Source: In an episode on education of the philosophical documentary The advantage of the doubt, which I displayed here (search for "documentary") for pedagogical consultation; Veerle Jochems (an interviewee who chose to home-school her children) stated the following (starting from 4:09 in the video):

I also like to call my pedagogy the pedagogy of Socrates. Because Socrates himself also walked with his students in the garden, while he was treating philosophical questions. And that was indeed also his method: question ... answer; but while walking.

I assume a few things are mingled together in confusion here.

  • The speaker certainly seems to be referring to the Socratic method. And it has been written Socrates obviously asked a lot of questions, e.g. on the public market.

However, I know of no passages where Socrates was walking in a garden (neither alone, nor with his students). Do you?

Perhaps the speaker was mixing up some historical aspects of other philosophers, like e.g.

  • The Garden (κῆπος), a school founded by Epicurus.

    In Athens, he purchased the property that became known as the “Garden” (later used as a name for his school itself). (source: plato.stanford.edu)

  • The peripatetic school, which is related to Aristotle.

    Those affiliated with Aristotle's school later came to be called Peripatetics, probably because of the existence of an ambulatory (peripatos) on the school's property adjacent to the exercise ground. (source: plato.stanford.edu)

    After Aristotle's death, a legend arose that he was a "peripatetic" lecturer – that he walked about as he taught – and the designation Peripatetikos came to replace the original Peripatos. (source: en.wikipedia.org)

Edit: Below, I add a reference (translated from Dutch) to a list of classical literature about Socrates from a course by Koenraad Verrycken called Historical oversight of philosophy. Antiquity and Middle ages, which was last updated in 2004:

Socrates himself hasn't written anything. To form us an idea of his philosophy we are designated to:

The difficulty to build a coherent and reliable image of the philosophy of Socrates out of these diversified information of these sources, is called the Socratic Problem.

  • In the Symposium, there is certainly no reference to any garden related to Socrates. Perhaps the confusion could be due to a dialogue from the perspective of Apollodorus of Phaleron:

"Why, then," Glaucon said, "don't you tell me? The way to town, in any case, is as suitable for speaking, while we walk, as for listening." So as we walked, we talked together about these things; and so, just as I said at the start, I am not unprepared.


2 Answers 2


This may arise from an erroneous parable:

One day Socrates walked with his disciples into the garden of Pericles, and they spoke of the arts and their divine excellence.

This is in a text by Frederic Adolphus Krummacher from the 19th century.

Another possible origin is in the Phaedrus:

Phaedrus has been spending the morning with Lysias, the celebrated rhetorician, and is going to refresh himself by taking a walk outside the wall, when he is met by Socrates, who professes that he will not leave him until he has delivered up the speech with which Lysias has regaled him, and which he is carrying about in his mind, or more probably in a book hidden under his cloak, and is intending to study as he walks. The imputation is not denied, and the two agree to direct their steps out of the public way along the stream of the Ilissus towards a plane-tree which is seen in the distance. There, lying down amidst pleasant sounds and scents, they will read the speech of Lysias.

My money is the on apocryphal one but I don't think arises from a confusion with other ancient philosophers -- but rather a confusion about the veracity of the 19th century source and some idealization.

  • Thank you very much for this adept answer, which can resolve possible confusions. I have never met these Krummacher's parables, however from their preface alone, I would hypothesize indeed that they are not meant as rigorous scientific heuristic work. Could you perhaps add some information about the context of this source, or perhaps endorse why these parables are not historically correct? Do you know of any meta-literature about this source? --- Many thanks.
    – O0123
    Feb 7, 2015 at 13:48
  • I found this just by googling. I don't think it's an academic source, and it definitely did not give off the impression of being scholarship in any meaningful sense... I don't have any more information on it.
    – virmaior
    Feb 7, 2015 at 14:14
  • The parable text is "One day Socrates walked . . . into the garden" not "in the garden". Can you edit. Feb 7, 2015 at 15:20

I think you are correct, both as to the mysterious somebody being confused about Socrates walking in a garden, and as to the probable causes of the confusion.

The dialogues of Plato typically begin with Socrates (or sometimes somebody else, the narrator) walking somewhere, like to a gymnasium, or to a temple, or to visit someone. But when the actual philosophical conversation begins, the participants are already standing or sitting down.

To take one example, the beginning of the Republic, Socrates speaking:

I went down yesterday to the Piraeus with Glaucon the son of Ariston, that I might offer up my prayers to the goddess . . . Accordingly we went with Polemarchus to his house . . . there were some other chairs in the room arranged in a semicircle, upon which we sat down by him.

  • 1
    Thank you for your enriching answer. I have added a description of the somebody stating the original quote, which is someone who chose to home-school her children. I hope, perhaps this post can, en passant, remind her of the value of electronic education, to help her on her courageous journey to find better ways of education.
    – O0123
    Feb 6, 2015 at 22:50
  • While generally true, I think the Symposium is written such that Socrates is actually walking with his friends. (I don't find it the most useful dialogue for teaching).
    – virmaior
    Feb 7, 2015 at 0:27
  • @virmaior - Thanks, I can find only 1 such reference in the symposium, from the perspective of Apollodorus of Phaleron: "Why, then," Glaucon said, "don't you tell me? The way to town, in any case, is as suitable for speaking, while we walk, as for listening." So as we walked, we talked together about these things; and so, just as I said at the start, I am not unprepared. --- Certainly there is no mentioning of any garden in relation to Socrates in the Symposium. I'll add references (to the question) of all (read: most of) the ancient sources stating about Socrates' philosophy.
    – O0123
    Feb 7, 2015 at 13:46

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