10+ Tips for Living Like Socrates

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And the most important tip, drink anything anyone hands you, no questions asked.

Socrates is considered the first major western philosopher along with his pupil Plato.[1] Socrates lived a simple life in Athens, and after being both a stonemason and soldier, he became a philosopher.[2] Socrates invented the Socratic method of inquiry which sought to highlight people’s ignorance; however, this didn’t go down well and Socrates was executed in 399 B.C.E. at the age of 71.[3]


  1. Begin by reading some of Plato’s dialogues. The dialogues pit Socrates against notable Athenians, from sophists, politicians, poets, and wise men. These dialogues will teach you a lot; start by reading some of the early Socratic dialogues, like Ion, Laches, and Euthydemus. In the early dialogue, the format is much the same–with Socrates asking a question to the interlocutors, and having them replying “yes” or “no” until their ideas are shown to be false. At the end, Socrates makes a long speech, giving his own ideas and thoughts. In the middle and later dialogues, Socrates’ speeches are much longer, like in The Republic.
  2. Don’t change your life immediately. Try to do it gradually. If you change straight away it’ll be a shock to your system and you’ll find it even harder. If you want to succeed, do things bit by bit, so as to build up a resistance or strength before going the full mile and discarding everything. (You don’t necessarily need to give up everything, just lead a simple life, although if you want to truly be like Socrates you should give up everything.)
  3. Follow Socratic principles and ideals. The Socratic method of investigation should be the main focus of your beliefs. The Socratic method follows this basic pattern: Socrates asks someone a question, like “What is holy?”. The interlocutor will then give a big speech on what he thinks it is without ever giving a true answer. Socrates then asks the interlocutor to answer “yes” or “no” to his questions. By this method, he shows the inconsistencies or irrationalities in the person’s thinking. To learn more about the Socratic method, look at How to argue using the Socratic method.
    • Question everything.
    • Do not merely take something at face value, or do something because someone says so, whether it is one person or a hundred.
  4. Athens


    If you truly wish to live like Socrates, then you need to devote yourself entirely to philosophy and searching for the truth. Socrates gave up all work to dedicate himself to questioning others. This might be difficult in these modern times, but not impossible.

    • Make sure you ask anyone you meet who is willing to answer philosophical questions.
    • Like Socrates, dissect their answers until you prove that they are on shaky ground.
  5. Make sure where you debate with others is in a public area. This is so that many people will be able to see. Socrates used the Socratic method in public in order to teach many others through the interlocutor’s mistakes and to humble the usually rash characters that Socrates debated with. It is best for you to debate with the arrogant, as you’ll be doing them a favour by proving them wrong.
  6. Never be afraid to voice what you think, or more importantly the truth. Even if it makes you an outcast and hated, it is important to stick with your thinking and the truth. Fear is not an emotion a philosopher should have and a philosopher should never follow the majority when they do evil, a principle advocated by Socrates. While this made him a laughing stock in Athens, his memory has been revered and his teachings followed by the greatest philosophers ever since.
  7. Never fear death. Socrates once opined that “Death may be the greatest of all human blessings”. Socrates believed in an afterlife and often described scenes from heaven which often had double, allegorical meanings. If you are an atheist though, Socrates philosophy of metaphysics catered for this. Just remember that death is a release from everything that is evil and painful, to a place of eternal rest.
  8. Show humility. As a philosopher, you are going to get a lot of stick. People just hate to be proved wrong and the fact that Socrates’ philosophy is centered around showing how wrong everyone is, you’re bound to have clashes. If you practise humility, it will ensure that you have a lot of admirers who will be drawn to you for your stoic calm and inner strength, which is an admirable quality. From here, you can spread your philosophy to a more sympathetic and interested audience who won’t storm off in anger at being corrected.
  9. Remember the Socratic paradoxes. These are:
    • No one desires evil.
    • No one errs or does wrong willingly or knowingly.
    • Virtue – all virtue – is knowledge.
    • Virtue is sufficient for happiness.
    • The phrase “Socratic paradox” can also refer to a self-referential paradox, originating in Socrates’ phrase, “I know that I know nothing”. Socrates believed that the first step towards wisdom is knowing that ultimately you are ignorant; if you want to be a philosopher, remember that you know nothing.
  10. Stick to your principles even in face of death, as Socrates did, as described in Phaedo. Socrates showed no fear or distress at the fact he had been wrongly accused, and even refused to flee from prison when he had a chance, as he believed that, that would break his social contract with the people and it would seem as if he feared death.
  11. Who am I?

    Who am I?

    Be sure to “know thyself”. This is much harder than it seems and only you will be able to find that; the unexamined life is not worth living. Nobody else can help you there–it is all up to you.

  12. Meet distinguished or influential people. Using the Socratic method, show how those that originally thought they knew much are lacking. This will give you more of a profile and experience. If you can disprove a university professor at Oxford who lectures in Ethics, then you will know that you are getting somewhere. In fact, Socrates debated primarily with people who were considered wise and just by Athenians of the day. There was an oracle who claimed that Socrates was the wisest man ever. Socrates tried to disapprove the oracle, but ultimately failed. He concluded that he was wise because he knew that he knew nothing, whereas all the people who were considered wise, thought they were wise, but were not.
  13. Remember that truth is the most important thing ever and you must do all you can to find it. The Socratic method is one path to find truth. Only by having knowledge of right and wrong can you ever be wise and therefore good. The Socratic paradox-All virtue is knowledge; that is, knowledge of good and evil.


  • Benjamin Franklin

    Benjamin Franklin

    Stick to your principles at all times and if you are faltering, read a quote or passage from a philosopher, whether it be Socrates or Jesus; Benjamin Franklin is another good philosopher to read.


  • You may suffer from loneliness, abuse, and perhaps the danger of death; especially if you embarrass powerful people or show the masses their faults. Socrates said to the people of Athens, “Most excellent men, are you who are a citizen of Athens, greatest of all the cities and the most famous for wisdom and power, not ashamed to care for the acquisition of wealth, when you neither care for the perfection of your soul.”

Things You’ll Need

  • Copies of Socrate’s texts (books, e-books, or online texts)
  • Simple clothing and lifestyle

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