There is a place where those in authority speak and it is in that place that we do well to approach them and the decisions they make as right. We have to come believing that their ‘weights and measures’ are honest and what they are selling fair.
- Leadership by authority, or people who by virtue of insight or experience know more than the rest of us. Of course, the basis of authority may be simple military power, or savage repression, but even in these cases the authority generally touts his or her vision, intelligence, or judgment.
Aristotle (384–322 BCE) is one of the great philosophers of ancient Greece’s golden age who, like his teacher Plato, helped define the discipline of philosophy in Western civilization. Aristotle lived in Athens where he founded a school called the Lyceum, and for a time tutored Alexander the Great. The selections below are from the beginning portions of his book Politics, where he argues that society is grounded in a distinction between natural rulers and natural subjects. The state, Aristotle argues, is prior to the individual, since people who live in isolation are savages and do not have the bonds of justice that come with living in society. The household is the foundational component of society and it consists of three ruler-subject relationships: master-slave, husband-wife, and father-child. Some people are naturally born masters and others slaves, depending on their mental superiority or inferiority, where the slave is designed for labor and the master for giving orders. For Aristotle, such natural slavery is both useful and morally justifiable. However, mere “slavery by law” where people are captured in war and enslaved, is neither useful or justifiable. Just as the master-slave relation is based on differing mental abilities, the same is with the husband-wife and father-child relationships. While slaves have no mental capacity to make deliberative judgments, women have that capacity without authority, and children have that capacity only in an immature condition. All members of the household have moral virtues, but those virtues differ based on household members’ role. The man has the virtues of temperance and courage in commanding, while the woman has the virtues of temperance and courage in obeying. The slave has the virtue of self-control in fulfilling his duty. Aristotle continues by discussing the various forms of government—those ruled by one, a few, and many people. In all of these forms, he argues they become perverted when the rulers seek their own gain, rather than that of the governed. Justice, in all forms of government, is connected the idea of equality, but the challenge is determining which qualities (e.g., wealth) are relevant for determining a person’s equality or inequality. Ultimately, he argues, the idea of equality is relative to the advantage of the state, and the common good of the citizens.
It has always been thus: in every culture, children want the objects of grown up desire. And so, the little shiny screens pass into playpen and cribs and then to the playground. Phones, pads, tablets, computers take the place of building blocks and modeling clay and books and dolls. The screens are interactive, scintillating, quite beautiful. They support an infinite array of simulations and worlds. Beyond interactivity, they offer connection with others. Of course, they are marketed as not just fun, but as objects of artistic creation and educational worth. They may be all of these. What we know is that they are deeply compelling.
The screens make children three magical promises that seem like gifts from the fairies. You will always be heard. You can put your attention wherever you want it to be. And you will never have to be alone. From the youngest age there is a social media account that will welcome you. From the youngest age, there is a place where you can be an authority, even an authority who can berate and bully. And there is never, ever a moment when you have to quiet yourself and listen only to your inner voice. You can always find other voices.