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Is The Best Ruler of State a Philosopher?

Today it seems that those at power are only as visionary and accountable as people require them to be. Let us then explore whether there is a leader emerging from the proverbial cave and whether we should call him a philosopher.

Plato terms the one left out of the cave a philosopher. The people of the cave could call him a pervert but for us it will be more convenient to examine him as a lover of knowledge. The notion of his emerging or enlightenment is a progress of expanding the boundaries of his mind. He is gradually being geared towards better understanding of the world inside and around the people. He is also someone who greatly values learning and has had moderate success at attaining it. Moreover, he is someone who wishes that others would take on the same journey that he has chosen.

Should these values be enough for him to be the best ruler to a state? No.

One might ask, if the philosopher is on a journey towards enlightenment and encourages others to take the same path – seemingly these are great qualities –, why then will he fail to provide for the needs of the most, why will he not be the best ruler of the state?

The answer is that being a philosopher is not enough. There are other qualities a leader needs foremost. A philosopher is not the best candidate for a leader because:

Throughout history men have proven that it is very difficult for them to know something as they are constantly being proved wrong. It has been impossible for them to become masters of knowledge since the world keeps changing, certain knowledge thought to be universal only applies in certain specific cases, and overall it is very hard to makes sense of anything. Considering everything there is to know, it is not surprising that the men sometimes go nihilistic when they understand the sheer quantity of what there is to understand. Claiming wisdom has become the mark of fools and devout believers.

And of great leaders. Because true enlightenment is impossible, the leader should not be a philosopher. He must despise knowledge as the stench of rotten tomatoes. He must forget everything he is told and taught. For if he knows something, he will be distracted by questions and curiosities. He will be weak in so far as he accepts that he doesn’t understand everything. He must think he understands everything and be clear in his words so that the people could follow him.

States like that however tend to become evil.

Today exists a body of knowledge which is far greater than that available when Plato loved to reflect on stately issues, we understand quite a lot more about the human condition. People in their youth ask many questions; not dissimilar to those of Plato, and everyone is a philosopher of a sort. The pursuit of wisdom and development exist in most every human being and in many nations; it seems to be one of the few givens of existence.

If everybody is a philosopher and the ruler should not be a philosopher, it follows that everybody shouldn’t be a ruler. This is impossible in a democracy.

In a modern democracy everybody is a leader, because everybody is a philosopher, nothing is ever clear. There is nit-picking about everything and no one has to the authority to say the godly truth.

Still, people believe they have caves from which to emerge, and recently it seems there will never be a shortage of caves from which to emerge. Some people call this science. It is the first step after considering one’s ignorance to actually doing something systematic about it but I don’t have great hopes for it either because it isn’t dogmatic enough.

With the advent of the Internet the information provided by science can for the first time be shared on a grand scale at the speed on light, and enlightened democracies can be created.

Yet there are many people who seemingly are not interested in that mainstream path of a westernized democracy. The notion that these people are fools is also misleading. It might be the conditions on which this rule is provided that makes it unattractive for certain individuals, and it should be said the role of a ruler of a public society may well be unsuitable even for the brightest of individuals and has little to do with intelligence, if he is accustomed to another manner.

It may well be that the better aspects of such a ruler are only expressed under certain circumstances. Consequently he may develop alternative methods. When a ruler is incapable of excelling in the mainstream system, he should not automatically be labelled an under-achiever because he takes the alternative of ruling solo in North Korea where he can claim enlightenment by application of force, and needs little true quality as a leader.

Rule over people can be achieved using methods most suitable for the specific needs of the subjects. Different modes were important for testing purposes but often conditioned the human spirit against a rule set to extents that can be called crimes against humanity. Thanks to these appalling events, social scientists can now use certain comparative models of state rule and come up with models that are scalable and should be applicable to specific tasks and working conditions in most countries. The diversity of possible modes of government was historically extensive but is fast becoming more uniform.

In this rapid development it is the sense of wonder and pursuit of discoveries that are the intrinsic values of our species, and should be conserved. These senses can be undermined by strict cultivation of ideas under a sole strict philosopher as in the aforementioned North Korea, or alternatively these ideas might developed by many rulers, the good democratic Americans.

The task of the ruler is to develop those ideas; and the ruler becomes a conservative.

Being a philosopher king does not mean that one should desert all other interests. It is rather a certain quality of thought that describes the philosopher, and applies to all fields of human experience.

The most important thing for any ruler to remember is that he must not become a destroyer and he must not become an outsider among his people. The ruler must keep in mind who are the people of this world.

Where do we come from? Are we the native ones of the world, such as all life? Is it then our responsibility to care for all life?

So it seems futile to argue that the rule of only one method of ruling is sufficient.

Kris Haamer
VHK, 12K
December 2006

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