Seneca, Moral Epistles 121.1-2
“I think you’re going to sue me when I share today’s little question with you, one we’ve been clinging to for long enough. You will cry out again, “what’s this got to do with character traits?” Shout all you want, but let me set you against others you can sue too like Posidonius and Archidemus–those guys will take a trial.
But then I will tell you that whatever pertains to character does not actually make characters good. People need one thing for nourishment, one thing for exercising, another for dressing, another for learning, and another for pleasure. Everything matters to people, but everything doesn’t make us better. Different things change your character in different ways. Some things correct us and straighten us out; others examine their nature and origin.
When I search for why nature created humans and put us above the other animals, do you imagine that I have left the question of character behind? That’s wrong. How would you truly know how we should act if you don’t know what’s best for humans, if you don’t examine our nature?”
Litigabis, ego video, cum tibi hodiernam quaestiunculam, in qua satis diu haesimus, exposuero. Iterum enim exclamabis: “hoc quid ad mores?” Sed exclama, dum tibi primum alios opponam, cum quibus litiges, Posidonium et Archidemum; hi iudicium accipient. Deinde dicam: non quicquid morale est, mores bonos facit. Aliud ad hominem alendum pertinet, aliud ad exercendum, aliud ad vestiendum, aliud ad docendum, aliud ad delectandum. Omnia tamen ad hominem pertinent, etiam si non omnia meliorem eum faciunt. Mores alia aliter attingunt: quaedam illos corrigunt et ordinant, quaedam naturam eorum et originem scrutantur. Cum quaero, quare hominem natura produxerit, quare praetulerit animalibus ceteris, longe me iudicas mores reliquisse? Falsum est. Quomodo enim scies, qui habendi sint, nisi quid homini sit optimum, inveneris, nisi naturam eius inspexeris?