Thucydide vs Plato on The Good Life
Thucydides Versus Plato: Differing Views of the Good Life What is the true nature of the Good Life? Is it living life with concern for only oneself despite the possible consequences of one's action on others? Or might it involve self-sacrifice in effort to do what one feels is right or just? Is it descriptive, or perhaps prescriptive? Two prominent Greeks, Thucydides and Plato, began providing answers to these questions over 25 centuries ago as they analyzed and wrote critically about life's ethical implications. They shined contrasting light on what is right, just, and good; as well as ways to achieve true happiness. In short, each gave an opinion on how to garner the Good Life. Let's start by taking a look at Thucydides, a general in the Athenian army. Thucydides, one of the earliest true historians, chronicled the Peloponnesian War. Being scientifically-oriented, his descriptions of the lengthy war between Athens and Sparta were empirical. His account of events raised questions: What actions are justified to achieve happiness? Does justice fluctuate between times of war and peace? He seems to indicate might makes right, at least in times of war. In conflict, acting from a position of strength may be the best route leading to the Good Life. A clear example exists when he recalls interaction between Athens and Melos in the Melian Dialogues. As we enter Thucydides' chronicle, the Athenian army is squaring-off against the small island territory of Melos following Melian refusal to succumb peacefully to the larger, stronger force. Athenian leaders have dispatched representatives to speak with the leaders of Melos, but by now Athenians are determined to take over the small island at all costs. However, the Melians think they may be able to avoid war with the Athenian army since Melos is affiliated with Sparta via heritage and has been neutral in the confrontation between Athens and Sparta. During their meeting the Athenians inform the
Cited: "2B - Ethics in America: The Traditions of Ethics", courtesy of Thomas Edison State College YouTube.com, n.d. Web.
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