Muddled understanding? Seneca, Epistulae Morales 6.59.14

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billd89
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Muddled understanding? Seneca, Epistulae Morales 6.59.14

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Looking at another scholar's explanation of the passage, I think he is mistaken:
This view of Joy as a gift from God is diametrically opposed to the Stoic view of Joy as the inner harmony of the soul, which the wise man attains for himself. Cf. especially Seneca, Epistulae Morales 6.59.14, where the term gaudium is defined as "your soul keeps on its even and unswerving course, upright and content with itself" aequalis animi tenor erecti et placentis sibi (=αὐτάρκους).

The error (I suppose) is that 'gaudium' refers instead to 'maestus' = μελαγχολία, the first and not the second (or third) Negative Passions on this list; I deconstruct this, below. I'm also doubtful that "Joy" (which is exuberant) fits Eupathy (="right feeling") as intended here. I am utterly baffled by the scholar's addition of αὐτάρκους (self-sufficiency) as a synonym for Positivity/Optimism or even 'Cheerfulness'/Joy. ('Self-satisfied' might work, however, against the idea the soul is buffeted by outside forces.) There's the muddle, as I see it.

The Latin passage from Seneca, Epistulae Morales 6.59.14, is:
Sapiens ille plenus est gaudio, hilaris et placidus, inconcussus; cum dis ex pari vivit. Nunc ipse te consule: si numquam maestus es, <si> nulla spes animum tuum futuri exspectatione sollicitat, si per dies noctesque par et aequalis animi tenor erecti et placentis sibi est, pervenisti ad humani boni summam.

Although all three (3) conditions must be met, it is helpful to deconstruct the formula this way:

1) Sapiens ille plenus est gaudio. Nunc ipse te consule: si numquam maestus es, pervenisti ad humani boni summam.
2) Sapiens ille plenus est hilaris. Nunc ipse te consule: si nulla spes animum tuum futuri exspectatione sollicitat, pervenisti ad humani boni summam.
3) Sapiens ille plenus est placidus, inconcussus. Nunc ipse te consule: si per dies noctesque par et aequalis animi tenor erecti et placentis sibi est, pervenisti ad humani boni summam.

1) The wise man is full of Eupathy. Now examine yourself: if you are never melancholic, then you have achieved the greatest good that mortals can possess.
2) The wise man is full of Positive Thinking. Now examine yourself: if apprehension never makes you experience torments of anticipation, then you have achieved the greatest good that mortals can possess.
3a) The wise man is calm. Now examine yourself: if by day and night your soul keeps on its course even and upright, then you have achieved the greatest good that mortals can possess.
3b) The wise man is steadfast. Now examine yourself: if by day and night you have self-contentment, practice continuance, then you have achieved the greatest good that mortals can possess.

Alternately:
2) The wise man is full of Optimism. Now examine yourself: if no expectation disturbs your mind with anxiety for the future, then you have achieved the greatest good that mortals can possess.

A few thoughts, on these 'species of Joy' : Seneca may be referring to 1) Past- , 2) Future- , and 3) Present-Thinking.
1) maestus = μελαγχολία? If Melancholy means 'morbid self-reflection', then 'dwelling in the past' is implied. I suppose gaudium = τέρψις.
2) hilaris = ἱλαρός cheerful, lively, light-hearted; hilaritās = cheerfulness, good-humor; gaiety. = Εὐφροσύνη Ἐλπίς ?
Antonym: grave-heartedness, heavy-hearted = anxious? The negative opposite, Concern/anxiety = μέριμνα, is inferred.
3) εὐθυμία ? Is Seneca revising Andronicus SVF 3.432 ? 'Contentment is Joy at the course of Life.' There is also a sense of Continuance, constantia. Is 'calm' on the sea and 'steadfast' on the road, for the voyage of Life?

I'm not certain that Seneca means 'Joy = Cheerfulness'; I suspect these are grades, stages, etc. Or one is a state, while the other is a circumstance? I lack any background to know if Seneca is repeating a 3-fold Joy schemata, a Wise-Man's Guide to cultivating Mind, from another source.

Link:
XXIII ON THE TRUE JOY WHICH COMES FROM PHILOSOPHY

Do you ask what is the foundation of a sound mind? It is, not to find joy in useless things. I said that it was the foundation; it is really the pinnacle. We have reached the heights if we know what it is that we find joy in and if we have not placed our happiness in the control of externals. The man who is goaded ahead by hope of anything, though it be within reach, though it be easy of access, and though his ambitions have never played him false, is troubled and unsure of himself. Above all … make this your business: learn how to feel joy.

Real joy, believe me, is a stern matter. Can one, do you think, despise death with a care-free countenance, or with a ‘blithe and gay’ expression, as our young dandies are accustomed to say? Or can one thus open his door to poverty, or hold the curb on his pleasures, or contemplate the endurance of pain? He who ponders these things in his heart is indeed full of joy; but it is not a cheerful joy. It is just this joy, however, of which I would have you become the owner; for it will never fail you when once you have found its source. The yield of poor mines is on the surface; those are really rich whose veins lurk deep, and they will make more bountiful returns to him who delves unceasingly. So too those baubles which delight the common crowd afford but a thin pleasure, laid on as a coating, and even joy that is only plated lacks a real basis. But the joy of which I speak, that to which I am endeavoring to lead you, is something solid, disclosing itself the more fully as you penetrate into it. Therefore I pray you [to] do the one thing that can render you really happy: cast aside and trample under foot all the things that glitter outwardly and are held out to you a by another or as obtainable from another; look toward the true Good, and rejoice only in that which comes from your own store. And what do I mean by ‘from your own store’? I mean from your very self, that which is the best part of you. The frail body, also, even though we can accomplish nothing without it, is to be regarded as necessary rather than as important; it involves us in vain pleasures, short-lived, and soon to be regretted, which, unless they are reined in by extreme self-control, will be transformed into the opposite … pleasure, unless it has been kept within bounds, tends to rush headlong into the abyss of sorrow.
But it is hard to keep within bounds in that which you believe to be good. The real Good may be coveted with safety. Do you ask me what this real Good is, and whence it derives? I will tell you: it comes from a good conscience, from honorable purposes, from right actions, from contempt of the gifts of chance, from an even and calm way of living which treads but one path. For men who leap from one purpose to another, or do not even leap but are carried over by a sort of hazard, - how can such wavering and unstable persons possess any good that is fixed and lasting? There are only a few who control themselves and their affairs by a guiding purpose; the rest do not proceed; they are merely swept along, like objects afloat in a river. And of these objects, some are held back by sluggish waters and are transported gently; others are torn along by a more violent current; some, which are nearest the bank, are left there as the current slackens; and others are carried out to sea by the onrush of the stream. Therefore, we should decide what we wish, and abide by the decision. … -- Seneca, Epistle 13

I see this (paraphrase?) online, but it seems to be a false quotation which merely conflates ideas of Seneca:
I would have men to be always in good humor, provided by day and night your soul keeps on its course even and upright, that it arises from their own souls, and be cherished in their own breasts. Other delights are trivial; they may smooth the brow, but they do not fill and affect the heart. “True joy is a serene and sober motion” and they are miserably out that take laughing for rejoicing. The seat of it is within, and there is no cheerfulness like the resolution of a brave mind, that has fortune under his feet.


Sobriety refer to the 'courage to remain dry and sober when the mob is drunk and vomiting' : a theme of Constantia and Self-Control.

Epistle 35 is not about 'Joy' but 'Constantia' with a sailing metaphor.
Make progress, and, before all else, endeavour to be consistent with yourself. And when you would find out whether you have accomplished anything, consider whether you desire the same things today that you desired yesterday. A shifting of the will indicates that the mind is at sea, heading in various directions, according to the course of the wind. But that which is settled and solid does not wander from its place. This is the blessed lot of the completely wise man, and also, to a certain extent, of him who is progressing and has made some headway. Now what is the difference between these two classes of men? The one is in motion, to be sure, but does not change its position; it merely tosses up and down where it is; the other is not in motion at all.

Here, the opposite of 'hilaritās' (i.e. Optimism/Positive-Thinking) would be nagging Worry, forebodings, doubts about the future. Vexing concern over future outcomes are like dark clouds upon the soul. So 'hilaritās' should mean 'light-heartedness' - something like 'the gay heart and bounding spirit' in 19th C. parlance? The opposite would be Anxiety. But - and I understand that my own cultural understanding may be insufficient here - this appears most consistent w/ 'Optimism/Pessimism', or Positive- versus Negative-Thinking from a psychological perspective of the early 21st C.

2) The wise one is full of Optimism. Now examine yourself: if you are never pessimistically anxious, then you have achieved the greatest good that mortals can possess.

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