Enlightment Vs Darkness

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Concern with education animates Plato's works: in the Apology, Socrates describes his life's mission of practising philosophy as aimed at getting the Athenians to care for virtue (29d-e, 31b); in the Gorgias, he claims that happiness depends entirely on education and justice (470e); in the Protagoras and Meno he puzzles about whether virtue is teachable or how else it might be acquired; in the Phaedrus he explains that teaching and persuading require knowledge of the soul and its powers, which requires knowledge of what objects the soul may act upon and be acted upon by, which in turn requires knowledge of the whole of nature (277b-c, 270d); in the Laws the Athenian Stranger says that education is the most important activity (803d), and that the office of director of state education is the most important office of the state (765d-e).

Each of Plato's two longest works, the Laws and Republic, tirelessly details a utopian educational programme. And Plato's outlook on the arts (poetry, theatre, music, and painting) is dominated by considerations of whether they help or hinder correct education(Allen, 2006). To bring Plato's vast and multifaceted concern with education into focus it will be helpful to begin by looking through the lens of his differences with those he styles Socrates' educational rivals: sophists like Protagoras, teachers of rhetoric like Gorgias, and ultimately poets like Homer.

Plato sees the differences between these educators and Socrates not only as a difference over what subject-matter is worth learning, but also as a difference over the nature of would-be learners' powers to learn(Bakalis, 2005). By understanding these differences we will gain insight into the motivation for Plato's positive educational proposals in the Republic and Laws. For Plato's educational proposals go hand-in-hand with his psychology: his distinctive account of human capacities to learn specifies the good human condition at which his educational proposals aim.

The teachers who came to Athens to meet this new demand promised tomorrow's politicians the means to personal and political success. According to Plato, Protagoras claimed to teach 'sound deliberation, both in domestic matters—how best to manage one's household, and in public affairs—how to realize one's maximum potential for success in political debate and action' (Protagoras 318e-19a), and Gorgias claimed to teach 'oratory' (Gorgias 449a), that is, 'the ability to persuade by speeches judges in a law court, councillors in ...
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