The Consolation Of The Natural World

Quintus Curtius

Seneca’s Natural Questions (Quaestiones Naturales) is an oddity of philosophical literature.  It does not fit into any neatly defined category, and stands nearly alone in its blend of science and speculative philosophy.  Perhaps “science” is not quite the correct word.  Our philosopher makes no experiments, and attempts no generalized scientific conclusions.  He is more concerned with describing and classifying the bewildering variety of natural phenomena that was seen and experienced by man, than in using experimentation to promote the advancement of learning.  The Romans were not scientists.

He presents us with a survey of the natural phenomena in earth and sky.  By analogy he tries to demonstrate which theories of his day are wrong, and which are not.

But Seneca is clear on his purpose:  the reason to study Nature is for our moral improvement.  His primary concern is to moralize.  What a marvelous idea!  And what scientist…

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