70 Phrases Of Socrates To Understand His Thought

Interesting reflections proposed by one of the first philosophers of ancient Greece.

Socrates is considered the father of Western philosophy, although he did not worry too much about making future generations know him. He left no known written work, and almost everything that is known about him is due to the writings of his disciple  Plato. 

The phrases of Socrates that you can read below collect the essence of his philosophy, very focused on morals and the method by which human beings can obtain knowledge.

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The best phrases of Socrates

Below you can see a selection of Socrates phrases that can be very helpful to understand why the thought of this philosopher continues to influence us today.

1. An honest man is always a boy

For Socrates, honesty was closely related to the way in which children always ask themselves questions about what they know and are constantly open to the possibility of admitting that what they believed to be true is not.

2. Knowledge begins in wonder

The pang of feeling that there is a part of reality that we do not understand was, for Socrates, that which drives us to acquire knowledge.

3. A life that has not been examined is not worth living.

Philosophy was for Socrates one of the pillars of life experience, as expressed in this phrase.

4. Talk so that I can meet you

The way of being of each person, and the way in which he sees the world, can be known through dialogue, a context in which two people interact and questions can be asked.

5. The friend must be like money; before you need it, you need to know its value

One of Socrates’ phrases about friendship with a more pragmatic sense.

6. The only true knowledge is knowing that you know nothing

One of the best known phrases of Socrates, expresses the humility with which the philosopher faced his task and the radicality with which he understood that all aspects of reality must be questioned.

7. Not life, but the good life, is what should be most valued

Life must be valued qualitatively to be able to appreciate it well, according to this Greek philosopher.

8. Bad souls can only be conquered by gifts

Socrates talks here about the self-serving and opportunistic moods that guide certain relationships.

9. There is only one good: knowledge. There is only one evil, ignorance

Socrates related the obtaining of knowledge with morality, something that his pupil Plato also did.

10. Fear the love of a woman more than the hatred of a man

The misogyny of the first Greek philosophers was practically a constant, although in its historical context it was something very widespread.

11. The highest degree of knowledge is to examine why

This type of question was the engine that allowed Socrates to inquire into the great issues that he proposed to study.

12. Beauty is a fleeting tyranny

The beautiful causes expectations and passions that generate oppression and violence.

13. The greatest of all mysteries is man

The very existence of man was so enigmatic that philosophers like Socrates were driven to ask themselves ambitious questions.

14. It is worse to carry out an injustice than to commit it, since whoever commits it becomes unjust but the other does not

For Socrates, the nature of each person is constituted by his actions, not by what he says. Therefore, our actions serve to transform us.

15. Death could be the greatest of blessings

Even the usual conception of death can be philosophically revised, something that is reflected in this phrase by Socrates.

16. Neither kings nor rulers carry the scepter, but those who know how to command

A formal title is no guarantee of power, according to Socrates.

17. An uninhibited man cannot generate affection, because it is difficult to deal with and closes the door to friendship

For this philosopher, pursuing immediate pleasures and appreciating great passions makes us individualistic and distant.

18. Do not let the grass grow on the path of friendship

Cultivating friendships was something that, for Socrates, had to be approached actively, without letting time pass and the relationship deteriorating.

19. Let whoever is going to move the world first move himself

A call not to listen to people who claim that they are going to promote great changes by encouraging others to initiate this task.

20. A moral that is based on relative emotional values ​​is a mere illusion

Socrates was very opposed to the relativism of the sophists, and believed that morality should be based on well-established rational principles.

21. I wish ordinary people had the unlimited power to do evil and then the unlimited power to do good

Since morality is trained through actions, being involved in situations with a marked positive or negative value would help to establish solid ethical principles.

22. Only God is the ultimate sage

One of Aristotle’s phrases about obtaining knowledge. Since human beings are always subject to the limited amount of time and space available to them, only someone belonging to the world of the divine can know everything.

23. I am a citizen not of Athens or Greece, but of the world

The desire to establish a universal morality and an always valid method of obtaining knowledge, as well as his rejection of relativism, made Aristotle a person whose living space was the whole world, and not just a region.

24. The past has its codes and customs

Everything that we see in hindsight is linked to conventions and protocols that fix it to the historical context to which it belonged.

25. Anyone who holds a true opinion on a subject that he does not understand is like a blind man on the right track.

Having come to a correct conclusion is no guarantee that the reasoning process was correct.

26. Poets do not create poetry through wisdom, but through a kind of inspiration that can be found in prophets or seers, since they can say many beautiful things without knowing what they mean

Socrates emphasizes the need to create knowledge through reason, without obeying aesthetic criteria.

27. To find yourself, think for yourself

A phrase from Socrates in favor of creating one’s own criteria through reflection.

28. When the debate is lost, slander is the loser’s tool

Slandering the contrary only serves to express frustration, not to weaken the other.

29. Luxury is artificial poverty

For this philosopher, ostentation reveals a banal need to appear, which reveals a void.

30. I wish knowledge were of the kind of things that flow from the container that is full to those that remain empty.

Socrates reflects on the social implications of the scarcity of knowledge.

31. The best sauce is hunger

This phrase by Socrates can be understood as a reflection on the role that the superficial plays when setting goals: absence is a motor that drives us towards action more directly than additives.

32. Each action has its pleasures and its price

All actions have positive and negative nuances, and you have to know when they are appropriate through reflection.

33. Only knowledge that comes from within is true knowledge

Socrates believed that wisdom arises from the examination of truths that, properly examined, are self-evident, and therefore independent of what is known about our surroundings. This idea greatly influenced Plato.

34. If I had devoted myself to politics I would have died long ago

Socrates here ridicules the logics by which politics operates, which the philosopher related to appearances and hidden interests.

35. Do not do to others what would make you angry if others did it to you

A phrase reminiscent of the moral system developed by Immanuel Kant centuries after the death of Socrates.

36. I prefer knowledge to wealth, since the first is perennial, while the second is expired

Obtaining knowledge is something that is marked in the personality of each one, for Socrates.

37. To say that something is natural means that it can be applied to everything

The principle of the natural is that it is valid in all contexts, according to the Greek philosopher.

38. Starting well is not little, but it is not much

Beginnings can be seen as significant progress, but in themselves they are of little value if they are not followed by other actions.

39. The hottest love has the coldest ending

A reflection on those love relationships marked by passions.

40. From the deepest desires often the deadliest hatreds arise

Controlling passions and desires is a constant recommendation in Socrates’ phrases.

41. The richest are those who are content with little

Humility was for Socrates one more quality in which he could excel or not, but which was always practical.

42. I would rather crowds disagree with me than find myself out of harmony with myself

Honesty and honor to the truth were values ​​that Socrates believed essential.

43. Today’s children are tyrants: they contradict their parents, gobble up their food and act like tyrants before their teachers

A phrase that, despite being Socrates, many people make their own today.

44. The noblest path is not to submit to others, but to perfect oneself

Even when different ideas collide, the goal is not so much to win an argument as to improve through it.

45. Being is doing

An idea that has already resonated in other phrases of Socrates: one becomes something through practice and not through preaching.

46. ​​Keep good spirits about death, and make this truth your own: that nothing bad can happen to a good man, neither in life nor after death.

The good comparable to knowledge was for Socrates an element of such importance that reaching it made what is perceived as bad dissipate.

47. Through your rags I see your vanity

A very powerful phrase through which Socrates talks about superficiality.

48. Those who are the hardest to love are the ones who need it the most.

A reflection on love and the way it affects certain personality types.

49. Is it not a shame for man that the same thing happens to him as to the most irrational animals?

The distinction between rational and irrational beings marked the thought of Socrates.

50. The misuse of language introduces evil into our soul

For Socrates, speaking properly and using the proper terms was a requirement for accessing the truth.

51. Understanding yourself is the beginning of knowledge

The philosophical task begins with the examination of the ideas themselves.

52. Make the public and private facets of man one

One of Socrates’ phrases that reflect his appreciation for honesty.

53. It is better to change your mind than to stay in the wrong one

A reflection on the need to get rid of the false.

54. Poets are only the interpreters of God

As reflected in another phrase about poets, for Socrates they did not have direct access to the truth.

55. Pride begets the tyrant

For the philosopher, pride generates an accumulation of desires and intentions that has a detrimental impact on everyone

56. I am well aware that I am not wise at all

Another of Socrates’ phrases that refer to the humility with which he approached his task as a philosopher

57. Be nice to everyone, because each person fights some kind of battle

One of the moral reflections of this philosopher.

58. I will never fear or avoid something I do not know

That which is not well understood cannot generate fear, according to Socrates.

59. I call myself a peaceful warrior, because the battles we fight take place within

This reflection emphasizes the introspective character of Socrates’ task.

60. Excellence is a habit

For this thinker, you are what you do.

61. The passage of time wrinkles your skin, but the lack of enthusiasm wrinkles your soul

A distinction between the physical world and that of the soul.

62. To understand a question is to already have half an answer

A perspective according to which the truth is already intuited in the questions that lead to it.

63. All wars are produced to accumulate wealth

Socrates’ was a dispassionate view on wars.

64. The greatest blessing given to humanity can come from the hand of madness

Curious way of understanding the possibilities that an unconventional way of thinking brings with it.

65. The fact of not having great desires is something divine

Another of Socrates’ phrases about the asceticism with which he faced life.

66. To find yourself, think for yourself

A simple aphorism about philosophy.

67. Lies are the greatest murderers, because they kill the truth

The search for the true was one of the main maxims of this philosopher’s life.

68. Envy is the ulcer of the soul

Funny way of talking about envy in moral terms.

69. This is a universe that does not favor the shy

A reflection on the way in which Greek society valued this personality trait.

70. Nothing is learned as well as what is discovered

Another reflection on the learning process.

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