Letters from a Stoic 39 – Summary and Key Takeaways

            In letters from a stoic 39, Seneca talks about the continual improvement of the soul through studying philosophy. This is a repeated theme in a lot of his letters, convincing Lucilius to put soul above anything else and be a good man. He described two qualities a man with a good soul has. One is the will to be a good man.  “Most excellent quality that the noble soul has within itself, that it can be roused to honourable things… happy is the man who has given it this impulse toward better thing”. Intentions matter. Striving to be good and chasing things that will you better already makes you a good person.

            Another quality of a good soul is contentment and self-control. “It is the quality of a great soul to scorn great things and to prefer that which is ordinary rather than that which is too great. For the one condition is useful and life-giving; but the other does harm just because it is excessive” Temperance is one of the four cardinal virtues and the Stoics have always reminded us to always put in check our desires. Pleasures are not necessarily bad but they have no limits by nature. The problem lies when they get out of control. When that happens we lost our ability to enjoy and it becomes a vicious cycle of pleasure, shame, and guilt. Our pleasures become our prison that takes our freedom. “Utility measures our needs; but by what standard can you check the superfluous? … And so they are the slaves of their pleasures instead of enjoying them; they even love their own ills, and that is the worst ill of all!”

*****   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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