Socrates Biography, Famous Socrates quotes on life, knowledge and wisdom

Socrates himself wrote nothing, therefore evidence of his life and activities must come from the writings of Plato and Xenophon (c. 431–352 B.C.E. ). It is likely that neither of these presents a completely accurate picture of him, but Plato’s Apology, Crito, Phaedo, and Symposium contain details which must be close to fact.

From the Apology we learn that Socrates was well known around Athens; uncritical thinkers linked him with the rest of the Sophists (a philosophical school); he fought in at least three military campaigns for the city; and he attracted to his circle large numbers of young men who delighted in seeing their elders proved false by Socrates. His courage in military campaigns is described by Alcibiades (c. 450–404 B.C.E. ) in the Symposium.

In addition to stories about Socrates’s strange character, the Symposium provides details regarding his physical appearance. He was short, quite the opposite of what was considered graceful and beautiful in the Athens of his time. He was also poor and had only the barest necessities of life. Socrates’s physical ugliness did not stop his appeal.

His thought

There was a strong religious side to Socrates’s character and thought which constantly revealed itself in spite of his criticism of Greek myths. His words and actions in the Apology, Crito, Phaedo, and Symposium reveal a deep respect for Athenian religious customs and a sincere regard for divinity (gods). Indeed, it was a divine voice which Socrates claimed to hear within himself on important occasions in his life. It was not a voice which gave him positive instructions, but instead warned him when he was about to go off course. He recounts, in his defense before the Athenian court, the story of his friend Chaerephon, who was told by the Delphic Oracle (a person regarded as wise counsel) that Socrates was the wisest of men. That statement puzzled Socrates, he says, for no one was more aware of the extent of his own ignorance than he himself, but he determined to see the truth of the god’s words. After questioning those who had a reputation for wisdom and who considered themselves, wise, he concluded that he was wiser than they because he could recognize his ignorance while they, who were equally ignorant, thought themselves wise.

Socrates was famous for his method of argumentation (a system or process used for arguing or debate) and his works often made as many enemies as admirers within Athens. An example comes from the Apology. Meletus had accused Socrates of corrupting the youth, or ruining the youth’s morality. Socrates begins by asking if Meletus considers the improvement of youth important. He replies that he does, whereupon Socrates asks who is capable of improving the young. The laws, says Meletus, and Socrates asks him to name a person who knows the laws. Meletus responds that the judges there present know the laws, whereupon Socrates asks if all who are present are able to instruct and improve youth or whether only a few can. Meletus replies that all of them are capable of such a task, which forces Meletus to confess that other groups of Athenians, such as the Senate and the Assembly, and indeed all Athenians are capable of instructing and improving the youth. All except Socrates, that is. Socrates then starts a similar set of questions regarding the instruction and improvement of horses and other animals. Is it true that all men are capable of training horses, or only those men with special qualifications and experience? Meletus, realizing the absurdity of his position, does not answer, but Socrates answers for him and says that if he does not care enough about the youth of Athens to have given adequate thought to who might instruct and improve them, he has no right to accuse Socrates of corrupting them.

Thus the Socratic method of argumentation begins with commonplace questions which lead the opponent to believe that the questioner is simple, but ends in a complete reversal. Thus his chief contributions lie not in the construction of an elaborate system but in clearing away the false common beliefs and in leading men to an awareness of their own ignorance, from which position they may begin to discover the truth. It was his unique combination of dialectical (having to do with using logic and reasoning in an argument or discussion) skill and magnetic attractiveness to the youth of Athens which gave his opponents their opportunity to bring him to trial in 399 B.C.E.

His death

Meletus, Lycon, and Anytus charged Socrates with impiety (being unreligious) and with corrupting the youth of the city. Since defense speeches were made by the principals in Athenian legal practice, Socrates spoke in his own behalf and his defense speech was a sure sign that he was not going to give in. After taking up the charges and showing how they were false, he proposed that the city should honor him as it did Olympic victors. He was convicted and sentenced to death. Plato’s Crito tells of Crito’s attempts to persuade Socrates to flee the prison (Crito had bribed [exchanged money for favors] the jailer, as was customary), but Socrates, in a dialogue between himself and the Laws of Athens, reveals his devotion to the city and his obligation to obey its laws even if they lead to his death. In the Phaedo, Plato recounts Socrates’s discussion of the immortality of the soul; and at the end of that dialogue, one of the most moving and dramatic scenes in ancient literature, Socrates takes the hemlock (poison) prepared for him while his friends sit helplessly by. He died reminding Crito that he owes a rooster to Aesculapius.

Socrates was the most colorful figure in the history of ancient philosophy. His fame was widespread in his own time, and his name soon became a household word although he professed no extraordinary wisdom, constructed no philosophical system, established no school, and founded no sect (following). His influence on the course of ancient philosophy, through Plato, the Cynics, and less directly, Aristotle, is immeasurable.

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Socrates Quotes about Youth

Be it the modern-day era or era of the ancient Greek philosophers, adults always have something to complain about the behavior of the younger generation. Similarly, Socrates had its own notion about youth. Here are some of Socrates quotes about youth that may provide thought provoking insights. Some of his words might be an inspiration that can inspire you and motivate in life. Or, they may simply be words of advice or wisdom.

I know that I am intelligent, because I know that I know nothing.

In childhood be modest, in youth temperate, in adulthood just, and in old age prudent.

I do nothing but go about persuading you all, old and young alike, not to take thought for your persons or your properties, but and chiefly to care about the greatest improvement of the soul.

If the whole world depends on today’s youth, I can’t see the world lasting another 100 years.

The greatest blessing granted to mankind come by way of madness, which is a divine gift.

He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature.

Be the kind of person that you want people to think you are.

By all means marry; if you get a good wife, you’ll become happy; if you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.

Children nowadays are tyrants. They contradict their parents, gobble their food, and tyrannize their teachers.

Socrates Quotes about Life

Life is like a heartbeat, if it’s linear you are dead and it’s the up and down which makes you alive. A motivational push is all we look for. Driven by an ethical system, Socrates’s intention was to bring human reasoning in practice than the theological doctrine of the time. He tried his best and bought a different notion about life altogether. If you need to see things from a more realistic and practical perspective, here are some Socrates quotes about life. Lead the way to it, it might tell you exactly what you need to hear.

Be of good cheer about death, and know this of a truth, that no evil can happen to a good man, either in life or after death.

He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.

The unexamined life is not worth living.

Think not those faithful who praise all thy words and actions; but those who kindly reprove thy faults.

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.

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

Only the extremely ignorant or the extremely intelligent can resist change.

The greatest way to live with honor in this world is to be what we pretend to be.

The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.

Socrates Quotes on Wisdom

Wisdom is the ability to use different abilities like knowledge and experience together. It’s also like common sense, for many believe they have it yet they lack it. Funny? No, more like scary. Wisdom enables a person to speak when necessary and to shut mouth, when not. Being a philosopher, Socrates learned it the hard way and gained the Wisdom. Here are some Socrates wisdom quotes, imparting his wisdom. Let’s hope we don’t need to take the hard way but the highway.

The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.

True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.

There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance.

When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser.

The easiest and noblest way is not to be crushing others, but to be improving yourselves.

Wisdom begins in wonder.

When you want wisdom and insight as badly as you want to breathe, it is then you shall have it.

Remember that there is nothing stable in human affairs; therefore avoid undue elation in prosperity, or undue depression in adversity.

Remember what is unbecoming to do is also unbecoming to speak of.

The shortest and surest way to live with honour in the world, is to be in reality what we would appear to be; and if we observe, we shall find that all human virtues increase and strengthen themselves by the practice of them.

Socrates Quotes on Democracy

Democracy – government by the people for the people. But why do we need an elected body to work for our wellbeing, why can’t we do things for our own. Following the same, with several Ancient Greece’s great achievements, democracy was highly suspicious to Socrates. In the words of Plato, Socrates’s student, Socrates portrayed as a huge pessimist about the whole business of democracy. Understanding the notion of democracy by him, here are a few Socrates quotes on democracy.

I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think.

Be as you wish to seem.

Be nicer than necessary to everyone you meet. Everyone is fighting some kind of battle.

I call myself a peaceful warrior because the battles we fight are on the inside.

The value of a man is measured in the number of those who stand beside him, not those who follow.

Nothing is so well learned as that which is discovered.

Employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s writings so that you shall come easily by what others have labored hard for.

The envious person grows lean with the fatness of their neighbor.

Contentment is natural wealth; luxury is artificial poverty.

Socrates Quotes on Education

Determining whether a nation is developed, developing or underdeveloped, literacy rate is one of the key factors. Likewise, education determines whether a person is open to changes, opinions and to look beyond and above superstitions. Education is what makes you help to understand things better, make you a better storyteller or to communicate your feelings in words and actions both. It’s a card of all trade. Here are some Socrates quotes on education, which emphasize even further on the importance of Education.

Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.

The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.

Every action has its pleasure and its price.

I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think.

No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.

I know you won’t believe me, but the highest form of Human Excellence is to question oneself and others.

Wealth does not bring about excellence, but excellence makes wealth and everything else good for men, both individually and collectively.

Nobody is qualified to become a statesman who is entirely ignorant of the problem of wheat.

Socrates Quotes on Knowledge

Knowledge is power, heard it before, obviously? But what’s the rationale behind this famous quote. Is it the knowledge of stars, ability to solve mathematical problems or the knowledge about the universe and it’s existence. Some will say all of it or maybe none of it. It’s subjective, because it depends what knowledge you seek for. But one thing is sure, it’s the knowledge that gives you an edge over hundreds or thousands of people. Make you stand apart from the crowd. So, here are some Socrates knowledge quotes to enlighten what it means to be trendsetter.

It is better to change an opinion than to persist in a wrong one.

Understanding a question is half an answer.

Prefer knowledge to wealth, for the one is transitory, the other perpetual.

The only good is knowledge and the only evil is ignorance.

The ancient Oracle said that I was the wisest of all the Greeks. It is because I alone, of all the Greeks, know that I know nothing.

Well I am certainly wiser than this man. It is only too likely that neither of us has any knowledge to boast of; but he thinks that he knows something which he does not know, whereas I am quite conscious of my ignorance. At any rate it seems that I am wiser than he is to this small extent, that I do not think that I know what I do not know.

Whatever authority I may have rests solely on knowing how little I know.

I shall never fear or avoid things of which I do not know.

We are in fact convinced that if we are ever to have pure knowledge of anything, we must get rid of the body and contemplate things by themselves with the soul by itself. It seems, to judge from the argument, that the wisdom which we desire and upon which we profess to have set our hearts will be attainable only when we are dead and not in our lifetime.

Knowledge is our ultimate good.

You think that upon the score of fore-knowledge and divining I am infinitely inferior to the swans. When they perceive approaching death they sing more merrily than before, because of the joy they have in going to the God they serve.

Whatever authority I may have rests solely on knowing how little I know.

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