Wednesday, February 22, 2017

3 Reading Plato’s Statesman (with a reference to his Republic)

In my recent post (marked 4cc, February 17) I noted that ‘the Euthydemus and the Statesman have in common an important doctrinal aspect: they both insist that philosophy and politics are different disciplines.’ I contrasted this with the Republic in which ‘the unity of philosopher and statesman forms the very foundation of Plato’s ideal State’. But now, as I have begun to read the Statesman I came upon a passage that compels me to revise my observation. For Statesman 259a1-b5 suggests that Plato preserved the personal unity of political science and philosophy as far as he himself was concerned, although he had every reason to believe that it could never be attained by Dionysius, the ruler of Syracuse, whose adviser he was going to become.

Stranger: ‘If anyone who is in a private station has the skill to advise one of the public physicians (ei tô̢ tis tôn dêmosieuontôn iatrôn hikanos sumbouleuein idiôteuôn autos), must not he also be called a physician (ar’ ouk anankaion autô̢ prosagoreuesthai t’ounoma tês technês t’auton hoper hô̢ sumbouleuei ‘is it not necessary to give him the name of the same science which has the man whom he advises’;)?’ – Young Socrates: ‘Yes (Nai).’ – Str. ‘And if anyone who is in a private station is able to advise the ruler of a country (Ti d’; hostis basileuonti chôras andri parainein deinos idiôtês on autos), may not he be said to have the knowledge (ar’ ou phêsomen echein auton tên epistêmên) which the ruler himself ought to have (hên edei ton archonta auton kektêsthai;)? – Y. Soc. ‘True (Phêsomen).’ – Str. ‘But surely the science of a true king is royal science (Alla hê men alêthinou basileôs basilikê;)?’ – Y. Soc. ‘Yes (Nai).’ – Str. ‘And will not he who possesses this knowledge (Tautên de ho kektêmenos ouk), whether he happens to be a ruler or a private man (ante archôn ante idiôtês ôn tunchanê̢), when regarded only in reference to his art (pantôs kata ge tên technên autên), be truly called “royal” (basilikos orthôs prosrêthêsetai)? – Y. Soc. ‘He certainly ought to be (Dikaion oun).’ (259a1-b6, tr. Jowett)

This agreement with the position expressed in the Republic does not alter the fact that in writing the Statesman Plato was compelled to profoundly alter it. For in the Republic Plato maintained that in the well governed state, i.e. state governed by philosopher-rulers all those who pursued either philosophy or politics to the exclusion of the other (tôn poreuomenôn chôris eph’ hekateron) must be compelled to stand aside (ex anankês apokleisthôsin, 473d3-5). Strictly speaking, on the principle thus expressed in the Republic the Statesman of the Statesman ought to be compelled to stand aside and hand over the rule of the state to a true philosopher-ruler.

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