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Thread: Why Socrates Hated Democracy

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    Sound methods Chlodovech's Avatar
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    Why Socrates Hated Democracy

    “Tradition anchors our experience of time in memory and projects it into the future through hope.” – Rein Staal

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    I don't quite agree with Socrates' metaphor of comparing society with a sailing ship. Navigating a ship correctly and efficiently requires specific education and experience. Something which can only be acquired through rigorous study of seafaring. Navigation is also something which can be considered 'a science'; either something is right and works, or it is wrong and doesn't.

    Society doesn't operate on quite the same basis. There isn't a universally correct way to run society. The tribes living in the jungles of the Amazon, for instance, aren't necessarily doing anything wrong in the way they structure and run their society. Nor are the Chinese necessarily right in running and structuring their society in their own manner.

    The way a society is structured also impacts different layers of the population differently. A ship being navigated well, brings everyone onboard safely to the next shore. But a society which is governed in a specific way, may be disastrous for say, the working class, yet utopian for the academic and intellectual class. And vice versa. In order to govern a society fairly, one needs input from all layers and levels of society. A dictator or sole-ruling king, in reference to the captain of a ship, might take heed of that. Or he might not, and lots of people would be proper F-ed as a consequence.

    In a way, egalitarian democracy is little more than a safety valve against open and obvious tyranny. You are much less likely to experience a coup-de-état, against the will of the people. But you are also very unlikely to end up with a truly transcendent and holistic way of governing, due to too many people either being dumbwits or voting for their own special group interests, or both.

    I'd say, if democracy is to survive itself, there needs to be specific requirements met in order to vote. As far as I'm concerned, one could scrap the age requirement all together, and instead focus on fulfilling an adequate level intelligence (preferably through IQ tests) and disqualify anyone who've received more in social benefits than they have payed in taxes over their lifetime. I'm sure such a move would be condemned as 'racist', though.
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    Sound methods Chlodovech's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Žoreišar View Post
    I don't quite agree with Socrates' metaphor of comparing society with a sailing ship. Navigating a ship correctly and efficiently requires specific education and experience. Something which can only be acquired through rigorous study of seafaring. Navigation is also something which can be considered 'a science'; either something is right and works, or it is wrong and doesn't.
    That was also my first thought. I wondered what Socrates would've said if you told him: "But a ship is not a polis/kingdom, nor is it a shop or a farm - the comparison is invalid." The most competent leader may not have the required trust of people and establishment, which in turn leads to a degree of political uncertainty or instability. Being a popular consensus figure as a ruler is a quality and a plus itself, no matter king, president or dictator.

    The way a society is structured also impacts different layers of the population differently. A ship being navigated well, brings everyone onboard safely to the next shore. But a society which is governed in a specific way, may be disastrous for say, the working class, yet utopian for the academic and intellectual class.
    A captain (a specialist) may indeed promote the interests of his own specialist/technocratic class at the expense of the crew, regardless of competence. And that is bad for social peace.

    Of course Socrates could than say that the competence of a captain consists of those traits and policies which prevent mutiny - and in a virtuous manner - but then we're not talking about a mere captain/specialist anymore, but a hero, a philosopher king, a truly exceptional ruler

    And vice versa. In order to govern a society fairly, one needs input from all layers and levels of society. A dictator or sole-ruling king, in reference to the captain of a ship, might take heed of that. Or he might not, and lots of people would be proper F-ed as a consequence.
    Popularity matters, indeed. You're not going to accomplish much as a lame duck president/dictator/king lacking in public support.

    I'd say, if democracy is to survive itself, there needs to be specific requirements met in order to vote. As far as I'm concerned, one could get scrap the age requirement all together, and instead focus on fulfilling an adequate level intelligence (preferably through IQ tests) and disqualify anyone who've received more in social benefits than they have payed in taxes. I'm sure such a move would be condemned as 'racist', though.
    I'm neither in favor of demoracy or against democracy. What bothers me about the modern day "cult of democracy" is that it pretends that democracy itself is moral or leads to moral outcomes (moral policies) and that is of course not the case. Not so democratic societies may be more virtuous than democracies.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chlodovech View Post
    Not so democratic societies may be more virtuous than democracies.
    I didn't understand that sentence. Could you rephrase it?
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    Sound methods Chlodovech's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thoreidar
    Not so democratic societies may be more virtuous than democracies.
    Whether or not a political system or a country as a whole are virtuous does not depend on that one time every five years or so when we are partially unchained and asked to participate in politics. Voting is a ritual first and foremost giving an aura of legitimacy to the current order. In the time space between two elections it seems we don't even exist most of the time.

    And a virtuous democracy would not invent or allow things like drag queen story time, no absolute monarch would ever have thought of that. I'm saying that a kingdom or a dictatorship could be more moral than a democracy, it all depends.
    “Tradition anchors our experience of time in memory and projects it into the future through hope.” – Rein Staal

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