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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.


Michael Gross on Socrates - Extracts

Summon up your memories of the Socratic mentor. Picture him in one of your favourite places. Then ask yourself, "Are you trying to be as human as you can be?" [Sw 30]

Stay in touch with friends who manage to challenge your thinking in friendly ways. As Socrates said, "Good friends give me greater satisfaction than other men get from good horses or dogs or gamecocks." And comprehend what you read: Belief cannot be supported by convincing evidence and should be reformulated. [Gross 2002:93, 132]

Socrates did not buckle before unpopularity. The challenge to speak honest truth will probably confront most of us, also when it is uncomfortable for ourselves and others. [Gross 2002:176]

Strengthen your Socratic spirit - tap your intuitive wisdom. Practice an art that is good for you. Draw regular inspiration from kin and - uh - great souls. Learn to benefit from the "soul of your job" too. [Gross 2002:197]

"To make my contribution I must Ask Questions, Speak the Truth, Think for Myself, and Care for My Soul," says Linda Meyer, founder of the Meyer Learning Center in Denver. She conceives her function as a tutor in Socratic perspective. [Gross 2002:232]


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

Beware the barrenness of a busy life.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

Let him that would move the world first move himself.

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.

May the outward and inward man be at one.

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

Often when looking at a mass of things for sale, he would say to himself, 'How many things I have no need of!"

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.

Philosophy begins with wonder.

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

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."

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.

The unexamining life is not worth living for a human being.

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

To find yourself, think for yourself.

What you cannot enforce, do not command.


Socrates quotations, Literature  

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

Gross, Ronald. Socrates' Way: Seven Master Keys to Using Your Mind to the Utmost. Rev. ed. New York: J. Tarcher/Putnam, 2002.

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

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

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

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

Also: Sources apart from Internet sites: Citatboken, New Penguin Dictionary of Quotations, Oxford Dictionary of Thematic Quotations, and the Penguin Thesarus of Quotations. (Click on "Literature" for full references.)

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