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Book VIII chapter 1 the rulers and the ruled are debated. “But even on other occasions, men, I have often reflected that a good ruler is no different from a good father,” (8.1.1). Both types of rulers have the people being ruled best interests in mind. They are trying to do the best for each party as well as the group as a whole, whether that be in a family situation or a society. “For fathers take forethought for their children so that they never lack the good things, and Cyrus seems to me now to be giving us the sort of advice from which we could especially pass our lives in happiness. Yet there is something he seems to me to have clarified less than should be the case” (8.1.1). He then explains what he did not believe was clarified enough. “Consider what enemy city could be captured by troops who are not obedient? What friendly one could be protected by troops who are not obedient? What sort of army of disobedient troops could obtain victory? How could humans being be defeated in battle more than when they begin to deliberate in private, each about his own safety? What other good could be brought to fulfillment by those who do not obey their superiors? What sort of cities could be lawfully managed, or what sort of households could be preserved? How could ships arrive where they must?” (8.1.2). These are some of the examples that he gives as to why they do not believe that Cyrus is doing enough to protect the people like a father would a child. They want a father like figure to be ruling over them. And leading them to greatness. In obeying a ruler you gain respect and obedience. This is an important factor in keeping the peace throughout any society. “Obeying the ruler appears to be a very great good for attaining the good things, be assured that this same thing is a very great good also for preserving what must be preserved” (8.1.3).

“Before, of course, many of us did not rule over anyone but were ruled. Now all of you who are present are prepared to rule over others, some over more, others over fewer” (8.1.4). There is a distinction between those who are able to rule many, a few or none at all. “Think it right to rule over those beneath you, let us similarly obey those whom it is seemly to obey” (8.1.4). You can only rule somebody who is willing to listen and obey you. “We need to be different from slaves in this: Whereas slaves serve their masters involuntarily, if in fact we think it right to be free, we need to do voluntarily what appears to be most worthwhile” (8.1.4). Instead of living under the impression that you must do what your ruler says we want the people to feel as if they want to do what the ruler says because they know that he or she is doing what is in the best interest of the people and for the society. There should be trust between the people and the ruler and not a sense of force. “ You will find that even where a city is managed without monarchy, the one that is especially willing to obey its rulers is least compelled to submit to its enemies”(8.1.4). If the people respect the ruler and want to help contribute to the land that they live in they are more likely to do it if there is respect between one another. If the ruler is demanding to much from the people and forcing them to do things instead of incentivizing it there are less likely to help defend their society. If they feel that their option is valued and respected they are more likely to help protect against enemies.

The transfer of power and going from being ruled to ruling is difficult because power can get out of hand. If the father analogy is kept and you are showing them the right thing to do and making it worth their while to do the right the and protect the people of their land they are more likely to comply. Where if they feel used and abused they are much less likely to work with you and help in times of need against enemies.

20 Responses to “Courtney – On Ruling and Being Ruled”

  1. khoneycutt says:

    Courtney,

    I think the father analogy is key issue. Are rulers like fathers or are they not? Those who are ruled may take turns in ruling, in theory; indeed, maybe this is an important part of living in a republic (even *the* important part). But sons cannot take turns at being fathers, at least to their own fathers. So something about the analogy that Chrysantas uses is ultimately flawed, and it is worth thinking more about what that is.

    I think you are absolutely right to tie authority to voluntary obedience. We often think of authority as flowing from force, but various philosophers (e.g., Jouvenel, Hume, and apparently Xenophon) assert that this is not the case. A ruler can really only “rule,” rather than tyrannize, those who are willing to listen and obey, as you put it. I think this is a key insight.

    Your final comment about the “transfer of power” deserves expansion. What does it mean for power to “get out of hand?”

    KH

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