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Plato's ideal of the Common Good

Anatomy of a concept of timeless significance

Harald Haarmann

This study documents various historical instances in the development of the concept «Common Good». The author reflects about Plato's theory of Forms, which is infused with the idea of good, as the first principle of being. Plato was not the first philosopher to address the theme of the Common Good although he was the first to construct a political theory around it. This theme has remained a central agenda for philosophers throughout the ages

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2. The Common Good: Its multilateral relations with society and state


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2.  The Common Good: Its multilateral relations with society and state

If the Common Good is the key to a successful functioning of a society, then the advantages that the Common Good offers to those whose actions are oriented to it must show in the quality and properties of a given civilization. If neither Plato nor the pre-Socratic philosophers were the ones to invent the idea of the Common Good then this key factor must have a longer tradition and must have left traces in the fabric of cultures predating Greek civilization. What comes to mind are the flourishing cultures of the ancient Aegean, in the Cycladic islands and in Minoan Crete (Cline 2010), but these are themselves the offspring of a much older, far advanced civilization. The mother of the ancient Aegean regional cultures has long been neglected and its properties have only recently been investigated with some scrutiny (see Haarmann 2011a and 2014 for recent surveys).

What, then, was the society like that supported social and technological advancement at a pace hitherto unknown in other parts of the world? This old and mature civilization has become known as Old Europe (or the Danube civilization, respectively). The Danube civilization produced patterns of social interaction and technological advancement that dominated the course of cultural development in subsequent periods, and the basis for the stability of its society were plant cultivation and the related agrarian lifestyles. Continuity of the agrarian way of life...

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