Plato on Education as the Development of Reason Essay

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Plato on Education as the Development of Reason

ABSTRACT: Socrates' great educational innovation was in ascribing moral worth to the intellectual activity reflectively directed at one's own life. His concept of eudaimonia was so different from the ordinary that talking about it took on sometimes a paradoxical air, as in Apology 30b3. For him, reason is not a tool for attaining goals independently thought worthwhile; rather, rationality itself, expressed in the giving of reasons and the avoidance of contradictions, confers value to goals and opinions. Persons are reasonable, but obviously not the empirical human being. But education is aimed at the empirical man or woman and inevitably employs psychological means. How then is it
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The novelty was not his turning towards man; in this he was but a child of the sophistic revolution. Nor was it his recognition of the moral value of inquiry, as the pythagoreans had already done before him. (1) His innovation was in the combination of these two trends: in ascribing moral worth to the intellectual activity reflectively directed at one's own life. The worthwhile activity for man was, as he saw it, each one's critical examination of his own actions and opinions and their implicit assumptions. This inquiry had no pragmatic aim or utility beyond itself. It did not teach 'how best to manage the affairs of the household and of the city' (Protagoras 318e5-319a1). On the contrary, it was itself the 'care of the soul', independently of its pragmatic consequences, sometimes even in spite of them. Socrates' concept of eudaimonia, of happiness-and-success, was so different from the ordinary concept, that his talking about it took on sometimes a paradoxical air: 'It is not from possessions that excellence comes to men but by excellence possessions and all the rest come to be good for men' (Apology 30b3). (2)

Socrates learned from Protagoras and Gorgias the supreme importance of persuasion. Men are moved to action not by things as they are, but by their own opinions and convictions. Yet, unlike the sophists and the rhetors, Socrates considered persuasion in itself irrelevant — even
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