Can philosophy help human beings in overcoming the conflicts that cause us to suffer so much pain? Anger is one such emotion in public and private lives, where it largely takes the form of the desire to repay past suffering caused by others. The task for a therapeutic philosophy would be to help us deal with anger.
What advice do Stoics like Seneca offer us? How can a Stoic therapeutic philosophy help us?
Sencea regarded anger as a form of madness. He describes this emotion as follows. He says that it is:
"...wholly violent and has its being in an onrush of resentment, raging with a most inhuman lust for weapons, blood, and punishment, giving no thought to itself if only it can hurt another, hurling itself upon the very point of the dagger, and eager for revenge though it may drag down the avenger along with it....it is equally devoid of self-control, forgetful of decency, unmindful of ties, persistent and diligent in whatever it begins, closed to reason and counsel, excited by trifling causes, unfit to discern the right and true-the very counterpart of a ruin that is shattered in pieces where it overwhelms."
Seneca argues against this approach. Anger is more properly viewed as an enemy of a life based on reason. He says that:
".. ..The enemy, I repeat, must be stopped at the very frontier; for if he has passed it, and advanced within the city-gates, he will not respect any bounds set by his captives."
Seneca says that "there is nothing useful in anger, nor does it kindle the mind to warlike deeds; for virtue, being self-sufficient, never needs the help of vice.
Secondly, reason will never call to its help blind and violent impulses over which it will itself have no control, which it can never crush save by setting against them equally powerful and similar impulses, as fear against anger, anger against sloth, greed against fear.
Seneca, then deals with an objection that states that against the enemy anger is necessary. Anger, in other words is necessary for politics and warfare. Seneca responds:
"...what use is anger when the same end may be accomplished by reason? Anger is not expedient even in battle or in war; for it is prone to rashness, and while it seeks to bring about danger, does not guard against it."