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Thu, 15 Mar 2018:

This isn't about leadership, but the events leading up to it. There's nothing new for me to say here, except to walk you through the path I took reading Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.

Though this truly started because I read Men At Arms again and wondered what Corporal Carrot is made of (& Vetinari and Vimes too).

Because reading it made me pick up H2G2 and look at Zaphod Beeblebrox & the man who rules the universe. But that's for a different episode, about presidents with a penchant for orange sashes.

In the Republic, Plato records Socrates's argument about the nature of leadership. That guardians of the state are not necessarily the leaders, but leaders employ themselves where they can show the way and to do that may abdicate power when they observe a well functioning, if not perfect state of affairs.

Weighing between the potential advances they could make from mastery of their art against the heavy burden of leadership, they choose to advance their mastery instead and indicate to others that their mastery is advancing the world.

The world changes shape, right at the moment where those have ignored politics realize that the state of affairs is regressing, despite their progress through life. In those moments of chaos, they consider leaving their avowed profession and take up the unthankful jobs that they had left to others before - leadership. There is no longer a question about comparing the rewards of leadership against anything else, since the alternative is to lose out on the most relevant of common goods - peace.

And I quote

And this is the reason, my dear Thrasymachus, why, as I was just now
saying, no one is willing to govern; because no one likes to take
in hand the reformation of evils which are not his concern without
remuneration. 

For, in the execution of his work, and in giving his orders to another,
the true artist does not regard his own interest, but always that of
his subjects; and therefore in order that rulers may be willing to rule,
they must be paid in one of three modes of payment: money, or honour, 
or a penalty for refusing. 

What do you mean, Socrates? said Glaucon. The first two modes of payment
are intelligible enough, but what the penalty is I do not understand,
or how a penalty can be a payment. 

You mean that you do not understand the nature of this payment which
to the best men is the great inducement to rule? 

Of course you know that ambition and avarice are held to be, as indeed
they are, a disgrace?

And then Socrates explains.

And for this reason, I said, money and honour have no attraction for
them; good men do not wish to be openly demanding payment for governing
and so to get the name of hirelings, nor by secretly helping themselves
out of the public revenues to get the name of thieves. And not being
ambitious they do not care about honour.

Wherefore necessity must be laid upon them, and they must be induced to 
serve from the fear of punishment.

And this, as I imagine, is the reason why the forwardness to take office,
instead of waiting to be compelled, has been deemed dishonourable.

And Socrates goes onto explain the punishment that awaits a good person who sees a leadership vacuum and does not step up to it.

Now the worst part of the punishment is that he who refuses to rule is liable
to be ruled by one who is worse than himself.

And the fear of this, as I conceive, induces the good to take office,
not because they would, but because they cannot help --not under the
idea that they are going to have any benefit or enjoyment themselves,
but as a necessity, and because they are not able to commit the task
of ruling to any one who is better than themselves, or indeed as good.

And that's how Socrates concludes that leaders are forged out of a crisis, not out of peace or prosperity - not by intention, but by choice and circumstance.

That does paint the progression as sort of inevitable, but it is entirely rational to observe the choice ahead and just leave.

PS: Republic talks about doctors getting paid for good health, women being educated equally and rulers being enlightened - it's hard to think of it being written two millenia ago, while most of that is still fought out. Read the whole thing.

--
There is no harm in repeating a good thing.
            -- Plato

posted at: 13:52 | path: /philosophy | permalink | Tags: , ,