Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one. To support our nonprofit environmental journalism, please consider disabling your ad-blocker to allow ads on Grist. Here's How. After belching noxious fumes and dumping toxic coal ash into a nearby landfill for seven decades, the plant was poised to be remediated and reused.
When Greenidge applied for permits to restart operations, it claimed it would be generating power to meet existing electricity demand. By , the plant was no longer producing power for the public at all. In an attempt to claw back the tens of millions that Atlas invested to convert the plant to natural gas, Greenidge turned to mining Bitcoin. Grist relies on the support of generous readers like you to keep our climate news free.
All donations matched for a limited time. As Greenidge increased its mining capacity last year, there was a corresponding jump in its contributions to global warming. The equivalent of over , metric tons of carbon dioxide were emitted over the course of last year, a volume comparable to putting nearly 50, new cars on the road. In late March, the company revealed plans to merge with Support. In its announcement, Greenidge said it wants to more than double its mining capacity on Seneca Lake by July — and to double it again by the end of , at which point it will total 85 megawatts.
Greenidge also said that the company plans to replicate its vertically integrated model — cryptocurrency mining at the source of energy production — at other power plants, with a goal of at least megawatts of combined mining capacity by To accomplish that, the company would have to acquire and open at least four other power plants of similar capacity. Atlas Holdings itself partially owns five power plants in New Hampshire that have more than 1, megawatts of combined capacity.
In April, a cryptocurrency mining company called Digihost moved to acquire a megawatt natural gas-fired plant in Niagara County, New York. It could theoretically happen at any aging fossil fuel plant around the country: A source of dirty energy that has outlived its profitability could find a second life as a Bitcoin mining operation. Although emissions from Bitcoin mining have global consequences, many of the locals opposing Greenidge are equally concerned about its effects on water quality and wildlife.
In late March, Phil and Linda Bracht, two of the 30 petitioners on the lawsuit against Torrey, the county planning board, and Greenidge, took me and another petitioner, Carolyn McAllister, out in their boat to get a look at the plant from the water.
All three live on Seneca Lake, just a mile from Greenidge. The first part of the facility to catch the eye is its giant intake pipe, which is 7 feet in diameter and extends further than the length of two football fields from the shore over the water, like an elevated train to nowhere, before dropping below the lake surface. This is where Greenidge can draw up to million gallons of fresh water per day to cool the plant. Like all thermoelectric power plants, Greenidge uses steam to spin the turbines that produce electricity, but the steam has to be condensed back to water by exchanging heat with the fresh water before it can be reused.
Once-through cooling systems like this — where water is used once and then expelled at a higher temperature — require vast amounts of water, with consequences for both wildlife and water quality. In recent years, fishers have reported fewer and smaller catches on the lake. John Halfman, a professor of geoscience and environmental studies at Hobart and William Smith College on the northern end of Seneca Lake, says the size of the biggest fish caught in the derby has been steadily decreasing, while the time it takes to make a catch is increasing.
Michael Black, a petitioner and fisherman going on his 50th summer living on the lake, said he used to catch between 60 and lake trout each year from his dock south of Greenidge. While there are multiple reasons fish might be suffering, Black worries that hot water discharges are exacerbating the threats they face.
Tiffany Garcia, a freshwater ecologist at Oregon State University, wrote a letter to the Town of Torrey raising similar concerns about the effects of hot water discharges on the larger lake ecosystem. Residents fear that warmer waters will also increase the likelihood and severity of harmful algal blooms, or HABs, near Greenidge.
While the presence of blue-green algae or cyanobacteria is normal in lakes, a small number of these organisms produce potent toxins that can be dangerous or even fatal for people and other animals. Under the right conditions — which include lots of sun, still water, and, crucially, heat — these algae can explode in vast, dangerous blooms that are becoming increasingly common in the U. Gregory Boyer, the director of the Great Lakes Research Consortium at the State University of New York, studied the effect of artificially increasing water temperature by just 2 degrees on Lake Champlain.
That small change resulted in a surge of bacteria growth, with toxic species of bacteria increasing to a greater degree than nontoxic species. In earlier lawsuits challenging permits the DEC issued to Greenidge, Boyer submitted affidavits on behalf of local environmental groups saying that the large discharges of heated water from Greenidge could increase HABs in the area and should be studied further.
Gary McIntee, who lives just south of Greenidge, told me that the water flowing down the Outlet is often flush with nutrient-rich runoff from farms as well as discharge from a wastewater treatment plant upstream, creating an ideal mix for HABs. HABs would render their only source of running water unusable. As the DEC points out , not even boiling, chemical disinfectants, or water filters will protect people from HABs and their associated toxins.
HABs can also overwhelm industrial water filtration systems , temporarily rendering public water undrinkable. And as winemaker Vinny Aliperti pointed out, algal blooms keep the tourists away. Greenidge Generation vigorously denies that its plant is having an adverse impact on the environment. Those drives, however, can be turned off whenever the plant needs maximum water flow. Greenidge also affirmed that it is on schedule to install protective screens by He recently began presenting his artwork as a painting artist.
In October , the New York Post published an article about a laptop computer reportedly once belonging to Hunter Biden. The laptop contained around , emails and other materials, but its authenticity was questioned due to its lack of chain of custody. An analysis reported in March confirmed the authenticity of thousands of emails found on the laptop. Beau sustained multiple broken bones while Hunter sustained injuries to his skull. Both spent several months in the hospital, where their father was sworn into the U.
Senate in January Hunter Biden was appointed to a five-year term on the board of directors of Amtrak by President George W. Bush in Biden said during his father's vice-presidential campaign that it was time for his lobbying activities to end. President Trump. Biden's attorney said in November that his client no longer held any direct or indirect interest in BHR. The BHR Partners fund invests Chinese venture capital into tech startups like an early-stage investment in Chinese car hailing app DiDi and cross-border acquisitions in automotive and mining, such as the purchase of a stake in Democratic Republic of Congo copper and cobalt producer Tenke Fungurume Mining.
Biden joined the board of Burisma Holdings owned by Ukrainian oligarch and former politician Mykola Zlochevsky , who was facing a money laundering investigation just after the Ukrainian revolution , in April Former President Donald Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani claimed in , without evidence, that Joe Biden had sought the dismissal of Shokin in order to protect his son and Burisma Holdings. Actually, it was the official policy of the United States and the European Union to seek Shokin's removal.
After Lutsenko was replaced by Ruslan Riaboshapka as prosecutor general, Lutsenko and Riaboshapka said in September and October respectively that they had seen no evidence of wrongdoing by Hunter Biden. During and into , Republican senators Ron Johnson and Chuck Grassley investigated Hunter Biden's involvement with Burisma, as well as allegations that Democrats colluded with the Ukrainian government to interfere in the election.
The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Republican senator Richard Burr privately expressed concerns to the senators that their inquiries could assist efforts by Russian intelligence to spread disinformation to disrupt American domestic affairs. In June , former Ukrainian prosecutor general Ruslan Riaboshapka stated that an audit of thousands of old case files he had ordered in October had found no wrongdoing by Hunter Biden. Riaboshapka was described by Zelenskyy as " percent my person" during the July call in which Trump asked him to investigate Biden.
Ukrainian lawmaker Andrii Derkach , an associate of Rudy Giuliani with links to Russian intelligence, released in May alleged snippets of recordings of Joe Biden speaking with Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko during the years Hunter Biden worked for Burisma. The recordings did not provide evidence to support the ongoing conspiracy theory that Biden wanted the prosecutor fired to protect his son. The Treasury Department added Derkach "waged a covert influence campaign centered on cultivating false and unsubstantiated narratives concerning U.
The Washington Post reported in April that the partners of Rosemont Seneca Thornton had agreed to dissolve the organization before the wire transfer, though it continued to be operated by Devin Archer to facilitate real estate transactions for eastern and central Asia investors, while Biden was uninvolved.
In December , Biden made a public announcement via his attorney that his tax affairs are under federal criminal investigation. The New York Times reported in March that since Biden and possibly others had been under investigation by federal prosecutors in Delaware, with a grand jury convened to subpoena and hear evidence. The investigation examined payments and gifts Biden or his associates had received from foreign interests and whether Biden had violated the law by not registering as a lobbyist under the Foreign Agents Registration Act FARA.
The Times reported it had acquired emails that were authenticated by people familiar with them and the investigation that appeared to come from a laptop belonging to Biden. One April email, written by Biden to his business partner as their work with Burisma was about to begin, noted that his father, then the vice president who would soon visit Kyiv , should "be characterized as part of our advice and thinking—but what he will say and do is out of our hands".
The email also stated that Burisma officials "need to know in no uncertain terms that we will not and cannot intervene directly with domestic policymakers, and that we need to abide by FARA and any other U. Biden wrote that his father's visit "could be a really good thing or it could end up creating too great an expectation.
We need to temper expectations regarding that visit. Other emails showed Biden and his business partner discussing inviting foreign business associates, including a Burisma executive, to attend an April dinner in Washington, where the vice president would stop by. Federal investigators were also examining the lobbying firm Blue Star Strategies, which Burisma retained while Biden sat on its board, for possible illegal lobbying of American officials.
There was no indication Biden was a subject of the investigation. Blue Star employees said in Senate testimony that Biden was included in emails about the firm's work but that he was not particularly involved. One of the firm's co-founders said Biden did not direct its work. Blue Star's work came after Burisma's owner was criticized by the United States State Department, and the firm's founders testified the firm had merely approached officials to determine the government's views of Burisma.
In October , during the last weeks of the United States presidential election , the New York Post published an article, with the involvement of Donald Trump 's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and former chief strategist Steve Bannon , about a laptop computer of unknown chain of custody later confirmed as once belonging to Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden. The laptop contained an email describing what the New York Post characterized as a "meeting" between Joe Biden and Vadym Pozharskyi, a Burisma advisor, in , though that characterization was disputed by witnesses.
The article's veracity was strongly questioned by most mainstream media outlets, analysts and intelligence officials, due to the unknown chain of custody of the laptop and its contents, and suspicion that it may have been part of a disinformation campaign. Biden in a Delaware repair shop. However, "The vast majority of the data — and most of the nearly , emails it contained — could not be verified by either of the two security experts who reviewed the data for The Post.
Biden's application for a position in the U. Navy Reserve was approved in May The following month, Biden tested positive for cocaine during a urinalysis test and was subsequently discharged administratively. Biden married Kathleen Buhle in Biden has had a life-long struggle with drug and alcohol abuse, and detailed his struggles in his memoir Beautiful Things.
Following the death of his brother Beau , his addiction escalated, and he claims to have been "smoking crack every 15 minutes". The report also displayed some of his paintings, including "Untitled 4 a study in ink " and "Untitled 3 a signed work ".
Biden released a memoir discussing the trauma of the accident that claimed the lives of his mother and sister and his later addiction struggles, titled Beautiful Things on April 6, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
President Joe Biden. George W. Bush Barack Obama. Kathleen Buhle. Melissa Cohen. Joe Biden Neilia Hunter Biden. Further information: Biden family. Main article: BHR Partners. See also: Biden—Ukraine conspiracy theory and Trump—Ukraine scandal. Main article: Hunter Biden laptop controversy. October 15, Archived from the original on October 17, Retrieved October 17, Caldera, Camille October 21, USA Today.
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August 24, Archived from the original on December 10, Archived from the original on October 5, There's no reason to think that Biden backed MBNA's position because his son worked there—senators normally line up with their home state's major employers' policy priorities—it's more like Hunter got the job due to his dad's overall cozy relationship with the company.
June 28, Retrieved April 2, National Review. August 23, May 24, Archived from the original on May 24, Archived from the original on July 28, Politico Magazine. Archived from the original on October 8, Retrieved September 25, Washington, D. Archived from the original on November 16, Retrieved November 16, January 30, Archived PDF from the original on December 20, Retrieved November 15, June 8, Retrieved December 11, Financial Times.
Archived from the original on October 30, Retrieved October 29, Archived from the original on October 22, Retrieved October 23, The Washington Post. BBC News. October 23, Archived from the original on October 29, The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved January 29, The dealings got the younger Mr. Biden a discounted stake in a private-equity firm in China Of that, at least a third was provided in the form of loans from other BHR principals, according to people familiar with the situation.
BHR Partners. Archived from the original on May 16, Retrieved February 5, July 1,
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Spine Surgery. Testicular Cancer. Uterine Cancer. HIPAA security standards. Doctor-patient confidentiality. Within the framework of Aristotelian theory, akrasia is worse than control enkrateia and much worse than virtue. Other scholars pursue intermediate approaches. On his reading, On Anger develops a version of psychological monism that permits dualist imagery and that explains motivational conflict in part in terms of the physiology of inner turmoil on the physiology of anger in On Anger , see also Riggsby Next to anger, Seneca pays most attention to fear and grief, emotions that tend to dominate human life due to human mortality NQ 6.
Letters 26, 63, Fear of death is paradoxical: It wants to preserve life, but it spoils life 6. It is one of the key tasks for the progressor to come to terms with death Edwards ; Mann ; Letters 1. It is through changing our views regarding the presumed badness of death that we can overcome fear and grief. Death is a natural event, and understanding death is part of the study of nature. We fear most what we do not understand; knowledge cures fear NQ 6. Seneca takes seriously two accounts of death: either death is a transition to a better afterlife, or it is a genuine end.
In his tragedies, Seneca explores more troubling scenarios see above. In On Peace of Mind Why does the ideal agent not deplore vice, and so feel in some way bad about it? This question bears on a key aspect of the Stoic theory.
Although there are four generic emotions, there are only three rational feelings; they replace pleasure, desire, and fear. There is no rational correlate to pain or distress, i. Of course, the wise person will not judge that illness or loss of money is bad; she knows that only vice is bad. Seneca gives an answer that is in agreement with the fundamental Stoic claim that virtue benefits.
The sage puts on a smile, rather than being saddened, because his cheerfulness gives hope. Part of this argument might be that virtue does not allow for rational negative affective responses, since such responses would not benefit. In his discussion of how the virtuous person responds to weaknesses in others, Seneca extends the Stoic spectrum of rational feelings to include mercy clementia. Kaster for a brief introduction to the treatise. We cannot here enter into the question of whether Seneca chooses to ignore or did not know of the murder Nero had recently committed.
Perhaps the answer is simply that things look different in hindsight see Braund The Latin term for mercy, clementia , is difficult to translate; sometimes scholars opt for clemency, thus signaling that Seneca discusses a virtue that we are not immediately familiar with. In On Mercy , clementia is a virtue of a superior.
This is in itself a novelty within Stoic ethics. Earlier Stoics did not conceive of virtues for particular roles. Instead, virtue or wisdom is thought to translate into role-specific kinds of expertise whenever a virtuous person comes to have such a role. In Seneca, clementia is a kind of restraint in a powerful person who might otherwise lash out and act cruelly, and it is something like equity cf.
Braund Arguably, the first kind of clementia is not a Stoic virtue. A person whose savagery needs to be contained cannot count as virtuous Vogt Scholars also raise the question of whether equity, understood as the ability of a ruler to judge a case by all its particular characteristics rather than simply apply a rule fits into Stoic philosophy Braund Aristotle discusses a well-known problem: the law is general, but every case that needs to be judged is particular.
Equity is a juridical virtue; it aims to remedy an inevitable feature of the law understood as a set of rules: its generality. According to two doxographical passages, the Stoics do not ascribe equity to their wise person DL 7. However, these texts are plausibly understood as making the claim that the Stoics do not ascribe Aristotelian equity —and that is, the equity that aims to remedy the shortcomings of general rules—to the wise person.
The law, as the Stoics conceive of it, is not the positive set of laws in a given political community. Equity of a distinctively Stoic kind, understood as the ability to judge every case by fully appreciating all particular circumstances, fits perfectly into the larger framework of Stoic ethics Vogt So-called preferred indifferents—health, wealth, and so on—have value their opposites, dispreferred indifferents, have disvalue.
But only virtue is good. Again and again, Seneca discusses how health and wealth do not contribute to our happiness. Seneca approaches this issue not as an academic puzzle, as if we needed to be compelled by intricate proof to accept this point. He speaks very directly to his readers, and his examples grip us moderns as much as they gripped his contemporaries.
We tend to think that life would be better if only we did not have to travel for the lowest fare, but in a more comfortable fashion; we are disheartened when our provisions for dinner are no better than stale bread. By addressing these very concrete situations, Seneca keeps hammering home the core claim of Stoic ethics: that virtue alone is sufficient for happiness, and nothing else even makes a contribution. It is important to note that preferred indifferents have value though they are not good in the terminological sense of the Stoics.
Scholars sometimes suggest that, for Seneca, preferred indifferents are worthless and to be frowned upon for example, Braund In doing so, they pick up on the metaphors and examples that Seneca employs. Accordingly, Seneca keeps giving vivid examples, aiming to help his audience become less attached to things of mere value. However, he does not suggest that things like health or wealth should be regarded dismissively, or not taken care of.
A related and equally important aspect of Stoic ethics is the distinction between appropriate and correct action. Appropriate action takes indifferents adequately into account. Both fools and the wise can act appropriately. But only the wise act perfectly appropriately , or correctly : their action is based on their perfect deliberation, and reflects the overall consistency of their soul.
Seneca explains matters in precisely this fashion: while we should take indifferents health, illness, wealth, poverty, etc. What is good is that I choose well Letter Attributing any real importance to indifferents, Seneca argues, is like preferring, among two good men, the one with the fancy haircut Letter A nice haircut, one might think, could be seen as entirely irrelevant. Compared to the good, preferred indifferents pale, and appear as insignificant as a fashionable haircut when compared with genuine virtue.
But preferred indifferents are valuable. In deliberation, we do not compare them with the good; we consider them next to dispreferred indifferents. In appropriate action, the agent takes things of value into account. This, however, does not happen in the abstract—she does not weigh the value of wealth against the value of health in a general fashion. Rather, she thinks about the way in which a specific situation and the courses of action available in it involve indifferents—for example, putting on the appropriate clothes for a given occasion Letter Since the features of the situation in which one acts thus matter to appropriate action, the Stoics apparently wrote treatises now lost in which they discussed at length how this or that feature may bear on what one should be doing Sedley The very fact that such treatises are written testifies to the fact that indifferents are not simply irrelevant: they are the material of deliberation.
Since Kidd , Letters 94 and 95 have been read with a view to the question of whether rules figure in Stoic ethics for a discussion of the letters that is not framed by this question, see I. Hadot , 8—9. This question, in turn, is relevant to our interpretation of the Stoic conception of law. The Stoics have long been considered the ancestors of the natural law tradition Striker If the Stoics formulate rule-like precepts, then perhaps this means that the law, as the Stoics understand it, consists of a set of laws.
If we seek a good life by studying philosophy, do we need to study only decreta , or also praecepta? According to the first position, the only thing needed to achieve virtue is to immerse oneself in the core tenets of Stoic philosophy. It is these that Seneca calls decreta ; decreta thus are not practical principles or rules. They are principles of philosophy, in the sense of being the most abstract and fundamental teachings of the Stoics.
According to the second position, which Seneca seems to endorse, studying the first principles of Stoic philosophy is not sufficient; we should also think in detail about the demands that specific situations in life might make on us and so, we should study praecepta relating to them.
It may seem that these lower-level considerations involve rules: in such-and-such a situation, one should act in such-and-such a way Annas , ; Mitsis However, it is not clear whether Seneca indeed envisages such rules. As students of virtue, we will benefit from thinking our way through a variety of situations that one might encounter in life, contemplating how the different features of these situations matter to appropriate action, and so developing a sharpened sense of the particular value of the various things that do have value or disvalue for a human being.
Such almost proverbial sayings, however, do not appear to be rules. As Seneca emphasizes in Letter If one needs advice, one is not asking to be told the correct rule to cover the situation; one is asking how to balance various considerations. Although the Stoics are, with respect to the good, most famous for the claim that only virtue is good, they define the good as benefit. Seneca agrees with the early Stoic view that the good benefits. As we have seen, Seneca thinks that both public life and philosophy are good forms of life, if conducted right, precisely because both are of benefit to others.
Her gait, her silent persistence, and the expression of her eyes, benefit. Just as some medication works merely through its smell, virtue has its good effects even from a distance On Peace of Mind 4. Seneca devotes an entire treatise to the question of how one should benefit others, and how one should receive benefits, On Benefits or: On Favors , lat. De beneficiis. On Benefits is the longest extant Senecan treatise on one specific ethical topic. Though the treatise is firmly situated in the Roman social context, its detailed analysis and richness of examples make it more than an historical document.
Seneca discusses good deeds and badly performed favors, graceful and ungraceful receiving, the joy or burden of returning favors, as well as gratitude and envy. This mix makes for a rather difficult text. It is no surprise, then, that there used to be almost no helpful literature. This state, however, is ameliorated by recent translations with philosophical introductions, by John Cooper and J.
Asmis, S. Bartsch and M. What, then, are benefits or favors as Seneca uses the term? Roughly speaking, one can think of beneficia as any kind of help a person might offer to another person qua member of a group, such that this strengthens the cohesion of the group and affirms or creates social bonds.
Benefits are given largely between those who do not belong to the same household. They thus differ from the responsibilities that attach to the roles of son or wife and from the services that slaves or employees are expected to perform 3. What parents do for their children, however, counts as benefit and not as role-specific responsibilities. Sons are returning what they owe, thus fulfilling the obligations that attach to their role.
But it is important to Seneca that sons can also genuinely benefit their parents 3. Moreover, Seneca spends much of Book 3 arguing that slaves can benefit their masters, namely when they do more than they are compelled to do. Seneca thinks that, given how hateful compulsion is for anyone, benefits conferred by slaves reflect an admirable ability to overcome resentment for being in the position they are in 3.
Lending as opposed to giving money is not a beneficium. If money or wealth is involved in a favor, it must be freely given. Indeed, if one does not want to stand in the kind of social relationship that the giving and receiving of benefits creates, one can accept money only as a loan. If, say, a person whom you did not want in your life were to free you from captivity through paying the ransom, you might accept this, but you should quickly raise the money to repay her.
That way, no bond is established 2. The distinction between lending and giving runs through the treatise as a whole. It connects to two further ideas. First, that the right attitudes of giving, receiving, and returning a benefit involve freedom 1. The addressee of On benefits is called Liberalis, a name that drives home a point that Seneca wants to emphasize. For something to count as a benefit it must not be given slowly, grudgingly, or in some other reluctant way; it must be given freely.
To be rightly received, the good deed should not be perceived by the recipient as a burden; it must be accepted freely. Indeed, the kind of emotion that reflects the appropriate attitudes on both parts is joy. Anything else would be suggestive of hesitations, concerns about undesired ties, and so on. Second, the distinction between lending and giving is reflected in a distinction between justice and beneficence 3.
Justice appears inferior to Seneca insofar as, in that sphere, we are putting faith in seals rather than souls 3. It is not the transfer of an object, or the return of a favor, that ultimately counts. Strictly speaking, a favor consists in the relevant state of mind of the giver that he wants to benefit someone and similarly in the grateful state of mind of the receiver. What we might call the intention to benefit, and the intention to gratefully repay the favor are the relevant actions of giving and receiving correctly.
As some scholars put it, it is the act of willing which counts as a correct action Inwood, ; cf. These arguments reflect core intuitions of Stoic ethics. Scholars traditionally judge Book 4 to be the part of the treatise that addresses more abstract philosophical questions, thus aiming to integrate a discussion about the norms pertaining to a historical practice in Rome with Stoic tenets in ethics.
However, this assessment is best seen as making a comparative judgment. There is more explicit Stoic theory in Book 4 than in the other books. Seneca discusses the benefits conveyed by God, drawing on Stoic theology and philosophy of nature see 5.
Otherwise, one might argue that Book 4 is not all that different from the rest of the treatise. Indeed, one might even say that it is in considerable tension with central intuitions of earlier Stoic ethics. For the Stoics, the good and the advantageous really are one and the same. Moreover, Book 4 does not, as one might expect, address the subtleties of the Stoic conception of the good, which would be a way of pushing the discussion to a more theoretical level.
The claim that what matters are intentions and attitudes was already established in ways that are relatively independent of Stoic premises about the good: by distinguishing benefits from obligations; by pointing to the dangers of burdening others with expectations they shall not be able to meet; by elaborating on the fact that there must be a way of repaying even for those who are without material means; and so on.
Seneca addresses in rather concrete ways the problems that are likely to arise in a society that is held together by the exchange of favors. As a result of imperfect giving, recipients easily become dependents and feel enslaved by their donors. For example, he thinks that the negative aspects of how others conduct themselves towards us shall stick more firmly in our minds than the positive aspects 1.
To give well involves recognition of such facts. Often, Seneca observes, we are evasive and assist only grudgingly. Assuming that Seneca is right, and that it is difficult to be good at helping, the focus of an ethical discussion about helping should not be in the first instance on how much help should be given as it often is today. Rather, it should be on how one achieves something rare and difficult, namely to help in such a way that the recipient does not end up being worse off for having been helped.
Indeed, Kant and Seneca agree on the following point though of course much of the background reasoning differs : good giving may even require leaving the recipient of help in the dark, because otherwise the negative effects the social positioning of someone as recipient and ultimately dependent can outweigh the benefit 2.
And yet, he thinks that bad giving is prior to and often directly responsible for bad receiving or lack of repaying; Book 1 and Book 2 both begin with this idea. In Letter , Seneca explains how we arrive at the notion of the good. This question is a much-discussed topic in Stoic ethics.
Once a human being has reason in this minimal sense, she can improve and eventually perfect her rationality. As part of this process she comes to acquire the concept of the good. The transitional moment in which a human being finally and fully recognizes that only virtue consistency is good is momentous: this is the moment in which a fool becomes a wise person Cicero, De fin. At that point, a human being acquires what we might call the scientific concept of the good.
But does it not seem that we have a notion of the good before, eventually, turning into wise people, if we do? We here must distinguish two notions. First, human beings have a preconception of the good—we call things good before understanding any of the truths of Stoic philosophy. But second, we might, as progressors, also come to see the point of the Stoic claim that only virtue is good, without yet being fully able to consistently appreciate its truth in our lives.
As we have seen, it is this condition of the progressor that Seneca has in mind as the objective he hopes to achieve in many of his writings. Letter seems to contribute to Stoic thought about the acquisition of the concept of the good in precisely this fashion. Unlike Cicero, Seneca does not discuss the transitional moment in which an agent becomes wise. Rather, he discusses how we come to understand what the Stoics are talking about when they say that only virtue is good supposing that neither we nor those we live with are virtuous.
When reading about great deeds, we magnify the virtuous features of the agents, and minimize their negative features Inwood, ; Hadot replies to Inwood. By these and similar cognitive operations, we arrive at an understanding of what virtue would actually be. Two recent publications argue forcefully for a revised order to the books: 3, 4a, 4b, 5, 6, 7, 1 and 2. What are we to think of long discussions about clouds, rain, lights in the sky, lightning and thunder, wind, comets, and earthquakes, combined with detailed treatments of terrestrial waters and, specifically, the Nile?
Why does Seneca devote so much time to these phenomena? Scholars read the Natural Questions against the background of the meteorological tradition, a long-standing genre. Seneca, it is argued, engages in a project that is rather well established Graver , 45 and Different contributions to this genre share a common goal. The rational explanation of natural phenomena will change the way we live in the world.
To take a simple example: a person who understands the workings of thunder and lightning is not going to think that Zeus is sending her the message that he is angry. As Graver points out, at the time when Seneca writes the Natural Questions , this kind of concern is most prominently associated with Epicurean philosophy , Epicurean physics is in the business of fighting superstition and fear. The person who thinks that Zeus is speaking to her through the weather is in turmoil; the person who understands how the elements interact can live a more rational and better life.
Now, a Stoic philosopher writing on these matters faces a challenge. Epicureans argue that God does not concern himself with the particulars of human life to the extent of signaling to us that a certain action of ours did not meet his approval. The Stoic God, however, is caring, benevolent, and concerned with the details of human life.
Thus, the fear that easily attaches to meteorological phenomena must be fought with nothing but the detail of physical analysis. The argument that God would not care to send us signs is unavailable: the Stoic God, and Seneca agrees on this, is in principle such as to send us signs, which is why divination counts as a science cf.
The study of clouds or thunderstorms is interesting because we want to understand how clouds or thunderstorms arise—but more than that, it must be salutary 2. Hadot, , — Seneca pursues a long-standing concern with making nature less scary, thus approaching meteorology partly from an ethical perspective. Moreover, the Natural Questions contain a number of discussions of human beings who act in what Seneca sees as particularly sordid and depraved ways.
These passages are often described as digressions. Another reading, put forward by Williams , Chapter 2 , characterizes the Natural Questions as going beyond the meteorological tradition precisely because the text is in this particular way colorful, imaginative, and dramatic.
Only when we view our local lives from the perspective of the stars do we come to see the insignificance of riches, borders, and so on NQ 1. We need the study of nature in order to reach the kind of distance from our everyday concerns that eventually frees us from unreasonable concern for them.
And we investigate nature as something that we are a part of. In agreement with early Stoic thought about the universe as a large living being with parts, Seneca thinks that we are rightly motivated to study nature—nature is the large entity of which we are parts. We might note that Seneca contrasts the study of nature with the study of history; for him, it is the seemingly more theoretical field of physics that has greater practical value.
It is better to praise the gods than to praise the conquests of Philip or Alexander NQ 3. Further, the study of nature is particularly valuable because it is the study of what should happen quid faciendum sit , as opposed to the study of what in fact did happen quid factum NQ 3.
The Stoics are considered ancestors of the natural law tradition. Early Stoic thought about the law is partly rooted in the theory of appropriate action, and partly in a physical account of how reason—Zeus—pervades the world. It is this physical notion of the law that is most prominent in Seneca.
In his discussion of earthquakes and human fear, Seneca points out that we err by assuming that in some places, there is no danger of earthquakes; all places are subject to the same law lex 6. In another context, Seneca points out that the natural laws iura govern events under the earth as much as above 3. The world is constituted so that everything that is going to happen, including the conflagration of the world when it comes to an end, is from the very beginning part of it.
Natural events like earthquakes, and in fact all events, help nature go through with the natural statutes naturae constituta 3. Since nature or Zeus decided in the beginning what was going to happen, everything is easy for nature 3. The study of nature aims at accepting facts of nature, first and foremost the fact that human beings are mortal. Seneca refers to the necessity of death as a natural law NQ 6. It is the task of science to understand why death need not be feared, that the philosophical life is particularly indispensable because it prepares us for death, and that the kinds of death that we are prone to fear particularly, such as death through an earthquake, are really not much different from more usual kinds of death.
To be free according to the law of nature is to be prepared to die any minute 3. That we are all equals in death reflects the justice of nature 6. Book 3 of the Natural Questions is entitled On the waters of the earth and begins with reflections on the enormous time which the task of natural philosophy may consume; on time that has been wasted with worldly concerns; and the claim that it can be regained if we make diligent use of the present.
The fact that human life is finite is thus present from the very first lines of the book. Just as a human foetus already contains the seed of its death, the beginnings of the world contain its end 3. It is precisely for this reason that things are easy for nature. Its death does not, as it were, come as a surprise—nature is well-prepared. Seneca points to examples: Look at the way the waves roll onto the beaches; the oceans are trained in how to flood the earth 3.
In Letter To use the present well is to be aware of this completeness. More days, and months, and years, will or at least may make up our lives. But we should not think of them as stretching out into the future; rather, they are concentric circles surrounding the day which, right now, is present. And since even this very day stretches out, from its beginning to its end, we can appreciate it as containing everything—there can be more such days, but they will be more of the same.
Thus, on every such day, if it is lived well, we can be fully prepared to die. The study of nature—of the heavens—eventually leads to knowledge of God or at least, to the beginnings of such an understanding; NQ 1. Seneca characterizes God in a number of ways: i God is everything one sees and everything one does not see. Nothing greater than his magnitude is conceivable magnitudo […] qua nihil maius cogitari potest ; he alone is everything—he keeps together his work from the inside and the outside NQ 1.
God is a part of the world pars mundi ; NQ 7. At the same time, he emphasizes that it is in thought that we have to see God—he flees human eyes. The study of God is thus not the study of a visible entity 7. Much of Book 4 of On Benefits is devoted to the fact that God is beneficial 4. Indeed, God is the ultimate source of benefits; as cause of all causes, God is also the cause of everything that is good for us, and that includes the sun, the seasons, and so on.
This connects to the point that God is referred to by many names. Seneca envisages the objection that these gifts do not come from God, but from nature; but whoever makes this objection fails to understand that nature is but another name for God 4. Earlier Stoic theology is partly developed in conversation with and contradistinction from Epicurean theology.
The central point of contention in this debate is whether God concerns himself with us, whether he is caring in the sense of attending to the details of how our lives are going. Seneca clearly shares the orthodox Stoic view that God is supremely caring. For example, Seneca describes the way in which God made the world as if he had built a wonderfully stable and beautiful house to present to us as a gift 4. In response to the question of how we know that there are gods, the earlier Stoics argued that every human being has a preconception of God.
Seneca offers a version of this. People would be addressing deities who are deaf 4. The fact that people everywhere seem to turn to God in prayer indicates for Seneca that there must be a caring God. Seneca further agrees with earlier Stoic physics in taking divination seriously. In his discussions of thunder and lightning in the Natural Questions , Seneca explains that, while every natural event is a sign , we should not think of God busying himself with sending us, as it were, a sign at every particular occasion.
Rather, we should explain natural events by seeking out their natural causes, and at the same time understand that the order of things as a whole is established by God. Since there is this order, divination is possible NQ 2. Fate is the necessity of all events and actions, which no power can disrupt 2.
Prayer cannot change fate; but since the gods have left some things unresolved, prayer can be effective 2. We are a part of God ; to perfect our reason is to achieve the perfect rationality of divinity. In agreement with earlier Stoics, Seneca thinks that the virtuous man is an equal to the gods Letter Ultimately, he is concerned with how we can perfect our soul, and he pursues this question in a variety of ways—by discussing virtue, the soul, nature, and theology.
Life and Works 2. Philosophical Psychology 3. Virtue 4. Physics and Theology 5. Life and Works Lucius Annaeus Seneca c. Bibliography Primary Literature Braund, S. Cooper, J. Graver, M. Bartsch, and M. Nussbaum eds. Griffin, M. Hine, H. Inwood, B. Kaster, R. Ker, J. Reynolds L. Reynolds, L. Williams, G. Secondary literature Annas, J. Asmis, E. Bartsch and D. Wray eds. Barnes, J. Bartsch, S. Boys-Stones, G. Long ed.
Busch, A. Dihle, A. Donini, P. Edwards, C. Heil eds.
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