The Wisdom of the Statesman Part 2

Last week you were introduced to the participants quest to discover the Statesman and after dividing the knowledge of say an artisan who uses his acquired knowledge on the physical plane to build houses etc, discovered that the knowledge needed by a Statesman was different because in order to hold power, he is able to do little by means of his hands or body as a whole in comparison with the intelligence and force of his soul. Put another way the king has more affinity with purely cognitive knowledge, rather than with knowledge that involves manual skill, Again the word soul here means the inner organ of mind.

It’s also worth considering that this search for a Statesman can also be applied to one’s inner search for a ruler, or a connection within to something infallible that isn’t buffered by the whims of opinion or conjecture. As mentioned in our previous study of the Sophist, it is often difficult to discern what is true or untrue and without access to something unchanging, we experience difficulty making sense of the world around us. This is just an aside and I might be proved wrong, but it is worth bearing in mind.

The discussion now continues as the Stranger now further divides cognitive knowledge. Now, once calculation has cognised the difference between the numbers, surely we would not assign it any other function over and above judging what it has cognized? They agreed this to be so as the architect supervises workers but doesn’t busy himself with manual labour and therefore all such branches of knowledge are purely cognitive. Note how precise the divisions are and they clearly don’t support the idea of one person playing many roles, an issue that was a central theme in the Republic.

Cognitive knowledge is now further divided. Yet these two categories differ from one another when it comes to judging and directing.

Str: Now, if we were to divide purely cognitive knowledge referring to one part as directive and the other as judgmental, would we say it had been divided appropriately?

Y Soc: Yes, in my view, anyway.

Str: Now those who are engaged in a common task should be content if they themselves are like-minded.

Y Soc: They should.

Str: Then as long as we are sharing a task, we should bid farewell to the viewpoints of anyone else.

Y Soc: Of course.

Str: Come on then, among which of these two skills should we include the kingly person? Is it among the judgmental, just like a spectator, or does he belong more to the directive skill, insofar as he is exercising mastery? Shall we place him there?

If only as much care was exercised when we assign tasks in government and in the workplace. This might reduce situations where a senior tradesman is promoted to the role of supervisor and discovers that he is a great tradesman and a lousy leader because he keeps on interfering in the duties of those he is supervising and neglects the role of leader. The same thing happens in government where little care is spent equipping people to lead or to make use of a directive skill.

Str: Then we should see once more whether the directive skill divides in any way. Indeed, it seems to me that it does so as follows: just as the skill of retailers is distinguished from the skill of those who sell their own produce, so too is the kingly class, seemingly, set apart from the class of public messengers.

Y Soc: How so?

Str: The retailers first receive products that are not their own, and then sell, once more, what had previously been sold to them.

Y Soc: They certainly do.

Str: So too the messenger folk take other people’s ideas, as directions, and then direct others, once more, with the directions imparted to them.

Y Soc: Very true.

Str: What now? Shall we confound kingship with interpretation, instructing rowers, prophecy, imparting messages and numerous other skills related to these, as if they were the same, because they all involve giving directions? Or since we devised a likeness just now, would you like to devise a name, in an analogous manner, since the class of those who are “own-directing” is effectively devoid of a name? We could then distinguish these activities in this way, placing the class of the kings with the “own-directing” skill, paying no regard to all the rest, and allowing someone else to assign them a name, since our method is concerned with the ruler and not for his opposite.

I don’t know about you, but I find this brilliantly simple, and it again highlights a major flaw with a democracy for example. Because democracy is the rule of the people by the people, it leaves no room for that kingly direction spoken about above. Even when a President is elected, he just plays the role of a messenger, relaying and interpreting what he or she believe to be the guiding principles of the ruling party. Anyone seen to be “own-directing” is seen as a maverick and wouldn’t garner public support. It also exposes the current trend where he who shouts the loudest is the wisest and no one is prepared to be subjected to reasoned debate and sadly, there are very people capable of asking probing and leading questions always adopting the principle that truth is the objective and being content being refuted. Fortunately, those of us who have an interest in the Socratic debate have access to a wonderful example.

Str: In the case of all those we may recognise as ruling by issuing direction, we shall find, won’t we, that they are issuing commands for the sake of the generation of something?

Y Soc: Of course.

Str: And indeed, it is not enormously difficult to divide all that is generated into two by aligning one part of it with the generation that relates to the soulless, and the other with the generation that relates to the ensouled; and in this way the entire can, at that stage, be separated into two.

Y Soc: Absolutely.

Str: Then, let us leave one of these parts aside, and take up the other one; but having taken it up, we should make a twofold division of all of it.

Y Soc: Which of the two parts are you saying should be taken up?

Str: Presumably the one that issues directions relating to living creatures. Since the kingly knowledge is, of course, never the supervisor of the soulless, like architectural knowledge; no, it is nobler and always has its power over living creatures and is concerned just with these.

Y Soc: Correct.

Str: However, in the case of living creatures, their coming into being and their nurture may be seen in some cases to be nurture of one animal, while in other cases it is the care, in common, of beasts in herds.

Y Soc: Correct.

Str: But we shall not find the statesman engaging in individual nurture like an ox driver or a groom, rather he bears more resemblance to a horse rancher or a cattle farmer.

Y Soc: So it appears, anyway, when you put it like that.

Str: 261E Now in the case of the nurture of living creatures, should we call common nurture of many of them together either a herd nurture or a nurture in common?

Y Soc: Whichever occurs to us in the course of the argument.

Str: Well said, Socrates! And if you preserve this lack of seriousness towards names, you will prove to be wealthier in wisdom as you approach old age: and we should do exactly as you have directed us. But with regard to herd-nurture, can you think of some way that we could show that it is twofold,  so that what we are now searching for among the pair may be sought thereafter in one of the halves?

Y Soc: I am eager to do so, and it seems to me that there is a particular sort of nurture concerned with human beings, and a different one concerned with beasts.

Str: You made that distinction with enormous eagerness and the utmost courage: however, as best we can, let’s not allow this at least to happen to us again.

It is clear that the Stranger is not satisfied with the willy-nilly separation of species and he sets out to explain to the young Socrates the error he had just made and it’s worth paying attention to what he says because it’s a mistake we often make today especially here in South Africa where our nation was divided up on purely racial lines so the Stranger offers the following explanation.

It is as if someone attempting to divide the human race in two were to make the division, just as most people in our part of the world make the distribution, separating the Greek race, as one, separate from them the rest, while referring to all the other races together by one name, barbarian, even though they are unlimited in number, do not mix, and do not share a common language. And on account of this one name, they also presume it to be one race.

Or it’s as if someone were to believe he was dividing number on the basis of two forms, by cutting off the number ten thousand from all the others, separating it off as one form, and assigning one name to all the remainder, and then, because of the name, went on to presume that this class, a different one from the other one, had come into being. But presumably he would make better divisions, more on the basis of forms and into two, if he were to cut number into odd and even; and the human race, in turn, into male and female. He would only split off Lydians or Phrygians or any others from everything else, in situations where he was at a loss to discover a part that is, at the same time, also a class, for each of the two parts that had been split off.

This isn’t easy to understand, and we might not appreciate the reason for this apparent pedantic attitude of the Stranger so we will leave the study for now and take some time to re-read what has been said and to reflect or ponder upon what has been said and see where that leads us. Bear in mind that we are being educated, or as Socrates previously said, he is acting as a midwife in assisting to give birth to a more reasoned approach to life, where instead of accepting everything, we give it due consideration and ask questions where something might not be clear. In this way and with the benefit of grace, our beings will be led to a contemplation of the Truth itself as opposed to being duped by opinion and fancy.