Quotes on life, hope, and other human interests, from the best works of great philosophers Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Kant, and Bertrand Russell.
The words of great thinkers convey their wisdom and wit, transcending cultures and languages. They motivate, and at times, provoke one’s mental capacity to think. Their achievements convey their ideals and tenacity to dare life’s challenges, for the sake of humanity.
Here are few quotations taken from the works of these great philosophers, some of them studied in philosophy classes, while others through personal readings.
Quotes from Greek Philosopher Aristotle
The work of Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) is unrivaled in terms of his achievements. He wrote extensively in various fields of disciplines with extensive knowledge. Nicomachean Ethics is one of Aristotle’s most influential works on ethics. It contains a discussion on virtue that relates to human nature and psyche.
“What we have to learn to do, we learn by doing.” ~Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics
“Man, when perfected, is the best of animals, but when separated from law and justice, he is the worst of all.” ~Artistotle in Politics
Quotes from René Descartes, French Philosopher and Mathematician
Often called the father of modern philosophy, Descartes (1596-1650) is famous for his “Cogito, ergo sum.” He was also a great scientist who discovered the law of refraction in optics. Discourse on Method forms the preface to a collection of essays on optics, geometry and meteorology.
“I think, therefore I am.” ~Descartes in Discourse on Method
“But what then am I? A thing that thinks. What is that? A thing that doubts, understands, affirms, denies, is willing , is unwilling, and also imagines and has sensory perceptions.” ~Descartes in Meditations on First Philosophy
Quotes from Immanuel Kant, German Philosopher
Kant (1724-1804) considered as one of the most influential thinkers of the Enlightened period of the late 18th Century. He is famous for his Critique of Pure Reason and two other treatises: Critique of Practical Reason and Critique of Judgement. Briefly, Immanuel Kant’s philosophy delves into the mind as it imposes principles into experience, in order for it to generate knowledge.
“Laughter is an affection arising from the sudden transformation of a strained expectation into nothing.” ~Kant in Critique of Judgement
“Thoughts without content are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind… The understanding can intuit nothing, the senses can think nothing. Only through their union can knowledge arise.” ~Kant in Critique of Pure Reason
Quotes from William James, American Psychologist and Philosopher
William James (1842-1910), the older brother of the author Henry James, was famous for his pragmatic philosophy. He is best known for his reflective description of the capacity of the mind and motivation. To James, pragmatism relates in regard to knowledge, truth and meaning, as well as a method of resolving philosophical disputes.
“We are thinking beings, and we cannot exclude the intellect from participating in any of our functions.” ~James in The Varieties of Religious Experience
“Test every concept by the question, ‘What sensible difference to anybody will its truth make?'” ~James in Pragmatism: A New Name for Old Ways of Thinking
Quotes from Plato, Greek Philosopher
Plato (428/427 BC – 348/347 BC) was educated by Socrates. He founded the first institution of higher learning, the “Academy” in Athens. He is considered to have had the greatest influence in philosophy history.
“The true lover of knowledge naturally strives for truth, and is not content with common opinion, but soars with undimmed and unwearied passion till he grasps the essential nature of things.” ~Plato in The Republic
“Mind is ever the ruler of the universe.” ~Plato in Philebus
“The good is the beautiful.” ~Plato in Lysias
Quotes from Bertrand Russell, British Philosopher and Mathematician
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) is the famous philosopher who laid the foundation of modern logic along with his commitment to nuclear disarmament. Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy remains a great classic. He is also a Nobel laureate in literature.
“Every man, wherever he goes, is encompassed by a cloud of comforting convictions, which move him like flies on a summer day.” ~Russell in “Dreams and Facts,” in Sceptical Essays
“Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.” ~Russell in The Conquest of Happiness
“The more we realize our minuteness and our impotence in the face of cosmic forces, the more amazing becomes what human beings have achieved.” ~Russell in New Hope for a Changing World
Quotes from Socrates, Greek Philosopher
The basis of Socrates’ (470 – 399 BC) thoughts are given by Plato’s account of his teacher. Socrates valued wisdom and he detached himself from materialistic things. He was most interested in moral or ethical philosophy.
“Living well and beautifully and justly are all one thing.” ~Socrates, as quoted by Plato in Crito
“But already it is time to depart, for me to die, for you to go on living; which of us takes the better course, is concealed from anyone except God.” ~Socrates, as quoted by Plato in closing words in Apology.
- Swainson, Bill, Ed. Encarta Book of Quotations. Sydney: Pan Macmillan, 2000.
- Stokes, Philip. Philosophy: The Great Thinkers. London: Capella, 2007.