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In his second letter to Lucilius (discussed here), Seneca encourages him to linger over the texts of “master-thinkers” and “select one [thought] to be thoroughly digested that day.” (Letter 2). We are to befriend thought rather than be merely an acquaintance of thought. Yet the question arose as to how best to determine which thoughts to befriend. How do we select our thought for the day? In Letter 3 we begin to get an answer to this question when Seneca challenges Lucilius for his use of the term “friend.” When Lucillius had a friend – “as you call him” Seneca adds – deliver a letter to Seneca, Lucilius goes on in the next sentence to warn Seneca “not to discuss with him all the matters that concern you, saying that even you yourself are not accustomed to do this.” Seneca’s conclusion: “in the same letter [you have] affirmed and denied that he is your friend.” A true friend is one with whom we share everything. As Seneca puts it, “I would have you discuss everything with a friend; but first of all discuss the man [friend; jb] himself” (ipso prius).

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