Straussian Spouts Off

The one-of-a-kind Stanley Rosen, Strauss student and Platonist of sorts, in an interview at Diotima.

BAI: So, somehow, the idea of the philosopher-king is a serious political proposal?

ROSEN: It’s a serious political proposal as a model. You want philosophers to be kings, not physicists, not mathematicians, not economists, but philosophers in the Platonic sense of the term. You want them to be kings. If it’s impossible to have that, then we at least want intelligent people with good practical common sense, who are compromised, but nevertheless, much better than completely ignorant people. The question of the status of the virtues in Plato is very difficult. Plato finally holds that virtue is knowledge, which means that the only genuine virtue is wisdom. And that means, as he says in the Republic that temperance, justice, and other virtues are demotic virtues, vulgar virtues, and the true virtue is knowledge, in other words, wisdom, sophia. The true virtue is wisdom. The situation is quite different in Aristotle, where you have ethical virtue. In Plato, justice is based upon knowing what belongs to each person; ultimately for him knowledge is accessible to the wise man. So, Confucius’ emphasis upon nobility and virtue is probably somewhat more Aristotelian than Platonist. Aristotle is much more sensible than Plato.