Epistulae Morales "All Art Is But Imitation Of Nature"

Lucius Annaeus Seneca

"All Art Is But Imitation Of Nature"

Context: Seneca's moral epistles reflect a high ethical ideal, although his actions were so equivocal as to suggest that his real ideal was to fly before the wind rather than against it. These essays, nevertheless, are an outstanding revelation of Roman life of the period. Here he is talking about "the First Cause." He says that the Stoic philosophers "declare that there are two things in the Universe which are the source of everything–namely, cause and matter." He adds, "There must be, in the case of each thing, that from which it is made, and, next, an agent by which it is made." He then illustrates his point:

All art is but imitation of nature; therefore, let me apply these statements of general principles to the things which have to be made by man. A statue, for example, has afforded matter which was to undergo treatment at the hands of the artist, and has had an artist who was to give form to the matter. Hence, in the case of the statue, the material was bronze, the cause was the workman. And so it goes with all things. . . .