Socrates and the three filters




– Who was Socrates? What do you know about him?

– The following story is called “The Triple Filter Test”. What do you think it will be about? Is it important to think before we speak? Why/why not?


– Read the story below and check your predictions.

– What’s the main idea? Could you summarise it in one sentence? And in one word?

– What’s the teaching in this story? Do you find it useful? (why/why not?)

– What questions do you think we need to ask ourselves before we say something?

– Do you generally think before you speak? Can you think about a time when you didn’t think much and hurt someone’s feelings or acted on impulse? What happened?

– Would you tell this story to your children? Should this be taught at schools? (why/why not?)

– In positive psychology, there are 24 character strengths (here’s a list). What character strength do you think this story can work on or promote? Why?

– What implications does this have on the use we make of social networks these days?



In ancient Greece, Socrates (the famous philosopher) was visited by an acquaintance of his. Eager to share some juicy gossip, the man asked if Socrates would like to know the story he’d just heard about a friend of theirs.

 Socrates replied that before the man spoke, he needed to pass the “Triple-Filter” test.

The first filter, he explained, is Truth.

“Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to say is true?”

The man shook his head.“No, I actually just heard about it, and …

Socrates cut him off.

“You don’t know for certain that it is true, then. Is what you want to say something good or kind?”

Again, the man shook his head.“No! Actually, just the opposite. You see …”

Socrates lifted his hand to stop the man speaking.

“So you are not certain that what you want to say is true, and it isn’t good or kind. One filter still remains, though, so you may yet still tell me. That is Usefulness or Necessity. Is this information useful or necessary to me?”

A little defeated, the man replied,“No, not really.”

“Well, then,”Socrates said, turning on his heel.“If what you want to say is neither true, nor good or kind, nor useful or necessary, please don’t say anything at all.”




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