Letters from a Stoic 31 – Summary and Key Takeaways

             In letters from a stoic 31, Seneca talks about what is absolute good and bad. He talks about what people normally people see as “good” such as fame and money is not absolute good. The wise old man describes good as something that is not external, true under all circumstances, and cannot be taken away. Fame, money, and power are what the Stoics called preferred indifferent because they are fleeting meaning they can be taken from us in a snap. So what does Seneca and the Stoics said is good and bad? “Make yourself happy through your own efforts; you can do this, if once you comprehend that whatever is blended with virtue is good, and that whatever is joined to vice is bad”  This is a core stoic teaching. Any virtue is good and any vice is bad. The four cardinal virtues of the stoics are courage, wisdom, temperance, and justice. Opposite of these are cowardice, folly, indulgence, and injustice are considered vices. One thing to note about these things is that they are all internal and they are all within control. That’s why you would hear the Stoics say that anything that happens to us from the external is neither good nor bad, only the one that comes from our choices.

            In the next part of the letter, Seneca told Lucilius to seek only virtues. “What we have to seek for, then, is that which does not each day pass more and more under the control of some power which cannot be withstood. And what is this? It is the soul—but the soul that is upright, good, and great. “The Stoics believed that God is an entity that has only virtue as its property. That’s why he said in this letter that the more you practice virtue, the more you become like God. 

*****   Letters from a Stoic Key Takeaways is a collection of short key takeaways from the letters sent by Seneca to Lucilius. Read each letter’s key takeways here .

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