Seneca once said, "What need is there to weep over parts of life? The whole of it calls for tears". I have read this quote over and over again and I have searched for a clear explanation about this quote but I have found none. Would you please give me a comprehensive and comprehensible explanation for this quote? Thank you

  • 2
    Would you have a reference for the quote? Welcome. May 28, 2019 at 15:13
  • The meaning seems pretty straightforward: why weep over one thing or another when the whole of life is miserable, why weep over one death when all life ends in death. Since he is trying to console a mother mourning the loss of her son this sounds... insensitive, but since she was mourning for three years already perhaps it was time for some reason and tough love.
    – Conifold
    May 28, 2019 at 21:15

1 Answer 1


Lucius Annaeus Seneca (ca.1 BCE – 65 AD)'s quote is from De Consolatione ad Marciam ("On Consolation to Marcia", written around 40 AD) :

this Consolation is constructed in the Consolatio tradition. Through the essay Seneca sticks to philosophical abstractions concerning Stoic precepts of life and death. For a letter offering solace, he notably lacks empathy toward Marcia's individual grief and loss.

Marcia actively mourned the death of her son Metilius for over three years. In De Consolatione ad Marciam, Seneca attempts to convince her that the fate of her son, while tragic, should not have been a surprise. She knew many other mothers who had lost their sons; why should she expect her own son to survive her? The acknowledgement, even expectation, of the worst of all possible outcomes is a tenet of Seneca's Stoic philosophy [emphasis added]. While Seneca sympathised with Marcia, he reminded her that

"we are born into a world of things which are all destined to die,"

and that if she could accept that no one is guaranteed a just life (that is, one in which sons always outlive their mothers), she could finally end her mourning and live the rest of her life in peace.

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