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A Fellow Patient

Seneca didn't think of himself as teacher but as a fellow patient. And he often reminds us that he is quite certain that he himself will never become fully wise. He is content if he will make a little bit of progress, he says. In fact, he frequently says that it is quite easy to make progress. The tricky part is not to give up when the target seems impossible to reach. In letter 89 he says that we shouldn't think of the target as separated from us by a great distance. The moment we strive towards wisdom we have already partly reached the goal.

"Wisdom is the perfect good of the human mind; philosophy is the love of wisdom, and the endeavour to attain it. The latter strives toward the goal which the former has already reached. And it is clear why philosophy was so called. For it acknowledges by its very name the object of its love."

- Seneca, Letters 89.4

"philosophy cannot exist without virtue, nor virtue without philosophy. Philosophy is the study of virtue, by means, however, of virtue itself; but neither can virtue exist without the study of itself, nor can the study of virtue exist without virtue itself. For it is not like trying to hit a target at long range, where the shooter and the object to be shot at are in different places. Nor, as roads which lead into a city, are the approaches to virtue situated outside virtue herself; the path by which one reaches virtue leads by way of virtue herself; philosophy and virtue cling closely together."

- Seneca, Letters 89.8


Comments

  1. Another relevant quote:

    ""I am still conning Epicurus. I read to-day, in his works, the following sentence: "If you would enjoy real freedom, you must be the slave of Philosophy." The man who submits and surrenders himself to her is not kept waiting; he is emancipated on the spot. For the very service of Philosophy is freedom"

    - Seneca, Letters 8.7

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