them. All you need is to be willing. What do you need in order to be good? Willingness. (80.4) You are hard at work, forgetting everything else and sticking to the single task of making yourself a better person every day. This I approve, and rejoice in it too. I urge you, indeed plead with you, to persevere. All the same, I have a warning for you. There are those whose wish is to be noticed rather than to make moral progress. Don’t be like them . . . (5.1) I could keep going on and on and on but I see there will be no end to this topic unless I just make an end. (87.11) Farewell. __________ P.S. I decided to share the list of quotes I noted down from here in a post on my website for others to use as they wish: http://thetrueaesthete.art/blog/2021/... __________ Remind yourself often how fine a thing it is to reach the summit of life before you die, and then to be in peace as you wait out the remainder of your time, relying only on yourself. For once one possesses happiness, duration does not make it any happier . . . Would you like to know what it is that makes people greedy for the future? Not one of them yet belongs to himself. (32.3, 4) These are the lessons you need to learn or, rather, take to heart. (123.17)

  14. 4 out of 5

    Graychin

    It’s an interesting exercise to read Seneca’s letters and Homer’s Iliad at the same time: you get a sense for how arbitrary our categories are. Both of these ostensibly belong to “classical literature,” though eight hundred years separate them. Seneca and we are divided by a gulf of history more than twice that deep, but his world and our own have so much more in common with one another than either shares with the Achaean armies camped on the beach at Troy. Again and again, while marking up my c It’s an interesting exercise to read Seneca’s letters and Homer’s Iliad at the same time: you get a sense for how arbitrary our categories are. Both of these ostensibly belong to “classical literature,” though eight hundred years separate them. Seneca and we are divided by a gulf of history more than twice that deep, but his world and our own have so much more in common with one another than either shares with the Achaean armies camped on the beach at Troy. Again and again, while marking up my copy of this book I found myself muttering, “My God, we are still the Romans!” Letters from a Stoic is a collection of Seneca’s Moral Epistles to Lucilius, superbly introduced, edited, and translated by Robin Campbell. I’d recently read James Romm’s Dying Every Day, a biography of Seneca, which first put me on the scent of the present title. I’d been looking for an entrée to Seneca for a long time, and this was the right one at the right time for me. Seneca was both a philosopher and a statesman, and while serving as the young Nero’s tutor and defacto regent he was possibly the most powerful man in the western world. Seneca was also a great hypocrite – at least many of his contemporaries thought so. He preached the embrace of poverty while at the same time amassing enormous wealth. He championed a blameless life while abetting or at least turning a blind eye to Nero’s murder of his own brother and other family members. In the end, of course, Nero turned on him too. As an elderly man trying to live quietly in retirement, Seneca was commanded on the emperor’s orders to open his veins and end his own life, and he did so without complaint. Was Seneca a hypocrite, and would being so make him unworthy of our consideration? Let’s say that Seneca is not for the youthful idealist; he will be better appreciated by someone with at least three or four decades under his belt. Seneca’s life was an especially powerful demonstration of the economizing we all engage in, to one degree or another, when we try to live according to our highest convictions in a world that requires everyone who would not be a monk in a cell to dirty his hands. These letters (which read more like essays) Seneca wrote in the last years of his life. As they demonstrate, he was well aware of his failures, but they also prove his continued commitment to the life of philosophy – to philosophy as a practical pursuit of wisdom, of the honorable life, freedom from fear, joy in our own being, and compassion for our fellow creatures. There’s a humility and humanity in these letters that surpasses anything you may find in Seneca’s fellow Stoics, like Marcus Aurelius or Epictetus. I took so many notes. I copied out so many passages. This is one of those books you want to loan to everyone, except that you can’t bear to part with it. A few favorite passages: Nothing, to my way of thinking, is a better proof of a well ordered mind than a man’s ability to stop just where he is and pass some time in his own company. It is not the man who has too little who is poor but the man who hankers after more. In the case of some sick people it is a matter for congratulation when they come to realize for themselves that they are sick. You must inevitably either hate or imitate the world. All foolishness suffers the burden of dissatisfaction with itself. Whatever is true is my property. Natural desires are limited; those which spring from false opinions have nowhere to stop, for falsity has no point of termination. A person who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave. Each man has a character of his own choosing; it is chance or fate that decides his choice of job. With afflictions of the spirit...the worse a person is, the less he feels it. You needn’t feel surprised, my dearest Lucilius. A person sleeping lightly perceives impressions in his dreams and is sometimes, even, aware during sleep that he is asleep, whereas a heavy slumber blots out even dreams and plunges the mind too deep for consciousness of self. Why does no one admit his failings? Because he’s still deep in them. The man whom 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. Night does not remove our worries; it brings them to the surface. I should prefer to see you abandoning grief rather than it abandoning you. Much as you may wish, you will not be able to keep it up for very long, so give it up as early as possible. At whatever point you leave life, if you leave it in the right way, it is a whole. There are times when even to live is an act of bravery. You will die not because you are sick but because you are alive. [A] life spent viewing all the variety, the majesty, the sublimity in things around us can never succumb to ennui: the feeling that one is tired of being, of existing, is usually the result of an idle and inactive leisure. To want to know more than is sufficient is a form of intemperance. It would be some relief to our condition and our frailty if all things were as slow in their perishing as they were in their coming into being: but as it is, the growth of things is a tardy process and their undoing is a rapid matter. We’re born unequal, we die equal. What good does it do you to go overseas, to move from city to city? If you really want to escape the things that harass you, what you’re needing is not to be in a different place but to be a different person. To be feared is to fear: no one has been able to strike terror into others and at the same time enjoy peace of mind himself.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Baird

    Lots of life lessons to digest with this one. A few of my favorite highlights: On the importance of continuous learning: "Each day acquire something that will fortify you against poverty, against death, indeed against other misfortunes as well; and after you have run over many thoughts, select one to be thoroughly digested that day." On the importance of having a role model / mentor of sorts to keep you on the path: "Cherish some man of high character, and keep him ever before your eyes, living as i Lots of life lessons to digest with this one. A few of my favorite highlights: On the importance of continuous learning: "Each day acquire something that will fortify you against poverty, against death, indeed against other misfortunes as well; and after you have run over many thoughts, select one to be thoroughly digested that day." On the importance of having a role model / mentor of sorts to keep you on the path: "Cherish some man of high character, and keep him ever before your eyes, living as if he were watching you, and ordering all your actions as if he beheld them." On getting old: "Life is most delightful when it is on the downward slope, but has not yet reached the abrupt decline." On living each day like it was your last: "...every day ought to be regulated as if it closed the series, as if it rounded out and completed our existence." and this on living a good life: "It is with life as it is with a play, —it matters not how long the action is spun out, but how good the acting is. It makes no difference at what point you stop. Stop whenever you choose; only see to it that the closing period is well turned." On being prepared: We should therefore reflect upon all contingencies, and should fortify our minds against the evils which may possibly come. On not being affected by the words of despicable people: "What madness it is to be afraid of disrepute in the judgment of the disreputable ! Just as you have had no cause for shrinking in terror from the talk of men, so you have no cause now to shrink from these things, which you would never fear had not their talk forced fear upon you. Does it do any harm to a good man to be besmirched by unjust gossip?" Finally...a simple bit of wisdom on how to get, and maintain, peace of mind: "The most important contribution to peace of mind is never to do wrong. Those who lack self-control lead disturbed and tumultuous lives; their crimes are balanced by their fears, and they are never at ease. For they tremble after the deed, and they are embarrassed; their consciences do not allow them to busy themselves with other matters, and continually compel them to give an answer. Whoever expects punishment, receives it, but whoever deserves it, expects it. Where there is an evil conscience something may bring safety, but nothing can bring ease; for a man imagines that, even if he is not under arrest, he may soon be arrested. His sleep is troubled; when he speaks of another man's crime, he reflects upon his own, which seems to him not sufficiently blotted out, not sufficiently hidden from view. A wrongdoer sometimes has the luck to escape notice but never the assurance thereof."

  16. 5 out of 5

    Philipp

    tl;dr: Classic philosophy, mixed with old-people-opinions This is really good if you want to have a primer into Stoicism - the writing in these letters is straightforward, each letter handles two or three themes and is usually only a couple of pages long. The annoying parts are Seneca's old-people-opinions, some of which are: 1. People who stay up all night are terrible 2. 'For it is silly [.] to spend one's time exercising the biceps' 3. Popular styles are terrible: 'It's object is to sway a mass au tl;dr: Classic philosophy, mixed with old-people-opinions This is really good if you want to have a primer into Stoicism - the writing in these letters is straightforward, each letter handles two or three themes and is usually only a couple of pages long. The annoying parts are Seneca's old-people-opinions, some of which are: 1. People who stay up all night are terrible 2. 'For it is silly [.] to spend one's time exercising the biceps' 3. Popular styles are terrible: 'It's object is to sway a mass audience' 4. Everything was better in the past and the present is bad ('The earth herself, untilled, was more productive, her yields being more than ample for the needs of peoples who did not raid each other.' etc. pp. - the same arguments 2000 years later repeated in the terrible Ishmael) But, to quote the man, We should hunt out the helpful pieces of teaching, and the spirited and noble-minded sayings which are capable of immediate practical application [..] and learn them so well that words become works. And of these 'helpful pieces of teaching' the letters are chock-full. Bonus best quote: Lucius Piso was drunk from the very moment of his appointment as Warden of the City of Rome.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    I don't buy the criticism you see about Seneca not practicing what he preached. The closest I've ever been to being emperor of anything is the emperor of ice cream, so maybe the guy deserves more credit than the typical accusations of hypocrisy. I had picked this book up again last year just sensing a need for some more sturdy philosophical grounding for resilience in my life and then decided to promote it in my queue at the reco of Tim Ferriss. I slogged through it for a long time. Not gonna lie, I don't buy the criticism you see about Seneca not practicing what he preached. The closest I've ever been to being emperor of anything is the emperor of ice cream, so maybe the guy deserves more credit than the typical accusations of hypocrisy. I had picked this book up again last year just sensing a need for some more sturdy philosophical grounding for resilience in my life and then decided to promote it in my queue at the reco of Tim Ferriss. I slogged through it for a long time. Not gonna lie, the first half of the book really took it out of me. But something crazy happened along the way. My father died abruptly and all the sudden these discussions about resilience, temperance, equanimity, simplicity, moral clarity, overcoming the limits of mortality, and the stoicism in the face of loss--all of it came into focus. I found a lot of this to be spot-on and hella-comforting at this time. Now, I'm not going to start taking cold showers. But maybe I'll try it? Parts of this book, if you read them carefully, are a total lol. His railing against over-grooming in men and against the wearing of age-inappropriate clothing (hello 2013!). His letters CXIV and CXII about decadence are just awesome, plump with rants against literary adornment, affectation, fetishes. I see this hilarious crotchety old dude railing against the hepcats of Rome with their sunscreened boys and entourages partying all night. It's actually quite hilarious. Some notable cross references that this book stirred for me. 1) Fellini's film masterpiece from 1960 La Dolce Vita. You get some of that same thematic stuff as in Seneca's letter about Rome's decadence. 2)Thoreau's Walden from 1854. You note a lot of philosophical commonality. Certain passages seem almost lifted from Seneca. Especially the most quoted stuff about sucking the marrow from life, about working on yourself, eschewing the pleasures of the world, living a life of principle, avoiding travel for the sake of variety alone. 3) The Declaration of Independence (1776). Most apparent here is this philosophical summum bonum of Happiness (its pursuit). Seneca sets his views apart from mere knowledge-acquisition or philosophy for the sake of itself, by explicitly saying the end is about putting into practice decisions that make for a happy life. It's a profound departure from many thinkers at the time. It's amazing to see the the deep taproots of this idea stretch all the way from 1776 to AD 50 (and probably before). It's a great rejection of sophistry. "My advice is really this: what we hear the philosophers saying and what we find in their writings should be applied in our pursuit of the happy life." (Letter CVIII). We may see this as obvious, but it has not always been so. Last thing, the cash value for me in this has been in allowing in Seneca's ideas about how to cope with the death of loved ones. I'm pretty sure Seneca would be happy to know we put this stuff to use. Take your time with this book.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Chuck Rylant

    This is hard to rate because the book is loaded with valuable insights. There are several quotes that will apply to your life today. That said, it was very hard to read. It is boring beyond belief. It took me months to get through it because I could only take a few pages at a time before my mind wondered off. I don't think I got all there is to get from it in one read. This is more of a book that needs to be studied. Perhaps leave is laying on the coffee table and read a page or two a day with a h This is hard to rate because the book is loaded with valuable insights. There are several quotes that will apply to your life today. That said, it was very hard to read. It is boring beyond belief. It took me months to get through it because I could only take a few pages at a time before my mind wondered off. I don't think I got all there is to get from it in one read. This is more of a book that needs to be studied. Perhaps leave is laying on the coffee table and read a page or two a day with a high lighter. I will probably read it many times over to let all the wisdom sink in, but this same information could be easily condensed into another book with fewer words, and better editing to appeal to modern day readers.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ransom Mowris

    One of the most profound books I've read. Seneca defines philosophy not as a system of logical rules for old men to argue about and rearrange, but as a means to prescribe a way of life. He sees a philosopher as a wise doctor who provides advice on the optimal way to live so as to be as happy as possible. With this goal in mind, Seneca wrote a series of letters to his close friend advising him on the many dangers of Roman social life circa the 1st century. He also advises his friend on practices One of the most profound books I've read. Seneca defines philosophy not as a system of logical rules for old men to argue about and rearrange, but as a means to prescribe a way of life. He sees a philosopher as a wise doctor who provides advice on the optimal way to live so as to be as happy as possible. With this goal in mind, Seneca wrote a series of letters to his close friend advising him on the many dangers of Roman social life circa the 1st century. He also advises his friend on practices one can exercise to avoid hardship -- for example, learning to "acquaint oneself with poverty" occasionally by eating only simple grains and water and sleeping on the floor without a pillow for short periods. In this way, one can learn that life without riches is actually tolerable, and actually prepare to lose all their riches at once and still retain their happiness. Who would I recommend this book to? Anyone who wishes to be happy. Seneca believes that a trained man can transcend the whims of fate and find a greater happiness from within. "Winter brings in the cold, and we have to shiver; summer brings back the heat and we have to swelter. Bad weather tries the health and we have to be ill... Floods will rob us of one thing, fire of another. These are conditions of our existence which we cannot change. What we can do is adopt a noble spirit, such a spirit as befits a good man, so that we may bear up bravely under all that fortune sends us and bring our wills into tune with nature's... For fate the willing leads, the unwilling drags along"

  20. 4 out of 5

    Airam

    Ah, Philosophy... The Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva of mankind. Redeemer of humanity, slaughterer of comfortable existences; it can either save or destroy a man, but it can hardly leave him untouched. Five stars not because I find all or most of the ideas in this book brilliant, but for how much it got me thinking, for the dialogues I established with it (having me break my no-writing-on-books rule), for its beauty and for my love for it.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Markus

    SENECA – Born in year 1 he was constrained to commit suicide at the age of 65, by order of Emperor Nero, his pupil and “friend”. Seneca’s masterpiece in literature is the collection of his 124 letters to his friend Lucilius. The book also contains his well-known and brilliant essays: ‘The Consolation to Marcia’, a Consolation to his mother Helvia, De Ire, De Clementia, De Vita Beata, De Providentia, De Constantia Sapientis, De Tranquilitate Animi, De Otio. It is advisable to start reading the Lette SENECA – Born in year 1 he was constrained to commit suicide at the age of 65, by order of Emperor Nero, his pupil and “friend”. Seneca’s masterpiece in literature is the collection of his 124 letters to his friend Lucilius. The book also contains his well-known and brilliant essays: ‘The Consolation to Marcia’, a Consolation to his mother Helvia, De Ire, De Clementia, De Vita Beata, De Providentia, De Constantia Sapientis, De Tranquilitate Animi, De Otio. It is advisable to start reading the Letters first, the introduction by Paul Veyne in his great wisdom, of 171 pages, is in itself a complete treaty on Stoic Philosophy, and therefore seems to me to pre-empt Seneca’s letters. Seneca's letters aim to convince and teach his friend to adopt his own Stoic Philosophy and to become “wise”. Letter after a letter he explains that it is only up to yourself to intellectualize your way of thinking and live a life according to the laws of nature, with no need for God or master. Rejecting all human vices, the strife for honours, gold, and worldly pleasures, the wise man is above everything and therefore will not suffer pain inflicted by other humans. He knows he can exit this world anytime he chooses of his own will, by way of suicide. It needs the patience to read all of these letters, many subjects and arguments are repeated many times. But Seneca’s style, at least in this translation, is easy and pleasant to read. I am close to adopting this Philosophy to myself, I have come to like it. 1 like

  22. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    I think if I were to ascribe to any worldview, I would choose Stoicism. Seneca is one of the reasons why. An eminently reasonable man who continually urges his young charge to self-examination through the light of reason. A fun read with profound insight.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Andrecrabtree

    Apparently I'm a Stoic always was one. That's about all I picked up from this book. I thought to myself "what better way to learn more about Stoicism than to read from the original texts." Well that was an error. All I get is a long rambling collection of letters. Most of the time I'm not entirely sure what Seneca's point is. Sometimes it's all to obvious and he doesn't need to go on and on. But that's what you get with a collection of letters and not a book. It's inherent in the structure. Well Apparently I'm a Stoic always was one. That's about all I picked up from this book. I thought to myself "what better way to learn more about Stoicism than to read from the original texts." Well that was an error. All I get is a long rambling collection of letters. Most of the time I'm not entirely sure what Seneca's point is. Sometimes it's all to obvious and he doesn't need to go on and on. But that's what you get with a collection of letters and not a book. It's inherent in the structure. Well I guess I'll just stoically accept it for what it is. But from now on I'm going to check out some more modern authors to see if they can present the ideas in a more coherent fashion.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Cole

    If you like Stoic thinking, Seneca is not as pretty as Marcus Aurelius or good as Epictetus. He's more middle-of-the-road. Oddly, these letters read a lot like newspaper columns or blog entries. If you like Stoic thinking, Seneca is not as pretty as Marcus Aurelius or good as Epictetus. He's more middle-of-the-road. Oddly, these letters read a lot like newspaper columns or blog entries.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Dr. Tobias Christian Fischer

    It’s a book about philosophy but in the end it’s a teacher about life. It shows how you should life to be happy and it feels like the best life advice giver I’ve read - just in more well-chosen words.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Bill Burris

    Like any book written 2000 years ago, it has some strange ideas about how the world works. Seneca is a must read if you are interested in the history of philosophy, or Stoicism. There are many philosophers to read before Seneca, but I was interested in Stoicism, so I jumped ahead in my reading list.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mahmoud Awad

    The Stoics were an interesting bunch. While at times it could seem that they were on something, it's important to admit that they were also onto something. It's difficult to try to review this without mentioning Marcus Aurelius' Meditations, and I'm sure some grad student out there has tried to draw up an exhaustive comparison between the two. The two works are different in style as a result of the different nature of the two authors-one an emperor and the other the tutor for the emperor Nero, w The Stoics were an interesting bunch. While at times it could seem that they were on something, it's important to admit that they were also onto something. It's difficult to try to review this without mentioning Marcus Aurelius' Meditations, and I'm sure some grad student out there has tried to draw up an exhaustive comparison between the two. The two works are different in style as a result of the different nature of the two authors-one an emperor and the other the tutor for the emperor Nero, who would eventually emerge as the original 'Mad King'-and the two texts: one intended for only one pair of eyes and the other intended for at least two. Seneca's letters, naturally, took on a much more persuasive tone than the Meditations while remaining true to the central themes of Stoicism. So basically a rehearsal in: praise of the minimalist lifestyle, living virtuously, mind over matter, eradication of fear and angst, etc. I admired how he wouldn't hesitate to quote Epicurus (whose views on moderation and happiness are much more realistic than those of the Stoics in my opinion) despite their starkly differing ideologies as well as his various literary references. As I neared the end of the letters, it suddenly struck me how his morals pertaining to certain issues like death and embracing controversy were very closely aligned with those of Socrates. It therefore came as no surprise when he mentioned Socrates as well as Plato in one of his later letters. I found myself in agreement with many of his ideals though to a lesser degree than I did with Marcus Aurelius. If a title were to be given to these letters, it would be fair to name them 'Reflections.' The death of Seneca is itself an exercise in Stoicism, as he remained true to his principles. Overall, these letters were a nourishing read and offer some enticing ideals worthy of application in daily life.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Alien B

    I expected more from Seneca. I love stoicism and hoped to get into it further but found Seneca's letters to be superficial. There are some solid ideas at the heart of the writing but they are diluted by the list of metaphors Seneca spews. "Food that is vomited up as soon as it is eaten is not assimilated into the body and does not do one any good; nothing hinders a cure so much as frequent changes of treatment; a wound will not heal over if it is being made the subject of experiments with diffe I expected more from Seneca. I love stoicism and hoped to get into it further but found Seneca's letters to be superficial. There are some solid ideas at the heart of the writing but they are diluted by the list of metaphors Seneca spews. "Food that is vomited up as soon as it is eaten is not assimilated into the body and does not do one any good; nothing hinders a cure so much as frequent changes of treatment; a wound will not heal over if it is being made the subject of experiments with different ointments; a plant which is frequently moved never grows strong. Nothing is so useful that it can be of any service in the mere passing. A multitude of books only gets in one’s way.” Besides this show of flowery writing- Seneca contradicts himself several times. He claims we should not judge someone by their status for status is just like the clothes someone puts on, its doesn't reveal their character. In a later letter Seneca is adamant that someone who dresses sloppily has a sloppy mind, that the way someone dresses is completely telling of their character..... ok, Seneca. In comparison with Marcus Aurelius who wrote only for himself and produced a journal of timeless ideas, Senecas's writing seems self-applauding and dated. He questions at what age one is too old to lust after young men, he cautions you to be weary of the slaves who might betray you, mocks the people who wear sun protecting ointment and use ornate carriages. Rather than a book on the philosophy of living, it comes across as Ancient Roman gossip, sprinkled with judgements and boasting about the people around him. I found this text disappointing.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Franta

    Wisdom worth returning to regularly. "When time is so scarce what madness it is to learn superfluous things!" The gist of Seneca is to avoid superfluous things and behavior, thus to live in accordance with nature and its laws. Which is one of the key principles of Chinese taoists as well. Also, life is short so it is good to think about death. Every single day. "If you wished to be loved, love." "True happiness is... to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future." "The bravest sight Wisdom worth returning to regularly. "When time is so scarce what madness it is to learn superfluous things!" The gist of Seneca is to avoid superfluous things and behavior, thus to live in accordance with nature and its laws. Which is one of the key principles of Chinese taoists as well. Also, life is short so it is good to think about death. Every single day. "If you wished to be loved, love." "True happiness is... to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future." "The bravest sight in the world is to see a great man struggling against adversity." "There is no person so severely punished, as those who subject themselves to the whip of their own remorse." "For many men, the acquisition of wealth does not end their troubles, it only changes them." "Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity." "While we are postponing, life speeds by."

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ann Spivack

    Okay, I'm not good at reading something like this cover to cover -- it's thought-provoking but it takes me a while to just think over each letter. I keep this book on my nightstand and read it just one letter at a time, and sometimes weeks go by before I read another. But still, there's something astonishing about reading ideas that still apply so many centuries after Seneca wrote them. For example, he says, stay on one subject; if you fly from topic to topic, it's harder for your mind to work a Okay, I'm not good at reading something like this cover to cover -- it's thought-provoking but it takes me a while to just think over each letter. I keep this book on my nightstand and read it just one letter at a time, and sometimes weeks go by before I read another. But still, there's something astonishing about reading ideas that still apply so many centuries after Seneca wrote them. For example, he says, stay on one subject; if you fly from topic to topic, it's harder for your mind to work at its best (I'm paraphrasing, of course). His words about how to think and how to learn are so interesting.

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