Date de naissance: 436 av. J.-C.
Date de décès: 338 av. J.-C.
Isocrate, en grec ancien Ἰσοκράτης / Isokrátês , est l'un des dix orateurs attiques. Diogène Laërce dit de lui qu'il est de six ans plus vieux que Platon. Il fut le fondateur d'une école de rhétorique célèbre, qui forma nombre d'orateurs. Son idéal de culture, qu'il appela philosophie, enseignait que l'art de bien parler passait par l'art de bien penser. Il s'opposa aux physiciens naturalistes du Ve siècle av. J.-C., aux sophistes et à Platon. Assoiffé de connaissance, Aristote commença par suivre les cours d’Isocrate, avant de décider de rentrer à l’Académie de Platon. Toute sa vie, il ne cessa d'appeler les Grecs à l'union pour lutter contre l'ennemi héréditaire que représentaient les Barbares, à savoir les Perses. Souvent comparé à Lysias, il a su donner à la prose une valeur artistique, comparable à celle de la poésie, qui a servi de modèle à l'ensemble des orateurs antiques, aussi bien de langue grecque que latine.
„Qu'ils cherchent la vérité, qu'ils forment leurs disciples à la pratique de notre vie politique, qu'ils les entraînent pour leur donner l'expérience de cette vie, avec la conviction dans l'âme qu'il vaut mieux apporter sur des sujets utiles une opinion raisonnable, que sur des inutilités des connaissances exactes; qu'il vaut beaucoup mieux marquer un avantage discret sur un grand sujet, plutôt qu'une écrasante supériorité à l'occasion de médiocres, sans utilité pour la vie humaine. Mais leur seule préoccupation est de tirer de l'argent des jeunes gens; or l'étude méthodique de la discussion permet d'y réussir, car ceux que ne préoccupent encore ni leur intérêt privé, ni l'intérêt public, prennent plaisir de préférence aux développements oratoires qui n'offrent aucune espèce d'utilité pratique.“
„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.“
Context: 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. Verse 18.
„Consider that nothing in human life is stable; for then you will not exult overmuch in prosperity, nor grieve overmuch in adversity.“
Context: Consider that nothing in human life is stable; for then you will not exult overmuch in prosperity, nor grieve overmuch in adversity. Rejoice over the good things which come to you, but grieve in moderation over the evils which befall you, and in either case do not expose your heart to others; for it were strange to hide away one's treasure in the house, and yet walk about laying bare one's feelings to the world. Verse 42.
Context: 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. Verse 40.
„Guard yourself against accusations, even if they are false; for the multitude are ignorant of the truth and look only to reputation.“
Context: Guard yourself against accusations, even if they are false; for the multitude are ignorant of the truth and look only to reputation. In all things resolve to act as though the whole world would see what you do; for even if you conceal your deeds for the moment, later you will be found out. But most of all will you have the respect of men, if you are seen to avoid doing things which you would blame others for doing. Verse 17.
„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.“
Context: 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. Verse 16.
„Always when you are about to say anything, first weigh it in your mind; for with many the tongue outruns the thought.“
Context: Always when you are about to say anything, first weigh it in your mind; for with many the tongue outruns the thought. Let there be but two occasions for speech — when the subject is one which you thoroughly know and when it one on which you are compelled to speak. On these occasions alone is speech better than silence; on all others, it is better to be silent than to speak. Verse 41.
„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.“
Verse 19; variant translation: Of all our possessions, wisdom alone is immortal. As quoted in Dictionary of Quotations (Classical) (1906), edited by Thomas Benfield Harbottle, p. 495.
„I shall be most grateful to the gods if I am not disappointed in the opinion which I have of you. For, while we find that the great majority of other men seek the society of those friends who join them in their follies and not of those to admonish them, just as they prefer the most pleasant to the most wholesome, you, I think, are minded otherwise as I judge from the industry you display in your general education. For when one sets for himself the highest standard of conduct, it is probable that in his relation to others he will approve only of those who exhort him to virtue. But most of all you would be spurred on to strive for noble deeds if you should realize that it is from them most of all that we also derive pleasure in the true sense. For while the result of indolence and love of surfeit is that pain follows on the heels of pleasure, on the other hand, devoted toil in the pursuit of virtue, and self-control in the ordering of one's life always yield delights that are pure and more abiding. In the former case we experience pain following upon pleasure, in the latter we enjoy pleasure after pain.“
„Be more careful in guarding against censure than against danger; for the wicked may well dread the end of life, but good men should dread ignominy during life. Strive by all means to live in security, but if ever it falls to your lot to face the dangers of battle, seek to preserve your life, but with honour and not with disgrace; for death is the sentence which fate has passed on all mankind, but to die nobly is the special honour with nature has reserved for the good.“
„Democracy destroys itself because it abuses its right to freedom and equality. Because it teaches its citizens to consider audacity as a right, lawlessness as a freedom, abrasive speech as equality, and anarchy as progress.“
A falsified quote invented during the 2010 financial crisis. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Isoc.+7+20&fromdoc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0144 Isocrates' actual, more nuanced, quote runs as follows: Those who directed the state in the time of Solon and Cleisthenes did not establish a polity which … trained the citizens in such fashion that they looked upon insolence as democracy, lawlessness as liberty, impudence of speech as equality, and licence to do what they pleased as happiness, but rather a polity which detested and punished such men and by so doing made all the citizens better and wiser. Areopagiticus, 7.20 (Norlin)