There is much debate over the right path to happiness in life dating back to early civilization in the Roman Empire. Majority of people believe that happiness can only be achieved by material things such as; wealth, political power, fancy cars and so forth, whereas others believe that striving for pleasure and success ultimately yields happiness. Liberal education tends to take a conceptual approach to teaching the importance of virtues, whereas vocational studies tend to have a more practical approach. In “On Liberal and Vocational Studies,” Roman philosopher Seneca gives his own view of happiness and the importance of liberal studies in virtuous character of men. As a champion for living a virtuous life as opposed to materialism, Seneca’s remarks explain his arguments for virtue. Essentially, Seneca argues that men should not place emphasis on the things of this world arguing that happiness is not achieved by the possessions in one’s life, but by the way one lives their life.
Certainly the most fundamental rejection to Seneca’s take on happiness may have to do with man’s daily desires and urges in life. Seneca suggests that men should and can have fruitful lives without fulfillment of their urges as long as they are virtuous. But it is safe to say that having desires is simply the nature of man and therefore man’s desires are meant to be satisfied. Seneca seems to suggest that a man without desires, has no strife and therefore is a virtuous man which means that a man with no desires is ultimately a happy man. Seneca believes that liberal arts in general contribute greatly to the equipment of life, but have nothing to do with virtue arguing that the importance of a liberal arts education is ...
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...a conceptual approach to life which all men to adhere to.
Seneca challenges Land owners to be virtuous and not place their focus on the importance of their material (Land) possession in this world, “Who owned the land before your grandfather? You did not enter into this land as an owner but as a tenant.” Seneca goes on to advise men to content with the land they have and learn to share with their brother. This blends in with Seneca’s original stance on virtue and the argument that one must make best of life with the materials that one has been given.
Many stoic philosophers have taken a different approach to virtue and happiness. Homer and Epicurus for instance argue that happiness through desires and virtue are co-dependent suggesting that men with no desires cannot live happy lives. This slightly counters Seneca’s belief that happiness is a result of virtue.
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