Saturday, November 18, 2017
Following the Crowd
Seneca, On the Happy Life
1.3-4 (tr. John Davie):
Accordingly, the most important point to stress is that we should
not, like sheep, follow the herd of creatures in front of us, making our
way where others go, not where we ought to go. And yet there is
nothing that brings greater trouble on us than the fact that we conform to rumour, thinking that what has won widespread approval is
best, and that, as we have so many to follow as good, we live by the
principle, not of reason, but of imitation. What follows from this is
that men are piled high, one on top of another, as they rush to their
Just as it happens that in a great crowd of humanity that is
crushed together, when the people jostle against each other, no one
falls without dragging someone else down with him, and the ones in
front bring destruction on the ones behind, so you may see the same
thing happening throughout all of life. No one who goes astray affects
himself alone, but rather will be the cause and instigator of someone
else going astray; it is harmful to attach oneself to the people in front,
and, so long as each one of us prefers to trust someone else's judgement rather than relying on his own, we never exercise judgement in
our lives but constantly resort to trust, and a mistake that has been
passed down from one hand to another takes us over and spins our
ruin. It is the example of others that destroys us: we will regain our
health, if only we distance ourselves from the crowd.
nihil ergo magis praestandum est, quam ne pecorum ritu sequamur antecedentium gregem, pergentes non quo eundum est, sed quo itur.
atqui nulla res nos maioribus malis implicat, quam quod ad rumorem componimur, optima rati ea, quae magno adsensu recepta sunt, quodque exempla nobis multa sunt, nec ad rationem sed ad similitudinem vivimus. inde ista tanta coacervatio aliorum super alios ruentium.
quod in strage hominum magna evenit, cum ipse se populus premit — nemo ita cadit, ut non et alium in se adtrahat, primique exitio sequentibus sunt —, hoc in omni vita accidere videas licet. nemo sibi tantummodo errat, sed alieni erroris et causa et auctor est; nocet enim applicari antecedentibus et, dum unusquisque mavult credere quam iudicare, numquam de vita iudicatur, semper creditur versatque nos et praecipitat traditus per manus error. alienis perimus exemplis; sanabimur,
separemur modo a coetu.