Politics as Soulcraft: Musings
Some, even many like to claim the high ground, so to speak, by asserting that politics is soulcraft. This means of course that their politics is high toned, refined, not concerned with the mundane and merely material. Yet such a claim is, at best, ambiguous and, at worst, dangerous.
The idea of the soul points to the limits of the political. To say humans are ensouled is to say that they have a nature ordered toward certain ends, which is to say that they are not infinitely malleable. So, the soul both guides and limits politics, which is to say that soulcraft isn’t or shouldn’t be what politics is about. Of course, soulcraft does take place within a political context, within different regimes, as Aristotle would say; but it is ultimately not what politics is or should be about.
The best regime – not to be confused with the “ideal” or “perfect” regime – is one that is open to soulcraft, allows for its possibility, but doesn’t engage in soulcrafting itself. A regime devoted to soulcraft would be repressive, even oppressive, because the means required would undermine, negate the end(s) sought, ala’ Plato’s Republic. The crafting of souls transcends, or should transcend politics, and should do so in ways that do not undermine the city or the polis. That Socrates could be condemned for corrupting the Athenian youth reveals the difficulty involved, the dangers faced by those who would engage in soulcrafting. But Plato’s Republic reveals the dangers of embracing politics as soulcrafting. Of the two dangers, it would seem that the latter is to be avoided at all costs as it leads to what can only be described as inhuman results. And the former danger, while real, seems more manageable, if not simply preventable.