Thucydides vs Plato

1 January 2017

Thucydides displays empirical thinking in his studies of human nature and behavior during the Peloponnesian War and Plato displays normative thinking in his books and dialogs in particular “The Republic” Plato views a good life on the ideals that a person has reached happiness. When a person is in a state where they have no desires because they have all love in their life. He believed this to be the same for everyone and that exhibiting total virtue is obtainable by everyone.

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Plato considers virtue to be obtained when you have all love and all desires you have are gone. Having love does not mean falling in love with a person, but having a mythical understanding of the world. Normative thinking in philosophy is thinking in terms of ideals, values, and how things should be. In “The Republic” Plato uses normative philosophies as he talks about an ideal society and the principles of justice. He focuses mainly on justice and that it is the greatest virtue and if a man is just then they are a happy person. Justice is described as each part of the soul doing its own part that is balance.

Justice, in short, is a virtue, a human excellence. His next point is that acting in accordance with excellence brings happiness. Then he ties excellence to one’s function. The just person is a happy person is a person who performs his function. Since these are tied together, injustice can never exceed these virtues and so justice is stronger and is the good. In The Republic, Plato refers to a man’s soul of having three parts. The mind, which makes decisions, the spirit which gives courage, and the body which are the pleasures regulated by the rational mind.

The Greek Historian, Thucydides, showed his imperialistic approach when recounting the history of the Peloponnesian war between Athens and Sparta. He was a realist who had strict standards for evidence or fact gathering, observation, and analysis. He was not influenced by the gods, religious beliefs, or any biases in his recounting of the Peloponnesian war. Thucydides relates the facts of the war with as much facts and truth as possible which is much different than Plato who uses ideals. He was unbiased and completely objective and created a scientific approach to history.

Thucydides is not interested in entertaining but to portray the true terrors and horrors of war by accounting events and speaking through others in speeches rather than speaking in his own name. Thucydides imperialistic approach in his documentation of the Peloponnesian war was a precursor of modern history and is based on significant differences for other historians of his time who typically like to write elaborate stories according to their own beliefs and political agenda. He searched for the truth underlying historical events and learned that the motives of men follow certain patterns.

Therefore, the proper analysis of the Peloponnesian War would reveal those general principles that also govern human behavior. In conclusion, the two contrasting approaches in philosophy show that Plato clearly uses normative claims in talking about how people ought to act and his moral beliefs. While Plato wrote about ideals and beliefs, Thucydides uses empirical claims basing his writing on first hand observations and experiences during the Peloponnesian War.

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