Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Elitism, Justification and Philosophy

MelbournePhilosopher

I recently attended my first tutorial of "What is Philosophy?", this semester's Uni subject.

We were looking at Plato's republic, and more specifically at whether you could genuinely put in place a philosopher king to rule. The consensus, unsurprisingly, was that it was a silly idea. Here is what I thought was the most interesting dilemma.

Sometimes, you want to constrain a leader for acting without consideration for the larger populace, such as malignant dictators. Sometimes, you want to ignore the populace, because they are being thick and not getting the point, like banning the use of mobile phones in cars, or occasionally you do see populist but extreme regimes getting elected in democratic countries. You know, like Germany.

Ultimately, power is something that is conferred. Sometimes it is conferred by everyone, sometimes it is in the hands of the few. It seems to be the starting position that each individual has equal power, but that some of them delegate their power to others, which introduces inequity. Inequity can be compounded by technology and other factors also.

Through the use of a constitution and a judiciary, you can constrain the abuse of power by the powerful. Plato tried to counter the problem of abuse by supposing that a philosopher of pure heart would not be tempted by power. It is difficult to take this suggestion seriously, as it seems like we are all of us sinners, no matter how well intentioned we might be. In Plato's system, anything less that a perfect leader could subvert the system, whereas a democracy, at least in principle, enables bloodless revolution in leadership.

Here is a question for you all : what things are you elitist about? That is to say, what things do you believe are true and should be imposed upon others even though they might disagree with you? I'll try to post my own list at some point soon.

Cheers,
-MP

3 Comments:

Anonymous Paul said...

"We were looking at Plato's republic, and more specifically at whether you could genuinely put in place a philosopher king to rule. The consensus, unsurprisingly, was that it was a silly idea."

Marcus Aurelius was a roman emperor and stoic philosopher and I have read that his rule was a period of great prosperity for Rome.

In modern times we don't have a real king, nevertheless I think we would all benefit if everyone including our politicians studied ethics: Particularly virtue ethics. (I expect you will disagree, as you consider there are no absolutes in ethics.)

I remember seeing a program on TV some time ago where the presenter said that in public spaces in ancient Greece there were, instead of advertising billboards, ethical maxims written on the walls. Know thyself, nothing in excess, etc. Many would consider this a bit of a joke today, but I think that if we are going to have messages drummed into us then I'd rather "control anger" or "shun unjust acts" than "drink Coke" or "just do it".

What was the question again?

8/03/2005 03:35:00 PM  
Blogger MelbournePhilosopher said...

Marcus Aurelius was a roman emperor and stoic philosopher and I have read that his rule was a period of great prosperity for Rome.

I have no idea what the economic results of his rule were. His writings move me - he is as readable as any modern author in our language. I had thought that he was somewhat of a puppet emporer.

I would also like it it politicians studied more ethics and philosophy - they seem to make basic errors on an hourly basis.

As for advertising, maybe we could go with "Just think about it"?

Cheers,
-MP

8/04/2005 11:28:00 PM  
Anonymous RdR said...

IBM already has that covered: their slogan is "Think". Of course, I was always partial to Apple's reparté: "Think different".

8/07/2005 11:19:00 AM  

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