According to Tacitus, Nero had first tried to poison Seneca, but the plot was foiled when Seneca refused a drink offered by a visitor in order to adhere to his modest diet of wild fruit and spring water.
The agency of food is nowhere more acute than in instances of poison. In such cases, the source of nourishment and life, itself is perverted into a medium of death. Nero’s murder plot assumed the philosopher’s reception of an offering of drink as consistent with social etiquette. It should of been easy to kill Seneca hidden behind the cloak of food and table manners. But…….Seneca, at the time deeply disappointed in his student turned tyrant Nero, was practicing a form of self-restraint characterized by simple eating. Seneca was also subverting the standard social mode of eating and drinking that would accept a visitor’s gesture of sharing. Nero and Seneca were both using the power of food, even if towards different ends. In this scenario is the drink the only victim? Instrumentalized as an agent of death by Nero and an agent of a golden cage lifestyle for Seneca?
Of course, in the end Seneca does drink poison. Is the agency of food, the thing-power of the non-human exercised when it subverts or when it assumes its relation to humans? Is the existence of poison fulfilled in the death Seneca or merely reduced to its human relation and instrumentalized again? I’m so confused…….can any object oriented ontologists or vital materialist out there help?
This quote comes from Examined Lives by James Miller about the complex lives of 12 philosophers.