Timeless Philosophy Lessons Isocrates Has Taught Me

Isocrates: another master of wisdom who can benefit us with his wise thoughts. For more inspiration, pick up ZEN OF ERIC

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Silver rule

What thou thyself hatest, do to no man.

Don’t betray the ethics of your own heart

Never hope to conceal any shameful thing which you have done; for even if you do conceal it from others, your own heart will know. … Pursue the enjoyments which are of good repute; for pleasure attended by honor is the best thing in the world, but pleasure without honor is the worst.

Love knowledge and seek it

If you love knowledge, you will be a master of knowledge. What you have come to know, preserve by exercise; what you have not learned, seek to add to your knowledge; for it is as reprehensible to hear a profitable saying and not grasp it as to be offered a good gift by one’s friends and not accept it. Spend your leisure time in cultivating an ear attentive to discourse, for in this way you will find that you learn with ease what others have found out with difficulty.

When you hear beneficial things, integrate it into your life.

Profit from what you learn!

Learning wisdom is better than wealth

Believe that many precepts are better than much wealth; for wealth quickly fails us, but precepts abide through all time; for wisdom alone of all possessions is imperishable. Do not hesitate to travel a long road to those who profess to offer some useful instruction; for it were a shame, when merchants cross vast seas in order to increase their store of wealth, that the young should not endure even journeys by land to improve their understanding.


Precepts are wise sayings — they can help us in our entire journey in life.

Of all our possessions, wisdom alone is immortal.

Toil and wisdom

The greatest thing in the small compass is a sound mind in a human body. Strive with all your body to be a lover of toil, and with your soul to be a lover of wisdom, in order that with the one you may have the strength to carry out your resolves, and with the other the intelligence to foresee what is for your good.

Don’t hate toil; use it as a way to become stronger. Love wisdom. Use your power to have the strength to carry out what you resolve to do in life — and use wisdom/intelligence to understand what is good for you.

Future wisdom

Do not be surprised that many things which I have said do not apply to your at your present age. For I also have not overlooked this fact, but I have deliberately chosen to employ this one treatise, not only to convey to you advice for your life now, but also to leave with you precepts for the years to come; for you will then readily perceive the application of my precepts, but you will not easily find a man who will give you friendly counsel. In order, therefore, that you may not seek the rest from another source, but that you may draw from this as from a treasure-house, I thought that I ought not to omit any of the counsels which I have to give you.

Wisdom we learn might not benefit us right now, but might certainly help us in the future (when we most need it).

Sip the best pollen

Acquaint yourself with the best things in the poets as well, and learn from the other wise men also any useful lessons they have taught. For just as we see the bee settling on all the flowers, and sipping the best from each, so also those who aspire to culture ought not to leave anything untasted, but should gather useful knowledge from every source.

Cross pollinate what you learn. Seek wisdom and inspiration from the best sources! Don’t be shy.

Good role model

A noble illustration of what I am telling you. For he did not belittle virtue nor pass his life in indolence; on the contrary, he trained his body by toil, and by his spirit he withstood dangers. Nor did he love wealth inordinately; but, although he enjoyed the good things at his hand as became a mortal, yet cared for his possessions as if he were immortal.

Enjoy what you currently have as if you’re a mortal and will die. Yet care for what you have forever, as if you were to live forever.

Treat your parents as you would like to have your parents treat you

Silver rule of parenting and treating your parents:

Conduct yourself toward your parents as you would have your children conduct themselves toward you.

Train to strengthen your mind and soul

Train your body, not by the exercises which conduce to strength, but by those which conduce to health. In this you will succeed if you cease your exertions while you still have energy to exert yourself.

Self control is good

Practice self-control in all the things by which it is shameful for the soul to be controlled, namely, gain, temper, pleasure, and pain.

Don’t let greed, avarice, madness, pleasure and pain, get out of control.

Seek to appreciate what you already have

Set not your heart on the excessive acquisition of goods, but on a moderate enjoyment of what you have.

Can you use what you already have?

Despise those who strain after riches, but are not able to use what they have; they are in like case with a man who, being but a wretched horseman, gets him a fine mount. Try to make of money a thing to use as well as to possess; it is a thing of use to those who understand how to enjoy it, and a mere possession to those who are able only to acquire it.

Use your money in a beneficial way!

Always seek to gain a better lot

Be content with your present lot, but seek a better one.

Immortal thoughts

Cultivate the thoughts of an immortal by being lofty of soul, but of a mortal by enjoying in due measure the good things which you possess.

Barbell between being an immortal and mortal.

Think about the end

In all our tasks we are not so much mindful of the beginning as we are sensible of the end; for we do most things in life not for themselves; it is rather for the sake of what results from them that we carry on our labors.

Question: What results do we wish to obtain from our labor? Let’s start from our desired end goal, then work backwards.

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