Roman Philosophers: Seneca

Seneca was one of the most famous Roman philosophers and belonged to the Stoic school, which would leave a mark on his pedagogy.

SENECA, The Roman ‘pedagogue’

Seneca’s pedagogy is not primarily concerned with the child. The Greek word paidagogos means child conductor, and originally referred to the slave who took the child to school and from there back home. Although he also had the task of accustoming the child to good manners on the road and at home. However, in the Hellenistic period, when interest in the personality of the child became increasingly lively, the reputation of the pedagogue also increased. We now understand that the word pedagogue was also used more figuratively in Leidsman’s sense. Seneca is really just a nickname, as every Roman had one; the philosopher’s full name was Lucius Annaeus Seneca.

Seneca’s psychology

In Senecas’ view, the body only has meaning as an enclosure, as an inn for the soul. The body that shelters and holds the soul together is tossed to and fro; in this regard, executions, assassinations and diseases have free rein. However, the soul itself is inviolable and eternal; one cannot get their hands on it. What particularly interests Seneca is the place that reason occupies in the soul. His view is namely dualistic, as in Plato, but unlike his predecessors, he distinguishes a reasonable and an unreasonable element in the soul, and says of the latter: the unreasonable part of the soul has two parts: the one impetuous , addicted to effect, not in control of itself, based on emotional disorders, the other low to the ground, weak, given over to self-indulgence.

According to Seneca, there is a certain connection between affect and vice. Diseases are the ingrained, persistent vices, like avarice and ambition; they keep the soul all too captive in narrow chains and their disastrous influence has gradually become permanent. Strictly speaking, then, one must nip in the bud every emotion, love as well as hate, joy as well as sadness, hope as well as fear. However, this should not be taken too rigorously. Seneca also considers sobriety and modesty of mind as an absolute condition for self-perfection

General pedagogical standards

According to Seneca, education and upbringing cannot be separated; all education must be ethically oriented, and in practice this is almost lacking. It is true that he recognizes that versatility in teaching is inevitable; Man has been given a mobile and restless spirit, which finds no permanent support anywhere, but searches here and there and sends its thoughts to everything that is known and unknown to it, wandering, impatient and most pleased with what is new to it. But he summarizes his criticism of the educational system of the time in the famous adage that we do not learn for life, but for the school. an intellectualistic view that makes it understandable that all education must focus on the question of what is morality?

Although the goal that the Stoic pedagogue sets for himself is, in his estimation, so lofty and so all-encompassing that it deserves to be pursued with all the effort, he is aware that the bow cannot always be drawn. . The work, says Seneca, must occupy the children so much that they do not become tired…; games will also be useful, for pleasure in moderation relaxes and calms the minds.

But the point in moderation is always emphasized, because nothing makes them more short-tempered than a weekly and pampering upbringing; So it is that the more one indulges an only son , the more freedom one allows to his pupil, the more their character becomes corrupted. Therefore, in general, the father’s supervision is more effective than that of the mother: Don’t you see how fathers show their love differently than mothers? Fathers want their children to be excited to go to work early in the morning; Even during the holidays they do not tolerate running out of energy; they make them sweat and sometimes cry.

Mothers hold them nurturingly on their laps and want to keep them in a safe corner , because they should not look sad, especially not cry, and especially not make a lot of effort. One should not flatter the youth: Let the boy hear the truth! Let him also be afraid from time to time, and always be polite: he should stand up for the elderly. Let him not get anything done by getting angry. Rather offer him when he is calm, which you refused him when he was crying. Of course, individual dispositions, everyone’s temperament, must be taken into account. Some people, to whom fate has assigned an excellent talent, come to understand what they want to learn.

Now it is not the case that Seneca expects all salvation from intentional education alone. He considers the question of who the child interacts with to be perhaps even more important . It is extremely important for the child to have a good example in which he finds his ideal. This does not necessarily have to be the teacher; father and mother are also eligible. Several of these thoughts are found in later educationalists; like Montaigne, Loeke, Rousseau. As far as these historical figures are concerned, another special factor plays a role. As a Stoic, Seneca is an advocate of cosmopolitanism,
but he is nevertheless interested in the salvation of the state and considers patriotism a virtue.

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