The Stoics taught me to have compassion for others rather than pity for myself

Coping: With a Stoic sense of ourselves as works in progress, we can make our lives better

Laura Kennedy as a Trinity College PhD philosophy student. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Laura Kennedy as a Trinity College PhD philosophy student. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

The Latin word for what we would usually call mercy, clementia, has caused some dispute among scholars. Some translate it as “clemency”, which is a rather specific kind of mercy – that by superiors to inferiors.

Seneca is one of the major Stoic philosophers still read today and, among other strange and exciting endeavours in the course of a rather rock‘n’roll life, was tutor to a teenage Emperor Nero. A less enviable job would be difficult to imagine, apart, perhaps from that of Henry VIII’s Groom of the Stool, who assisted that expansive King in his ablutions.

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