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Posts tagged ‘Jason Stanley’

Reflections on Stanley’s How Propaganda Works: Pt. 2, Ideals and Illusions

I finished reading How Propaganda Works over the weekend.  I think his analysis of ideology in terms of practice and social groups is fruitful.  And the argument that the content of ideology matters for how we value it in democracy shows how the analysis puts us in some relationship to truth and justice which I like for its way of binding epistemological analyses to political and ethical ones.  I’m particularly interested in how the focus on the ideal in contrast to critiques of ideals have divided analytic and continental political philosophy, thus questioning whether and how the ideals work in analytic philosophy opens up possibilities for conversations across the divide. Read more

Reflections on Stanley’s How Propaganda Works: Pt. 1, Plato

I’ve had Jason Stanley’s book How Propaganda Works (Princeton 2015) sitting on my desk for a couple months and finally, this week, I read through most of it.  I think it’s an important book for a number of reasons, particularly because I think it addresses and attempts to remedy some of the issues and concerns about how analytic philosophers do political philosophy that have kept many continental philosophers from thinking that this work was worth engaging.  But it’s also interesting to me because I’ve been blogging a bit about the difficulties of changing people’s minds, a difficulty that I think Plato addresses in his dialogues.

In the Introduction, “The Problem of Propaganda,” Stanley maintains that (1) Plato is seeking to describe the ideal polity, which is an aristocracy of philosophers, (2) Plato is a fierce critic of democracy, and (3) Plato is concerned with how political systems will work in light of “actual social and psychological facts about humans” (9).  I want to suggest in what follows that while in the course of the dialogue Socrates says things that seem to lead to 1 and 2, it is not clear that either Socrates or Plato is propagating those views.  (I agree with (3) and I’ll discuss that in the next post.)  I maintain that Plato writes a dialogue full of unsupported and problematic claims that lead to a certain account of what political life would be like on the basis of those unsupported and problematic claims in order to prompt considered thinking in Socrates’ interlocutors and in Plato’s readers.  I believe that Plato thinks this willingness to challenge our most settled beliefs is central to avoiding the pitfalls of democracy which arise in the first book of his Republic – I think the efforts Plato depicts of Socrates to prompt thinking in reflection in political life in a number of different contexts is further evidence for this view. Read more