FACT CHECK: Did Socrates Say, ‘When The Debate Is Lost, Slander Becomes The Tool Of The Losers’?
An image shared on Facebook claims that ancient Greek philosopher Socrates said, “When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the losers.”
There is no evidence that Socrates made this statement. No sources from the philosopher’s era attribute these words to him.
Socrates, born in Athens, Greece, around 470 B.C., is widely considered one of history’s most influential philosophers. He was a pioneer of the “Socratic method” of question-and-answer-based dialogue, still practiced to this day. Socrates’ students included Plato and Xenophon, who became historically significant figures in their own right. (RELATED: Did Aristotle Say, ‘We Are What We Repeatedly Do’?)
Controversial during his lifetime, Socrates was famously executed by the Athenian authorities for “impiety” and “corrupting the young.” This incident is discussed by Plato in his well-known dialogic work “Phaedo.”
While Socrates often engaged in philosophical debates, he did not author the statement attributed to him in the Facebook post. “I can affirm that no reliable source ever attributed this statement to Socrates,” University of Michigan historian and Socrates expert Sara Ahbel-Rappe told The Daily Caller in an email. “Socrates wrote nothing, so we rely entirely on reports about Socrates from contemporary witnesses, mostly Plato but also Xenophon.”
The quote in question does not appear in the collected works of either Xenophon or Plato.
Even if one of these philosophers had attributed the statement to Socrates, the accuracy of such an attribution would be far from certain. Scholars have long debated which ideas ascribed to Socrates by Plato, Xenophon and other contemporaries were truly expressed by him, an issue known as the “Socratic problem.”