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Socrates Quotations

"It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, are of a different opinion, it is because they only know their own side of the question," says John Stuart Mill in Utilitarianism, Ch.2

Socrates left no writings of his own, but he is quoted in works by others, mainly Plato. Below is a selection of Socrates quotations.

50 Quotations with a Pinch of Salt or Three

Are you not ashamed of caring so much for the making of money and for honour and prestige, and caring so little about wisdom and truth and the improvement of the soul? - Socrates

Be slow to fall into friendship; but when you are in, continue firm and constant. - Socrates

Beware the barrenness of a busy life. - Socrates

By all means marry; if you get a good wife, you'll be happy. If you get a bad one, you'll become a philosopher. - Socrates

By other men's writings . . . you shall come easily by what others have laboured hard for. - Socrates

Dear Pan and all the other gods of this place, grant that I may be beautiful inside. - Socrates, Phaedrus

Do not be angry with me if I tell you the truth. - Socrates

Do not do to others what angers you if done to you by others. - Socrates

Education is . . . not the filling of a vessel. - Socrates

Employ your time in improving yourself by other men's writings so that you shall come easily by what others have laboured hard for. - Socrates

Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. - Socrates

Flattery is like friendship in show, but not in fruit. - Socrates

For after death, as they say, the genius of each individual, to whom he belonged in life, leads him to a certain place. - Socrates, Phaedo

He is not only idle who does nothing, but he is idle who might be better employed. - Socrates

I . . . read [books] as fast as I could in my eagerness to know the better and the worse. How grievously I was disappointed! - Socrates, Phaedo

I dare to say that the simile is not perfect. - Socrates, Phaedo

I realized that it was not by wisdom that poets write their poetry, but by a kind of nature or inspiration, such as you find in seers and prophets; for these also say many beautiful things, but do not know anything of what they say. - Socrates

I thought that as I had failed in the contemplation of true existence, I ought to be careful that I did not lose the eye of my soul. - Socrates, Phaedo

I was really too honest a man to be a politician and live. - Socrates

If [a soul has] been concerned in foul murders or other crimes . . . from that soul everyone flees . . . no one will be her companion [in the beyond] . . . - Socrates, Phaedo

Let him that would move the world first move himself. - Socrates

Let us . . . be careful of admitting into our souls the notion that there is no truth or health or soundness in any arguments at all. - Socrates, Phaedo

Listen not to a tale-bearer or slanderer, for he tells you nothing out of good-will; but as he discovers of the secrets of others, so he will of yours in turn. - Socrates

Living well and beautifully and justly are all one thing. - Socrates

May I consider the wise man rich. - Socrates, Phaedrus

May the outward and inward man be at one. - Socrates

Not life, but good life, is to be chiefly valued. - Socrates

Not that this confusion signifies to them who never care to think about the matter at all, for they have the wit to be well pleased with themselves, however great the turmoil of their ideas. But you, if you are a philosopher, will, I believe, do as I say. - Socrates, Phaedo

Often when looking at a mass of things for sale, he would say to himself, "How many things I have no need of!" (Or: How many things I can do without!) - Socrates, quoted in Diogenes Laertius' Lives of Eminent Philosophers

One should never . . . mistreat any man. - Socrates

Ordinary people seem not to realize that those who really apply themselves in the right way to philosophy are directly and of their own accord preparing themselves for dying and death. - Socrates

Philosophy begins with wonder. - Socrates

Polos: "So you would rather suffer an injustice than do an injustice?" Socrates: "For my part I would do none of them. But if I forced to do injustice or suffer it, I would choose the latter." - Socrates

Remember what is unbecoming to do is also unbecoming to speak of. - Socrates

The children now love luxury . . . and love chatter in place of exercise. Children . . . no longer rise when elders enter the room. - Socrates

The divine is so great and of such a nature that it sees and hears everything at once, is present everywhere, and is concerned with everything. - Socrates, Xenophon's Memorabilia

The poet [of oracles] is a light and winged and holy thing. - Socrates

The shortest and surest way to live with honour in the world, is to be in reality what we would appear to be; and if we observe, we shall find, that all human virtues increase and strengthen themselves by the practice of them. - Socrates

The unexamined life is not worth living. - Socrates, Apology.

The examined life may not be worth living, Socrates himself shows by choosing death to living outside Athens. Brickhouse and Smith comment his statement: "Socrates thinks that [by] engaging in philosophical examination . . . he has reason to think that he is morally superior . . . Even though he lacks virtue . . . he believes that he has actually succeeded! . . . Socrates plainly sees himself has [sic] someone who has done the city enormous good." (1999, 150-51)

There is a virtue . . . named courage. Is not that a special attribute of the philosopher? - Socrates, Phaedo

Think not those faithful who praise all thy words and actions; but those who kindly reprove thy faults. - Socrates

Those [who have] led holy lives are released from this earthly prison, and go to their pure home which is above . . . and those who have duly purified themselves with philosophy live . . . in mansions fairer far than these . . . [But] that the description which I have given of the soul and her missions is exactly true - a man of sense ought hardly say that. - Socrates, Phaedo

To find yourself, think for yourself. - Socrates

What you cannot enforce, do not command. - Socrates

When returning into herself [the soul] reflects; then she passes into the realm of purity, and eternity, and immortality, and unchangeableness, which are her kindred . . . This state of the soul is called wisdom. - Socrates, Phaedo

When the bricks and timber are employed in their due places in the body of the edifice, they altogether make a house. - Socrates, Xenophon's Memorabilia

Who have a care of their souls . . . when philosophy offers them purification and release from evil, to her they incline. - Socrates, Phaedo

Who holds a true opinion without understanding is like a blind man on the right road. - Socrates, The Republic


Socrates quotations, Literature  

Ahbel-Rappe, Sarah. 2009. Socrates: A Guide for the Perplexed. London: Continuum, 2009.

Ahbel-Rappe, Sara, and Rachana Kamtekar, eds. 2006. A Companion to Socrates. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Brickhouse, Thomas C., and Nicholas D. Smith. 2000. The Philosophy of Socrates. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Guthrie, William Keith Chambers. 1971. Socrates. London: Cambridge University Press.

Nichols, Mary P. 2009. Socrates on Friendship and Community: Reflections on Plato's Symposium, Phaedrus, and Lysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Peterson, Sandra. 2011. Socrates and Philosophy in the Dialogues of Plato. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Scott, Gary Alan. 2000. Plato's Socrates as Educator. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

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