For Discussion: Some Primitive Questions Regarding Tyranny

Since we are talking about extremes, these questions probably can be answered one way or another with no real loss either way.

1. Will a tyrannical future emerge from the way we imagine it, or in a way unexpected?

Most of us pick the latter – we know not what we do. The counterargument is that since we seek control, we see exactly what we’re doing quite literally: imagination meets reality fully in any future.

2. Will a tyrannical future be devoid of passion?
Auden’s “The Shield of Achilles” seems to say so:

Out of the air a voice without a face
Proved by statistics that some cause was just
In tones as dry and level as the place:
No one was cheered and nothing was discussed;
Column by column in a cloud of dust
They marched away enduring a belief
Whose logic brought them, somewhere else, to grief.

The idea seems to be that all our passion has collapsed into a “logic” we believe, i.e. whatever we think comes from science (“clones are good!”). But this doesn’t make complete sense – in our more liberal society, those who throw tantrums, on both the Left and Right, wield a considerable amount of power. It is true in a totalitarian state grievances would be presupposed and addressed by science. That’s true of any well-run reasonable society, though.

Which is more tyrannical: the society completely ordered a certain way, or the society in disorder where false accusations and tantrums make freedom only a temporary, fearful state?

3. Does tyranny collapse into anarchy, or is it perpetual?

Strauss notes that Socrates in the Republic calls the political multitude the greatest sophist. Not the greatest liar, not having the greatest capacity for self-deception, but the greatest sophist.

That could be two things, truly. Sophistry is a denial that justice exists: justice is only the interest of the stronger. This does not have to be a merely tyrannical opinion, even though it is a tyrant’s logic. It can be used to guard against tyranny, just as a parent can lie to a child to keep him away from something dangerous. Thucydides – who is indeed wise – is most certainly a sophist along these lines. The implication is that perhaps as long as this option is available, tyranny can be combated. And the option is available as long as the multitudes exist.

However: if there was a way the multitude could be the tyrant simply, all at once…

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