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jerryking : philosophers   7

What would Plato make of Boris Johnson?
June 22nd 2019 | the Economist | by Bagehot.

Classics (Literae Humaniores) is a wide-ranging degree devoted to the study of the literature, history, philosophy, languages and archaeology of the ancient Greek and Roman worlds. It is one of the most interdisciplinary of all degrees, and offers the opportunity to study these two foundational ancient civilisations and their reception in modern times. The degree also permits students to take extensive options in modern philosophy......

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++Mr Johnson’s failure to get a first continues to annoy him intensely—and to delight many of his rivals. But in truth it doesn’t matter a jot: the world is full of failures who got firsts, and successes who missed out. The really interesting question is not whether Mr Johnson’s results reveal some great intellectual weakness. It is what light the subject of his studies can throw on his qualifications to be prime minister. The classics corpus is full of meditations on the qualities that make for a good leader. And no classical author thought more profoundly about the subject than Plato, the philosopher who was put at the heart of Oxford’s classics syllabus by Balliol’s greatest master, Benjamin Jowett. What would Plato have made of the classicist who appears destined to be Balliol’s fourth prime minister since 1900?.....In “The Republic”, Plato argued that the most important qualities in a statesman were truthfulness and expertise. A good statesman will “never willingly tolerate an untruth”. (“Is it possible to combine in the same character a love of wisdom and a love of falsehood?” one of Plato’s characters asks. “Quite impossible,” comes the reply.) He will spend his life studying everything that he needs to make him a good captain of the ship of state—“the seasons of the year, the sky, the stars, the winds and other professional subjects”. .......By contrast, Plato argued, the surest signs of a bad leader are narcissism and self-indulgence. The poor statesman is an eloquent flatterer, who relies on his ability to entertain the masses with speeches and comic turns, but doesn’t bother to develop a coherent view of the world. Plato was particularly vitriolic about the scions of the upper classes who are offered the opportunity to study philosophy while young but don’t apply themselves, because they think they are so talented that they needn’t earn their place at the top table.......“The Republic” is haunted by the fear that democracies eventually degenerate into tyrannies. Democracy is the most alluring form of government: “the diversity of its characters, like the different colours in a patterned dress, make it look very attractive.” But it is inherently unstable. Citizens are so consumed by pleasure-seeking that they beggar the economy; so hostile to authority that they ignore the advice of experts; and so committed to liberty that they lose any common purpose......As democracies collapse under the pressure of their contradictions, panicked citizens look for salvation in a demagogue. These are men who love power, but cannot control their own desires for “holidays and dinners and parties and girlfriends and so on”. Plato calls them the “most wretched of men because of the disorder raging within them”. Citizens are so consumed by fear that they think these wretches have magical abilities to solve the country’s problems and restore proper order. Demagogues get their start by “taking over a particularly obedient mob”, before seizing control of the country. But the more power they acquire the worse things become, “for the doctor removes the poison and leaves the healthy elements in the body, while the tyrant does the opposite.”

The shadow on the wall
Democracies have proved more durable than Plato imagined. And his cure for the problems of democracy—the rule of philosopher-kings, who are expected to hold their wives and children in common—is eccentric to put it mildly. But he is right that character matters. Politicians can change their advisers or their policies, but character is sticky. He is also right that democracies can suddenly give way to populist authoritarianism...... The best way to prepare for a Johnson premiership is to re-read “The Republic”, hoping Plato is wrong but preparing for the fact that he may be right
Boris_Johnson  character_traits  contradictions  demagoguery  democracies  Greek  humanities  leaders  leadership  liberal_arts  opposing_actions  Oxford  pairs  philosophers  Plato  politicians  Romans  statesmen  truth-telling  United_Kingdom 
july 2019 by jerryking
Opinion | Robert E. Rubin: Philosophy Prepared Me for a Career in Finance and Government - The New York Times
By Robert E. Rubin

Mr. Rubin was secretary of the Treasury from 1995 to 1999.

April 30, 2018

Raphael Demos. Professor Demos, an authority on Greek philosophy, was Harvard’s Alford Professor of Natural Religion, Moral Philosophy and Civil Policy. But to me, when I took a class with him my sophomore year, he was a genial little man with white hair and an exceptional talent for engaging students from the lecture hall stage, using an overturned wastebasket as his lectern. Professor Demos would use Plato and other great philosophers to demonstrate that proving any proposition to be true in the final and ultimate sense was impossible. His approach to critical thinking planted a seed in me that grew during my years at Harvard and throughout my life. The approach appealed to what was probably my natural but latent tendency toward questioning and skepticism.

I concluded that you can’t prove anything in absolute terms, from which I extrapolated that all significant decisions are about probabilities. Internalizing the core tenet of Professor Demos’s teaching — weighing risk and analyzing odds and trade-offs — was central to everything I did professionally in the decades ahead in finance and government.......Demos crystallized for me the power of critical thinking: asking questions, recognizing that there are no provable certainties and analyzing the probabilities. And that, coupled with my coffeehouse lessons, was the best preparation one could have — not just for a career but also for life.
Robert_Rubin  Colleges_&_Universities  Harvard  philosophers  philosophy  Plato  Wall_Street  Goldman_Sachs  career_paths  advice  life_skills  probabilities  decision_making  critical_thinking  U.S.Treasury_Department  Greek  tradeoffs 
may 2018 by jerryking
Don't kid yourself that robots are colleagues
4 March 2017/5 March 2017 | Financial Times | by John Thornhill

Lunch with the FT: Daniel Dennett
Cambrian_explosion  philosophers  philosophy  artificial_intelligence  transparency  privacy  institutions 
march 2017 by jerryking
The Management Myth
June 2006 | ATLANTIC MAGAZINE |By Matthew Stewart

Most of management theory is inane, writes our correspondent, the founder of a consulting firm. If you want to succeed in business, don’t get an M.B.A. Study philosophy instead
skepticism  management  curriculum  business_schools  MBAs  philosophy  philosophers  myths 
june 2012 by jerryking
Assumption hunters, a new consulting business?
March 5, 2008 | CultureBy | Grant McCracken.

What is the most vexing problem in management today?

Next to setting our objectives, running a tight ship and meeting our numbers, I would argue that it’s watching out for the blind side hit.

By blind side hit, I mean the kind of thing that Google did to Microsoft, that Barak did to Hillary, that hip hop did to Levi-Strauss, that Snapple did to Coca-Cola.

Watching for blind side hits is difficult because it means knowing our assumptions. And this is hard because assumptions are not for knowing, they are for making.
........The trouble with assumptions is that they are by definition invisible from view. (That’s why we call them "unknown unknowns.") We hold ideas about the world without full awareness of what these ideas are or how they make us vulnerable. .......So what to do. How about, for starters, this three step "assumption hunting" process?

1) ferret out the assumptions. Hire someone to go through the operation of daily business and capture every assumption. Philosophers are quite good at this. Anthropologists are very good at it. This is after all the way they study culture, which is, by and large, a set of assumptions that helps us think and act fluidly precisely because we don’t know we are making them.

2) identify the parts of the world that could present challenges. Figure out just what the challenge is and when and how it will "come ashore."

3) Keep watch with a big board. In effect, what we are doing is "sunsetting" our assumptions with a view to discovery when they reach they end of their useful lives.
assumptions  management_consulting  information_gaps  the_big_picture  uncertainty  unknowns  anthropology  blindsided  blind_spots  challenges  anthropologists  philosophers 
december 2010 by jerryking
George Lucas Wants More “Greek Philosophers and Cobblers” — World Business Forum — Presented by Shell
George Lucas divides the forms of learning into two parts that
are equally important in shaping how people think and act. The first
part is “the philosophical-intellectual side,” in the
Aristotle/Plato/Socratic mold. The second part is apprenticeship
mold....“Once we got into the Industrial Revolution, those two forms of
learning got swept aside and education became an exercise in pumping as
much information as possible into kids,”... like an assembly line, and
at the end of the assembly line, the students spit back the information
and get a diploma. That doesn’t work.” Through the George Lucas
Educational Foundation, he’s applying his storytelling and technical
prowess to engage students and turn out sharper thinkers who can thrive
in an age of information overload.
storytelling  George_Lucas  Greek  apprenticeships  students  Industrial_Revolution  Socratic  critical_thinking  foundations  philanthropy  philosophers  Plato 
may 2010 by jerryking

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