Seneca and the Divine: Stoic Tradition and Personal Developments

Setaioli, Aldo
January 2007
International Journal of the Classical Tradition;Winter2007, Vol. 13 Issue 3, p333
Academic Journal
Knowledge of god is of paramount importance for Seneca, but it must be accompanied by the practical imitation of god: contemplation cannot be separated from action. Seneca's psychology and frame of mind account for his strong instinctual religious sensitivity, and his Stoic affiliation is pivotal for his intellectual approach, though his idiosyncratic stylistic expression is an integral part of his way of thinking.Though god is to the macrocosm what the soul is to the human microcosm, Seneca's conception is and remains basically monistic, even though traces of Platonist dualism can at times be detected.The soul of man is a particle of god, and since the element that god and man have in common is reason, knowledge of god cannot be obtained through a leap into the irrational. As there is no metaphysical reality beyond the visible cosmos, the investigation of nature is a quasi-holy activity, hardly to be distinguished from the contemplation of god.Contemplation of nature, and living according to it, is the only appropriate worship, just as freedom can only be voluntary obedience to god. Man becomes god's equal when he has attained virtue, and by overcoming the trials of fortune he reestablishes the rationality of god's plan. In as much as he is an ethical being, man is actually superior to god, who is exempt from endurance of trials and has no ethical choices to make.A short paragraph detailing the relationship of Seneca's positions to previous thinking concludes the article.


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