Socrates - Plato - Aristotle


Who was Socrates?

  • He was one of the co-founders of Western Philosophy.
  • He was a philosopher of Ethics and he focused on the man's relationship to himself and others.
  • He is noted for the "Socratic Method" involving questioning in quest of a truth.
  • Socrates spent much time in the market place engaged in questioning peoples beliefs.
  • Many rich, young men, with little to do, were drawn to his questioning technique of instruction.
  • Socrates, unlike his contemporaries the Sophist did not charge because he did not claim to be a teacher.
  • He objected to the teachings of the Sophist who taught their students the art of debate and argument.
  • Socrates' valued the pursuit of truth and justice and he would not bend to social pressure imposed by those in power.
  • Socrates never wrote about his philosophy.
  • His life is known mainly through the writings of his student Plato.

Biography Links

READ----"Socrates devoted himself to his favorite pastime: the pursuit of truth." (The Greeks: Crucible of Civilization)
"Socrates." PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 28 Sept. 2013 <>.

"Socrates." Encyclopedia of World Biography. Detroit: Gale, 1998. Biography In Context. Web. 2 Oct. 2013.

TIMELINE-What was happening during his lifetime

Socrates is fundamental to the study of philosophy. His Socratic Method is still practiced and valued today. His method of inquiry, referred to as the Socratic method is not outdated but is current and practiced today. His words and ideas are still meaningful and helpful in pursuing a better life. He is remembered for his quotes,"know thyself" and the quote,"the unexamined life is not worth living". He is also remembered for having been executed, being served the poisonous hemlock. To get a glimpse of this important philosopher who left no work written by his own hand, read some of the excerpts and links below.

Scientific Method of Inquiry" Socrates (c. 470–399 B.C.E.) developed a method of inquiry and instruction that involved question and answer, or the "Socratic method." Although Socrates professed to be ignorant of the answers to his questions, his questioning and testing of the answers given were designed to expose the weakness of the opinions held by his interlocutors[a person who takes part in a conversation or dialogue] and to refine those opinions. While Socrates left no writings of his own, the Socratic method is demonstrated in the writings of several of his pupils, especially his most famous pupil, Plato (c. 428–348 or 347B.C.E.). The Socratic dialogues of Plato present Socrates in conversation with known contemporaries. These early dialogues involve question and answer, but most of these arrive at no definite conclusion or firm agreement." (Clay)SOURCE:
  • Clay, Diskin. "Dialogue and Dialectics: Socratic." New Dictionary of the History of Ideas. Ed. Maryanne Cline Horowitz. Vol. 2. Detroit: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2005. 574-576. World History In Context. Web. 27 Sept. 2013.

"THE UNEXAMINED LIFE IS NOT WORTH LIVING" Socrates was usually to be found in the marketplace and other public areas, conversing with a variety of different people—young and old, male and female, slave and free, rich and poor—that is, with virtually anyone he could persuade to join with him in his question-and-answer mode of probing serious matters. Socrates' lifework consisted in the examination of people's lives, his own and others', because “the unexamined life is not worth living for a human being,” as he says at his trial (Plato, Apology 38a). Socrates pursued this task single-mindedly, questioning people about what matters most, e.g., courage, love, reverence, moderation, and the state of their souls generally. He did this regardless of whether his respondents wanted to be questioned or resisted him; and Athenian youths imitated Socrates' questioning style, much to the annoyance of some of their parents. He had a reputation for irony, though what that means exactly is controversial; at a minimum, Socrates' irony consisted in his saying that he knew nothing of importance and wanted to listen to others, yet keeping the upper hand in every discussion. One further aspect of Socrates' much-touted strangeness should be mentioned: his dogged failure to align himself politically with oligarchs or democrats; rather, he had friends and enemies among both, and he supported and opposed actions of both (see §3). (Nails)

HIS PERSONAL VALUES REFLECTED IN HIS LIFESTYLE He was a man of great independence and dignity of character. Pamphila in the seventh book of her Commentaries tells how Alcibiades once offered him a large site on which to build a house; but he replied, “Suppose, then, I wanted shoes and you offered me a whole hide to make a pair with, would it not be ridiculous in me to take it?” Often when he looked at the multitude of wares exposed for sale, he would say to himself, “How many things I can do without!” And he would continually recite the lines:
  • The purple robe and silver’s shine
  • More fits an actor’s need than mine. (Laertius, The Lives of Eminent Philosophers)

His strength of will and attachment to the democracy are evident from his refusal to yield to Critias and his colleagues when they ordered him to bring the wealthy Leon of Salamis before them for execution, and further from the fact that he alone voted for the acquittal of the ten generals; and again from the facts that when he had the opportunity to escape from the prison he declined to do so, and the he rebuked his friends for weeping over his fate, and addressed to them his most memorable discourses in the prison. (Laertius, The Lives of Eminent Philosophers)

Socrate's Accusers - Trial

  • Charge with corrupting the youth of his day
  • Disbelieving in the gods of the state
  • Introducing new divinities

  • The Trial of Socrates [movie] will help you visualize the times and the trial where Socrates is condemned for corrupting the youth.
  • In Plato's Apology, Socrate's comes before the court of his accusers. Start at 20:42 where the reader starts with "Young men of the richer classes who have not much to do come about me of their own accord..."

  • HE FEARED DEATH LESS THAN COMMITTING INJUSTICE. In Plato's Apology, Socrate's actions defy those in political power.
    • "When the oligarchy was established, the Thirty summoned me to the Hall, along with four others, and ordered us to bring Leon from Salamis, that he might be executed. They gave many other orders to many people, in order to implicate as many as possible in their [i.e., the Thirty's] guilt. Then I showed again, not in words but in action, that, if it's not crude of me to say so, death is something I couldn't care less about, but that my whole concern is not to do anything unjust or impious. That government, as powerful as it was, did not frighten me into any wrongdoing. When we left the Hall, the other four went to Salamis and brought in Leon, but I went home. I might have been put to death for this, had not the government fallen shortly afterwards." (Apology 32c-d)
  • Socrates death has a big impact on his student Plato who shifts his career path from politics to philosophy. It is Plato who writes about Socrates, demonstrating the power of inquiry and dialogue.
    • In Plato's "Death of Socrates he is surrounded by his followers, including Crito who was a former student and eventually become involved in the overthrow of the democracy.
    • In Plato's Crito, Socrates is soon to face death, but again you witness his engaging in dialogue in attempting to help Crito arrive at an understanding as to why he chooses not to escape to to accept the verdict of the state ---- his execution by poison (hemlock).

Socrate's in Art

Socrate's -Videos/Film
FILM: The Trial of Socrates.



QUOTES ATTRIBUTED TO SOCRATESSearch Bartlett's Quotations or other quotation resources for words attributed to Socrates that appeal to you.

  • “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
  • "Know thyself."
  • “To find yourself, think for yourself.”
  • “I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think”
  • “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
  • “Be slow to fall into friendship, but when you are in, continue firm and constant.”
  • “Strong minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, weak minds discuss people.”
  • “If you don't get what you want, you suffer; if you get what you don't want, you suffer; even when you get exactly what you want, you still suffer because you can't hold on to it forever. Your mind is your predicament. It wants to be free of change. Free of pain, free of the obligations of life and death. But change is law and no amount of pretending will alter that reality.”
  • “He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.”
  • “The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.”

  • Carr, Karen, (Phd). "Socrates." - Greek Philosophy for Kids! Kidipede, 2012. Web. 27 Sept. 2013. <>. Summary:When Socrates was in his forties or so, he began to feel an urge to think about the world around him, and try to answer some difficult questions.
  • Clay, Diskin. "Dialogue and Dialectics: Socratic." New Dictionary of the History of Ideas. Ed. Maryanne Cline Horowitz. Vol. 2. Detroit: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2005. 574-576. World History In Context. Web. 27 Sept. 2013.
  • Nails, Debra, Nails,. "Socrates." Stanford University. Stanford University, 16 Sept. 2005. Web. 28 Sept. 2013. <>. A biography of Socrate's life and his influence.
  • Plato, Apology.Read by Bob Neufeld. Librovox Audiobook. 5 Dec. 2011. Internet Archive. 27 Sept. 2013.

  • Plato. "Death of Socrates, 399 b.c.e." Gale World History in Context. Detroit: Gale, 2012. World History In Context. Web. 27 Sept. 2013.
  • "Socrates." Encyclopedia of World Biography. Detroit: Gale, 1998. World History In Context. Web. 27 Sept. 2013. A more in-depth biographical article on the life and influence of Socrates.


Who was Plato?

  • One of the most important figures in the history of Western Philosophy.
  • He was the son of a physician and was born in Macedonia and not originally from Athens.
  • He was the founder of the Academy and was a follower and student of Socrates.
  • He taught on many subjects: Math, Astronomy, Rhetoric, and Religion.
  • His thirteen dialogues are the cornerstone of his thought.

Biography Links - Plato

  • READ: "Plato." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  • READ: "". The Philosophy Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained. London: DK Publishers. 2011

  • Plato was a student of Socrates, and it is believed that Socrates execution influenced Plato to turn away from pursuing a political career towards that of the pursuit of knowledge and philosophy.

Plato. Three Minute Philosophy

Contributions to Philosophy
  • THE ACADEMY-Founder of what is considered the first university, It is noted that Plato both "studied and taught" at the Academy, an example that life-long learning is very important. (Reeve vi)
  • He wrote many important works of philosophy
    • Plato's early writings record his memories of Socrates, his teacher.
    • Many of his written works are written in the style of a dialogue, a conversation between two or more people.
    • Through Plato's written work we learn about Socrate's and his methods of inquiry (questioning) as Plato uses him as a character in some of his writings.
    • THE REPUBLIC (ca. 360 B.C.)--In The Republic, Plato proposes a type of government that is run by philosophers.

Plato in ArtPlato- The Cave.JPG

The School of Athens by Raphael 1510 - Fresco

Plato in VideosPlato's Cave illustrated in an animated film viable on YouTube.

  • “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination
    and life to everything.”
  • “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.”
  • “good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws”



  • He was the son of a physician.
  • The student of Plato at the Academy. Plato referred to him as "the intelligence of the school". (Isle)
  • His knowledge was encyclopedic and is considered the greatest logician of all time.
  • His focus was through pragmatic or Scientific inquiry rather than theory.
  • He was the teacher of Alexander the Great.
  • He was a great natural scientist.
  • He founded his own school, The Lyceum in Athens.

Greek Philosopher : Aristotle A brief biographical sketch of Aristotle, the philosopher.

"Aristotle". The Philosophy Books: Big Ideas Simply Explained. London: DK Publishers. 2011.

Aristotle's Works

Art & Aristotle

Education of Alexander the Great by Aristotle-.JPG
Education of Alexander the Great by Aristotle Armet Portanell, Jose

Aristotle in film

Does Spongebob demonstrate an Aristotilian philosophy of life? Fry thinks so
"SpongeBob as a character is the ultimate expression of the Aristotelian notion of ‘eudaimonia’ – the idea that the highest human good is to live a life of flourishing. “We wouldn’t expect a fry cook to jump out of bed and be so excited to go do his job every day but it’s that flourishing and enjoyment that SpongeBob gets out of his life that is really reflecting some of these Aristotelian ethics.”

Quotes - Aristotle