The enduring relevance of Plato

Florent Joly
2 min readJan 14, 2024

Should we hold on to Plato’s ideas on the pretext that they are millennial, or should we assume that recent technological innovations coupled with capitalism have altered human existence to a point that a new system of values, and a new vocabulary, is necessary?

The agony of Eros, a philosophical essay by Byung-Chul Han, German author of Korean origin, is a powerful case for the former. In it, Han uses the timeless philosophical concepts of Eros, the Other, Courage, and Reason to assess the modern Man. His portrayal is bleak but powerful.

According to Han, Man has become obsessed with achievement and health, an exclusively narcissistic dynamic from which the Other and any negativity (absence, lack) is excluded. Capitalism encourages instant gratification, which manifests as ‘the quickie’ and porn in the context of sex. Money allows us to compare any and all things, even those which used to be sacred or simply on a different plane. Eros defined as tension and distance from the Other agonizes in a world of hyper individualism. Desire that used to be defined by lack and absence is instantly resolved. Courage defined as absence of fear in the face of death retracts in favor of self preservation. Even Reason, third and last component of the Soul according to Plato, gives way to mere observation and correlation (which Han blames on the rise of ‘data analysis’). Stripped from its three engines the Soul loses its erotic energy, its search for the Beautiful, for the True, for the Other.

I’ve enjoyed finding words in Han’s essay to characterize our epoch, the same words that Hegel, Plato and Heidegger used to describe theirs .

In particular, Han’s analysis of the philosophical resonance of capitalism is convincing and I appreciate his rejection of the belief that neoliberalism liberated Man. According to Han, neoliberalism emancipated Man from its Masters (dictators, owners) but enslaved him to himself, condemning him to the repetition of the same in a society where nothing ends and everything is available.

But Han misses an opportunity to outline a positive philosophy for our times. The search for Eros, the Other, Courage, Beauty, Reason are still relevant sources of meaning. What does abiding by them look like today?

Is it a rejection, like Han suggests, of instant gratification, narcissism, and data analysis (which he links to Amazon, Meta, and Google respectively)? Is it slowing down in a world that mindlessly accelerates? Or building bridges in a world of ivory towers?

This is a question that merits life-long exploration.



Florent Joly

Exploring the intersection of technology and democracy.