To Achieve Happiness
What does happiness have to do with justice - and what has it to do with virtue? Why do people act right at all - and what would they do if they weren't held accountable? Is death really the end, or do we still have to fear a judgment in the hereafter? Plato's ethics range from abstract considerations to very concrete, realistic observations.
The sophists, who only care about the convincing argument and not about the truth, are Plato's great enemy. Against their instrumental use of reason he sets the ideal of a common, friendly search for knowledge and truth. A philosophical contrast that runs through the centuries and which today seems more relevant than ever.
Seek the truth
Plato's theory of ideas stands at the beginning of occidental metaphysics and is groundbreaking for all idealistic thinking. The Platonists of the Renaissance drew on it, but so did the German idealists around Hegel and Schelling - and philosophers like Alain Badiou still call themselves Platonists today.
Plato's love is - well - Platonic. More than sensual love, it's about the love of ideas. Nevertheless, desire also plays a decisive role for philosophers: How else would one come to knowledge, if not through an inner urge to truth? And what, if not an educational Eros, characterizes the intensive relationship between teacher and student?
Ideally, all politicians would be competent - and ideally philosophers. After all, should a mere hunger for power enable us to rule better than the intimate search for truth? Plato's idea of an ideal state with philosopher kings is certainly not realistic, but his criticism of a radical democracy and its populist dangers has lost none of its topicality.