Seneca’s On Providence

A series of short audio meditations on Seneca’s On Providence, written as a short dialogue in six sections. It is addressed to Lucilius, the same friend to whom Seneca wrote over a hundred letters, and usually dated from about 64 CE, the year before Seneca died.

I: Seneca presents an argument from design to conclude that the universe is rationally and providentially arranged, just like Cleanthes, Chrysippus, and Cicero had done before him, and like Epictetus will do afterwards. Of course, from a modern scientific perspective, such argument does not hold water.

II: The pressure of adversity does not affect the mind of a brave person; for the mind of someone brave maintains its balance and throws its own complexion over all that takes place, because it is more powerful than any external circumstances.

II: Good people ought to act so as not to fear troubles and difficulties, nor to lament their hard fate, to take in good part whatever befalls them, and force it to become a blessing to them. It does not matter what you bear, but how you bear it.

IV: To be always prosperous, and to pass through life without a twinge of mental distress, is to remain ignorant of one half of nature. You are a great human being; but how am I to know it, if fortune gives you no opportunity of showing your virtue? I think you unhappy because you never have been unhappy: you have passed through your life without meeting an antagonist: no one will know your powers, not even you yourself.

V: The fates guide us, and the length of every person’s days is decided at the first hour of their birth: every cause depends upon some earlier cause: one long chain of destiny decides all things, public or private. Wherefore, everything must be patiently endured, because events do not fall in our way, as we imagine, but come by a regular law.

VI: I have placed every good thing within your own breasts: it is your good fortune not to need any good fortune. Yet many things befall you which are sad, dreadful, hard to be borne. Well, as I have not been able to remove these from your path, I have given your minds strength to combat all: bear them bravely.

VI: Despise poverty; no man lives as poor as he was born: despise pain; either it will cease or you will cease: despise death; it either ends you or takes you elsewhere: despise fortune; I have given her no weapon that can reach the mind. I have taken care that no one should hold you captive against your will: the way of escape lies open before you: if you do not choose to fight, you may fly. For this reason, of all those matters which I have deemed essential for you, I have made nothing easier for you than to die.