[The philosopher's] questioning leads to a conflict with opinion. This is quite another kind of conflict than that between differing opinions; for although the philosopher's questions are concerned with the same subjects as those of the philodoxer (these are the terms Plato adopted to describe the adversaries), the nature of his inquiry is radically different.
The philosopher's question represents an attempt to advance beyond opinion to truth through the use of scientific analysis as developed by Aristotle in the Analytica Posteriora. With the instrument of analysis current statements about political matters are broken down into pre-analytic opinions and scientific propositions in the strict sense; and the verbal symbols, into pre-analytic or insufficiently analyzed expressions and the analytic concepts of political science. In this way, advocates of opinions who attack one another in daily politics are grouped together over against their common adversary, the philosopher.
When we speak of scientific analysis, we wish to emphasize the contrast with formal analysis. An analysis by means of formal logic can lead to no more than a demonstration that an opinion suffers from an inherent contradiction, or that different opinions contradict one another, or that conclusions have been invalidly drawn. A scientific analysis, on the other hand, makes it possible to judge of the truth of the premises implied by an opinion. It can do this, however, only on the assumption that truth about the order of being—to which, of course, opinions also refer—is objectively ascertainable.
And Platonic-Aristotelian analysis does in fact operate on the assumption that there is an order of being accessible to a science beyond opinion. Its aim is knowledge of the order of being, of the levels of the hierarchy of being and their interrelationships, of the essential structure of the realms of being, and especially of human nature and its place in the totality of being. Analysis, therefore, is scientific and leads to a science of order through the fact that, and in so far as, it is ontologically oriented.
The assumption alone, however—that the order of being is accessible to knowledge, that ontology is possible—is still not enough to carry out an analysis; for the assumption might be unfounded. Therefore, an insight concerning being must always be really present—not only so that the first steps of the analysis can be taken, but so that the very idea of the analysis can be conceived and developed at all.
And indeed, Platonic-Aristotelian analysis did not in the least begin with speculations about its own possibility, but with the actual insight into being that motivated the analytical process. The decisive event in the establishment of politike episteme was the specifically philosophical realization that the levels of being discernible within the world are surmounted by a transcendent source of being and its order. And this insight was itself rooted in the real movements of the human spiritual soul toward divine being experienced as transcendent.
In the experiences of love for the world-transcendent origin of being, in philia toward the sophon (the wise), in eros toward the agathon (the good) and the kalon (the beautiful), man became philosopher. From these experiences arose the image of the order of being. At the opening of the soul—that is the metaphor Bergson uses to describe the event—the order of being becomes visible even to its ground and origin in the beyond, in the Platonic epekeina, in which the soul participates as it suffers and achieves its opening.
Only when the order of being as a whole, unto its origin in transcendent being, comes into view, can the analysis be undertaken with any hope of success; for only then can current opinions about right order be examined as to their agreement with the order of being. When the strong and successful are highly rated, they can then be contrasted with those who possess the virtue of phronesis, wisdom, who live sub specie mortis and act with the Last Judgment in mind.
When statesmen are praised for having made their people great and powerful, as Themistocles and Pericles had made Athens, Plato can confront them with the moral decline that was the result of their policies. (One thinks here not only of classical examples, but perhaps also of what Gladstone said of Bismarck: He made Germany great and the Germans small.)
Again: When impetuous young men are repelled by the vulgarity of democracy, Plato can point out to them that energy, pride, and will to rule can indeed establish the despotism of a spiritually corrupt elite, but not a just government; and when democrats rave about freedom and equality and forget that government requires spiritual training and intellectual discipline, he can warn them that they are on the way to tyranny.
These examples will suffice to indicate that political science goes beyond the validity of propositions to the truth of existence. The opinions for the clarification of which the analysis is undertaken are not merely false: They are symptoms of spiritual disorder in the men who hold them. And the purpose of the analysis is to persuade—to have its own insights, if possible, supplant the opinions in social reality. Analysis is concerned with the therapy of order.