The Path To Virtue. (What did Seneca believe about Stocicism?)

In orthodox Stoic doctrine, the final transition from the ultimate phase of moral progress to wisdom happens through a radical and instantaneous manner. At that moment man lays aside his wickedness at once and instead acquires all virtues simultaneously.



Seneca underlines the reciprocal character of all moral guidance. He learns while teaching making use of his friend Lucilius. He talks to Lucilius while he introspects. Accordingly the proficientes serve the self-evaluation of Seneca. By painting the ideal of the sage with all its colors, Seneca sketches the horizon against which all the whole process of moral progress takes place. “And at what should we aim?” Seneca gives this ideal attractive powers to further his efforts, (“what shall we win.”) Mere praise of the sage connected with the condition the heretic (immoral) finds himself might lead to conditions of defeatism. By pointing to what has been realized already, moral progress is possible. “Think of what you have gained already.” At the same time such attitude even further encourages, “think of what you can still gain.”Seneca’s stoicism gives recommendations in the process of moral improvement. Fortune does not give virtue nor does it take it away. Nor does one receive virtue from nature: nobody is born wise. For the ideal presupposes a strongly developed knowledge. Now nature gives the seeds of virtue and knowledge, (giving reason as sufficient instrument.) But it does not give reason as perfect, but leading to perfect actions only when is one obedient.)  Seneca is convinced that one leaves behind depravity at the moment one attains wisdom. The phases of moral progress can be identified as a differentiation of classes such that “a class of men who are making progress as having escaped the diseases of the mind, but not yet the passions. But are still standing on slippery ground. Because no one is beyond the danger of wickedness in himself. Except him who has wholly thrown it off. But no one has thrown it off except the man who has adopted wisdom in its stead. Seneca differentiates that these honorable actions are also created by proficientes and not simply by precepts. Seneca argues as follows: if ethical action is necessary for virtue and admonishment provides the necessary ethics, then admonishment is necessary too.

On the path of virtue, and its reception in philosophy.2005 By Geert Roskam.  Uitgevenen met de steun van de Universitaire Stichting van Belgie en de K.U. Leuven Commissie voor publicaties.

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