Friday, May 19, 2023

After 50 years of Catastrophism, we are now facing the cliff. What would Seneca do?

 The Raft of the Medusa, a painting by Theodore Géricault (1818). It seems to illustrate how some people feel in the current situation: survival implies throwing other people out of the raft. 

Lucius Annaeus Seneca, the Roman Philosopher, was never a catastrophist, but he understood that in life, you have to expect ups and downs. And that when things go bad, they go bad fast (festinantur in damnum). This is what I called the "Seneca Effect.

Seneca was a stoic, a person steeped in the views of his times. It was an age when people understood that their control of the vagaries of life was limited. Sickness, ruin, pain, and death were facts of life for people who had no aspirin, no life insurance, and no dentists. In the stoics' view, bad moments had to be accepted and lived as a test of your moral fortitude, not as an excuse to forget one's duties in life. Seneca, just like all of us, had his defects. But when the final moment came, he accepted his destiny with dignity and serenity. 

And here we are, what holds for a single person holds for humankind. We are facing a serious downturn, a decline that could be so rapid to call it a cliff. Half a century after the serious warning of "The Limits to Growth," we not yet falling, but we are on the edge. We start seeing the chasm ahead while the fog of time clears. 

Is this becoming a test of moral fortitude for humankind? If it is, humans are failing it, badly. Humans are dividing themselves into tribes that fight each other, so far only verbally. Some just refuse to look ahead. Others think that, when jumping from the cliff, they'll be able to fly. Others search for someone to blame. 

A mixture of ignorance and aggressivity generates a tremendous wave of hate, at least from what I can see in the comments to another post of mine. These people seem to think they are already on the raft of the Medusa, the French ship wrecked at sea in 1816. Only 15 out of the 146 people stranded on the raft survived. And they did that by throwing the others into the sea and recurring to cannibalism. 

But we are not there yet. There is still space for avoiding the sandbanks. We still can do our duty to live and help others live. Be a good stoic; do not lose hope, and do not fall into cruelty. 


  1. Glad to see this theme in your writing, Ugo.
    I've been reading in the Stoics a lot recently. I like the admonition to distinguish between what you can control, and what you can't. Then to put your attention and energy into what you cancontrol.

  2. The interesting thing with medusa is that the shipwreck happened for sheer incompetence of the Commander

  3. Hello Prof. Bardi from Caracas. Have you taken a close look to Nuclear Fusión? Microsoft has

  4. Hello Dr Bardi this is Carlos A Rossi from Caracas-Venezuela. Have you taken a close look at Nuclear Fusión? Microsoft has and its betting big in it: