Seneca to Lucilius: 31, the great potential of the human mind

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Family is where we begin our moral development

Turn a deaf ear to those who love you most: their intentions are good, but the things they are wishing for you are bad. If you want to be truly prosperous, entreat the gods that none of the things they want for you may happen. Those are not goods that they wish to see heaped upon you. (XXXI.2–3)

There is but one good, and that is both the cause and the mainstay of happiness: trust in oneself. (XXXI.3)

For it cannot be that any one thing is bad at one time and good at another, or light and easy to bear at one time and terrifying at another. Work is not a good. So what is? Not minding the work. (XXXI.3–4)

It is shameful for a man who has achieved great things to be still bothering the gods. Why do you need prayers? Make your own prosperity! And you will do so if you have well understood that anything mingled with virtue is good, anything conjoined with bad conduct is shameful. … It is association with virtue or vice that makes a thing honorable or shameful. (XXXI.5)

Complete virtue consists in the evenness and steadiness of a life that is in harmony with itself through all events, which cannot come about unless one has knowledge and the skill of discerning things human and divine. This is the highest good; if you obtain it, you begin to be an associate of the gods and not a suppliant. (XXXI.8)

Money will not make you equal to a god: God owns nothing. A tunic bordered with purple will not do it; God is naked. Fame will not do it, and neither will self-display and spreading one’s name far and wide. … Not even beauty and strength can confer blessedness on you; neither endures the onset of age. (XXXI.10)

This mind can be found just as well in a freedman or even a slave as in a Roman of equestrian status. For what is a Roman equestrian, or a freedman, or a slave? Those are names born of ambition or of unfair treatment. (XXXI.11)

Stoicism, ethics, and philosophy of science. Complete index, by subject, at

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