How To Become Powerful As a Philosopher -- The 2 Powerbases
Updated: Feb 12
From Hermitage to Public Square: How Philosophers Access and Wield Power
A good philosopher is arguably not only one whose arguments are rational and reasonable. What makes them good is also their ability to generate and preserve power. By "power" I refer to the sociological aspect of the word: the ability to influence the world by making people do certain things, or make them avoid certain actions. And as we all know, with great power comes great responsibility. So a good philosopher would handle their power wisely, as well.
While their reliability stems from their reason, if they are public figures, their power exceed or can exceed beyond that.
In other words, public philosophers are leaders because of their ability to exact influence. Not necessarily thought leaders, but leaders nonetheless.
External to logic, the philosopher has two power bases that are universal to all philosophers who were active in society (AKA, did not leave it in favor of a complete hermitage). A "power base" is simply the source your power comes from. You may find this term more common in politics, but I digress.
Money and other material means are irrelevant in this discussion. So I won't mention them here. They are also powerbases, but they are not necessary powerbases for all public philosophers. The powerbase of your money might as well be your wallet.
The Philosopher's Power: Expertise, Respect, and the Moral Choice
French and Raven discussed several power bases, and yes, I did some research. What we're going to focus on, here, are two power bases: expertise and referent. By the way, the term "referent" may be a misspelling, and could have been, originally, "reverent", which means "respected". "Referent" is a source for reference. A book can be a source one, as well.
The philosopher does not need to be part of an organization in order to be in this role. They don't even need to be part of any collective, in order to be good, according to the definition I gave in the first two paragraphs. As such, expertise and reverence are not necessarily organizational powers, even though they can be. A freelancer gains their power from being a hired expert for a job. A well-respected member of a community may be treated differently than a member who is depraved of respect, such as a petty thief.
A sociologically-good philosopher is one that is both an expert and is respected. In fact, these two values might as well correlate with each other in this case. Expertise is essentially the ability to apply the same knowledge, better than someone who is less-than-expert. What makes a philosopher different from a non-philosopher, is the former's ability to conclude deeper insights from the latter, when introduced to the same information. I've seen it myself with others.
Feel free to think that self-proclaimed philosophers are pretentious people who think they are better than everyone else. Some of us actually commit to our self-given roles, instead.
The Philosopher's Gambit: Moving with Respect to Win Opportunities
Respect is imperative if you want your missives to be effective. Respect and admiration are not only an indication of praise. They also indicate potential for greater opportunities. Opportunities such as collaborations with others. Opportunities such as progression in your own field, as a philosopher, and so on.
After all, you want to be taken seriously, correct? Be laughed by people constantly, and the extent of your power might be compromised.
Try to look at life as if it were a chess board, and perhaps you'll better know what I'm talking about. I'm not saying that human beings deserve to be treated like pawns. I'm saying that we should consider our decisions, as they have long-term implications.
Increase your expertise. Practice philosophizing whenever you can. Make people respect you for your contributions. Respecting them as well is a great start. That is the key for you to increase your power, for whatever intention you have in mind.
A Call to Moral Power
The morally-good philosopher, on the other hand, will seek to apply their power for the sake of good. By "good" I refer to the benefit of humanity. The reduction of unnecessary suffering in our world. To make people believe in themselves, and choose life over death, whenever they are tempted to depart from this world, willingly. To contribute and to give people new points of thought to refresh their experience, and expand their horizons.
This is why the expression, "with great power, comes great responsibility", comes here as well.
And as a moral being I aim to be responsible for my power. For I know my words can have an effect on others. Both while I'm alive, and both after my death, when they will be succeeded.
And as a morally-good philosopher, I see it a duty to bring some light into this dark world. My vengeful desire for World Relevance has already been achieved, and I'm achieving it gradually, with vengeance or without it.
Wise Words, Wider Circles: Understanding the Impact of Influence
I shed the burden of vengeance, releasing the anger tied to Chen. My pursuit of retribution ends here, for I choose to use my power for good, and not for external validation. Harboring resentment towards someone who hurt me with indifference is a path I will refuse to repeat myself. To succumb to such darkness would be to misuse the influence I hold. My memories of her will serve as a reminder to never become the being she was.
Fortunately, the pursuit of goodness transcends the confines of religious dogma. It is, at its core, the desire to act with compassion and create a better world, regardless of one's faith. Would you agree?
Those who hunger for power solely for its own sake, seeking only to accumulate more and more, are ultimately consumed by its emptiness. And as such power will still makes people feel lonely when they're at the top. For us who choose a different path, power is but a tool, a means to achieve a noble end. This applies equally to the ability to influence others.
The greater the influence we wield, the greater the impact our actions have. Therefore, it is crucial to wield that influence wisely, with a guiding principle of kindness and integrity.
So, let us strive to be good, not just for ourselves, but for the world we share. For this world has too much of true evil. Let us invest in compassion, in understanding, and in building a brighter future for all. May we never fall prey to the allure of darkness, but instead choose to be the light that illuminates the path forward to an age of less loneliness, and more acceptance and purposefulness.