Julia Annas here offers a fundamental reexamination of Plato's
ethical thought by investigating the Middle Platonist perspective,
which emerged at the end of Plato's own school, the Academy. She
highlights the differences between ancient and modern assumptions
about Plato's ethics-and stresses the need to be more critical
about our own.
One of these modern assumptions is the notion that the dialogues
record the development of Plato's thought. Annas shows how the
Middle Platonists, by contrast, viewed the dialogues as multiple
presentations of a single Platonic ethical philosophy, differing in
form and purpose but ultimately coherent. They also read Plato's
ethics as consistently defending the view that virtue is sufficient
for happiness, and see it as converging in its main points with the
ethics of the Stoics.
Annas goes on to explore the Platonic idea that humankind's
final end is "becoming like God"-an idea that is well known among
the ancients but virtually ignored in modern interpretations. She
also maintains that modern interpretations, beginning in the
nineteenth century, have placed undue emphasis on the Republic, and
have treated it too much as a political work, whereas the ancients
rightly saw it as a continuation of Plato's ethical writings.
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