Why Philosophy ?

Why Philosophy ?

Philosophy, it is a matter, not of words, but of facts.

Nature’s wants are slight, the demands of opinion are boundless.

“If you live according to nature, you will never be poor; if you live according to opinion, you will never be rich.”

On Philosophy, the Guide of Life

It is clear to you, I am sure, Lucilius that no one can live a happy life, or even a supportable life, without the study of wisdom, you know also that a happy life is reached when our wisdom is brought to completion, but that life is at least endurable even, when our wisdom is only begun.

This idea, however, clear though it is, must be strengthened & implanted more deeply by daily reflection, it is more important for you to keep the resolutions you have already made, than to go on & make noble ones.

You must persevere, must develop new strength by continuous study, until that which is only a good inclination becomes a good settled purpose.

There is no reason why you should put confidence in yourself too quickly & readily, Examine yourself, scrutinize & observe yourself in diverse ways, but mark, before all else, whether it is in philosophy or merely in life itself, that you have made progress.

Philosophy is no trick to catch the public, it is not devised for show, It is a matter, not of words, but of facts.

It moulds & constructs the soul, it orders our life, guides our conduct, shows us what we should do, & what we should leave undone, it sits at the helm, & directs our course as we waver amid, uncertainties.

Without it, no one can live fearlessly or in peace of mind, Countless things that happen every hour call for advice, & such advice is to be sought in philosophy.

Perhaps someone will say: “How can philosophy help me, if Fate exists?

Of what avail is philosophy, if the Divine, rules the universe?, Of what avail is it, if Chance, governs everything?

For not only is it impossible, to change things that are determined, but it is also impossible, to plan beforehand, against what is undetermined, either Divinity, has forestalled my plans, & decided what I am to do, or else Fortune, gives no free play to my plans.

Whether the truth, Lucilius lies in one or in all of these views, we must be philosophers, whether Fate, binds us down by an inexorable law, or whether Divinity, as arbiter of the universe, has arranged everything, or whether Chance, drives & tosses human affairs without method, therefore philosophy, ought to be our defence.

It will encourage us to obey the Divine, cheerfully, but Fortune, defiantly; it will teach us to follow Divinity & endure Chance.

It is not my purpose now to be led into a discussion, as to what is within our own control, if foreknowledge is supreme, or if a chain of fated events drags us along in its clutches, or if the sudden & the unexpected play the tyrant over us, I return now to my warning & my exhortation, that you should not allow the impulse of your spirit, to weaken & grow cold.

Hold fast to it & establish it firmly, in order that what is now impulse, may become a habit of the mind.

Whatever is well said by anyone is mine, This also is a saying of Epicurus:

“If you live according to nature, you will never be poor,

if you live according to opinion, you will never be rich.”

Nature’s wants, are slight;

the demands of opinion, are boundless.

Assume that fortune carries you far beyond the limits of a private income, decks you with gold, clothes you in purple, & brings you to such a degree of luxury & wealth, that you may not only possess, but tread upon riches, you will only learn from such things to crave, still greater.

Natural desires are limited; but those which spring from false opinion, can have no stopping-point, The false has no limits.

Recall your steps therefore from idle things, & when you would know whether that which you seek is based upon, a natural or upon a misleading desire, consider whether it can stop at any definite point.

If you find after having travelled far, that there is a more distant goal always in view, you may be sure that this condition, is contrary to nature.

When you are traveling on a road, there must be an end, but when astray, your wanderings, are limitless.


Seneca, StoicTaoist.

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