Reading Plato for the 21st century

Plato has received his share of bad press in this century. A number of significant schools of thought, like existentialism and phenomenology, have openly expressed impatience with Platonic ‘essentialism.’ He has even been blamed for fascism. Perhaps the problem goes back to Nietzsche’s call, at the turn of the century, to be true to the earth, our common mother. His message was aimed at otherworldly, pious Christians who, with a spiritualism worthy of the Platonists, regarded contemplative thought as the way to truth. Like a doubleedged sword Nietzsche’s call was also directed against metaphysics, dogmatism and intellectualism, the fruits of which he confronted in the weighty tomes for which German scholars then were justifiably renowned. It is not surprising that in the Soviet empire, built on Marxist-Leninist atheism, Nietzsche’s words fell on receptive ears. Not only were philosophers who dared openly to identify themselves as ‘Platonist’ or ‘idealist’ banned, exiled or executed. The teaching of classical antiquity, too, was almost entirely removed from the curriculum; the ancients could be considered only from a highly restricted point of view, via Democritus, Lucretius, or Aristotle
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