WBEZ | Plato http://www.wbez.org/tags/plato Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Why would anyone want that job? http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-08/why-would-anyone-want-job-102020 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Obama%20midwest%20bus%20tour_AP_Carolyn%20Kaster.jpg" style="height: 269px; width: 400px; float: left; " title="President Obama (AP/Carolyn Kaster, file)" /></div><p style="">When Ronald Reagan was governor of California, he was asked about his political future and specifically if he was going to run for the presidency. Reagan smiled and said, &ldquo;The thought of being president frightens me and I do not think that I want the job.&rdquo; Although Reagan was posturing for the press and trying to not let his true ambition show, his answer is an interesting one. Why would anyone actually seek out and want the crushing responsibilities, burdens and non-stop complexities of the job of President of the United States?</p><p>The first book ever written on political leadership was Plato&rsquo;s <em>Republic</em>. Plato argues that in fact, no person of talent and character really wants to be the ruler of a nation or state. Why? Well, says Plato, it&rsquo;s because the job requires that a leader give up their life, and live a life for others. It requires total dedication, total abdication of self. For Plato a leader&rsquo;s life requires total commitment to the job, but to be totally free of personal ambition, honor, or glory, and without concern for financial wellbeing. For Plato the central ethic and the key moral imperative of leadership is that leadership is not about the leader. Leadership is about service to others. To paraphrase the works of a philosophical successor to Plato, St. Augustine, the first and final job of all leaders is to serve the needs and wellbeing of the people they lead.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP213365309977.jpg" style="height: 190px; width: 300px; float: right; " title="Mitt Romney with running mate Paul Ryan (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)" /></p><p>Because leadership is so hard, so demanding, Plato believes that the &ldquo;best and the brightest&rdquo; will not seek it out. Therefore, said Plato, we must train our &ldquo;best and brightest&rdquo; to understand that leadership is a &ldquo;burden and a duty,&rdquo; a &ldquo;troubling responsibility&rdquo; and an &ldquo;altruistic necessity.&rdquo; Leadership, the Presidency should be taken on only by those who do not want the job, but recognize that the job needs to be done.</p><p>I think that John Adams offered us a perfect model of the reluctant Platonic leader who takes up the job out of stewardship, service and social purposes.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;"><em>&ldquo;I must study politics and war that my sons (daughters) may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.&rdquo;</em></p><p>That leadership model being suggested here is based on the medical model: Learn one, do one, teach one- and so pass it on.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Al Gini is a Professor of Business Ethics and Chair of the Management Department in the Quinlan School of Business at Loyola University Chicago.</em></p></p> Thu, 30 Aug 2012 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-08/why-would-anyone-want-job-102020 Ask Me Why: The individual vs. society http://www.wbez.org/story/aristotle/ask-me-why-individual-vs-society <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/megaphone.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/ask-me-why">Ask Me Why</a> is a series of recorded conversations that explore the personal experiences and stories that shape our beliefs. Each story takes a pair of people who disagree on some issue, and asks them to get at the root of why they believe what they believe.</p> <div>This next installment of <em>Ask Me Why</em> pairs teacher Ruth Martin with her student Charles Glass. Ruth mentors Charles in the <a href="http://www.prairie.org/OdysseyProject">Odyssey Project</a>, which offers college level humanities courses to adults.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>One of the texts they read in this year&rsquo;s class was Plato&rsquo;s <em>Apology</em>, which chronicles the trial of Socrates by the Athenians. Socrates was accused of corrupting the youth of Athens by teaching them radical ideas, like atheism, which Athenian society deemed dangerous. Ultimately Socrates was found guilty and was condemned to death, an outcome Ruth says is hard to see as anything but unjust.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>That is, she says, until you take into consideration the feelings of the Athenians. If Socrates was imparting ideas or values to these impressionable youth that fell outside the boundaries of what was sanctioned by Athens, how could he be seen as anything but a threat?</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>This conversation around <em>Apology</em> led Ruth and Charles&rsquo; class to discuss a question Plato raises in the text: is it more important to be true to oneself or to be a good citizen? In other words, is it better to follow your own moral code, or to conform and contribute to society in the ways it deems fit?</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>In the audio excerpt posted above, Ruth and Charles tackle this question, explaining their perspectives in the context of their personal experiences. Charles has worked in a number of institutions that call for conformity, including the Navy and the criminal justice system, and feels that preserving your individuality and your personal moral code is key. Ruth, on the other hand, grew up in an environment that afforded her every privilege but community, and feels that working for society&rsquo;s common good is a duty she can&rsquo;t afford to ignore.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>Take a listen to their conversation above. If you&rsquo;re interested in participating in <em>Ask Me Why</em>, <a href="http://www.prairie.org/ask-me-why">you can download the application form here</a>.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div><em>Ask Me Why</em> is produced in collaboration with the <a href="http://www.prairie.org">Illinois Humanities Council</a>, and was made possible by a grant from The Boeing Company.</div></p> Sat, 11 Dec 2010 00:15:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/aristotle/ask-me-why-individual-vs-society