Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Senecan advice for liberal-arts types

From Seneca the Younger, Natural Questions IV (A, Pref. 14, 18):

When you want to be praised sincerely, why be indebted to someone else for it? Praise yourself. Say: “I devoted myself to the liberal arts. Although my poverty urged me to do otherwise and tempted my talents towards a field where there is an immediate profit from study, I turned aside to unremunerative poetry and dedicated myself to the wholesome study of philosophy. . . .” After this, ask whether the things you said about yourself are true or false. If they are true, you are praised in front of a great witness, yourself. If they are false, no one is a witness to your being made a fool of.

Quoted in Ward Farnsworth’s The Practicing Stoic: A Philosophical User’s Manual (Boston: David R. Godine, 2018). Adapted from an unidentified public-domain translation.
[Please notice that for Seneca there is no question that devotion to the liberal arts is cause for self-praise.]

comments: 0