How sweet to be a Stoic


Gert’s a great fan of the Stoic philosophers. Even more so when she read this about Seneca:

True, Seneca eloquently defended the official Stoic view that riches could not strictly speaking be regarded as a good thing because only virtue itself was truly valuable. But he was most eager to point out that, once one had got this philosophical point straight, there was no reason to feel bad about being as rich as Croesus. ‘Place me in the midst of sumptuous furnishing and the trappings of luxury; I shall not think myself one whit happier,’ he proudly announced. Still, he continued, do not jump to any hasty conclusions about this; it by no means follows that one ought to give up such things.

 Oh, quite coincidentally, Seneca amassed enormous wealth under the patronage of Nero.

Anthony Gottlieb, The Dream Of Reason, p.335

Image: Nero by Abraham Janssens van Nuyssen (1620) Wikimedia Commons

18 thoughts on “How sweet to be a Stoic

  1. If it takes having Nero as a patron, I’m afraid that I’ll never be fabulously wealthy. One could argue that Donald Trump would make a reasonable stand-in, so maybe I could take a job as a maid at Trump Tower and get introduced that way.

    It does sound a lot like Prosperity Gospel — do you have much of that in Australia?

    1. I hate to be the one to break it to you, Teri, but I think you’re, um, er… a little outside Donald’s age-range.
      I haven’t heard specifically of Prosperity Gospel but there’s a Hillsong Church that seems to be all about the Lord rewarding the good with riches and worldly glory. I suppose that’s the same thing?

      1. Not even a job washing dishes, probably. Oh well. Back to work on my MFA.

        Hillsong Church sounds like a lot of Prosperity Gospel churches. This is the country that gave the world Napoleon Hill, and plenty of people still think like that (someone a couple of weeks ago was telling me what an important book “Think and Grow Rich” is — they had just read it). Prosperity Gospel goes over very well here.

          1. Absolutely agree with the Guardian article — we are easily distracted and outraged by the daily events, but we need to be paying much closer attention to the sorts of things that Mr. Monbiot describes. We need to do the Marches, and we need to do our homework and persist in focusing on these underlying issues. It’s a very tall order.

              1. That’s been my sense of the matter, although I don’t know how well organized they are. They seem to be going off in different directions. But it might need only a few of them to be well-organized and focused, and they can let the others go bouncing around wherever they happen to end up. Some people hypothesize that what the people in the background really want is Mike Pence, and that kind of makes sense — seems like he might be even more malleable. As long as he gets the social changes that he wants, he may not care about or understand the corporate goals. Which leaves us thinking that maybe Mr. Trump should stay??

                  1. My husband thinks there’s going to be some almighty stuffup that the Republicans just won’t be able to ignore. At this rate it looks as if there might be a whole chain of stuffups. Interesting that sales of 1984 have gone through the roof since the “alternative facts” comment.

                    1. “Brave New World” is a hot item as well. Your husband may be right, but the Republicans have had a whole week of this so far, and are doing a remarkably good job of ignoring it. We are all wondering what they will do once they actually get down to business.

                  2. Surely when it comes to having to vote money for some of his plans they’ll start to resist? Like the billions for the wall without any way of making Mexico pay?

                    1. I think that the current thought is to impose a 20% import tax on everything coming in from Mexico. However, a lot of people have noticed that that means that Americans who eat tomatoes and drink beer (of which we import a lot, apparently) will actually be paying for the wall – not the Mexicans. Also, apparently there’s money in various funds here and there that can be diverted to start building the wall, so that it will look as if it’s happening. There are walls/fences in place already; I was reading about one between El Paso and Juarez, which could be added on to. It doesn’t seem terribly effective . . . People tunnel under, and the tunnels are difficult to stop. Many people who are here without authorization came on legitimate visas and stayed. One of the big problems is that Texas doesn’t like the wall idea; another is that large and fairly powerful companies don’t like the idea of doing without their work forces. So, yes, we are all waiting for the next moves.

    1. Did you know that the Epicures were actually quite spartan? They thought simple food and friendship were all you needed. Their enemies made sure it all got distorted.

        1. Yep. Epicurus believed the the purpose of life was pleasure, not running round worrying what the gods thought, but pleasure for him was inner tranquillity, a simple life and good conversation with friends. Sounds ok to me.

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