Critical and Philosophical Reflections
Edited by Leah Tomkins
Chapter 12: Pater figure: leaders, emperors and fathers in Seneca and Stoicism
This chapter draws on Seneca’s Roman Stoic philosophy to consider the relationship between care and clementia, on which Seneca bases his leadership development of the Emperor Nero. For Seneca, clementia is crucial as a check on absolute power, that is, as a way for power to unfold paradoxically through not being exercised. Connecting with distinctions between power-over and power-to, it proposes the power-to-not as a way of crystallising the interplay of clementia and care. Such power-to-not is nurtured through care (both for/about and from others), and practised through the self-restraint of clementia. Care is thereby implicated in symmetry, because it helps to deliver fairness and justice, but also in asymmetry, because it reinforces the absolute dominion of the Emperor, keeping him secure from the threat of rebellion or assassination. Both clementia and care are vital sources and stabilisers of power.
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