The Five Causes of Our Ruin

Seneca, Moral Epistle 105.2-4

“Think about the kinds of things that cause people to destroy each other. You will see hope, envy, hatred, fear, and contempt. Contempt is the least serious of these to such a degree that many have defaulted to it as a remedy for the others. When someone feels contempt, they do cause harm, but then move on. No one harms someone continually or quite carefully because of contempt. In battle, the fallen soldier is passed by and the fight is carried on by someone standing.

You will avoid the hope of wicked people if you possess nothing capable of inspiring someone else’s desire, if you possess nothing outstanding. People desire even small things if they are notable or rare.

You will avoid envy if you don’t parade yourself around in public, if you don’t make a big deal about your good things, if you know how to laugh in private. Hatred comes either from causing some offense–which you will avoid by not harming anyone–or it has no explanation. Common sense will make you safe from this. Still, it has been dangerous for many–there are those who have suffered hatred but have no enemy.

Moderate wealth and a kind character will prevent you from being feared. People should know that you are someone they can offend without danger and that making amends would be easy and certain. It is, indeed, as problematic to be feared at home as outside, by enslaved people as by the free. Every person has enough ability to harm you. This matters too: who ever is feared, fears as well. No one who inspires fear can feel safe.”

Considera, quae sint, quae hominem in perniciem hominis instigent: invenies spem, invidiam, odium, metum, contemptum. Ex omnibus istis adeo levissimum est contemptus, ut multi in illo remedii causa delituerint. Quem quis contemnit, violat sine dubio, sed transit; nemo homini contempto pertinaciter, nemo diligenter nocet. Etiam in acie iacens praeteritur, cum stante pugnatur. Spem inproborum vitabis, si nihil habueris, quod cupiditatem alienam et inprobam inritet, si nihil insigne possederis. Concupiscuntur enim etiam parva, si notabilia sunt, si rara.

Invidiam effugies, si te non ingesseris oculis, si bona tua non iactaveris, si scieris in sinu gaudere. odium aut est ex offensa: hoc vitabis neminem lacessendo; aut gratuitum: a quo te sensus communis tuebitur. Fuit hoc multis periculosum; quidam odium habuerunt nec inimicum  Illud, ne timearis, praestabit tibi et fortunae mediocritas et ingenii lenitas; eum esse te homines sciant, quem offendere sine periculo possint; reconciliatio tua et facilis sit et certa. Timeri autem tam domi molestum est quam foris, tam a servis quam a liberis. Nulli non ad nocendum satis virium est. Adice nunc, quod qui timetur, timet; nemo potuit terribilis esse secure.

Picture of Sesame Street's The Count saying in Latin "quae hominem in perniciem hominis instigent" which means "consider the things that make people do each other harm"

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