Sunday, 15 September 2013

Forward Progress

From the things that you write me and by the reports that I hear, I have good hope for you.                                             Epistle 2

     Seneca has "good hope" for the ethical progress of Lucilius and says as much in order to encourage him to continue on his path. But can we perhaps read a subtle cautionary reminder in his qualifications "from the things that you write" and "from the reports that I hear?"  Genuine progress must be just that: genuine. 
     Moreover, it is still just a "good hope" Seneca holds for his young friend. While Seneca himself famously stated that "to err is human," for the Stoic, there are no degrees of virtue. One is either virtuous, or he is not, for virtue cannot be mixed with vice. In practical terms, however, we are doing well when we are making forward progress.