Author: Marek Szulakiewicz
Institution: Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń (Poland)
Year of publication: 2012
Source: Show
Pages: 354-366
DOI Address:
PDF: ppsy/41/ppsy2012017.pdf

Political wisdom, judgement or genius do not stem from the spirit of science and is not the upshot of theoretical generalizations or learning. There is of course “political science” and “political philosophy” but politicians can properly act without them because it is neither the discovery of laws or generalizations in the field of politics nor “knowledge about political things” but “political sense” that is crucial for his actions. As Isaiah Berlin put it years ago: “What makes statesmen, like drivers of cars, successful is that they do not think in general terms – that is, they do not primarily ask themselves in what respect a given situation is like or unlike other situations in the long course of human history (which is what historical sociologists, or theologians in historical clothing, such as Vico or Toynbee, are fond of doing). Their merit is that they grasp the unique combination of characteristics that constitute this particular situation – this and no other. What they are said to be able to do is to understand the character of particular movement, of a particular individual, of a unique state of affairs, of unique atmosphere, of some particular combination of economic, political, personal factors; and we do not readily suppose that this capacity can literally be taught”. Therefore politics is not a quest for “general terms” or general features of political phenomena but a direct and individual insight into concrete reality. Being a politician takes not learning but talent, not expertise but intuition, not knowledge but sense; it takes looking not at general but the particular dimension of human actions. Politicians can be taunted for their posture as Napoleon, they can be uneducated as farmer George Washington or act against morality as Cardinal Richelieu but frankly speaking all these vices are unimportant in the political realm.

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