Dante: Problems with His Proposal for Monarchy

Posted: April 15, 2011 in Philosophy
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According to Dante, a temporal monarchy is necessary to fulfill humanity’s purpose to actualize its intellectual potential. He asserts that one person must lead and only this individual can be just. This is because he would own all the territory and therefore have nothing to want and so would not compromise justice to acquire things for himself. Because he is completely just, the monarch would love everyone equally. He would not, however, regulate the day to day running of everyone’s lives. There would be, lords, city councils and village leaders under him to handle geographically specific laws.

Dante is wrong about the nature of monarchy because one person cannot have enough knowledge to rule, and no one is immune from want of immortality or personal bias.

A monarch would have to decide only the most controversial cases, however, these are the cases that require very specialized knowledge to understand and solve. Given Dante’s hierarchy of authority, only the most controversial cases that could not be resolved by local rulers would come to the monarch for judgment. For example, proponents of nuclear power say the risks are minimal and containable; opponents say there is no safe way of disposing nuclear waste and the contingency plans for power plant failures are not enough. To solve this conflict the monarch must have extensive knowledge of nuclear physics and power plant schemata. Another example of a controversy that requires specialized knowledge is the use of genetic engineering in agriculture. Genetically engineered crops have a higher yield than normal, do not need much fertilizer and increase bio-diversity. However, there are concerns about their effects on human health, the unknown consequences of gene flow into non GE crops and their effect on the balance of the ecosystem. The monarch needs to have considerable knowledge of genetic engineering and ecology to solve this controversy. There are also controversies regarding non-scientific issues, such as the virtue of company bail outs. Some argue bailing out companies would maintain economic stability and prevent unemployment. Others argue it would lead to inefficiency in the economy and lead to more long run unemployment.  The monarch would need in depth knowledge of economic theory and current economic trends to pick a side. The monarch could specialize in one field of study. However, it is not possible for the monarch to specialize in everything since the capacity of the human mind is not infinite and neither is the time the monarch has to learn. Therefore, the monarch would not have enough knowledge to solve major conflicts.

The monarch would not be completely free from want and would use resources for personal gain. Although the monarch would own all the territory in the world this would not diminish his mortality. In an attempt to avoid death he could have the best doctors cater only to

him, over-fund research for extending life, aging reversal, and cloning, and over-fund Churches in the hopes of ensuring a good after life. This would divert resources away from infrastructure development, education, and public health and safety, which would have benefited society as a whole. The fear of the after-life could also interfere with the monarch’s judgment. For example, he could let religious dogma guide his stance on abortion instead of science, women’s rights issues and the concrete consequences of making abortion illegal. Similarly he could align his view on homosexuality with that of the Church without consideration to human rights. Thus, the monarch would not be just because of his want of immortality.

In addition to being motivated by a greed for immortality, the monarch would be biased towards his friends. Owning all the territory would not free him from the need for friendship, which he is most likely to find among the kings since they are whom he would have the most in common with. Caring about his friends would make him sympathize with their views, which would affect his judgment. For example, if the kings were strongly against abortion and empowering women then the monarch would be more inclined to shut down Planned Parenthood. The monarch would also empathize with his friends’ wants, which would make him disposed towards fulfilling them. For example, if the kings wanted gold monuments built in their names then the monarch could divert resources from social development projects towards doing so. Therefore, the monarch would not be just because he would be influenced by the opinions and wishes of friends.

In conclusion, it is not possible to have one perfect ruler. Irrespective of material possessions, a monarch would have desires, personal biases and a limited knowledge set. A council of people would be better suited to rule the world since they could keep each other in check and have a diverse knowledge base.


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