The World Explored, the World Suffered Education Issue Nr. 22 September 2019 - Page 17

"Things of this world are in so constant a flux that nothing remains long in the same state."--(John Locke). This was written 300 years ago and could be an accurate description of our current states of political affairs. Philosophically, this suggests that Political theory ought to be at the very least a theory of social and political change which of course will require some kind of relation to historical knowledge. Historical knowledge manifests our more significant social and political memories. Such memories and the narratives embodying them are a key not just to the identity of individuals but also to the identity of peoples. The Problem of personal identity presupposes continuity of our memory which is one of the criteria of personal identity along with secondly, the criteria of the continuity of our physical body, and Aristotle would add two further criteria, namely, the continuity of our social institutions(such as language) and the continuity of our political institutions and processes. Aristotle claimed in this context that a good man needs a good state to be good and this echoes a Platonic assumption that the personality of the good man requires living in a society with just institutions. In the Republic Socrates attempts to define justice by reference to the harmonious relations of the parts of the soul of a good man. His interlocutors think this psychological or anthropological approach is inadequate and Socrates is forced to appeal to a Platonic Kallipolis or fully functioning just state in order for his argument to have any chance of achieving what it set out to do. The Socrates of Plato's Republic is well aware, however, of the fragility of even a perfect state and the risk of its degeneration into the pathological forms of a military style Spartan state, and the even worse pathological forms of oligarchy, democracy, and tyranny. For each of these forms of state there is a corresponding type of personality. For Plato and Aristotle, in other words, there is a fundamental logical relation between our descriptions of personal identity and our descriptions of state identity. Plato would not have agreed with Churchill in his judgment that Democracy is the worst form of government except for all the other kinds, principally because the democracy that Churchill was referring to was a form of government very different to the direct democracy that the Greeks founded and tried to perfect, and in the process testing the scope and limits of personal freedom to their utmost. The Greeks discovered that direct democracy does not work because there needed to be a representative and constitutional structure which translates the power of the people into something which benefits everybody, or something which benefits what they referred to as the common good. Aristotle saw clearly that the essential nature of this power of the people embodied a pluralism which logically could not be transformed into the perfect unity which Plato was seeking . The only form of government which could deal with the problems posed by pluralistic forms of life in the State was what Aristotle called the