Saturday, July 04, 2009

Philosophical Misdirection

Looking at a particular Mancunian's blog, I realised that my ideas on the governance of Atlantis had actually changed over the years. At the end of the last millennium, when I became a Master of (certain unspecified but useful) Arts, I published these thoughts as part of my thesis. Then, I believed that Atlantis was governed by Machiavellian pragmatism; old Nick had described his vision of both principalities and republics in a way consonant with what we know of Atlantis.

Of course, Atlantis, infected by a need to attach its anchor to a more perdurable rock, has in the last decade or so claimed the blessing of Master Kong, he of the scholarly bent and crystal-clear ethical arguments. In this regard, I am quite certain that the claim does not match the facts. Master Kong distinguished between right conduct and gainful conduct; the Thunderer and other Atlantean rulers and priests have never done so. When I say this, I am certainly not saying that Atlantean rulers run around garnering bribes and filthy lucre (although they are very well paid); rather, I am saying that they do not distinguish, on one hand, between conduct that produces practical and useful outcomes for the state; and, on the other, conduct that is morally and ethically unquestionable according to Master Kong's reasoning.

So, if Atlantis is neither an adherent of Master Machiavelli nor of Master Kong, what philosophy is it that drives the island state?

I suspect it is really a sort of Neo-Platonic Republicanism. I will not elaborate much further, except to say that the cardinal features of the Atlantean city-state can indeed be found (in great and mordant detail) within the pages of Plato's Republic. Atlantis is not founded on rational (and perhaps cynical) political pragmatism; neither is it founded on a code of morality and ethics. It is really founded on the proto-Fascist jokes that Plato embedded in his dialogues.

How do we know? Well, think about the breeding programme of the elite that Socrates talks about in the book. State-engineered and state-sponsored education leads to state-engineered and state-sponsored marriages to produce eugenically and philosophically qualified guardian-warriors for the city-state. There are many other examples. It is actually a very entertaining book, especially when you realise that this might not have been a manual for how to run a city-state, but a cleverly written pamphlet on how not to do it.

I must confess, however, that I do think all three of these philosophical models have something to contribute to Atlantis. In fact, I sometimes wish that the philosopher-kings of the city-state had actually thought through the materials from which they claim inspiration. Nobody ought to be running an elite based solely on what that elite thinks is elite; that is the way to groupthink, and then decay.

Labels: ,


Anonymous Anonymous said...

my single cent:

you don't have to be elite to be elitist.

Sunday, July 05, 2009 5:53:00 am  
Blogger Trebuchet said...

Yes, it's a lot like you don't have to communicate to be communist.

Sunday, July 05, 2009 1:34:00 pm  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home