In this post-truth world, what we all need is truth. We and our leaders must be truth-seekers. Gerald R Ford, the 38th US President, rightly said while taking the oath of office that truth is the glue that holds the government together. Mahatma Gandhi, who fought tooth and nail without violence, always adhered to truth. Recently, Jerome Segal, a former philosophy professor, announced his candidacy for president of the United States and the very interesting thing about Jerome Segal, according to the Washington Post, is that he doesn’t “have any fantasies about actually being president… This is really about ideas and about adding something to the current political discourse that is lacking.”
I remember Jacques Derrida who suggested that the best course to follow was to have a philosopher in charge of each and every one. A philosopher is someone who is dedicated to truth with a capital T. The only person who is fit to rule is a philosopher, said Plato with his idea of the Philosopher-King (Republic). However, I am not in favour of the notion that a philosopher knows politics well. What I agree with, though, are the words of Jerome Segal: “This is really about ideas and about adding something to the current political discourse that is lacking.”
Why should we have philosophers in the government? Here my explanation is based on the idea of “perpetual peace” by Immanuel Kant. We might immediately wonder: Philosophers are not expected to become kings. It is not normal. There is also a different kind of warning. Mark Lilla has spoken of “The Lure of Syracuse”: How many intellectuals, like for example Martin Heidegger (on the German right) or Jean-Paul Sartre and Michel Foucault (on the French left), have betrayed their own philosophical commitments, usually with disastrous results. And these intellectuals never provided an epistemology where a common man could find himself.
So, why should a government consult a philosopher? What is his role?
In light of the fact that the “power corrupts judgment (“Perpetual peace” by Immanuel Kant), kings or democratic rulers ought to not suppress or ignore philosophers; rather, they should be permitted to speak freely. Nor should this allowance for philosophy be viewed as a sort of propaganda, in light of the fact that as a class philosophers are by their personality unequipped for grouping together into political clubs and groups.
The government should consult philosophers silently, rather than managing them publicly. This adds up to stating that it will enable them to speak unreservedly, and put forward their maxims with respect to the foundation of harmony and peace; they can do so only when they are not restricted from doing it. Philosophers can also play a role in policy-making. They can offer reasoned analysis of political and financial policies. In times of extraordinary political events, when old convictions about how the world functions are in doubt, this job is especially vital.
The job of philosophers does not stop with political analysis. They encourage political actors, and specifically ideological groups, to create thoughts and ideas that are in consonance with their objectives. Government officials once in a while consult educated opinion, think-tank specialists, and scholars to meet the assignment of addressing contemporary issues.
—The writer is a Researcher in Political Philosophy with the Indian Council of Philosophical Research.