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October 1, 2012 | by  | in Opinion |
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Coming out of the cave

It is an oft-repeated cliché that power corrupts, sometimes absolutely. But someone has gotta wield it. Deciding who gets the reigns is the central political question, one that has implications on the residence of offices as important as VUWSA HQ or as piffling as the White House. It is also one of the most ancient philosophical questions, having first been broached by Plato when he outlined his model of the Kallipolis, the ideally just city that we should be striving towards. Famously, he claimed that Philosopher-Kings are the ones with the mental fortitude to forge a path towards justice, so we ought to be placed in charge. Why? Cos we philosophers can see beyond the phantoms of reality which ordinary folk are preoccupied with.

Sorry what? You need more explanation? I guess it all starts with a cave. Plato imagines that the majority of citizens are trapped within, and much of their perceptions are mere shadows on the wall of the cave. If some of them try really hard, they can break the shackles and look at the objects that are being projected onto the wall. Or if they are really exceptional, they might crawl out of the cave and look around at the objects out in the world, once their eyes have adjusted to the sunlight. But that’s about it. Only a Philosopher, who is trained to question and understand everything, can look the sun in the eye and perceive the ultimate form of goodness directly. So ultimate power should be vested in their hands alone.

This idea has had various interpretations throughout the history of ideas. Many have argued that it has underpinned a variety
of noxious political ideologies based on totalitarianism and facsism. It seems to imply that individuals must occupy certain pre- determined roles in a society where their welfare is subsumed by a quest for broader communal goodnees. This is a fair critique, but a more structured regime would have executed its perpetrators more swiftly. Vote Philosoraptor for VUWSA Prez 2013.

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