Philosophy for the Greeks
This from the FT, by Jonathan Guthrie:
Greece is suffering a financial crisis. Greece is the birthplace of philosophy, which aims to solve both practical and theoretical problems. So what strategies would ancient Greek philosophers have suggested for dealing with today's catastrophe?
Angie Hobbs, a philosopher at Warwick University, says that Plato, the legendary pupil of Socrates, would want an intellectual elite to sort out the mess. In other words, let the International Monetary Fund prescribe a course of structural adjustment, no matter how unpalatable to hoi polloi .
As for sovereign debt investors, who are lumbered with double-digit yields and possible defaults, Dr Hobbs says: "Plato would encourage them to recognise that the desire for money comes from the appetitive part of the psyche, which is both irrational and insatiable." They should reduce their attachment to earnings as a token for love and social esteem. The same counsel would benefit Greek public servants, angry about wage and job cuts.
Epicurean philosophers would probably advise victims of the crisis to withdraw from the hurlyburly of public life. That sounds like a cue for Greece to pull out of the euro. While disastrous for the European project, the retreat would reduce the cost of Greek holidays for northern Europeans. More Germans could then enjoy the al fresco Epicurean lifestyle, paid for in lowly drachmas, if only for a fortnight a year.
Cynic philosophers would be more likely to seek a €45bn bail-out from the IMF and the European Union. Dr Hobbs says: "They believed that money was so corrupting that you should beg instead of working." These ancient Greeks were "intellectually arrogant" and would have felt entitled to financial support. Just like investment bankers today, then.
Dr Hobbs, senior fellow for the understanding of philosophy, is meanwhile running a poll on Twitter to select a UK government composed of famous philosophers. Utilitarian J.S. Mill and rationalist Spinoza are currently neck-and-neck for the job of prime minister. If only they were in real life.