Socrates Quotes 12 Sourced Quotes

Socrates (Σωκράτης; c. 470 BC – 399 BC) was a classical Greek (Athenian) philosopher credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy. Through his portrayal in Plato's dialogues, Socrates has become renowned for his contribution to the field of ethics, and it is this Platonic Socrates who lends his name to the concepts of Socratic irony and the Socratic method, or elenchus. The latter remains a commonly used tool in a wide range of discussions, and is a type of pedagogy in which a series of questions is asked not only to draw individual answers, but also to encourage fundamental insight into the issue at hand.

Here are 12 real Socrates quotes ordered by their popularity online. The most quoted quotes on the web appear first. Questionable and fake quotes are excluded. Sources and related information are shown after each quote. We hope you find these quotes useful. If there is anything we can do to improve this article, your feedback is welcome. If you find these quotes helpful, please share them.

1. “There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance.”

—Socrates

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Source: Socrates left no writings of his own. Our knowledge of his teachings comes from ancient authors who referred to him in their own writing. This makes it hard to reconstruct quotes by Socrates as they come from various, sometimes contradictory, accounts of his life. Diogenes Laertius: Socrates as quoted in Diogenes Laertius' Lives of Eminent Philosophers

2. “I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.”

—Socrates

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Source: Socrates left no writings of his own. Our knowledge of his teachings comes from ancient authors who referred to him in their own writing. Plutarch: Socrates as quoted by Plutarch Note: Compare doctrine of fidelity to Athenian law in Plato's Crito.

3. “Bad men live that they may eat and drink, whereas good men eat and drink that they may live.”

—Socrates

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Source: Socrates left no writings of his own. Our knowledge of his teachings comes from ancient authors who referred to him in their own writing. Plutarch: Socrates as quoted by Plutarch Plutarch Moralia, How the Young Man Should Study Poetry

4. “Having the fewest wants, I am nearest to the gods.”

—Socrates

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Source: Socrates left no writings of his own. Our knowledge of his teachings comes from ancient authors who referred to him in their own writing. Diogenes Laertius: Socrates as quoted in Diogenes Laertius' Lives of Eminent Philosophers

5. “You will know that 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

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Source: Socrates left no writings of his own. Our knowledge of his teachings comes from ancient authors who referred to him in their own writing. Xenophon: Words of Socrates as quoted by Xenophon Memorabilia I.4.18

6. “Often when looking at a mass of things for sale, he would say to himself, ‘How many things I have no need of!’”

—Socrates

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Source: Socrates left no writings of his own. Our knowledge of his teachings comes from ancient authors who referred to him in their own writing. Diogenes Laertius: Socrates as quoted in Diogenes Laertius' Lives of Eminent Philosophers

7. “Contentment is natural wealth; luxury, artificial poverty.”

—Socrates

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Source and Related Info: As reported by Charles Simmons in A Laconic Manual and Brief Remarker, containing over a thousand subjects alphabetically and systematically arranged (North Wrentham, Mass. 1852), p. 103. However, the original source of this statement is unknown.
• Compare Joseph Addison in The Spectator No. 574 Friday, July 30, 1714, p. 655: In short, content is equivalent to wealth, and luxury to poverty; or, to give the thought a more agreeable turn, "content is natural wealth," says Socrates: to which I shall add, "luxury is artificial poverty.".

8. “If I am to live longer, perhaps I must live out my old age, seeing and hearing less, understanding worse, coming to learn with more difficulty and to be more forgetful, and growing worse than those to whom I was once superior. Indeed, life would be unliveable, even if I did not notice the change. And if I see the change, how could life not be even more wretched and unpleasant?”

—Socrates

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Source: Socrates left no writings of his own. Our knowledge of his teachings comes from ancient authors who referred to him in their own writing. Xenophon: Words of Socrates as quoted by Xenophon Memorabilia IV.8.8

9.Socrates having heard Plato read the Lysis, said, ‘O Hercules! what a number of lies the young man has told about me.’ For he had set down a great many things as sayings of Socrates which he never said.”

—Socrates

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Source: Socrates left no writings of his own. Our knowledge of his teachings comes from ancient authors who referred to him in their own writing. Diogenes Laertius: Socrates as quoted in Diogenes Laertius' Lives of Eminent Philosophers

10. “[...] indeed, order and discipline are the most important things in an army, and without them it is impossible to have any other service of the troops than of a confused heap of stones, bricks, timber, and tiles; but when everything is in its due place, as in a building, when the foundations and the covering are made of materials that will not grow rotten, and which no wet can damage, such as are stones and tiles, and when the bricks and timber are employed in their due places in the body of the edifice, they altogether make a house, which we value among our most considerable enjoyments.”

—Socrates

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Source: Socrates left no writings of his own. Our knowledge of his teachings comes from ancient authors who referred to him in their own writing. Xenophon: Words of Socrates as quoted by Xenophon Memorabilia III.1

11. “ἆρα, ἔφην, ὦ Ἰσχόμαχε, ἡ ἐρώτησις διδασκαλία ἐστίν; ἄρτι γὰρ δή, ἔφην ἐγώ, καταμανθάνω ᾗ με ἐπηρώτησας ἕκαστα: ἄγων γάρ με δι᾽ ὧν ἐγὼ ἐπίσταμαι, ὅμοια τούτοις ἐπιδεικνὺς ἃ οὐκ ἐνόμιζον ἐπίστασθαι ἀναπείθεις, οἶμαι, ὡς καὶ ταῦτα ἐπίσταμαι.”

—Socrates

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Source:  • Oeconomicus (The Economist) XIX.15 (as translated by H. G. Dakyns)

12. “εἰδέναι μὲν μηδὲν πλὴν αὐτὸ τοῦτο [εἰδέναι].”

—Socrates

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Source:   • II.32

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