It’s very difficult to understand why a politician who has brought his nation to its knees economically, politically and socially would so strongly, or even illegally, seek to continue leading it.
How can someone who has bankrupted this country seek to continue leading it? Lead to where? To further bankruptcy, ruin?
Unfortunately, it would seem, when it comes to political leadership, it is the least inclined who seek it the most – without political power they probably feel they’re nothing.
Thus the best suited to rule are least likely to want to, and perhaps those less suited to rule will be more inclined to desire power due to their own sake, personal aggrandizement.
To understand this behavior better I turned to great philosopher Plato’s wisdom.
According to Plato only those who do not seek power are qualified to hold it. Those who seek power are not worthy of that power. These thoughts of Plato derive from The Republic in which it is argued that: True philosophers – those who are beheld the good – are the most suited to ruling well. Anyone who has seen the good – been outside the cave – would have no interest in ruling the prisoners inside the cave – who live pitiful lives.
Plato used Socrates to voice his opinion on this issue, or rather, it actually was Socrates’ opinion in The Apology. It’s in a more lucid and so perhaps easier to understand.
Socrates remarks in his speech that he was for a time compelled to enter politics to help improve the city of Athens, but realized that the vocation would corrupt him. That is, his best character traits, which he reflected were most useful to the city, would be somehow lost in the struggle for political power. Socrates says he obtained this insight through his ‘inner daimon’, and decided instead to live in austerity talking to the people of the city directly.
It’s worth noting that a theme throughout Plato’s dialogues is the stupidity of political figures. They are almost always stunted in intellect compared to Socrates, or even Sophists appearing in the dialogues, e.g. Gorgias. See how Alcibiades turns up drunkenly in the Symposium, he was a real man, a general and political powerhouse who switched sides in the Peloponnesian war. Plato is showing us that this man had a chance at improving his soul, through his dialogues with Socrates, but chose the path of unconsciousness and illusion, hence his drunken state. Socrates is the man who cannot become inebriated, an important point in contrasting him with the most important political figure of Plato’s dialogues.
There are two possibilities. The pursuit of power does something to ones soul, which is what Socrates says explicitly in The Apology and Republic. This is likely why the philosopher king is the individual who doesn’t want power, but has it thrust upon him.
Another possibility is less well equipped people are prone to power seeking. It is in essence a lower drive, which you can trace to our ape like ancestors. It represents a primitive state of consciousness, well and truly in Plato’s cave.
Plato didn’t actually say ‘Too smart to engage in politics’. He wrote that those who actually want to serve the world in the best possible way turn to other pursuits, and if I’m honest, he’s not far wrong.Plato, at least it seems to me, was on to something.
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