Epistula 124

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Taken from the project website (Accessed 2020-02-27):

The site epistula124 was designed in order to host the Italian translation and commentary to Seneca’s Epistula ad Lucilium 124.

This epistula, taking up issues already covered in letters 106, 117, 118, 120 e 121, is about the stoic idea of the highest good, that coincides with virtue, and that – unlike the Epicureans claim – could not be perceived with senses, but only through reason.

Thinking about the idea of the highest good as a result of the rational activity, Seneca actually relies on a classification of the world of the living that works in a logocentric key, i.e. excluding from the stoic ‘comsmopolis’ (inhabited by men and gods, the only ones endowed with ratio) the 'mute' animals, to which, if on one hand we attribute species-specific forms of relative good, on the other hand we deny the possibility of achieving absolute good.

The Senecan treatment of the intelligibility of the good is linked, among other things, to the problem of perceptive endowments of living beings, thus drawing a sort of comparative zoo-psychology ante litteram.

This zoo-psychology constitutes an important point of reference for those who want to study and understand the 'theories of the animal mind' developed within stoicism.

In particular, the reading and analysis of this epistle can be understood as a sort of 'window' on the zoological and ethological knowledge of the ancient world and as a first approach to the debate on the intelligence of animals that has inflamed the philosophical schools of antiquity in the imperial age.

The text on which the translation and the commentary have been conducted is the one established by L. D. Reynolds (L. Annaei Senecae ad Lucilium Epistulae Morales, Oxford 1965).

A version of this commentary has been published in the "Biblioteca" section of ClassicoContemporaneo.