ANGIE HOBBS (Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy, University of Sheffield), "Democracy, Demagoguery and Plato"
In the past few years various groups with opposing aims in a number of countries
have claimed that they are the champions of democracy, ‘rule by the people’,
and there is huge confusion and disagreement about who are ‘the people’
and what really constitutes their ‘rule’. In this talk Angie Hobbs argues that
Plato, despite the fact that his experience was of direct democracy and not the
liberal representational democracy that emerged in the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries, can be of great assistance in helping us think through these
issues: although he is no fan of (direct) democracy, his analysis of its charms and
weaknesses is nevertheless illuminating and his account of how democracy can
be subverted into a far worse tyranny by a cynical and opportunistic demagogue
is devastating. Plato also helps us understand what is really involved in ‘rule’
based on reason and evidence, and what kind of political, social and educational
conditions are necessary to achieve it.