Seneca's Moral Letters - A One Year Reading Plan


Introduction

For many years it has been my intention to read through the entirety of Seneca’s Letters to Lucilius. It has be suggested that the Letters are (or can be used) as a Stoic learning program , and this is the inspiration for this plan. Whether the letters are real correspondence or thinly disguised diatribes actually has very little bearing on the richness of the content.

There are a few things we know about the Letters. They were organized into books at one time, perhaps with an eye to thematic organization. We also know that we have lost some of the Letters, so the content is incomplete, a fact reflected in two sections where the division of the books is unclear.

This program is set to work for any year, so the weeks are numbered instead of named. It is intended to run over a period of 52 weeks. The readings are set to take roughly 5 minutes each, and for only 5 days a week. This allows for some flexibility. Any edition of the Complete Letters may be used for this program.

Many Letters are too long for a single reading, so they have been divided into Parts, listing the standard section numbers to be read. Where the sections break over paragraphs, I have favoured the paragraph structure.

When a section is divided by a reading, it is split into Part a & Part b sections as follows:

…even after training yourself for speed, you will be no match for the hare. 23 Are you not willing to abandon all these details – wherein you must acknowledge defeat, striving as you are for something that is not your own and come back to the Good that is really yours?

And what is this Good? It is a clear and flawless mind, which rivals that of God, raised far above mortal concerns, and counting nothing of its own to be outside itself. You are a reasoning animal. What Good, then, lies within you? Perfect reason. Are you willing to develop this to its farthest limits – to its greatest degree of increase? 24 Only consider yourself happy when all your joys are born of reason, and when…

Suggestions for Use

Set a regular time for your daily reading, and come prepared to learn. It is important, however, to remember that these are not religious writings, so feel free to challenge, disagree or demand to know more. A notebook, pen, and a willingness to interact with the material would also be useful.

In Seneca’s own words, the study of philosophy should be seen as a channel towards ‘transformation’ rather than merely information.

This program has been designed for both print (using Booklet settings in Acrobat Reader) and digital.

BOOK I (Weeks 1 - 3)

Week 1

I. On Saving Time

II. On Discursiveness In Reading

III. On True And False Friendship

IV. On The Terrors Of Death

V. On The Philosopher's Mean

Week 2

VI. On Sharing Knowledge

VII. On Crowds (1 – 5a)

VII. On Crowds (5b – 12)

VIII. On The Philosopher's Seclusion

IX. On Philosophy And Friendship (1 – 12)

Week 3 

IX. On Philosophy And Friendship (13 – 22)

X. On Living To Oneself

XI. On The Blush Of Modesty

XII. On Old Age (1 – 6a)

XII. On Old Age (6b – 11)

BOOK II (Weeks 4 - 6)

Week 4

XIII. On Groundless Fears (1 – 9)

XIII. On Groundless Fears (10 – 17)

XIV. Reasons For Withdrawing (1 – 8)

XIV. Reasons For Withdrawing (9 – 18)

XV. On Brawn And Brains

Week 5

XVI. On Philosophy, The Guide Of Life

XVII. On Philosophy And Riches

XVIII. On Festivals And Fasting (1 – 7)

XVIII. On Festivals And Fasting (8 – 15)

XIX. On Worldliness And Retirement (1 – 7)

Week 6

XIX. On Worldliness And Retirement (8 – 12)

XX. On Practising What You Preach (1 – 6)

XX. On Practising What You Preach (7 – 13)

XXI. Renown My Writings Will Bring You (1 – 6)

XXI. Renown My Writings Will Bring You (7 – 11)

Book III (Weeks 7 - 8)

Week 7

XXII. The Futility Of Half-Way Measures (1 – 9a)

XXII. The Futility Of Half-Way Measures (9b - 17)

XXIII. On The True Joy Which Comes From Philosophy

XXIV. On Despising Death (1 – 13)

XXIV. On Despising Death (14 – 26)

Week 8

XXV. On Reformation

XXVI. On Old Age And Death

XXVII. On The Good Which Abides

XXVIII. On Travel As A Cure For Discontent

XXIX. On The Critical Condition Of Marcellinus

Book IV (Weeks 9 - 10)

Week 9

XXX. On Conquering The Conqueror

XXXI. On Siren Songs

XXXII. On Progress

XXXIII. On The Futility Of Learning Maxims

XXXIV. On A Promising Pupil &
XXXV. On The Friendship Of Kindred Minds

Week 10

XXXVI. On The Value Of Retirement

XXXVII. On Allegiance To Virtue &
XXXVIII. On Quiet Conversation

XXXIX. On Noble Aspirations

XL. On The Proper Style For A Philosopher's Discourse 

XLI. On The God Within Us

Book V (Weeks 11 - 13)

Week 11

XLII. On Values

XLIII. On The Relativity Of Fame

XLIV. On Philosophy And Pedigrees

XLV. On Sophistical Argumentation (1 – 7)

XLV. On Sophistical Argumentation (8 – 13)

Week 12

XLVI. On A New Book By Lucilius

XLVII. On Master And Slave (1 – 10)

XLVII. On Master And Slave (11 – 21)

XLVIII. On Quibbling As Unworthy Of The Philosopher

XLIX. On The Shortness Of Life (1 – 6a)

Week 13

XLIX. On The Shortness Of Life (6b – 12)

L. On Our Blindness And Its Cure

LI. On Baiae And Morals

LII. On Choosing Our Teachers (1 – 8a)

LII. On Choosing Our Teachers (8b – 15)

Book VI (Week 14 - 16)

Week 14

LIII. On The Faults Of The Spirit

LIV. On Asthma And Death

LV. On Vatia's Villa

LVI. On Quiet And Study (1 – 8a)

LVI. On Quiet And Study (8b – 15)

Week 15

LVII. On The Trials Of Travel

LVIII. On Being (Part 1: 1 – 8a)

LVIII. On Being (Part 2: 8b – 19)

LVIII. On Being (Part 3: 20 – 27a)

LVIII. On Being (Part 4: 27b – 27)

Week 16

LIX. On Pleasure And Joy (Part 1: 1 – 8)

LIX. On Pleasure And Joy (Part 2: 9 – 18)

LX. On Harmful Prayers

LXI. On Meeting Death Cheerfully

LXII. On Good Company

Book VII (Week 17 - 19)

Week 17

LXIII. On Grief For Lost Friends (Part 1: 1 – 7a)

LXIII. On Grief For Lost Friends (Part 2: 7b – 16)

LXIV. On The Philosopher's Task

LXV. On The First Cause (Part 1: 1 – 10)

LXV. On The First Cause (Part 2: 11 – 24)

Week 18

LXVI. On Various Aspects Of Virtue (Part 1: 1 – 9)

LXVI. On Various Aspects Of Virtue (Part 2: 10 – 20)

LXVI. On Various Aspects Of Virtue (Part 3: 21 – 30)

LXVI. On Various Aspects Of Virtue (Part 4: 31 - 43)

LXVI. On Various Aspects Of Virtue (Part 5: 42 - 53)

Week 19

LXVII. On Ill-Health And Endurance Of Suffering

LXVIII. On Wisdom And Retirement (Part 1: 1 – 9)

LXVIII. On Wisdom And Retirement (Part 2: 10 - 14)

LXIX. On Rest And Restlessness (Part 1: 1 – 7)

LXIX. On Rest And Restlessness (Part 2: 8 – 14)

Book VIII (Week 20 - 22)

Week 20

LXX. On The Proper Time (Part 1: 1 – 9)

LXX. On The Proper Time (Part 2: 10 – 19a)

LXX. On The Proper Time (Part 3: 19b – 28)

LXXI. On The Supreme Good (Part 1: 1 – 10)

LXXI. On The Supreme Good (Part 2: 11 – 16a)

Week 21

LXXI. On The Supreme Good (Part 3: 16b – 25)

LXXI. On The Supreme Good (Part 4: 26 – 37)

LXXII. The Enemy Of Philosophy (Part 1: 1 – 6)

LXXII. The Enemy Of Philosophy (Part 2: 7 - 11)

LXXIII. On Philosophers And Kings (Part 1: 1 – 8)

Week 22

LXXIII. On Philosophers And Kings (Part 2: 9 – 16)

LXXIV. On Virtue As A Refuge (Part 1: 1 – 9)

LXXIV. On Virtue As A Refuge (Part 2: 10 – 19a)

LXXIV. On Virtue As A Refuge (Part 3: 19b – 26)

LXXIV. On Virtue As A Refuge (Part 4: 27 – 34)

Book IX (Week 23 - 25)

Week 23

LXXV. On The Diseases Of The Soul (Part 1: 1 – 10)

LXXV. On The Diseases Of The Soul (Part 2: 11 – 18)

LXXVI. On Learning Wisdom In Old Age (Part 1: 1 – 10)

LXXVI. On Learning Wisdom In Old Age (Part 2: 11 – 17)

LXXVI. On Learning Wisdom In Old Age (Part 3: 18 – 26a)

Week 24

LXXVI. On Learning Wisdom In Old Age (Part 4: 26b–35)

LXXVII. On Taking One's Own Life (Part 1: 1 – 12a)

LXXVII. On Taking One's Own Life (Part 2: 12b - 20)

LXXVIII. The Healing Power Of The Mind (Part 1: 1–6)

LXXVIII. The Healing Power Of The Mind (Part 2: 7-15a)

Week 25

LXXVIII. The Healing Power Of The Mind (Part 3: 15b-21)

LXXVIII. The Healing Power Of The Mind (Part 4: 22-29)

LXXIX. On The Rewards Of Discovery (Part 1: 1-10)

LXXIX. On The Rewards Of Discovery (Part 2: 11-18)

LXXX. On Worldly Deceptions

Book X (Week 26 - 27)

Week 26

LXXXI. On Benefits (Part 1: 1 – 10a)

LXXXI. On Benefits (Part 2: 10b – 19a)

LXXXI. On Benefits (Part 3: 19b – 23a)

LXXXI. On Benefits (Part 4: 23b – 32)

LXXXII. On The Natural Fear Of Death (Part 1: 1 – 7)

Week 27

LXXXII. On The Natural Fear Of Death (Part 2: 8 – 18)

LXXXII. On The Natural Fear Of Death (Part 3: 19 - 24)

LXXXIII. On Drunkenness (Part 1: 1 – 7)

LXXXIII. On Drunkenness (Part 2: 8 – 19a)

LXXXIII. On Drunkenness (Part 3: 19b – 27)

Books XI-XIII (Week 28 - 31)

Week 28

LXXXIV. On Gathering Ideas (Part 1: 1 – 8a)

LXXXIV. On Gathering Ideas (Part 2: 8b - 13)

LXXXV. On Some Vain Syllogisms (Part 1: 1 – 12)

LXXXV. On Some Vain Syllogisms (Part 2: 13 – 19a)

LXXXV. On Some Vain Syllogisms (Part 3: 19b – 27)

Week 29

LXXXV. On Some Vain Syllogisms (Part 4: 28 - 32)

LXXXV. On Some Vain Syllogisms (Part 5: 33 - 41)

LXXXVI. On Scipio's Villa (Part 1: 1 – 10)

LXXXVI. On Scipio's Villa (Part 2: 11 – 21)

LXXXVII. In Favour Of The Simple Life (Part 1: 1-8)

Week 30

LXXXVII. In Favour Of The Simple Life (Part 2: 9-18a)

LXXXVII. In Favour Of The Simple Life (Part 3: 18b-25)

LXXXVII. In Favour Of The Simple Life (Part 4: 26-34)

LXXXVII. In Favour Of The Simple Life (Part 5: 35-41)

LXXXVIII. On Studies (Part 1: 1-8)

Week 31

LXXXVIII. On Studies (Part 2: 9-15)

LXXXVIII. On Studies (Part 3: 16-23)

LXXXVIII. On Studies (Part 4: 24-30)

LXXXVIII. On Studies (Part 5: 31-38a)

LXXXVIII. On Studies (Part 6: 38b-46)

Book XIV (Week 32 - 35)

Week 32

LXXXIX. On The Parts Of Philosophy (Part 1: 1-8)

LXXXIX. On The Parts Of Philosophy (Part 2: 9-15)

LXXXIX. On The Parts Of Philosophy (Part 3: 16-23)

XC. On The Part Played By Philosophy (Part 1: 1-6)

XC. On The Part Played By Philosophy (Part 2: 7-13a)

Week 33

XC. On The Part Played By Philosophy (Part 3: 13b-17)

XC. On The Part Played By Philosophy (Part 4: 18-23)

XC. On The Part Played By Philosophy (Part 5: 24-28a)

XC. On The Part Played By Philosophy (Part 6: 28b-33)

XC. On The Part Played By Philosophy (Part 7: 34-39a)

Week 34

XC. On The Part Played By Philosophy (Part 8: 39b-46)

XCI. On The Burning Of Lyons (Part 1: 1-7a)

XCI. On The Burning Of Lyons (Part 2: 7b-14)

XCI. On The Burning Of Lyons (Part 3: 15-21)

XCII. On The Happy Life (Part 1: 1-7)

Week 35

XCII. On The Happy Life (Part 2: 8-13)

XCII. On The Happy Life (Part 3: 14-18)

XCII. On The Happy Life (Part 4: 19-23)

XCII. On The Happy Life (Part 5: 24-29)

XCII. On The Happy Life (Part 6: 30-35)

Book XV (Week 36 - 39)

Week 36

XCIII. On The Quality Of Life (Part 1: 1-5)

XCIII. On The Quality Of Life (Part 2: 6-12)

XCIV. On The Value Of Advice (Part 1: 1-7)

XCIV. On The Value Of Advice (Part 2: 8-16a)

XCIV. On The Value Of Advice (Part 3: 16b-21)

Week 37

XCIV. On The Value Of Advice (Part 4: 22-30a)

XCIV. On The Value Of Advice (Part 5: 30b-40a)

XCIV. On The Value Of Advice (Part 6: 40b-46a)

XCIV. On The Value Of Advice (Part 7: 46b-54)

XCIV. On The Value Of Advice (Part 8: 55-63)

Week 38

XCIV. On The Value Of Advice (Part 9: 64-74)

XCV. On The Usefulness Of Principles (Part 1: 1-9a)

XCV. On The Usefulness Of Principles (Part 2: 9b-18a)

XCV. On The Usefulness Of Principles (Part 3: 18b-25)

XCV. On The Usefulness Of Principles (Part 4: 26-35)

Week 39

XCV. On The Usefulness Of Principles (Part 5: 36-41)

XCV. On The Usefulness Of Principles (Part 6: 42-49)

XCV. On The Usefulness Of Principles (Part 7: 50-59a)

XCV. On The Usefulness Of Principles (Part 8: 59b-64)

XCV. On The Usefulness Of Principles (Part 9: 65-73)

Book XVI (Week 40 - 41)

Week 40

XCVI. On Facing Hardships

XCVII. On The Degeneracy Of The Age (Part 1: 1-8)

XCVII. On The Degeneracy Of The Age (Part 2: 9-16)

XCVIII. On The Fickleness Of Fortune (Part 1: 1-8)

XCVIII. On The Fickleness Of Fortune (Part 2: 9-18)

Week 41

XCIX. On Consolation To The Bereaved (Part 1: 1-13a)

XCIX. On Consolation To The Bereaved (Part 2: 13b-21)

XCIX. On Consolation To The Bereaved (Part 3: 22-32)

C. On The Writings Of Fabianus (Part 1: 1-7)

C. On The Writings Of Fabianus (Part 2: 8-12)

Books XVII – XVIII (Week 42 - 45)

Week 42

CI. On The Futility Of Planning Ahead (Part 1: 1-8)

CI. On The Futility Of Planning Ahead (Part 2: 9-15)

CII. On Our Immortality (Part 1: 1-7)

CII. On Our Immortality (Part 2: 8-15)

CII. On Our Immortality (Part 3: 16-25)

Week 43

CII. On Our Immortality (Part 4: 26-30)

CIII. On The Dangers Of Association

CIV. On Health And Peace Of Mind (Part 1: 1-8)

CIV. On Health And Peace Of Mind (Part 2: 9-19a)

CIV. On Health And Peace Of Mind (Part 3: 19b-26)

Week 44

CIV. On Health And Peace Of Mind (Part 4: 27-34)

CV. On Facing The World With Confidence

CVI. On The Corporeality Of Virtue

CVII. On Obedience To The Universal Will

CVIII. On The Approaches To Philosophy (Part 1: 1-9a)

Week 45

CVIII. On The Approaches To Philosophy (Part 2: 9b-16)

CVIII. On The Approaches To Philosophy (Part 3: 17-27a)

CVIII. On The Approaches To Philosophy (Part 4: 27b-38)

CIX. On The Fellowship Of Wise Men (Part 1: 1-11)

CIX. On The Fellowship Of Wise Men (Part 2: 12-18)

Book XIX (Week 46 - 49)

Week 46

CX. On True And False Riches (Part 1: 1-10)

CX. On True And False Riches (Part 2: 11-20)

CXI. On The Vanity Of Mental Gymnastics

CXII. On Reforming Hardened Sinners

CXIII. On The Vitality Of The Soul (Part 1: 1-8a)

Week 47

CXIII. On The Vitality Of The Soul (Part 2: 8b-22)

CXIII. On The Vitality Of The Soul (Part 3: 23-32)

CXIV. On Style As A Mirror Of Character (Part 1: 1-8a)

CXIV. On Style As A Mirror Of Character (Part 2: 8b-14)

CXIV. On Style As A Mirror Of Character (Part 3: 15-19)

Week 48

CXIV. On Style As A Mirror Of Character (Part 4: 20-27)

CXV. On The Superficial Blessings (Part 1: 1-7)

CXV. On The Superficial Blessings (Part 2:  8-13a)

CXV. On The Superficial Blessings (Part 3: 13b-18)

CXVI. On Self-Control

Week 49

CXVII. On Real Ethics (Part 1: 1-7a)

CXVII. On Real Ethics (Part 2: 7b-14)

CXVII. On Real Ethics (Part 3: 15-22)

CXVII. On Real Ethics (Part 4: 23-29)

CXVII. On Real Ethics (Part 5: 30-33)

Book XX (Week 50 - 52)

Week 50

CXVIII. On The Vanity Of Place-Seeking (Part 1: 1-9)

CXVIII. On The Vanity Of Place-Seeking (Part 2: 10-17)

CXIX. On Nature As Our Best Provider (Part 1: 1-6)

CXIX. On Nature As Our Best Provider (Part 2: 7-16)

CXX. More About Virtue (Part 1: 1-10)

Week 51

CXX. More About Virtue (Part 2: 11-22)

CXXI. On Instinct In Animals (Part 1: 1-13)

CXXI. On Instinct In Animals (Part 2: 14-24)

CXXII. On Darkness (Part 1: 1-8)

CXXII. On Darkness (Part 2: 9-19)

Week 52

CXXIII. Between Pleasure And Virtue (Part 1: 1-7)

CXXIII. Between Pleasure And Virtue (Part 2: 8-17)

CXXIV. On The True Good (Part 1: 1-9a)

CXXIV. On The True Good (Part 2: 9b-16)

CXXIV. On The True Good (Part 3: 17-24)