Plato’s Quotes

At the touch of love, everyone becomes a poet. -Plato

I would teach the children music, physics and philosophy, but the most important is music, for in the patterns of the arts are the keys to all learning. -Plato

No one is more hated than he who speaks the truth. -Plato

Death is not the worst that can happen to men. -Plato

No human thing is of serious importance. -Plato, The Republic

Can any man be courageous who has the fear of death in him? -Plato, The Republic

Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no harm to the body; but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind. -Plato, The Republic

Ignorance, the root and the stem of every evil. -Plato

Plato

Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws. -Plato

The direction in which education starts a man will determine his future life. -Plato, The Republic

One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics, is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. -Plato

Musical training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul; on which they mightily fasten, imparting grace, and making the soul of him who is rightly educated graceful, or of him who is ill-educated ungraceful; and also because he who has received this education of the inner being will most shrewdly perceive omissions or faults in art and nature, and with a true taste, while he praises and rejoices over and receives into his soul the good, and becomes noble and good, he will justly blame and hate the bad, now in the days of his youth, even before he is able to know the reason why; and when reason comes he will recognise and salute the friend with whom his education has made him long familiar. -Plato, The Republic

But tell me, this physician of whom you were just speaking, is he a moneymaker, an earner of fees, or a healer of the sick? -Plato, The Republic

Plato’s Quotes

The judge should not be young; he should have learned to know evil, not from his own soul, but from late and long observation of the nature of evil in others: knowledge should be his guide, not personal experience. -Plato, The Republic

Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political greatness and wisdom meet in one, and those commoner natures who pursue either to the exclusion of the other are compelled to stand aside, cities will never have rest from their evils – no, nor the human race, as I believe – and then only will this our State have a possibility of life and behold the light of day. -Plato, The Republic

Democracy, which is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder, and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequaled alike. -Plato, The Republic

The people have always some champion whom they set over them and nurse into greatness. …This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears he is a protector. -Plato, The Republic

And first he will see the shadows best, next the reflections of men and other objects in the water, and then the objects themselves, then he will gaze upon the light of the moon and the stars and the spangled heaven…Last of all he will be able to see the sun. -Plato, The Republic

The tools which would teach men their own use would be beyond price. -Plato, The Republic

You can learn more about a man in an hour of play, than in a year of conversation. -Plato

When there is an income tax, the just man will pay more and the unjust less on the same amount of income. -Plato, The Republic

Again, truth should be highly valued; if, as we were saying, a lie is useless to the gods, and useful only as a medicine to men, then the use of such medicines should be restricted to physicians; private individuals have no business with them. -Plato, The Republic

Beauty of style and harmony and grace and good rhythm depend on simplicity – I mean the true simplicity of a rightly and nobly ordered mind and character, not that other simplicity which is only a euphemism for folly. -Plato, The Republic

The price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men. -Plato, 

When the tyrant has disposed of foreign enemies by conquest or treaty, and there is nothing to fear from them, then he is always stirring up some war or other, in order that the people may require a leader. -Plato, The Republic

You are young, my son, and, as the years go by, time will change and even reverse many of your present opinions. Refrain therefore awhile from setting yourself up as a judge of the highest matters. -Plato

Plato’s Quotes

And all knowledge, when separated from justice and virtue, is seen to be cunning and not wisdom; wherefore make this your first and last and constant and all-absorbing aim, to exceed, if possible, not only us but all your ancestors in virtue; and know that to excel you in virtue only brings us shame, but that to be excelled by you is a source of happiness to us. -Plato, Menexenus

And we must beg Homer and the other poets not to be angry if we strike out these and similar passages, not because they are unpoetical, or unattractive to the popular ear, but because the greater the poetical charm in them, the less are they meet for the ears of boys and men who are meant to be free, and who should fear slavery more than death. -Plato, The Republic

When the citizens of a society can see and hear their leaders, then that society should be seen as one. -Plato, The Republic

Remember our words, then, and whatever is your aim let virtue be the condition of the attainment of your aim, and know that without this all possessions and pursuits are dishonourable and evil. -Plato, Menexenus

Thus rhetoric, it seems, is a producer of persuasion for belief, not for instruction in the matter of right and wrong … And so the rhetorician’s business is not to instruct a law court or a public meeting in matters of right and wrong, but only to make them believe. -Plato, Gorgias

Then the case is the same in all the other arts for the orator and his rhetoric; there is no need to know the truth of the actual matters, but one merely needs to have discovered some device of persuasion which will make one appear to those who do not know to know better than those who know. -Plato, Gorgias

Plato’s Quotes

And we shall most likely be defeated, and you will most likely be victors in the contest, if you learn so to order your lives as not to abuse or waste the reputation of your ancestors, knowing that to a man who has any self-respect, nothing is more dishonourable than to be honoured, not for his own sake, but on account of the reputation of his ancestors. -Plato, Menexenus

Mankind censure injustice fearing that they may be the victims of it, and not because they shrink from committing it. -Plato, The Republic

The beginning is the most important part of the work. -Plato, The Republic

God is not the author of all things, but of good only. -Plato, The Republic

Only the dead have seen the end of war. -Plato

For neither does wealth bring honour to the owner, if he be a coward; of such a one the wealth belongs to another, and not to himself. Nor does beauty and strength of body, when dwelling in a base and cowardly man, appear comely, but the reverse of comely, making the possessor more conspicuous, and manifesting forth his cowardice. -Plato, Menexenus

The honour of parents is a fair and noble treasure to their posterity, but to have the use of a treasure of wealth and honour, and to leave none to your successors, because you have neither money nor reputation of your own, is alike base and dishonourable. -Plato, Menexenus

The orators and the despots have the least power in their cities … since they do nothing that they wish to do, practically speaking, though they do whatever they think to be best. -Plato, Gorgias

A fit of laughter, which has been indulged to excess, almost always produces a violent reaction. -Plato, The Republic

Plato’s Quotes

Quotes

Menexenus

  • Let every man remind their descendants that they also are soldiers who must not desert the ranks of their ancestors, or from cowardice fall behind.  Even as I exhort you this day, and in all future time, whenever I meet with any of you, shall continue to remind and exhort you, O ye sons of heroes, that you strive to be the bravest of men.  And I think that I ought now to repeat what your fathers desired to have said to you who are their survivors, when they went out to battle, in case anything happened to them.  I will tell you what I heard them say, and what, if they had only speech, they would fain be saying, judging from what they then said.  And you must imagine that you hear them saying what I now repeat to you:

    Sons, the event proves that your fathers were brave men; for we might have lived dishonourably, but have preferred to die honourably rather than bring you and your children into disgrace, and rather than dishonour our own fathers and forefathers; considering that life is not life to one who is a dishonour to his race, and that to such a one neither men nor Gods are friendly, either while he is on the earth or after death in the world below.

    Remember our words, then, and whatever is your aim let virtue be the condition of the attainment of your aim, and know that without this all possessions and pursuits are dishonourable and evil.

    For neither does wealth bring honour to the owner, if he be a coward; of such a one the wealth belongs to another, and not to himself.  Nor does beauty and strength of body, when dwelling in a base and cowardly man, appear comely, but the reverse of comely, making the possessor more conspicuous, and manifesting forth his cowardice.

    And all knowledge, when separated from justice and virtue, is seen to be cunning and not wisdom; wherefore make this your first and last and constant and all-absorbing aim, to exceed, if possible, not only us but all your ancestors in virtue; and know that to excel you in virtue only brings us shame, but that to be excelled by you is a source of happiness to us.

    And we shall most likely be defeated, and you will most likely be victors in the contest, if you learn so to order your lives as not to abuse or waste the reputation of your ancestors, knowing that to a man who has any self-respect, nothing is more dishonourable than to be honoured, not for his own sake, but on account of the reputation of his ancestors.

    The honour of parents is a fair and noble treasure to their posterity, but to have the use of a treasure of wealth and honour, and to leave none to your successors, because you have neither money nor reputation of your own, is alike base and dishonourable.

    And if you follow our precepts you will be received by us as friends, when the hour of destiny brings you hither; but if you neglect our words and are disgraced in your lives, no one will welcome or receive you.  This is the message which is to be delivered to our children.

    • A speech of Aspasia, recounted by Socrates, as portrayed in the dialogue.

Gorgias

  • Rhetoric, it seems, is a producer of persuasion for belief, not for instruction in the matter of right and wrong … And so the rhetorician’s business is not to instruct a law court or a public meeting in matters of right and wrong, but only to make them believe.
  • Then the case is the same in all the other arts for the orator and his rhetoric; there is no need to know the truth of the actual matters, but one merely needs to have discovered some device of persuasion which will make one appear to those who do not know to know better than those who know.
  • The orators — and the despots — have the least power in their cities … since they do nothing that they wish to do, practically speaking, though they do whatever they think to be best.
  • It would be better for me … that multitudes of men should disagree with me rather than that I, being one, should be out of harmony with myself.
    • Words spoken by Socrates, 482c

Protagoras

  • Knowledge is the food of the soul; and we must take care, my friend, that the Sophist does not deceive us when he praises what he sells, like the dealers wholesale or retail who sell the food of the body; for they praise indiscriminately all their goods, without knowing what are really beneficial or hurtful.
    • 313c, Benjamin Jowett, trans.

Critias

  • All that is said by any of us can only be imitation and representation.
    • 107b
  • I shall argue that to seem to speak well of the gods to men is far easier than to speak well of men to men: for the inexperience and utter ignorance of his hearers about any subject is a great assistance to him who has to speak of it, and we know how ignorant we are concerning the gods.
    • 107b

Phaedrus

  • …the madness of love is the greatest of heaven’s blessings…
    • 245b–c
  • As a breeze or an echo rebounds from the smooth rocks and returns whence it came, so does the stream of beauty, passing through the eyes which are the windows of the soul, come back to the beautiful one.
    • 255c
  • Neither human wisdom nor divine inspiration can confer upon man any greater blessing than this [live a life of happiness and harmony here on earth].
    • 256b
  • Socrates:  The disgrace begins when a man writes not well, but badly.
    Phaedrus:  Clearly.
    Socrates:  And what is well and what is badly—need we ask Lysias, or any other poet or orator, who ever wrote or will write either a political or any other work, in metre or out of metre, poet or prose writer, to teach us this?

    • 258d (tr. Benjamin Jowett)
    • paraphrased in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig:  “And what is good, Phaedrus, and what is not good—need we ask anyone to tell us these things?”
  • In those days, when people were not wise like you young people, they were content to listen to a tree or a rock in simple openness, just as long as it spoke the truth, but to you, perhaps, it makes a difference who is speaking and where he comes from.
    • 275c, as translated by Joe Sachs in introduction to Aristotle’s Physics: A Guided Study (2011), p. 1
  • Oh dear Pan and all the other Gods of this place, grant that I may be beautiful inside.  Let all my external possessions be in friendly harmony with what is within.  May I consider the wise man rich.  As for gold, let me have as much as a moderate man could bear and carry with him.
    • 279 – a prayer of Socrates, as portrayed in the dialogue.
  • Friends have all things in common.
    • 279

The Symposium

Plato’s Quotes

  • I only wish that wisdom were the kind of thing that flowed … from the vessel that was full to the one that was empty.
    • 175d
  • Neither family, nor privilege, nor wealth, nor anything but Love can light that beacon which a man must steer by when he sets out to live the better life.
    • 178c, M. Joyce, trans, Collected Dialogues of Plato (1961), p. 533
  • The vicious lover is the follower of earthly Love who desires the body rather than the soul; his heart is set on what is mutable and must therefore be inconstant. And as soon as the body he loves begins to pass the first flower of its beauty, he “spreads his wings and flies away,” giving the lie to all his pretty speeches and dishonoring his vows, whereas the lover whose heart is touched by moral beauties is constant all his life, for he has become one with what will never fade.
    • 183e, M. Joyce, trans, Collected Dialogues of Plato (1961), p. 537
  • For once touched by love, everyone becomes a poet
    • 196
  • And the true order of going, or being led by another, to the things of love, is to begin from the beauties of earth and mount upwards for the sake of that other beauty, using these steps only, and from one going on to two, and from two to all fair forms to fair practices, and from fair practices to fair notions, until from fair notions he arrives at the notion of absolute beauty, and at last knows what the essence of beauty is.
    • 211
  • Beholding beauty with the eye of the mind, he will be enabled to bring forth, not images of beauty, but realities (for he has hold not of an image but of a reality), and bringing forth and nourishing true virtue to become the friend of God and be immortal, if mortal man may.
    • 212

The Republic

  • There is no one who ever acts honestly in the administration of states, nor any helper who will save any one who maintains the cause of the just.
    • 496d
  • Since those who rule in the city do so because they own a lot, I suppose they’re unwilling to enact laws to prevent young people who’ve had no discipline from spending and wasting their wealth, so that by making loans to them, secured by the young people’s property, and then calling those loans in, they themselves become even richer and more honored.
    • 555c, G. Grube and C. Reeve, trans., Plato: Complete Works (1997), p. 1166
  • The inexperienced in wisdom and virtue, ever occupied with feasting and such, are carried downward, and there, as is fitting, they wander their whole life long, neither ever looking upward to the truth above them nor rising toward it, nor tasting pure and lasting pleasures. Like cattle, always looking downward with their heads bent toward the ground and the banquet tables, they feed, fatten, and fornicate. In order to increase their possessions they kick and butt with horns and hoofs of steel and kill each other, insatiable as they are.
    • 586a–b

The 7th Epistle

  • After much effort, as names, definitions, sights, and other data of sense, are brought into contact and friction one with another, in the course of scrutiny and kindly testing by men who proceed by question and answer without ill will, with a sudden flash there shines forth understanding about every problem, and an intelligence whose efforts reach the furthest limits of human powers.

Parmenides

  • It is impossible to conceive of many without one.
    • 166b
  • Just as things in a picture, when viewed from a distance, appear to be all in one and the same condition and alike.
    • 165c
  • But if with your mind’s eye you regard the absolute great and these many great things in the same way, will not another great appear beyond, by which all these must appear to be great?
    • 132a

Timaeus

Plato’s Quotes

  • Now in this island of Atlantis there was a great and wonderful empire which had rule over the whole island and several others, and over parts of the continent and, furthermore, the men of Atlantis had subjected the parts of Libya within the columns of Heracles as far as Egypt, and of Europe as far as Tyrrhenia. This vast power, gathered into one, endeavored to subdue at a blow our country and yours and the whole of the region within the straits, and then, Solon, your country shone forth, in the excellence of her virtue and strength, among all mankind.
    • Section 25b–c
  • Pleasure, a most mighty lure to evil.
    • Section 69d (W. R. M. Lamb’s translation); also rendered: pleasure, “the bait of sin” (W.A. Falconer’s translation).
  • It would be a hard task to discover the maker and father of this universe of ours, and even if we did find him, it would be impossible to speak of him to everyone.
    • Section 28c, Greek as quoted in The Watchtower, 2015, 2/15, pp. 19–23
  • So when the universe was quickened with soul, God was well pleased; and he bethought him to make it yet more like its type. And whereas the type is eternal and nought that is created can be eternal, he devised for it a moving image of abiding eternity, which we call time. And he made days and months and years, which are portions of time; and past and future are forms of time, though we wrongly attribute them also to eternity. For of eternal Being we ought not to say ‘it was’, ‘it shall be’, but ‘it is’ alone: and in like manner we are wrong in saying ‘it is’ of sensible things which become and perish; for these are ever fleeting and changing, having their existence in time.
    • 37c–38b, as quoted by R. D. Archer-Hind, The Timaeus of Plato (1888)
  • And when the father who begat it perceived the created image of the eternal gods, that it had motion and life, he rejoiced and was well pleased; and he bethought him to make it yet more nearly like its pattern. Now whereas that is a living being eternally existent, even so he essayed to make this All the like to the best of his power. Now so it was that the nature of the ideal was eternal. But to bestow this attribute altogether upon a created thing was impossible; so he bethought him to make a moving image of eternity, and while he was ordering the universe he made of eternity that abides in unity an eternal image moving according to number, even that which we have named time. For whereas days and nights and months and years were not before the universe was created, he then devised the generation of them along with the fashioning of the universe. Now all these are portions of time, and was and shall be are forms of time that have come to be, although we wrongly ascribe them unawares to the eternal essence. For we say that it was and is and shall be, but in verity is alone belongs to it: and was and shall be it is meet should be applied only to Becoming which moves in time; for these are motions. But that which is ever changeless without motion must not become elder or younger in time, neither must it have become so in past nor be so in the future; nor has it to do with any attributes that Becoming attaches to the moving objects of sense: these have come into being as forms of time, which is the image of eternity and revolves according to number. Moreover we say that the become is the become, and the becoming is the becoming, and that which shall become is that which shall become, and not-being is not-being. In all this we speak incorrectly. But concerning these things the present were perchance not the right season to inquire particularly.
    • 38b, as quoted by R. D. Archer-Hind, The Timaeus of Plato (1888)
  • Time then has come into being along with the universe, that being generated together, together they may be dissolved, should a dissolution of them ever come to pass; and it was made after the pattern of the eternal nature, that it might be as like to it as was possible. For the pattern is existent for all eternity; but the copy has been and is and shall be throughout all time continually. So then this was the plan and intent of God for the generation of time; the sun and the moon and five other stars which have the name of planets have been created for defining and preserving the numbers of time. …and a month is fulfilled when the moon, after completing her own orbit, overtakes the sun; a year, when the sun has completed his own course. But the courses of the others men have not taken into account, save a few out of many… they do not know that time arises from the wanderings of these, which are incalculable in multitude and marvellously intricate. None the less however can we observe that the perfect number of time fulfils the perfect year at the moment when the relative swiftnesses of all the eight revolutions accomplish their course together and reach their starting-point, being measured by the circle of the same and uniformly moving. In this way then and for these causes were created all such of the stars as wander through the heavens and turn about therein, in order that this universe may be most like to the perfect and ideal animal by its assimilation to the eternal being.
    • 38d–40a, as quoted by R. D. Archer-Hind, The Timaeus of Plato (1888)
  • [L]et us assign the figures that have come into being in our theory to fire and earth and water and air. To earth let us give the cubical form; for earth is least mobile of the four and most plastic of bodies: and that substance must possess this nature in the highest degree which has its bases most stable. Now of the triangles which we assumed as our starting-point that with equal sides is more stable than that with unequal; and of the surfaces composed of the two triangles the equilateral quadrangle necessarily is more stable than the equilateral triangle… Now among all these that which has the fewest bases must naturally in all respects be the most cutting and keen of all, and also the most nimble, seeing it is composed of the smallest number of similar parts… Let it be determined then… that the solid body which has taken the form of the pyramid [tetrahedron] is the element and seed of fire; and the second in order of generation let [octahedron] us say to be that of air, and the third [icosahedron] that of water. Now all these bodies we must conceive as being so small that each single body in the several kinds cannot for its smallness be seen by us at all; but when many are heaped together, their united mass is seen…
    • Section 55e–56c, Tr. R. D. Archer-Hind, The Timaeus of Plato (1888) pp. 199-201.
  • When earth meets with fire and is dissolved by the keenness of it, it would drift about, whether it were dissolved in fire itself, or in some mass of air or water, until the parts of it meeting and again being united became earth once more; for it never could pass into any other kind. But when water is divided by fire or by air, it may be formed again and become one particle of fire and two of air: and the divisions of air may become for every particle broken up two particles of fire. And again when fire is caught in air or in waters or in earth, a little in a great bulk, moving amid a rushing body, and contending with it is vanquished and broken up, two particles of fire combine into one figure of air: and when air is vanquished and broken small, from two whole and one half particle one whole figure of water will be composed. Let us also reckon it once again thus: when any of the other kinds is intercepted in fire and is divided by it through the sharpness of its angles and its sides, if it forms into the shape of fire, it at once ceases from being divided…
    • Section 57a, Tr. R. D. Archer-Hind, The Timaeus of Plato (1888) pp. 203-205.

Laws

  • The very rich are not good.
    • Book 5, 743c

Cratylus

  • I shall assume that your silence gives consent
    • 435b

Alcibiades I

  • Your pride has been too much for the pride of your admirers; they were numerous and high-spirited, but they have all run away, overpowered by your superior force of character; not one of them remains.  And I want you to understand the reason why you have been too much for them.  You think that you have no need of them or of any other man, for you have great possessions and lack nothing, beginning with the body, and ending with the soul.
    • Socrates speaking to Alcibiades
  • My love, Alcibiades, which I hardly like to confess, would long ago have passed away, as I flatter myself, if I saw you loving your good things, or thinking that you ought to pass life in the enjoyment of them.
    • Socrates speaking to Alcibiades
  • As you hope to prove your own great value to the state, and having proved it, to attain at once to absolute power, so do I indulge a hope that I shall be the supreme power over you, if I am able to prove my own great value to you.
    • Socrates speaking to Alcibiades
  • You want to know whether I can make a long speech, such as you are in the habit of hearing; but that is not my way.
    • Socrates speaking to Alcibiades
  • Socrates:  The shoemaker, for example, uses a square tool, and a circular tool, and other tools for cutting?
Alcibiades:  Yes.
Socrates:  But the tool is not the same as the cutter and user of the tool?
Alcibiades:  Of course not. …
Socrates:  Then what shall we say of the shoemaker?  Does he cut with his tools only or with his hands?
Alcibiades:  With his hands as well.
Socrates:  He uses his hands too?
Alcibiades:  Yes. …
Socrates:  And does not a man use the whole body?
Alcibiades:  Certainly.
Socrates:  And that which uses is different from that which is used?
Alcibiades:  True.
Socrates:  Then a man is not the same as his own body?
Alcibiades:  That is the inference.
Socrates:  What is he, then?
Alcibiades:  I cannot say.
Socrates:  Nay, you can say that he is the user of the body.
Alcibiades:  Yes.
Socrates:  And the user of the body is the soul?
Alcibiades:  Yes, the soul.

Theaetetus

  • Wonder is the feeling of a philosopher, and philosophy begins in wonder.
    • 155, The Dialogues of Plato, Volume 3, 1871, p. 377

Sophist

  • No one should be discouraged, Theaetetus, who can make constant progress, even though it be slow.
    • Original Greek, from Sophist 261b: θαρρεῖν, ὦ Θεαίτητε, χρὴ τὸν καὶ σμικρόν τι δυνάμενον εἰς τὸ πρόσθεν ἀεὶ προϊέναι.
    • Also quoted in variant forms such as: Never discourage anyone who continually makes progress, no matter how slow

In Diogenes Laërtius

  • [Aristotle] was the most eminent of all the pupils of Plato….  He seceded from Plato while he was still alive; so that they tell a story that [Plato] said, “Aristotle has kicked us off, just as chickens do their mother after they have been hatched.”
    • ’’The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers’’, Book V, “Life of Aristotle” paragraphs II and IV, as translated by C. D. Yonge

Plato. Roman copy of a portrait bust by Silanion for the Academia in Athens (c. 370 BC)

Plato (428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was an Athenian philosopher during the Classical period in Ancient Greece, founder of the Platonist school of thought, and the Academy, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world.

Plato Πλάτων Plátōn was an immensely influential classical Greek philosopher, student of Socrates, teacher of Aristotle, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens.

He is widely considered the pivotal figure in the history of Ancient Greek and Western philosophy, along with his teacher, Socrates, and his most famous student, Aristotle. Plato has also often been cited as one of the founders of Western religion and spirituality. The so-called Neoplatonism of philosophers like Plotinus and Porphyry influenced Saint Augustine and thus Christianity. Alfred North Whitehead once noted:

“the safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.”

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