Seneca the Younger, Natural Questions

LCL 450: 2-3

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Liber Primus1

De Ignibus in Aere2

Praefatio1. Quantum inter philosophiam interest, Lucili virorum optime, et ceteras artes, tantum interesse existimo in ipsa philosophia inter illam partem quae ad homines et hanc quae ad deos pertinet. Altior est haec et animosior; multum permisit sibi; non fuit oculis contenta; maius esse quiddam suspicata est ac pulchrius quod extra conspectum natura posuisset.

2. Denique inter duas interest quantum inter deum et hominem. Altera docet quid in terris agendum sit, altera quid agatur in caelo. Altera errores nostros discutit et lumen admovet quo discernantur ambigua vitae; altera multum supra hanc in qua volutamur caliginem excedit et e tenebris ereptos perducit illo unde lucet.

3. Equidem tunc rerum naturae gratias ago cum illam non ab hac parte video qua publica est, sed cum secretiora eius intravi, cum disco quae universi materia sit, quis auctor aut custos, quid sit deus,


Natural Questions I

Book I

Lights In The Sky1

Preface 1. Lucilius, my good friend, the great difference between philosophy and other studies is matched, I think, by the equally great difference in philosophy itself, between that branch which deals with man and that which deals with the gods. The latter is loftier and more intellectual, and so has permitted,a great deal of freedom for itself. It has not been restricted to what can be seen; it has presumed that there is something greater and more beautiful which nature has placed beyond our sight.

2. In short, between the two branches of philosophy there is as much difference as there is between man and god. One teaches us what ought to be done on earth; the other what is done in heaven. One dispels our errors and furnishes a light for us to see through the uncertainties of life; the other rises far above this fog in which we wallow, and, rescuing us from darkness, leads us to the place whence the light shines.

3. I, for one, am very grateful to nature, not just when I view it in that aspect which is obvious to everybody but when I have penetrated its mysteries; when I learn what the stuff of the universe is, who its author or custodian is, what god is; whether he keeps

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.seneca_younger-natural_questions.1971