Inebriation and philosophical enthusiasm in Seneca's De Tranquillitate Animi

Eva Anagnostou-Laoutides, Bart van Wassenhove

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Abstract

The paper revisits Seneca’s endorsement of wine-drinking as a remedy for mental anxiety in De Tranquilitate Animi (17.4-12). Although this locus has been often interpreted as Seneca’s endorsement of Platonic enthusiasm, we argue that Seneca does not deviate from the Stoic rejection of drunkenness (e.g. Ep. 83.9). In fact, a closer reading of the relevant Platonic texts reveals that Plato opposed physical drunkenness as much as the Stoics did. According to Plato, especially in Alcibiades’ praise of Socrates in the Symposium (220a), the philosopher may appear drunk but can never be drunk. In his footsteps, Seneca, appreciates actual wine as a means of inducing or maintaining a higher state of consciousness, a state of hyper-reality that is crucial for achieving philosophical breakthroughs. Seneca’s De Otio offers additional evidence towards this understanding of the role of wine in achieving philosophical enthusiasm.
Original languageEnglish
JournalScripta Classica Israelica
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2020

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Keywords

  • Seneca
  • inebriation
  • mania

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