Saturday, April 17, 2010



Sageocracy; Why Not?

By John Taylor; 2010 April 17, Jalal 09, 167 BE

Sageocracy is the rule of the wise. While studying the principle of wisdom over the past weeks, the word has been popping into my head again and again. I input it into a couple of search engines, with few hits and nothing substantive. It is mentioned in the game Dungeons and Dragons. One book result refers to the trans-Atlantic correspondence of Benjamin Franklin with his friends as a "sageocracy." Wikipedia apparently had the word for a while, but it was banished, strangely enough, in favour of noocracy. An obscure writer in the Turkish Empire referred to its government as a sageocracy, which is even stranger.

I guess the reason that this word has been kicking around the terminological wheel well is that nothing like a regime of sages has ever been implemented ... But wait, that cannot be the case. Many native tribes and societies were ruled by counsels of elders; the Six Nations, who live quite close to me, were for some functions ruled by councils of old women. Surely that qualifies as a form of sageocracy.

I would like to argue today that we would do well to resurrect the term sageocracy, if only because it describes a big part of what Comenius seems to have had in mind for a world government.


Puck may have been right when he cried contemptuously,

"Shall we their fond pageant see?
Lord, what fools these mortals be!"
-Midsummer Night's Dream, Act III, Scene II

However, Puck's attitude is itself foolish, for so powerful is the placebo effect that to treat the world as if it is made up of fools itself assures that will be how it will stay. People are extremely sensitive to how they are treated. For example, studies found that if people of a certain eye or skin colour are treated differently from others, they become what the stereotype dictates. A recent study found that when test subjects read a text that denies free will before a test, they became much more likely to cheat. As a result, one science blogger wonders if this finding makes it unethical even to discuss in public the possibility that free will does not exist, since people are so sensitive to its influence,

"These laboratory findings demonstrating the antisocial consequences of viewing individual human beings as hapless pin balls trapped in a mechanical system ... are enough to give me pause in my scientific proselytizing." <>

So even if Puck was right, he was wrong to think such a thing, and would have been even more wrong to speak it to the faces of mortals. For calling mortals fools makes the pageant of life even more fond, and dooms us to life in a confederacy of dunces. Little wonder that Jesus taught that anyone who says, "Thou fool" is in danger of hellfire. (Matt 5:21-22)

A sageocracy has to assume the reverse. We all are wise. Okay, we may not all be sages, but surely we can all at least have a shot at wisdom, if only in our dotage. If we believe that anybody can be wise, maybe we will. Not right away, maybe, but in time we may approach it.  Even if Puck was right and in youth we do start out as errant fools, with age and gray hairs many, if not most, may have a shot at it, as the proverb implies,

"The glory of young men is their strength. The splendor of old men is their gray hair." (Prov 20:29, WEB)


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