Can you justify Occupy WS in the light of Plato's notion of justice and Aristotle's notion of politics?Can you justify Occupy WS in the light of Plato's notion of justice and Aristotle's notion of...
Can you justify Occupy WS in the light of Plato's notion of justice and Aristotle's notion of politics?
Aristotle believed that political power should rest in the hands of the "best" (the aristoi), but he did allow for the possibility of an effective democracy:
Although Aristotle classifies democracy as a deviant constitution (albeit the best of a bad lot), he argues that a case might be made for popular rule in Politics III.11, a discussion which has attracted the attention of modern democratic theorists. The central claim is that the many may turn out to be better than the virtuous few when they come together, even though the many may be inferior when considered individually. For if each individual has a portion of virtue and practical wisdom, they may pool these assets and turn out to be better rulers than even a very wise individual. This argument seems to anticipate modern arguments for “the wisdom of the multitude” such as Condorcet's “jury theorem.”
One difficult question, in regard to Occupy Wall Street, is whether or not it is a truly democratic movement. To the extent that the OWS folks have broken laws formulated through the democratic process of representative government, a case can be made that the movement is not democratic in this restricted sense of the word. If OWS were merely demonstrating and advocating on behalf of specific political positions, then surely it would be a legitmately democractic political movement. The only question arises from any law-breaking involved in the movement's tactics.
#3, I think OWS is truly democratic in the Madisonian sense: check out Federalist #10:
From this view of the subject it may be concluded that a pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert result from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual.
A "small number" (out of the whole) of "citizens who assemble," they "administer the government" (inside their groups, theyhave formed their own proto-governments), with "a common passion or interest" "felt by the majority of the whole" (in this case, the "whole" is their separated group), with "nothing to check... sacrifice [of] the weaker party" (their enemies, mostly rich people and corporations).
Madison's Pure Democracy is nothing more than Mob Rule, and so is OWS.
In certain ways, it is anachronistic to look at Occupy in terms of Greek political theory, as contemporary mass culture differs greatly from the Greek polis in which the total numbers of voting citizens numbered in the thousands rather than millions, and the citizens were able to speak for themselves in assemblies rather than being “represented” by a class of professional politicians; in some ways, the US democracy is closer to a Greek oligarchy (in which a limited number of privileged people in Congress vote on laws) than a Greek model of direct democracy.
For both Plato and Aristotle, you might look at the concept of parrhesia, or a specific type of free speech in which the philosopher has a duty to rebuke the unjust. One could see the Occupy protesters, like Socrates, as acting as gadflies to the rich and powerful, questioning injustice, and revealing abuses of power. Plato’s Apology and Gorgias would be good sources.
Aristotle was a less radical thinker than either Socrates or Plato. You might look at how, in his Rhetoric and Politics, he suggests that citizens speak out in order to change bad laws.
Plato's definition of justice centers on the idea that, for the individual, justice leads to integrity and goodness while leading society to harmony and good. Most recognize that our personal values and society are lacking Platonic integrity and out of Platonic harmony when violence and fraud and Ponzi Schemes and Enrons and financial practices bring individuals and society to misery, suffering and near ruin. Therefore, Occupy Wall Street might be recognized as a mechanism to establish Platonic integrity and harmony and goodness in individuals and society. The intended result is an effect on society, but an unexpected consequence will be the effect on individuals since a harmonious and good society must spring from individuals who have integrity and are good.
Although #4 is correct, we do not live in a democracy; we live in a Constitutional Republic. (See full discussion at the link, and especially read post #10 :)
However, to peaceably assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances is not mob rule. Historically, Greek Democracy certainly followed that pattern.