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Seneca’s Views on Anger Arguments of Aristotle

Seneca’s Definition of Anger

Anger is the desire to repay injury (Seneca and Reinhardt 47). The harm can be genuine or imagined. In addition, it can be mental or physical. Generally, it is anything seen by an individual as an offence. Seneca acknowledges Aristotle’s explanation and concurs that it defers slightly from his own.

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However, he still disagrees with the philosopher. That is because of the philosopher’s view that anger should be regulated, rather than eradicated totally from the soul. For Seneca, this emotion is a mental sin. He views it as something that should be avoided (Seneca Moral and Political Essays 35). Anger can be divided into four major phases. They include realization and indignation. The others are condemnation and retribution.

Sources of Anger According to Seneca

There are both external and internal causes of this emotion.

External sources

According to Seneca, external elements are not the real sources of anger. He believes these causes may stimulate rage. However, they are by no means to blame for it. The real causes are found inside the person’s heart. Wisdom should be used to identify the things that arouse anger (Seneca Moral and Political Essays 59).

Only the real values in life are merits of the heart. External things are delusions. They also have very little worth. For that reason, anyone angered by external factors is being aroused to fury by minor things that are given too much value.

Internal sources

Seneca highlights two internal causes of anger. They are arrogance and ignorance. The latter is failure to see things according to their true worth. On the other hand, the former is the condition where the mind feels that the dignity of the individual has been damaged (Seneca and Reinhardt 89). The reason is that the ‘self’ may have been treated unfairly. Arrogance over-estimates people’s self worth in the larger realm of humanity.

Seneca’s Advice on how to Avoid Anger

People should not to believe the worst about others and their motivations. At times, what people plan for turns out to be different from what they expected (Seneca and Reinhardt 53). That does not mean acts of injustice were done towards them. In some cases, the people who become victims of anger could have been the ones to offer assistance. Seneca encourages people not to be overly sensitive.

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Individuals should not allow themselves to be infuriated by little things (Seneca and Reinhardt 76). By allowing such anger, they transform a small disruption into a devastating state of agitation. Seneca also emphasizes that one’s behavior can cause anger to others. People must agree to go easy on others to ensure there is calmness in the society. Other remedies for managing anger as stated by Seneca include educating children, avoiding extreme conditions, and indulging in pleasures.

Aristotelian’s View on Anger

According to Aristotle, anger can be viewed as a strong emotional reaction (Gillette 33). It is linked to an individual’s psychological understanding of being threatened or violated. People react differently when they are angered. For example, some react through vengeance. The reaction is usually associated with a number of negative attributes. However, Aristotle argues that anger can be utilized effectively by the individual to achieve beneficial objectives. The goal can be achieved by evading dangerous situations.

In addition, the emotional situation has a number of effects on the individual’s physical state (Ross 43). They include increased heart beat and elevated levels of adrenaline. Today, psychologists view anger as a form of natural and mature emotion. They refer to it as a state experienced by all humans at different times. They also view it as an important element for survival.

According to Aristotle, anger is a form of craving to punish wrong doing. It is a natural emotional reaction towards what people care most about (Harte et al. 89). The philosopher also considers this emotion as a suitable response among members of the human race. The reason is because the reaction shows that people care about the things that make them annoyed.

Generally, Aristotle’s argument claims that individuals will be mere robots, as opposed to being human beings, if they never get irritated when violated. In addition, individuals will be incapable of attachment towards what they love or care about. Aristotle also believes that the level of anger should be governed by the situation at hand. That is because expressing anger that is less or more than what the violation calls for is a failure with regards to moral perceptions.

Seneca’s Objections to Aristotelian Views on Anger

Seneca disagrees with most of Aristotle’s assertions that anger is a form of emotion among humans. For example, the scholar criticizes Aristotle’s argument on how persons react to this form of emotion. According to Seneca, an individual can be triggered to act by virtue and duty only. What this means is that reason, rather than passion, informs the right reaction towards a wrongful act (Seneca and Reinhardt 72). In addition, Seneca views anger as an act that portrays hatred and violence towards others. He does not agree with Aristotle’s argument that it is an act initiated by a violation of the things that the individual cares about.

Seneca sees anger as one of the most destructive forms of emotion. He also describes it as a plague or a brief spell of insanity, which has led to losses in human society. For example, anger is the reason why people are being killed and sued every day. In addition, rage is one of the reasons why cities and nations are being destroyed (Seneca Anger, Mercy, Revenge 85).

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Seneca stresses that anger is a waste of time and can destroy us individually. He is of the view that humans may remain angry forever. However, they can avoid this by controlling their fury. He rejects Aristotle’s claim that anger has its uses and acts as a source of motivation to individuals. He agrees that at times, it is useful. However, individuals should not condone anger. On the contrary, they should try to avoid it. According to Seneca’s arguments, he totally disagrees with Aristotle that anger is a suitable response for our humanity (Bartsch and Wray 23).

Seneca’s Objection to Aristotelian View on Punishment

Both Aristotle and Seneca believe in punishment for wrong doing. However, Seneca stresses more on the point that we should remain calm as we exercise punishment. The reason is because when an individual averts anger, they are likely to avoid hurting other people around them. Seneca suggests that those who wrong us should be corrected.

That should be done by reprimand and also force. In addition, it can be gentle and also rough. The corrections should not be driven by anger (Staley 92). The reason is because the punishment is not meant to act as retribution for the violations committed.

Punishment should be for the wrong doers own good (Allen 52). That is to help deter them from inflicting more harm to others in the society. Seneca is of the view that punishment should not be an expression of anger (Fitch 12).

Limitations of Seneca’s Arguments in Relation to Aristotle’s Views

Seneca believes anger in a great way justifies hatred. In real sense, his argument carries a lot of weight. However, that does not wholly mean that anger is not caused by a violation to what people care about. People tend to get angered when wrong things are done to them (Staley 82).

For example, messing with one’s personal feelings can result to fury. Such anger cannot be said to have resulted from the hatred held against the person on the wrong. Hatred towards the wrong doer does not result to anger. It intensifies the fury already being experienced (Staley 45).

Seneca views punishment as inflicting harm. Punishment if done for the right reasons does not cause harm (Allen 44). It helps the wrong doers to reform and do what is expected of them. He also stresses that people should remain calm as they administer punishment. In real sense, those on the wrong may take the reprimand lightly when administered by a person in a calm state.


Everyone gets annoyed at one time or the other. However, there are some people who are always angry. Both Aristotle and Seneca show that fury leads to varying reactions among different people. As a result, individuals should try to relax and calm down when they are angry (Volk and Williams 31).

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They can do this by, among others, softening their voice and slowing their walking pace. Persons who are unable to control their rage should apologize to the people they have directed their anger to (Bartsch and Wray 59). In addition, punishment out of anger should be avoided. The reason is that such conduct may lead to actions that one may regret later in life.

Works Cited

Allen, Danielle. The World of Prometheus: The Politics of Punishing in Democratic Athens, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2000. Print.

Bartsch, Shadi, and David Wray. Seneca and the Self. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009. Print.

Fitch, John. Seneca (Oxford Readings in Classical Studies), Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. Print.

Gillette, Gertrude. Four Faces of Anger Seneca, Evagrius Ponticus, Cassian, and Augustine, Lanham: University Press of America, 2010. Print.

Harte, Verity, Michael McCabe, Robert Sharples, and Anne Sheppard. Aristotle & the Stoics Reading Plato. London: Institute of Classical Studies, University of London, 2010. Print.

Ross, David. Aristotle. 6th ed. 2004. Hoboken: Taylor & Francis Ltd. Print.

Seneca, Lucius, and Tobias Reinhardt. Dialogues and Essays. Trans. John Davie. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. Print.

Seneca, Lucius. Anger, Mercy, Revenge. Trans. Robert Kaster and Martha Nussbaum. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010. Print.

—. Moral and Political Essays. Ed. J. Procope. Trans. John Cooper. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995. Print.

Staley, Gregory. Seneca and the Idea of Tragedy, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. Print.

Volk, Katharina, and Gareth Williams. Seeing Seneca Whole: Perspectives on Philosophy, Poetry, and Politics, Leiden: Brill, 2006. Print.

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