What is it with these so-called “Moral Letters for Modern Times” you might have seen me publish? Two a week, like clockwork, for a year and a half. What are they, who are they for, and why did I write them?
The Moral Letters for Modern Times are inspired by Seneca’s Moral Letters to Lucilius. Written near the end of Seneca’s life, his letters survey and distill Stoic philosophy on what it means to live a good life.
Seneca was a clear thinker and a brilliant writer, so why would I think to craft another version? Multiple reasons:
- I wanted to deepen my own understanding of Stoic philosophy. Explaining the ideas in my own words meant going beyond simply reading passively.
- I wanted to make Stoic concepts more accessible to modern readers, including people who are interested in the human condition but don’t necessarily want to devote hours a day to their studies.
- I was following Seneca’s advice. He urges us to grapple with important ideas and to make personal our understanding of the truth.
- Finally, I wanted to do something positive and helpful. The power of an idea doesn’t depend on who it came from, but rather how it influences our behavior today. Seneca believed no one has a monopoly on the truth and that we can each contribute to humankind’s quest.
If I prompt some introspection and interesting discussions, I will have made a contribution. And that makes me happy.
PS - Read the letters in order or browse them at your leisure. See Moral Letters in Chronological Order for the overview.
I do think you will benefit from slow and steady reading, which is why I published two letters each week. See Be Patient for some inspiration to take it slowly.