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Plato's Statesman: Web Of Politics [Paperback]

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Item Specifications...

Pages   207
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.8" Width: 5.9" Height: 0.6"
Weight:   0.65 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jan 1, 2010
Publisher   St. Augustines Press
ISBN  1587316277  
EAN  9781587316272  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
In this book an eminent philosopher presents a rich and provocative analysis of the Statesman, one of Plato's most challenging works. Stanley Rosen contends that the main theme of this dialogue is defining the art of politics and the degree to which political experience is subject to the rule of sound judgment (phronesis) and to technical construction (techne). "Rosen tries by explaining the dialogue's philosophical methodology to appeal to readers other than those who specialize in Plato. He succeeds by means of his lucid prose and ordered presentation of the dialogue's twists and turns. A necessary book for all levels of thoughtful readers". -- Choice "The Statesman may well be Plato's most difficult work. Rosen's interpretation is penetrating and original, with a rich and humorous description of the recalcitrant details of the dialogue". -- Davis K. O'Connor, University of Notre Dame

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More About Stanley Rosen

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Stanley Rosen is Borden Parker Bowne Professor of Philosophy and University Professor at Boston University. His previous books include "The Elusiveness of the Ordinary "and "Hermeneutics as Politics, "both published by Yale University Press.

Stanley Rosen currently resides in Boston, in the state of Massachusetts. Stanley Rosen was born in 1929.

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1Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > General   [15715  similar products]
2Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > Political   [1303  similar products]

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Theoria, Phronesis, Techne, Nomos and Circumstance  Aug 29, 2006
This is an extremely profound meditation on the failure of Theory and Practice to ever sync up; the Eleatic Stranger turns from celestial Theory (i.e., Philosophical Speculation, Science as Wisdom) to earthly practice; from the Ideas to techne (merely technical 'theory', i.e., a craft). Man is no longer the erotic lover of the Ideas, but rather the fabricated animal, or, the animal in need of fabrication to be complete--to be civilized. Humans, of course have a nature, as Rosen points out, "to be partially constructed is already to possess a nature." But we are not natural like deers or wolves. The rules of civilization are imposed. But there are no (certain) rules regarding the creation of civilization. Thus there is no foolproof technique, no adequate Theory, to construct a civilization given an unknown future. In other words, the people and their politicians, and perhaps even our philosophers, are faking it. In a world in which the rulers are guessing as much as the ruled, the question becomes who, in each instance, guesses best. So, who can be trusted with the fabrication of civilization?

Well, since each case will need to be judged on its own unique merits, each action, though grounded in tradition and/or Theory, will be based, at best, on an informed guess. There is no science of politics because there is no science of the future. "Because phronesis [right judgment] rules without laws but by making a judgement that is unique in each case, or at least determined in each case by the particular circumstances that cannot be known in advance, it is impossible for the Stranger or anyone else to give a logos, in other words, a detailed description or account, of phronesis or its decisions." Or, in plain English, political knowledge (as Science) is impossible, which is why the Stranger doesn't bother entertaining questions to which answers don't exist. But not anyone can rule. Plato, and his philosophical epigoni, will tell `Noble Lies', what we can perhaps refer to as myth and ideology, in order to care for the human herd.

Why? Because without someone defending the human herd from the elements (seasons and storms), beasts (wolves), and, as we all know, other human herds (barbarians), humanity itself may well cease to be civilized. But since there is no Science of the future why turn to philosophers ('True Kings')? Because the people, even the peoples' leaders, know less, and are worse, than philosophers. Just as ship captains or doctors know more about the sciences of navigation and health, so too philosophers know more about humanity than the average citizen, or, for that matter, the average king. So, perhaps philosophers know more than the people, but are they better? The Eleatic Stranger tells the story of an assembly that decides it "will no longer submit to this abusive conduct [of captains and doctors] but will ourselves legislate about medicine and navigation, whether or not we know anything about these matters." Of course, as Rosen points out, the story is a parody of democracy, but all parodies point to something real.

The reason that the people (i.e., non-philosophers) can't rule is not merely their lack of technical expertise--remember, the Stranger is not denying the utility of technical skill, only its all-encompassing efficacy--but their unruly souls. Even if the people were technically competent they would still be unfit for rule because of their lack of self-control, their slavery to passion. This is why philosophers are better. Rosen will note, "it is extremely odd that, precisely while showing the unruliness of the multitude, the Stranger talks as if it were due to a lack of technical knowledge. This is a thesis of the scientific Enlightenment." Rosen is right to draw our attention to the modernity of the Stranger, at times he speaks as if he had read Condorcet or Adam Smith, so strong is his certainty that the human situation is manipulable! Rosen's point, however, is that once you know that the people have unruly souls it becomes irrelevant how much skill the people have, or can learn. Knowledge doesn't make bad people better; it makes them dangerous. Thus the people's leaders, with their 'knowledge', may be the most dangerous of all.

Let us recapitulate, phronesis is unattainable, or, what in the long run amounts to the same thing, unpredictably attainable. We never know when we will be graced with a philosopher. Technos is within reach of a few, but, since it is not wisdom, it is merely an ersatz phronesis. Those that aren't truly wise rely on (a merely technical) theory. But even technos will never be within reach of the many. Now, that is why we have Nomos, or law, which is a cheapened form of a debased wisdom (technos). Rosen tells us that, "[the Stranger] begins by assuming that the laws should be changed whenever circumstances make it reasonable to do so." Since everything changes, laws that once were useful, and therefore good, become enormities. The greatest enormity being that once the people have been taught, perhaps we should say trained, in a certain way of life, it becomes almost impossible to change them, to turn them in another direction. Again, phronesis is the best, but since philosophers aren't always around when you need them, we resort to technos, but since merely technical theories and their rules are subject to continual revision, with said revisions not always either teachable or an improvement, nomos (law) becomes our last resort, but, as Rosen observes, "conservatism is at best only a tactic," a miserable war of attrition until a philosopher or a merely technical ideology (or myth) appears with the knowledge or force necessary to cause change. It is interesting to note that Rosen here seems to understand philosophical conservativism as permanent revolution.

So, philosophers tell noble lies, myths and/or ideologies in order to make civilization possible, which, perhaps, is nothing more than putting off the day of ruin. As Rosen says, "A myth is a story, it is a fiction, something that is not true. And yet this untruth, which we hesitate to call a falsehood, is able to communicate deep truths." One is forced to wonder if myths do communicate deep truths, or simply cause deep truths to be embodied, or lived, by the people. The Stranger, when choosing metaphors, will compare the craft of the statesman to weavers, doctors and gymnasts, crafts that operate on the body and its behavior. As Rosen says, "Politics is oriented toward the body; but philosophy, or the genuine art of statesmanship, is oriented toward the soul." One is tempted to ask if philosophy cares for the citizens' bodies because they have no souls? This would go a long way in explaining why modern philosophy, with a clear conscience, turns humans into mere artifacts. Humans are things anyway. Or, as Nietzsche said, "We are entering the phase of the modesty of consciousness." It amazes us that to this day one can meet people who read those words as libratory! The coming practitioners of human husbandry will know how to evaluate those words far better than we do...

But this is the difference according to Rosen, between ancient philosophy and modern philosophy (i.e., ideology). Ancient phronesis defended the human body against nature, beasts and men in order to create a space in which philosophical care for the soul was possible, or at least available. Ancient philosophical interventions were defensive. Modern philosophy (i.e., ideology) has gone on the attack and wishes to change the nature of both man and world. Thus we can say that the 'right' of ancient philosophers to rule rests on their self-control. Phronesis rests on moderation, not the 'philosophical mania' of Theory. While modern philosophy cum ideology rests on the 'philosophical' mania of a merely technical theory.

...But what, exactly, is the difference between an 'offensive' and 'defensive' philosophical construction, if as the Eleatic Stranger seems to maintain, there is no erotic vision of the Ideas vis-à-vis phronesis? If Theory is irrelevant to human action, as the Stranger also seems to maintain, then the difference between offensive and defensive philosophical constructions is entirely circumstantial...

Perhaps there are some problems that do not have answers. The richness of Rosen's analysis can only be hinted at in a review like this. There is utterly no edification at all in this book.
a masterful guide through a suprisingly nuanced dialogue  Aug 17, 2006
Rosen is among the best Plato commentators available. His text on the Statesman carries the same strengths and weaknesses of his other book-length discussions of Platonic dialogues: his close attention to many seemingly minor details often makes the flow of an argument within a single chapter difficult to follow, but this same attention to detail places him well beyond commentators who build an interpretation based only on details convenient to their predisposed take on the Platonic corpus.
Further, even at points where the reader may have difficulty following how certain points have relevance to Rosen's over-all interpretation of the dialogue, there are suprisingly insightful comments that connect the dialogue in question to other important works and authors.

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