Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bullshit or Not: Schopenhauer Edition

There's an old sketch film called Amazon Women on the Moon and one of the bits is a parody of the old Leonard Nimoy show, "In Search Of..." called, "Bullshit or Not?" with the tagline "Bullshit or not? You decide." It's a line I like so much that I've stolen it for an irregular series of posts.

Reading 19th century German social/political philosophy for the chapter of Einstein's Jewish Science that I'm currently working on, paying special attention to those thinkers who were railing against the Enlightenment concepts of egalitarianism. In that reading, I came upon this beauty from Schopenhauer's On Human Nature that lays out the classic case against democracy:

“A peculiar disadvantage attaching to republics—and one that might not be looked for—is that in this form of government it must be more difficult for men of ability to attain high position and exercise direct political influence than in the case of monarchies. For always and everywhere and under all circumstances there is a conspiracy, or instinctive alliance, against such men on the part of all the stupid, the weak, and the commonplace; they look upon such men as their natural enemies, and they are firmly held together by a common fear of them. There is always a numerous host of the stupid and the weak, and in a republican constitution it is easy for them to suppress and exclude the men of ability, so that they may not be outflanked by them. They are fifty to one; and here all have equal rights at the start.
In a monarchy, on the other hand, this natural and universal league of the stupid against those who are possessed of intellectual advantages is a one-sided affair; it exists only from below, for in a monarchy talent and intelligence receive a natural advocacy and support from above.”
Nothing we don't see in Plato, but well said.

If we want to defend democratic rule, we need to show why this is nonsense or, if not how it is counteracted.

So, bullshit or not? As usual, feel free to leave anything from a single word to a dissertation.