Quotes of Wisdom: Seneca on the True Meaning of Philosophy


Demetrius the Cynic is fond of stating that it is better for us to possess only a few maxims of philosophy that are always at our command, than to acquire a vast knowledge that serves no practical purpose. It will not harm you to pass over matters which are neither possible nor advantageous to know. Truth is hidden and wrapped in mystery. There is nothing that is hard to discover except that which brings no other reward than the fact of discovery; all that makes us better and happier has been placed either in plain sight or nearby. The soul that can scorn the accidents of fortune, that can rise superior to fears, that does not covet boundless wealth, but has learned to seek riches in itself; the soul that can cast out dread of men and gods and knows that it has little to fear from man and nothing from Jupiter; that despising all things which, while they enrich, harass life, can rise to the height of seeing that death is not the source of evil, but the end of many; the soul that can dedicate itself to Virtue, and think that every path to which she calls is smooth; that social creature that is born for the common good views the world as the universal home of mankind and can bare its conscience to the gods. Such a soul, remote from storms, stands on solid ground beneath a blue sky and has attained to perfect knowledge of what is useful and essential. All other matters are but the diversions of a leisure hour; for once the soul has found a safe retreat it may also make excursions into things that bring polish, not strength, to its powers.

~ Seneca

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