According to Seneca, anger is temporary madness and a result of a poor, illogical, and incorrect judgment. In his persuasion towards convincing his audience that anger is wrong, Seneca argues in distinguishing anger and natural impulsive responses, the impulse of anger ought to be governed by sound reasoning. According to Seneca, Stoic’s view is the opinion that humans should not allow themselves to be angry by giving in to frustrations, annoyance, and negative emotions. Seneca maintains that behind the anger are foolish hindsight, reasoning, and judgment, which in many instances leads one to do something regrettable. Seneca is of the opinion that anger is wild and hideous, careless in its ways and full of greed for revenge. It is, therefore, an impulse devoid of strength of mind, obstinately engrossed in the act, deaf of reasoning and any form of advice. Anger is a poor trait that does not conform to the good of the soul or mind. It is only through virtue that a soul can be made perfect and enable one to live a good life. Seneca, therefore, urges his audience, to live a good life, devoid of ruins associated with harmful emotions and one ought to discern from outbursts of anger and impulses of outrage.0727934428
Posidonius equates anger as “burning desire to avenge a wrong”. It is a form of damage mechanism directed to cause harm, destruction, death, ruin, and war.Anger is seen in many forms according to Seneca. Unlike other forms of emotions such as happiness, joy, fear, boredom, and uninterested, anger cannot conceal itself and shows itself pliable as it boils down further (Campbell, 1969, p16). Even in animals, Seneca argues that anger shows itself off before the mischief or the revenge act. For example, snakes swell, dogs develop the sullen look, lion’s growl and bulls throw their horns. Seneca reasons that no plague nor vice has cost humanity more than anger. From accusations and counter accusations, poisonings, sackings, shedding of blood, and stabbing and has done more harm than any other vice upon the human race.Seneca exposes anger as an animalistic behavior that falls far below human sensitivity to mutual coexistence.
Seneca argues that human life is bounded together upon foundations of goodness, kindness, love, humanity, mutual coexistence, and respect. Man is a symbol of love, right thinking, help, self-sacrifice, and the deep inner need for mutual coexistence. However, Seneca maintains in his argument to his audience that, “anger was created for mutual destruction”, harm, and chaos. It thus depicts a phenomenon that is not in accordance with the nature and well-being of man as it seeks to plant seeds of destruction, and chaos, traits that do not support peaceful coexistence amongst men. Stoic viewed the world as one single family or community whereby all people are sisters and brothers. In their existence, Stoic sees men as creative people, personal gods filled with divine reason, peace, and gratification lifting them to the realms of supreme providence. By portraying man as a good creature endowed with goodness, Seneca instills strong believes in his audience to embrace that which is good for human survival; and that is meant and ways of avoiding anger.
Seneca’s philosophy of anger is based on “supreme ideal” of man made up of wisdom, courage, justice, and self-control (Seneca, 1909, p7). The aforementioned ideal man needs to be self-sufficient, invulnerable to suffering, greater than the inflictions and upsets of everyday life. Stoic adds that a good life is one directed away from worldly assets. Stoic and Seneca’s guiding principle towards a life free of anger and self-insufficiency, therefore, aims at freeing man and laying a strong foundation towards managing impulses such as anger. Seneca’s admissions to his audience aim at humanization of the creed of self-sufficiency, a process begun long before by Posidonius and Panaetius.
Seneca, as a leading exponent of Stoicism, perpetuated the rational of reason as a leading guide to human intelligence. By seeking the highest good of the universe, the individual seeks for power to reason, depend on the power of rationale, self-sufficiency, and the good of self-control. In exercising the capacity and ability to counter sound judgment, a man enters the realm of common good and humanity. Seneca maintains that moral values are gotten from sound judgment an essential ingredient for doing good and self-control (Campbell, 1969, p19). According to Stoicism to live, an orderly life is to live in accordance with reason, in line with nature that aims at a morally upright lifestyle. Sound judgment, reason, and self-control point to a mutually binding relationship that seeks to make man live at peace with each other. For example, Seneca stresses to his audience that anger is a form of mental weakness, lack of the ability to exercise good judgment and foresight (Seneca, 1909, p 7). Through and by this reasoning, Seneca challenges his audience to rise above mental weakness and to embrace the power of reasoning
Seneca’s assertion, therefore, revolves around the ability to maintain a reasoning ability towards other men in an attempt to focus on the common good of the society. This explains why Seneca calls such an individual “one with a weak mind” (p. 7). Stooping low to the impulses of anger and ignoring the calling of reason marks the highest level of insensitive mind and a morally corrupted attitude towards the common good of humans.
On the other side, Seneca argues that anger is beneficial as it keeps one from being looked down upon and scares away the wicked. However, he further states that it is a feared element and that it is better to be feared than to be despised. It, therefore, means that to arouse fear amongst another, anger can provide a perfect tool for instilling fear of others instead of waiting on scorn from others. On the contrary, Seneca argues that neither of these is admirable and they do not arouse any sense of intelligence per se. In the same way, Seneca maintains that virtue does not need a vice to justify its goodness. For example, bravery does not need anger to prove its worthiness. Therefore, according to Seneca anger is only feared as it arouses negative emotions that do not conform with intelligence and human values (Campbell, 1969, p20).
The ultimate goal of life, according to Stoic is to live a happy life, one that conforms to the basic principles of reasoning, and full contentment of reaching one’s ends morally, a position that Seneca emphasizes to his audience by stating that living a morally upright right should be the ultimate goal of sound reasoning devoid of negative emotional impulses. Seneca maintains that despite the complex process of setting anger emotions, it all starts with the mind and is accented by the mind. Therefore, in order to avoid negative impulses, a person need to master the power of reason, the power to stop the mind on its tracks from developing impulses of vengeance. Since it is a decision made by the mind on retribution, it is therefore of the mind to eliminate any form of vengeance (Thurman, 2006, p41).
From Seneca’s assertion, maintaining a high level of reasoning and mental strength towards negative emotional impulses such anger offers one of his very own reasoning to avoid falling victim of negative outbursts. It thus helps man to live a virtuous life devoid of disruption and chaos since it is within the parameters of peace that man progresses and grows towards a worthy life. He thus exposes anger as a negative attribute that does not promote the being of mutual coexistence amongst men. Through and by his strong argument of the negativity of anger, Seneca portrays the destructive nature of anger by exposing it as rapid impulses of reaction towards uncomfortable situations and persons.
Campbell, R., 1969. Seneca: letters from a Stoic. Penguin.
Perry, M., Chase, M., Jacob, J., Jacob, M. And Von Laue, T.H., 2012. Western Civilization: Ideas, Politics, and Society, Volume II: From 1600. Cengage Learning.
Seneca, L.A., 1909. On anger. Publisher not identified.
Thurman, R.A., 2006. Anger (Vol. 3). Oxford University Press, USA.