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Seneca’s Morals: Human Happiness is Founded upon Wisdom and Virtue, Part 1 of 2



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Seneca, also known as Seneca the Younger, was a prominent Roman philosopher, orator, statesman, and a tragedian author. He was considered Rome’s leading intellectual figure during the mid-1st century. Although born in Spain, Seneca spent most of his life in Rome, where he received his education in philosophy and rhetoric. Let us now read an excerpt from the book “Seneca’s Morals: Of a Happy Life, Benefits, Anger and Clemency,” in Chapter 1 of the section “Seneca of a Happy Life.”

“There is not anything in this world, perhaps, that is more talked of, and less understood, than the business of a happy life. It is every man’s wish and design; and yet not one of a thousand that knows wherein that happiness consists. We live, however, in a blind and eager pursuit of it; and the more haste we make in a wrong way, the further we are from our journey’s end.”

“The true felicity of life is to be free from perturbations, to understand our duties towards God and man: to enjoy the present without any anxious dependence upon the future. Not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears, but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is abundantly sufficient; for he that is so, wants nothing.”

“As the body itself is rather a necessary thing, than a great; so, the comforts of it are but temporary and vain; beside that, without extraordinary moderation, their end is only pain and repentance; whereas a peaceful conscience, honest thoughts, virtuous actions, and an indifference for casual events, are blessings without end, satiety, or measure.”

“Wisdom is a right understanding, a faculty of discerning good from evil; what is to be chosen, and what rejected; a judgment grounded upon the value of things, and not the common opinion of them; an equality of force, and a strength of resolution. It sets a watch over our words and deeds, it takes us up with the contemplation of the works of nature, and makes us invincible by either good or evil fortune. It is large and spacious, and requires a great deal of room to work in; it ransacks Heaven and Earth; it has for its object things past and to come, transitory and eternal.”

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