Beastly Virtues: Animal Exempla in Seneca and Epictetus

It is curious that the imperial Stoics, following a precedent of Diogenes the Cynic, employ so many wide-ranging examples of animal behavior. For example, what are we to make of the rigid dichotomy Seneca and Epictetus draw between rational and nonrational beings in relation to the diverse comparisons they make between human virtues and vices on the one hand and animal excellences and "bestial'behaviors on the other? Why are the most potent, diverse, and philosophically significant animal exempla found in Seneca and Epictetus? I argue that it is because such exempla serve a variety of protreptic purposes. While appeals to the over-arching rationality of the cosmos may provide some theoretical understanding for the place of human beings in nature, from a pedagogical and rhetorical standpoint animal exempla provide particularly effective guidance for human conduct.Cleverly deployed animal exempla help cultivate aretaic affective dispositions
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