For it is our Stoic fashion to speak of all those things, which provoke cries and groans, as unimportant and beneath notice; but you and I must drop such great words, although, heaven knows, they are true. [Omittamus haec magna verba, sed, di boni, vera]--Seneca, Letter 13.
Seneca signals that he is capable of switching between two linguistic registers. The truth (Stoa) with great words. And another, more loquacious -- it's a relatively long letter at 993 words -- milder register, which is proper for dealing with psychic turmoil [torquent]. The milder form is proper for the council that Seneca dispenses to his (somewhat recalcitrant) pupil. But Seneca does not say if he will always signal the switch between the two registers.
Now, Seneca does not explain the epistemic status of the un-great register. It's clearly a more worthy register than the axiological framework that governs the values established in the market, (recall Letter 1; Letter 2) and politics (letter 3), that is, uncertain popular opinion. But the un-great register is fit to describe the consequences, which arise "from uncertainty...delivered over to guesswork and the irresponsible license of a frightened mind," and to offer many practical remedies against it, including the outlines of a rational decision theory in the face of great epistemic uncertainty. But, oddly enough, Seneca does not claim that the un-great register with its practical advice is itself true or the truth.
I was inclined to end my post here, and (for once) manage to outdo Seneca in brevity. But there is a twist in the tale of Seneca's exhorting letter: "Socrates was made great by the hemlock. Wrench from Cato's hand his sword, the vindicator of liberty, and you deprive him of the greatest share of his glory." Greatness and glory are part of the register of truth. And Seneca is clearly implying that how one dies plays an outsized share in the (proper) attainment of greatness and glory. One's life is honored by one's death.** Given what we know about Seneca's death, it is uncanny how he managed to combine features of the sages (see letters six and seven) Socrates and Cato in his own person.
But the twist is, of course, that if Socrates had managed to convince thirty one more votes he would not have been found guilty and if Caesar had lost either the battle of Pharsalia or Thapsus, Cato would not have been glorious. To put it briefly: even the best of us need some good Fortune.
*In fact, I suspect that (a) Seneca also holds (not unlike Spinoza and Deleuze), a metaphysical identity theory of truth and (b) that ultimately the truth is not linguistic according to Seneca (recall Letter 6). But this is not the place to argue it.
**To be clear, apparently one can become great in virtue of one's death, and one can attain a lot of glory by the proper death.
PS My earlier posts on Seneca can be found here at NewAPPS.