Miriam T. Griffin (ed.), Seneca on Society: A Guide to De Beneficiis
(4.) 17. 1 huic enim uni rei non posuimus legem (for this is the one thing for which we have provided no legal sanction). See ad 3. 6–17. 3, where Seneca defends the general practice, while noting one exception to it (ad 3. 6. 2) and ignoring, as here, the fact that Roman freedmen could be charged with ingratitude.
(4.) 17. 2 quomodo nulla lex amare parentes… iubet (just as there is no law that orders us to love our parents). See ad 3. 11 where Seneca acknowledges the existence of laws to protect parents against ingratitude. Oikeiōsis (appropriation) saw to it that one proceeded from self-love (cf. Sen. Ep. 121. 6–15) to love of family members and beyond (Stob. 4. 671, 7–673, 11 = L–S 57G; Cic. Fin. 3. 62–8).
ut insitum sit etiam malis probare meliora (that even bad people instinctively approve what is better). Seneca may have in mind Ovid's Medea in Met. 7. 20–1: video meliora proboque,/deteriora sequor (I see the better and approve it; I follow the worse).
(4.) 17. 3 gratias itaque agi sibi quos adflixere patiuntur (And so they allow themselves to be thanked by those whom they have hurt). Seneca in Ira 2. 33. 2 and Tac. pg 244Agric. 42. 4 remark on this habit of tyrannical emperors. Quint. 3. 8. 44 and Cic. Off. 1. 44 have a lot to say about wanting to appear good.
honesti et per se expetendi amor (love of what is honourable and worthy of choice for its own sake). Castiglioni is followed by Cooper and Procopé 1995 in replacing et (and) with ut (as); but Seneca has already used the combination per se expetendum honestumque at 16. 2 fin., having stated at 1. 3 that both qualities have been shown to go together.
nec quisquam tantum… hominem exuit, ut animi causa malus sit (no one has… shed his humanity to the extent of being evil just for the fun of it). Pagan philosophy agreed that men pursued evil, either because they mistook it for the good, or because they could not resist sensual gratification. Augustine in the Confessions 2. 8 showed how evil can be attractive in itself.