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Practical wisdom of Seneca

How does a philosophy sound when committed to living well? When about quality of being, not just thinking big? How would we relate to those around us, ourselves, to our friends?  Can we reconcile the rigor of thoughtfulness with simple living?

For Seneca (4 BC – AD 65), "the mere name of philosophy, however quietly pursued, is an object of sufficient scorn" as we begin to separate ourselves from the customs of our fellow-men. Yet while recommending against this direction, he calls also for "living to oneself" and "avoiding the crowds" above all.

Practical wisdom of this kind manages a kind of intellectual humility with regard to the universe, while bravely maintaining the constancy of one who knows.  His prudence consists in taking measure of important aspects in life, an activity itself practical, while securing his claims by the nature of  things. As a small example, after a discussion regarding when to generously trust as friends and when to hide our cards, he concludes: Discuss the problem with Nature; she will tell you that she has created both day and night.

We will read these 11 short letters. The writing is beautiful and while written over 2000 years ago may still be considered the ultimate handbook in stoic practical wisdom.

The titles give a good glimpse into their content.

Letter 1: On Saving Time
Letter 2: On Discursiveness in Reading
Letter 3: On True and False Friendship
Letter 4: On The Terrors of Death
Letter 5: On The Philosopher’s Mean
Letter 6: On Sharing Knowledge
Letter 7: On Crowds
Letter 8: On the Philosopher’s Seclusion
Letter 9: On Philosophy and Friendship                                   

Letter 10: On Living to Oneself                                          

Letter 11: On the Blush of Modesty

Read in advance, and let's see where the conversation freely goes.  As always, although I posted Seneca, these meetups are about us.  We are the true discourse, as the logos is gathered in many ways.

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  • A former member
    A former member

    The first 11 Seneca letters provided passages and topics for a great meetup. As George points out, there are more! Thanks again Brian for the choice of material.

    December 30, 2013

  • Brian

    Top 5 all time. We got a lot out of Seneca.

    1 · December 28, 2013

    • George

      We might get even more, if there are a couple two three hundred more of his letters.

      2 · December 29, 2013

    • George

      Given the attendance, maybe we should meet up for dinner sometime and see if a discussion spontaneously follows.

      December 29, 2013

  • Brian

    There's an interesting dialogue running across his letters on friendship. First, we should judge well before trusting someone as 'friend'. But we can also build up someone into a friend by entrusting ourselves with them. But as only a friend can be a friend, when we lean on someone, we risk looking too incomplete to be even capable of friendship. Hmm.. There is some balance to strike between relaxation and repose. And there is virtue in being honest. There is an interesting paradox going on between want and needing friends in one of the later letters as it relates to mere survival and happiness. #datapoints

    1 · December 28, 2013

  • Brian

    "While we are postponing, life speeds by. Nothing, Lucilius, is ours, except time."
    I pinning this on the board: He could've gone with Zeus or Uranus, but went with Chronos instead.

    1 · December 28, 2013

  • mariann

    I want to go to this SO. BAD. But I will be out of town. Perhaps I will read them in spirit??

    December 22, 2013

  • Anneliese

    Arg! Out of town... :(

    December 16, 2013

    • Anneliese

      Wait. No, I just got back into town. I can make it!

      2 · December 17, 2013

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