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REVIEW: Seneca On Anger

Lucius Annaeus Seneca, or Seneca was a philosopher and is best known for his wisdom that may help one to rethink of his own perspectives on life. Seneca was a stoic and during his time embraced Stoicism. He was also an advisor to the Roman Emperor, Nero, in 54 AD. His essays such as On Shortness of Life, and On Anger clearly reflect his contribution to the Stoic philosophy.

Surprisingly, I was never introduced to the word Stoicism before. Not during my school years, nor my college years. I guess, it is my mistake that I was never curious enough to explore, open to ideas such as Stoicism posses, until recently when I first read Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations.

On Anger is a book which is further divided into three books in which Seneca reflects how this passion, this feeling can make us endure for the rest of our lives. He describes anger as an emotion, “and under its possession any human being does remain not humane.” We have all felt anger, on various points. Sometimes it us, many a times it because of the others, we may think. Some follow it is quite pragmatically causing terror that reflect up on the rest of the humanity. Some just want to avenge on the injury they have become a victim to:

Man think himself injured, may wish to avenge his wrongs, and then may be persuaded by some reason or other to give up his intention and calm down. I do not call that anger, it is an emotion of the mind which is under control of reason.

You know the feeling. If for a moment you separate yourself from your self-being and become self-aware, you will understand that it is just a feeling and nothing more.

He describes anger as a passion, “that is very eager for revenge.” But at the same time he provides the remedy of overcoming it that might be helpful. He lays out a plan which I think is practical even after 1900+ years:

The best plain is to reject straightway the first incentives to anger, to resist its very beginnings, and to take care not to be betrayed into it. For it begins to carry us away, it is hard to get back again into a healthy condition.

In first two books, Seneca argues many a times on Aristotle’s point of view on anger as a vice. Later in the book, he describes that Aristotle considered anger as a virtue, something that can be taken advantage of with the right opportunity and patience and completely discards it.

There is an eloquence in his manner of writing which is completely fulfilled by the translator Aubrey Stewart. It’s a good translation. The presence of the context can be felt throughout the existence of mankind since it sort of a universal truth. Conclusively, Seneca’s want us to understand that, the key of controlling such a feeling like anger is in our minds:

Anger, can venture upon nothing by itself, without the approval of mind.

5 out of 5! Recommend.


3 thoughts on “REVIEW: Seneca On Anger”

  1. Aman, I’m glad someone is reading and discussing The Classics.These great thinkers are all but forgotten in today’s frantic world. They are fundamental ancestors of our logic, science and art. Beyond that I’m too ignorant to comment further. I appreciate your efforts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think there is much to learn and observe from them since their rationality and circumstances often seem contemporary. I agree, much of their effort in the field of art, logic and science are the basis.
      Thank you for reading the post.


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