Explanation of the Phi Kappa Phi Motto
Philosophía Krateíto Photôn
"Let the love of learning rule humanity"
Philosophia. The first word of the motto literally means "love of wisdom" or "love of knowledge and wisdom," a Greek word compounded from philos meaning "loving" or "friendly" and sophia meaning "wisdom." However, for historical reasons, the Society uses the phrase "love of learning" out of respect for the founders' English version of the motto that seems to have preceded the Greek version. Because the founders probably intended to emphasize the value of what is gained through the process of learning and not merely the process itself, the original translator (Professor J. H. Huddilston of the University of Maine) apparently used philosophia rather than philomatheia, the more common way of rendering "love of learning" in Greek (see Plato's Republic 499e for a nearly synonymous use of both terms).
The 6th century B.C. Greek sage Pythagoras is traditionally credited with coining the term philosophia. Pythagoras modestly refused to call himself "wise" as some others did, preferring "lover of wisdom." Pythagorean doctrines had a strong influence on Plato, who in the Republic criticizes the claims of the sophists ("wise ones") but advocates the idea of lovers of wisdom (philosophoi) as rulers of society.
Krateito. The second word of the motto is a verb in the imperative mood, meaning "Let . . . rule." As a strong imperative, it is an exhortation to action, not merely a hope or wish, hence "let" is used rather than "may." The basic meaning of the word is the exertion of power and control, derived from the noun kratos, meaning "strength" or "might." Kratos is also a source of the terms "democracy" (rule of the people) and "aristocracy" (rule of the noble).
According to Dr. Edward Schriver, author of the 1972 history of the Society (In Pursuit of Excellence: The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi 1897-1971, p. 10), the original version of the Greek motto was Philosophia Kratei Photon (then translated as "The love of learning rules all mankind"). At the 1969 Special Convention in Los Angeles, kratei (meaning "rules") was changed to krateito, meaning "Let . . . rule.
Photon. The third word appears in classical Greek poetry and drama; for example, in Euripides with the meaning of "mortals" in contrast to the gods or the "immortals." The 1995 Convention in St. Louis changed the official wording from "mankind" to "humanity" on the grounds that the term "mankind" had come to have sexist connotations alien to the ideals of Phi Kappa Phi.