Socratic Maxims

The Socratic maxims are both ethical and intellectual. These maxims were first evaluated and examined critically by Aristotle. Today, these maxims have become an area of interest in the philosophy of education and general philosophy (Kondo 34). Socrates shaped the intellectual and cultural development of the world. His Socratic Method of questions and answer puts Socrates at the pedestal of critical and creative thinking. He deduced the fact that unexamined life was not worth living. In additional to these positions by Socrates, there are some particular virtues or maxims he coined. In this regard, this paper is going to examine Socratic maxims and make a conclusion on them.

One of the maxims by Socrates is the virtue of unity. Socrates argued that all virtues such as justice, courage, wisdom, piety among other virtues are one. He provided some arguments to support this case. According to Socrates, one cannot think of being wise if there is a lack of temperance. Socrates refutes this possibility on the basis that temperance and wisdom are opposed to each other (Kondo 34). The fact that temperance and wisdom are truly opposite to each other suggests that one cannot have wisdom if there is any temperance and one cannot have temperance if there is a lack of real sense. Another view by Socrates was that things like beauty, health, strength tend to benefit man but can end up hurting him if they do not portray wisdom or knowledge. Any virtue to be of benefit must show knowledge because qualities of soul are not beneficial or harmful. They are only beneficial if they are associated with wisdom and are harmful if they exhibit folly.

Another maxim by Socrates was that no one errs knowingly. According to Socrates, no one can make mistakes deliberately. Here the concept of intellectualism by Socrates is found. When a man makes a mistake, this is regarded as an intellectual error. If a person knows what is wrong according to Socrates, he will not do it. It is therefore not possible for somebody to do what is right and evil simultaneously. Socrates insists that one makes a mistake only if that person does not know what is right (Kondo 35). What Socrates denies in this argument is the weakness of the will. No one can make a mistake willingly. This, however, sounds as if Socrates is somewhat equivocating between willingly and knowingly.

Another maxim by Socrates is that human beings desire good. Socrates suggests that human beings have no any other desire short of good. If a person does something, he is doing that for the sake of getting good results from it. All bad things tend to be done for the purpose of something else that will be good. An instance here is when a tyrant end up putting one to death, he does this for the purpose of getting good results for he thinks that it would be beneficial to some extent (Kondo 36). His action will, therefore, be directed towards getting good results since this is what truly is wanted. Those who desire bad results have no knowledge that they are bad. Otherwise, if they knew, they would not seek them.

The other maxim by Socrates is that it is right to suffer injustice than to commit one.  Socrates infuriated Polus for this argument. Polus hold a belief that it is shameful to commit an injustice but argues that it is not wrong (Peterson 216). The most brutal thing here is to suffer injustice. Socrates, on the other hand, says that if something is shameful, it will surpass both pain and badness. Socrates argues that one should choose to suffer than committing an injustice. To understand this point requires an understanding of Socrates care of the soul. Committing crimes will corrupt the soul of man, and it is, therefore, an evil thing one can do to himself. Socrates then argues that it is right to seek punishment instead of avoiding it. This argument rests on the premise that punishment will purify or purge this corruption out of the soul.

The other maxim by Socrates is that ruling is or requires expertise. The ruling is an art or craft, and it requires one to have great knowledge. The work of a ruler is not to rule for his own benefits, but the purpose of the entire society (Peterson 219). Benefits that occur to the ruler must not be intrinsic. The ruling should be for the interest of citizens and justice. The other virtue by Socrates is that on eudemonism. It points to the feeling of the certain way instead of being in a certain way. It is important that one makes his happiness and that each person should pursue happiness as a consideration for his actions. Socrates argues that a virtuous person who is acting according to wisdom will attain happiness. The happiest person according to Socrates is the one who has no badness in their souls.

It seems that these maxims by Socrates focused majorly on responsibility and objective of an individual. Socrates was concerned with creating a virtuous society. While some of these maxims are agreeable, several of them need critical evaluation. Socrates argues that all virtues are one (Peterson 216). To a great extent, this argument holds water on the basis that wisdom is the foundation for what is beneficial. Based on the fact that the qualities of the soul are neither beneficial nor harmful, to gain benefits, knowledge or those virtues that are positive are paramount. This maxim tries to instill responsibility and foresight (Kondo 34). The maxim that ruling is an expertise is also agreeable on the basis that leadership should not be solely concerned with leaders themselves but must endeavor to benefit humankind. This maxim cultivates the qualities of real leadership. The notion that human beings seek good always to some degree stands its ground. Human being aims to get good results even if the actions to receive good results are bad. According to Socrates man strives to get good which is true. Also, Socrates argues that is important to suffer injustices than to commit one. From a moral perspective, all people should avoid committing injustices to others.

Some of the Socratic maxims to a great extent cannot stand their ground. One of these is the fact that human beings make mistakes without knowledge. Socrates argues that the lack of experience that makes people do mistakes (Peterson 224). However, the reality is that this may not be so as some people make mistakes intentionally and deliberately where they think they will benefit. The maxim of eudemonism can be refuted on the ground that one can be virtuous yet not happy as Socrates suggests or one can be happy without being virtuous. Being virtuous is one way to being happy but does not guarantee that happiness.


In conclusion, one will underscore the fact that Socrates maxims tend to cultivate a society that is founded on a moral and philosophical foundation. He desires to create a society where justice rules. Despite that several of his maxims cannot be accepted in some situations, the fact is that they form a basis of critical and creative thinking. These maxims constitute the basis for classifying good and evil. They therefore implicitly endorse the concept of law and order in the society.


Works Cited

Kondo, Kazutaka. “Reputation and Virtue: The Rhetorical Achievement of Socrates in Xenophon’s Apology.” Interpretation: A Journal of Political Philosophy 42.1 (2015): 31-50. Print.

Peterson, Sandra. Socrates and Philosophy in the Dialogues of Plato. Cambridge University Press, 2011.

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