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Trust

Updated: Feb 9

In "The Republic," Plato outlines the conception of a boat being managed by several sailors, and the character attributes found most valuable among the crew is proven to be strength and ambition.


Accordingly, the tallest and strongest member of the crew is accorded the position of leadership, however, unfortunately, the captain has been physically impaired and, therefore, the sailors compete among one another from one another to usurp power for themselve in order to lead the ship,

Plato, in contrast, asserts that the true helmsman, the person best suited to steer the boat, is instead focused first upon the navigation of the ship.


The accurate guidance of the boat requires that stars be charted and that the weather is observed for appropriate deployment of the sails, As a result the most effective organization of the crew follows the requirements of the steering of the boat and not upon who happens to be best at cornering his or her crewmen away from a position of influence.


Plato offers this sailing proposition as an analogy to the members of a polity who would compete with one another for control of the polis.


In philosophy, as in seafaring, Plato posits that as one focuses upon the knowledge needed for the best operation of the organization, the happiness and flourishing of each individual will follow. Plato then continues to argue that the law provides the opportunity for the best development of the ship's crew and the state's citizens.


“Imagine then a fleet or a ship in which there is a captain who is taller and stronger than any of the crew, but he is a little deaf and has a similar infirmity in sight, and his knowledge of navigation is not much better. The sailors are quarrelling with one another about the steering --every one is of opinion that he has a right to steer, though he has never learned the art of navigation and cannot tell who taught him or when he learned, and will further assert that it cannot be taught, and they are ready to cut in pieces any one who says the contrary. They throng about the captain, begging him to commit the helm to them; and if at any time they do not prevail, but others are preferred to them, they kill the others or throw them overboard, and having first chained up the noble captain's senses with drink or some narcotic drug, they mutiny and take possession of the ship and make free with the stores; thus, eating and drinking, they proceed on their voyage in such a manner as might be expected of them. Him who is their partisan and cleverly aids them in their plot for getting the ship out of the captain's hands into their own whether by force or persuasion, they compliment with the name of sailor, pilot, able seaman, and abuse the other sort of man, whom they call a good-for-nothing; but that the true pilot must pay attention to the year and seasons and sky and stars and winds, and whatever else belongs to his art, if he intends to be really qualified for the command of a ship, and that he must and will be the steerer, whether other people like or not-the possibility of this union of authority with the steerer's art has never seriously entered into their thoughts or been made part of their calling. Now in vessels which are in a state of mutiny and by sailors who are mutineers, how will the true pilot be regarded? Will he not be called by them a prater, a star-gazer, a good-for-nothing?

Then suppose you now take this parable to the gentleman who is surprised at finding that philosophers have no honour in their cities; explain it to him and try to convince him that their having honour would be far more extraordinary.

Say to him, that, in deeming the best votaries of philosophy to be useless to the rest of the world, he is right; but also tell him to attribute their uselessness to the fault of those who will not use them, and not to themselves. The pilot should not humbly beg the sailors to be commanded by him --that is not the order of nature; neither are 'the wise to go to the doors of the rich' --the ingenious author of this saying told a lie --but the truth is, that, when a man is ill, whether he be rich or poor, to the physician he must go, and he who wants to be governed, to him who is able to govern. The ruler who is good for anything ought not to beg his subjects to be ruled by him; although the present governors of mankind are of a different stamp; they may be justly compared to the mutinous sailors, and the true helmsmen to those who are called by them good-for-nothings and star-gazers.

No doubt, he said.


Then, Adeimantus, I said, the worthy disciples of philosophy will be but a small remnant: perchance some noble and well-educated person, detained by exile in her service, who in the absence of corrupting influences remains devoted to her; or some lofty soul born in a mean city, the politics of which he contemns and neglects; and there may be a gifted few who leave the arts, which they justly despise, and come to her; --or peradventure there are some who are restrained by our friend Theages' bridle; for everything in the life of Theages conspired to divert him from philosophy; but ill-health kept him away from politics. My own case of the internal sign is hardly worth mentioning, for rarely, if ever, has such a monitor been given to any other man. Those who belong to this small class have tasted how sweet and blessed a possession philosophy is, and have also seen enough of the madness of the multitude; and they know that no politician is honest, nor is there any champion of justice at whose side they may fight and be saved. Such an one may be compared to a man who has fallen among wild beasts --he will not join in the wickedness of his fellows, but neither is he able singly to resist all their fierce natures, and therefore seeing that he would be of no use to the State or to his friends, and reflecting that he would have to throw away his life without doing any good either to himself or others, he holds his peace, and goes his own way. He is like one who, in the storm of dust and sleet which the driving wind hurries along, retires under the shelter of a wall; and seeing the rest of mankind full of wickedness, he is content, if only he can live his own life and be pure from evil or unrighteousness, and depart in peace and good-will, with bright hopes.

Yes, he said, and he will have done a great work before he departs.


A great work --yes; but not the greatest, unless he find a State suitable to him; for in a State which is suitable to him, he will have a larger growth and be the saviour of his country, as well as of himself.”


- Plato, Book Six of “The Republic”


The statutes which govern our society have governed the successful organization of nations and many politicians have been successful lawyers by virtue of the fact knowledge of the law creates the skills needed for leadership.



In this same way, ancient scripture provides the guidance for both the rulers of a state and the citizens therein with respect to the best behaviors with which to interact with one another.


The ancient traditions may point the way toward the best possible future the through the lens of centuries past. Lao Tzu highlights this concept in chapter 59 of the ‘Tao Te Ching;’



“In caring for others and serving heaven,

There is nothing like using restraint.

Restraint depends on giving up one's own ideas.

This depends on Virtue gathered in the past.

If there is a good store of Virtue, then nothing is impossible.

If nothing is impossible, then there are no limits.

If a man knows no limits, then he is fit to be a ruler.

The mother principle of ruling holds good for a long time.

This is called having deep roots and a firm foundation.”

- Tao Te Ching - Lao Tzu - chapter 59


A servant leader who understands scriptures of the past is an effective leader. The expectation of managers in social environments is the development of belief in the commitment to team goals, and these communal objectives are best developed when the authority of the rulers is derived from trust of followers. By virtue of this commitment, a reciprocal exchange of trust is created between leaders and followers. Authority is built upon mutual trust.


To inspire trust in others one must be willing to potentially sacrifice his or her own preferences in order that the goals of the team as a whole might be met. This is a paradigm that was consistently taught during my time at the United States Air Force Academy through several official training activities to include the memorization of quotes.


One quote in particular, that of Major General John M. Schofield of the United States Army given during the graduation address to the West Point class of 1879, is demonstrative of the expectation of trust within a unit:


“The discipline which makes the soldiers of a free country reliable in battle is not to be gained by harsh or tyrannical treatment. On the contrary, such treatment is far more likely to destroy than to make an army. It is possible to impart instruction and to give commands in such a manner and such a tone of voice to inspire in the soldier no feeling but an intense desire to obey, while the opposite manner and tone of voice cannot fail to excite strong resentment and a desire to disobey. The one mode or the other of dealing with subordinates springs from a corresponding spirit in the breast of the commander. He who feels the respect which is due to others cannot fail to inspire in them regard for himself, while he who feels, and hence manifests, disrespect toward others, especially his inferiors, cannot fail to inspire hatred against himself.”


- Major General John M. Schofield, graduation address to the West Point class of 1879


According to Major General Schofield, the goal of the entrepreneur is to establish the template of behavior and performance expected by his or her subordinates.


Plato reflects this concept as well in his description of the rearing of members of the guardianship to produce a strong, trusting team. When each new guardian believes in the merit of team goals, the organization as a whole can fight more effectively, Plato states:


“We were saying, as you will remember, that they were to be lovers of their country, tried by the test of pleasures and pains, and neither in hardships, nor in dangers, nor at any other critical moment were to lose their patriotism --he was to be rejected who failed, but he who always came forth pure, like gold tried in the refiner's fire, was to be made a ruler, and to receive honours and rewards in life and after death. This was the sort of thing which was being said, and then the argument turned aside and veiled her face; not liking to stir the question which has now arisen. You are further aware that most people affirm pleasure to be the good, but the finer sort of wits say it is knowledge.”

- Plato, Book Six of "The Republic"

In the series Dune, the protagonist Paul Atreides, a prince of the powerful House of Atreides, is taken by the religious Bene-Gesserit organization which seeks to provide the safety and well-being for all men and women.


In the first screening with the Bene-Gesserit, Paul is instructed by his mother Jennifer (who is also an inducted member of the Bene-Gesserit organization) to commit full obedience to the direction of the representative.

The test to which Paul is given to pass is one of self-control. A box is placed on an armrest in front of which Paul must kneel. Paul is instructed to place his hand inside the box and is subjected to excruciating heat within the box.

Paul is instructed that if he removes his hand from the box he will fail the test, and therefore, the highest manifestation of discipline, which had been induced unto Paul throughout his royal training since he was young, must be demonstrated prior to his continued accession to royal authority.


Plato outlines a similar expectation of the Guardians’ educational development, in that each defender of the city must value the well-being of the city above all other potential interests.


Plato defines this framework in a partition of three qualities of the soul 1) the love of material gain, 2) the love of honor, and 3) the love of wisdom. Plato argues that the love of wisdom is superior to each of the others and in a later dialogue of Plato, that of the Phaedo, Plato asserts that the love of pleasure and the love of honor must be controlled by reason much as a charioteer guides a team of horses.


The template of of pleasure, honor, and reason is first developed in book nine of The Republic:


“Now, if you examine the three classes of men, and ask of them in turn which of their lives is pleasantest, each will be found praising his own and depreciating that of others: the money-maker will contrast the vanity of honour or of learning if they bring no money with the solid advantages of gold and silver?

And the lover of honour --what will be his opinion? Will he not think that the pleasure of riches is vulgar, while the pleasure of learning, if it brings no distinction, is all smoke and nonsense to him?

And are we to suppose, I said, that the philosopher sets any value on other pleasures in comparison with the pleasure of knowing the truth, and in that pursuit abiding, ever learning, not so far indeed from the heaven of pleasure? Does he not call the other pleasures necessary, under the idea that if there were no necessity for them, he would rather not have them?

Nay, he said, all three are honoured in proportion as they attain their object; for the rich man and the brave man and the wise man alike have their crowd of admirers, and as they all receive honour they all have experience of the pleasures of honour; but the delight which is to be found in the knowledge of true being is known to the philosopher only.

And so we arrive at the result, that the pleasure of the intelligent part of the soul is the pleasantest of the three, and that he of us in whom this is the ruling principle has the pleasantest life.

Unquestionably, he said, the wise man speaks with authority when he approves of his own life.

And what does the judge affirm to be the life which is next, and the pleasure which is next?

Clearly that of the soldier and lover of honour; who is nearer to himself than the money-maker.

Last comes the lover of gain?


Very true, he said.


Twice in succession, then, has the just man overthrown the unjust in this conflict; and now comes the third trial, which is dedicated to Olympian Zeus the saviour: a sage whispers in my ear that no pleasure except that of the wise is quite true and pure --all others are a shadow only; and surely this will prove the greatest and most decisive of falls?

And so we arrive at the result, that the pleasure of the intelligent part of the soul is the pleasantest of the three, and that he of us in whom this is the ruling principle has the pleasantest life.

Unquestionably, he said, the wise man speaks with authority when he approves of his own life.

And what does the judge affirm to be the life which is next, and the pleasure which is next?

Clearly that of the soldier and lover of honour; who is nearer to himself than the money-maker.

Last comes the lover of gain?


Very true, he said."


- Plato, Book Nine of "The Republic"


In this way, Paul Atredies is expected to develop his own character in line with the requirements of reason, and to neglect the less pure loves of honor and material wealth. The challenge given by the Bene Gesserit was offered to Paul as a filter through which Paul’s character may be determined: to discern whether Paul's greatest desires remained with base desires or higher values. The trust in Paul would thereafter be accorded to him based upon his demonstrated potential.


Thank you for your time in considering this post and please have a good day. Sincerely, Winston




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