Instructor: Leila Wells Rogers
2, December, 2012
Seneca’s, On Tranquility of Mind is a dialogue written to Annaeus Serenus. Serenus was a friend of Seneca’s and also a protector of the Roman Emperor, Nero. Serenus struggles with controlling his mental uncertainties that prevent tranquility. Questioning Seneca, he’s informed that mental stability is interrupted by unrealized desires and the inability to control them. Seneca expresses that tranquility is essential to living a good life. Tranquility is an important part of the philosophical life. A Roman Stoic, Seneca believed that an unwelcoming force ruled the world, and that happiness lies in one’s ability to accept one’s fate.
Seneca’s simple but powerful idea is that happiness does not depend on anything outside of ourselves. The source of both happiness and unhappiness is within us. Seneca claims that “avoiding burdensome responsibilities, gloomy companions, and excessive wealth” (qtd. in Fiero 71) leads to peace of mind. Seneca advises Serenus to surround himself with people who are free from desires because we are affected by those as well. He believes one should focus on self-reliance and self-development and the way this is linked to human happiness. Understanding that happiness springs entirely from within, means that our happiness can’t be invaded by others.
Tranquility is the state of being calm, peaceful, quiet, or serene. Our tranquility of mind is perfect or imperfect to the degree that the mind should be on God rather ourselves or on our problems. Learning to accept and live according to that theory is a challenge that we all face. For Seneca, to understand the importance of tranquility, we must have in depth perception of Stoicism. In the ancient world, philosophers were interested in the term eudaimonia- which is the idea of the good life; the same life we desire in the 21st century. Seneca believed eudaimonia can only be achieved by those characterized by tranquility, the Stoic way of life.
Seneca’s On Tranquility of Mind is primarily finding the path to true happiness. A tranquility of mind is at the same time an ideal to strive for and a means to achieve confidence and serenity. I can connect this idea to life as I live it and know it. We are all predisposed to people, things, and conditions that bring us joy, but do not determine our happiness. The pursuit of happiness should be a natural instinct rather than relying on outside sources.
Fiero, Gloria K. Landmarks In Humanities. Boston: McGraw-Hill Companies, 2013.
Seneca, Lucius Annaeus. Minor Dialogues: Together With The Dialogues on Clemency. 1889. 1 December 2012 <http://books.google.com/books/about/Minor_dialogues.html?id=BLICAAAAYAAJ>.
Smith, William. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. 2005. 30 November 2012 <http://www.ancientlibrary.com/smith-bio/3119.html>.