How To Be Good

Could Plato help us understand the joys of virtue?

Greek philosophy and classical civilisation holds a fascination for us moderns. Books about the Romans; TV programmes about Socrates; and discussions about ancient philosophy abound. And yet, I think they commonly miss an essential element that was fundamental and core to figures such as Plato and Aristotle, or schools like the Stoics and Sceptics: the transformative quest to know the transcendent. Without that, they'd have thought philosophy was rootless or aimless. And yet, their philosophy is routinely now presented without that ground. Here are three common errors that you hear from the mouths of historians and presenters of today, and why those errors matter so much.

1. The Greeks invented secular philosophy.

The first misleading story being told is of a crucial shift in human thought that crystallised in fifth century BC Athens. Before then, in the time of Homer and Hesiod, ancient Greeks had resorted to myths to guide them through the world. Now t

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Richard Downs 25 March 2016