Who Shall Rule? (Notes Toward ‘Philosophy Is Dead,’ Part Two)

We tend to think that Plato’s posing of this question is one among many possible options in a thing called “political philosophy.” But perhaps we should see it instead as one among many possible options in a thing called “contemporary Greek political debate.” What would reframing things in this way do to our conception of the relationship between philosophy and its host community, then and now? (It may be helpful to keep in the back of one’s mind here what might be quasi-Quinian lessons about the impossibility of partitioning distinctively philosophical inquiries from inquiries of other kinds). The primordial question is, who shall lead us? because this is the kind of creature we are. But when societies reach a sufficient level of complexity, this becomes “what faction shall lead us?” And from there, it is only a short path to “what faction as characterized by the sorts of policies each is likely to pursue shall lead us?” Beyond this, “what are the best policies for us now?” At the limit, “what are the best policies more generally? Why?” At no time does this discussion need to separate itself from the practical considerations that motivate it in the first place, but if it does so, the burden is on those who seek to separate it to justify their existence. There are various ways that this might be done, but they should be made explicit and seen for what they are. In the mean time, the community still has decisions to make.

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