Unlike Plato, who dreamed of an authoritarian system of government ruled over by elite “guardians”, Aristotle said that there are 3 forms of government: rule by the one, rule by the few and rule by the many. But unlike today where we say one is better than the other, Aristotle said that there is a good and bad form of each. Indeed he said that the best form of government would combine all three types, which you could say representative democracy seeks to do to some extent. But the point relevant to this debate is that the ‘bad’ form of rule by the many according to Aristotle was called democracy, which he called bad because it creates a tyranny of the majority whereby the majority rules at the expense of the minority. The good form was called a polity, which would seek to include and account for all people, not just the majority.
But is such a notion – that of a polity – realistic? Or is it merely naive to think such a state of affairs truly possible?
In Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations Pip, a boy of humble origins, steadily grows into a man of great ambition. But is he the happier man? Or is it the unsophisticated and uneducated Joe who’s happiest? -the partner of his sister, who raised him. It’s often said that Dickens dedicated his works to railing against social injustices and inequalities.
But he was also playing with philosophical concepts, and obviously societal ones. We instinctively want the ambitious, lowly born person to do well. But should we not also question the ambition, as does Dickens? We teach people that having great expectations is a good thing. Sometimes we even go so far as to praise avariciousness, though we rarely call it by that name. But should we? Are great expectations always good? Or would it be a better thing to teach our young to be content with what they already have?
Is it a reflection on modern day society that shows designed to make people think are so popular? I like to think so. I know for a fact that we respect intelligence. You could even say we have an obsession with it. But what about the moral?
My political involvement has largely been propelled by the desire to see more compassion. But in a world of slogans and catchphrases the word compassion is rarely used. Why?
Ancient Greek philosophers were obsessed and fascinated both with human morality. How is it, they questioned, that we can have instinctive moral reactions to something, even before learning any theories of justice? Especially when humans are almost alone in the animal world in our ability to do this. Ethics formed the basis of aristotle’s work, and aristotelianism formed the basis of western liberal socio-political culture.
So where has our fascination with morality gone? Has it disappeared?
So I’m Sat here on my iPhone, wondering if this will be how I blog from now on. We tend to think all technological advances are inevitable. And indeed change is a fact of life inherent to all things. But so is our search for constants – parents, religion, tradition etc. So my question to you is this: do we need some constants to form a part of our lives and thus our identities? Or can we be happy with change in its entirety?