Mark Andrew Holowchak
University of Pittsburgh (PhD)
Plato noticed a sizeable problem apropos of establishing his republic—that there was always a ready pool of zealous potential rulers, lying in wait for a suitable opportunity to rule on their own tyrannical terms. He also recognized that those persons best suited to rule, those persons with foursquare and unimpeachable virtue, would be least motivated to govern. Ruling a polis meant that those persons, fully educated and in complete realization that the most complete happiness comprises solitary study of things unchanging, would have to compromise their happiness for the wellbeing of their polis and of the people in it. Plato’s solution, in effect that the aristoi would merely recognize their duty to sacrifice personal happiness for the happiness of the polis, has perplexed and continues today to perplex scholars. Like Plato, Jefferson recognized that there was always a pool of eager sharks, ready to govern. His republicanism, comprising a ward system and general education, was founded on the fullest participation of its citizenry, suitably educated and a governing aristoi. The true aristoi, the “natural aristoi”, are the intelligent and virtuous and that government is best which allows for a “pure selection” of the natural aristoi into the governing offices. Nonetheless, as Jefferson’s own life shows, non-parochial governing meant being rent from domestic tranquility, being forced to leave behind one’s personal affairs to decay, and being tossed willy-nilly into the coliseum of nonstop political wrangling. Why would anyone, particularly one wanting to be happy, wish to govern? Thus, Jefferson faced the same problem that Plato faced. How could a state be structured so that the wisest and most virtuous would be motivated to rule? In this paper, I argue that Jefferson, in full recognition of the problem of encouraging the most intelligent and virtuous to govern, the problem of public service, offers a solution that is remarkably Platonic
Keywords Jefferson  Plato  Plato’s cave  Education  Virtue
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DOI 10.1007/s11217-012-9322-7
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References found in this work BETA

An Introduction to Plato's Republic.Julia Annas - 1981 - Oxford University Press.
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