Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Plato on Abundance

Another philosopher who had somewhat to say on the topic of Abundance was Plato. Unlike some others, he was essentially in favour. However, he said, we should not be unrealistic.

A suitable amount of abundance is simply necessary, in his view, to meet the needs of man. One cannot really be happy without some measure of comfort to ones environment, protection from harm, adequete food, good friends, and so forth. Charity was seen as good, however on must have a suitable level of surplus before one can engage in charity without making oneself miserable.

While Socrates never had any wealth of his own, he did not lack for abundance, thanks to the generosity of his friends.

However, he does have rather a lot to say about temperance. There is a certain line of logic to consumerism, which suggests that if a little bit of expenditure makes us a little bit happy, the path to the greatest happiness is the greatest expenditure. Unfortunately, unrestricted desire, which is regarded by some as a part of human nature, can never be truly fulfilled. While pleasing our desires is good to do, expanding our desires beyond our means is frustrating.

Unlike Schopenhauer, who suggests minimising our desires (and worse, our expectations), Plato takes a more middle-of-the-road position. In fact, he rather elevates the importance of the mental life over that of the physical, but the "Golden Mean" philosophy later promoted by Aristotle is an echo of Plato's earlier work.

Abundance, then, is not good in itself, but is necessary for the Good Life. This term (in Greek, Eudaimonia) means being committed to things that are advantageous both for the soul, mind and body. Under the term, there is no true conflict between those goals, as Plato's philosophy is idealised.

Unfortunately, I'm not an idealist, so this argument just doesn't wash with me. Oh well, abundance is still *nice*. And I do agree -- an element of temperance in ones goals, or more simply a committment to being happy with what you have, seems to be good for the soul, mind and body. Just don't get *too* comfortable!



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