Magazine article The Spectator

ANCIENT AND MODERN - World of Shadows

Magazine article The Spectator

ANCIENT AND MODERN - World of Shadows

Article excerpt

The French justified Greece's entry into the EU by claiming that they 'could not say no to the country of Plato'. You bet they couldn't.

In the Republic, Plato outlined his utopia. This was not a practical construct, but a vision of an imaginary, ideal community whose purpose was to act as a model for how things might be.

He did this by sketching a picture of the educational and moral underpinning that went into making a good human and extrapolating from that an institutional programme that would create the good state.

The consequence was twofold. First, Plato had to show up the deficiencies of existing constitutions, to demonstrate there was no future in them.

Democracy in particular, the system under which Plato lived in Athens, came in for special contempt. The EU could not agree more.

Second, Plato assumed it was worth any price to impose his vision of the perfect state, because it represented the best that humans on earth could ever achieve. But the noble vision of 'goodness' at its heart was ultimately tyrannical, because it denied freedom. …

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