How much do I want to read more? 7/10
Seneca is legendary, and if lots of his work hasn't been saved, we still are lucky to be able to read his letters, as well as The Happy Life, The Shortness of Life, Providence, Anger, Clemency, Problems in Natural Science.
In his letter II, Seneca advice the reader to study a few good books, rather than a multitude. It's kind of the opposite with what I'm doing here (an overlook of many books).
His advice is to prefer the quality over the quantity, not only for books, but for traveling and food.
This other one sounds like a minimalist's philosophy:
"You ask what is the proper limit to a person’s wealth? First, having what is essential, and second, having what is enough."
LUCIUS ANNAEUS SENECA was born at Cordoba, then the leading town in Roman Spain, at about the same time as Christ.
Seneca suffered severely from ill health, particularly asthma, throughout his life; he tells us that at one time the only thing which held him back from committing suicide was the thought of his father’s inability to bear the loss.
SENECA AND PHILOSOPHY
Stoicism, for centuries the most influential philosophy in the Graeco-Roman world, had a long history before Seneca. Founded by Zeno (born of Phoenician descent in Cyprus c. 336/5 B.C.) who had taught or lectured in a well-known stoa (a colonnade or porch) – hence the name – in Athens.
The Stoics saw the world as a single great community in which all men are brothers, ruled by a supreme providence which could be spoken of, almost according to choice or context, under a variety of names or descriptions including the divine reason, creative reason, nature, the spirit or purpose of the universe, destiny, a personal god, even (by way of concession to traditional religion) ‘the gods’. It is man’s duty to live in conformity with the divine will, and this means, firstly, bringing his life into line with ‘nature’s laws’, and secondly, resigning himself completely and uncomplainingly to whatever fate may send him. Only by living thus, and not setting too high a value on things which can at any moment be taken away from him, can he discover that true, unshakeable peace and contentment to which ambition, luxury and above all avarice are among the greatest obstacles.
It will show us that ‘there’s nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so’, discipline the pleasures and the passions, and generally subordinate the body and emotions to the mind and soul.
In this way we shall arrive at the true end of man, happiness, through having attained the one and only good thing in life, the ideal or goal called arete in Greek and in Latin virtus – for which the English word ‘virtue’ is so unsatisfactory a translation. This, the summum bonum or ‘supreme ideal’, is usually summarized in ancient philosophy as a combination of four qualities: wisdom (or moral insight), courage, self-control and justice (or upright dealing).
It enables a man to be ‘self-sufficient’, immune to suffering, superior to the wounds and upsets of life
SENECA AND LITERATURE - His letters and other writings
‘Seneca,’ Quintilian tells us, ‘turned his hand to practically everything which can be made the subject of study – speeches, poems, letters, dialogues all surviving.’
the philosophical letters and essays, including treatises with such titles as The Happy Life, The Shortness of Life, Providence, Anger, Clemency, Problems in Natural Science
The one hundred and twenty four letters to Lucilius comprise something entirely new in literature. For in these, which were his most conspicuous and immediate literary success, Seneca if anyone is the founder of the Essay.
Style, with Seneca, is of considerable importance.
his own condemnation of people who give less attention to what they have to say than to how they will say it, he is a signal example of a writer to whom form mattered as much as content.
His influence and appeal
Montaigne was the first, and the most conspicuously indebted, borrower from Seneca among the great modern literary figures. Pasquier’s admiration for Montaigne prompted him to say: ‘As for his essays, which I call masterpieces, there is no book in my possession which I have so greatly cherished. I always find something in it to please me. It is a French Seneca.’
To be everywhere is to be nowhere. People who spend their whole life travelling abroad end up having plenty of places where they can find hospitality but no real friendships.
The same must needs be the case with people who never set about acquiring an intimate acquaintanceship with any one great writer, but skip from one to another, paying flying visits to them all.
Food that is vomited up as soon as it is eaten is not assimilated into the body and does not do one any good; nothing hinders a cure so much as frequent changes of treatment; a wound will not heal over if it is being made the subject of experiments with different ointments; a plant which is frequently moved never grows strong.
A multitude of books only gets in one’s way. So if you are unable to read all the books in your possession, you have enough when you have all the books you are able to read.
And if you say, ‘But I feel like opening different books at different times’, my answer will be this: tasting one dish after another is the sign of a fussy stomach, and where the foods are dissimilar and diverse in range they lead to contamination of the system, not nutrition. So always read well-tried authors, and if at any moment you find yourself wanting a change from a particular author, go back to ones you have read before.
Each day, too, acquire something which will help you to face poverty, or death, and other ills as well.
It is not the man who has too little who is poor, but the one who hankers after more.
You ask what is the proper limit to a person’s wealth? First, having what is essential, and second, having what is enough.