Coffee – Too Strong with Plato

I woke up this morning and it looked like a day I would like to spend all morning in bed. Its a Saturday and I told myself I deserved it after an exhausting week. I decided to brew some coffee, before finding a cozy position to do some reading and probably more sleeping.

Only the coffee came out a bit too strong. And the craving for coziness was disappearing and being replaced with the urge to do so many tasks I had lined up. This got me thinking about our leaders, the strong coffee that is. Why would coffee get me thinking of leaders? Well there’s the saying “wake up and smell the coffee.” I think we need to make coffee for many leaders, and it should be a bit too strong. Perhaps, then they will get out of their cozy corners and get to task!

The assumption however is that the tasks that must be done are well known to them. The tragedy will be when they awake, and we find no difference in their sleepy or wakeful states. Then we will never know if our coffee worked, because we can’t tell if they ever woke up, or were even sleeping initially.

“STRANGER: Because, if I am not mistaken, there has been an error here; for our simplicity led us to rank king and tyrant together, whereas they are utterly distinct, like their modes of government.


STRANGER: Then, now, as I said, let us make the correction and divide human care into two parts, on the principle of voluntary and compulsory.


STRANGER: And if we call the management of violent rulers tyranny, and the voluntary management of herds of voluntary bipeds politics, may we not further assert that he who has this latter art of management is the true king and statesman?”

YOUNG SOCRATES: I think, Stranger, that we have now completed the account of the Statesman.

STRANGER: Would that we had, Socrates, but I have to satisfy myself as well as you; and in my judgment the figure of the king is not yet perfected; like statuaries who, in their too great haste, having overdone the several parts of their work, lose time in cutting them down, so too we, partly out of haste, partly out of a magnanimous desire to expose our former error, and also because we imagined that a king required grand illustrations, have taken up a marvellous lump of fable, and have been obliged to use more than was necessary. This made us discourse at large, and, nevertheless, the story never came to an end. And our discussion might be compared to a picture of some living being which had been fairly drawn in outline, but had not yet attained the life and clearness which is given by the blending of colours. Now to intelligent persons a living being had better be delineated by language and discourse than by any painting or work of art: to the duller sort by works of art.

YOUNG SOCRATES: Very true; but what is the imperfection which still remains? I wish that you would tell me.

STRANGER: The higher ideas, my dear friend, can hardly be set forth except through the medium of examples; every man seems to know all things in a dreamy sort of way, and then again to wake up and to know nothing.

YOUNG SOCRATES: What do you mean?

STRANGER: I fear that I have been unfortunate in raising a question about our experience of knowledge.


STRANGER: Why, because my ‘example’ requires the assistance of another example.

YOUNG SOCRATES: Proceed; you need not fear that I shall tire.”

Excerpt From



Benjamin Jowett, in the introduction to his translation of Plato’s Statesman, gave the following interpretation:

Not power but knowledge is the characteristic of a king or royal person. And the rule of a man is better and higher than law, because he is more able to deal with the infinite complexity of human affairs. But mankind, in despair of finding a true ruler, are willing to acquiesce in any law or custom which will save them from the caprice of individuals.”

Excerpt From



Translated by Benjamin Jowett

Plato has repeatedly asserted that governance is a spectrum from royalty (the best) to tyranny (the worst), with others in between (aristocracy, democracy). In the Statesman, he is saying that what makes leaders is the knowledge they posses, and a leaders wisdom will determine where s/he falls in the spectrum, not necessarily what they are called.

Jowett’s assertion on the Statesman should guide us, and perhaps, rather than seek to give “power” to men to govern other men, we should seek to give them “knowledge” required for governance.

Maybe if humans are lucky to achieve this feat, in the future we would be asking “who is in knowledge?” rather than “who is in power?”; and we will be having people govern in a kingly fashion.

Ande Elisha

The Amateur Philosopher