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Seneca

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The Stoic’s philosophy was based on the perception that virtue is the one and only definite good in the universe and that virtue is in accordance with reason; for reason, or logos, is what drives the universe and maintains the cosmic order. For one to live in accordance with reason, Stoics believed that all other indifferences must be otherwise disregarded, especially those that would impede the cognitive process. Among those indifferences are wealth, power, status, health, etc. Now without these trivial things, the Stoic would argue that so long as one lives in accordance with virtue they can attain ataraxia. The concept of emotion is widely disputed between the Stoics and the Epicureans, because the Stoics believe that emotions cloud reasoning and cause misjudgments. In Seneca’s dialogue On Anger, he demonstrates the Stoic logic as to why emotion, specifically anger, cloud judgments and should otherwise be disregarded: “Will you cease at some time or never? If at some time, how much better is it to abandon anger than to wait until it abandons you... how much better is it that you defeat anger than that it defeats itself?!”1 Through constructive dilemma Seneca deduces that anger should otherwise be disregarded when making judgments because if it is indeed better to abandon anger, rather than to maintain that hatred forever, then it was never reasonable to continue being angry. Seneca also goes more in depth to elaborate that to be angry is, in fact, unreasonable and irrational (and if unreasonable then it is not considered to be in accordance with nature): “Why do you tolerate a sick man’s lunatic behavior, a madman’s crazed words, or children’s petulant blows? Because, or course, they appear to not know what they are doing.”2 Seneca also says, “It is shameful to hate a person who deserves your praise; but how much more shameful it is to hate someone for the very cause that makes him deserve your pity.”3 The Stoics believe that emotions otherwise impede the reasoning process and by doing so, distract from attaining ataraxia by living in accordance with nature. To get upset with a person so engorged with anger, would be the same as getting upset at an infant because they don’t know any better.

Contributed by Ryan Oliverio

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