The main teachings of Socrates 

Socrates did not actually set out to be a teacher in the traditional sense. He never charged any fees or took on formal students. Instead, he would wander around the streets of Athens talking to anyone willing to listen. He would ask questions and challenge people’s assumptions in an attempt to get them to think more deeply about their own beliefs. 

Eventually, a group of young men began to follow him around and listen to his teachings. They became known as the “Socratic circle” which included famous thinkers like Plato and Xenophon.

In the traditional sense, Socrates never became a teacher just like he always said “I cannot teach anybody, I can only make them think”.

Most of what we know about Socrates’ teaching came from Plato’s writing of Socrates’ conversation with his interlocutors.

Socrates’ method of teaching involves questioning and debate which is arguably the most effective form of education.

The main teachings of Socrates

The main teaching of Socrates was based on the importance of questioning and critical thinking. He believed that most people simply accepted the beliefs and values they were raised with, without ever questioning them, arguing that this was a mistake and that true wisdom could only be gained through constant questioning and self-examination. 

Socrates also believed that people should focus on developing their own inner lives and understanding themselves rather than focusing only on the external world. In this way, his teachings were not just about philosophy, but about how to live a good and virtuous life.

One of the most significant things about Socrates’ teaching is that he challenged people to think for themselves and not simply accept what they were told. 

In ancient Greece, people often took their knowledge and values for granted, believing that what the priests or philosophers said must be true. But Socrates showed that it is possible to question even the most widely accepted beliefs, teaching people that they should always think critically and consider all the evidence before they accept something as true.

Other relevant teachings of Socrates

The Socratic method: as we discussed, this was a method of questioning and debate that aimed to challenge assumptions and arrive at the truth through dialogue.

The importance of self-knowledge: Socrates believed that true wisdom could only be achieved through self-examination and the pursuit of self-knowledge.

The unity of virtue: Socrates argued that all virtues were connected and could not be separated from each other. For example, he believed that courage was connected to wisdom and temperance.

The primacy of reason:Socrates believed that reason was the highest form of knowledge and the key to achieving wisdom. He argued that relying on emotions or gut instinct was not enough and that it was important to use reason to guide our actions and decisions.

The importance of moderation: Socrates believed that all things should be done in moderation and that excess was the enemy of wisdom. He famously said, “Nothing in excess.”

The connection between virtue and happiness: Socrates believed that virtue was the only true source of happiness. He argued that those who were virtuous were the only ones who could truly be happy, regardless of their external circumstances. He believed that money, status, and other material things could not bring true happiness and that it was only through virtue that one could achieve a truly meaningful life.

The importance of living an “examined life”: Socrates believed that it was not enough to simply follow the rules or go through the motions of life. He argued that it was important to constantly reflect on our actions and beliefs and to strive to be the best version of ourselves. He famously said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

These teachings of Socrates provide a good overview of his philosophical approach. It’s worth noting that many of his ideas were highly controversial at the time, and they still have the power to challenge our assumptions and beliefs today.

20 philosophical quotes curled from Socrates’ teachings 

– “The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

– “One thing only I know, and that is that I know nothing.”

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

– “Worthless people live only to eat and drink; people of worth eat and drink only to live.”

– “A system of morality which is based on relative emotional values is a mere illusion, a thoroughly vulgar conception which has nothing sound in it and nothing true.”

– “No man chooses evil because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks.”

– “The beginning of wisdom is a definition of terms.”

– “No evil can happen to a good man, either in life or after death. His happiness and misery here depend upon himself alone.”

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

– “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing. The only true knowledge is knowing you know nothing. The only real wisdom is to know that you know nothing. This is the first principle of wisdom, the cornerstone upon which all knowledge and learning must be built. 

To know that you do not know is the best. To pretend to know when you do not know is a disease. The greatest thing in the world is to know how little we know. You cannot teach a man anything, you can only help him to find it within himself.”

– “I am not an Athenian or a Greek but a citizen of the world. “

– “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

– “Know thyself.”

– “It is better to be dissatisfied and know the truth, than to be satisfied in ignorance.”

– “Be as you wish to seem.”

– “Wisdom begins in wonder.”

– “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.”

– “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.”

– “He who is not content with what he has, would not be content with what he would like to have.”


Socrates’ teachings are valuable and relevant, something anyone can easily relate to even in the modern world. His focus on self-knowledge, critical thinking, and living an examined life are things that we can all benefit from today. 

Socrates’ emphasis on the importance of defining terms and thinking clearly is very important in today’s world, where there is so much information and misinformation available. Overall, Socrates’ teachings are timeless and can help us to lead better and more fulfilling lives.

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