Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Socrates is mortal

In my quest for thoughts on education, I decided to first try Plato's Republic, as it seemed old enough to start with. (Yes, I know I should start with the Bible, but I was already reading it.)

It's much more entertaining than I expected. For one thing, it looks like the Socratic method was just as irritating for Socrates' friends as it is for modern law students:

"Yes, he replied, and then Socrates will do as he always does--refuse to answer himself, but take and pull to pieces the answer of some one else."

And in filtering children's reading material, homeschool parents have nothing on Socrates. He wants to expurge any references to, say, great heroes bewailing the dead in The Odyssey, so that the young future warriors won't get the idea that death is something to be feared. Even references to the heroes or the gods laughing too hard is bad, since we don't want the youngsters to ever lose control of themselves like that.

One would be inclined to think that this is, at least in principle, a wise course: only expose children to the ideas and behavior you want them to emulate. But the Bible takes quite the opposite tack. It shows the heroes of the faith doing dreadful things, and accuses God of actions that Socrates would find quite blasphemous--ordaining evil events and deceiving people.

But then, Socrates is trying to find a way for us to achieve human perfection and explain the gods, whereas the message of the Bible is that we cannot do either.


the Joneses said...

Hey, in all your research, let me know when you find out when the apple became the universal symbol for education. -- SJ

Queen of Carrots said...

So far Plato hasn't mentioned apples.

At the rate I'm going, it's liable to be a long time. :-P