satius est suadere1 et expugnare adfectus, non circumscribere. Si possumus, fortius loquamur; si minus, apertius. Vale.
LXXXVIII. Seneca Lvcilio svo salvtem
1De liberalibus studiis quid sentiam, scire desideras: nullum suspicio, nullum in bonis numero, quod ad aes exit. Meritoria artificia sunt, hactenus utilia, si praeparant ingenium, non detinent. Tamdiu enim istis inmorandum est, quamdiu nihil animus agere maius 2potest; rudimenta sunt nostra, non opera. Quare liberalia studia dicta sint, vides; quia homine libero digna sunt. Ceterum unum studium vere liberale est, quod liberum facit. Hoc est sapientiae, sublime, forte, magnanimum. Cetera pusilla et puerilia sunt; an tu quicquam in istis esse credis boni, quorum professores turpissimos omnium ac flagitiosissimos cernis? Non discere debemus ista, sed didicisse.
Quidam illud de liberalibus studiis quaerendum iudicaverunt, an virum bonum facerent; ne promittunt quidem nec huius rei scientiam adfectant.
were better to support this law by our conduct and to subdue our desires by direct assault rather than to circumvent them by logic. If we can, let us speak more boldly; if not, let us speak more frankly.
LXXXVIII. On Liberal and Vocational Studies
You have been wishing to know my views with regard to liberal studies.a My answer is this: I respect no study, and deem no study good, which results in money-making. Such studies are profit-bringing occupations, useful only in so far as they give the mind a preparation and do not engage it permanently. One should linger upon them only so long as the mind can occupy itself with nothing greater; they are our apprenticeship, not our real work. Hence you see why “liberal studies” are so called; it is because they are studies worthy of a free-born gentleman. But there is only one really liberal study,—that which gives a man his liberty. It is the study of wisdom, and that is lofty, brave, and great-souled. All other studies are puny and puerile. You surely do not believe that there is good in any of the subjects whose teachers are, as you see, men of the most ignoble and base stamp? We ought not to be learning such things; we should have done with learning them.
Certain persons have made up their minds that the point at issue with regard to the liberal studies is whether they make men good; but they do not even profess or aim at a knowledge of this particular
- aThe regular round of education, ἐγκύκλιος παιδεία. including grammar, music, geometry, arithmetic, astrology, and certain phases of rhetoric and dialectic, are in this letter contrasted with liberal studies—those which have for their object the pursuit of virtue. Seneca is thus interpreting studia liberalia in a higher sense than his contemporaries would expect. Compare J. R. Lowell’s definition of a university, “a place where nothing useful is taught.”