Tuesday, May 03, 2016

We need more philosophers. Not politicians!

Remember the presidential wannabe who seemed to want to only utter sound-bites like “we need more welders, less philosophers"?  Yes, I am referring to Marco Polo Rubio, who is now apparently "warming up to Donald Trump" after all the insults that he hurled at the Donald!  If only he had listened to the philosophers, because he would have understood that Plato had something to say about the dangers of democracy; Plato thought that:
 rhetoric, or the art of persuasion, in the wrong hands was dangerous and likely to be abused to appeal to people’s base motives. He foresaw the unethical, dishonest uses that a skilled but immoral speaker could put his persuasive powers to, with credulous people eager to believe or buy whatever he was selling.
Rubio will perhaps be shocked to learn that people who are familiar with the works of Plato and Socrates have quite a bit to say about Trump.   Kathleen Parker continues with this:
We at least owe Trump thanks for bringing these two ancient philosophers out of history’s woodwork and back into the conversation. Trump also has inspired reconsideration of rhetoric’s rightful place in the classroom, where it was once considered an essential component of “a gentleman’s” education. 
Andrew Sullivan, who suddenly abandoned blogging that he pioneered, has returned after a long hiatus at a new place, and in a lengthy piece on Trump, suggests that America has never been so ripe for tyranny.  Sullivan also brings in Plato and Socrates:
As this dystopian election campaign has unfolded, my mind keeps being tugged by a passage in Plato’s Republic. It has unsettled — even surprised — me from the moment I first read it in graduate school. The passage is from the part of the dialogue where Socrates and his friends are talking about the nature of different political systems, how they change over time, and how one can slowly evolve into another. And Socrates seemed pretty clear on one sobering point: that “tyranny is probably established out of no other regime than democracy.”
Too bad that Rubio, Trump, and their ardent followers do not care about philosophy!  Sullivan and Parker are not some crazy hippies either.  More Sullivan:
Just as the English Civil War ended with a dictatorship under Oliver Cromwell, and the French Revolution gave us Napoleon Bonaparte, and the unstable chaos of Russian democracy yielded to Vladimir Putin, and the most recent burst of Egyptian democracy set the conditions for General el-Sisi’s coup, so our paralyzed, emotional hyperdemocracy leads the stumbling, frustrated, angry voter toward the chimerical panacea of Trump.
I particularly like the way Sullivan phrases the weight of the moment:
In terms of our liberal democracy and constitutional order, Trump is an extinction-level event. It’s long past time we started treating him as such.
I don't for a moment consider that as hyperbole.  In the American presidential politics, we often worry about a "October surprise" that can tremendously affect the election outcomes.  A terror attack committed by non-White foreign terrorists either on American soil, or on American interests abroad in early October, and Trump would seize that as his ultimate gift: "Fear is always the would-be tyrant’s greatest ally."

It is going to be a long and scary wait until November 8, 2016.  Meanwhile, brush up on your Socrates, folks!

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