Roman Calendar

Monday, June 18, 2012

Second post from Seneca's "De Constantia"

     Today's Stoic meditation from Seneca's De Constantia reminds us of the sometimes difficult-to-grasp principle that to the sage (sapiens), no harm may ever truly be done, even if the wicked try to harm the good (and the good must, of necessity, be sapientes). This is the part of Stoic ethics that is the hardest for the outside observer or novice to "buy into" - can it really be that I have never suffered harm in my life? But it is so - get rid of the judgement and you get rid of the harm. As long as I do not count as injury what has happened to me, I have suffered no injury. As long as I consider what is taken from me no loss, I have lost nothing. And so no wicked person can ever harm me - for if a person tries to harm me, that person is wicked. The wicked do not have Virtue, and so are less than the good. That which is lesser cannot harm that which is greater. Besides, what injury could be done to me? The wicked cannot harm my Virtue, which is the only true harm. So Seneca writes:

“Again, that which injures must be more powerful than that which is injured; but wickedness is not stronger than righteousness; therefore it is impossible for the wise man to be injured. Only the bad attempt to injure the good; the good are at peace with each other, the bad are no less harmful to the good than to each other. But if only the weaker man can be injured, and if the bad man is weaker than the good man, and the good have to fear no injury except from one who is no match for them, then injury cannot befall the wise man. For by this time you do not need to be reminded that there is no good man except the wise man.” – Seneca, De Constantia, VII.2

“Denique validius debet esse quod laedit eo quod laeditur; non est autem fortiori nequitia virtute; non potest ergo laedi sapiens. Iniuria in bonos nisi a malis non temptatur; bonis inter se pax est, mali tam bonis perniciosi quam inter se. Quodsi laedi nisi infirmmior non potest, malus autem bono infirmior est, nec iniuria bonis nisi a dispari verenda est; iniuria in sapientem virum non cadit. Illud enim iam non es admonendus neminem bonum esse nisi sapientem.” 

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