In letters from a stoic 33, Seneca talks about studying maxims. Maxims are short statements to describe truth or general conduct. As we all know the wise old man likes to end his letters with a maxim mostly from Epicurus. Seneca said that a maxim should not be taken only for itself. A maxim speaks a general truth and anyone who wants to adopt a maxim should understand the bigger picture of what it is trying to say. “For this reason, give over hoping that you can skim, by means of epitomes, the wisdom of distinguished men. Look into their wisdom as a whole; study it as a whole.” He made a short comparison with the Epicureans who only took maxims only from their school. The Stoics on the other hand like to borrow maxims from different schools. Emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius credited a lot of philosophers from different schools of philosophy in his diary, the Meditations.
In the next part of the letter, Seneca said that a wise man should be able to make his own maxims and not just take or memorize from other philosophers. It makes sense that a man who has a strong grasp of the bigger facts should be able to write his own maxims. “Let there be a difference between yourself and your book! How long shall you be a learner? From now on be a teacher as well! “Seneca wants us to be able to gain mental independence. I am well subscribed to the idea that we learn through creation, not consumption. Creation is active while consumption is passive. The more we create our own, the better we learn.
In the last part of the letter, Seneca said that all that has been written should be open for investigation. “Men who have made these discoveries before us are not our masters, but our guides. Truth lies open for all; it has not yet been monopolized. And there is plenty of it left even for posterity to discover.” The Stoics have always said that we should live in accordance with nature and our nature as a human is rationality. We should not only take what is handed to us but continually seeks what’s truly true to us.
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