Most people find Harry Potter fascinating with all of his adventures and the magical world he lives in. But there seems to be something special about Harry, no, not the magic of love from his mother that protects him from Lord Voldemort, but a quality that Plato would find admirable. Plato writes in his The Republic about what he thinks what it takes to make a good ruler. David Lay Williams and Alan J. Kellner take this idea and apply it to Harry Potter and his friends in their article “Dumbledore, Plato, and the Lust for Power” found in The Ultimate Harry Potter and Philosophy. An analysis of their article will reveal this admiral quality of Plato’s in Harry.
Williams and Kellner compare Dumbledore and Plato, because Dumbledore is a platonic like philosopher and character in our story of Harry. Dumbledore and Plato both lived during troubling times. Dumbledore saw the rise and fall of his good friend Gellert Grindelwald, and Tom Riddle rise as the terrible Lord Voldemort. Plato grew up during the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta, and lived during the tyrannical rule of the “Thirty” (Williams and Kellner, pg129-130). They both at one time sought to have a position in politics. Plato was offered a spot in the “Thirty,” and Dumbledore sought to join with Grindelwald in leading the wizarding world out of hiding, but they both suffered tragic losses that turned them away from the political ambitions. Socrates, Plato’s beloved teacher, was sentenced to death by the Athenian government, and Dumbledore’s sister was killed during Grindelwald’s and his duel (Williams and Kellner, pg130). These two events caused them to desire no place in political power. They both turned to education instead. Plato established the Academy, and Dumbledore went to teach at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and eventually became headmaster (Williams and Kellner, pg13-131). Despite their denial of political power, they both still played crucial roles in government. Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic, constantly runs to Dumbledore for advice on political matters. Plato reflects on politics during his time at the Academy, and these reflections are written in detail in The Republic (Williams and Kellner, pg131).
In The Republic, Plato gives us his theory of a philosopher-king. He believes that philosophers should become kings, or kings should become philosophers (The Republic, 473d). Rulers possess all policy making powers and have an oversight of day to day affairs of the state. Because of their enormous power, it is crucial that they must be the best and most qualified person to rule (Williams and Kellner, pg131). These rulers must possess intelligence, wisdom, justice, courage, and self-control (The Republic, 485a-503e). Rulers have tremendous power; therefore, they must be qualified to rule.
Williams and Kellner suggest that Harry is qualified to rule. He seems to possess the four cardinal virtues: justice, courage, wisdom, and self-control. Harry acts justly when he prevents Remus Lupin and Sirius Black from killing Peter Pettigrew in The Prisoner of Azkaban, because he does not want them to become murderers like Peter. Harry constantly shows courage in every book. He never backs down from danger, even when he has to face the deadly Lord Voldemort. His most courageous moment is when he allows Voldemort to kill him towards the end of Deathly Hallows, which kills the horcrux within him, and is seen as self-sacrifice for his friends. He exhibits wisdom by deciding to talk to the goblin Griphook instead of trying to beat Voldemort to the Elder Wand in Deathly Hallows. He would not have been able to arrive in time to retrieve the wand, and he needed to focus on destroying the horcruxes. When Harry decides to use the Elder Wand only to repair his original wand and returns the Elder Wand to Dumbledore’s grave is an instance of him showing self control. He did not want this powerful wand that usually ended up in the user’s death, but instead, he wanted his original wand that had always been useful to him. Harry is also intelligent. Albeit he gains a lot of help from Hermione, he is the one that figures out the mystery in each book and figures out what he must do to defeat Voldemort once and for all. The biggest quality that Harry possesses that qualifies him to be a ruler is that he never desires power. This is what sets him apart from most, and this is the quality that Plato says a ruler must have.
Plato tells the tale of the “Ring of Gyges” as a test of one’s character. This test shows whether someone is able to handle power or not. Within the story, Gyges obtains a ring that will turn him invisible. He ends up using this power to seduce the king’s wife, kill the king, and gain the king’s power all for himself (Williams and Kellner, pg133). Rowling manifests Plato’s test with Harry’s invisibility cloak. Harry never uses his cloak for self gain. He is always using it to help others, whether it is to sneak Norbert, the young Norwegian Ridgeback dragon, out of Hogwarts, or using it to sneak into the ministry to find one of the horcruxes. He never uses it to gain power for himself. His lack of desire is also seen in the Sorcerer’s Stone when he is placed in front of the Mirror of Erised and the stone appears in his pocket. Dumbledore enchanted the mirror to only allow a person who did not have any intention of using to the stone to retrieve it. Harry time and time again shows that he is not selfish and has no desire to possess power.
Voldemort and Dumbledore are two in our story that have been tempted by power. Voldemort does possess some of the qualities that Plato suggests for a ruler. Voldemort did show self-control, to an extent, as a child and after his downfall from trying to kill Harry. He waited patiently before rising to power in both instances. He does all he can to gain knowledge, especially that of dark powers and the history of the founders of Hogwarts. He is courageous in that he doesn’t fear anybody. He acts justly by giving Wormtail a new hand after he offered it to resurrect Voldemort in the Goblet of Fire. But he craves power. He does all that he can to gain and achieve a position of power. In his pursuit of power he murders innocent people and takes what he wants. His desire for power disqualifies him from being a good leader according to Plato. Dumbledore pursued power as a young adult with the young Grindelwald, but after the death of his sister, he realized that power was a weakness of his. He constantly turned down the Minister of Magic position when everybody thought he would be great for it. This self-knowledge is admirable which might allow him to be a good leader, but Dumbledore will not take the chance. He also exhibits all four of the cardinal virtues and is very philosophical. So, other than his weakness of power, he makes the perfect candidate.
Kant would agree with Williams and Kellner about Harry being a good leader. Harry treats everybody fairly; he never treats them as a means. Kant says that we should never treat people as mere means. That is, we should treat everybody with dignity, respect, and as an equal. Harry shows respect to Dobby the house elf by treating him as an equal. He never treats Dobby as a slave or inferior to him. Voldemort would treat Dobby as a slave and inferior. Voldemort overlooks the magic that house elves possess. We see this in the Deathly Hallows when Kreacher tells our heroes about the time he helped Voldemort with hiding the locket of Slytherin, and he was able to get out of the cave when Voldemort made it impossible for a wizard to do so. This also shows us that Voldemort uses people as mere means. Kreacher was not a means to an end to Voldemort. He did not care what happened to Kreacher. When Harry heard this story, he felt sorry for Kreacher and treated him with respect. This quality makes Harry an acceptable leader according to Kant.
Nietzsche would disagree with Williams and Kellner about Harry being a good leader. He would say that Harry lives too much by slave morality. In other words, he does too much for other people. Nietzsche would say that Voldemort is better fit to be a leader, because he seeks out power. Voldemort does whatever he must to gain power. Harry does not. As stated before, Harry treats people fairly instead of walking all over them. Voldemort lives by master morality according to Nietzsche. He does not treat anybody as an equal that cannot requite him, which seems to be nobody. Therefore everybody is a slave to Voldemort, and he is their master. Since Voldemort seeks out power and does whatever it takes to gain a position of power, Nietzsche would say that Voldemort is better fit to be a leader.
Harry Potter does seem to be a good leader. He demonstrates all four cardinal virtues, is knowledgeable, and does not seek out power for self gain. One key aspect that helps him to be a good leader is that he is humble. He never takes full credit for the things he has done. He always relies on Hermione’s and Ron’s help to achieve the great feats that he accomplishes in each book. When a select group of students wanted him to teach the defense of the dark arts in the Order of the Phoenix, he did not want to, because he felt like he owes his accomplishments to the help of his friends and parents. His humbling attitude helps him to not take advantage of others and appreciate the help of others. If he is to take office as Minister of Magic, then he is sure to take the advice of his fellows and lead well.
Harry possesses all of the traits that Plato requires of a leader, plus he demonstrates a quality that Kant finds admirable, and he is humbling. William and Kellner have explained this in their article “Dumbledore, Plato, and the Lust for Power.” They also showed how Dumbledore could have been a great leader by Plato’s standards, and that Voldemort fails to meet Plato’s requirement. Harry’s candidacy of a good leader is his extra special quality that marks him different besides his ability to do magic and the love within his blood from his mother.