Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Philosopher-Fred?

Well, I liked Joe’s comment below, because it gets to the nerve of the Thompson issue. The comments in the REPUBLIC are really about the PHILOSOPHER-KING, who is an unrealistic abstraction or perfection of qualities found in real-life people with philosophic temperaments. For the latter, motives are always mixed, and "public service" or "politics as a vocation" remain possible. Not only that, for those without the wisdom of the philosopher-king (without knowledge of what gives being its beingness etc.), ruling can be a source of knowledge (self-knowledge, knowledge of human nature etc.). In the case of Fred, his relatively contemplative nature might produce prudent policies, or it might produce impotent self-indulgence. Socrates never DID much of anything, because he couldn’t quite figure out what virtue is. Fred hasn’t lived a life of ACTION, much less DANGER. Still, there’s something to be said for a ruler who doesn’t have self-esteem issues (unlike, say, Nixon).

Discussions - 19 Comments

I think, at leat intially, Fred used this detachment to distinguish himself from the other candidates; all of them are so desperate to occupy the office it's impossible for them to conceal their less than selfless ambition. On the other hand, Fred has always couched his hesitancy to run in terms of his reflection on the enormity of the sacrifice it would require of any citizen and his decision to run as the consequence of his civic obligation. From a Platonic perspective, his reluctance (however much real or contrived) was advertised as evidence of his trustworthiness. At any rate, Peter is right that Fred hasn't had much of an active public life which legitimately raises questions about how seriously he has really taken his obligations as a citizen; also, he hasn't exactly devoted the last so many years to quiet reflection on being.

Ivan Kenneally writes: Fred hasn't had much of an active public life which legitimately raises questions about how seriously he has really taken his obligations as a citizen;


So. If I Google "Ivan Kenneally" and discover that you haven't led much of an active public life, I will have legitimate grounds to question how seriously you take your obligations as a citizen?

Ah, but Ivan isn't seeking the presidency. But this much I'll grant you: not every act of citizenship is googleable.

Well, I doubt Ivan has reached the constitutional age yet. Otherwise, I'd urge him to jump into the race.

No, but I've got a good 5 years to build a war chest (and to win a recurring role on Law and Order which will surely be around still)

By then we might be ready for a president named Ivan.

In the interests of full disclosure, I should probably point out that I was president of my 6th grade class.

Did you tame your sixth grade class?

I aimed at something like beneficient despotism

Bracketing the chance circumstance of a philosopher king or a great-souled one, I find more trustworthy the honest and mostly noble "love of fame, the ruling passion of the noblest minds." Washington defended Hamilton to Adams once by saying, "that he is ambitious I readily grant, but it is of that laudable kind, which prompts a man to excel in whatever he takes in hand..."

Socrates never DID much of anything, because he couldn’t quite figure out what virtue is.

He was a soldier in the Peloponnesian War, and a distinguished one at that.

Fred hasn’t lived a life of ACTION, much less DANGER.

Apart from McCain and Hunter, the same is true for all the other candidates.

Well, Rob is right.

That works in the more or less aristocratic republic we had in the late 18th century, when, for example, campaigning was regarded as unseemly (for reasons similar to those discussed in the exchange between Socrates and Glaucon). Now ambition comes with an image crafted by PR consultants and dismantled by the opposition.

Fame is no mean substitute--it has the advantage of being borne out of a desire for transcendence and mimics an eros for immortality; the desire for fame is an interesting point of counter-evidence for those who report the absolute victory of self-encapsulating individualism. Those who crave fame want to be distinguished from their peers but acknowledged by them as well. Even Locke paid great deference to the human concern with reputation. However, fame today has been made somewhat small by its reduction to celebrity--it is too often bare notoriety stripped of its greatness.

Since everyone seems determined to dodge my point, here it is: From the fact that one has or lacks an "active public life" (whatever that means), you cannot read off conclusions about how seriously he takes his obligations as a citizen. To do so is to commit a non sequitur -- even if the person in question is running for president.


By the way, I'm not defending Fred Thompson. I'm just pointing out a bit of nonsense that, considering the source, is offensive nonsense.

How can democratic politics operate without political ambition? We need a way to defend political ambition and distinguish it from mere personal ambition (resume-building), the need for public adulation, or a thirst for domination. And: what can give political ambition a chance against such alternatives?

Thompson is hardly a philosopher-king, and I doubt if he's ever turned a page of Plato. But guess who is? RON PAUL. He has lived the farmer-statesman life (well, an OB/GYN-statesman life), delivering thousands of babies and serving ten terms in Congress. He is pro-life, legitimately conservative, and has been consistent and principled throughout his time in public office. No other candidate perceives the world with such metaphysical clarity. He has stated time and again that he is not running for president in order to run our lives--and I believe him! His campaign is truly one for public service and the common good. Stop pretending that you have to choose between the lesser of two evils. Giuliani is not your man, and you degrade yourselves by pretending he's your last great hope. There is a GOOD choice, and I don't understand why you all persist in ignoring him.

Well, it took 2,300 years, but someone finally got my point!

And yet, Peter, Fred's comparative "lack of action," the mere assertion of which makes Michelle the accomplishment-Googler furious, hasn't occured for the same reasons that Socrates' occured.

Well, sure, Cleit, Fred is a poser. Ivan was right about Fred near the beginning of the thread.

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