Following is a contribution to

Public Philosophy and Political Science: Crisis and Reflection

Edited by Edward R. Statham, Jr.








John A. Gueguen, Jr.


        What do I mean by a modern “escape from responsibility?”  I mean it in the same sense as one observer of political life who noted a decade before our latest “cultural revolution” (1968-70), a “disillusionment…, bitter and discouraged pessimism” among many political scientists.  A “suspicion that politics is only an oscillation between violence and fraud” led them to devote attention to “phenomena formerly held irrelevant or negligible.”  What was this “fever for concrete research if not an unconscious escape from responsibility?”  For in spite of “the mass of accumulated data, the clarified concepts, the precise estimation of old knowledge and the addition of new knowledge” people still “bumped into the high, grey, terrible wall of the same old problems….”  Now, as then, our course is clear:  We must “try to assess whether the difficulties of contemporary political philosophy derive from still deeper difficulties besetting…our whole culture…; we are in a position to evaluate fairly accurately the needs to which Plato called attention….” [1]

        Hannah Arendt noticed this same problem:  “Escape from the frailty of human affairs…has in fact so much to recommend it that the greater part of political philosophy since Plato could easily be interpreted as various attempts to find theoretical foundations and practical ways for an escape from politics altogether.” [2]  Most diagnoses of our  “crisis of culture” assign blame to the institutional structures of political life.  For me, however, particular structures and related policy issues themselves provide symptoms of a deeper problem with fundamental principles.  What I hope to do, then, is return the discussion to the origins of political thought in an attempt to discover its foundations, which so badly need to be rearticulated as we move into a new millennium.  It is a fitting time to consider again the vital things Plato had to say about those who have what it takes to energize public life.

        To say that a community’s thinkers are not accepting their responsibilities does not touch the root of the problem.  Prior questions need to be addressed:  Do those thinkers have “any specific clues to solutions of the political problems” of the day? [3]    Do they have any responsibility to press for solutions?  What is the nature of public responsibility?

        Most analyses of our contemporary crisis are superficial because they bypass what Eric Voegelin called “retheoretization,” “reformulation of principles.” [4]  They merely transpose currently popular operating rules without being sensible that those rules may proceed from defective principles.  Plato can help us to reformulate the principles that must concern those whose natural gifts destine them to be shapers of a community’s self-understanding. 

Any work of retheoretization has to begin with “the concrete historical situation.” [5]  In our case, most observers recognize the presence of grave disorders, whatever they might be, and everyone knows that “a living organism that fails to react to danger is sick or dying.” [6]  That our public order is endangered has been clear enough for some time, but responses are still confused, hesitant, contradictory, and half-hearted.  Is this anyone’s fault?  The principal responsibility must be assigned to those who are able to shape their community one way or another but have shown “massive resistance to face reality” [7]  and even “stupidity” [8]   in addressing its needs.  It has been said that the blame for this belongs to “ignorance masquerading in the guise of knowledge” and “political selfishness.” [9]

Evidently, too many potential public leaders have fallen for the modern sophistries of utilitarian pragmatism, moral relativism, and positivism.  They have become “hired propagandists,” “dispensers of mere information” and of expedient solutions. [10]  Bergson called them the “scribes and pharisees” of philosophy. [11]  Of the two sources of blame identified by Voegelin, selfishness is surely the more symptomatic of what Walter Lippmann called  the “derangement”  of our public philosophy. [12]  Pretense to knowledge may be no more than a symptom of pride or vanity, but intellectual selfishness can prevent or at least distort articulation of the public order.

Ultimately the problem we are considering turns on the recovery of sound reasoning from premises that correspond to the real world:  “…the issue becomes finally one of philosophy…. One must acquire a metaphysical focus…to deal with the problem” because political positions inevitably reduce to the assumption of either an immanent or a transcendent order in the foundations of political reality. [13]  






        The relation between an individual and the group of which he is a member is a perennial object of concern and discussion.  It will be necessary to clarify the nature of this relationship before proceeding to take up the main question of this study:  what is the responsibility of a man of genius to his community?

Certainly the circumstantial factors will affect particular instances, but as human beings all share a common nature which is both individual and social, I presuppose a common point of reference according to which all particularities may be properly understood:  Only is man “fully man by virtue of his participation in a whole which transcends his particular existence.” [14]  Such a statement, although taken for granted from time immemorial, sounds startling to modern ears, accustomed as they are to political theories and systems whose contractarian premises are precisely the opposite.

        The ancient Greeks knew the polis as the most developed form of institutional life, springing from the principle that man’s political environment constitutes his essential condition as human. [15]  This principle proceeds from a metaphysical insight which visualizes the polis (the home of man’s social nature) as an entire and self-sufficient level of being located between our universal home (kosmos) and the individual self (psyche).  The three levels of being dwell in one and the same reality suffused throughout by the principle of organic order.

        Just as the vast world of heaven and earth is so evidently harmonious and inter-connected, so are the less obvious “worlds” of the human city and the individual microcosm.  And so the “order in the cosmos, the polis, and the souls of individual men” forms one “interdependent and organic whole.” [16]  As Plato wrote so eloquently in constructing his Politeia (the Republic), the polis is both the cosmos writ small, and the soul writ large.

        When it passed into Roman civilization, “republic” (res publica) continued to mean the public things or affairs.  Political life was life in public, meaning what has to do with common interests and endeavors.  It was distinct from the private or particular affairs of individual men and their homes, which were the indispensable support for political life. [17]  It was in the public sphere that citizens cooperated in the pursuit of the highest human good—“the good life”—each contributing the particular share of which he was best capable.  We still maintain this ideal, at least symbolically:  e pluribus unum.

        Important implications follow.  If citizens are public-spirited and eager to identify with common goals, conscious that each individual is naturally incomplete and dependent, their wills can converge in the accomplishment of cultural and social benefits for all.  This fellowship culminates in what Aristotle called philia—the perfect solidarity that enables everyone to be so closely identified “that whatever happens to any part of the whole is felt by each member as happening to himself.” [18]

        From this brief review of our classical heritage, it would seem clear that “men of genius” should feel obligated to maintain and promote the common good by conceiving of and accomplishing what they can best contribute.  Plato became so wedded to this notion of political responsibility that it permeated his thought, both in the dialogues and in the Academy.  Let us turn to an analysis of his development of this notion, so as to discover its relevance for our contemporary problem.






I turn to Plato for guidance because in the history of western culture, “the great symbolic intellectual figure…has been the philosopher, the lover of  wisdom,” and this symbol “has found its most powerful exponent in Plato.” [19]  Not only is he absolutely clear about the transcendent foundations of the intellectual and the political life, but he is equally aware of the constant forces tending toward the disintegration and reintegration of political communities, their “rhythm of growth and decay.”  We begin the analysis, then, with Plato’s same hopeful assurance that it is precisely in a time of crisis that “fundamental problems of political existence are more apt to come into view….” [20]

        As the ancient philosophers experienced it, the polis was all-inclusive, humanly speaking.  It was inconceivable for a man to distance himself from it psychologically.  As Aristotle put it, one who could sustain himself in isolation from the community could only be a god or a beast.  But what of the special individual who is the subject of this study?  His heart, it would seem, is not primarily in the city, but above it in the “world” of eternal verities.  It is to them that he owes primary allegiance.  We shall have to consider whether by implication this special capacity excludes someone, or at least excuses him, from the common political responsibilities.  First, however, it is necessary to examine Plato’s conception of the man who lives, as it were, above the polis at the same time that he lives in it.

        In Plato’s time, such a man was called “philosopher.”  The Platonic development of the philosophical “nature” begins with the idea of seeking or searching for something perceived as lacking to him but necessary for completion, or perfection.  The one who possesses this nature can never be satisfied with any degree of accomplishment. [21]  He longs “for perfection because of this knowledge of his own imperfection.” [22]  What “perfection” means here is difficult to grasp unless it is concretized in terms of goals which carry specific meaning.  Plato identified two of these as uppermost, although they are inseparable.  One is “wisdom” and the other “virtue,” and especially the virtue of “goodness.”

        Throughout the dialogues, we see that “philosophy” is in fact what the word says, “the love of wisdom,” and that a “philosopher” “must have an instinctive love of wisdom and understanding,” as Republic V explains in detail. [23]  To say that a philosopher’s heart is intent upon wisdom means that he “seeks to understand things” clearly and completely, attaining to a full “consciousness of what is,” of the whole truth—about himself, about the world, about the all. [24]  Charles Péguy called it “une connaissance organique intérieure.” [25] 

The philosopher, then, is equivalent to a metaphysician, a student of being as being, and of its ultimate Source.  St. Augustine observed that since God is Being and Wisdom, the philosopher must above all be a lover of God.  Ultimately Plato’s characterization of the philosopher describes “one who knows, loves, and imitates…the Author of being, the light of truth, and the giver of blessedness,…in whom he finds happiness.” [26]  Plato himself referred to the philosophic nature as “something divine,” or godlike, “while all other natures and ways of life are merely human.” [27]   The philosopher’s “natural disposition to get hold of things” eventually concentrates upon the meaning of human existence because the city is, after all, the theatre of his activity in this world.  It is principally in reference to his own life that he “grapples with the mystery of existence.”

        Plato frequently insisted that the quest for wisdom is passionate—intense and all-consuming.  As he explained it, especially in Republic VI, the closer a philosopher approaches wisdom, the more ardent is the urge to possess it as one’s own.  Eventually this eros seems to border on “madness,” unreasonable and uncontrollable. [28]

        Some students of philosophy have argued that it is possible for a man to be a philosopher, even in the sense just described, without requiring him to be virtuous, or morally upright; that is, without insisting that he actually practice the truth he seeks to know.  But Plato, following Socrates, explicitly denied that possibility:  “When truth takes the lead, we may look to find in its train…a sound character,” for a philosopher feels “reverence” for the object of his pursuit—seeking not only the meaning of right and wrong, but also to consider “whether he does right or wrong.”  Socrates—for Plato, the Philosopher par excellence—had said: “All my anxiety was to do nothing unjust or wrong,” for the “business of reformation is the great business of every man while he lives,” and hence of the philosopher most of all. [29]

        Socrates had also held that if someone “knows what is true and good,…he cannot act against it,” but what “knows” means here is a matter of debate among scholars.  Since a philosopher remains, after all, a human being and not a god by nature, it is impossible that he be exempt from “another law,” the one St. Paul felt in his members.  If every mortal is subject to concupiscence and prone to sin, so must the philosopher be, qua mortal.  The personal experience of such failings may, indeed, be the most powerful stimulus of a philosopher’s effort to discover the truth of his nature and his resolve to actualize it (St. Augustine comes to mind).  As the Greek philosophers and dramatic poets realized, the moral life is marked while life endures by an unending struggle against the godless and the wretched. [30]

        Plato discoursed at length about the philosopher’s life of virtue—“the right way to live”—and his manner of being and not just seeming to be righteous.  The Republic devotes considerable attention to the “moral excellence and self-mastery” of the man who is animated by “a nature in which goodness of character has been well and truly established.”  The philosopher is that man “who sets his house in order, by self-mastery and discipline coming to be at peace with himself, and bringing into harmony those three parts” of his soul—reason, spirit, appetite.  What this entails is the main topic of conversation in books III and IV. [31]

        In sum, “the philosophical nature…is simply the ideally good nature; human nature…in its fulness”—“a sort of goodness in the full face of reality, a sort of goodness perfectly awake and perfectly aware and incredibly deep.”  The philosopher necessarily pursues simultaneously intellectual and moral perfection:  Only those deserve to be called philosophers who lovingly “contemplate the realities themselves as they are forever in the same unchanging state” and whose “affection goes out to [those] subjects of knowledge.” [32]

        Plato’s description of these “men of genius…enumerates all the qualities which go to make up a great man.” [33]  To those already mentioned, he adds “a gentleness that is steady and disciplined,” detachment “from the love of money, meanness, pretentiousness, and cowardice,” fair-mindedness, sociability, “a mind endowed with measure and grace,” quickness “to learn and to remember,” magnanimity, and kinship with all the moral virtues. [34]  Such a man is “at peace with men, for he dwells in a kingdom of [interior] peace, constantly in the presence of a world where injustice is neither done nor suffered.” [35]   

        But, everyone will ask, could such a height ever be scaled by actual human beings?  Evidently “many of the most eminent” in our time or any other would be unqualified to join such a company of giants of thought and virtue. [36]  Plato could hardly be surprised or disappointed by the manifest inability or unwillingness of public men to strive for such perfection.  Even in his day, when the manifold engines of distraction so typical of modern life had not even been dreamed of, Plato admitted that “a nature with all the qualities we required to make the perfect philosopher is a rare growth, seldom seen among men.” [37]

        Given the paradigmatic purpose of every form of perfection treated in the Republic, it is unnecessary for Plato to speculate about the reasons it cannot be expected to occur in ordinary experience.  Even if the “few rare souls” for whom the “philosophic nature is reserved” [38]  were to be encountered, could they survive for long in our imperfect world?  Is the requisite “time and education” available in which to cultivate a true philosopher so that his “inborn disposition” could be brought to the maturity of “a noble character?” [39]  Plato himself answered that “the right training” will seldom be available to young men with philosophical potential because only philosophers could provide it. [40]

        But the chief obstacle is endemic to the philosophical nature itself, and this did engage Plato’s attention:  “Keen wits are apt to lose all steadiness.”  “Every one” of the qualities belonging to such a nature “tends to ruin its possessor and to wrest his mind away from philosophy.”  “All the good things of life, as they are called, corrupt and distract the soul”—beauty, wealth, powerful connections. [41]

        Surely Plato’s point is that his logos about philosophy and the philosopher is not meant to be prescriptive, but rather propadeutic and pedagogic.  What interested him was inducing ambitious and talented young men to be more acutely aware of the enormous gap between ideality and reality so that they might at least be motivated to move with resolution from where they and their companions are to where they might be.  And surely it is true that the ideal union of wisdom and virtue has exercised an attraction at every stage of history.  Very many real persons could, in all honesty, repeat Plato’s own testimony near the end of his life:  I followed “reason and justice as closely as humanly possible.” [42]  Every country (not excluding our own) is immeasurably better off for the “men blest with a godlike spirit” who “fell from heaven” into public as well as private capacities to demonstrate that “real manhood” consists in cultivating “goodness and wisdom” while moving “toward a destiny beyond nature.” [43]






        The “giants among men” who fit Plato’s description are those who do not back away from striving for perfection for want of courage or opportunity, but who also tremble before its majesty and approach on their knees.  They realize that practical exigencies do not prevent the effort to approximate a noble model such as the one Plato has placed before them, for even he did not expect to see it fully actualized in this world.  Since we must have goals and must pursue them, why should the brutishness of the human condition prevent us from attempting the highest conceivable ones?

        Since Plato understood this better than all or very nearly all of the thinkers who followed him, I am using his words and example, and especially his insistence that wise and virtuous men have a political responsibility to be, among their own, something equivalent, in the secular order, to priests, prophets, and philosopher-poets like Plato himself.  The characteristic way such men deal with public affairs is sorely needed if we wish to survive the contemporary crisis—and if they are to save their souls.

        From the very opening of the Republic we learn that “a thing’s function is the work that it alone can do, or can do better than anything else.”  Justice (righteousness) can appear only when men recognize their “specific excellence or virtue” and strive every day to practice it. [44]  In the case of a philosopher, it is commonly expected that this requires withdrawal into an “ivory tower,” and Plato seems to agree:  “A man whose thoughts are fixed on the true reality has no leisure to look downward on the affairs of men, take part in their quarrels, and catch the infection of their jealousies and hates.” [45]  Further, “anything which may be an impediment, the good man ought to show that he utterly disregards.  And if at last necessity plainly compels him,…he has to flee, he must be an exile….” [46]   

        It is written of the philosopher Bergson that if “he saw a glaring contrast between the purity of mystical experience and all social reality, he never tried…to introduce pure belief into the realm of social life, to which, by definition, it was foreign…. The moral hero…could not be an actor on any political stage…. He was, rather, the man who wants…to escape from politics, from the unpoetic realities of everyday social life.” [47]  But can it be true that one cannot live the life above the polis without severing ties that link him (and every man) to it?

        Plato’s notion of political responsibility demands that the philosopher “descend” to “the unpoetic realities”—primarily for his own sake.  Jacques Maritain, once a student of Bergson, referred to the Spanish Civil War, “le présent ouvrage,” as “intolérable angoisse,” “sacrilège,” “terreur.”  Here is a philosopher so stirred by an event in the socio-political order as to prescribe “les grands principes d’une métaphysique vraie” as the only way to render more habitable “la cité temporelle.”  Maritain’s own student, Yves Simon, pointed out that “the man who knows metaphysics will therefore know the solutions to public issues and political problems.” [48]  What is the source of the compulsion Maritain felt which his master put aside as unworthy of a man of thought?

        Plato gave a simple, even obvious answer:  All men, philosophers above all, “must think of the land they dwell in as a mother and nurse, whom they must take thought for and defend against any attack, and of their fellow citizens as brothers born of the same soil.” [49]  I say “philosophers above all” because only they are able to realize what it means to live in “blindness,” the condition of their fellows “who are entirely cut off from knowledge of any reality, and have in their soul no clear pattern of perfect truth, which they might study in every detail and constantly refer to.” [50]  If they are to be helped, the philosopher is the only one who can help them.  If he chooses to “escape from politics” it is the same as condemning his brothers to a fate he recognizes as unworthy of human beings.  It is not correct that he cannot help them without ruining himself, as some have implied. [51]  Plato clearly thought that he can and therefore must.

        If he is truly a philosopher, he craves not only the wisdom and goodness which perfect his own nature, but also union with other men, so that he might perfect his social nature.  For Plato and his most famous followers (Cicero, Augustine, Dante, Thomas More), love necessarily has a political dimension.  To miss this is to miss the very basis of the philosopher’s civic responsibility.  There cannot be a real distinction between philosophy and friendship, for friendship is “based on philosophy.” [52]

        For Plato, “the man susceptible to beauty is normally and perpetually in love” [53]  because love follows understanding, [54]  and “cognition and love are…inseparable.” [55]  This love is not restricted to the love of wisdom; or better, love of wisdom is not restricted to pure contemplation.  That “love knows no bounds” is not just a cliché; it serves to illustrate the point that wherever the philosopher sees an approximation of the eternal verities which are his specialty (primarily the Good) his heart immediately reaches out to it.  What more vivid approximation could be present to a man who sees beyond appearances than the souls of those around him in the city?  Undoubtedly it was on their account that the philosophical nature first stirred.  The philosopher is first of all a human being, and men are attracted to their fellows—first to their bodies, then to their souls, and finally to their capacity to reach for the truth.  Love makes the philosopher feel “at home with all mankind.” [56]

        It remains true, of course, that the absolutely best life “is not the political life, but the life of contemplation….”  This is the same as saying that every man’s first responsibility is to himself.  But contemplation acquires an expanded meaning when seen as a political activity itself—not in itself, but in its effects.  When the philosopher “goes down” to minister to his fellow citizens with “eyes ever turning backward,” it is this unselfish sacrifice of what he loves best that is the true test and measure of his love. [57]

        Besides love, the philosopher’s ministry to the polis proceeds also from humility (which is a vital part of Aristotle’s magnanimity)—the acknowledgement of his obligation to maintain contact through “the popular language” with that “common, uncritical…preliminary understanding” which prevents him from becoming lost “in the clouds of mere speculation.” [58]  The relation between humility and sight is the reverse of the relation between pride and blindness.

        For these reasons the bios theoretikos is inseparable from the bios politikos; they are reverse faces of the same experience.  When the philosopher turns his theoretical face to the sun, it is impossible that his political face will not be illuminated.  In later life, a philosopher may enjoy the repose of retirement in solitude, but not even then in isolation.  He will preserve to the end that “feeling for man, his needs, his greatness, and the solidarity which binds [him] closely” to his fellow citizens…. Real life is a life in common, an immense family life…; isolation is inhuman.”  Philosophers cannot but be affected by “the law of oneness of heart” and so attuned “to the murmur of the human race” that they are always seeking ways to bring the blind “out of their night,” ennoble them, and even save some of them. [59]  “I have never met a man,” Péguy said about a friend, “so much burdened…with an eternal responsibility…; he felt himself responsible for his people.” [60]

        A philosopher is free, of course, to reject that responsibility, to stifle his sense of obligation to serve as “guide of distressed humanity.” [61]  But if he so chooses, be becomes guilty of destroying the political bond, so far as in him lies, and even of impeding the fulfillment of his own nature:  “The philosopher is…contemplative, but his thoughts are fruitful only if he is not merely the disinterested observer, but shares, with sympathetic understanding, in the grandeur and misery of society in its specific moments.” [62]  Since he knows “the nature and habits of men’s souls,” he “will be of the greatest use” in exercising the political art, whose highest concern is “the management of…men’s souls.”  And the converse must also be true:  If he abstains, he can cause them the greatest harm by refusing to employ his “skill to produce…all the virtues that can exist in the ordinary man.” [63] 

Plato’s Socrates remarked, after setting forth the cave allegory, that when the philosopher “calls to mind his fellow prisoners,…he will surely be sorry for them,” and still long to set them free. [64]  This thread runs through the dialogues:  “Living…in the loving adoration of supreme truth, himself a harmonious being who has risen above all conflict in his own soul, the Platonic philosopher will inevitably seek everywhere to impose harmony upon chaos, which is to change evil into good.” [65]  The philosopher-emperor Marcus Aurelius is said to have spoken in this vein about the responsibility of “the philosopher, this priest and helper of the gods.” [66]  A famous case in point is Socrates himself; in his rejoinder to Crito that should he escape his legal punishment, “the Laws” would rightly object:  “Did we not bring you into life,” did we not direct your upbringing?  “Could you say…that you were not our offspring?” [67]  Ultimately, it is the political virtue of justice that makes this inevitably true.

Socrates says to Glaucon in the Republic:  “We can fairly tell” our philosopher-rulers that “we have brought you into existence for your country’s sake as well as for your own, to be like leaders and king-bees in a hive.”  Because of your superior education, “you are more capable of playing your part both as men of thought and men of action.”  You can “see a thousand times better” than the cave dwellers “because you have seen justice, beauty, and goodness in their reality.” [68]  Because he “has found his true nature through finding his true relation to God,” this “mystic philosopher” becomes “the existential representative” of his city, “its active leader in the representation of…the truth about human existence on the border of transcendence.” He must become its representative if he is to save himself, whether or not the people follow him. [69]  The “labour and travail” devoted to the city is not merely “something noble, but something necessary.”  Even a glimpse of “the Good itself” requires it to be taken “as a pattern for the right ordering of the polis and of the individual.” [70]

Because he was a philosopher, Plato taught the things that are recorded in the Republic and the Laws; because he was a philosopher, Socrates lived those things in public, to his personal undoing, and has been proclaimed as a result “the only true politician of all the Athenians.” [71]

For these reasons I am unpersuaded that “the general contempt in which philosophers since Plato have held the realm of human affairs” is due to a tragic “conflict between the philosopher and the polis,” between his “love of reason” and his “desire for the moral health of his fellowman.” [72]  I must rather conclude—with Plato—that the second springs necessarily from the first and is its consummation in this life.  Contemplation does not require one to cease to live among men, as if an experience of the eternal brings about political death.  On the contrary, it permits politics to be elevated to a higher level.  Until the private contemplation of the Good blossoms in public it is incomplete and of itself sterile.  If there is a “conflict” here, it is not between the interior life and external action, but between their harmonious relationship and the disorder inherent in an imperfect world.  That conflict, I think, is the real reason men of thought so often turn away from political responsibility.  But it is a crime against truth for anyone to condemn himself to such impotence; a philosopher who dies politically will also kill himself metaphysically. 

One does not need to spend much time in Plato’s company to realize that his political teaching has a metaphysical base.  It is unmistakeably oriented toward the eternal rather than the temporal.  He even seems to have come to regard it (in the Laws) as a sacred doctrine, and its written form as a kind of Scripture.  Hannah Arendt noted that Plato’s wisdom has a supernatural quality. [73]  When he says—as he repeatedly does—that the question of political philosophy is how we ought to live, he evidently means a spiritual, as well as a secular life.  If he is certain about anything in politics, it is that the political order has to do with the “order in the soul,” which the context makes clear is far different from Aristotle’s more naturalistic understanding of “soul”—that which animates a plant, animal, and man.

Plato’s soul-centeredness helps to explain why he can never get serious about the political things we generally give so much importance to: parties and elections, diplomacy, the public administration, and conventional matters of constitution and government which his young friends in the Republic cared about so passionately, for such things do not transcend the transient and ephemeral.  When Plato is read as a conventional political “theorist” (Karl Popper provides a well-known example), he becomes an easy target for criticism of “communistic,” “anti-democratic,” and “utopian” tendencies.  When one realizes (as his friends eventually do, and so become disciples) that Plato is engaged in priestly activity, it becomes obvious that his famous “philosopher-king” is not a “king” at all, much less a “philosopher” in the conventional sense of those terms.  It was a triumph of Socratic-Platonic irony to name this figure a philosopher-king, rather than the philosopher-priest he is in reality. 

And “politikos,” usually translated as “statesman,” would better convey Plato’s meaning were we to use instead a word like “elder.”  Only then would it make sense to say that Plato’s “lifelong conviction” was “that the business of the philosopher among men is to be a statesman.” [74]  Plato’s philosopher-priest aspires to be the conserver, the stabilizer of a community, not its creator.  Bertrand de Jouvenel used the word “rex” to convey this notion of a “priest and consolidator,” a “mediator” and intercessor who uses “mysterious faculties” to expose and cleanse “impiety.” [75]  The philosopher’s political obligation, then, is to represent divine verities in public to the limit of his poetic and rhetorical skills, knowing all the while that his message will fall almost entirely upon deaf ears.  Himself being open to “transcendent reality,” the ultimate source of order, his mission is to establish that order in the lives of men, so far as it lies within his power and depending upon the presence of fortunate circumstances. [76]

Maritain wrote about such “poor men charged with the frightening mission of promoting in the world the standards of truth and sanctity without being saints” themselves; that is, while still living in this “vale of tears.”  For Plato held that “before men can justify the ways of man to man, they will have to cease being unjust to God.”  Hence “the proper study of mankind is God.”  The priestliness of the philosophical vocation consists in using every talent and energy to bring as many as possible to understand and accept this truth—which it was “my duty to tell,” Plato confessed near the end of his life. [77]  Thus to ask whether such a one has a political responsibility is the same as asking whether a prophet is obliged to prophesy, an evangelist to evangelize, an apostle to engage in the apostolate.

The final task in this section is to consider what political avenues the “man of genius” may find open in the actual cities of our experience.  The dialogues offer a consistent, if imprecise, answer:  He must gain political “control” or “authority” if he is to “take charge” of the city.  [78]  But what sort of authority is that?  Jouvenel answers:  It is “the faculty of gaining…voluntary acceptance…of his own proposals.” [79]  And how is it to be achieved?  Is it by gaining public office in a legislative, administrative, or judicial capacity?  Must the philosopher cross over into the public arena and seek to “reform…the existing order” by bringing the citizens under the “discipline” of “an appropriate and ideal system of laws…with a view to wisdom”?  Surely these would be “the best laws…by nature,” capable of enabling the people to “attain reason.” [80]  Does the philosopher need to go to law school?

In the Statesman Plato works out in great detail the “kingly” art of “weaving the web of the human political community” which is to give the “king” the means to “correct” his subjects (being well acquainted with their “different characters”) by “blending the sweet-tempered with the harsh, the weak with the strong” in a “close and firm…political texture” whose strands are “woven together into a unified character.” [81]  Does the philosopher need to study weaving?

If my previous analysis is correct, Plato’s ingenious device for the temporal administration of a city cannot be taken literally as the solution we are seeking, simply because philosophers are unconcerned with such matters.  His “administration” of the polis must, then, be oriented by something weightier than the conventional interests of rulers.  Plato himself tells us that the “interest” he is developing in speech has to do with “estimating the souls” of the people—in order to “effect a reform,” sure enough, but of their whole “way of living.”  This includes fashioning their “characters” by giving them “the proper attitude toward God.” [82]

There is certainly a “law” to be administered, but the philosopher  was not its “legislator.”  It is “the perfect law of which he has the vision”   which provides the pattern needed to shape “the characters and institutions of men, like a great artist taking human nature as he finds it and moulding it in light of his own high conception” of what is best for them. [83]  Later writers will call this the eternal law, of which the law of human nature is part.  The “weaving” which will occupy all of the philosopher‘s  resources transcends any notion of the common good as something “concrete,” “practicable,” and “imperfect” to be negotiated in a context of emergencies and limitations. [84]

Successful statesmen of the conventional sort cannot be “intellectuals,” but must be manipulators, clever strategists and tacticians.  Plato’s priestly philosopher purges and cleanses the very processes and institutions statesmen must operate with (not on).  As he “mixes his colors” he tries to “reproduce the complexion of true humanity…until he has produced, so far as may be, a type of human character that heaven can approve.” [85]  The resulting “constitution” is not a set of guidelines and procedures but a rule of life.

Our question has been broadened, but it still remains to be answered.  What other possibilities for gaining “control” and “authority” remain to be considered?

Traditionally, two means have been used to bring about an approximation of order in human affairs:  persuasion and compulsion (about which Plato often wrote).  Compulsion, we know, is a constant and necessary element in civic affairs, whether it is actually employed or only poised for action.  This Plato ruled out in no uncertain terms when he had the philosopher say:  “Constraint I will not use.”  The answer, then, has to be persuasion:  I will go about “persuading you to care for virtue…and wisdom.”  The people must be brought to “do what is right…voluntarily.” [86]  And if they resist?  “When it is impossible to make the constitution perfect except by sentencing men to exile and death,” the philosopher must “refrain from action and pray for the best for himself and for the city.” [87] 

This, in a sense, is the extreme to which Socrates was brought by his accusers:  “God assigned to me…the duty to be a philosopher, to test myself and others…; to try to persuade both young and old…to care for the soul and make it as good as possible.”  And it is finally he who receives the sentence of death. [88]  Although Plato’s Socrates was gifted beyond any man he had known, evidently the delicacy and tact that might have produced the desired result was lacking, at least in the circumstances then prevailing in Athens.

Plato demonstrated in his own life that should this “last resort” come to pass, the philosopher has somehow fallen short in practicing the art of persuasion.  The resistance of one who has “only belief without knowledge” has to be more carefully anticipated. Is the “right way” to persuade to “help the god by proving that the man is not wise”?  Isn’t the man likely to be “aggrieved” when confronted with such a direct challenge and withhold the authority persuasion intends?  But earlier Socrates had asked Glaucon, “Is there any means of soothing resentment and converting him gently without telling him plainly that he is not in his right mind”? [89]  In Plato’s view, there certainly was; the method of Socrates could never succeed in making ordinary citizens “active participants in the representation of truth.” [90]

But did he succeed any better than his teacher?  Plato’s method was “not to put it so plainly”; we “veiled our meaning and constantly argued that anyone who takes this course [of virtue] will prosper.” [91]  Is this not what expert teachers try to do?  That many still read the dialogues of Plato with enthusiasm and profit after 2500 years is, I think, no mean success!  Plato, it turns out, was really the teacher of Socrates, not the reverse.

And so I conclude that the priest-philosopher might have a chance to influence public life if he steers clear of the councils of state (as Raphael insists in Utopia) and follows More’s own advice to Richard Rich:  “Be a teacher!” [92]  The art of classroom persuasion provides the only proven means to “convert” people to a “right” state of mind by not telling them too plainly that they are “out of their minds” to begin with.  The philosopher-priest exercises his mission as a teacher who “stands between the truth and every man’s mind,” applies his “knowledge of the natures and habits of men’s souls,” and prescribes remedies for their ignorance within the actual parameters of their lives.  Those remedies are simply what “the experiences of the best of our elders have agreed to be truly right.” [93]

Plato was the great master of this science and art of teaching, as it is dramatized in his masterpiece, the Republic.  His method can and often has achieved “conversion of the soul” by “turning it away from this changing world” and restoring it to “the way it ought to be…, instead of looking in the wrong direction.”  If centuries of experience can stand as proof, Plato was correct in his assumption that “the soul of every man does possess the power of learning the truth and the organ to see it with.” [94]  But always with this provision:  No soul can be entered by force.

A final question:  How could philosophers teach effectively if their deepest intuitions are really incommunicable—“essentially speechless,…untranslatable into words”?  Given “the inadequacy of language,…no intelligent man will ever be so bold as to put into language those things which he has contemplated.”  But, then, neither could the student’s mind grasp them if they were uttered:  Whoever lacks experience with the eternal verities “will never come to an understanding of the most complete truth.” [95] 

Two choices would seem to be available:  The philosopher will restrict his audience to the very few “who have…a natural affinity with justice”; or he will speak to all in parables.  Both courses can have a political impact, the first indirectly and more slowly; the second directly and immediately, but in a diffused manner.  Presumably Plato’s philosopher can engage in both, as he himself did by practicing the first alternative in the Academy, and the second in public speeches.  But it is also evident that he placed his best hope in the careful formation of a select band of followers.  If the philosopher is to have a further effect upon the secular order while he lives, it will be mostly by indirect communication of “the unchanging points of reference” to which the community’s leaders may try to adjust the contingencies with which they deal. [96]

At the end, the philosopher-priest will be content to have had “a humble share in perpetuating wisdom among men, in gathering up the inheritance of the ages, in formulating the rules of the mind for the present time,…in reviving if necessary some dying flame, in organizing the propaganda of truth and goodness, in turning men’s wandering eyes toward first causes and their hearts toward supreme ends.” [97]







        We have seen that a “man of thought,” in his political role, is “a priest of the mind,” a prophetic figure, a teacher of things human in the presence of things divine.  But the great majority of human beings “are not philosophical,” as Plato wryly observed, and strongly tend to be egocentric rather than theocentric.  This means that the philosopher-educator must be prepared for persecution, even to the extreme of martyrdom.  His mission is necessarily thankless because he is “a spiritual being in a world which distrusts spirituality.”  He is one of those “heroes” whom the world “cannot assimilate,” who is destined to live and die in an atmosphere which is not “congenial to philosophy.”  The resistance of “functioning citizens” to those who can help them the most can only be unremitting. [98]

        This was not surprising to Plato:  The many cannot “follow a guide who would lead them to” the Good and to Justice because “the noblest of pursuits can hardly be thought much of by men whose own way of life runs counter to it.”  Since they do not share the philosopher’s craving for perfection, he cannot “easily convince [them] that they should pursue virtue or avoid vice.”  Hence the popular “prejudice against philosophy” which led to the death of Socrates.  Plato’s own “prejudice” against the many seems well substantiated in historical experience.  When exposed to philosophy, most people will suppose that they are “listening to the talk of idiots”; especially if it concerns their own fate, such talk can only make them “strangely discontented with themselves.”  The many listen willingly only to “what pleases them.” [99]

           Because they have “no respect, in matters of right and wrong, for the authority of the ‘man who knows,’ ” his efforts on behalf of the city’s true interests will be interpreted as “moralism and self-righteousness,” and even feared as “a plot against the government.”  Socrates, always Plato’s prime example, was considered “a revolutionary agitator” out to “change…the Athenians’ way of life.”  Of course the charge was true; in his life and in his speech Socrates was challenging “the axioms on which [the citizens] have been brought up.”  Before his insistent questioning, the “ancient order [stood] dumb and perplexed,” unable to see that the right answers to those questions would cause it to “crumble and disappear.”  But what of Plato’s own intention to use indirect weapons to displace the old “truth of society” with the “truth of the soul,” both in his and in every city? [100]  (How paltry and dull, by comparison, is that safer political science which seeks only to observe and explain.)

        Eric Voegelin devoted much of his energy to the analysis of the age-old tension between those two truths.  Woe to the man who wishes to be a conventional patriot and party man should he discover “theoretical truth”; ever afterwards he will find himself unable to behave “according to the dream conception” which a people or a party—or an academic department—has of itself.  In its eyes, he will be a “representative of untruth, of falsehood,” an opponent to be hastily discredited lest he “shock the environment in its strongest convictions.”  How could a man who differs so radically “from men in general,” no matter how clever and otherwise attractive, be accepted into the community?  In the words of Arendt, “Goodness,…as a consistent way of life, is not only impossible within the confines of the public realm, it is even destructive of it, [for] it negates the space the world offers to men” in which to live out their lives together. [101] 

        At least since the first centuries of the Christian era, this is “the question that has always confronted the martyr” when he realizes that his solemn duty to the defective community requires its destruction and replacement.  “Either he secures…the works of the world…and transgresses all his principles…; or he maintains his principles and causes the ruin of the institutions” in place.  From Plato’s account of the trial of Socrates, it is clear which of those alternatives is the right one to choose:  “Men of Athens, I honor and love you; but I shall obey God rather than you, and while I have life and strength I shall never cease from the practice and teaching of philosophy, exhorting anyone whom I meet.”  In thus incurring “the prejudice and dislike of so many people,” Socrates is not an isolated instance:  “The same thing has convicted many other good men, and I think will do so again,” for “no man in the world will come off safe who…tries to hinder the many unjust and unlawful doings” he encounters—even in the guise of a teacher. [102]

        For their part, the “men of Athens”—and of every city—also face a choice:  To consent to the changes (i.e., to accept the philosopher’s authority and respond accordingly); or to remain passively “tolerant”; or to remove him.  The first is existentially impossible, since every community necessarily seeks to preserve what it takes to be “its truth.”  Any other course must range from irresponsible to treasonous.  The second alternative is at least reckless because it only nods at subversive teachings which may readily take root in the rebellious young—next time, if not this time.  A “sensible” community, then, can be counted on to blunt, in the manner most effective under the circumstances, this attack upon its moral foundations.  The old man Plato put it quite succinctly:  The city must “give notice to their adviser to keep his hands off the constitution” and “order him to cater to their wishes and desires” if he wants to live among them. [103]

        It would seem, then, that the best our philosophical statesman-teacher can expect is the maneuverable situation provided by the middle alternative.  Many commentators have observed how “friendly” the Athenian democracy was to Socrates and philosophy by allowing it to go on for so long and to thereby establish the beachhead it needed to “attack” other cities throughout history.  (The modern democratic, tolerant university is not always so hospitable.)  It is not exact, then, to assert that “the greatest lesson of Socrates’ life…was his death.”  Rather, his greatest lessons were those that he “gave” so unceremoniously and without hindrance day after day in the market place and the baths:  “The ‘clerk’ is only strong” when he “shows mankind that he is clearly conscious…of his essential qualities and his true function.” [104]

        And yet, there is a sense in which both the life and the death of a philosopher consolidate his political influence:  “Human affairs can only adopt” his teaching “under penalty of becoming divine; i.e., of perishing as human.”  This is the “death” which enables the philosopher to “live” with himself and with his fellow citizens.  If a polis cannot offer itself in the same sacrifice as the philosopher-priest’s “representative suffering” for the reasons we have seen, he himself can be that representative “victim” and accept the glorious honor of dying for the people. [105]

        When we realize why the philosopher’s calling carries all the way to martyrdom, it becomes apparent that nothing external to the man can restrict or diminish the extent to which he is able to fulfill his political responsibility.  He saves his people according to his own capacity to love, which is what, finally, enables him to suffer and die.  Thanatos is the consummation of that Eros first awakened in the philosopher by his perception of Agathos and Dikaios.  This means that “the work of reconciling men to the truth in this life [is] only a fragment of a process which extends through eternity.”  “When the philosopher speaks as the representative of truth, he does it with the authority of death over the shortsightedness of life.” [106]

        Even more is the philosopher’s openness to martyrdom a fulfillment of his own nature.  In this perspective, his political responsibility is instrumental to his own perfection.  As I have suggested, unless he is willing to carry his political burden to the end, he cannot save his own soul.  This helps to explain Plato’s insistence that a philosopher’s political action is, as for Socrates, commanded by God.  The necessity for bios politikos, aroused by the experience of bios theoretikos, is consummated in the bios theotikos.  When he dies, the philosopher-priest enjoys at last the unobscured sight of that reality which he grew more like the closer he approached it.  His sacrificial life is the perfect way to transcend mortality—that fundamental craving which links antiquity with modernity. [107]

        Could this be the incommunicable insight which the unwise cannot achieve:  the ability of a human being to “believe so deeply, have so deep a conviction” that his soul is “an absolute, an invincibility, an eternity, a freedom,…opposed victoriously, eternally triumphant, to all the grandeurs of the earth.” [108]

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

        At the outset I referred to the unfortunate condition of contemporary civic culture and the failure of its potential critics and educators to come to its aid in a philosophical manner.  This deficiency is notorious in our country in spite of our potential intellectual and spiritual wealth.  My aim has been to show how Plato’s sense of political responsibility can help to illuminate the problem and point us toward a solution.

        Already forty years ago, prior to the cultural revolution which shook our value structure as nothing had for a hundred years, we were hearing that society is “in a state of intellectual and emotional paralysis,” that it is in hot pursuit of self-destructive goals, that it “has lost its grip on the full dimensions of intelligence.”  Eric Voegelin lamented that “the recognition of the structure of reality,…the discipline of the intellect, and the development of theoretical culture…are stigmatized in public” while at the same time “irresponsible opining on the basis of sincere conviction, philosophical illiteracy, spiritual dullness, and agnostic sophistication…open the road to public success.” [109]   Perhaps our culture was already poised for a revolution that had to happen soon.

        Uncontrolled technology, urbanization, family deterioration, delinquency and crime, poverty and every kind of abuse usually bear the blame for the disorders in modern life.  But surely it takes little thought to recognize that these and a host of other ills, serious as they may be in themselves, are only symptomatic of the underlying disease.  I have argued that Plato and his followers place the true blame on intellectual and moral mediocrity caused by the absence of philosophical souls from positions of leadership, especially in education.

        Some of his recent followers have put it this way:  “Those who today should perform the duties of a Socrates [think] justice is a folly;” “the Kingdom of God is derisively called an imaginary principality;” “Those who know…do not act, and those who act…do not know;” “the intellectuals who are passionately for the earthly salvation…of men and institutions are those who least respect what may be called the traditional values.”  Contemporary intellectuals are teaching us not to love the truth but to deny our divinity:  “The real evil…is not so much the ‘great betrayal’ of the ‘clerks’ as the disappearance of the ‘clerks,’  the impossibility of leading the life of the ‘clerk’ in the world of today.” [110]

        It may be simplistic to assert that when responsible philosophers disappear, civilization wanes—or rather, is displaced by an uncivilized culture.  Early in the twentieth century Donoso Cortés dared to say that modern cultural revolutions “have an unconquerable and destructive force which the revolutions of ancient times did not possess; …this force is necessarily satanic, since it cannot be divine.”  In the same vein as Nietzsche’s prophecies, Donoso was observing that modern societies, having ridden themselves of God, necessarily “turn to adoring themselves as creators.” [111]

        Whether philosophers who are false to their high calling be named sophists, pharisees, or “petty paracletes,” they are at one in refusing to “face the fact of guilt” for failing to help their fellow citizens.  All they can do is protest “that they were not responsible for what had happened.”  Instead of raising the level of moral consciousness, they demoralize the people and discredit whoever tries to send out “warning signals of conscience.” [112]  A philosopher must demand hard things of the community for its own good; today’s pseudo intellectual submits to the demands of the community for his own good.

        It is a crime against knowledge to sterililize it by isolation from the practical order.  As an instrument of human perfection, it must be used in whatever way that perfection may be advanced.  If lack of practicality is a criterion of freedom (as Josef Pieper argued), then the philosopher is most himself when he is unfree, when he is a “slave” of those he loves, chained to the responsibility political life generates for him.  To the question, “Can a man be intellectual and practical?” Plato’s answer is: not only can he; he must be, for “the evils of mankind result from divorce between speculation and action,” between the intellectual and the practical, the vita contemplativa and the vita activa.  That divorce has obscured the truth that “nothing is more useful than to look upon the world as it really is, and at the same time to seek elsewhere for the solace to its troubles.” [113]

        Would that the contemporary “prejudice” against philosophy in political science and political practice had the same cause as it did in ancient times.  But in our time it has been self-inflicted.  In their failure to accept political responsibility, few thinkers have been dismissed for teaching too openly.  Nor is the prejudice the fault of proliferating “social engineers” who scurry about, grants in hand, seeking projects to occupy their time and their tools.  The thinkers have dismissed themselves from the duty to communicate the truth in public even at the risk of martyrdom.  The “intellectual [is] voiceless” not because he has no listeners; the listeners abound, but the speech which could help to satisfy their desire to find the light is inaudible.  Many are ready to hear a persuasive argument that “it is not superfluous to stop and think what is meant by law, force, violence, civilization, autonomy, love, justice, and injustice.  Such is the business, the function of…philosophers.” [114]

 [1] Vittorio de Caprariis, “The Crisis of Contemporary Political Philosophy,” Confluence, V, 4 (Winter 1957), 299-305.  In Paul Valèry’s words, we have discovered that these problems could not be “dissolved by facts.”  Cited by Hannah Arendt, “Understanding in Politics,” Partisan Review, XX, 4 (July-August 1953), 384.  The reader will notice the frequent citation of older sources.  The research for this article was completed prior to 1960, when the first version was written.  Like good wine, those sources have aged well and seem more pertinent today than they were at the time.


 [2] Arendt, The Human Condition (Garden City, N.Y., 1959), 198.

 3 Yves R. Simon, “Jacques Maritain: The Development of a Christian Philosopher,” Notre Dame, Ind., Nov. 13, 1959.


 [4] Eric Voegelin, The New Science of Politics: An Introduction (Chicago, 1952), 2 f.


 [5] Ibid.


 [6] John Dos Passos, The Saturday Review, May 24,1952, 11; citied by Peter Viereck, “‘Bloody-Minded Professors’: The Anti-Social Role of Some Intellectuals,” Confluence, I, 3 (September 1952), 41.


 [7] Voegelin, op. cit., 51.

 [8] Arendt, “Understanding…,” op.cit. 383 f.

 [9] Voegelin, op. cit., 87.

[10] Peter Stanlis, review of Eric Voegelin, Plato and Aristotle, Modern Age, Spring 1959, 193; review of Voegelin, The World of the Polis, Modern Age, Spring 1959, 191.  See Albert Salomon, The Tyranny of Progress: Reflections on the Origins of Sociology (New York, 1955), 64, 26.


[11] Voegelin, op. cit., 25, n. 1.

[12] Walter Lippmann, Essays in the Public Philosophy (Boston, 1955), chap. VIII.


[13] Francis G. Wilson, “Public Opinion and the Intellectuals,” The American Political Science Review, XLVIII, 2 (June 1954), 322, 326 f.


[14] Voegelin, op. cit., 27.

[15] Martin Buber, “The Validity and Limitation of the Political Principle,” Cross Currents, VII, 2 (Spring 1957), 112.


[16] Stanlis, review of Plato and Aristotle, op. cit., 193.


[17] Cf. Arendt, The Human Condition, op. cit., chap. 2.


[18] Ernest Barker, The Political Thought of Plato and Aristotle (New York, 1959), 147.


[19] Wilson, op. cit., 326.


[20] Voegelin, op. cit., 119, 1 f.


[21] Richard L. Nettleship, Lectures on the Republic of Plato (London, 1937), 199 f.


[22] G.M.A. Grube, Plato’s Thought (Boston, 1958), 95.  Cf. Plato, Republic, VI (501), p. 210; V (472), p. 177; Phaedo 68.  [I have used the Cornford version, The Republic of Plato (New York, 1945).] 


[23] Republic, II (376), p. 66; V (474-480), pp. 181-89.


[24] Nettleship, op. cit., 187, 193.  Cf. Barker, op. cit., 49:  “Must not a man in conducting his own life…know the Pole Star of his life, the gusts and eddies of his passions” if he is to “attain…excellence as a man?”  And cf. Voegelin, op. cit., 67.


[25] Charles Péguy, “Savoir et Croire,” Men and Saints (London, 1947), 82.


[26] St. Augustine, The City of God, ed. Vernon Bourke (Garden City, N.Y., 1959), VIII, i, v, pp. 144, 150 f.  Eric Voegelin used the phrase, “the transcendent divinity,” op. cit., 69.


[27] Republic, VI (490), p. 197; VIII (519), p. 233:  “Wisdom, it seems, is certainly the virtue of some diviner faculty which never loses its power.”    Hannah Arendt spoke of “the philosopher’s love for the eternal,” The Human Condition, op. cit., 277.


[28] Nettleship, op. cit., 189 f; Republic II (376), p. 65; VI (485-90), pp. 190-97; Symposium (218); Grube, op. cit., 109.


[29] Republic, VI (490), p. 197; Epistle VII (344); Apology (27, 31); Laws, I (644).


[30] Grube, op. cit., 258.


[31] 31  Republic, I (352, 350, 353), p. 37, 34, 39;  II (361), p. 46; III (400 f, 409), pp. 89 f, 99; IV (442 f), pp. 141 f.


[32] Nettleship, op. cit., 201; Péguy, “Bernard-Lazare,” op. cit., 119; Republic, V (480), p. 189.


[33] Nettleship, op. cit., 186.


[34] Republic, III (410), p. 108; VI (486, 503), pp. 192, 214.


[35] Nettleship, op. cit., 210.  Cf. Epistle VII (351).


[36] A. E. Taylor, Plato: The Man and His Work (New York, 1956), 283.  Cf. Grube, op. cit., 255.


[37] Republic, V (491), p. 198.  Cf. V (476), p. 183.


[38] Barker, op. cit., 110.


[39] Republic, VI (487, 490), pp. 193, 197.


[40] Republic, V (501), p. 210.


[41] Republic V (502, 491), pp. 213, 198.


[42] Epistle VII (329).


[43] Republic, VII (540), p. 262; Theaetetus (172-76).  Cf. Bertrand de Jouvenel, Sovereignty: An Inquiry into the Political Good (Chicago, 1957), 51; Voegelin, op. cit., 157.


[44] Republic, I (352), p. 38.


[45] Ibid., VI (499, 496), pp. 208, 204.


[46] Laws, VI (770), p. 292 [I am using the Jowett edition, Vol. IV of Dialogues].


[47] Judith Shklar, “Bergson and the Politics of Intuition,” Review of Politics, XX, 4 (Oct. 1958), 651, 654-656.


[48] Jacques Maritain, Preface, Aux Origines d’une Tragédie: La Politique espagnole de 1923 à 1936, by Alfred Mendizábal (Paris, 1937), 12, 16, 23, 33, 43, 54;  Simon, op. cit.


[49] Republic, III (414), p. 106.


[50] Ibid., VI (484), p. 190.


[51] For example, Hannah Arendt in The Human Condition, op. cit., 20.


[52] Epistle VII, 333.


[53] Nettleship, op. cit., 189.


[54] Barker, op. cit., 110.


[55] Salomon, op. cit., 54.


[56] Symposium, passim.; Nettleship, op. cit., 201 f.


[57] Barker, op. cit., 125.


[58] Arendt, “Understanding in Politics,” op. cit., 381 f.


[59] A. D. Sertillanges, O.P., The Intellectual Life: Its Spirit, Conditions, Methods (Westminster, Md., 1959), 12 f, 59.  Cf. Arendt, The Human Condition, op. cit., 67:  “The man…who is in love with goodness can never afford to lead a solitary life, and yet his living with others and for others must remain essentially without testimony…. He is not solitary, but lonely.”  And cf. Thomas Molnar, “Flight of the Intellectual,” Commonweal, LXII, 19 (Aug. 19, 1955), 489:  “True leadership…demands loneliness.”


[60] Péguy, “Bernard-Lazare,” op. cit., 131.


[61] Henri Daniel-Rops, The Church in the Dark Ages (London, 1959), 34.


[62] Emile Durkheim, Le Socialisme (Paris, 1928), 131 (cited by Salomon, op. cit., 41.).


[63] Laws  I (650), p. 181; Republic VI (500), p. 209.


[64] Republic VII (516), p. 230.


[65] Grube, op. cit., 258.


[66] Marcus Aurelius, cited by I. M. Bochenski, European Philosophy of History (Bern, 1947), title page; cited by Voegelin, op. cit., 25.


[67] Crito (49 f).


[68] Republic, VII (520 f), p. 234.


[69] Voegelin, op. cit., 70, 68, 75, 67 f.  Cf. Nettleship, op. cit., 209.


[70] Barker, op. cit., 136; Republic, VII (540, 519), pp. 262, 233.


[71] Grube, op. cit., 272; Edmund Burke, “Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents,” The Works of Edmund Burke (London, 1803-1827), II, 355, cited by Francis P. Canavan, SJ, “Edmund Burke’s Conception of the Role of Reason in Politics,” Journal of Politics, XXI, 1 (February, 1959), 62.


[72] Arendt, The Human Condition, op. cit., 13; Glenn W. Morrow, “Plato’s Conception of Persuasion,” Philosophical Review, LXII, 2 (April 1953), 244 (he calls this “the tragedy of Plato.”).


[73] Arendt, The Human Condition, op. cit., 68.


[74] Taylor, op. cit., 182.


[75] Jouvenel, op. cit., 51, 48.


[76] Voegelin, op. cit., 158.


[77] Maritain, op. cit., 31; Stanlis, review of Plato and Aristotle, op. cit., 194; Epistle VII (339).


[78] Epistle VII (326); Republic, VI (499), p. 207; Republic, V (473), p. 178; Epistle VII (326).


[79] Jouvenel, op. cit., 29, 31 f.


[80] Epistle VII (336); Nettleship, op. cit., 198; Laws, III (688), p. 217; I (645), p. 175; IV (712), p. 239.


[81] Statesman (305); André Brémond, “Plato the Statesman: Reflections on the Laws,” Modern Schoolman, XIV, 3 (March 1937), 53; Statesman (311).


[82] Statesman (309, 296); Epistle VII (330, 351); Barker, op. cit., 110; Brémond, op. cit., 54.


[83] Nettleship, op. cit., 210, 198.


[84] Canavan, op. cit., 63-65.


[85] Republic, VI (500), p. 209.


[86] Epistle VII (331); Apology (30, 32); Laws, II (663), p. 193.


[87] Epistle VII (331).


[88] Apology (22, 27, 29, 32).


[89] Republic, V (476), p. 184.


[90] Voegelin, op. cit., 75.


[91] Epistle VII (332).

[92] Robert Bolt, A Man for All Seasons (New York, 1990), 8 f., 16; Utopia, I.


[93] Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Plato; or, The Philosopher,” Representative Men (Boston, 1903), 44; Laws, V (747), p. 271; II (659), p. 189; I (650), p. 181.


[94] Republic, VII (518), p. 232.


[95] Arendt, The Human Condition, op. cit., 276; Epistle VII (341-344).


[96] Canavan, op. cit., 78.


[97] Sertillanges, op. cit., 11.


[98] Julien Benda, The Betrayal of the Intellectuals (Boston, 1955), 98; Republic, VI (493), p. 201; Thomas Molnar, “The Political Thought of Bernanos,” Review of Politics, XX, 2 (April 1958), 236, 241, quoting from A Plea for Liberty (New York, 1944), p. 247; Republic, VI (497), p. 205; Wilson, op. cit., 339.


[99] Republic, VI (489, 497), pp. 196, 205; Theaetetus (176 f.); Grube, op. cit., 260.  Cf. Republic, VI (493, 489, 501), pp. 201, 196, 210; Nettleship, op. cit., 204, 210; Benda, op. cit., 36:  “There exists a certain criterion by which we may know whether the ‘clerk’ who takes public action does so in conformity with his true functions; and that is, that he is immediately reviled by the ‘laymen,’  whose interests he thwarts…. We may say, therefore, that the clerk who is praised by the laymen is a traitor to his office.”


[100] E. Harris Harbison, “The Intellectual as Social Reformer: Machiavelli and Thomas More,” Rice Institute Pamphlets, XLIV, 3 (Oct. 1957), 34; Epistle VII (333); Barker, op. cit., 53; Voegelin, op. cit., 157.  Voegelin goes on to say (p. 158): “Both types of truth will from now on exist together; the tension between the two, in various degrees of consciousness, will be a permanent structure of civilization.”  Bergson, on the other hand, accepted “the fact that if ‘we are in and out’ of society, there need be no constant conflict between the hero and society.”  Laughter (New York, 1911), 44-47; cited by Shklar, op. cit., 655.


[101] Voegelin, op. cit., 170, 63 (and cf. 62, 65 f.; Grube, op. cit., 260, and Benda, op. cit., 30); Apology (28 f.); Arendt, The Human Condition, op. cit., 68.  Bergson would say that “the aim of creative politics was not to destroy natural, habitual society, but to rise above it,” Shklar, op. cit., 655.


[102] Barker, op. cit., 69; Benda, op. cit., 152; Apology (28, 27, 30; cf. 20 f.).


[103] Willmoore Kendall, “The People Versus Socrates Revisited,” Modern Age, Winter 1958-59, 110; Epistle VII (331).  In another, but surely relevant, order of discourse, Jesus tells the Scribes and Pharisees:  “I am sending prophets and wise men and men of learning to preach to you; some of them you will put to death and crucify; some you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city; so that you will make yourselves answerable for all the blood of the just men that is shed on the earth” (Matthew 24:34-35).


[104] Barker, op. cit., 53; Benda, op. cit., 152 f.


[105] Benda, op. cit., 153; Voegelin, op. cit., 71-74.


[106] Voegelin, op. cit., 65 f.; Nettleship, op. cit., 210.


[107] Taylor, op. cit., 182 (commenting on Phaedo, 66).  Cf. Grube, op. cit., 109.


[108] Péguy, “Bernard-Lazare,” op. cit., 129.


[109] Voegelin, op. cit., 178; “The Unity of Truth,” Commonweal, LXIII, 15 (Jan. 13, 1956), 382.


[110] Benda, op. cit., 84, 97 f., 128; Leo Strauss, What Is Political Philosophy? and Other Studies (Glencoe, Ill., 1959), 9; Arendt, The Human Condition, op. cit., 199; Wilson, op. cit., 327.


[111] Juan Donoso Cortés, An Essay on Catholicism, Authority, and Order (New York, 1925), 265, cited by Salomon, op. cit., 84.


[112] Voegelin, op. cit., 175; Max Lerner, PM, cited by Dwight Macdonald, Memoires of a Revolutionist: Essays in Political Criticism (New York, 1958), 101; Viereck, op. cit., 36.


[113] Josef Pieper, “Knowledge and Freedom,” Review of Politics, XIX, 2 (Apr. 1957), 149; John A. Barone, reply to “Practical Men,” by Bernard G. Murchland, Commonweal, LXIII, 19 (Feb. 10, 1956), 486; Nettleship, op. cit., 203; Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum (“On the Rights and Duties of Capital and Labor”), May 15, 1891, no. 18.


[114] Simon, op. cit.