The development of a practical moral identity in Seneca's Epistulae morales 1-29

Conroy, Dene (2001)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2001.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: In the Epistulae Morales Seneca presents his moral philosophy. Scholars such as Hadot, Mans and Smuts have studied Seneca's moral philosophy in the Epistulae Morales. The question is, how does Seneca present and develop his moral philosophy in the Epistulae Morales, i.e. what literary technique does he use? Scholars have pointed out that Seneca's use of the epistolary form is an integral part of this literary technique. The epistolary form was an ideal medium for conveying his moral philosophy: "[Seneca] presented himself as a spiritual guide, and for that purpose he made use of the literary form of letters ... In this form Seneca was able to give a detailed presentation of the course of moral education" (Misch 1950:419). The more specific question is thus: how does Seneca use the epistolary form to present and develop his moral philosophy in the Epistulae Morales? In order to answer how Seneca employs the epistolary form, it is necessary to understand what Seneca's goal was with the Epistulae Morales. I suggest that the goal of Seneca's moral philosophy in the Epistulae Morales is the development of a practical moral identity. Seneca's choice of the letter as the form of his philosophical discussion enabled him to create certain fictional personae. The three main personae of the Epistulae Morales are the Ideal Persona (the embodiment of Seneca's moral philosophy), the persona Seneca and the persona Lucilius. These personae demonstrate the phases of moral progress. The Ideal Persona is the ideal, which the personae Seneca and Lucilius must strive towards becoming. The persona Seneca acts in the role of the mentor, advising the persona Lucilius on how to achieve this ideal, but he is himself still struggling towards it. The persona Lucilius is just beginning to walk the road of moral progress at the beginning of the Epistulae Morales. The phases of moral progress, which are enacted by the three personae, are also the phases of the development of a practical moral identity. The practical moral identity should thus be viewed both as a goal and as a process in the letters. Epistulae Morales 1-29 form a separate whole, as scholars have pointed out. These letters also supply sufficient evidence of Seneca's literary technique of developing a practical moral identity in the Epistulae Morales. A close reading of Epistulae Morales 1-29 in Chapter 2 analyses this literary technique. Chapter 3 involves a systematic exposition of the practical moral identity in terms of certain themes. The themes represent the main aspects of moral development, i.e. the main aspects of the development of a practical moral identity in Epistulae Morales 1-29.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: In die Epistulae Morales bied Seneca sy morele filosofie aan. Vakkundiges soos Hadot, Mans en Smuts het Seneca se morele filosofie in die Epistulae Morales bestudeer. Die vraag is egter, hoe ontwikkel Seneca sy morele filosofie in die Epistulae Morales, m.a.w watter literêre tegniek gebruik hy? Vakkundiges het daarop gedui dat Seneca se gebruik van die briefvorm 'n integrale deel van hierdie literêre tegniek uitmaak. Die briefvorm was 'n ideale medium om sy morele filosofie weer te gee: "[Seneca] presented himself as a spiritual guide, and for that purpose he made use of the literary form of letters ... In this form Seneca was able to give a detailed presentation of the course of moral education" (Misch 1950:419). Die meer spesifieke vraag is dus: hoe gebruik Seneca die briefvorm om sy morele filosofie in die Epistulae Morales te ontwikkel? Om hierdie vraag te beantwoord, is dit nodig om te verstaan wat Seneca se doel met die Epistulae Morales was. Ek stel voor dat Seneca die ontwikkeling van 'n praktiese morele identiteit ten doel gehad het. Seneca se gebruik van die briefvorm het hom in staat gestel om sekere fiktiewe personae te skep. Die drie hoof personae van die Epistulae Morales is die Ideale Persona (die verpersoonliking van Seneca se morele filosofie), die persona Seneca en die persona Lucilius. Hierdie personae verteenwoordig die fases van morele ontwikkeling. Die Ideale Persona is die ideaal, wat Seneca en Lucilius moet nastreef. Seneca speel die rol van mentor. Hy gee Lucilius raad oor hoe om hierdie ideaal te verwesenlik, maar hyself streef ook daarna. Die Epistulae Morales open met Lucilius aan die begin van sy morele ontwikkeling. Die fases van morele ontwikkeling wat deur die drie personae opgevoer word is ook die fases van die ontwikkeling van 'n praktiese morele identiteit. Die praktiese morele identiteit moet gesien word as beide 'n doel en 'n proses in die briewe. Epistulae Morales 1-29 vorm 'n afsonderlike geheel, soos deur vakkundiges uitgewys is. Hierdie briewe verskaf voldoende bewys vir die literêre tegniek waarmee die praktiese morele identiteit in die Epistulae Morales geskep word. 'n Gedetailleerde analise van Epistulae Morales 1-29 in Hoofstuk 2 analiseer hierdie literêre tegniek. Hoofstuk 3 gee 'n sistematiese uiteensetting van die praktiese morele identiteit in terme van sekere temas. Die temas verteenwoordig die hoof aspekte van morele ontwikkeling, m.a.w. die hoof aspekte van die ontwikkeling van 'n praktiese morele identiteit in Epistulae Morales 1-29.

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