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Cory Banta

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Philosophers should replace politicians as the primary decision makers of the world.

Aristotle is quoted with saying, "I have gained this from philosophy, that I do without being commanded what others do only from fear of the law."

Politics in the practiced world seems to be a diagram of theoretical ideas that have been pragmatized and therefore has had its ideological corners cut off in order to suit the moderation of demands of the masses. Despite the fact that many politically involved people in the western hemisphere assign themselves to some sort political party that usually aligns with what is generally considered "progressive" or "conservative," in the long run it could be said that everyone is ultimately either an anarchist or fascist.

Political views originate from the deep recesses of the human psyche, and are subject to be filtered through by the conscious. Psychological evolution has made it so that the human psyche has mastered the art of eliminating guilt by justifying our actions. Here two distinctions can be made in how people go about justifying these actions: those who justify their acts through sympathy and emotion, and those who justify their acts through introspection and thought.

I would argue that the former is far more common. For example, we feel bad for unfair trade, we walk into Starbucks and buy Fair Trade coffee, our guilt is eliminated, AND we still get to be consumers. On the other hand, the person who feels guilt and thinks about it will lead themselves into questioning the very nature of existence and the origin of ethics, this person could be termed a philosopher.

Although most politicians are considered to be academically qualified in the western world, the majority of them are probably not what most people would call a philosopher. So, seeing that politics in the western hemisphere has been sensationalized and conveniently packaged for the non-philosophical, society would in theory benefit in some sort of intellectual trickle-down system whereas only philosophers were permitted to be politicians.

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  • Jan 2 2012: I think poets and musicians are a better choice than philosophers and whoever it is there must be an equal number of males and females at every decision-making point, if we are to obtain success. Another interesting quote of Aristotle is “All paid jobs absorb and degrade the mind.”
    • Jan 3 2012: Why must there be an equal number of males and females? This statement is phallogocentric, even if it's in favor of the female. You are either implying that there are no inherent differences between the sexes and sex identities and in how they attain knowledge--which I believe to be false--or that there are and we should just ignore them, and this latter philosophy has led to a big problem in modern western education in teaching younger children.
      Why are there so many more male philosophers than female philosophers? I think this may be a question you were asking yourself when you wrote this, and you seem to be sexually egalitarian, which, these theories combined, you would find my theory problematic, understandably. There are many factors that go into this phenomenon, obviously one being a male-centered culture. But I believe there are other very deep, psychosexual reasons involved as well. I will not go into these unless you really want me to, but I will say that sexual egalitarianism in its entirety is impossible unless you eliminate or separate the sexes permanently. You should look into Valerie Solanas' "S.C.U.M. Manifesto." It's a short read.
      • Jan 3 2012: "Why must there be equal males and females?"

        I would ask the same question.

        I actually think there should be twice as many females as males. Also, we need four parts poet for every one part musician. I have not quite decided the ratio of redheads to blondes, though. Perhaps you could offer a suggestion, Rhona?

        SEP
        • Jan 3 2012: Seth, males and females are different, equal, complementary. Working together as equals we can co-create a society that will work well for everyone. That means things like health, happiness......stuff like that. Feel free to be as glib as you want. Truth works. Nothing to fear in acknowledging your equality to women. Only increasing happiness to look forward to when women and men have equal power in creating and implementing new, effective systems within which we can all relax and enjoy each other....letting go of all those fears.
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          Jan 8 2012: Just playing devil's advocate here (not actually buying into the premise that any specific group is better qualified to lead) but:

          If the fear is that women's governance style is radically different than men's and therefore they are less qualified somehow, maybe the women being governed would be better off with women leaders.

          EDIT: Crap, this belongs after Seth's comment below. Stupid nesting limitations.
        • Jan 8 2012: First off, this discussion is ridiculous. Gender does not play an important role in politics. There are women politicians in the United States. Hilary Clinton is a great example of this. We do live in a male dominant world with double standards on both sides and in that sense, there are women over men discrimination. Male nurses are constantly bugged for their job and there are men who are abused by their wives . Now, now, I do not believe we will ever reach equality in both genders because one will always want to gain more than the other but, I do believe we can get close to it. That is it. We can get close to equality. We can never reach perfect equality in both genders since, as mentioned before, it is like a scale in power.
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          Jan 8 2012: Zared, that you confuse the particular with the universal is limiting your ability to see the larger picture. There is a large difference between the systemic and the individual (though yes, I agree that the personal is political).

          Yes, the specific instances are wrong. They are not, however, societally condoned. They are, probably, not societally frowned upon enough either.

          Taking just one of those things, spousal abuse - notice that it has moved on from "battered women" or "wife abuse" - has gained the attention that it has largely because of the work women did to bring light to the situation and to make it less acceptable to be an abuser. We've moved from a world where it was "something to be dealt with in the home" to understanding that abusive personalities (male or female) are in the wrong and there are resources for the ones who are being abused.

          At this point it is up to MEN to change the culture of denigrating what they perceive as weakness and to create safe spaces for other men to go to in their time of need. Abused men need to know that they have a support system. You can't simply say that "there are these shelters out there that women built to protect women, why don't they build them for men?"

          I spent a goodly chunk of my teenaged years volunteering as a "second". It means that in a case of domestic assault (and even that language has changed since the 80's) a primary and I would go to either the hospital or the police station and pick up an assaulted woman and take her to one of the shelters (it was a lot more complicated than that because of some murders that had happened at a shelter in London, ON). We only dealt with women and no men picked up the abused women.

          MEN need to provide similar, non-judgemental services for men.

          If you aren't actually doing something to fix it, then you need to stop picking it out as a straw man.
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          Jan 8 2012: Hopefully this will end up at least somewhere in proximity to your question. EDIT: Awesome. Not in the least.

          "You are intelligent because you play the devil's advocate. You do not play the devil's advocate because you are intelligent. So then - what is the imperative to deceive?"

          I don't know that I consider playing devil's advocate a matter of deception.

          One of my shortcomings (and one that seems to lead people to ask if I might have Asperger's - I promise not go into my rant about how people seem to want to put intelligence somewhere on the autism spectrum, but I was the friggin' cheerleading captain, clearly I do not have Asperger's syndrome) is my compulsion to consider the logical consequences of premises. (I studied logic because of who I am, I am not who I am because I studied logic).

          If someone makes an argument I think it behooves them to see what that argument actually implies, the fact that I don't agree with the premise isn't really an issue. Sometimes it's just speculation, not deception - pondering the ramifications and possibilities.

          EDIT: Just because we are down to the last four minutes, I want to add that one day I am going to respond to the Asperger's question with, "What seems more likely, that I have Asperger's or that you are just that boring?"

          Clearly I am going to have to choose that moment wisely.
      • Jan 3 2012: Cory, I have read the book you mention. I am certainly not "implying that there are no inherent differences between the sexes....." That concept is coming from your head. Nor am I suggesting "we should ignore them..." You have clearly missed my main point. It is the differences that are significant to the success of all systems within our world. I am delighted we are different AND EQUAL. What the male dominators don't seem to get is that they will not achieve happiness and fulfillment until the acknowledge the equality of women and live in a world co-created by different and equal males and females. Males and Females are complementary. Working together as equals we can co-create a healthy, happy world for all Females and Males. Let us do that. Now.
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        Jan 7 2012: Are women not equally being ruled? Should they not therefore equally have say in the structure of ruling?
        • Jan 8 2012: Gisela,

          In the West, women do have equal say in the structure of ruling through the election process. They have a valid a recognized vote, as well as the right and ability to run for office. Nikki Haley, a woman, is the governor of my state.

          She is not the governor because she is a woman, though. She is the governor because she was the most qualified individual to perform the specific tasks voters wanted done. (And because Sarah Palin endorsed her). I do not think we need a male 'co-governor' even though I am being equally ruled through her legislative agenda.

          Do you think we need a quota system established so that any institution organized after today must have equal male and female leadership roles? Or can we trust the institutions themselves to organize and appoint their own leadership?

          To clarify my position- it is possible (probable) that a group suffering from a lack of (differing degrees of) gender diversity will perform better than an absolutely gender diverse group. Therefore it would be self-defeating to declare that any group must have an equal number of males and females. The best individuals ought to chosen, regardless of gender. I am not against an absolutely gender diverse outcome, only against it being an arbitrarily predetermined outcome.

          SEP
        • Jan 8 2012: Gisela,

          "Just playing devil's advocate here..."

          Well alright. So long as that does not resign me to the role of advocatus dei.

          Do you recall the thread where it was asked how you identify another intelligent person? I can't find it in the archives. In case you do not, I said that I typically gauge someone's intelligence on their eyes, their heightened sense of irony, and their sense of humor or laugh. Playing the devil's advocate is an ironic gesture, par excellence. My question is - what is the motivation, in your opinion?

          I feel that intelligence is simply a categorization of behavior. But that intelligence is not a stimulant. You are intelligent because you play the devil's advocate. You do not play the devil's advocate because you are intelligent. So then - what is the imperative to deceive?

          Forgive me for being off-topic.

          SEP
    • Jan 3 2012: Rhona,

      "Males and females are different..."

      Bingo.

      Let us go further - "individuals are different."

      Therefore it makes no sense to assume an equal number of males and females is necessary to perform any given task. The task ought to be performed by the best qualified individuals. If the ratio ends up being twice as many females, so be it. If it ends up equal, so be it.

      You do not seem concerned with women as individuals, solely as a collective group. I think people lose value that way. Each and every woman is more valuable than any faceless, collective 'women'.

      SEP
      • Jan 4 2012: I dunno, I don't think that perfect gender parity is required, but it should be pretty close. It comes back to diversity. If you get too many like minded people together bad things will happen every single time. Checks and balances and all that. Imagine how horribly wrong things would go if the Men to Women ratio of congress and the Republicans to Democrats ratio of congress were swapped. I'm not convinced that things aren't going that horribly wrong right now due to exactly this sort of imbalance.
        • Jan 4 2012: @ m@,

          "I'm not convinced that things seen't going that horribly wrong right now due exactly to this kind of imbalance."

          My point is that "congress needs more women" is a shallow analysis compared to something like "congress needs Hillary Clinton's unique sense of political pragmatism and patriotism." Or even "congress needs the experience of Joe biden."

          "Congress needs more women" is not an analysis of a given situation. It is an ideological claim. A blind ideological claim. To even assume that by simply injecting 'more women' into a situation you will have different results seems presumptuous and a bit sexist.

          SEP
      • Jan 6 2012: It's not sexist or presumptuous because I'm not ascribing the improvement to the women (even though it would be their introduction that would improve things). I'm ascribing the improvement to the diversity their presence would cause. The additional contention (which, admittedly, I presume would be present, but if you agree that men and women think differently I don't see how you could avoid agreeing with the presumption) would make it more difficult for certain types of things to happen, which would improve things by slowing down the rate at which we descend.
        • Jan 8 2012: "It's not sexist or presumptuous because.... I am ascribing the improvement to the diversity."

          Right. But the only diversity you have effected is gender diversity. That men and women think differently does not necessitate that they arrive at different conclusions, only that they probably arrived at similar conclusions through differing means. To assume you have shifted the balance of opinion on any topic simply because there is now more ladies present is absolutely presumptuous.

          And it is just as sexist to prescribe a given political opinion to a woman solely because she is a woman, as is it is to assume her knack for housekeeping.

          What do you make of LaGardes' handling of the IMF and eurozone debt crisis? Do you feel she is slowing down the rate at which we descend? What differences do you see between her leadership and decision making and that of her predecessor, Strauss-Kahn, who was a man?

          SEP
      • Jan 7 2012: Seth, I've been wondering what color your hair is.

        I hope you are taking into account who is deciding who the "most qualified" people are.

        Furthermore, I was once actually told by a person doing hiring for a position that I was the most qualified person for that position, but that HE could not hire me because the MEN I would be supervising, if I were to be hired, would be furious at HIM for hiring a WOMAN to supervise them. Perhaps that is part of the reason I have reached the conclusion that THE WOMEN'S REVOLUTION IS THE LAST REVOLUTION THAT THE WORLD WILL EVER NEED.
        • Jan 7 2012: Ironically, that statement is arrogant and sexist. There will never be a last revolution for equality because there is no state of 100% equality over all people. Most women over men discrimination is left unnoticed because we focus more on men over women discrimination. I can point that being an overweight man has more difficulty finding a job then being an overweight woman in recent studies.
        • Jan 8 2012: "Seth, I have been wondering what color your hair is."

          Rhona,
          Unfortunately, like my hair, the implied meaning in this statement is over my head. I do not know what you are getting at.

          "I hope you are taking into account who is deciding who the 'most qualified' people are."

          Does it really even matter who they are, Rhona? Or does it matter what they are? I am fairly certain that as long as they are equal in gender representation, you would not give a damn as to who they are. You would not even do the necessary research to understand who they are.

          I am not going to even quote your final paragraph because it is embarassing. When I called your position 'anti-intellectual' in the other thread, it was a pre-emptive diagnosis but now I am confident in my assertion.

          Causing a worldwide revolution to get a job (even though you have probably found a job in the same field elsewhere and probably would not want to work for the guy now even if you could? In the South we call this going over your shoulder and around your elbow to get to your ass. Guess what? I wanted to be a air force pilot but I am too tall to fit in the cockpit. Did I demand that the air force begin engineering its planes differently? No. Did I begin a worldwide revolution of aspiring, yet tall, pilots? No.

          Maybe I should though. There does not seem to be any shortage of people willing to accomodate the most asinine arguments, so long as one is immature enough to believe in them blindly and state them fervently.

          SEP
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        Jan 8 2012: Short sightedness can be a problem.
        The general focus of women and men are different apart from any individual difference we all share.
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    Jan 2 2012: I loved that talk. I don't know if philosophers should be in charge, or whether politics should simply be infused with philosophy. Philosophy is very ambiguous at times and even with issues like abortion the best they can do is give the argument for each side. Even if philosophy can't always give us the right answers, it sure gives us the right questions to consider.
  • Jan 2 2012: I think there are certain personalities to consider in context to this question, Gerald. I think certain personalities are more likely to evolve into what could be considered the "philosopher." In terms of the Myer-Briggs personality test, INTPs, INFPs, and INTJs seems to be the most likely to be philosophical, yet they also seem to be the most rare. Is this genetic or cultural? I'm highly inclined to say it's cultural. Additionally, if we were to create an education system that endorses intellectual depth, self-education, and philosophical virtue, rather than promoting selfish individuality, quantitative measurements of success, and intellectual pursuits only for the sake of financial security, I think we would begin to see a reverse trend over time, seeing people sway away from the typically most common and least philosophical personality types (think ESTJ) to more INFP's, INTPs, and the like. With this in mind, I honestly do think fear can be taken out of the equation, because people will live life in pursuit of virtue in accordance to their individual and philosophically-derived definitions rather than that by society's definition, and in doing so will pursue self-education for the sake of education, making society exponentially more virtuous and philosophical.

    In essence, why have fear to control the masses when you can have the masses control themselves by their own philosophical virtue?
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    Jan 8 2012: I love this idea Mr. Banta! (I still feel guilty being in a Starbucks and drinking Fair Trade coffee)

    Philosophers would take the time to analyze all the variables involved with decisions, and would most likely enjoy writing about their thoughts.
  • Jan 8 2012: Zared,

    There is not a reply button for any of your comments so I will respond here and hope you see it.

    "Gender does not play a role in politics...Hillary Clinton is a good example of this."

    If you analyze the tactics employed by the 2008 Clinton presidential campaign, you will begin to see that gender plays an enormous role in US identity politics. You will also begin to see that it is dominance, not equality, that certain factions within the feminist movement is wishing to obtain. But this is besides the point.

    The initial claim that this thread makes is that "Philosophers" are best suited to lead a people. Rhona chimed in to say that, no, we need poets and musician. Very well. But then she goes further to state that the group must be made up of an equal number of males and females, and then attributes gender diversity as the key to success, not their identity as poets and musicians. I would agree that this is illogical and, as you put it, ridiculous.

    However, I do not think that discussing gender dynamic analysis is ridiculous. I actually find your theory of constant struggle to be interesting. You are asserting that there is an inherently political aspect to the cross-gender relationship (all relationships?), which does contradict your statement above. Very interesting. Where do you think the advancement of one's gender lies in the hierarchy of political goals?

    SEP
  • Jan 8 2012: Zared, The reply function is not showing. You seem to be in denial of male domination. Okay. Ignore realiity. Personally, I think your life would be happier, healthier and more fulfilling if you were a truth seekfinder. Your eyes, mind and ears must be very, very tightly closed for you to have not noticed the domination of males throughout society. Perhaps you have also not noticed the poverty and unhappiness of large portions of Earth's population. That could possibly be caused by the failure of society to reflect equal inputs from the male and female perspectives. Truth works. HappyToday.
    • Jan 8 2012: You have no conception of reality. There will never be the last revolution for equality. Equality is too ideal for mankind to reach. To assume, the world would be better without domination is too ideal. There will always be a tip in power of both genders. In retrospect, we can get closer to this ideal, but we will never reach it. In the United States, women are not that suppressed today compared to the 1950s which shows there is an increasing likeness of that equality but not a definite equality of both genders. Please remove the rose wreath off your head and you shall see that it has thorns that can impair any person's judgement.
      • Jan 8 2012: Anything positive is possible I say again and again and again. I repeat myself a lot. A relative of mine used to say, "Rhona, truth drips like honey from your lips." Perhaps he was being saracastic. Oh, yeah, another of my sayings I enjoy repeating is: WHEN IN DOUBT, ASSUME POSITIVE. May as well.
        Happy Today, Zared.
        • Jan 8 2012: He was sarcastic. It is actually bad to be always positive. It makes you to be in an illusion. One cannot control all the events in his or her life to make them positive. You should think realistically. Regardless, my point is still valid.
      • Jan 8 2012: Zared, Zared, Zared! One can control SOME events in one's life. Being positive increases the likelihood of positive events occurring. Reality includes a whole bunch of positive facts. We have choice about what to focus on. May as well choose positive. It can be habit forming and lead to having a pleasant disposition which will become a magnet for positive people and positive events making a spiral of joy. If you spend 24 hours intentionally using positive words only, focusing on positive things in your actual, proximate and remote environments, performing positive acts only, I predict you will have a stream of positive results, some of which may appear to be serendipity, but all or which your positive words and acts will have caused. Positive cause/positive effect. Seems worth a try. You may have something valuable to gain. Thanks for your open-mindedness.
        • Jan 8 2012: You do realize the Secret is not true. Things appear to be positive in memory because rosy retrospective shows us that we remember things more positively. Moreover, the fact that you are focusing on positive things means that you are focusing on only on positive things. Negative things could happen to you, but you are just not focusing on the. There is no happy magnet. There is just rosy retrospective and selective attention. Just pay attention to details, think happy when you should be happy, and think sad when you should be said.
  • Jan 8 2012: Seth, the "reply" function is not showing up, so I'm just writing in this box. That incident was not the only incident that caused my conclusion that THE WOMEN'S REVOLUTION IS THE LAST REVOLUTION THAT THE WORLD WILL EVER NEED. Seems peculiar that you would think that. There have been so many that they are far too numerous to list. And I am just one woman. If any portion of your mind is open, listen to other women. They all have many, many experiences that demonstrate the stupidity, outrage and other negative consequences of male domination. (I needed the cclor of your hair in order to do some sophisticated analysis, but apparently you lack a sense of humor. Oh, well.)
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    Jan 6 2012: philosophy is dead. People don't need to others to make descisions for them. There is nothing anyone can tell you that you don't already know. Don't be afraid to see the truth.
    • Jan 7 2012: No, philosophy is not dead. You are thinking, right?

      Also, all sciences evolve from philosophy and in that sense, philosophical concepts evolve into scientific theories and laws. This means philosophy is disperse in all sciences.

      Don't be afraid to see the truth for there is still knowledge out there we have no comprehension of what so ever. If you disagree, then explain to me and prove with facts how you can think of such a concept in the way it fits into your core beliefs pass every influential factor?
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        Jan 7 2012: "All sciences evolve from philosophy"......Computer science, just to name one, evolved from philosophy?
        Back to the original question, Nonthing is keeping any philosopher from running for political office. I would suggest putting action to your theory and runnng for office. Good luck!
        • Jan 7 2012: Psychology is the most noted one to evolve from philosophy. In history, philosophical questions caused influences that made people to study more on those subjects and even experimented on their hypothesizes.

          To be honest, I think any person is a philosopher and we should not label any person as not being a philosopher so, a politician is already a philosopher.
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          Jan 7 2012: *cough* Boolean logic *cough*
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        Jan 7 2012: So, basically your "idea" on this TED forum, was a question you asked and answered yourself. Thank you for clarifing that your "idea" was self-serving.
        • Jan 7 2012: This was not my idea. I personally think the idea is ridiculous. As I mentioned before, any person is a philosopher just for thinking.
        • Jan 7 2012: Were you coughing at me or Brian, Gisela? Either way, please, elaborate the meaning for it.
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        Jan 8 2012: It was at Brian in response to "Computer science, just to name one, evolved from philosophy?"

        I didn't study CompSci, I studied logic. I can tell you what the functions have to do and build your prototype. Your CompSci team can make it elegant and deal with the syntactic fiddly bits ;-)

        Boolean logic is the intersection between CompSci and Philosophy.
  • Jan 3 2012: Capitalism is good, corruption is bad, and out of curiosity, what type of government do you think is the best one?
    • Jan 3 2012: The civil society. From the beginning of the political parabola of anarchy of the State of Nature, all the way to it's other extreme, the civil society, a different type of anarchy. But this is Utopian, and only achievable assuming every citizen is philosophy virtuous and self-educated.
      • Jan 4 2012: Every thinking person is a philosopher in a sense, so a politician is a philosopher. If not, can you tell me a difference between a human being and a philosopher? Also, anarchy means no government system at all, so do you support socialism or a deviation of it? Then again, I should not be giving you a list so, can you tell me the type of government you believe in?
        • Jan 4 2012: Look back at when I was talking about guilt and its elimination.

          "Hmmm... defining what makes someone a philosopher or not is very tricky, at least in its most classical definition. This is not what I'm debating here. Yes, I am labeling one side of a black-and-white spectrum as a philosopher, in order to meet the context of this argument. I don't think one can define a philosopher without context: language is all subjective and whatnot--it needs to have some sort of stated relevance before something can just be defined.

          But my relevance and context for a philosopher is basically originating from how one deals with guilt. Do they distinguish it with emotion, feeling, and then move on without its ethical contemplation? Or do they distinguish it with passion, thought, consider its large scale implications, and arrange their worldview accordingly?"

          There is my definition of a philosopher. I do not believe in any government, or in any lack of it, necessarily. Each government or lack of government must be in relation to some sort of objective. Even then, these objectives are transient. What I want the government to move towards right now is not what I may want it to do in different situations or in the future. There is no one perfect government. This being said, I think society should move towards making every citizen as virtuous and philosophical as possible.
      • Jan 5 2012: A philosopher is a wise man as you speak of, but morality is relevant. In certain situations, people should look over their emotions and feelings to help the greater good for they might make the individual error prone in the situation. I could be misinterpreting the information, if so please point out any flaws?
        Perhaps, greater good is not the right phrase, but it express what I am trying to say.
        There is no possible way to have a society without a government format. There must be order or chaos will erupt. Can you name a society that does not have a government format what so ever?
  • Jan 3 2012: Plato deemed the hopes of his "philosopher king" coming into fruition not possible due to the faults of his protege in Dionysus II. Possibly why the Greeks were the proverbial fathers of a democratic form of government. The indication to which my having stated this points to a simple idea. All people are to govern and lend in the processes therein. But our western society has lost sight of that principal. The United States is arguably the most free political proletariat in the entire world yet, only about 34% of us vote. If you find fault in the leaders of free nations, you have but to point the finger of blame at those who perpetuate an unpopular ruler by their politically apathetic inaction.
    • Jan 3 2012: You are very correct. We have to, therefore, turn everyone into a philosopher, an intellectual, a poet, an artist. Now, this would in theory be achieved with education, but the way I see it the bureaucracy, the culture, and the government combined have created a vicious cycle that inhibits any true education reformation. The only possible good I can see in changing the entire cultural format is to take advantage of the poor system (the top-down system) by replacing its leaders with philosophers, therefore being able to reform education, and therefore the people as well.
      • Jan 3 2012: So if we can just reeducate our masses to all be this one way we can have a better system!
        • Jan 3 2012: I wouldn't say "one" way, exactly. Think of humanity as a library and we're all reading a different book. If we could get everyone on the same book, they could still all be reading a different chapter. But essentially, I do agree that society's superficial personality and lack of intellectual depth does need to be marginalized.
      • Jan 3 2012: See, I'm not sold on the value of putting everyone into a library.

        I see society's superficial personality not as a sign of Idiocracy come to pass, but as a sign of flourishing diversity. I see it as a good thing that the only things we can agree on as a culture are things that are built into us at a genetic level (like how awesome boobs are), it means we're not dangerously focused.
        • Jan 3 2012: Ahem. Asexuals would disagree.
  • Jan 2 2012: It seems like you're calling someone a philosopher if they're philosophically rigorous when they act. Would that be fair to say? If not can you give me a better picture of the distinction between philosopher and non?

    The problem I see is that there are many incompatible/undesirable philosophies to which a politician might subscribe. For example, "Of course I accepted that bribe! I'm the only thing that can be shown to exist! To not accept would not be rigorously keeping with what I know to be true!" Or to take a different extreme, "the poor are only poor because they desire the impermanent, we should feed them just enough to keep them from starving to death and educate them about a life of compassion and not desiring anything of the world, then they would have nothing and be rich". I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

    Ultimately the problem is that philosophy is all about purifying ideas as much as possible in order to decide how to live, but politics is all about compromising ideas as much as possible in order to get people to agree to live by them.

    I sure wouldn't mind if philosophers ran the media though.
    • Jan 3 2012: Hmmm... defining what makes someone a philosopher or not is very tricky, at least in its most classical definition. This is not what I'm debating here. Yes, I am labeling one side of a black-and-white spectrum as a philosopher, in order to meet the context of this argument. I don't think one can define a philosopher without context: language is all subjective and whatnot--it needs to have some sort of stated relevance before something can just be defined.

      But my relevance and context for a philosopher is basically originating from how one deals with guilt. Do they distinguish it with emotion, feeling, and then move on without its ethical contemplation? Or do they distinguish it with passion, thought, consider its large scale implications, and arrange their worldview accordingly?

      The point you bring up is valid, but you're idea of the philosopher is a very stereotypical one. It reminds me of the idealistic Greek philosophs. The modern philosophers are very different today, and often quite piratical and political. There was one RSA talk with a modern philosopher named Zizek, I thought he would come up in related videos on this TED but did not. I think he'd be a good representation of the modern philosopher, if you want to look into him. Other suggestions would be Robert M. Pirsig, Foucault, Chomsky (even though I can't stand that guy).

      I'm making no claim of utopia here. I'm just saying if every person in a position of considerable political power right now was replaced with a philosopher, the world would end up being a better place.
      • Jan 3 2012: I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss the Buddhist view as antiquated or stereotypical.

        Chomsky and Pirsig in the same sentence? That's a prime example of the type of opposition of ideas that would have to be mediated by some mechanism, and I'm not convinced that throwing more philosophers at a problem created by the presence of philosophers is going to work.

        Do you count Ayn Rand as modern? I sure wouldn't want her in charge, just look at what she thought about guilt.

        But I'm inclined to agree with you. Philosophers tend to prefer to stalemate rather than compromise on their differences, which would lead to a government that, in general, does fewer controversial things (assuming a checks and balances system that allowed stalemates).
        • Jan 3 2012: Yes, there would still be some form of mechanization here. I'm also glad you caught that part about Pirsig vs. Chomsky. Very astute. And a very good point. But can you imagine the type of debate that would ensue? The media would have a very difficult time sensationalizing it. The masses would have to adapt. Philosophical people just make better decisions, on average. And in theory this would lead to a more philosophical populace.
        • Jan 3 2012: Also Ayn Rand is an extreme example who's barely a philosopher, and most modern philosophers don't subscribe to her views (unless you're considering the pseudo-philosophers who see philosophy as a justification for their greed and immense wealth; more in love with money than wisdom).
      • Jan 3 2012: I think the way the debate would go is based hugely on whether they were debating for progress or if they were debating for the public. If they were debating for the public (ie if they could be re-elected) I'd expect them to sound just like politicians, speaking only in sound bytes and skipping the technical nitty gritty where the difference actually lies. I imagine it would go a lot like this debate did: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iw7J15TeDG4

        If they were debating for progress I imagine they'd do just the opposite, they'd immediately derail on to quibbly semantic impasses (What does the word 'life' mean?, etc) and stay there until it's time to switch topics. They'd do this because (hypothetically) they're all smart and rigorous, so the only differences between them would be fundamental ones.

        I completely agree with you that we need more philosophers in the minds of the people, it just seems to me that the skills of a philosopher and the skills required to get anything done amidst the highest known levels of controversy are different sets of skills.
        • Jan 3 2012: I think you're limiting yourself a lot by sticking with your definition of "philosopher." Simply, someone who is virtuous and dispenses guilt through ethical consideration, someone who honestly believes in their ideas and the pursuit of them rather than power or their name being stamped on them.
      • Jan 3 2012: Alrighty then dear Euthyphro, but please, tell me what it would mean to be virtuous, so that I may know what qualifies someone for office. ;-)

        But seriously. So what I'm hearing you say is that a philosopher is someone who pursues ideals and logic to the exclusion of all else, at least to the best of their abilities. Does that sound better? I'm not trying to be combative or to set anything up. I'm just trying to capture your meaning without relying on tricky words like virtue, since some existing large groups of people would define virtue in fundamentally different ways than other existing large groups of people, and trying to resolve those sorts of problems re-introduces politics.

        Even with that definition I think that as long as they're re-electable they'll sound just like our current suited monkeys, or like Dennett vs D'Souza. Consider, if you truly believe that you're the best man for the job, that your patient impartial consideration has lead you to the conclusion that remaining in office would be an objective greatest outcome of the possibilities, then you have to start weighing odds of re-election in the pros and cons of each ethical choice you make. It would be unethical not to.

        As for how it would change if they were only focused on progress, I'm not sure, I'll wait until I really understand what you mean by philosopher.
        • Jan 3 2012: Let me address the latter part of your argument. First off, I think you are presenting a very good point here. I admit that. Because if this were to happen the current state of people would not allow that, i.e., the philosopher king has to be in constant service to the ignorant people he rules over, the true philosopher king society is not realized until everyone is equally a philosopher, and therefore we don't need rulers to begin with. The system, therefore, is dynamic, and growing, and exponential. It IS, however, unlike the current system, not static, and therefore I would argue automatically an improvement.

          You bring up a very good point about defining virtue, which is a trap I have read too much about to comfortably go into. But perhaps we can just say, in context to this theoretically society, people who place idealism above practical and material value?

          And yes, I think that is a decent definition of a philosopher, though I really equate my definition of virtue to be synonymous with philosopher in these contexts.

          Another valid point is that the philosopher in power may not think he's the best one suited for the job. Perhaps he has a protegee or has learned of a young student recently out of the amazing education system we would theoretically enjoy. Or just some other old coot who he thinks could do a decent job. Most philosophers, given their personalities, would probably tire after serving too long. They want to pass it on!
      • Jan 4 2012: Ah, I like that definition! Together let's send Mr Smith to Washington!

        I didn't realize how serious you were about the king part of philosopher king... but I suppose it would tidy up the problems caused by the need for campaigning.

        Well, best of luck to you. Benevolent dictator is a great system if you can get it to work... or at least I imagine it would be... I can't really think of any examples of it working that I could base a judgement on.
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    • Jan 3 2012: I don't know. I don't see myself as one in my mind when I think about this. This theory stems from my abhorrence for the education system that I experienced in my childhood, how I saw the exact opposite types of students excelling who I knew would go on to run the world while the most honest, virtuous, and philosophical students usually did very poorly and came from poor backgrounds. When I'm speaking this idea, I'm speaking with them in mind. But if I had to take some sort of position of power to reform society for the better, assuming no one else would, then I would take up that offer. If that answers your question.

      They are both. Between liberals and conservatives of the west. The big difference in these politics stems from personality, relationship to the father figure and mother figure, sexual identity, etc. In turn we format these theories into knowledge acquisition and security. The conservative sees humans as inherently evil or only good under certain positive and negative reinforcements. We need security, censorship, police, etc. to control the masses. Or little government at all, as in classical liberalism and libertarianism, because the naturally sustained hierarchy will control people. The true conservative philosophy is dumbed down fascism: it is moderated and mediocre.
      The more liberal ideals of the west see people as having the possibility to be good. This is essentially what Aristotle is saying: that under philosophy's virtue we don't need law or government because people will behave out of their own will. The civil society is the society where there is no government, like anarchy, but it is not like Hobbe's State of Nature, because there is no crime or war or violence. This is ultimately syndicate-anarchism.
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    Jan 2 2012: great quote by aristotle.

    But I don't know how much of it is true...
    It's not quite the purpose of your post, but I wonder if fear of the law is not just part of our human morality. Be it fear of losing face, of being excluded, ...
    I don't think I buy the idea that without any such fear one could manage to be "moral".