Greek Philosophy Quotes - Bits of Wisdom
Hard to find original quotes of Greek Philosophers and their meaning for everyday life.
Nowadays, internet is full of inspirational quotes but rarely will you find a profound explanation from a PhD Professor of Greek Philosophy.
We present you the most influential philosophy quotes from Plato, Aristotle, Heraclitus, Thales, Xenophanes, Democritus.
Enjoy and share your thoughts.
“The worst of all deceptions is self-deception”
When we are deceived by someone, no matter how bad that may be, there is always the possibility to find the truth. The deceiver might be canny and efficacious, but, from the moment we will suspect that something is wrong, we can start searching for the truth and the deception will be revealed, sooner or later.
In self-deception, the deceived and the deceiver are one and the same person. Being the deceiver of myself means that I want to deceive me and I use all the means available to make it happen – and it happens, because I know all the ways to outsmart me and, what is more important, I want to be deceived. Self-deception is the worst kind of deception,because I cannot escape from the lies I tell myself.
The consequences of self-deception are disastrous for my life, since living a lie is a source of temporary joy and constant unhappiness.
“Neither by nature, then, nor contrary to nature do the virtues arise in us; rather we are adapted by nature to receive them, and are made perfect by habit”
What Aristotle here tells us is that we are not born good, bad, cowards, brave etc. We create and develop our virtues, through interaction with other people and education. In other words, through habit.
Therefore, we don’t have any excuse when we refuse to change any of our virtues and, furthermore, aspects of our character. There is no “I was born that way, either you like it or not ” We can change and we must, in order to live a better life.
However, there is a problem: change is difficult, because it is a matter of habit. So, we have to develop new habits, and struggle hard for it, because it works.
“Character is destiny”
With this quote Heraclitus teaches us that there are no predetermined forces or personal characteristics we cannot change and with which we have to live, no matter how damaging they may be to our life.
On the contrary, we are the ones who shape our future. Heraclitus goes even further, since he says that our deeper self, what we call “character”, is our future. It is our future, because our character is the way we perceive and respond to the world. A pessimist will never see the bright side of life. Therefore, whatever we might try to do to change things, if we don’t transform ourselves, i.e. change our character, our fate is sealed. In addition, this quote functions as a guide to know the other, as well.
By knowing the other’s character, we know how he will behave in certain circumstances, and, consequently, his destiny.
“The happy man is the one who has a healthy body, a wealthy soul and a well educated nature”
The ancient Greeks believed that man should have both a healthy body and a healthy mind, in order to live well. Thales goes further. He says that a happy man has to take care of his body, cultivate his mind, but has to have a “wealthy soul” as well. Why are these important?
The healthy body is important, because sickness is a source of sadness, either due to the pain it causes or because it draws all our attention to it, and therefore diverges us from our goals. In addition, a sick body might prevent us from doing things that will make us happy.
By “soul” we should understand personality traits. Therefore, a “wealthy soul” is a personality that has an abundance of positive characteristics, such as magnanimity, generosity, patience etc., which will help us not only face or overcome any difficulties, but they will also open us to other people and make us sincere towards ourselves.
Finally, by “well educated nature” we should understand a well-taught man who has the will and the ability to keep on learning. This means that a happy man is open-minded.
“Now if cattle, horses or lions had hands and were able to draw with their hands and perform works like men, horses like horses and cattle like cattle would draw the forms of gods, and make their bodies just like the body each of them had”
In this quote, Xenophanes argues about how our conception of God is totally false. For Xenophanes we have depicted God like a human being. But we have done so because we are humans. So, if the animals could depict their own God, they would make Him look like them.
With this Xenophanes draws our attention to the fact that there are no absolute ways of seeing things. We always perceive the world our way, i.e. situated in specific time and space, either as persons or as species. We cannot go beyond our bodies and look at things free from all that physically and mentally confine us.
“The proper bulk is better than the big bulk”
With this quote Democritus gives us a method to live in tranquility. The best way to achieve that is by undertaking only what we can handle, in both our private and public life. In other words, we should occupy ourselves only with the things that are worthwhile and essentials.
Even if luck, says Democritus, offers us more than we can take, we should have the prudence to put all the extra bulk aside. Otherwise the weight will break us down.
Deprivation is also another way to lose tranquility, because it causes lack of what we need and, therefore, it troubles our mind.
Of course the above are only a small part of what the ancient Greek philosophers can teach us.
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