Who is Lucius Annaeus Seneca?June 25, 2021
Lucius Annaeus Seneca, also known as Seneca, BC. 5 and M.S. He is a famous Roman thinker who lived between 65 BC. Seneca was born in Cordoba, Spain, and died in Rome.
Known for his Stoic moral view, Seneca placed the ideal of a wise man on the basis of his morality, with the principle of living in accordance with nature.
Seneca, who saw the society of the time as a community of wild animals, defined his wise person as self-sufficient, insensitive to pain as well as pleasure, fearless, the true master of the universe, his virtue as the result of his free will and not afraid of death. In other words, although he adopted Stoic materialism, Seneca, who claimed that God is transcendent, emphasized practical philosophy and stated that true virtue and value are not outside but inside man. According to him, external good and wealth do not bring happiness to man.
Seneca was the son of a wealthy man named Marcus Annaeus Seneca.
In his youth, he went to Rome and took philosophy and rhetoric lessons from Stoic Attalus, Pythagorean Fabianus and Sotio, who were known as the famous thinkers of the time. He worked as a lawyer for a while, became a “Quaestor”, was elected a member of the Senate, and gained a great reputation due to his deep knowledge and effective speeches.
Arousing the jealousy of Claudius’ wife Messalina, he was exiled to Corsica in 41. Returning from exile to Rome through Agrippa in 49 B.C., he was commissioned to train Nero. When Nero became emperor, he chose Seneca as consul in 57.
Seneca left the palace in 62 and began to lead an introverted life. Nero accused him of collaborating with those who had secretly revolted against him, and ordered him to kill himself. Following this order, Seneca cut his veins and died, staring at the flow of his blood.
SENECA’S PHILOSOPHY AND OTHER WORKS
Seneca, who produced various works in the genre of poetry, theater and letter, is considered as the first of the three founders of the doctrine called the Roman Stoa or the New Stoa in the history of philosophy. After that, this doctrine developed by philosophers such as Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius is based on the view that man is a being of will.
The main feature of Seneca is that although his thoughts are based on the principles of reason and will, they are sometimes fused with deep emotionality. Because of this attitude, some historians of philosophy accused him of contradicting himself. For Seneca, the main principle of human behavior is the will, but there is also the emotional side of man, which must be seen in the light of will.
Adopting the method developed by Aristotle and more or less based on observation in the explanation of natural phenomena, Seneca also believes in the existence of some hidden forces. According to him, the causes of natural events are natural, but it should not be overlooked that these may be “symptoms”. This is the result that all natural causes originate from God. But the causes connected with God are not particular but universal.
For example, it is God who gives the bird the ability to fly and the fish the ability to swim. However, particular phenomena such as the flapping of the bird’s wings and the movement of the fins of the fish are not related to the divine being. Because God is a universal “law of nature” that covers the whole universe and all types of existence, every object and every occurrence is based on this law.
All personal dealings with God are predestined by this law of nature. It is unnecessary for a person to shed blood by sacrificing to show his devotion to religion. The basis of religious devotion is love, not bloodshed. This love enables us to grasp the divine law that dominates nature and to see that the divine power is behind all events.
Defending that philosophy should be divided into three as logic, morality and physics, Seneca generally connects life to a guiding method, not to theoretical views. He defines logic as a philosophy based on reason. According to him, the task of the philosopher is to educate people, to save them from indulgence and distress.
According to Seneca, the spirit is not a spiritual and abstract entity, as some sages think, but “an object made up of very fine elements.” Death is not an absence, but a return to life with other qualities, to attain immortality. Because there is a divine substance in man, it is his image that dies. For this reason, one should not be shaken by death, which is a “break” in life, a transition to another medium of existence. The disintegration of the body allows the spirit to continue its life by returning to its immortal source.
According to Seneca, morality is not an abstract branch of knowledge, it is in life, it is the source of human behavior and actions. It is nature that shows a person how to behave and what method he will adopt, so to live morally is to follow nature (naturam sequi). Only the wise person endowed with virtue can achieve this. For the virtue of the sage is his free will. Social life should also be arranged according to a wise understanding and virtue.
Lucius Annaeus Seneca’s Understanding of Virtue
Selected Words from Lucius Annaeus Seneca
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer Yıldırım
Source: Encyclopedia of Turkish and World Famous People; Anadolu Publishing; Skin