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Mill beats Spinoza in poll for an alternative cabinet of philosophers to govern UK

The results are out today on a poll for an alternative cabinet of philosophers to govern the UK. The poll was run by Dr Angie Hobbs Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Warwick and Senior Fellow in the Public Understanding of Philosophy.

Dr Hobbs is a particular expert on Plato who hated the idea of raw democracy. The majority of people are characterized by their non-rational appetites (for instance for food, drink, sex, material possessions and the money needed to acquire them) and if left to their own devices and not guided by others, they will not only be characterized by such appetites, they will be ruled by them.

Plato also believed that democracies can be a breeding ground for tyranny. Democracies can be swayed by the oratory of popular demagogues and not realise when the demagogues start to turn themselves into tyrants who will actually undermine democratic freedoms. Furthermore, one can even view democracies themselves as a kind of tyranny – the tyranny of the irrational majority over the rational minority. Overall he argued in his work forward in Republic that states would be better ruled by philosophers.

To mark Plato’s views Dr Hobbs has been running a poll on Twitter to elect an alternative cabinet of Philosophers living and dead. Over 1000 people have visited her blog and have nominated 127 different philosophers to cabinet posts. Polls have now closed and the results now follow:

Prime Minister
John Stuart (J.S) Mill Convincingly beat his nearest rival the Dutch philosopher of Portuguese origin Baruch Spinoza. Mill perhaps had an unfair advantage of course as he actually served as a Member of Parliament for City and Westminster. Spinoza of course suffered from having the word “spin” in his name.
Mill’s Wikipedia entry
Spinoza’s Wikipedia Entry 

Minister for Defence
Pacifist Bertrand Russell beat Jean Baudrillard French philosopher and in a shock result also pipped  military theorist
Carl von Clausewitz.
Bertrand Russell Wikipedia entry
Jean Baudrillard 
Wikipedia entry
Carl von Clausewitz Wikipedia entry 

Home Secretary
Scottish philosopher, economist, historian David Hume beat Voltaire despite Voltaire’s personal experience of the prison system and forced immigration.
David Hume Wikipedia entry
Voltaire Wikipedia entry 

Chief Whip
Wittgenstein took this possibly for his alleged poker-wielding confrontation with Karl Popper makes him a favourite for Chief Whip.
Wikipedia entry  

Minister for Transport
Won by 5th Century BC philosopher Zeno of Elea who argued that that movement is an illusion. Despite this belief he pulled miles ahead of nearest rival Karl Popper.
Zeno Wikipedia entry
Popper Wikipedia entry 

Arts and Culture
Was the only post to be won by a living modern philosopher Slovenia’s Slavoj Žižek.
Slavoj Žižek Wikipedia entry  

Chancellor of the Exchequer
Aristotle narrowly beat Karl Marx.
Aristotle’s Wikipedia entry 
Karl Marx’s Wikipedia entry 

Secretary of State for Industry
Adam Smith narrowly beat Marx.
Adam Smith’s Wikipedia entry
Karl Marx’s Wikipedia entry 

But  in Work and Pensions
Marx beat off Wittgenstein to take the post.
Karl Marx’s Wikipedia entry 
Wittgenstein Wikipedia entry  

Secretary of State for Health
Was most controversially won by Friedrich Nietzsche with his doctrine of Übermensch (Overman or  Superman) he narrowly beat Heraclitus who may have been hampered by rumours that he died after using dung as a cure for his dropsy.
Friedrich Nietzsche’s Wikipedia entry
Heraclitus  Wikipedia entry 

Attorney General
Harvard Philosopher John Rawls beat off by John Locke and Michel Foucault for this post.
Rawls’ Wikipedia entry
Michel Foucault’s Wikipedia entry 
John Locke’s Wikipedia entry 

Women’s Affairs
Was curiously won by the unmarried and rather solitary Immanuel Kant. The runner up was Rousseau.
Immanuel Kant’s Wikipedia entry
Rousseau’s Wikipedia entry 

Minister for the Cabinet Office
Won by French philosopher and government minister Alexis de Tocqueville but no one else wanted it….
Alexis de Tocqueville’s Wikipedia entry 

Sport Including the Olympics
Albert Camus’s goal keeping skills helped him beat Hobbes who thought life without government would be nasty, brutish, and short though he may have been confusing life with boxing.
Camus Wikipedia entry 
Hobbes Wikipedia entry 

Socrates convincingly beat nearest rival Rosa Luxemburg.
Socrates Wikipedia entry
Rosa Luxemburg Wikipedia entry 

Foreign Secretary
Was one by one of the only 2 female winners of a post - Simone De Beauvoir who beat Edmund
Burke and Machiavelli.
Simone De Beauvoir’s
Wikipedia entry
Burke’s Wikipedia entry
Wikipedia entry  

Won by the only other woman to win a post 4th century philosopher Hypatia who was considered to be the first notable woman in mathematics, and  who also taught philosophy and astronomy. She beat living Australian philosopher David Malet Armstrong.
Wikipedia entry 
David Malet Armstrong’s
Wikipedia entry 

Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas
Wikipedia entry 

Martin Heidegger – possibly as he thought seclusion provided by the forest to be the best environment in which to engage in philosophical thought.
Martin Heidegger’s Wikipedia entry 

Secretary of State for Scotland
Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, Cicero gained the only vote for this post – we have no idea why other than that they may have confused him with Scottish singer and keyboardist David Cicero.
Cicero’s Wikipedia entry
David Cicero’s Wikipedia entry 

Northern Ireland
Won on by Francis Hutcheson (August 8, 1694 – August 8, 1746) a philosopher born in Ireland to a family of Scottish Presbyterians who became one of the founding fathers of the Scottish Enlightenment. He narrowly beat Stoic Zeno of Citium.
Francis Hutcheson’s Wikipedia entry
Zeno of Citium’s Wikipedia entry 

Won by Sir Henry Jones – born in Denbighshire, accomplished philosopher, son of a shoemaker and instrumental in the passing of the Intermediate Education Act of 1889.
Sir Henry Jones Wikipedia entry  

Diogenes of Sinope – possibly linked to his living in a tub…
Diogenes of Sinope’s  Wikipedia page

And if you want more fun with philosophy we can recommend the tribute/ replay of ‘The Philosophers' Football Match on Sunday 9th May Inspired by the famous 1972 Monty Python sketch - and with the full backing of the surviving Pythons - a tribute/ replay of ‘The Philosophers' Football Match’ comedy sketch between teams of 'Greeks' and 'Germans' is being held in May as a real football game and features Warwick Philosopher Dr Angie Hobbs more info at:

For further information please contact:

Peter Dunn, Head of Communications, University of Warwick 
Tel: 024 76 523708 Mobile  07767 655860

PR40 6th May 2010



Dr Angie Hobbs

More information

Listen to the interview on Radio 4's Today Programme on iplayer (go to 53 minutes)

Dr Angie Hobbs' blog

Dr Angie Hobbs' website


Dr Angie Hobbs discusses her new role as the first ever UK “Senior Fellow in the Public Understanding of Philosophy”