The Telos of a Politician
July 12, 2012
Chris presents us with a question: what are politicians for? And this, although it may not be obvious, is in fact a very naughty question. We know that Chris knows this is a naughty question because he cites the person I spent yesterday’s post complaining about, Alasdair MacIntyre.
To MacIntyre, everything has a purpose or telos (from Aristotle) in line with a community’s ends. This means each person has a telos too, a purpose which is defined by their membership of that community, and can be understood as the role they play within it. As a result, other members of that community can justly condemn and punish someone for failing to fulfil their role within that community.
What Chris is doing in asking for the purpose of politicians is subtle: it’s to ask you to consider how society should judge its politicians as a whole, rather than as individuals making individual judgements about particular politicians. He wants us to consider the telos of politicians as a class, rather than a given politician in particular. In doing so, you’re thinking like MacIntyre, and less like one of those despicable liberals.
I can’t help but wonder whether Chris is trying out matchstick theory for himself…