65 - Anger Management: Seneca

Peter starts to explore the Roman Stoics, beginning with Seneca and the Stoic attitude towards the emotions.

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Further Reading: 

• S. Bartsch and D. Wray, Seneca and the Self (Cambridge: 2009).

• J. M. Cooper and J.F. Procopé (ed. and trans.), Seneca: Moral and Political Essays (Cambridge: 1995).

• C. Gill, The Structured Self in Hellenistic and Roman Thought (Oxford: 2006).

• M. Graver, Stoicism and Emotion (Chicago: 2007).

• M. Griffin, Seneca: a Philosopher in Politics (Oxford: 1992).

• B. Inwood, Ethics and Human Action in Early Stoicism (Oxford: 1985).

• B. Inwood, Reading Seneca: Stoic Philosophy at Rome (Oxford: 2005)

• B. Inwood (trans.), Seneca. Selected Philosophical Letters (Oxford: 2007).

Stanford Encyclopedia: Seneca http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/seneca/

W's picture

This was a fantastic episode,

This was a fantastic episode, thanks you Peter!

Annebritt 's picture


Thank you! Wonderful broadcast!

Cristina's picture

Great episode! Seneca is one

Great episode! Seneca is one of my favourite philosophers, since his teachings are so eminently practical. His works are always not far from by bedside table. The Letters to Lucilius are delightfully real.

Of all readings mentioned above, which one would you recommend the most?

Keep up the good work!


Peter Adamson's picture

Seneca readings

Hi Cristina,

Glad you enjoyed the episode! That's a difficult question, because the readings I recommend here are very different. Griffin is the best work on his life, as far as I know; the selected letters perhaps a good place to begin reading his actual philosophical works. But for a philosophical discussion at a high level I'd go with one of the Inwood volumes. To me he's the leading scholar on Seneca's philosophical thought. (Gill is also excellent but not mostly about Seneca, I put that on because it gives the context regarding theory of the emotions.)

Hope that helps,


Cristina's picture

Seneca and Epicureans

Dear Peter:

Thank you very much for the recommendations. I will check Inwood's books.

Reading Seneca's letters to Lucilius, I was struck by the amount of Epicureanism that he deploys, especially in the first half of the work. In fact, not only he acknowledges that many of Epicurus' ideas were right, he also seems to incorporate them to his own philosophical core.

I know that the addressee, Lucilius, was in fact an Epicurean, and I suspect it could be a way for Seneca not to overthrow his friend's philosophical stance in a whole. However, I was wondering up to what point Seneca is a real 100% Stoic, rather than a mixture of, let's say, 70% Stoicism, 30% Epicureanism (of course, percentages may vary).

In fact, that mixture of traditions is one of the reasons why I see Roman philosophy as an interesting development. It was a long way for Romans since the second century BC, when a governor in Athens decided to have the leading men of all philosophical schools plead before him in order to later decide which one was right!