Dediscenda

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Plus scire velle quam sit satis, intemperantiae genus est. quid? quod ista liberalium artium consectatio molestos, verbosos, intempestivos, sibi placentes facit et ideo non discentes necessaria, quia supervacua didicerunt. quattuor milia librorum Didymus grammaticus scripsit. misererer, si tam multa supervacua legisset. in his libris de patria Homeri quaeritur, in his de Aeneae matre vera, in his libidinosior Anacreon an ebriosior vixerit, in his an Sappho publica fuerit, et alia quae erant dediscenda, si scires. i nunc et longam esse vitam nega.
(Seneca, Ep. ad Luc. 88.36-37)

To want to know more than is sufficient is a form of intemperance. Apart from which this kind of obsession with the liberal arts turns people into pedantic, irritating, tactless, self-satisfied bores, not learning what they need simply because they spend their time learning things they will never need. The scholar Didymus wrote four thousand works: I should feel sorry for him if he had merely read so many useless works. In these works he discusses such questions as Homer’s origin, who was Aeneas’ real mother, whether Anacreon’s manner of life was more that of a lecher or that of a drunkard, whether Sappho slept with anyone who asked her, and other things that would be better unlearned if one actually knew them! Don’t you go and tell me now that life is long enough for this sort of thing! (tr. Robin Campbell)

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