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The Cosmic ViewpointA Study of Seneca's Natural Questions$
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Gareth D. Williams

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199731589

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199731589.001.0001

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Seneca's Moralizing Interludes

Seneca's Moralizing Interludes

(p.54) 2 Seneca's Moralizing Interludes
The Cosmic Viewpoint

Gareth Williams

Oxford University Press

This chapter investigates how, if at all, Seneca's many moralizing interludes in the Natural Questions are to be reconciled with his main scientific agenda in the work. Four samples of that ethical deviance are considered in detail: the cases (i) of the sexual monster Hostius Quadra at the end of Book 1; (ii) of the diners who, in Book 3, luxuriate in the colourful sight of a mullet breathing its last for their entertainment at the dinner table; (iii) of the subterranean investigators who, in Book 5, go far underground to find new precious metals to mine from nature's depths; and (iv) the Roman males who, in Book 7, transgress societal norms by the cosmetic feminization of traditional Roman virility. These vicious cases are set against the uplifting claims of Seneca's ethical philosophy in the Natural Questions; emphasis is placed at the chapter's end on the ongoing struggle between virtue and vice, with vice arguably triumphant.

Keywords:   Hostius Quadra, transgression, the triumph of vice

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