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Roman ReflectionsStudies in Latin Philosophy$
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Gareth D. Williams and Katharina Volk

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199999767

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199999767.001.0001

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Precept(or) and Example in Seneca

Precept(or) and Example in Seneca

(p.129) 7 Precept(or) and Example in Seneca
Roman Reflections

Matthew Roller

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that, while Seneca frequently deploys everyday Roman exemplary discourse in a fairly traditional way, in Letters 94 and 108 he subjects this discourse to a searching critique, identifying, from a Stoic viewpoint, a series of deficiencies in its capacity to register and assign moral value. A given glorious deed may have been motivated by a vice, not a virtue; a virtuous condition of soul can be inferred only on the basis of multiple observations over time. Focusing as it does on the individual deed in the singular moment, for Seneca Roman exemplary discourse cannot ordinarily meet this standard of multiple and layered observation; and yet, for all its faults, Seneca hardly abandons this discourse, but proposes revisions to its functioning in order to accommodate it better to Stoic ethics.

Keywords:   Roman exemplary discourse, Seneca, praecepta/decreta, analogy, exempla and praeceptor

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