For a Kinder, Gentler Society
On Authority
A Philosophical Dialogue
  • Nicholas J. Pappas
Reviews Table of Contents Introduction «Back
On Authority. A Philosophical Dialogue
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We hear quite a lot from "authorities" these days, and often they contradict one another. How do we decide which ones to follow?

Authority may be based on power of intellect or power as the threat of force (implied or direct); and sometimes, "authorities" have no obvious relevant qualifications. How do such people capture our attention? 

A philosophical treatment of the idea of authority, this book may help us understand how today's authorities influence the public and support us in deciding which figures offer leadership worth following.


About the Author

Nick Pappas has published a series of over 15 thought-provoking books with Algora Publishing. He teaches high school English Language Arts in Western New York. Prior to that he worked as a director and consultant in information technology. He is a graduate of the University of Chicago and Harvard Law School. Nick has written numerous short stories and poems in addition to his philosophical dialogues.

About the Book

This book challenges readers to think through their ideas of authority. While we often know authority when we see it, do we know what it is at bottom? 

Who can claim authority — indeed, can it be claimed at all, or only conferred?...

This book challenges readers to think through their ideas of authority. While we often know authority when we see it, do we know what it is at bottom? 

Who can claim authority — indeed, can it be claimed at all, or only conferred? Are the opinion leaders qualified or just heavily promoted? They may be mesmerizingly wealthy, famous, powerful; they may simply be charismatic and appealing; or they may have a track record of being right, a reputation built on achievement, and a habit of explaining their reasoning in a rational, persuasive way.

Two of the characters in the book hold positions of authority — a military general and a politician. Is the third, Director, an authority? He is a philosopher. Does the authority, if any, of philosophy differ from other types or sources of authority?

The author adds another question: Don’t citizens in a democratic nation have a duty to think through the things pertaining to authority? We take much for granted: Let’s not allow authority to be one of them.


More Information

EXCERPT

Politician: Tell us something, Director. What is authority?

Director: I like to think of it as involving a looking up to someone or something. There are two types of authority, in my view. Voluntary and involuntary.

General: You mean some people are involuntarily authorities?

Director: Yes, I think that’s true. But I was thinking of something else. There are those we look up to because we want to, and there are those we look up to...

EXCERPT

Politician: Tell us something, Director. What is authority?

Director: I like to think of it as involving a looking up to someone or something. There are two types of authority, in my view. Voluntary and involuntary.

General: You mean some people are involuntarily authorities?

Director: Yes, I think that’s true. But I was thinking of something else. There are those we look up to because we want to, and there are those we look up to because we’re forced.

Politician: General knows all about the latter.

General: Bad generals know all about the latter. Good generals generate good will.

Politician: But still, they need force from time to time.

General: Oh, of course. Force is the background in what I do—and often enough in the foreground, too. What about you, Director? Do you need force?

Director: I make use of the force of reason. I articulate what I know in a way that people can appreciate and understand. Does this make me an authority?

Politician: Sure, but there’s all the difference in the world between the force of reason and the force of law, or the force of… force.

Director: But Politician, surely you make use of the force of reason every day.

Politician: I do! What do you think debate is? It’s nothing but reason.

General: Not if you make sneaky arguments.

Politician: Director, tell the general the truth about sneaky arguments.

Director: The truth is that there can be as much reason in sneaking around as in making a frontal attack.

Politician: Yes! And oftentimes more.

General: Says the crafty politician.

Politician: Would you rather be represented by the dim of wit? Director?

Director: No, you have a point. But where do you direct your craft?

Politician: Toward other politicians.

Director: Is that the source of your authority?

Politician: My source is when I get things done.

Director: And that’s how you get your authority, however limited, at home?

Politician: Of course. My constituents respect a job well done.

Director: Hmm.

General: What is it?

Director: Does authority always demand respect?

General: I know I do. And you?

Director: I don’t.

Politician: You need to up your game.

Director: Can’t I be an authority with whatever respect I happen to earn, not demand?


Categories

Pages 202
Year: 2021
BISAC: PHI000000 PHILOSOPHY / General
BISAC: PHI035000 PHILOSOPHY / Essays
Soft Cover
ISBN: 978-1-62894-473-0
Price: USD 19.95
Hard Cover
ISBN: 978-1-62894-474-7
Price: USD 29.95
eBook
ISBN: 978-1-62894-475-4
Price: USD 19.95
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