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Short Reads: “Seneca on Clemency, or Mercy”

October 10, 2023 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm MDT

Early in the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero, his teacher Seneca composed a short treatise, addressed to the emperor, on the subject of mercy or clemency. While none of us is likely ever to be the sole ruler of the civilized world, we might find analogues to some of these concerns for people in other, lesser positions of authority. In this evening’s session, we’ll examine Seneca’s account of mercy as a Stoic virtue: how it differs from vengeance, pity, and forgiveness, and how it’s closely related to the virtue of justice. And we’ll reflect on the profoundly unequal power dynamics inherent in Seneca’s theory of clemency.

About Our Short Reads

Our “Short Reads” evenings explore a focused philosophical argument or theme, by way of a short (4–6 page) paper.  During the evening, we’ll step through the paper together, using it as the focal point for a lively and interactive conversation.  Papers are short and compact, and we’ll read many of the longer quotes aloud together as we go.

Themes vary, and are announced (along with sharing the paper) about two weeks prior to each session.  Participants are encouraged, but not required, to read through the paper in advance, to begin thinking about the topic before you arrive.

This month, we’ll be discussing Seneca’s works on clemency, or mercy. You can access the paper via this link.  

When & Where

This short reads session led by David Nowakowski will take place in the Conference Center in Reeder’s Alley on Tuesday, October 10th from 6pm-8pm.


Dates: Tuesday, October 10th
Time: 6pm – 8pm MT
Where: 101 Reeder’s Alley (Conference Center)

Registration Info

RSVP: RSVP here!
Cost: Free (Donations Welcome)
Other: Hot tea provided 

Read-In Facilitator

David Nowakowski is as a philosopher and educator in the Helena area whose professional work is dedicated to helping people of all ages and backgrounds access, understand, and apply the traditions of ancient philosophy to their own lives.  David began studying ancient philosophies and classical languages in 2001, and has continued ever since.  A scholar of the philosophical traditions of the ancient Mediterranean (Greece, Rome, and North Africa) and of the Indian subcontinent, reading Sanskrit, Latin, and classical Greek, he earned his Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University in 2014.  His work has appeared in a variety of scholarly journals, including Philosophy East & WestAsian Philosophy, and the Journal of Indian Philosophy, as well as in presentations to academic audiences at Harvard, Columbia University, the University of Toronto, Yale-NUS College in Singapore, and elsewhere. 

After half a decade teaching at liberal arts colleges in the northeast, David chose to leave the academy in order to focus his energies on the transformative value of these ancient philosophical and spiritual traditions in his own life and practice, and on building new systems of education and community learning that will make this rich heritage alive and available to others.


Make a Donation Here

Our philosophy shorts and other activities are FREE to the community. While donations are never expected, they are always appreciated and help to keep programs like these going. Your tax-deductible donations help to cover honorariums, logistics, materials, implementation, resource archiving, and more! For those facing more challenging financial circumstances, we ask that you please try to “pay it forward” with acts of kindness for your neighbors and community.


October 10, 2023
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm MDT
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Reeder’s Alley Interpretive & Convention Center
101 Reeder's Alley
Helena, MT 59601 United States
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Marisa Diaz-Waian
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