Timelessness of Platonism


‘The fact is that Platonism, if we understand the word in a broad and literal, and not in a narrow or pedantic sense, is not yet dead, and cannot die, because its roots are struck deep in universal human nature.

Plato at the School of Athens

It is true that in the popular language of his time Plato speaks of the barbarian as the natural enemy of Greece; it is true that he calls his own ideal republic emphatically a Greek city; but the animating spirit of his teaching, as we shall see, is the enthusiasm of humanity, and leaves no room for the artificial distinctions of barbarian and Greek, bond and free.

To the most characteristic principles of Greek life and thought he is constantly opposed. The old and all but universal rule of pagan morality, “do good to your friends, and evil to your foes” is attacked by him in the Republic and elsewhere with arguments based on a loftier view of man’s nature and work than anything which we meet with in Greek literature before his time, and the practical conclusions which he draws “that the good man never does evil to any,””that it is better to suffer than to do wrong,” have justly been held to foreshadow the Sermon on the Mount. “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.”‘

– Adam. J. 1911. The Vitality of Platonism: And Other Essays Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press (1911) p. 5-6
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