Seneca’s On Clemency

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A series of short audio meditations on Seneca’s On Clemency, dedicated to Nero (photo above) with the intent of setting his new reign on the right course. Seneca actually succeeded in this for several years, before Nero became increasingly unhinged.

I.1: We begin the study of the controversial On Clemency, through which Seneca tried to steer Nero’s course for the good of the Roman people.

I.1: Seneca flatters Nero at the same time as he issues veiled threats to the new emperor, in case he steers from the right path.

I.2: Seneca makes an argument in favor of a broad conception of clemency, not just on behalf of the guilty, but of the innocent and the virtuous.

I.2: Seneca makes an epistemic argument to convince us that it is better to err on the side of clemency, rather than punishment.

I.3: With great power comes great responsibility, as both Seneca and Spider-Man agree.

I.5: Seneca reminds Nero, and us, that not doing the right thing is first and foremost injurious to ourselves.

I.5: Seneca warns that the cruelty of people in charge of government can have massive consequences.

I.5: Seneca issues a stern reminder to Nero about the responsibilities of government. It can all too easily be applied today.

I.6: Seneca reminds us that prosecutors and judges might be corrupted, and that we have to take this into account when we act.

I.7: A cruel reign is disordered and hidden in darkness, and while all shake with terror at the sudden explosions, not even he who caused all this disturbance escapes unharmed.

I.9: Seneca provides a historically accurate analysis of the life of Octavian Augustus, the first Roman emperor. With implications for how to live our own lives.

I.12: Turns out that, when the proper criteria are followed, it is almost never the time to use violence, either as a society, or as individuals.

I.17: Seneca reminds us that the human animal is a delicate thing, forgiveness for his mistakes is often in order.

I.25: Both rulers and ordinary people sometimes turn cruelty into a pleasure. It seriously undermines the most precious thing we all have: our character.

II.3: We should all follow Seneca’s advice, resisting the urge for revenge and punishment, and practicing mercy and forgiveness.

II.4: The virtues are never in contradiction with each other. The vices are never good for the people who indulge them.

II.5: No school of philosophy is more gentle and benign, none is more full of love towards man or more anxious to promote the happiness of all.

II.6: Seneca details the characteristics of the ideal ruler. We should look for the same in the people who govern us. And in ourselves.

II.6: The wise person will not pity others, but will help them and be of service to them, seeing that he is born to be a help to all people and a public benefit.

II.6: From a Stoic point of view, there is absolutely nothing more important in life than to exercise our virtue in order to help our fellow brothers and sisters of the human cosmopolis.