Political Revolution

Ancient Greeks: Plato on the Reaction to Excess

JoAnnChateau.com - Quotes | Ancient Greeks
Written by JoAnn Chateau

Excess generally causes reaction,
and produces a change in the opposite direction,
whether it be in the seasons, or in individuals, or in governments.

~ Plato, The Republic

Plato, (born c. 428/427 bce—died c. 348/347 bce), ancient Greek philosopher, student of Socrates (c. 470–399 bce), teacher of Aristotle (384–322 bce), and founder of the Academy, best known as the author of philosophical works of unparalleled influence.

Building on the demonstration by Socrates that those regarded as experts in ethical matters did not have the understanding necessary for a good human life, Plato introduced the idea that their mistakes were due to their not engaging properly with a class of entities he called forms, chief examples of which were Justice, Beauty, and Equality.” ~ Encyclopaedia Britannica

READ MORE: Plato; Greek Philosopher | Encyclopaedia Britannica

Human nature has not changed over the millennia. The question is, do we learn from history?

The pendulum seeks balance. A reaction to excess that sends the pendulum swinging back is a saving grace.

That’s one of my thoughts. Care to share what you are thinking?

Ancient Greek Wisdom 

About the author

JoAnn Chateau

JoAnn Chateau likes progressive politics and loves the canines. She sometimes writes fiction about Chester (the Alpha Bichon) and his friends -- with a dash of humor and dab of Poli-Sci. JoAnn's views and insights are tinted by her past profession in Counseling, Christian theological studies, and Library and Information Science training. Retired now, JoAnn enjoys the creative life.


  • Plato’s philosophical point here has been expressed repeatedly in various forms throughout history from the Chinese principle of nature (i.e. Yin vs Yang), the Hindu and Buddhist spiritual concept of karma, and to the modern theory of causality. This obvious and convincing idea juxtaposed with the counter philosophy of so-called “western values” (i.e. Calvinism, the Protestant “work ethic,” Biblical literalism, capitalism, materialism, and other forms of self-serving moral justification) couldn’t be more stark. It’s as if the former values humility while the latter values assertiveness.

    • That is deep, Robert. It leads me to add maybe the former values balance instead of excess. Which then makes me think of the perverse aspects of humility and assertiveness: humiliation vs. aggression, which seem to be involved when worldly powers conquer the powerless.

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