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Of Philosophers, Kings and Technocrats

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2020

Kenneth Henwood*
Affiliation:
Erindale College, University of Toronto

Extract

The arguments in the Republic are predicated upon a prior argument which can be expressed as follows:

  • There is moral knowledge.

  • Possession of it qualifies one to rule.

  • Those who do possess it are therefore entitled to rule.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Authors 1979

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References

1 R. Bambrough has written two relevant articles: (1) “Plato's, Political Analogies,” published in Philosophy, Politics & Society, 1st Series, ed. Laslett, Peter (Oxford, 1956), pp. 98115Google Scholar, and reprinted in Plato, A Collection of Critical Essays, II, ed. Vlastos, Gregory (New York, 1971 )Google Scholar; (2) “Plato's Modern Friends and Enemies,” Philosophy 37 (1962), pp. 97-113, and re-printed in Plato, Popper and Politics, ed. R. Bambrough (1967). Henceforth the articles will be cited as B.1 and B.2 respectively. Page numbers refer to the original publications.

2 The phrase is Allan Bloom's.

3 A commentary on 450d; Dodds, E.R., Gorgias, A Revised Text with lntoduction and Commentary (Oxford, 1959), p. 190.Google Scholar

4 R. Robinson, Plato's Earlier Dialectic, 2nd ed. (Oxford, 1953), p. 74. L. Campbell says much the same thing.

Further, the end of this progressive lesson in dialectic is not to exalt a formal method, but to quicken and regulate the free action of the inquiring mind. Plato never conceived … that a new method could possibly level intellects, or become a substitute for thought. His dialectic is not a dead organon, but an inspiration, a divine gift, which may be imperfectly described in words, and by oral teaching may be awakened and stimulated in the philosophic nature, but cannot be once and for all embodied in a book of aphorisms or a Chrestomathy. (xi, General Introduction, The Sophistes & Politcus of Plato, Oxford, 1867). While R. Robinson discusses the earlier dialectic, L. Campbell discussed the later dialectic, yet both stress the skilful aspect of it- the knowing how to proceed in dialectical investigations.

5 R. Robinson calls methodos “specialization of the notion of ‘going'.” Ibid., p. 62.

6 Plato and Bambrough agree that choice, decision and deliberation are an “ineradicable element” within ethics and politics. They would seem to disagree about the status of this element, however. Plato supposed that such deliberation is rational in the sense of non-arbitrary. One can deliberate within an art only by recognizing the end for which the art exists and without which it would cease to be an intelligible activity. Such deliberation is, then, both rational (presupposing a non-arbitrary end) and properly limited to those who possess the requisite art. See Gorgias 456a-465a. See also Republic 1333 e ff., where Socrates asks Polemarchus if a person skilled in an art can also skilfully abuse it. Is the physician, for example, able to prevent disease, and, if he chooses, to spread it, both with equal skill? Polemarchus supposes so, thereby enabling Socrates to complete his reductio and wring from Polemarchus the admission that he does not know what justice is (334b). This reductio, with its seemingly absurd premise that one skilled in an art cannot also skilfully abuse it, is the first argument in the Republic to use an analogy between justice and the arts. That this is not a ridiculous premise becomes clear in the second argument to employ an analogy from the arts, introduced by Thrasymachus at 340d. Socrates points out to him that technai are not means structured to serve whatever ends are wanted by whomever happens to be skilled. The art of medicine, for example, is not indifferently directed toward either curing or spreading disease. One who uses medical skills for the latter end is not exercising the art of medicine; he is perverting it. Technai are deliberative arts requiring an exercise of judgement, choice and decision. Such deliberation entails recognition of the end for which the art exists; without that recognition, deliberation is replaced by selfish or arbitrary decision, and one is no longer operating “by art.“

7 This sentence amounts to a virtual citation of Aristotle, E.N. 11.3.1105a9-10.

8 Republic Vl491a ft.

9 Symposium 203b-d

10 Footnote 6 above is also relevant to analogy (D).

11 Republic Vl509b.

2
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