Scholars and Soldiers

The Nation that makes a great distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools.

I came across this quotation recently and, since this is Memorial Day in the United States, decided to do a post on it.

The idea that scholars and warriors should be one and the same has a long history, obviously. I associate it most with Plato’s Republic – he has the Guardians, the philosopher-kings who rule the city, chosen from among the best of the Auxiliaries, the military caste. But it shows up a bunch of different places. I recently watched a mini-series version of Pride and Prejudice, which I have never read, and I found it interesting how much emphasis was placed on “the officers” as respected and desired men. Ancient Greece and 18th/19th-century Britain are two rather different places, but this same idea seems present in both of them. And a number of other historical places – I’m only citing the two most disparate examples I can think of.

But today, the military seems to be viewed as a less noble profession. All the sons of the intelligentsia going to be doctors, lawyers, businessmen, professors, priests, etc. None of us are going to be officers. Many politicians were in the military (John McCain, for example), but in forty years, will that still be the case? I tend to think not.

I don’t know if this is a good or a bad thing. Thucydides says it means all the professors and such are going to be cowards.


3 Responses to Scholars and Soldiers

  1. Urs says:

    My hope is that at some point we won’t need any brave men to do any fighting.

  2. R4byde says:

    Urs, only the dead have seen the end of war.

  3. e7th04sh says:

    Yes, all wars end for you when you lose your last war.

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