Two figures in Western thought loom higher than any others: Aristotle and Plato. Together, they have inspired and influenced people across the ages. However, they have appealed to two starkly different types of intellectuals: the merchant and the slave master.
Plato lived in Athens some 2,400 years ago and has left a lasting mark on our civilization. His grand idea was that the reality we observe with our senses is not objective, but a cheap and dirty copy of an ideal world of forms living up in idea heaven.
According to Plato, only a refined class of philosophers has access to this world of forms through mystical revelation. Therefore, he proposed a society where property, women, and children were communally owned. The state is governed by elite of philosopher-kings, who rule over the ordinary less intelligent, people.
The first group of people who were attracted to Plato’s philosophy was the slave master. For them, it was natural to think that working with your hands and body is something cheap and dirty, something less than real. The masters looked out into the fields far away and saw these lesser beings – their slaves – work and become filthy. Inside their own homes, they could live a life far removed from the toils of their slaves – a more truthful, elevated, pure, clean, and noble life.
The idea that these privileged people had greater access to the truth came naturally to them. They liked the idea of being a ruling class because it validated w...