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Thucydides Versus Plato on the Nature of the Good Life


Thucydides and Plato were renowned philosophers whose ideas were supported by people, even despite the fact that they were almost polar opposites of each other. Plato advocated normative thinking, while Thucydides preferred an empirical approach in his own study of human nature. It is impossible to say whose philosophy is better, as choosing what to believe is a personal decision that should not be dictated by anyone.

Plato’s views were based on the model of a man who has achieved his ultimate goal in life, meaning happiness. According to his beliefs, people become truly happy when they have no desires left to fulfill. One can reach this point when he or she has all the love they will need in their lives. In Plato’s philosophy, love is not merely a romantic feeling. When used by him, this term defines the state where people manage to understand the world around them and find harmony within themselves.

The normative philosophy that was advocated by Plato is based on justice, which is seen as man’s greatest virtue. According to Plato, a happy person is a just person who performs his or her function, and every just person performs a function by default. One of the main ideas that lie in the core of Plato’s philosophy is the belief that a man’s function is determined by nature itself. This means that people have no ultimate control over their roles.

Thucydides is considered to be “the father of history”. Unlike Plato, who was rather vague on the origins of his philosophy, Thucydides was focused on facts and evidence. He is a realist to the core, and there is no seeking world harmony in his teachings. Thucydides is focused on determining the real causes behind people’s actions. His most famous work that exists today tells a detailed account of the Peloponnesian War, and explains that international political reasons that caused this conflict fueled it and eventually resolved it. Thucydides contemplates the distribution of power within society and the roles of those who do not possess it. He sees primacy of power as the most important tool in international relations.

Despite the fact that Plato and Thucydides held very different views on some matters, both their works served as the basis for the current international politics of today. Various leaders today use their teachings when leading their nations. Usually, they employ a combination of both philosophies when building their own political programs. One can, however, still find a good example of a Plato vs. Thucydides discussion at any international relations meeting.