Socrates: Eleven Best Quotes (With References)

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


On the unexamined life:

The unexamined life is not worth living.

– as quoted in Plato, Apology, 28A, trans. Benjamin Jowett


On philosophy:

If you say to me, Socrates, this time we will not mind Anytus, and you shall be let off, but upon one condition, that you are not to enquire and speculate in this way any more, and that if you are caught doing so again you shall die;—if this was the condition on which you let me go, I should reply: Men of Athens, I honour and love you; but I shall obey God rather than you, and while I have life and strength I shall never cease from the practice and teaching of philosophy, exhorting any one whom I meet and saying to him after my manner: You, my friend,—a citizen of the great and mighty and wise city of Athens,—are you not ashamed of heaping up the greatest amount of money and honour and reputation, and caring so little about wisdom and truth and the greatest improvement of the soul, which you never regard or heed at all? And if the person with whom I am arguing, says: Yes, but I do care; then I do not leave him or let him go at once; but I proceed to interrogate and examine and cross-examine him, and if I think that he has no virtue in him, but only says that he has, I reproach him with undervaluing the greater, and overvaluing the less. And I shall repeat the same words to every one whom I meet, young and old, citizen and alien, but especially to the citizens, inasmuch as they are my brethren.

– as quoted in Plato, Apology, 29B, trans. Benjamin Jowett


On wisdom:

He, O men, is the wisest, who, like Socrates, knows that his wisdom is in truth worth nothing.

– Socrates as quoted in Plato, Apology, 23B, trans. Benjamin Jowett


On virtue:

I do nothing but go about persuading you all, old and young alike, not to take thought for your persons or your properties, but first and chiefly to care about the greatest improvement of the soul. I tell you that virtue is not given by money, but that from virtue comes money and every other good of man, public as well as private.

– as quoted in Plato, Apology, 30B, trans. Benjamin Jowett


On death:

The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways—I to die, and you to live. Which is better God only knows.

– as quoted in Plato, Apology, 42A, trans. Benjamin Jowett


On desire:

[on looking at an expensive shop] How many things I can do without!

– as quoted in Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, II, 25, trans. Robert Drew Hicks


On evil and human nature:

No man voluntarily pursues evil, or that which he thinks to be evil. To prefer evil to good is not in human nature; and when a man is compelled to chose one of two evils, no one will choose the greater when he may have the less.

– as quoted in Plato, Protagoras, 358C, trans. W.R.M. Lamb


On wisdom:

If you are wise, all men will be your friends and kindred, for you will be useful and good; but if you are not wise, neither father, nor mother, nor kindred; nor anyone else, will be your friends.

– as quoted in Plato, Lysis, 210B, trans. Benjamin Jowett


On retaliation:

We ought not to retaliate or render evil for evil to anyone, whatever evil we may have suffered from him.

– as quoted in Plato, Crito, 49C, trans. Benjamin Jowett


On the good life:

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

– as quoted in Plato, Crito, 48C, trans. Benjamin Jowett


On injustice:

To do is more disgraceful than to suffer injustice.

– as quoted in Plato, Gorgias, 489B, trans. Benjamin Jowett


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