Plato Πλάτων Plátōn (c. 427 BC – c. 347 BC) was an immensely influential classical Greek philosopher, student of Socrates, teacher of Aristotle, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens.
- 1 Menexenus
- 2 Gorgias
- 3 Phaedrus
- 4 The Symposium
- 5 The Apology
- 6 Phaedo
- 7 The Republic
- 8 Parmenides
- 9 Laws
- 10 In Diogenes Laërtius
- 11 Cratylus
- 12 Unsourced
- 13 Misattributed
- 14 On Plato
- 15 External links
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Sec. 279 (Socrates' prayer)
- Friends have all things in common.
- Sec. 279
- The eyes which are the windows of the soul.
- 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.
- Sec. 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.
- Sec. 212
- The unexamined life is not worth living.
- Sec. 38
- Either death is a state of nothingness and utter unconsciousness, or, as men say, there is a change and migration of the soul from this world to another. ...Now if death be of such a nature, I say that to die is to gain; for eternity is then only a single night.
- Sec. 40
- No evil can happen to a good man, neither in life nor after death.
- Sec. 41
- The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways - I to die, and you to live. Which is better God only knows.
- Sec. 42
- Man is a prisoner who has no right to open the door of his prison and run away...A man should wait, and not take his own life until God summons him.
- Must not all things at the last be swallowed up in death?
- Will you not allow that I have as much of the spirit of prophesy in me as the swans? For they, when they perceive that they must die, having sung all their life long, do then sing more lustily than ever, rejoicing in the thought that they are going to the god they serve.
- False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil.
- 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?
- When there is an income tax, the just man will pay more and the unjust less on the same amount of income.
- Mankind censure injustice fearing that they may be the victims of it, and not because they shrink from committing it.
- But the chief penalty is to be governed by someone worse if a man will not himself hold office and rule.
- The beginning is the most important part of the work.
- Then the first thing will be to establish a censorship of the writers of fiction, and let the censors receive any tale of fiction which is good, and reject the bad; and we will desire mothers and nurses to tell their children the authorized ones only.
- If we mean our future guardians to regard the habit of quarrelling among themselves as of all things the basest, should any word be said to them of the wars in heaven, and of the plots and fightings of the gods against one another, for they are not true. No, we shall never mention the battles of the giants, or let them be embroidered on garments; and we shall be silent about the innumerable other quarrels of gods and heroes with their friends and relatives. If they would only believe us we would tell them that quarrelling is unholy, and that never up to this time has there been any quarrel between citizens; this is what old men and old women should being by telling children; and when they grow up, the poets also should be told to compose for them in a similar spirit.
- God is not the author of all things, but of good only.
- The gods are not magicians who transform themselves; neither do they deceive mankind in any way.
- Can any man be courageous who has the fear of death in him?
- 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.
- A fit of laughter, which has been indulged to excess, almost always produces a violent reaction.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- When the citizens of a society can see and hear their leaders, then that society should be seen as one.
- 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.
- Everything that deceives may be said to enchant.
- Wealth is the parent of luxury and indolence, and poverty of meanness and viciousness, and both of discontent.
- The direction in which education starts a man will determine his future life.
- 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.
- I have hardly ever known a mathematician who was capable of reasoning.
- Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no harm to the body; but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.
- Democracy, which is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder, and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequaled alike.
- Democracy passes into despotism.
- 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.
- 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.
- No human thing is of serious importance.
- As Themistocles answered Seriphian who was abusing him and saying that he was famous not for his own merits but because he was an Athenian: "If you had been a native of my country or I of yours, neither of us would have been famous."
- The tools which would teach men their own use would be beyond price.
- 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.
- If you can discover a better way of life than office-holding for your future rulers, a well-governed city becomes a possibility. For only in such a state will those rule who are truly rich, not in gold, but in the wealth that makes happiness--a good and wise life.
- This fragment is also translated as:
- You must contrive for your future rulers another and a better life than that of a ruler, and then you may have a well-ordered State; for only in the State which offers this, will they rule who are truly rich, not in silver and gold, but in virtue and wisdom, which are the true blessings of life.
- Poetry and philosophy are always hostile to each other.
- Sourced from In Our Time: The Artist, BBC Radio 4, TX: 28th March 2002 
- You cannot conceive the many without the one.
- The greatest penalty of evildoing is to grow into the likeness of bad men.
- Of all animals, the boy is the most unmanageable.
- 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.
- Not one of them who took up in his youth with this opinion that there are no gods ever continued until old age faithful to his conviction.
- Death is not the worst that can happen to men.
- Are we assured that there are two things which lead men to believe in the Gods, as we have already stated?
What are they?
One is the argument about the soul, which has been already mentioned — that it is the eldest and most divine of all things, to which motion attaining generation gives perpetual existence; the other was an argument from the order of the motion of the stars, and of all things under the dominion of the mind which ordered the universe. If a man look upon the world not lightly or ignorantly, there was never any one so godless who did not experience an effect opposite to that which the many imagine. For they think that those who handle these matters by the help of astronomy, and the accompanying arts of demonstration, may become godless, because they see, as far as they can see, things happening by necessity, and not by an intelligent will accomplishing good.
- Aristotle has kicked us off, just as chickens do their mother after they have been hatched.
- I shall assume that your silence gives consent (XLI).
- Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
- There is only one good, which is knowledge, and one evil, which is ignorance.
- Wherever it has been established that it is shameful to be involved with sexual relationships with men, that is due to evil on the part of the rulers, and to cowardice on the part of the governed.
- The learning and knowledge that we have, is, at the most, but little compared to that of which we are ignorant.
- No one is more hated than he who speaks the truth.
- One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics, is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. [But see next below, and Republic I : 347-C]
- The good are not willing to rule either for the sake of money or of honor. They do not wish to collect pay openly for their service of rule and be styled hirelings nor to take it by stealth from their office and be called thieves, nor yet for the sake of honor, [347c] for they are not covetous of honor. So there must be imposed some compulsion and penalty to constrain them to rule if they are to consent to hold office. That is perhaps why to seek office oneself and not await compulsion is thought disgraceful. But the chief penalty is to be governed by someone worse if a man will not himself hold office and rule. It is from fear of this, as it appears to me, that the better sort hold office when they do, and then they go to it not in the expectation of enjoyment nor as to a good thing, but as to a necessary evil and because they are unable to turn it over to better men than themselves [347d] or to their like. For we may venture to say that, if there should be a city of good men only, immunity from office-holding would be as eagerly contended for as office is now. 
- Note: This is not a precise quotation, but it is a reasonably accurate paraphrase of Republic 1, 347
- Ignorance, the root and the stem of every evil.
- Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws.
- At the touch of love, everyone becomes a poet.
- You can learn more about a man in an hour of play, than in a year of conversation.
- 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.
- What is left now of the soils of Greece, is like the skeleton of a body wasted by disease. The rich, soft soil has been carried off.
- Only the dead have seen the end of war.
- Here, first of all men for pure justice famed,
And moral virtue, Aristocles lies;
And if there e'er has lived one truly wise,
This man was wiser still; too great for envy.
- The epigram on his tomb reported in: Diogenes Laërtius (tr. eng. C. D. Yonge). The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, Book III, "Life of Plato", xxx..
- Aristocles was his original name.
- He was the first author who wrote treatises in the form of dialogues ... And as he argued against almost every one who had lived before his time, it is often asked why he has never mentioned Democritus.
- Diogenes Laërtius (tr. eng. C. D. Yonge). The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, Book III, "Life of Plato", xix..
- Xenophon, too, does not appear to have been very friendlily disposed towards him: and accordingly they have, as if in rivalry of one another, both written books with the same title, the Banquet, the Defence of Socrates, Moral Reminiscences. Then, too, the one wrote the Cyropaedia and the other a book on Politics ; and Plato in his Laws says, that the Cyropaedia is a mere romance, for that Cyrus was not such a person as he is described in that book. And though they both speak so much of Socrates, neither of them ever mentions the other, except that Xenophon once speaks of Plato in the third book of his Reminiscences.
- Diogenes Laërtius (tr. eng. C. D. Yonge). The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, Book III, "Life of Plato", xxiv..
- What is Plato, but Moses speaking in Attic Greek?
- Numenius of Apamea
- Note: The late antique Jewish philosophers considered Plato and Moses, thus Judaism, in concord. Christians inherited this idea and actively learnt Greek philosophers to develop their theoretical thinkings.
- Amicus Plato — amicus Aristoteles — magis amica veritas
- Translation: Plato is my friend — Aristotle is my friend — but my greatest friend is truth.
- Isaac Newton, "Quaestiones Quaedam Philosophicae" [Certain Philosophical Questions] (c. 1664)
- The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.
- Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology (1929), Pt. II, ch. 1, sec. 1
- With regard to this question modern physics takes a definite stand against the materialism of Democritus and for Plato and the Pythagoreans. The elementary particles are certainly not eternal and indestructible units of matter, they can actually be transformed into each other. ... The elementary particles in Plato's Timaeus are finally not substance but mathematical forms.
- Werner Heisenberg, Physics and Philosophy (1958)
- Plato is the essential Buddha-seeker who appears again and again in each generation, moving onward and upward toward the "one." Aristotle is the eternal motorcycle mechanic who prefers the "many."
- Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974)
- Friendship in the Greek tradition, in the Roman tradition, in the old tradition, was always viewed as the highest point which virtue can reach. Virtue, meaning here, "the habitual facility of doing the good thing," which is fostered by what the Greeks called politaea, political life, community life. I know it was a political life in which I wouldn't have liked to participate, with the slaves around and with the women excluded, but I still have to go to Plato or to Cicero. They conceived of friendship as a supreme flowering, of the interaction which happens in a good political society.
- Ivan Illich, We the People interview (1996)