I stumbled upon a YouTube video, which is also a book “Political Philosophy” by Steven B. Smith. It’s posted by YaleCourse and it is part of the Yale Open Course series. I instantly thought that the view in this course would be too conservative for my taste since I heard of Yale’s reputation. However I listened to the first video (it has 24 videos altogether, each 40 to 45 minutes long) and it is very interesting. I even found some quotes I like. Actually I liked more quotes, but too lazy to go back to pick those out of the video transcript.
I know this book, like many other books of the same category, will be spending too much time and energy on ancient people, and pay too little attention to the modern world. I am only in the beginning, but I can predict that it probably will not talk much about the French Revolution, the Spanish Civil War, Colonization, and the geopolitics after WWII. Still, it sounds very intriguing and I think I can finish this book (series) in two months by listening to it for 15 minutes a day.
“The unexamined life is not worth living”Socrates
The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed, the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back
–John Maynard Keynes
But of course the best regime lacks actuality. We all know that. It has never existed. This makes it difficult, you could say and this is Aristotle’s point, I think, this makes it difficult for the philosopher to be a good citizen of any actual regime. Philosophy will never feel fully or truly at home in any particular society. The philosopher can never be truly loyal to anyone or anything but what is best. Think of that: it raises a question about issues of love, loyalty, and friendship. This tension, of course, between the best regime and any actual regime is the space that makes political philosophy possible. In the best regime, if we were to inhabit such, political philosophy would be unnecessary or redundant. It would wither away. Political philosophy exists and only exists in that… call it “zone of indeterminacy” between the “is” and the “ought,” between the actual and the ideal.
The ancients had a beautiful word, or at least the Greeks had a beautiful word, for this quest, for this desire for knowledge of the best regime. They called it eros, or love, right? The quest for knowledge of the best regime must necessarily be accompanied, sustained, and elevated by eros.