China’s Social Credit System

Anthropology of the Contemporary: New Forms of Power in China’s Social Credit System

In this essay I am exploring how Foucault’ concept of power, power as a relationship (source), be used to analyze the conditions in which Chinese citizens are living out what some call “George Orwell’s 1984?” I’ll begin by describing from secondary sources, China’s Social Credit System(SCS) I’ll then transition to explaining what Foucault’s conception of power is; power in its many different forms. I’ll finish on applying a Foucaudian analysis of China’s Social Credit System - looking at forms of resistance and potentially offering up solutions to combat and outwit the system itself (finding the limits or the holes in such a system).

Since Foucault died in 1984, his critique is limited; limited because he wasn’t alive during the age of the Internet, the rise of social media giants, and artificial intelligence and facial recognition technology wasn’t invented during his time. As an “anthropologist of the contemporary” (to follow Rabinow’s line of work), how can I begin to understand new forms of power that have been developed and are being tested and implemented not only in China but also attempts around the world - such as predictive policing.

What is currently happening in China -a micro- history of the Social Credit System:

“The State Council issued the Planning Outline of Social Credit System Construction (2014-2020) to accelerate the construction of social credit system and create the honest and trustworthy economic and social environment. Tax credit is an essential part of this first special planning of national social credit system construction in China. Lately, the State Administration of Taxation (”SAT”) issued the Administrative Measures for Taxpayer Credit and the Measures for Publishing the Information on Serious Tax Cases in a bid to create the incentive mechanism for honest taxpayers and the penalty mechanism for dishonest taxpayers and to develop the upgraded version of tax credit system construction.” (

Foucault’s understanding of power:

Additional Notes: It would be helpful to understand why China is implementing this SCS, what historical and political events occurred which influenced China’s President XXXX to react with implementing the SCS, what technologies they are using to enforce control, etc.



*Which part of China?

*Do I need to learn another language in order to conduct fieldwork in China?

*Do I need to learn how to code in order to understand artificial intelligence?

The plan itself:

Law Documents:






New Yorker 2015:

New Yorker 2018:

2019: Washington Post:


Film Producer: Tahir Hamut

Use Case:

Use Case Article 2:


China Law and Policy:

Sources from Rachel Botsman Book: Who Can you Trust?


Published Paper:




Automation: Robots and Artificial Intelligence (Outline)


*How is automation currently affecting the economy?

*How is the United States government addressing (And preparing for) automation?

*How are other countries being affected by automation?


2016 White House Report: Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and the Economy:

Automation and Artificial Intelligence: How machines are affecting people and places:

Every study we could find on what automation will do to jobs, in one chart:

In Advanced and Emerging Economies Alike, Worries About Job Automation:

How Americans see automation and the workplace in 7 charts:

New Report Says a Quarter of All U.S. Jobs Will Be Disrupted by Artificial Intelligence:


Research: Automation Affects High-Skill Workers More Often, but Low-Skill Workers More Deeply:

Women, Automation, and the Future of Work:


Notes: Seneca, Selected Letters 19-21;; Themes: Withdrawal from public life, Practicing what you preach, Importance of peace with oneself

Letter 19: Seneca congratulates Lucilius on his moral progress, and warns his against the distraction of his present public career and of worldly ambition.

  1. “And I would not urge you to seek a reputation from your withdrawal, something you should neither vaunt nor hid, for I will never drive you so far away by condemning the madness of mankind that I want to you prepare some hiding-place in which to fade away forgotten: see to it that your withdrawal is not conspicuous but visible.”

  2. “The energy of your intellect, stylishness of your writings, your distinguished and noble friendships, even fame, have now taken you over; even if you were submerged at the outer edge of life or deeply buried, your former achievements will point to you.”

  3. “A great thing cannot come cheap; calculate whether you would rather abandon yourself or some of your possessions.”

  4. “Your swift success has carried you far form the sight of a healthy life, so has your province and official position and whatever is promised by them: then greater responsibilities will take hold of you and others following them; what escape will there be?”

  5. “You have sunk into that life which will never spontaneously put an end to your miseries and enslavement: pull out your neck worn by the yoke: it is better for it to be cut once than always worn down.”

  6. “Think how many undertakings you hav risked for the sake of money, how many you have toiled over for the sake of honor: now you must dare some attempt on behalf of our retirement, or grow old in that desert of administrative positions and then duties into the city, surrounded by storms and ever-new waves which it is not possible to escape by any modesty of living or calmness.”

  7. “Whatever increases your success will increase your fears.”

  8. “You must take care about the men with whom you eat and drink before worrying about what you eat or drink; for feasting on meat without a friend is the life of a lion or a wolf.” - Epicurus

  9. “A busy man beset by his own possessions has no greater disadvantage than thinking men are his friends when he himself is no friend, because he thinks his favors are effective in winning over hearts, whereas some men hate him more fiercely as they owe him more favors. A light indebtedness makes a debtor, but a heavy one an enemy.”

  10. “…To think it more relevant who is accepting your favors than what he has accepted.”

Letter 20: On practicing what you preach.

  1. “…Let wisdom sink into your soul, and test your progress, not by mere speech or writings, but by stoutness of heart and decrease of desire. Prove your words by your deeds.”

  2. . Far different is the purpose of those who are speech-making and trying to win the approbation of a throng of hearers, far different that of those who allure the ears of young men and idlers by many-sided or fluent argumentation; philosophy teaches us to act, not to speak; it exacts of every man that he should live according to his own standards, that his life should not be out of harmony with his words, and that, further, his inner life should be of one hue and not out of harmony with all his activities. This, I say, is the highest duty and the highest proof of wisdom, – that deed and word should be in accord, that a man should be equal to himself under all conditions, and always the same.

  3. “Observe yourself, then, and see whether your dress and your house are inconsistent, whether you treat yourself lavishly and your family meanly, whether you eat frugal dinners and yet build luxurious houses…Some men restrict themselves at home, but strut with swelling port before the public; such discordance is a fault, and it indicates a wavering mind which cannot yet keep its balance.”

  4. “What is wisdom? Always desiring the same things, and always refusing the same things."

  5. Poverty will keep for you your true and tried friends; you will be rid of the men who were not seeking you for yourself, but for something which you have. Is it not true, however, that you should love poverty, if only for this single reason, – that it will show you those by whom you are loved? O when will that time come, when no one shall tell lies to compliment you!”

  6. I hold it essential, therefore, to do as I have told you in a letter that great men have often done: to reserve a few days in which we may prepare ourselves for real poverty by means of fancied poverty.

Letter 21: Seneca uses the unspecified anxieties of Lucilius to advise him about the triviality of external concerns and important of being at peace with oneself. This letter marks Seneca’s adherence to the two traditions of philosophical letters of advice (Epicurus) and personal correspondence (Cicero), before moving on to Epicurus’ precepts about reducing desires and praising the spirit of austerity symbolized by both the inscription and the keeper of Epicurus’ garden.

  1. “Your biggest trouble is with yourself, it is you who are bothering yourself.”

  2. “…You see where happiness lies but don’t dar to make your way to it.”

  3. “But I will tell you what is hindering you, since you cannot see it for yourself: you think the circumstances that you are going to leave behind are grand and glorious; so when you imagine the carefree state which you are going to enjoy, the glamour of this life form which you are retiring holds you back as if you were going to sink into a shabby and humble condition. You are wrong dear Lucilius; from this life to that is a rise in your condition. Imagine the difference between glitter and light, in which the light has its own sure source but the shine of glitter comes from elsewhere: that is the difference between this life and that. This life is struck by a light coming from outside it, and whoever stands in its path will instantly cast a thick shadow: the other shines with its own light.”

  4. “Your own studies will make you glorious and renowned.”

  5. “When he[Epicurus] wrote to Idomeneous calling him away from a glamorous life to reliable and lasting glory, for Idomeneus was then a minister of royal power handling great affairs, Epicurus said: ‘If you are moved by glory, my letters will make you better known than all the things you cherish and which make you cherished.’ And did he lie? Who would know Idomeneus if Epicurus had not inscribed him in his letters?”

  6. “It is Cicero’s letter that do not allow Atticus’ name to be forgotten”

  7. “…He would have been passed over in silence among such great names if Cicero had not attached him to himself. The great depths of time will cover us up and few talents will raise their heads and resists being forgotten, and assert their claims for long before ultimately fading into the same silence.”

  8. “The respect for intellect grows, and not only are they honored in themselves but whatever has been associated with their memory is taken up and preserved.”

Notes: Seneca, Selected Letters 16-18;; Themes: Pursuit of wisdom, Philosophy and wealth, Increasing frivolity and moderating anger

Letter 16: Compliments to Lucilius lead to warnings that he is not yet secure in his moral stability. At S4 Seneca introduces the problematic issue of what is fated and cannot be averted. His injunction to obey fate gladly but fortune with resistance might have led to real confusions, so he relinquishes it for the simpler topic of living according to nature, not human opinions.

  1. “I know that these things are quite obvious to you, Lucilius: that no one can live happily, or even bearably, without the pursuit of wisdom, and that a happy life is achieved by refining that wisdom, but life can be bearable even when wisdom is only beginning to take shape.

  2. “Search yourself and examine and observe yourself in different ways: look first and foremost to see whether you have made progress in philosophy or in real life. Philosophy is not a skill shaped for popular appeal for for display; it does not consist of words, but deeds. It is not taken up to make sure the day passes with some enjoyment, to take the boredom out of leisure; it moulds and shapes the mind, arranges one’s life, controls one’s actions, points out what is to be done or avoided: it is seated at the helm and steers the course of those adrift among dangerous shoals. Without it no man can live without fear or anxiety; countless things occur each hour that need the advice which we must seek form philosophy.”

  3. “…it is philosophy that must protect us.”

  4. “I am returning now to the point of warning and urging you not to let the zeal of your spirit ebb and lose heat. Control it and ensure that what is now an urge becomes a lasting disposition.”

  5. “IF you live according to nature you will never be poor; if you live according to men’s opinions you will never be rich” - Epicurus Nature asks only for a little, but opinions wants something beyond measure.”

Letter 17: On Philosophy and Riches.

  1. “…Nor do you yet know how great is the help we receive from philosophy in everything …”

  2. “Take my advice; call wisdom into consultation; she will advise you not to sit for ever at your ledger .”

  3. “…Is that poverty may not have to be feared by you.”

  4. “Riches have shut off many a man from the attainment of wisdom; poverty is unburdened and free from care. When the trumpet sounds, the poor man knows that he is not being attacked; when there is a cry of "Fire," he only seeks a way of escape, and does not ask what he can save; if the poor man must go to sea, the harbor does not resound, nor do the wharves bustle with the retinue of one individual. No throng of slaves surrounds the poor man, – slaves for whose mouths the master must covet the fertile crops of regions beyond the sea.”

  5. “If you wish to have leisure for your mind, either be a poor man, or resemble a poor man. Study cannot be helpful unless you take pains to live simply; and living simply is voluntary poverty. Away, then, with all excuses like: "I have not yet enough; when I have gained the desired amount, then I shall devote myself wholly to philosophy."

  6. “You retort: "I wish to acquire something to live on." Yes, but learn while you are acquiring it; for if anything forbids you to live nobly, nothing forbids you to die nobly. 6. There is no reason why poverty should call us away from philosophy, – no, nor even actual want. For when hastening after wisdom, we must endure even hunger. Men have endured hunger when their towns were besieged, and what other reward for their endurance did they obtain than that they did not fall under the conqueror's power? How much greater is the promise of the prize of everlasting liberty, and the assurance that we need fear neither God nor man! Even though we starve, we must reach that goal.”

  7. “Nay, your plan should be this: be a philosopher now, whether you have anything or not, – for if you have anything, how do you know that you have not too much already? – but if you have nothing, seek understanding first, before anything else. “

  8. “If, however, his means of existence are meagre and scanty, he will make the best of them, without being anxious or worried about anything more than the bare necessities; he will do justice to his belly and his shoulders; with free and happy spirit he will laugh at the bustling of rich men, and the flurried ways of those who are hastening after wealth…”

  9. “…So one need not care whether the diseased mind is bestowed upon riches or upon poverty. His malady goes with the man. “

Letter 18: It is the holiday season of the Saturnalia. Seneca debates how far to go along with society’s increasing frivolity, and suggests an exercise in self-imposed austerity.

  1. “…For the spirit gives the strongest proof of its resolve by not being attracted or distracted by pleasures which lead to self-indulgence. It is much more strong-willed to be sober and dry when the people are drunk and throwing up, but the other course is more moderate, not to distinguish or mark oneself nor get involved with everything, but to do the same things in a different way, since it is possible to observe a holiday without self-indulgence.”

  2. “…If you do not want a man to tremble in action, exercise him beforehand.”

  3. “Respect yourself for doing well without duress, because it will be as easy for you to experience this all the time as to suffer if from time to time. Let us train ourselves for combat with the wooden post, and make poverty familiar company so that fortune does not catch us unawares. We will be more carefree as rich men if we know how far from hard it is to be poor.”

  4. “"So begin, dear Lucilius, to follow their habit and mark down some days on which you retreat from your possessions and become intimate with the most meagre diet; begin to do business with poverty…”

  5. “Excessive anger leads to insanity.” - Epicurus You must know how true that is when you have either a slave or an enemy. This passion will burn up against all kinds of people; it springs as much from love as from hatred, no less in serious matters than in sport and fun; nor does the seriousness of its cause make any difference, only the nature of the mind it affects.”

  6. “The outcome of immense anger is madness, and so anger should be avoided not for the sake of moderation but of actual sanity.”


Notes: Seneca, Selected Letters 13-15;; Themes: Mastering your passions- fear, Wise person does not provoke the powerful, Exercising body and mind

Letter 13: On Groundless Fears.

  1. “For our powers can never inspire in us implicit faith in ourselves except when many difficulties have confronted us on this side and on that, and have occasionally even come to close quarters with us. It is only in this way that the true spirit can be tested, – the spirit that will never consent to come under the jurisdiction of things external to ourselves. “

  2. “This is the touchstone of such a spirit; no prizefighter can go with high spirits into the strife if he has never been beaten black and blue; the only contestant who can confidently enter the lists is the man who has seen his own blood, who has felt his teeth rattle beneath his opponent's fist, who has been tripped and felt the full force of his adversary's charge, who has been downed in body but not in spirit, one who, as often as he falls, rises again with greater defiance than ever.”

  3. “There are more things, Lucilius, likely to frighten us than there are to crush us; we suffer more often in imagination than in reality.”

  4. “For it is our Stoic fashion to speak of all those things, which provoke cries and groans, as unimportant and beneath notice…”

  5. “What I advise you to do is, not to be unhappy before the crisis comes; since it may be that the dangers before which you paled as if they were threatening you, will never come upon you; they certainly have not yet come. Accordingly, some things torment us more than they ought; some torment us before they ought; and some torment us when they ought not to torment us at all. We are in the habit of exaggerating, or imagining, or anticipating, sorrow.”

  6. Do me the favor, when men surround you and try to talk you into believing that you are unhappy, to consider not what you hear but what you yourself feel, and to take counsel with your feelings and question yourself independently, because you know your own affairs better than anyone else does. “

  7. “You may retort with the question: ‘How am I to know whether my sufferings are real or imaginary?’ Here is the rule for such matters: we are tormented either by things present, or by things to come, or by both. As to things present, the decision is easy. Suppose that your person enjoys freedom and health, and that you do not suffer from any external injury. As to what may happen to it in the future, we shall see later on. Today there is nothing wrong with it. "But," you say, "something will happen to it." First of all, consider whether your proofs of future trouble are sure. For it is more often the case that we are troubled by our apprehensions, and that we are mocked by that mocker, rumor, which is wont to settle wars, but much more often settles individuals.”

  8. “For truth has its own definite boundaries, but that which arises from uncertainty is delivered over to guesswork and the irresponsible license of a frightened mind. That is why no fear is so ruinous and so uncontrollable as panic fear. For other fears are groundless, but this fear is witless.”

  9. “How often has the unexpected happened! How often has the expected never come to pass! And even though it is ordained to be, what does it avail to run out to meet your suffering? You will suffer soon enough, when it arrives; so look forward meanwhile to better things. What shall you gain by doing this? Time.

  10. “Perhaps it will come, perhaps not; in the meantime it is not. So look forward to better things.”

  11. “The mind at times fashions for itself false shapes of evil when there are no signs that point to any evil; it twists into the worst construction some word of doubtful meaning; or it fancies some personal grudge to be more serious than it really is, considering not how angry the enemy is, but to what lengths he may go if he is angry. But life is not worth living, and there is no limit to our sorrows, if we indulge our fears to the greatest possible extent; in this matter, let prudence help you, and contemn with a resolute spirit even when it is in plain sight. If you cannot do this, counter one weakness with another, and temper your fear with hope. “

  12. “…Cease to harass your soul, reflecting continually that most mortals, even when no troubles are actually at hand or are certainly to be expected in the future, become excited and disquieted…We let ourselves drift with every breeze; we are frightened at uncertainties, just as if they were certain. We observe no moderation. The slightest thing turns the scales and throws us forthwith into a panic.”

  13. “The path on which I am leading you is not different from that on which your nature leads you; you were born to such conduct as I describe. Hence there is all the more reason why you should increase and beautify the good that is in you.”

  14. "The fool, with all his other faults, has this also, he is always getting ready to live .”

  15. “Look within your own mind for individual instances; you will think of old men who are preparing themselves at that very hour for a political career, or for travel, or for business. And what is baser than getting ready to live when you are already old?”

Letter 14 :Seneca discusses human concern for one’s own body, and fear of suffering physical pain, especially pain imposed upon us by an oppressor or tyrant figure. (By listing as potential oppressor te common people or a faction of the senate before mentioning a single autocrat. Seneca comes as near as he dare approach to his own situation under the power of Nero.) The wise man will never provoke the anger of the crowd or the powerful individual, yet Cato in his wisdom opposed Pompey and Caesar both during and before the outbreak of civil war.  For Seneca, as for his nephew Lucan, Cato serves as a safely removed model for the wise man’s attitude, enabling Seneca to postpone indefinitely the larger issue of whether the wise man should even participate in public life.

  1. “For the man who is a slave to his body, who is too afraid for it, who relates all actions to its needs, will also be a slave to many people.”

  2. “It is excessive love for it [one’s own body] that disturbs us with fears, burdens us with anxieties, and exposes us to insults: honor is cheap to the man for whom his body is dear. Let us take good care of it, but on these terms, that when reason and self-respect and integrity demand, it should be dispatched to the pyre.”

  3. Unless I am mistaken here are three kinds of dread: we fear poverty, we fear diseases, and we fear what may be inflicted on us at the hands of a more powerful figure. None of all these misfortunes distresses us more than what is threatened by another man’s power, for this comes with a mighty din and disturbance. The natural woes which I mentioned, poverty and disease, sneak up in silence and do not inflict any terror on the eye or ear; the other evil makes a huge parade; it surrounds itself with steel and fire and chains and the horde of wild beasts launched against human flesh. In this context think of prison and crosses, the rack and the hook and the stake driven right through a man’s body to project from his throat and limbs torn apart by driving chariots, and the tunic woven and smeared with fiery substances, and whatever else cruelty has devised so it is not surprising if this causes the worst fear, since it has enormous variety and terrifying equipment. For just as the torturer achieves more by displaying a greater number of instruments of pain (since the sight of them overwhelms men who would have resisted the actual suffering), so of all the terrors that overcome and break our spirits that ones with something to display are more effective.”

  4. Sometimes it is the people that we must fear, sometimes, if the constitution of the state is one where most business is transacted by the senate, we must fear influential men; sometimes we must fear autocrats to whom the power has been given over the people and by the people. To keep all these as friends is hard work; it is enough not to have them as enemies. So the wise man will never provoke the anger of the powerful, but avoid it just like the hurricane on his voyage.”

  5. “The wise man…shuns the power that will bring him harm, making it his first care not to seem to shun it; for a part of being safe from care lies in not explicitly seeking safety, since a man is condemning whatever he shuns.”

  6. So we must look around to see how we can be safe from the crowd. First we should not desire the same prizes as they do: quarrels arise between competitors. Then we should not posses anything that can be stolen at great profit to the trickster; let there be the least possible amount of spoils on your body.”

  7. “Then there are three things we should contrive to avoid according to the old rule: hatred, envy, and contempt. Only wisdom will show how this is done; for the calculation is difficult, and we must be afraid lest fear of envy drives us into contempt, and while we are reluctant to trample we may seem ready to be trampled on. Yet being an object of fear has given many people reason to feel fear themselves. We must pull back form all sides; it is no less harmful to be held in contempt than to be respected. So we should take refuge in philosophy; this kind of study will be like a badge of sanctity no only with good men but even those moderately bad.”

  8. “Wickedness will never gain so much strength or conspire against the virtues, that the name of philosophy does not remain sacred and worthy of reverence. But even philosophy must be practiced calmly and with moderation.”

  9. “Just now I am summoning you to join the Stoics who were shut out of public life and withdrew to cultivate their lives and establish rights for humanity without causing any offense to the more powerful. The wise man will not disturb the customs of the people nor attract the people’s attention to himself by the novelty of his way of life.”

Letter 15:This letter too starts form concern with the body.  Seneca deplores modern forms of physical training, but recognizes the value of fitness, and suggests simpler substitutes. (See also letter 83—on his own health regime.)

  1. “‘If you are practicing philosophy, it is good’, for ultimately this is to be well. Without it the mind is sick, and the body too, even it is very strong, is only well like that of a madman or lunatic. So take special care of this kind of well-being, and then physical well-being in second place; it will not cost you much if you want to be in good health. For the activity of developing the biceps and stretching the neck and strengthening the lungs is foolish, dear Lucilius, and ill-fitted to an educated man; even when your diet has worked out well and your muscles have built up you will never match the strength or weight of a fattened ox. Add to this that the spirit is crushed by too great a bodily bulk and becomes less nimble. So, as best you can, check your body and make free space for your mind.” 

  2. “Many disadvantages follow for men devoted to physical health first exercises, whose effort exhausts the spirit and makes it unfit for concentration and more demanding studies; then the refinement of one’s thought is encumbered by the surfeit of food.”

  3. To drink and sweat is the life of a dyspeptic.”

  4. “Whatever you do, come back quickly from the body to the mind; exercise the mind night and day. It is nourished by a moderate effort; neither cold nor heat will prevent this kind of exercise, not even old age.”

  5. “Nor am I ordering you to be constantly bent over a book or notebook: you have to give some respite to the mind, but such that it is not slackened but relaxed.”

  6. “So however your mental impulse urges you on, make your rebuke of vices now more passionately, now more calmly, as your voice itself encourages you in that direction; let it sink moderately, not collapse when you withdraw and hold it back; let it not have the violence of an attendant or work off its rage as if you were an uneducated countryman. For we are aiming, not to give the voice exercise, but for it to exercise power over others”

  7. "A foolish life is thankless and anxious; it is entirely directed towards the future.’”

  8. “…But we do not think how pleasant it is to demand nothing, how glorious to be sated and not depend on Fortune.”

  9. “Imagine this is your last day of life; or if not, the next to last.”

Notes: Seneca, Selected Letters 10-12;;

Letter 10: On the potential harm from bad company…

  1. “We usually watch over someone mourning or in a state of fear in case he misuses his time alone. There is really no one among the unwise who ought to be left alone; that is when they make bad decisions, that is when they devise future hazards for others or themselves, that is when they draft wicked desires…In short, the one advantage of solitude, entrusting nothing to anyone, and not being afraid of an informer, is wasted on the fool; he betrays himself.”

Letter 11: On physical blushing and moral bashfulness. Seneca argues that there are physical reactions a man cannot control and should not be blamed for. In SS 8 he uses his “Epicurean” envoi to change to a different theme; the recommendation to image one’s actions under the observation of a respected and virtuous man.

  1. Notes: blushing doesn’t arise from weakness of mind but from the unfamiliarity of the situation

  2. “We ought to cherish some good man and keep him always before our eyes, so that we will live as if he were watching and so everything as if he could see us.” - Epicurus

  3. “…We need someone to whose standards our behavior may steer itself; you will not correct what is distorted except by a straight ruler.”

Letter 12: Seneca uses a visit to his childhood home to illustrate how the decay in his country villa, the decline of the plane trees he himself planted, and finally the aging of his childhood playmate have convinced him of his advanced age. This leads to consideration (s6) of each day as a fraction of a larger unit of natural time and the span of life, and the proper way to look forward to death, not like maudlin Pacuvius (S8) who staged a performance of his own funeral every evening.

  1. The man is happiest and most firmly in charge of himself who waits for the next day without anxiety: anyone who says' ‘I have lived my life’ gets up each day to some profit.”


Notes: Seneca, Selected Letters 7-9;; Themes: Contact with vicious men will only corrupt, Withdrawal from public life, Friendship

Letter 7: On the gratuitous cruelty of public executions in the arena and the moral harm done by contact with the crowd of spectators and their vicious relish for human suffering.  But any contact with vicious men will only corrupt.  One has to avoid either imitating common attitudes or hating them, and teach only those ready to learn, not trying to convert a general audience. Even a single listener, or none at all, is good enough for the man behaving rightly. It is important to distinguish the enforced combats of batches of condemned criminals sent to fight until one of their opponents should kill them, from the skilled combat of trained gladiators in appropriate defensive armor.

  1. “You ask what I think you should take special care to avoid: the crowd. You cannot yet trust yourself safely to it. I at least will admit my weakness; I never bring back the same character which I took from home…It is like the experience of the sick, who have been so affected by long weakness that they cannot go out anywhere without being shaken up ; this is what happens to us as our minds are being restored from a long sickness.”

  2. “You should not become like evil men because they are many, or be hostile to the many because they are unlike you. Withdraw into yourself as far as you can, and associate with those who will make you better. Invite those whom you can make better.”

  3. “There is no reason for pride in displaying your character to push you into the public eye, to recite or debate, as I might have wished you to do, if your wares were suitable for the people: there is one who can understand you. ‘Then for whom did I learn these teachings?’ You need not be afraid of having wasted your effort if you have learned them for yourself.

  4. Many men praise you, but what reason do you have to be pleased with yourself, if you are the kind of man who the common crowd can understand? Let your virtues look inwards.”

Letter 8: On withdrawal (secedere): Seneca continues the theme of withdrawal form letter 7, but adds that his withdrawal is a positive retirement in order to write for the future enlightenment of posterity. Lucilius should shun the tastes and indulgences of the crowd. Instead Seneca turns to recommendations for a life spent in withdrawal even from accepted social obligations.

  1. “…I have withdrawn myself for this purpose and shut the door so as to be helpful to a greater number. No day ends for me in leisure. I claim part of the night for study…I have not just withdrawn from men but from business, especially my own; I am doing the business of our descendants. I am writing some works that can benefit them. I commit to writing beneficial warnings like the prescriptions of useful medications, because I have found theme effective on my sores, which even if they have not been quite healed, have ceased to spread. I show others the right path, which I myself only discovered late on when weary with straying.”

  2. “Fortune does not overturn us but pierces and crushes us. So hold fast to this sound and healthy way of life, to indulge your body only as much as is sufficient for good health.”

  3. Think that nothing deserves admiration except the mind, which being itself great counts nothing else as great.”

  4. “Believe me, men who seem to do no public business are doing more important things: they are handling the business of gos and men at the same time.”

  5. “You should be a slave to philosophy in order to obtain true liberty.” - Epicurus “The man who submits and surrenders himself to philosophy is not being put off to a later date; he is turned around on the instant. For the mere fact of being the slave of philosophy is liberty.”

Letter 9: On self-sufficiency and the value of friendship.  Seneca returns to the theme of friendship from a new point of view; the wise man should not need friends.  But he does need them to be objects of his kindness, and Seneca distinguishes between self-interested and altruistic friendship.

  1. Notes: Epicureans: think a mind immune to feelings is the chief good.

  2. We mean that man who spurns every feeling of distress, but it will be understood as the man who cannot endure any distress. So consider whether it is not better to speak of an invulnerable spirit, or a spirit set beyond all suffering. This is the difference between us Stoics and the Epicureans; our wise man overcomes every discomfort but feels it, theirs does not even feel it. What they have in common is that the wise man is contented with himself. But he still wants to have a friend and a neighbor and a housemate, although he is able to satisfy his own needs.”

  3.  The wise man is contended, not so that he wants to go without a friend, but so that he is able to go without: and the word ‘able’ means accepting the loss of a friend calmly. For he will never be without a friend; has has it in his power to provide a new one instantly.”

  4. “If Pheidias as lost a statue he will quickly make another ,just so, this craftsman in making friendships will substitute another friend in place of one he lost.”

  5. “The philosopher Attalus used to say that is was more pleasing to make a friend than to have one, ‘just as it is more pleasing for an artist to paint than to have completed a painting.”

  6. “These are what people call friendships of conveniences: a man adopted fro self-interest will please only as long as he is useful. This is why a crowd of friends surrounds men in time of success but there is a desert around their ruin, and friends flee when they are put to the test.”

  7. “What matter sis not what he says but what he feels, and not what he feels one day but what he continues to feel. But you have no reason to fear that so great blessing will befall an unworthy fellow: unless a man is wise his own circumstances will not please him; every kind of folly is plagued with self-disgust.”

Notes: Seneca, Selected Letters 4-6;; Themes: Death, Thrift, Do not follow the crowd, Transformation

Letter 4: On cultivating tranquility of mind and rejecting fear of death. Seneca starts from the comparison of a man becoming wise to a boy coming of age. It is equally foolish to scorn life and to fear death, and calmness can be achieved by learning that there is no reason to fear death, which is always with us.

  1. “You must surely remember the great joy you felt when you set aside your child’s toga to put on your toga of manhood and were escorted to the forum: expect a greater joy when you put aside a child’s state of mind and philosophy has enrolled you among grown men.

  2. “For it is not childhood, but childishness, a much more serious defect, that still persists. And this is all the worse because we have the authority of older men but the failings of children, and not just children but babies. Children are afraid of trivial things, but babies fear imaginary ones, while we are afraid of everything.”

  3. “No man can have a carefree life if he devotes too much concern to prolonging it, counting a number of consular years among important blessings. Practice thinking this over each day, so that you can calmly leave life, which so many men clutch and hold on to as someone swept away by the current clutches at thornbushes and jagged objects. Most people are buffeted between fear of death and the agony of living; they don’t want to live and they don’t know how to die.”

  4. “…You have been on the way to death since you were born. We should consider these and similar thoughts in our hearts if we want to wait calmly for that last hour, given that this fear torments all our remaining hours.”

  5. “Men only sweat over superfluous things; these are what wear out our toga and force us to grow old under canvas, or drive us onto foreign shores; what is enough is in our reach.”

Letter 5: On avoiding conspicuous austerity and the meaning of ‘living according to Nature.’ Adopting a severe lifestyle is one aspect of the wider issue of shunning the crowd, and actually withdrawing or retiring from public life raised in letters 7 and 8.

  1. “But I would warn you not to behave like men who are indifferent to progress but want to attract notice, or to adopt behavior that is conspicuous in your dress or way of life.”

  2. “Avoid rough dress and an unshorn head and a straggling beard, and a declaration of loathing for money, and the practice of sleeping on the ground and any other perverse affection. The name of philosophy is enough, even it if were bandied in moderation, to provoke resentment; what will happen if we begin to exclude ourselves form everyday practices?”

  3. Let everything in our hearts be different, but let our appearance suit our fellow men. Our toga should not dazzle, nor should it be drab. We should not have silverware chased with solid gold, but we should not think it a mark of thrift to go without silver and gold; let our aim be to follow a better life than the crowd, but not one opposed to it; otherwise we simply drive off and turn away the men we are trying to correct.”

  4. “This is the first promise of philosophy, a feeling for all, human courtesy and sociability. But stressing difference will keep us away form this policy. We should make sure that the actions we take in order to win admiration are not absurd and offensive.”

  5. “Now our objective is to live according to Nature, and it is contrary to Nature to torment one’s body and shun easy forms of cleanliness and aspire to shabbiness and follow a diet that is not just cheap but loathsome and horrible.”

  6. “Philosophy demands thrift, not self-punishment, and thrift need not be unadorned. This is the measure I choose, that our life should be a compromise between virtuous behavior and public practice: let everyone admire our life, but also see it as familiar.”

  7. “Let the man who examines us more closely recognize that we are not like the common crowd. Let the man who enters our house admire us rather than our furnishings.”

  8. “It is a mark of a weak mind not to be able to tolerate wealth.”

  9. “You will cease to fear if you also cease to hope.” - Hecato

  10. “Each emotion comes from a mind in suspense, each is troubled by expectation of what is to come. But the chief cause of each is that we do not adapt ourselves to present circumstances but send our thoughts running ahead. So foresight, the greatest good of our human condition, is turned into an evil. Wild beasts run away form dangers when they see them. Once they have escaped, they are free of anxiety. But we are tormented by both the future and the past.”

Letter 6: Seneca offers Lucilius evidence of his own gradual advance in virtue.

  1. “I realize, Lucilius, that I am not just being improved by transformed. Not that I can yet promise or hope that nothing is left in me that needs to be changed. Of course I have many faults that should be corrected, reduced, abolished. And even this is proof of a mind transformed for the better, that it sees the faults which it had not noticed until now.”

  2. “So I shall send you the actual books, and to prevent you wasting a lot of effort in chasing the scattered recommendations that will benefit you, I will mark these so that you can immediately reach what has my approval and admiration. But the living voice and conversation will do you more good than the text. You must come to witness the real thing, first because men trust their eyes more than their ears…”

  3. “Cleanthes would not have reproduced Zeno’s thought if he had only heard him. He shared in Zeno’s life and saw his private actions, he watched him to see whether he lived according to his own code.”

  4. “You ask what progress I have made? I have begin to be a friend to myself.” -Hecato. He did indeed make great progress; he will never be alone. You should know that this man is now everyone’s friend.”

  5. Notes: When it comes to following a mentor, you must pay close attention to both their lessons (what they say/write) and their actions. Do they align? Basic anthropology 101.

Notes: Seneca, Selected Letters 1-3;; Themes: Use of time, Restlessness, and Friendship

Letter 1: In answer to Lucilius, who has declared himself determined to make the best use of his time.

  1. Focus of this letter: your time is precious and the state of one finances.

  2. “Name anyone to me who puts a price on time, who valued the day, who understands that he is dying each and every day. For we deceive ourselves by looking for death ahead of us, whereas a great part of death has already taken place. Whatever part of life is behind us is possessed by death. So, dear Lucilius, do what you say you are doing and embrace every hour; in this way you will have to depend less on tomorrow if you seize hold of today. While life is being postponed, it rushes past.”

  3. “For, as our ancestors realized, ‘thrift comes too late at the bottom of the barrel’, for what is left at the bottom is not only miserable little but miserably poor in quality.”

  4. Notes: There is a switch from understanding time as precious, to material goods and finances.

    1. “I don’t think anyone as poor if he finds whatever little is left over is enough.”

    2. Overall, There’s any interesting relationship here between the pursuit of financial success, time, and the life that we lead- whether is be a pursuit of wisdom or finances.

Letter 2: On restlessness, whether in physical travel or indiscriminate reading.

  1. “You are not rushing around or letting a change of place upset you. That is the disturbance of a sick spirit. I think it is the first proof of a stable mind to be able to pause and spend time with oneself.”

  2. “But now make sure that reading many authors and every kind of book-roll does not represent a kind of unsettled drifting. You should linger over and feed yourself upon a chosen few intellects if you want to take in anything that will stay faithfully in your mind. The man who is everywhere is nowhere.”

  3. “When men spend their life in traveling around, they have many hosts but no real friendships.”

  4. “…a great number of books slackens the mind. So, since you cannot read as much as you possess, it is enough to have the amount you can read.”

  5. Happy poverty is an honorable condition. For if it is happy, it is not poverty; a man on good terms with poverty is rich. It is not the man with too little property, but the one who wants more, who is a pauper.”

  6. “You ask what is the proper measure of wealth? The best measure is to have what is necessary, and next best, to have enough.”

  7. Notes: Seneca begins his lesson with not reading too many books at once, but stick to a few and really digest them. Again, we see him move to comments on finances/wealth: poverty and his opinion on what a proper measure of wealth is.

Lesson 3: On proper basis of real friendship. Seneca warns Lucilius against making a man into a friend before he knows the man’s character. But once someone has become a friend, he should be trusted and should share one’s anxieties.

  1. “If you call anyone a friend whom you do not trust as much as you do yourself you are seriously mistaken, and do not know the meaning of true friendship.”

  2. “You must give trust once you have formed a friendship, but form judgement beforehand. Men confuse the proper order of behavior when they go against the recommendations of Theophrastus and judge after they have given their love, instead of giving love after they have passed judgement. Think long whether someone should be taken into your friendship. When you have decided on it, welcome him with your whole heart; speak as confidently with him as with yourself.”

  3. “Some people tell strangers what should only be entrusted to friends, and unburden whatever is bothering them on random ears. On the other hand, some are frightened of even their dearest friends knowing, they would not even trust themselves, if they could avoid it, and keep everything bottled up in their hearts. But we should not follow either course; for it is equally a fault to trust everyone and to trust no one.”

  4. Notes: Basically, judge people on their character before you call them your friend. He/She who is friend to everyone, is not a friend to themself.

Notes on Spiritual Exercises: Learning to Live by Pierre Hadot

Access to the book click here*

Learning to Live: Page 81- 89

  1. “The philosophical act is not situated merely on the cognitive level, but on that of the self and of being. It is a progress which causes us to be more fully, and makes us better. It is a conversion which turns our entire life upside down, changing the life of the person who goes through it. It raises the individual from an inauthentic condition of life, darkened by unconsciousness and harassed by worry, to an authentic state of life, in which he attains self-consciousness, an exact vision of the world, inner peace, and freedom. In the view of all philosophical schools, mankind's principal cause of suffering, disorder, and unconsciousness were the passions: that is, unregulated desires and exaggerated fears. People are prevented from truly living, it was taught, because they are dominated by worries. Philosophy thus appears, in the first place, as a therapeutic of the passions.”

  2. “In this context, healing consists in bringing one's soul back from the worries of life to the simple joy of existing.”

  3. “We have here a complete reversal of our usual way of looking at things. We are to switch from our ‘human’ vision of reality, in which our values depend on , our passions, to a ‘natural’ vision of things, which replaces each event within the perspective of universal nature. Such a transformation of vision is not easy, and it is precisely here that spiritual exercises come in. Little by little, they make possible the indispensable metamorphosis of our inner self."

  4. “Attention (prosoche) is the fundamental Stoic spiritual attitude. It is a continuous vigilance and presence of mind, self consciousness which never sleeps, and a constant tension of the spirit. Thanks to this attitude, the philosopher is fully aware of what he does at each instant, and he wills his actions fully.”

  5. “Attention to the present moment is, in a sense, the key to spiritual exercises. It frees us from the passions, which are always by the past or the future.”

  6. “ In the exercise called praemeditatio malorum, we are to represent to ourselves poverty, suffering, and death. We must confront life's difficulties face to face, remembering that they are not evils, since they do not depend on us. This is why we must engrave striking maxims in our memory, so that, when the time comes, they can help us accept such events, which are, after all, part of the course of nature; we will thus have these maxims and sentences ‘at hand.’ What we need are persuasive formulae or arguments (epilogismoi), which we can repeat to ourselves in difficult circumstances, so as to check movements of fear, anger, or sadness. “

  7. “Whoever wishes to make progress strives, by means of dialogue with himself or with others, as well as by writing, to "carry on his reflections in due order" and finally to arrive at a complete transformation of his representation of the world, his inner climate, and his outer behavior. These methods testify to a deep knowledge of the therapeutic powers of the world.”

Pierre Hadot’s text, Philosophy as a Way of Life, is very similar to Michel Foucault’s lectures on the Hermeneutics of the Subject and Seneca’s text Selected Letters. All three cover the importance of paying attention to inner thought, mastering your passions, practicing virtue and maintaining eudaemonia (human flourishing).

The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters

"Fantasy abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters: united with her, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of their marvels."       " Many of the prints in the  Caprichos  series express disdain for the pre-Enlightenment practices still popular in Spain at the end of the Eighteenth century (a powerful clergy, arranged marriages, superstition, etc.). Goya uses the series to critique contemporary Spanish society. As he explained in the advertisement, he chose subjects “from the multitude of follies and blunders common in every civil society, as well as from the vulgar prejudices and lies authorized by custom, ignorance or interest, those that he has thought most suitable matter for ridicule.”        Source:

"Fantasy abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters: united with her, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of their marvels."


"Many of the prints in the Caprichos series express disdain for the pre-Enlightenment practices still popular in Spain at the end of the Eighteenth century (a powerful clergy, arranged marriages, superstition, etc.). Goya uses the series to critique contemporary Spanish society. As he explained in the advertisement, he chose subjects “from the multitude of follies and blunders common in every civil society, as well as from the vulgar prejudices and lies authorized by custom, ignorance or interest, those that he has thought most suitable matter for ridicule.”




life reminders - epimeleia heautou & gnothi seauton

The care of the self = epimeleia heautou

know thyself = gnōthi seauton


The care of self implies a certain way of attending to what we think and what takes place in our thought(s).


The epimeleia also always designates a number of actions exercised on the self by the self, actions by which one takes responsibility for oneself and by which one changes, purifies, transforms, and transfigures oneself.  This involves a series of practices:

*techniques of meditation

*memorization of the past

*examination of conscience

*checking representations which appear in the mind


With this notion of epimeleia heautou we have a body of work defining a way of being, a standpoint, forms of reflection and practices which make it an extemreley important phenomenon no just in the history of representations, notions, or theories, but in the history of subjectivity itself.



Page 12: "Care of oneself expressed in a variety of ways:

*caring for oneself" ; "taking care of the self" ; "withdrawing into oneself" ; "retiring into oneself" ; "finding ones pleasures in oneself"; "seeing no other delight by in the self" ; "remaining in the company of oneself"; "being the friend of oneself"; "respecting oneself"' "devoting oneself to oneself".


Page 15:

Philosophy, form of thought that asks what it is that enables the subject to have access to the truth and which attempts to determine the conditions and limits of the subject's access to truth.

If we call this "philosophy" then I think we could call "spirituality" the search, practice, and experience through which the subject carries out the necessary transformations on himself in order to have access to the truth.

We will call "spiritualitY" then the set of these researches, practices, and experiences, which may be purifications, ascetic exercises, renunciations, conversions of looking, modifications of existence, etc. which re not for knowledge but for the subject, for the subject's very being, the price to be paid for the access to truth.


Spirituality has three characteristics: 

1) Spirituality postulates that the truth is never given to the subject by right. Spirituality postulates that the subject as such does not have right of access to the truth and is not capable of having access to the truth. It postulates that for the subject to have right of access to the truth he must be changes, transformed, shifted, and become to some extent and upon a certain point, other than himself.  The truth is only given to the subject at a price that brings the subject's being into play for as he is, the subject is not capable of truth.

There can be no truth without conversion or a transformation of the subject.  This conversion, this transformation of the subject– this is the second major aspect of spirituality– may take place in different forms.

*This work of the seldom the self, an elaboration of the self by the self, a progressive transformation fo the self by the self for which one takes responsibility in a long labor of ascesis(askēsis).


Spirituality postulates that once access to truth has really been opened up, it produces effects that are, of course, the consequence of the spiritual approach taken in order to achieve this, but which at the same time are something quite different and much more: effects which I will call "rebound", effects of the truth on the subject.


For spirituality, the truth is not just what is given to the subject, as reward for the act of knowledge as it were, and to fulfill the act of knowledge.  The turn enlightens the subject the truth gives beatitude to the subject; the truth gives the subject tranquility of the soul.


The gnosis – that which tends to transfer, to transpose, the forms and effect of spiritual experience into the act of knowledge itself.


"The immense allure and the swaddled serenity. This body, with its scars and its gender indifference, feels like home. I’m comfortable in this body and I wonder why so many people are uncomfortable with it. I wonder why trans people have to be presented as either feminine or masculine for an American public to take notice. Because, frankly, we are all transformative."



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