Philosophy Now 10 (111) (2015)

Richard Oxenberg
Emory University (PhD)
Question: How do you turn a democracy into a tyranny? Answer (as those familiar with Plato's Republic will know): Do nothing. It will become a tyranny all by itself. My essay argues that for democracy to function it must inculcate in its citizens something of the moral and intellectual virtues of Plato’s Philosopher-Kings, who identify their own personal good with the good of society as a whole. Only thereby can Kant’s ideal of the ‘Kingdom of Ends’ - a society in which each citizen willingly affirms a duty to respect the freedom and dignity of every other - be realized. The alternative to this, as Plato understood, is a society of appetitively driven individuals competing each with the other for dominance, in which those most skilled at the arts of grasping and manipulation will eventually seize power. In this way, as Plato foresaw, democracy will degenerate into tyranny.
Keywords Plato  Kant  Philosopher-King  Kingdom of Ends  Pedagogy  Democracy  Freedom  Tyranny  Moral truth
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