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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Practical Men Not Suited to Crises

       "And I am particularly amazed by this feature of the philosopher's argument, that people who admit their incapacity for steering in calm weather--because they have never learned how or wanted to know--these same people offer to take the helm in the greatest storms.  They make a habit of saying openly, and even boasting, that they have neither studied nor taught anything about the methods of organizing and preserving commonweaths, and they think that such knowledge belongs not to wise and learned men but to men of practical experience in these areas.  But then what is the sense of promising their aid to the commonwealth under the pressure of necessity when they have no idea of how to guide a commonwealth when there is no such necessity, something that is much easier to do?  For my own part, even if it were true that a philosopher should not willingly lower himself to take part in civic affairs, but should not refuse to do so under the compulsion of a crisis, still I would think that the knowledge of public administration is something that philosophers should by no means neglect, because they ought to prepare in advance whatever they might need, even if they do not know whether they actually will."  Marcus Tullius Cicero, De Re Publica, Book I, Paragraph Eleven (Zetzel trans.)

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