The concept of philosophy king seems to be somewhat similar to the Taoist doctrine of sage rule. Taoism has very high requirements for the virtues and realm for the ruler and the people, requiring the ruler to do nothing but do everything(wu wei无为而治) , and the best ruler should be so that the people know of his existence but cannot feel his influence, and his rule is like the spring breeze that turns into rain and moistens things silently. And the people are like children who know enough and are happy, simple and honest. However, all this envisages are base on people's moral quality is that actually feasible? There is another question, a saint in Taoism would not want to be a dominator? Is plato also has same question?

  • Your "Very high requirements" reminds me of Marlon Brando. I knew a man who, as best as I could see, was very close to God. At no point did I ever see him see himself as special/different/above the rest. In any case +1. May you find an answer!
    – Rushi
    Feb 16 at 7:55

3 Answers 3


Mainly in his work “Republic” Plato published his opinion on politicial philosophy. Plato composes a political utopy where his teacher Socrates designs a state according to Plato’s philosophical ideas. Plato lets Socrates say (Greek, English):

ἐὰν μή, ἦν δ᾽ ἐγώ, ἢ οἱ φιλόσοφοι βασιλεύσωσιν ἐν ταῖς πόλεσιν ἢ οἱ βασιλῆς τε νῦν λεγόμενοι καὶ δυνάσται φιλοσοφήσωσι γνησίως τε καὶ ἱκανῶς, καὶ τοῦτο εἰς ταὐτὸν συμπέσῃ, δύναμίς τε πολιτικὴ καὶ φιλοσοφία, τῶν δὲ νῦν πορευομένων χωρὶς ἐφ᾽ ἑκάτερον αἱ πολλαὶ φύσεις ἐξ ἀνάγκης ἀποκλεισθῶσιν, οὐκ ἔστι κακῶν παῦλα, ὦ φίλε Γλαύκων, ταῖς πόλεσι, δοκῶ δ᾽ οὐδὲ τῷ ἀνθρωπίνῳ γένει, οὐδὲ αὕτη ἡ πολιτεία μή ποτε πρότερον φυῇ τε εἰς τὸ δυνατὸν καὶ φῶς ἡλίου ἴδῃ, ἣν νῦν λόγῳ διεληλύθαμεν. (Book V, 473c-e)

“Unless,” said I, “either philosophers become kings in our states or those whom we now call our kings and rulers take to the pursuit of philosophy seriously and adequately, and there is a conjunction of these two things, political power and philosophic intelligence, while the motley horde of the natures who at present pursue either apart from the other are compulsorily excluded, there can be no cessation of troubles, dear Glaucon, for our states, nor, I fancy, for the human race either. Nor, until this happens, will this constitution which we have been expounding in theory ever be put into practice within the limits of possibility and see the light of the sun."

Here a philosopher advances and supports the idea, that either the members of his own class become rulers or the kings of the states become philosophers.

Plato’s state is totally different from a democratic system, it is a totalitarian system. The philosopher Popper condems Plato's "Republic" in the harshest of terms in his own book “The Open Society and Its Enemies”.

Plato himself made some attempts to implement his political philosophy in the government of the city of Syracuse (Sicily), but without success.

A late voluminous work of Plato’s political philosophy are the 12 books The Laws.


I dunno about Tao ways of doing or thinkin' on things.

If there were individuals worthy of the title "philosopher king"... the last thing they would want is a crown to weight their head down and force them to think on things that mattered little to them.

Better to live and let live, rather than become target of drama and scrutiny. Be an informer, a teacher, a provider of knowledge, rather than take responsibility for.

When asked to be the ruler of Isreal... Einstein was smart enough to politely say "No Way, but thx for askin'" (I paraphrase).

Those that would agree to rule, largely give away their freedom to choose exactly what they want to think about.

Prints and Photographs Division/Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (LC-USZ62-60242)



The principles of philosophy -- to think clearly about thinking and reasoning, about morality, and about the connections between things, would be very useful in a "ruler". There is some justification to think that a philosopher would be a good ruler/leader.

However, there are other aspects of philosophy that would be a serious detriment.

  1. The core of the philosophic mindset is to question the boxes we think within. This leads to a lot of potentially very useful "but what if" and "but what about" questions that any leader/ruler should ask. BUT -- often the answers, when you push these questions to their limits, are that we don't know for sure. This can lead to paralysis by analysis, where pursuing the "nth" degree justification is done before acting. It is the nature of human social dynamics that there are regular crises that need quick decisions, and philosophers are generally not well mentally constituted to do this. This aspect of philosophy makes sages/philosophers much better ADVISORS to a ruler/leader, than rulers/leaders themselves.
  2. Philosophy is a very abstract activity, and as a practical matter, most philosophers end up adopting a very counter-intuitive abstract worldview. There is an allure in philosophy to prioritize abstract theory over practical experience. But running a human enterprise is a VERY pragmatic problem. Leaders/rulers who adopt an abstract theoretical construct, are most accurately described as being "in the grip of an ideology". Philosophers are particularly susceptible to ideologies, given their prioritization of theory over pragmatism. This was what Karl Popper critiqued about Plato, and Marxist theory, etc. in his works that argued for a pragmatic Open Society. With so many actual philosophers in the grips of ideologies, philosophers as a class are a suspect pool to draw leaders from.

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