"If we did all that Plato or Aristotle or Confucius told us, we should get on a great deal better than we do."

Bust of Plato
Creative Commons AttributionBust of Plato - Credit: © Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons
What did Plato (429-347 BC) teach? "In many of Plato's writings, it is asserted or assumed that true philosophers—those who recognize how important it is to distinguish the one (the one thing that goodness is, or virtue is, or courage is) from the many (the many things that are called good or virtuous or courageous)—are in a position to become ethically superior to unenlightened human beings, because of the greater degree of insight they can acquire" (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "Plato").

Bust of Aristotle
Creative Commons AttributionBust of Aristotle - Credit: Sting
Aristotle (384-322 BC) was a student of Plato's. "A key theme in Aristotle's thought is that happiness is the goal of life. Aristotle was a good deal less other-worldly than Plato. . . . The founder of logical theory, Aristotle believed that the greatest human endeavor is the use of reason in theoretical activity. One of his best known ideas was his conception of 'The Golden Mean' — 'avoid extremes,' the counsel of moderation in all things" (dummies.com, "Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle").

Confucius's "influence in Chinese history [has been compared] with that of Socrates in the West." He lived from 551-479 BC and "was a thinker, political figure, educator, and founder of the Ru School of Chinese thought. His teachings, preserved in the Lunyu or Analects, form the foundation of much of subsequent Chinese speculation on the education and comportment of the ideal man, how such an individual should live his life and interact with others, and the forms of society and government in which he should participate" (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "Confucius").