Tag Archives: Ecclesiastes

Seneca’s Call to Live Well

Seneca (ca. 4 BC–AD 65) is my favorite thinker studied in Core Philosophy at Concordia University Irvine. Alas, he also comes at the end of the semester, and I rarely have a chance to marinate in his work for as long as I’d like. Seneca isn’t just concerned with bare concepts; he’s interested in how ideas help us cope with this complex and sometimes maddening world. He also tells students (and professors) to remember to live while they have the chance. We read selections from his Epistles on Virtue and Vice, including a letter entitled, “On the True Joy which Comes from Philosophy (XXIII).” His epistle’s closing line is memorable:

“Some men only begin to live when it is time for them to leave off living. And if this seems surprising to you, I shall add that which will surprise you still more: Some men have left off living before they have begun. Farewell.”

So, how does Seneca think we should live? Continue reading Seneca’s Call to Live Well

The Fruit and Cost of Wisdom

This is the second post of a two-part essay on wisdom and education.

Qoheleth, “the son of David, king in Jerusalem” (1:1), casts a long eye on the course of life “to know and to search out and to seek wisdom and the scheme of things” (7:25). Taking an “under the sun,” or purely human and non-heavenly, approach, Qoheleth applies his “heart to seek and search out by wisdom” the way of life (1:3, 13). In reflecting on his experience through this vantage point, Qoheleth repeatedly comes to the same conclusion: life is “vanity,” or to give the literal translation of the Hebrew word hebel, life is “vapor” (1:14). It is insubstantial, momentary, and fleeting. To “know wisdom,” then, is to know the vexation of “striving after the wind” (1:17).

Qoheleth’s major arguments for the non-existence of meaning in life “under the sun” can be summarized in five ways. Continue reading The Fruit and Cost of Wisdom