Depravity with Seneca

Looking around today, it is not difficult to see why Seneca made the assertion thousands of years ago, that humans strive towards depravity. Men would not just live and let live. People strive to outdo themselves in wicked schemes. Very few persons pause to look around and make the decision to be part of the solutions to human suffering, rather than being the cause. He also summarized nicely how fleeting pleasures drive us towards depravity with lasting consequences – regrets and anxiety. Some seek refuge in their ill-gotten gains, all the while deceiving themselves they can buy that which cannot be bought.


But none the less did he desire to appear learned. So he devised this short cut to learning: he paid fabulous prices for slaves, – one to know Homer by heart and another to know Hesiod; he also delegated a special slave to each of the nine lyric poets….

… Sabinus remarked that each slave cost him one hundred thousand sesterces; Satellius replied: “You might have bought as many book-cases for a smaller sum.” But Sabinus held to the opinion that what any member of his household knew, he himself knew also. This same Satellius began to advise Sabinus to take wrestling lessons, –sickly, pale, and thin as he was, Sabinus answered: “How can I? I can scarcely stay alive now.” “Don’t say that, I implore you,” replied the other, “consider how many perfectly healthy slaves you have!” No man is able to borrow or buy a sound mind; in fact, as it seems to me, even though sound minds were for sale, they would not find buyers. Depraved minds, however, are bought and sold every day….

… I am admitting you to my inmost thoughts, and am having it out with myself, merely making use of you as my pretext. I keep crying out to myself: “Count your years, and you will be ashamed to desire and pursue the same things you desired in your boyhood days. Of this one thing make sure against your dying day, –let your faults die before you die. Away with those disordered pleasures, which must be dearly paid for; it is not only those which are to come that harm me, but also those which have come and gone. Just as crimes, even if they have not been detected when they were committed, do not allow anxiety to end with them; so with guilty pleasures, regret remains even after the pleasures are over. They are not substantial, they are not trustworthy; even if they do not harm us, they are fleeting…

Excerpt from Lucius Annaeus Seneca – Letters from a Stoic (Translated by Richard Mott Gummere)

Seneca described a sad situation where he said even if sound minds were for sale, they would not find buyers; I would like to go further to say even if sound minds were to be offered for free, they would be rejected! As we move on in life, it would do us good to reflect on the wages of sin.


The Amateur Philosopher