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Plato (427 – 347 BC) was from Athens. He was a student of Socrates and a founding father of Western philosophy and the Greek Academy of Athens. Knowledge becomes evil if the aim be not virtuous.


Plato is a founding father of Greek philosophy.

Sources of Plato quotes; WikiQuotes, GoodReads, BrainyQuotes, EGS,

Quotations of Plato

{Man is a being in search of meaning. [This is attributed to Plato, but on further searching might be misattributed to Plato. A meaningful discussion of the concept is found with Viktor Frankl. ]}

{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. [misattributed to Plato.]}

Education is teaching our children to desire the right things.

Knowledge unqualified is knowledge simply of something learned.

The direction in which education starts a man will determine his future life.

The object of education is to teach us to love what is beautiful.

All learning has an emotional base.

A hero is born among a hundred, a wise man is found among a thousand, but an accomplished one might not be found even among a hundred thousand men.

Of all the animals, the boy is the most unmanageable.

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

If men learn this, it will implant forgetfulness in their souls; they will cease to exercise memory because they rely on that which is written, calling things to remembrance no longer from within themselves, but by means of external marks. What you have discovered is a recipe not for memory, but for reminder. And it is no true wisdom that you offer your disciples, but only its semblance, for by telling them of many things without teaching them you will make them seem to know much, while for the most part they know nothing, and as men filled, not with wisdom, but with the conceit of wisdom, they will be a burden to their fellows.

You know that the beginning is the most important part of any work, especially in the case of a young and tender thing; for that is the time at which the character is being formed and the desired impression is more readily taken….Shall we just carelessly allow children to hear any casual tales which may be devised by casual persons, and to receive into their minds ideas for the most part the very opposite of those which we should wish them to have when they are grown up?

We cannot….Anything received into the mind at that age is likely to become indelible and unalterable; and therefore it is most important that the tales which the young first hear should be models of virtuous thoughts….

That’s what education should be,” I said, “the art of orientation. Educators should devise the simplest and most effective methods of turning minds around. It shouldn’t be the art of implanting sight in the organ, but should proceed on the understanding that the organ already has the capacity, but is improperly aligned and isn’t facing the right way.

Knowledge becomes evil if the aim be not virtuous.

For a man to conquer himself is the first and noblest of all victories.

I would teach children music, physics, and philosophy; but most importantly music, for the patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning

Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.

For this feeling of wonder shows that you are a philosopher, since wonder is the only beginning of philosophy.

Either we shall find what it is we are seeking or at least we shall free ourselves from the persuasion that we know what we do not know.

Man…is a tame or civilized animal; never the less, he requires proper instruction and a fortunate nature, and then of all animals he becomes the most divine and most civilized; but if he be insufficiently or ill- educated he is the most savage of earthly creatures.

Good actions give strength to ourselves and inspire good actions in others.

False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil.

{You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.  [Misattributed to Plato.]}

True friendship can exist only between equals.

Never discourage anyone…who continually makes progress, no matter how slow.

Those who tell the stories rule society.

Those who are able to see beyond the shadows and lies of their culture will never be understood, let alone believed, by the masses.

I’m trying to think, don’t confuse me with facts.

Human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and knowledge.

There are three classes of men; lovers of wisdom, lovers of honor, and lovers of gain.

When men speak ill of thee, live so that nobody will believe them.

How can you prove whether at this moment we are sleeping, and all our thoughts are a dream; or whether we are awake, and talking to one another in the waking state?

You should not honor men more than truth.

And isn’t it a bad thing to be deceived about the truth, and a good thing to know what the truth is? For I assume that by knowing the truth you mean knowing things as they really are.

They deem him their worst enemy who tells them the truth.

Courage is knowing what not to fear.

Necessity is the mother of invention.

He was a wise man who invented God.

Character is simply habit long continued.

“Excellence” is not a gift, but a skill that takes practice.
We do not act “rightly” because we are “excellent”,
in fact we achieve “excellence” by acting “rightly”.

The beginning is the most important part of the work. [Well begun is half done.]

The greatest wealth is to live content with little.

Any man may easily do harm, but not every man can do good to another.

A house that has a library in it has a soul.

Books are immortal sons defying their sires.

In practice people who study philosophy too long become very odd birds, not to say thoroughly vicious; while even those who are the best of them are reduced by…[philosophy] to complete uselessness as members of society.

A dog has the soul of a philosopher.

He who wishes to serve his country must have not only the power to think, but the will to act

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.

The man who makes everything that leads to happiness depends upon himself, and not upon other men, has adopted the very best plan for living happily. This is the man of moderation, the man of manly character and of wisdom.

The society 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, my dear Glaucon, of humanity itself, till philosophers become rulers in this world, or till those we now call kings and rulers really and truly become philosophers, and political power and philosophy thus come into the same hands.

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.

Imagine that the keeper of a huge, strong beast notices what makes it angry, what it desires, how it has to be approached and handled, the circumstances and the conditions under which it becomes particularly fierce or calm, what provokes its typical cries, and what tones of voice make it gentle or wild. Once he’s spent enough time in the creature’s company to acquire all this information, he calls it knowledge, forms it into a systematic branch of expertise, and starts to teach it, despite total ignorance, in fact, about which of the creature’s attitudes and desires is commendable or deplorable, good or bad, moral or immoral. His usage of all these terms simply conforms to the great beast’s attitudes, and he describes things as good or bad according to its likes and dislikes, and can’t justify his usage of the terms any further, but describes as right and good the things which are merely indispensable, since he hasn’t realised and can’t explain to anyone else how vast a gulf there is between necessity and goodness.


Knowledge becomes evil if the aim be not virtuous. Plato writes in paragraphs and doesn’t seem to have many one-liners, and the quote here illustrates his problem because it becomes so complex so quickly. The seemingly simple words, when combined into a sentence, become loaded with cross-purposed morality. The tiniest shift in point of view and sometimes virtue becomes reversed into evil, and the possession of knowledge which is positive in one instance suddenly becomes negative. One’s personal aims, one’s group’s aims, one’s society’s aims, and humanity’s aims are often in direct conflict. 

Man is a being in search of meaning. The method I have used in making this series Philosophers Squared, of using quotations found on the web, was intended to quickly reveal the philosophers in their own words. It has a serious problem in that the philosopher’s thoughts become selectively distorted by his current popularity, and popular ideas are what find their way to the web quotations pages. Further complicating this method are the manufacturers of T-shirts, posters and mugs, creating new slogans, and then to increase their sales, they attribute them to a famous philosopher. Thus we see in public places as memes statements never made by any classic philosopher, but they help in our quest for meaning.

Plato is a special problem for quotations because he himself is frequently quoting remembered conversations with other philosophers, whom he personally knew, like Socrates. Even reading the original sources it is sometimes difficult to know where Plato ends and Socrates begins. And isn’t it a bad thing to be deceived about the truth, and a good thing to know what the truth is? For I assume that by knowing the truth you mean knowing things as they really are.

Another problem with quoting Plato is that he had personal political ambitions, and he created the concept of Philosopher-Kings because he himself was of a very select group of men who could claim to be both a philosopher and of aristocratic lineage. Read Karl Popper’s The Open Society and Its Enemies, Vol. 1: The Spell of Plato for Plato’s aristocratic versus democratic opinions. Some of Plato’s legitimate quotations may be his political rhetoric for seeking office, and not his actual philosophy. 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’s theory of forms lacks solidity for me because it implies there is an ideal form for each object and even for every idea found manifest in reality. For an animal, such as a human, there would be an ideal form, to which each and every individual would be an imperfect approximation. Modern genetic DNA of a human wouldn’t be of humanity’s DNA because all people have differences in specific genes, which still function, and yet these people are all clearly humans. An assemblage of specific DNA portions provided by the mother and father are generally human, and for the individual there would be an ideal physical manifestation from the specific DNA which it was given, and toward which the person might be said to grow. But even this would be considerably modified by the environment in which the individual was living. Thus, there is never an absolutely ideal form, neither for an individual, nor for a whole species of living things. Always Plato’s named-forms are examples of individuals close enough to a generalized form to function by approximation under the named category. Idealized absolute forms don’t exist but are abstractions about generalized entities which function in the external world.