Plato: Twelve Best Quotes (With References)

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This page contains a collection of quotes by Plato. These quotes are all genuine and details about the book, chapter number, and translation are included where applicable.


On philosophy:

Socrates: Philosophy begins in wonder.

– Plato, Theaetetus, 155D, trans. Benjamin Jowett


On ignorance:

Diotima: Herein is the evil of ignorance, that he who is neither good nor wise is nevertheless satisfied with himself: he has no desire for that of which he feels no want.

– Plato, Symposium, 204A, trans. Benjamin Jowett


On the Form of beauty:

Diotima: He who would proceed aright . . . should begin in youth to visit beautiful forms . . . and soon he will of himself perceive that the beauty of one form is akin to the beauty of another; and then if beauty of form in general is his pursuit, how foolish would he be not to recognize that the beauty in every form is and the same! And when he perceives this he will abate his violent love of the one, which he will despise and deem a small thing, and will become a lover of all beautiful forms; in the next stage he will consider that the beauty of the mind is more honourable than the beauty of the outward form. So that if a virtuous soul have but a little comeliness, he will be content to love and tend him, and will search out and bring to the birth thoughts which may improve the young, until he is compelled to contemplate and see the beauty of institutions and laws, and to understand that the beauty of them all is of one family, and that personal beauty is a trifle; and after laws and institutions he will go on to the sciences, that he may see their beauty, being not like a servant in love with the beauty of one youth or man or institution, himself a slave mean and narrow-minded, but drawing towards and contemplating the vast sea of beauty, he will create many fair and noble thoughts and notions in boundless love of wisdom; until on that shore he grows and waxes strong, and at last the vision is revealed to him of a single science, which is the science of beauty everywhere.

– Plato, Symposium, 210A, trans. Benjamin Jowett


On the soul:

Socrates: The lovers of knowledge are conscious that the soul was simply fastened and glued to the body — until philosophy received her, she could only view real existence through the bars of a prison, not in and through herself; she was wallowing in the mire of every sort of ignorance; and by reason of lust had become the principal accomplice in her own captivity. This was her original state; and then, as I was saying, and as the lovers of knowledge are well aware, philosophy, seeing how terrible was her confinement, of which she was to herself the cause, received and gently comforted her and sought to release her, pointing out that the eye and the ear and the other senses are full of deception, and persuading her to retire from them, and abstain from all but the necessary use of them, and be gathered up and collected into herself, bidding her trust in herself and her own pure apprehension of pure existence, and to mistrust whatever comes to her through other channels and is subject to variation; for such things are visible and tangible, but what she sees in her own nature is intelligible and invisible.

– Plato, Phaedo, 82B, trans. Benjamin Jowett


On argument:

Socrates: When a simple man who has no skill in dialectics believes an argument to be true which he afterwards imagines to be false, whether really false or not, and then another and another, he has no longer any faith left, and great disputers, as you know, come to think at last that they have grown to be the wisest of mankind; for they alone perceive the utter unsoundness and instability of all arguments, or indeed, of all things. . . . How melancholy, if there be such a thing as truth or certainty or possibility of knowledge — that a man should have lighted upon some argument or other which at first seemed true and then turned out to be false, and instead of blaming himself and his own want of wit, because he is annoyed, should at last be too glad to transfer the blame from himself to arguments in general: and for ever afterwards should hate and revile them, and lose truth and the knowledge of realities.

– Plato, Phaedo, 107A, trans. Benjamin Jowett


On philosophers:

Socrates: The mind of the philosopher alone has wings. . . . But, as he forgets earthly interests and is rapt in the divine, the vulgar deem him mad, and rebuke him; they do not see that he is inspired.

– Plato, Phaedrus, 249B, trans. Benjamin Jowett


On philosopher-kings:

Socrates: The ideal city we have described can never grow into a reality or see the light of day, and there will be no end to the troubles of states, or indeed of humanity itself, till philosophers become kings in the world, or those we now call kings and ruler really and truly become philosophers.

– Plato, The Republic, V, 473C, trans. H. D. P. Lee


On philosophers:

Socrates: Those who belong to this small class [of philosophers] have tasted how sweet and blessed a possession philosophy is, and have also seen enough of the madness of the multitude; and they know that no politician is honest, nor is there any champion of justice at whose side they may fight and be saved. Such a one may be compared to a man who has fallen among wild beasts — he will not join in the wickedness of his fellows, but neither is he able singly to resist all their fierce natures, and therefore seeing that he would be of no use to the State or to his friends, and reflecting that he would have to throw away his life without doing any good either to himself or others, he holds his peace, and goes his own way. He is like one who, in the storm of dust and sleet which the driving wind hurries along, retires under the shelter of a wall; and seeing the rest of mankind full of wickedness, he is content, if only he can live his own life and be pure from evil or unrighteousness, and depart in peace and good-will, with bright hopes.

– Plato, The Republic, VI, 496A, trans. Benjamin Jowett


On excessive liberty:

Socrates: The excessive increase of anything often causes a reaction in the opposite direction; and this is the case not only in the seasons and in vegetable and animal life, but above all in forms of government. . . . The excess of liberty, whether in States or individuals, seems only to pass into excess of slavery.

– Plato, The Republic, VIII, 563B, trans. Benjamin Jowett


On tyrants:

Socrates: A tyrant . . . is always stirring up some war or other, in order that the people may require a leader.

– Plato, The Republic, VIII, 566B, trans. Benjamin Jowett


On tyrants:

Socrates: He who is the real tyrant, whatever men may think, is the real slave, and is obliged to practise the greatest adulation and servility, and to be the flatterer of the vilest of mankind. He has desires which he is utterly unable to satisfy, and has more wants than anyone, and is truly poor, if you know how to inspect the whole soul of him: all his life long he is beset with fear and is full of convulsions and distractions. . . . Moreover . . . he grows worse from having power: he becomes and is of necessity more jealous, more faithless, more unjust, more friendless, more impious, than he was at first; he is the purveyor and cherisher of every sort of vice, and the consequence is that he is supremely miserable, and that he makes everybody else as miserable as himself.

– Plato, The Republic, IX, 579B, trans. Benjamin Jowett


On virtue:

Socrates: Virtue is one, but . . . the forms of vice are innumerable.

– Plato, The Republic, X, 617B, trans. Benjamin Jowett


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