The Wisdom of the Statesman Part 3

By Peter Worman

We continue the Strangers and the young Socrates quest to discover the ideal qualities of a Statesman and as in the Sophist, the method used is to divide different categories to establish this ideal. We might question the reason for this exhaustive process of question and answer, and I found the explanation in a delightful little book called “The Art of the Good Life”.

The author asks the reader to pose a question to themselves as to how does a battery work or how does a zip work or how does a toilet work. We might be hard pressed to answer these simple questions. Only then would we be forced to appreciate the gaps in our knowledge.

If we struggle with these simple questions, then how would we fare with weighty questions like is immigration good for society in the long term or does private gun ownership make societies safer or ultimately what is justice? We are thus incredibly fortunate to have the example of someone like Socrates to demonstrate a process that leaves no stone unturned in the quest to uncover the truth.

I found the dialogues surrounding the divisions difficult to follow on my own, without the benefit of the group, so in this instance I have taken the liberty to extract the main points of the divisions to establish where the Statesman would rule, who would he rule and why.

Firstly, to go back to last week, knowledge was either physical or cognitive. Cognitive knowledge Is either directive or judgemental.

Calculation is purely cognitive in that it recognises the difference in number. An architect provides purely cognitive knowledge and does not partake in manual labour. However,he also has to provide directive leadership to ensure the builders carry out the work according to his calculations.

Directive knowledge can now be divided into own-directing or the supervising of others based on someone else’s direction. He gave the example of a farmer selling his own goods compared to a retailer who sells other peoples goods.

Directive knowledge is now divided into the direction of the soulless or the direction of the ensouled. The soulless would be the direction as per the example of the architect given above in that he is creating an inanimate building.

Directive knowledge of the ensouled involves the nurture of creatures either singularly or in herds.

The Statesman clearly directs herds.

Now the separation of herds. This is a crucial division because it cannot be done hastily as was described last week where you could divide humans as Helene’s or Barbarians which was demonstrated as being short sighted.

Now the division of the herd into either domesticated or wild.

The nurture of tame herds would be divided into land or water based.

Land based herds would be divided into winged or those who go by foot.

It was conceded that the Statesman would direct those that go by foot.

Those that go by foot are divided into the horned or the horn-less.

Land based creatures are further divided into split hoofed or single hoofed and mixed breed or single breed.

All this debate was to identify exactly who the Statesman would preside over, and they concluded that he would rule over the land-based creatures that moved by foot, who were un-mixed with any other breed.

This is a confounding yet revealing dialogue. As humans, we might believe that we are the masters of our destiny yet there are countless functions within our body that we have little influence over, like the digestion of food and how the body converts this into energy and blood types. Extrapolate this to the universe and this becomes more apparent. The enquiring mind would be led to a conclusion that the universe is well ordered and under the direction of a hidden hand so to speak.

The question remains as to what role the Statesman will play and how and I trust that this will be revealed as we continue with this dialogue. What has been established is that the Statesman’s primary role is the nurture of land-based creatures that moved by foot, who were un-mixed with any other breed whatever this may mean.

I have however copied the actual dialogue for those inclined to read the full text.

Str: Well, we should now do what is reasonable and resume the argument once more, and come back to these other issues at our leisure just as trackers do. However, you must be completely on your guard against ever presuming that you have heard me make this distinction plainly.

Y Soc: What distinction?

Str: That form and part are different from one another.

Y Soc: What should I presume instead?

Str: That whenever there is a form of something, then this is also, of necessity, a part of the subject of which it is said to be a form, but there is no necessity whatsoever that a part be a form. You should always say that I formulate it like this rather than the other way.

This seems like a tricky proposition but consider the form of a human. What is being said is that the human form is a part of the subject of which is said to be a form. So the subject human doesn’t need a form in order to exist. It would be useful if you reflected on this for a moment and you might come to understand that there is something subtler that motivates the form but needs to form to exist.

Y Soc: That’s what I’ll do.

Str: Well, tell me what comes next.

Y Soc: What is it?

Str: The point of departure of the digression that has led us here. Indeed, I have in mind, in particular, the point where you were asked how “herd-nurture” should be divided and you replied very eagerly that there are two classes of living creatures, one human and another one consisting of all the rest of the beasts put together.

Y Soc: True.

Str: Well you seemed to me, anyway, to believe that having taken away a part; you had left behind a remainder which, in turn, was one class governing all of them, because you were able to assign the same name to them all and call them beasts.

Y Soc: That is indeed what happened.

Str: And yet, my utterly courageous friend, if there were some other animal that is intelligent as the crane, for instance, or some other such creature seems to be, perhaps they would also assign names on the very same basis as you did, with cranes as a single class set against all other animals, making itself important, and having gathered all the others, along with human beings, into a single class, they would refer to them as nothing in particular except, perhaps, beasts. So we should endeavour to be careful of all processes of this sort.

Y Soc: In what way?

Str: By not dividing the entire class of living beings, so that this may happen to us less.

Y Soc: Indeed, it shouldn’t happen at all.

Str: And, in fact, this is also the way in which we went wrong then.

Y Soc: How exactly?

Str: Belonging to purely cognitive knowledge that was directive, there was, I believe, a part of the animal rearing class, of animals in herds that is; is this so?

Y Soc: Yes.

Str: Well, at that stage all living creatures together had already been divided into domesticated and wild, for those whose nature is amenable to domestication are referred to as tame, while those that resist it are called wild.

Y Soc: Good.

Str: And yet, the knowledge we are seeking was, and still is, applicable to the tame ones, and it should indeed be sought among herded beasts.

Y Soc: Yes.

Str: However, let us not make the division just as we did before, when we looked to all of them, nor should we hurry so that we may get quickly to statesmanship. Yes, that is what  put us in the predicament described by the proverb.

Y Soc: What predicament?

Str: By not being quiet and not making sound divisions, we have reached our destination more slowly.

Y Soc: And our predicament is a good one, stranger.

Str: Be that as it may. Well let’s try to divide common-nurture once more from the beginning. For perhaps the detailed conduct of the argument itself will better reveal, to you, the very thing you are intent upon. Now tell me something. Y Soc: What is it?

Str: I want to know if you have often heard people referring to the fish cultivations on the Nile and in the Royal Ponds. Now I know you won’t have come across them yourself, although you may, perhaps, be aware of them in fountain pools.

Y Soc: Yes, indeed, these I have seen, and the others I have heard about from many people.

Str: And even if you have not traversed the plains of Thessaly, you have surely learned of their goose farms and crane farms, and believe that these exist.

Y Soc: Of course.

Str: The reason I am asking you all these questions is this: it’s because the nurture of herds is either water based or land based.

Y Soc: It is, indeed.

Str: So do you also agree that it is necessary to split the knowledge of common-nurture in this way, allocating each of the two parts of it to either of these divisions, and referring to one as water-based nurture and the other as land-based nurture?

Y Soc: I think so.

Str: And of course we shall not inquire which of the two skills belongs to kingship, for that is obvious to everyone.

Y Soc: Of course?

Str: Now everyone would divide the land based nurture class of herd nurture.

Y Soc: In what way?

Str: By distinguishing the winged and those that go by foot.

Y Soc: Very true.

Str: What about this? Should the statesman not be sought among the sort that goes by foot? Or don’t you believe that even an utterly mindless person, so to speak, would accept this?

Y Soc: I do.

Str: And we should demonstrate the skill in managing those that go by foot being cut in two, as we did a moment ago with number.

Y Soc: Obviously.

Str: And indeed, it appears that there are two clear approaches towards the part upon which our argument is intent; one is quicker as it separates a small part from the large, while the other is longer but adheres more to the principle we stated previously, whereby we should, for the most part, cut in the middle. So we can proceed by whichever path we wish.

Y Soc: Why? Is it impossible to take both?

Str: At the same time! How extraordinary! But it is possible of course to take each in turn.

Y Soc: In that case I choose both in turn.

Str: That is easier, since there is little left for us to do. Yes, at the beginning or indeed, if we were midway through the process, this would be a difficult task for us. But now, since you want to do this, let’s go the longer way first as we shall pursue this more easily when we are fresher. Now take note of the division.

Y Soc: Tell me.

Str: Our tame creatures that go by foot and live in herds are, by nature, divided in two.

Y Soc: On what basis?

Str: On the basis that some are hornless, while the others are horn bearing.

Y Soc: Apparently.

Str: Now divide the skill of managing creatures that go on foot, and assign it to each of these parts. But have recourse to a description; for if you ever decide to name them, the issue will get more complicated than necessary.

Y Soc: So how should it be described?

Str: As follows: once the knowledge of managing those that go on foot has been divided in two, one part is assigned to the horn bearing part of the herd and the other to the hornless part.

Y Soc: Let them be described like this, since for the point has been made abundantly clear.

Str: And what’s more, it is quite apparent to us that the king is shepherd to some stunted herd of hornless creatures.

Y Soc: Yes, how could it not be obvious?

Str: Then we should break this up and try to grant him the part that belongs to him.

Y Soc: Entirely so.

Str: Now, do you wish to divide it into split-hoofed and the so-called single hoofed, or into mixed bred and pure bred? You understand, I presume?

Y Soc: Understand what?

Str: That horses and donkeys, by nature, breed from one another.

Y Soc: Yes.

Str: And yet, the rest of the smooth3 herd of tame creatures do not interbreed with one another.

Y Soc: Of course not.

Str: Well then, does the statesman appear to have the care of a mixed bred nature or of something pure bred?

Y Soc: He obviously has care of the unmixed nature.

Str: Then it seems we should break this in two, just as we did in the previous cases.

Y Soc: Yes, we should do that.