Curing Human Misery: A Study of Seneca's Moral Philosophy by Robert Stephen Wagoner

By Robert Stephen Wagoner

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9) Seneca here gives some content to his understanding of Stoic theory on two points. First, the moral and rational parts are defined in terms of their ends – to keep the soul in order and to keep falsehood out. Second, in the case of the rational part of philosophy, we are given an account of the way in which it pursues its end – by working out an understanding of language. Seneca‟s brevity here on the end of the natural part of philosophy is a point of difficulty. We might conclude that the investigation of the universe simply is the end of this part.

To be clear, Cooper‟s account does not rule this out, but in so far as it fails to account for the importance of the acquisition of new beliefs – which is surely part of making progress – to that extent it fails as a complete account of the stages of moral progress. On the other hand, Hadot‟s analysis – particularly for its partitioning of rhetorical and philosophical exercises into distinct stages of progress – is attractive as a charitable account of Seneca‟s widespread use of rhetorical devices.

One can approach philosophical texts with this in mind and yet fail. There is still need of more substantive instruction if Seneca is serious about promoting progress in his readers. 24-39) where Seneca discusses the different results that attend different approaches to reading. Even when reading the same text, the philologus, the grammaticus,17 and one who is devoted to philosophy will achieve different results. The contrasts between these approaches yield some more concrete advice for philosophical study.

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