Favourite Quotations

What's wrong with this picture? The Internet, sadly, is awash with misinformation about ancient philosophy, including fake quotes like this one. Socrates never said those words. This quote only began circulating around 2008 but it's already falsely attributed to Socrates on many websites. So to help you avoid fake quotes here's a handful of my favourite ones from Diogenes Laertius, Xenophon, and Plato. What are your favourite Socratic quotes? Please share them in the comments underneath...

Socrates Quotations

  • He would say that the rest of the world lived to eat, while he himself ate to live. (Diogenes Laertius)
  • There is, he said, only one good, that is, knowledge, and only one evil, that is, ignorance; wealth and good birth bring their possessor no dignity, but on the contrary evil. (Diogenes Laertius)
  • Now there was a certain Apollodorus, who was an enthusiastic lover of the master, but for the rest a simple-minded man. He exclaimed very innocently, "But the hardest thing of all to bear, Socrates, is to see you put to death unjustly." Whereupon Socrates, it is said, gently stroked the young man's head: "Would you have been better pleased, my dear one, to see me put to death for some just reason rather than unjustly?" and as he spoke he smiled tenderly. (Xenophon, Apology)
  • It is the example of the rider who wishes to become an expert horseman: "None of your soft-mouthed, docile animals for me," he says; "the horse for me to own must show some spirit" in the belief, no doubt, if he can manage such an animal, it will be easy enough to deal with every other horse besides. And that is just my case. I wish to deal with human beings, to associate with man in general; hence my choice of wife. I know full well, if I can tolerate her spirit, I can with ease attach myself to every human being else. (Xenophon, Symposium, 18-19)
  • He disciplined both his mind and his body by a way of life which would enable anyone who followed it (in the normal course of events) to live with confidence and security and to have no difficulty in meeting its expenses. In fact he was so economical that I doubt whether anyone could work so little as not to earn enough for Socrates’ needs. He took only so much food as he could eat with pleasure, and he was so ready for a meal when he came to it that his appetite was sauce enough. Any drink was agreeable to him, because he only drank when thirsty. If he ever accepted an invitation to dinner he very easily resisted what costs most people the greatest effort, viz., the temptation to fill oneself beyond repletion. Those who could not resist this he advised to avoid anything that impelled them to eat when they were not hungry or drink when they were not thirsty; for that, he said, was what ruined stomachs and heads and characters.(Xenophon, Memorabilia, 1.3)
  • For I go around doing nothing but persuading both young and old among you not to care for your body or your wealth in preference to or as strongly as for the best possible state of your soul, as I say to you: “Wealth does not bring about excellence, but excellence makes wealth and everything else good for men, both individually and collectively.” (Plato, Apology, 30b)
  • The most important thing is not life but the good life. (Plato, Crito, 48b)
  • Oh dear Pan and all the other gods of this place, grant that I may be beautiful inside. Let all my external possessions be in friendly harmony with what is within. May I consider the wise man rich. As for gold, let me have as much as a moderate man could bear and carry with him. (Plato, Phaedrus, 279)
  • I myself know nothing, except just a little, enough to extract an argument from another man who is wise and to receive it fairly. (Plato, Theaetetus, 161b)
  • Can any man be courageous who has the fear of death in him? (Plato, Republic, III, 386b)
  • Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political greatness and wisdom meet in one, and those commoner natures who pursue either to the exclusion of the other are compelled to stand aside, cities will never have rest from their evils — no, nor the human race, as I believe — and then only will this our State have a possibility of life and behold the light of day. (Plato, Republic, V, 473c)
  • There is no greater evil one can suffer than to hate reasonable discourse. (Phaedo, 89d)

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