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Sunday, February 21, 2021

The Connection Between Politicians & Intellectuals

“The death of Pericles and the Peloponnesian War mark the moment when the men of thought and the men of action began to take different paths, destined to diverge more and more widely till the Stoic sage ceased to be a citizen of his own country and became a citizen of the universe. Pericles had been the last philosophic statesman. Socrates remarks in the Phaedrus that his loftiness of spirit was due to his converse with Anaxagoras, whose speculations about Nature and the intelligence that works in Nature had given Pericles an insight and breadth of view that he carried into his work as leader of the Assembly. After Pericles the men of thought, like Thucydides and Euripides, go into exile, voluntary or enforced.” ~ writes F. M. Cornford in his essay “Plato’s Commonwealth,” (included in his book Unwritten Philosophy). In my opinion, since the eighteenth century, in many nations of the Western civilization, the men of thought (intellectuals) and the men of action (politicians) have worked together to establish a system of governance. The two exceptions to this eighteenth century trend in the West are America and Britain—these two nations were led by populist politicians till the first decade of the twentieth century, after that their politics took a turn towards intellectualism and gradually lost its populist character; the transformation was total by the 1940s in Britain and the 1990s in America.

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