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Philosophy Alive

Current Philosophical Dialogue

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This is the discussion of a Current Problem to be assessed by Relevant Philosophical Inquiry.

The Question:   Must the philosopher be a leader to be relevant?  And, note that this issue may touch on the very future of the philosophical enterprise.
 
First Objection:  Aristotle says the philosopher only advises the leader or king (confer Ted Honderich, The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, Oxford: University Press, 2005, page 702).
 
Second Objection:  Things philosophical pertain to science, definded as knowledge for the sake of knowledge.   The king, political leader, and activist all exercise an art, defined as knowledge for the sake of action.   To rule is an action (confer Carol Kleiman, Chicago Tribune, 5 October 2003).
 
On the other hand:  Plato, in the Republic, has a philosopher-king (confer Ted Honderich, The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, Oxford: University Press, 2005, page 697-698).  Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was a rare example of philosopher ruler, as President of India, and an interpreter of Indian and European philosophical traditions to each other (Ibid., page 429 with photo).
 
I answer as follows:  Distinguish leadership, moral like Socrates or active like Gandhi.  The philosopher is certainly (per se) a moral leader.  The philosopher is sometimes (per accidens) an active leader, according to Leo Strauss (d. 1973) of the University of Chicago (confer The Economist, 21 June 2003, p. 51).  Plato confirms the leader needs to be 1) well informed, 2) skillful in use of information and 3) well intentioned (Gerald C. MacCallum, Political Philosophy, Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1987, pages 76-79). 
 
Answer to First Objection:  A philosopher's expanded leadership advice may be to influence the media, still more informational than strictly action, but an exercise of moral leadership.  Further this may be more apropos to the modern world due to the increase of informational "instrumental causes" such as: books, newspapers, radio, television, the internet, and blogs.  Finally, the modern leadership problem is complexity, to which it is the philosopher who can reply with information on patterns (induction) and the bottom line (deduction) (Idem.).
 
Answer to Second Objection:  Distinguish knowledge, which can be both theoretical and practical.  Aristotle's practical syllogism concludes in an action especially in a moral outcome (confer Ted Honderich, The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, Oxford: University Press, 2005, p. 746; and also Denton Harris "Some of Our Lawmakers Are A Disgrace!" in Dundee Senior News, May 2005, page 28).  Moral leadership of the philosopher also extends to business (Nicholas Bunin, ed., The Blackwell Companion to Philosophy, Oxford: Blackwell, 2003, pages 541-542).
 
Philosophy Alive:  Every July 4th, about 60 students of Leo Strauss have a picnic in Washington, District of Columbia, where many are influential in the current conservative presidential administration, eg., Paul Wolfowitz (defense department and now president of the World Bank),  Abram Shulsky (Pentagon special plans), John Walters (drug tsar), Leon Kass (president's council on bioethics), Irving Kristol, his son Bill Kristol (editor of Weekly Standard ).   (The original story in The Economist, 21 June 2003, p. 51). 
 
 
 
                       Suggestions, Ideas, submissions?  Contact:  jemulvihill@comcast.net