Professor Andrew Hill
Ethics as an Intro to Philosophy
3 November 2014
Philosophers are the Most Fit to Rule
My thesis is that Socrates is correct when he says philosophers are the most fit to rule. By “most fit to rule”, Socrates means that philosophers will produce the most good within the city. Philosophers are different than all other people and potential rulers. The ways in which they are unique is what allows them to produce the most good and justice.
Socrates’ best argument for my thesis is that philosophers have knowledge of the idea of good itself, rather than beliefs about particular good things. Therefore, they have a clearer vision of goodness than the lovers of belief. Since philosophers have the clearer vision of goodness, they will be better at making the city good. Since they will be better at making the city good, they will be the most fit to rule. Socrates begins his argument by emphasizing the idea that knowledge is different and better than belief. He defines knowledge as “what is.” Knowledge perceives forms, which he declares are eternal. However, belief is only “what kind of is” or “what sort of exists,” and perceives visible things, which will change overtime. Everyone agrees about knowledge, but disagrees about beliefs. Knowledge is independent and belief is dependent upon the form. Without the form of a good, there would be no good. Knowledge provides a clearer vision of goodness than belief for these reasons. It is stable and unchanging. It is what allows people to know what things are really good. Philosophers love knowledge and have acquired it. Lovers of belief might think something is good for the city, but because they are only looking at “what kind of is” instead of “what is,” then what they think may not be what is truly good. Socrates contends, “Haven’t you notices that beliefs without knowledge are all shameful and ugly things, since the best of them are blind? Do you think that those who have a true belief without understanding are any different from blind people who happen to travel the right road” (Plato 201)? Socrates emphasizes that belief without knowledge is shameful. A lack of knowledge and a dependency upon belief is the same as being blind. Belief involves simply guessing what is good and maybe being lucky enough to have guessed right. Since philosophers have knowledge, they will always be right in determining what is good for the city. Lovers of belief will always be guessing and will not always enforce what is good for the city. Philosophers will have the clearest vision of what is good for the city. Therefore, philosophers will be most fit to rule.
The best argument against my thesis is that philosophers are useless.
Adeimantus argues, “Those who merely dabble in [philosophy] while still young in order to complete their upbringing, and then drop it, but those who continue in it for a long time-the majority become cranks, not to say completely bad, while the ones who seem best are rendered useless to the city because of the pursuit you recommend” (Plato 180).
Adeimatus contends that in reality, most of the philosophers they know are not knowledgeable, truthful, temperate, and brave as Socrates says. In fact they do not contribute to the city at all. Adeimantus determines that most philosophers are useless. He sees that most of those who have taken up philosophy have not contributed anything to the city, therefore, are useless to the city. He states that this is the reality, therefore, philosophers are not the most fit to rule.
However, the argument in the previous paragraph does not work because they only appear to be useless because people do not make use of them. Socrates uses a story to demonstrate why philosophers are not useless. He says that many sailors on a boat believed that their ship owner is “hard of hearing, he is a bit shortsighted, and his knowledge of seafaring is correspondingly deficient” (Plato 181). The sailors argue about captaincy, each