Review: Letters from a Stoic – by Seneca

Letters from a Stoic: Epistulae Morales Ad LuciliumLetters from a Stoic: Epistulae Morales Ad Lucilium by Seneca

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ever since I started reading philosophy a couple of years ago, I’ve been very interested in stoic philosophers. Perhaps because their ideas and way of life appeal to me a lot. It was only a matter of time before I would pick up this fine work by Seneca.

This book is different from what I’ve been reading in the field of philosophy thus far in the way it has been written. Since this is a collection of letters addressed to Lucilius, there’s a sense of intimacy when reading them. Seneca infers his wisdom upon the reader, reflecting on the many aspects of life.

Each letter concerns itself with a different topic, although some of them reappear over the course of the letters, but all of them are worth reading. It has to be said that some of them were of less interest to me, mostly because they felt outdated in this day and age, but still they gave you an idea of how Seneca’s life was.

What becomes clear during the course of the letters is that Seneca is struggling with his old age and frailty of the Human body. Despite all of this, he tries to comfort the reader by telling us to be at peace with the fact that life is finite, and he gives us a lot of helpful advise on how to deal with them.

Some of my favourite quotes from this book:
“If wisdom were offered me on the one condition that I should keep it shut away and not divulge it to anyone, I should reject it.”

“But if you are looking on anyone as a friend when you do not trust him as you trust yourself, you are making a grave mistake, and have failed to grasp the full force of true friendship.”

“What is my object in making a friend? To have someone to be able die for, someone I may follow into exile, someone for whose life I may put myself up as a security and pay the price as well.”

“Choose someone whose way of life as well as words, and whose very face as mirroring the character that lies behind it, have won your approval. Be always pointing him out to yourself either as your guardian or as your model.”

“Thinking of departed friends is to me something sweet and mellow. For when I had them with me it was with the feeling that I was going to lose them, and now that I have lost them I keep the feeling that I have them with me still.”

I realize all of these are about friendship, but it was the first time I saw a stoic philosopher say so much about friendship in a way that I myself view friendship. I found them very comforting, and a true testament to the Human Condition.

I want to recommend this book for everyone who wants to try reading philosophy. Things never get too dry, and the way the letters have been written, it feels as if Seneca’s words are directed towards you as the reader. I found that a very pleasant experience.

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