Nina G Hernandez
RHE 330D
Professor Jay Voss
April 14 th , 2017
Seneca' s contribution to Modern T imes
Montaigne and Hume are both impor tant philosophers of their time. They belonged in different eras, both the French Renaissance and the British Enlight en ment had a heavy influence in Europe's ideologies . The Renaissance was considered the rebirth of humanism whereas the E nlightenment claimed scientific certainty. As a philosopher, Hume approached the themes of politics, morality , and literacy. Montaigne dedicated most of his writings t o understanding humanism and exploring transcendental topics, however, he was interested in politics and religious beliefs as well. You might think then, how do these two writers, almost 200 years apart, worked under the influence of Seneca's essays? I will look for these influences in Montaigne's On fear and Hume 's Of the Delicacy of Taste and Passion , in order to find similitudes and excerpts where there is a clear and noticeable influence by the stoic philosopher Seneca . I t is my understanding that modern genre conventions during these eras were heavily influenced by ancient philosophers. Modern writers recycle the old to transform it and interpret it in their own way.
Seneca, born in Spain 4 BCE, was a roman philosopher and professor. Seneca wrote his many thoughts on life and society several essays. Seneca's profession of teacher and mentor encouraged him to indoctrinate students with what he thought of as the truth instead of allowing them to come to that conclusion on their own. This system left little to no space for questioning. As a matter of fact, one could even claim that Seneca inst a lled in the readers' minds solutions to problems they might have never reflected on before. Seneca's often extensive stream of thought could even be considered as self-indulging, maybe even looking for recognition and fame. However, Seneca's work regarding stoicism and other aspects of humanism remained extremely important throughout the years. It is hard, however, to understand the exten t in which philosophers back then thought about the future of his works. It is unlikely that they wrote to gain future fame or recognition.
Montaigne , on the other hand, considered the possible transcendence of his work as he published everything in French , the global language, and not Latin. He also claimed that he bounded his books so could share them with his friends and family, however, fame does not seem to encourage Montaigne's writings. He strived to find a further meaning, perhaps of the soul. Montaigne belonged to the early fifteen hundreds . He belonged to the Renaissance period , that would adopt a humanistic philosophy into its literature. This period also had a Greco-Roman in fluence , as it was often found in literature pieces of the time. Montaigne belonged to a privileged family that provided him with an extensive education where he excelled as a student. His extensive knowledge of the Latin language gave him an advantage in understanding important literary works. Montaigne later dedicated his life to transmitting his thought on paper , sometimes even to escape melancholy .
Montaigne's book of essays explores many topics. He, however, surprises the reader with a very modern claim as he does not proclaim himself as an expert in any of the topics discussed unlike many ancient philosophers , but refers back to ancient philosophers , for example, In Defense of Seneca and Plutarch , where he gives Jean Bodin , the author of the Method for studying history, advice on how to do historical interpretation based on these figures. This means that Montaigne considered that the works of Seneca had value enough for them to be studied and analyzed. We can see the concern of portraying humanism as Montaigne critic ally analyses Seneca's reasons. H e even goes as far as calling him, "pleasure- seeker" hinting at the idea that he was too involved in politics to be a true philosopher. This is similar to the idea of the "Renaissance Man", a well - cultured man, talented in many areas might actually master none .
[M] akes him mean, given to ursury, ambitious,cowardly,pleasur e -seeking and a counterfeit philosopher under f