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Seneca – arguing the worse as the better case

December 27, 2014

Yet think how much superfluous and unpractical matter the philosophers contain! Of their own accord they also have descended to establishing nice divisions of syllables, to determining the true meanings of conjunctions and prepositions; they have become envious of the philologists, envious of the mathematicians. They have taken over into their own art the superfluities of these other arts; the result is that they know more about careful speaking than about careful living. Let me tell you what evils are due to over-nice exactness, and what an enemy it is to truth! Protagoras declares that one can take either side on any question and debate it with equal success—even on this very question, whether every object can be debated from either point of view!

(from Epistolae Morales ad Lucilium [64 CE], translated by Robin Campbell)

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