Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Quote of the Week

In his “Republic,” Plato put forward the ideal of a state ruled by intellectuals who combined comprehensive theoretical knowledge with the practical capacity for applying it to concrete problems.  In reality, no one has theoretical expertise in more than a few specialized subjects, and there is no strong correlation between having such knowledge and being able to use it to resolve complex social and political problems.  Even more important, our theoretical knowledge is often highly limited, so that even the best available expert advice may be of little practical value.  An experienced and informed non-expert may well have a better sense of these limits than experts strongly invested in their disciplines.  This analysis supports the traditional American distrust of intellectuals: they are not in general highly suited for political office.
But it does not support the anti-intellectualism that tolerates or even applauds candidates who disdain or are incapable of serious engagement with intellectuals.   Good politicians need not be intellectuals, but they should have intellectual lives.
Gary Gutting, from a superb blog post at The Stone.

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