Platon Glyptothek Munich 548


Knowledge, i.e. that which a teacher imparts, is related to justice.The question of justice is a question about the right conduct of life, and this depends on our knowledge. Hence comes the basic question: "what is justice?" To answer that question, we have to consider how a society as a whole functions.

Plato's fundamental assumption is that "we do not severally suffice for our own needs, but each of us lacks many things". Hence, each of us, in our own area, must produce not only for ourselves, but for others as well, or rather principally for others.

The problem of money is about how to share the products of labor taking the form of a commodity. However, in a society driven by knowledge, to quote Thomas Jefferson, "he who receives an idea from me receives instruction himself without lessening mine; and he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me". The abundance of knowledge will make money redundant. This of course implies that knowledge is a material force. Level of civilization can be measured by the extent to which knowledge is developed as material force. Education starts with the very birth of a child. In particular, we must consider what toys are to be given to children and what fables are to be told, so as to instill in their mind the qualities that we desire. Plato proposed that the following 4 qualities should be inculcated: 1) desire for learning, 2) fearlessness of death, 3) soberness of mind, 4) justice. His suggestions still ring true today. Since we live in a society where knowledge plays an increasingly important role, instilling a desire to learn is very important. We're living in an epoch of wars (e.g. in Iraq) and counterrevolutions (e.g. brewing civil war in former USSR). Hence, fearlessness of death and a desire for justice are important qualities to be inculcated. The crown of culture is ability to control oneself. Hence, the importance of such quality as soberness.  Plato says that desire for learning is produced when conditions in society are created in which a person can freely ask for knowledge, rather than something resembling knowledge being forced on him. He who is able to educate other men will be loved by them and will acquire many companions. They will escort the teacher willingly. According to Plato, courage is a conservation of conviction about what is right and what is wrong under all sorts of circumstances, including pain. Hence, bravery is a kind of application of intellect to extreme circumstances. Soberness is a kind of order and continence (self-restraint). It promotes a healthy life style, and hence increases our ability to work and concentrate. Justice is that social arrangement which best develops the overall productive forces of society. In Plato's time, justice meant that "each man must perform one social service in the state for which his nature was best adapted". How does one achieve a just society? The first condition for a just society is that philosophers, or those who strive after general knowledge, should be rulers. Plato says: either the philosophers are to become kings, or the kings are to become philosophers. The slogan of the day is: "All power to the philosophers!". In fact, real teachers are already kind of rulers. For they rule over the "souls" of those whom they lead. This is especially sharply expressed in cases when the teachers are the parents of a very young child.  What are qualities of a good teacher? The teachers, or philosophers, must be temperate and not greedy, for pettiness is contrary to minds accustomed to contemplation of all time and space. Discussion and language are the primary tools of philosophers; hence, they should develop their communication and people skills. However, a person who rules today's society must also prove himself, or herself, ready for war; hence, s/he should develop physically. 

Within the just society, everybody owns the productive resources. Plato writes: "That city is best ordered in which the greatest number [of people] use the expression 'mine' and 'not mine' of the same things and the same way". And in general, evil for a society is that which sows faction, division; good for a society is that which produces unity, solidarity. Common property leads to a sexual relationships, and visa versa: sexual relationships may result in common property. Plato writes of the people in the Republic: "they, having houses and meals in common, and no private possessions of that kind, will dwell together, and being commingled in gymnastics and in all their life and education, will be conducted by innate necessity to sexual union". No one person shall cohabit privately with any other one person. All the women of a certain age shall call each other "sisters" and all the men of a certain age shall call each other "brothers". Meanwhile, for the younger generation, they are "mothers" and "fathers". Moreover, none of the older generation is to know which youngsters are "their" children, and so they treat all youngsters equally. The best among the citizens must be given the chance to breed the most. This is because there is nothing better for a good society than a healthy and strong young generation. One way in which the best citizens will be allowed to breed is through prizes which are bestowed upon them after a completion of certain tasks good for the whole society. The best offspring shall come from parents in their prime. According to Plato, the prime age for women is 20-40 years old, and for men it is 30-55. (However, it is possible to think that with advances in science, this barrier will be overcome.) In a well-ordered society, women shall play the same roles as men. And hence, in order to do that, they must receive the same education. Early education should emphasize music and dancing - everything that's related to rhythm. Plato says, "education in music is most sovereign, because more than anything else, rhythm and harmony find their way to the inmost soul and take strongest hold upon it, bringing with them and imparting grace".

Gymnastics is another important part of education. It is the training of the body, while music is the training for the soul. However, gymnastics should be taken with a view to promoting the general plan of studies and development of youth, rather than for accomplishing special results. Plato says: "exercise and toils of gymnastics he will undertake with a view to the spirited part of his nature to arouse that rather than for mere strength, unlike ordinary athletes, who treat diet and exercise only as a means to muscle".

Education is not the art of producing a vision in a soul, but rather it is turning the soul towards being able to contemplate the good by itself. Hence, a result of education should be to develop in a person a desire and skills for striving after knowledge independently. Primary goal of education is to teach each person how to study without outside help, and only secondary goal of education is to explain specific information relevant to the the subject of study. In other words, primary goal of education is "learning how to learn", rather than learning X, Y, and Z. 

Plato scheme-of-education
Education is a process that lasts a lifetime, and for each age there are certain stages. Initially, a person must undergo physical training, and be used to war and hard labor. Then s/he must be trained in those subjects which help to see with the eye of a reason. These subjects are: algebra, geometry, astronomy. Study of mathematics prepares a person for philosophy. Here, the main problem may be said to be "what is good and what is evil". Then, this person must be trained in interaction with men, so as to learn about the conduct of social affairs and be able to lead the society towards the good. The person must alternate between the study of dialectic and leading the social affairs.

One result of examining Plato's ideas on education was to point to a connection that exists between reproduction of human species and education. To most of those with whom I spoke on this topic this seems incredible, but just as incredible appears their total lack of thought on the connection. For while most women think a lot about reproduction, and they also think a lot about education they want for their children, somehow they miss the point that education starts probably even before the child is born. Hence, form of relations between sexes must be treated inseparably from education.

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