February 09, 2004

George W. Bush: The Plato of the White House William Saletan of the Slate compares President Bush to Greek philosopher Plato. Plato believed that what's real isn't the things you can touch and see: your computer, your desk, those empty barrels in Iraq that Bush thought were full of chemical weapons. What's real is the whole idea of these things. The idea of a computer. The idea of a desk. The idea of a grave threat posed by Saddam Hussein. Whether you have a computer or a desk, or whether Saddam had chemical weapons, doesn't really matter. What matters is the larger truth. The abstraction is the reality.
  • Well, Bush always felt connected with the ancients.
  • Well, Bush always felt connected with the ancients. That link is hysterical.
  • Plato also suggested that we live in a cave, and what we see is a reflection of what's real. Different caves with different reflections for different viewers? How many reflective/distorting mirrors are between GWB and reality?
  • Interesting. The only analog I ever drew between bush and a historical figure was Nero. Though he didnt actually fiddle while rome burned, he was off on vacation. Much like W. up until 9/11.
  • What's the opposite of the noble lie? The flaming asshole?
  • Does anybody have access to reality? I thought that was the other part of the analogy, that since the people in a cave didn't know they were in one, anybody, even the spelunkers who brought people out of caves could be stuck in a cave that was merely much bigger with more freedom of movement. So then it'd be a question of picking which cave shackled you less. Then the question comes up of whether it's wise or fair to remove someone who's happy in their cave to another one. Sorry, to be longwinded, we did this in philosophy a couple weeks ago.
  • The Onion article is, like the best of all their work, not merely entertaining but strangely moving - the writers' desperate longing for a President about whom that joke could not be made (not because they actually could riff eruditely off Virgil, but simply because they are not the diametric opposite) virtually screams from every line. In other news, the Platonic concept of the world of matter (the untrue world, the one we percieve - the shadows flickering on the wall of the cave), as opposed to the world of forms (true existence, a realm of ideas and ideals, the 'outside the cave') is a superbly apposite one to apply to Bush, both for the reasons the article states, and one other that it only touches upon. Namely, that in the world of the Bush administration, as for Plato, only a select few may ever have access to the true world, the world of thought and perfection. Not only is it crucial for the idea to be more important than the reality, but it is of equally vital importance that this idea can only be comprehended by a ruling elite. Plato's conception of the two worlds was an elaborate yet lumpen scaffold for his totalitarian doctrine of government; for example, see Volume 1 of Popper's devasatating Enemies of the Open Society, devoted to Plato and his ideological adherents. And as such, it is no surprise that our leaders react with such dumb, almost childlike surprise when we question them, when we ask them to show us what it is that they see; for don't we realise that only the men of gold can comprehend such things, and that we should simply return to gazing in wonder at the shadows dancing on our cave wall? Might I also suggest the reason that there are flames casting a shadow on the cave wall is that we've just bombed the cave, on the off chance Osama bin Laden was hiding in it? Now Pez, that was long-winded. Bah... amateur... ;-)
  • Dr Zaius: It always amazes me that Plato and his adherants have spent some 2000 years claiming to be the descendants of Socrates while assidiously shitting over the things Socrates held dear. Platonism, the intellectual fig leaf for totalitarians everywhere.