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Thursday, April 7, 2016

Plato on Education

Education for Plato was one of the great things of life.
Education was an attempt to touch the evil at its source, and reform the wrong ways of living as well as one’s outlook towards life.
According to Barker, education is an attempt to cure a mental illness by a medicine
The object of education is to turn the soul towards light.
Plato once stated that the main function of education is not to put knowledge into the soul, but to bring out the latent talents in the soul by directing it towards the right objects.
Plato was, in fact, the first ancient political philosopher either to establish a university or introduce a higher course or to speak of education as such.
This empha­sis on education came to the forefront only due to the then prevailing education system in Athens.
Plato was against the practice of buying knowledge, which accord­ing to him was a heinous crime than buying meat and drink.
Plato strongly believed in a state control education system.
He held the view that without education, the individual would make no progress any more than a patient who believed in curing himself by his own loving remedy without giving up his luxurious mode of living.
Therefore, Plato stated that education touches the evil at the grass root and changes the whole outlook on life.
It was through education that the principle of justice was properly maintained.
Education was the positive measure for the operation of justice in the ideal state.
Plato was convinced that the root of the vice lay chiefly in ignorance and only by proper education can one be converted into a virtuous man.
The main purpose of Plato’s theory of education was to ban individualism, abolish incompe­tence and immaturity, and establish the rule of the efficient.
Promotion of common good was the primary objective of platonic education.
-“Education the initial acquisition of virtue by the child, when the feelings of pleasure and affection, pain and hatred, that well up in his soul are channelled in the right courses before he can understand the reason why… education, then is a matter of correctly disciplined feelings of pleasure and pain”.
-Apart from this definition, Plato sees education as “… to ensure that the habit and aspirations of the old generation are transmitted to the younger- and then presumably to the next one after that”. Means of transmitting knowledge according to Plato are: father-and- son and teacher- and- pupil; but beyond these, there are others, such as mother- and- child, Officer- and –soldier, court, priest- and –layman, speaker-and- audience, Lawyer-and- Law

If one studies Plato’s morality, politics, education etc, one cannot avoid reading his Allegory of the Cave, and the theory of a divided line. It is upon these theories Plato departed in making the explanation of education. There is a great similarity between the Allegory of the Cave and the theory of a divided line due to the fact that all have been divided into two worlds i.e. the world of shadow and the world of ideas. In these theories, Plato wanted to show how an individual could acquire knowledge from one stage to another. In these different stages of development of human mind, Plato assigned a kind of soul. In the allegory of the cave, Plato says that,
Most mankind, this allegory would suggest, dwells in the darkness of the cave. They have oriented their thoughts around the blurred world of shadow. It is the function of education to lead men out of the cave into the world of light. Education is not what some people declare it to be, namely, putting knowledge into souls that lack it, like putting sight into a blind eye. Knowledge is like vision in that it requires an organ capable in receiving it. Just as the prisoner had to turn his whole body around in order that his eyes could see the light in stead of the darkness, so also it is necessary for the entire soul to turn away from the deceptive world of change and appetite that causes a blindness of the soul.
However, according to Plato, education is a matter of conversion. i.e. a complete turn around from the world of appearances to the world of the reality. ‘The conversion of the souls’, says Plato, ‘is not to put the power of sight in the soul’s eye, which already has it, but to insure that, instead of looking in the wrong direction, it is turned the way it ought to be’.
On the other hand, it is showing that the power to learn is present in anyone’s soul and that the instrument with which each learns is like an eye that cannot be turned around from darkness to light without turning the whole body.
Following this statement one can realise that because every one possesses the power to learn in his soul, what is needed is to turn our soul in a proper way that is to prepare a good environment for learning. It is shown that the more you move up the more you acquire knowledge.
Plato sees various stages of the human mind i.e. from ignorance to true knowledge.
The lowest stage of knowledge is imagination: “Here the mind confronts images, or at least the amount of reality”.
In using the word imagination Plato wanted to show “simply the sense experience of appearances wherein these appearances are taken as true reality”.
The characteristic of this stage is the failure of one to know what is shadow or an image, this man is not aware that he is observing such a thing i.e. image.
Plato assigned to this stage the appetitive soul. A further stage of development of human mind is belief. So to a certain extent there is a light compared with the lowest stage; there is a strong feeling of certainty, but not absolute certainty. Someone can observe things that are visible and tangible but Plato would say “visible objects depend upon their context for many of their characteristics”. To this stage, Plato also assigned the appetitive soul. All these stages of development of human mind are found in the world of shadow; finishing these stages one can now move from one world to another, i.e. from visible world to the intelligible world.
Thinking was the stage where the great lights are found; entering into this world you have already moved from the realm of opinion to the realm of thinking; reason is used here.
The act of moving from the visible world to the intelligible world is progress; but it needs effort and mental discipline.
The last stage of development of the human mind is the attainability of perfect knowledge. “Perfect intelligence represents the mind as completely released from sensible objects. At this level, the mind is dealing directly with the forms.”
Knowledge that was discussed by Plato was not knowledge of particulars but was knowledge of universals; knowledge of particulars was in the lowest stage while knowledge of universals was equated as abstract.
In short, the theory of the divided line contains four sections; which are intelligence for the highest, thinking for the second, belief for the third and the lower section is imagination. Moving from one stage to another need effort and mental discipline hence, one cannot acquire knowledge without great effort.
In every place where Sophists appear in the dialogue, the process of education was given some examination, even when military life is discussed. Likewise, some educative features were also mentioned. We can see how much the question of education was considered or how much education was given priority. The whole process of learning requires teachers and students; teachers are the ones who know the subject matter to be taught. In addition to that, Plato would say:
He is the man who persuades in the market place or in the privacy of a small gathering; he is a person with a skill such as weaving or flute playing; he is the head of the state who guides his subject; he is person who discloses arcane mysteries to the particular audience fitted to receive them.
The process of learning was suggested to be in the form of discussion between students and teachers.
Plato’s idea of education was primarily intended for those who were to be statesmen. What made him to emphasise the statesmen more was to avoid blind leaders; because these statesmen will be given a state, and if they are not educated will lead the country or the state into a terrible situation.
Plato’s interest in the epistemological ascent is thus no mere academic or narrowly critical interest; he is concerned with the conduct of life, tendency of the soul and with the good of the state.
The man who does not realise the true good of man will not, and cannot, lead the truly good human life, and the statesman who does not realise the true good of the state, who does not view political life in the light of eternal principles, will bring ruin on his people.
Therefore, Plato was fully convinced that education would help one to know many things; he/she will be able to know what to do in his/her state in order to avoid disaster in the state.
So much so, that those who have different tasks in the state were supposed to get education, not merely any education, but education for the real true and good, or, in other words, they should become philosophers. After the long years of studies it was suggested that those who wanted to rule the state were supposed to work or hold some office for fifteen years before starting service. State, in order to get experience and also to learn to stand firm when confronted with difficulties and problems. Whoever survived all these tests was qualified to be Philosopher king.
These tests are supposed to determine prospective rulers from those who are to be soldiers and artisans. The whole range of the educational system would be in part physical, in part intellectual, and in part moral.
If a man cannot withstand moral temptation, then he might sacrifice the interest of the society in order to satisfy his own interests.

Education should make people fit for their different social roles; as he said, “A purpose of education is to create a balance, a harmonious state; where the workers are to be trained to obey their masters and offer important economic services to the state”.
Education also helps to prepare the ruler of the state, on this he said,
The ruler of the state should be the one who has the peculiar abilities to fulfil that function … the ruler should be the one who has been fully educated, one who has come to understand the difference between the visible world and the intelligible world, between the realm of opinion and the realm of knowledge, between appearance and reality. The Philosopher-king is one whose education in short, has led him up step by step through the ascending degrees of knowledge of the divided line until at the last he has a knowledge of the Good, that synoptic vision of the interrelation of all truths to each other.
He thought also that the Philosopher king must have been undergoing many stages of education. The role of education also is to improve the ability of an individual, by dialogue one gets deeper understanding and becomes more creative. It helps to promote the culture of people and enable them to have a good life by preparing children creating good atmosphere, by using play, music, discussion and criticism. “Education must promote a new type of leadership; and this leadership, once found, isolated, and trained, must by rights become supreme”. Education was for the betterment of state and individual.

Main Features of Greek Education and Influence on Plato’s System of Education:

Plato was greatly influenced by the Spartan system of education, though not completely.
The education system in Athens was privately controlled unlike in Sparta where the education was state-controlled.
The Spartan youth were induced to military spirit and the educational system was geared to this end.
However, the system lacked the literacy aspect. Intriguingly, many Spartans could neither read nor write.
Spartan system did not produce any kind of intellectual potentials in man, which made Plato discard the Spartan education to an extent.
The platonic system of education is, in fact, a blend of Athens and the organization of Sparta. This is because Plato believed in the integrated development of human personality.
Education in Greece was a matter of private individuals. Sophists were considered as educators. These were selling their wisdom, in their schools they admitted only pupils who were able to pay. Consequently, poor families could not manage to pay. Sophists moved from one town to another. This situation didn’t please Plato since they were not the best channels of education, neither second best because they desired money and fame rather than knowledge.
Plato’s attitude toward these itinerant teachers, who picked up as much information and technic as possible in town and moved on to the next to purvey it, who usually lacked any firm commitment to truth, and who were happy to sell what they had picked up in rather expensive packages of private or semi private instruction, is a mixed one.
Therefore, Plato proposed the state to be responsible for education rather than to leave it to the private individuals, as it had always been the case.
Plato proposed to have a Minister of Education; this was considered as the most important minister, and his office also was considered as the greatest one. He advised that education of children should not become secondary or an accident. In addition to that, Plato proposed that:
Education should be carefully planned as it is universal, with subject matter, admissible candidates, age levels, examinations and rewards being taken up as pressing considerations in state- supported and state- administered schooling.
The Platonic approach to education comprises the following aspects: sciences and arts, which were to be communicated by teachers to their pupils; moral virtue, necessary to teacher and students, and finally political institutions, which were connected with the learning process. However, practically, Plato was interested in the method and purpose of education, its transmission through the institutions, which help in education. Teaching and training in accordance with their ages, selection of educators (teachers) and pupils, content of education, effectiveness of those who have already acquired that education. Tradition according to Plato was one of the fundamental factors required in any successful grasp of teaching. Here Plato wanted to show the role of tradition in the whole process of learning since it is through tradition that we can get knowledge of the past. It is through tradition man connects with his past and with the past of society and his city. Moreover, Plato believed that in order to create a balanced and harmonious state, various social orders such as workers, soldiers and guardians should be educated separately in order to fit for their different social roles; e.g. workers were to be trained to obey their masters so that they can offer an important economic service to the state.
Following the mistreatment of women in Greece, education for women raised questions; but to overcome this problem Plato says, “natural gifts are to be found in both sexes … ”.
So, women and children were supposed to be sent to school for education and not just to stay home.
Moreover, to support this issue Plato asked: are dogs divided into hes and shes, or do they both share equally in hunting and in keeping watch and in the other duties of dogs? Or do we entrust to the males the entire and exclusive care of the flock, while we leave the females at home, under the idea that the bearing and suckling the puppies is labour enough for them? “No” he said, “they share alike; the only difference between them is that the males are stronger and the females weaker”.
So, women have got the same duties as men, and in order to fulfill their duties they must have the same nurture and education.
…then there is no way of life concerned with the management of the city that belongs to a woman because she is a woman or to a man because he is a man, but the various natures are distributed in the same way in both creatures.  Women share by nature in every way of life just as men do, but in all of them women are weaker than men.
The only difference noted between men and women is physical function, i.e. one begets, the other bears children. Apart from physical function, all can perform the same functions. Therefore, in order to perform all these duties, education was necessary for them so that society could get best values from both men and women. But this idea was revolutionary to Greek women, since in Greece they were staying home and took care of babies.
However, Plato recognised also some differences in intelligence and talents; so it was suggested to have different schools for those who have got special talents, i.e. he advocated an educational system, which would distinguish and identify rulers, soldiers and the populace.

Plato named three stages of education: reading and writing as the first stage; second stage: physical education; and the third stage: secondary or literary education.

Reading and writing
Education was not started for the children after birth, even before birth a mother was supposed to exercise properly, to ensure the health of the baby. After birth, exercise must be supplemented by various means that will keep the child from becoming frightened or emotional. This was followed by supervised play, instruction for both boys and girls; although they were supposed to learn the same disciplines and sports, it was suggested to be done separately.
In this stage, children should be taught through music, play, physical work, geometrical exercises: this should be done when children are in the age of six. The major aim of this stage is to “promote culture and right living by exposing the child to the proper kind of environment and atmosphere through play, music, discussion, and criticism”.
Physical education
In this stage, Plato was thinking more of military training rather than mere athletic training. This stage starts from 18th to 20th year. In this course, it was compulsory to attend; the young people of Athens spent two years in this course in order to be trained. Big emphasis was on physical education because it helped to build healthy bodies. And the other purpose of training was to give them stability in judgment. Nevertheless, the education for these Guardians was restricted on a blend of the soft and the rough, so that these guardians would have a degree of aggressiveness tempered with gentleness; to be like watchdogs fighting against wolves, they were supposed to get physical strength, courage and a philosophical temperament: they should have self-control, self-discipline and they must also show wisdom. By those characteristics they could be able to care for laws and customs. Education of Guardians emphasised mind and character; were including stories both true and fiction. Of this stage Plato concluded by saying,
The general purpose of this stage of education –to train both character and moral and aesthetic judgement …The influence of environment on growing mind is again emphasised: it is because of this that so rigid a censorship of the music and poetry to be used in education is required ….
Secondary or literary education
This is the study of the works of poets, which were learnt to be recited and were sung to the lyre, so it included knowledge of music. Greeks did not have a Bible; the poets were the source of theology and morals. An ordinary Greek was expected to acquire his morals and theological notions from these poets and use them to educate his young, so it was expected that those poets must be suitable for the intended purpose i.e. to teach morality. This was strictly considered because most of the existing poetries were unsuitable and because of this, Plato was afraid that unsuitable poetry could misrepresent God who is Perfect.
State-controlled Education:
Plato believed in a strong state-controlled education for both men and women. He was of the opinion that every citizen must be compulsorily trained to fit into any particular class, viz., ruling, fighting or the producing class.
Education, however, must be imparted to all in the early stages without any discrimination. Plato never stated out rightly that education system was geared to those who want to become rulers of the ideal state and this particular aspect attracted widespread criticism.
Plato’s Scheme of Education:
Plato was of the opinion that education must begin at an early age. In order to make sure that children study well, Plato insisted that children be brought up in a hale and healthy environment and that the atmosphere implant ideas of truth and goodness. Plato believed that early education must be related to literature, as it would bring out the best of the soul. The study must be mostly related to story-telling and then go on to poetry.
Secondly, music and thirdly arts were the subjects of early education. Plato believed in regulation of necessary step towards conditioning the individual. For further conve­nience, Plato’s system of education can be broadly divided into two parts: elementary education and higher education.
Elementary Education:
Plato was of the opinion that for the first 10 years, there should be predominantly physical education. In other words, every school must have a gymnasium and a playground in order to develop the physique and health of children and make them resistant to any disease.
Apart from this physical education, Plato also recommended music to bring about certain refinement in their character and lent grace and health to the soul and the body.
Plato also prescribed subjects such as mathematics, history and science.
However, these subjects must be taught by smoothing them into verse and songs and must not be forced on children. This is because, according to Plato, knowledge acquired under compulsion has no hold on the mind. Therefore, he believed that education must not be forced, but should be made a sort of amusement as it would enable the teacher to understand the natural bent of mind of the child. Plato also emphasized on moral education.
Higher Education:
According to Plato, a child must take an examination that would determine whether or not to pursue higher education at the age of 20. Those who failed in the examination were asked to take up activities in communities such as businessmen, clerks, workers, farmers and the like.
Those who passed the exam would receive another 10 years of education and training in body and mind. At this stage, apart from physical and mathematical sciences, subjects like arithmetic, astronomy, geometry and dialectics were taught. Again at the age of 30, students would take yet another examination, which served as an elimination test, much severe than the first test.
Those who did not succeed would become executive assistants, auxiliaries and military officers of the state. Plato stated that based on their capabilities, candidates would be assigned a particular field. Those who passed in the examination would receive another 5 year advanced education in dialectics in order to find out as to who was capable of freeing himself from sense perception.
The education system did not end here. Candidates had to study for another 15 years for practical experience in dialectics. Finally, at the age of 50, those who withstood the hard and fast process of education were introduced to the ultimate task of governing their country and the fellow beings.
These kings were expected to spend most of the time in philosophical pursuits. Thus, after accomplishing perfection, the rulers would exercise power only in the best interests of the state. The ideal state would be realized and its people would be just, honest and happy.

To get a good idea of public education, read Plato’s Republic. It is not a political treatise, as those who merely judge books by their title think, but it is the finest, most beautiful work on education ever written.” – Jean-Jacques Rousseau
To conceive the ideal city and individual, we would need to have the ideal education. The four aspects of education in the Republic are Music, Gymnastics, Mathematics and Dialectics. Plato’s education of music, gymnastics, mathematics and dialectics in the Republic helps to ensure that these three components of the soul are in harmony with each other.

“Music” in the Republic refers to both literary education and conventional music/melody. For literary education, children should be told stories and tales that exemplify courage, temperance, and justice. These stories would help to carve a proper moral nature from young. The stories should not reward unjust actions or encourage improper behavior. For example, the story of Achilles lamenting the loss of Patroclus in Homer’s “The Iliad” should be excluded from all tales as it shows overly excessive emotion. In this epic poem, Achilles displays an extreme outpouring of grief when his cousin Patroclus is killed in the Trojan War. This is a quote from the Republic: “…Achilles, who is the son of a goddess, first lying on his side, then on his back, and then on his face; then starting up and sailing in a frenzy along the shores of the barren sea; now taking the sooty ashes in both his hands and pouring them over his head, or weeping and wailing…rolling in the dirt, calling each man loudly by his name…” (you get the idea)
For conventional melody and song, the Republic advocates that we should only listen to sober music that expresses courage and temperance. Therefore, music should only be composed in two harmonies: the “Dorian” and the “Phrygian”. According to Plato, these two harmonies would imitate “the note or accent note or accent which a brave man utters in warlike action and in stern resolve”. Similarly, the rhythms in music should also be “good rhythms” that represent the aforementioned qualities of courage and temperance.
How Music Can Improve Your Life
At first glance, the Republic’s musical education may seem a little strange (ok maybe absurd) to some people. For example, why should we only listen to music in two harmonies? That would exclude 90% of all classical and contemporary music we have today. Restricting the rhythms of music would further limit our choices.
However, it is not necessary to follow the Republic’s musical education to a tee. We would be best served by following its broad principles. This applies to the other aspects of gymnastics, mathematics and dialectics too. So how do you apply the broad principles of the Republic’s musical education to improve your life?
With regards to literary education, we should follow Plato’s advice and read books that imbue us with good values and morals. By indulging in good books and knowledge, we enrich ourselves and engage in self-growth. When I read a good book (non-fiction or fiction), it brings me to a different place intellectually and opens up my mind to look at the world from new perspectives. I recommend reading (at the very least) one book a month. A good place to start would be Susan Bauer’s “The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had”. This is a well-written book with concise and clear explanations/histories of five literary genres (fiction, autobiography, history, drama, poetry) along with annotated lists of recommended readings. The books that Bauer recommend are definitive classics and you will not go wrong with them.
As for music, I’m sure you enjoy listening to songs as a form of relaxation and enjoyment. Therefore, you should never stop seeking good music. Music enriches your soul and life. There is always time to listen to music, whether it’s when you are surfing the net, on the way to work, or when you are in the kitchen preparing food. Personally, I enjoy listening to both classical (Bach, Tchaikovsky, Schubert are some of my favorites) and contemporary music (John Mayer, Dream Theater, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, to name a few). However, this is a matter of personal preference, and I’m sure your musical tastes will be different from mine. If you are interested, it is good to pick up a musical instrument too. Personally, I play the guitar and it is a deep source of enjoyment for me. Learning to play an instrument teaches you the value of discipline, time management and diligence. In short, being passionate about music enriches your soul and makes your life more fulfilling.

Gymnastics in the Republic refers to physical training of the body. There is also a brief note on the ideal diet. For physical training, the training regime should be simple and functional. It should not be over-complicated to the point whereby if one deviates from the usual routine, he would fall ill easily. That would be counter-productive. Instead, the training should be simple and straightforward. The main goal is to increase functional strength and create a healthy body.
As for diet, one should not indulge in lavish feasts and copious amounts of food. Instead, the ideal diet should consist of simple and healthy fare, taken in moderation.
Contrary to common interpretations, musical education is not solely for the soul nor gymnastics solely for the body. Instead, both types of education aim to improve the soul. Too much physical training causes one to become overly aggressive, while too much music and literary causes one to become overly soft. Hence, a good balance of music and gymnastics would engender a nice harmony in the soul and prevent one from being too effeminate or too savage.
How Gymnastics Can Improve Your Life
I’m sure you are already aware of the many benefits of exercise. Cardio training is good for your heart and general health. Resistance training increases strength, improves posture, and helps you maintain a youthful and attractive physique. Exercising also helps to relieve stress and makes you happier by releasing the “happy hormones” endorphins into to your body. As for diet, it is important to eat simple and healthy food. This means eating more vegetables and unprocessed food (brown rice, whole-grain food), and avoiding fried food and trans fat (no fast food please!).
Working out has improved my confidence and health immensely. I have put on about 30lbs of muscle mass since I started lifting weights. I look better physically and my clothes fit better. Recently, I went for a health checkup and all my indicators were well within the healthy levels. After looking through my results, my doctor simply shrugged his shoulders and said to me with a smile: “Well there’s nothing much for me to say except to keep up the good work!”.
Personally, I agree with the Republic’s philosophy that exercise should be simple. I have been working out for about ten years and have gone through countless resources on fitness and strength-training. After a decade of hard work, I have grown to realize that working out should be easy. At the end of the day, working out is simply about having a straightforward workout routine and a healthy diet. Most of the complicated and expensive training programs in the market are just fads with the sole aim of making profits and do not provide real benefits.
A good place to start would be www.EvansWorkout.com. At EvansWorkout, similar to the Republic, we believe that working out should be easy. The site provides tons of simple workout information gleaned from countless resources that will teach you how to exercise and eat the correct way.
In book seven of the Republic, Plato talks about mathematics and dialectics. “Mathematics” refers to four branches of study: Mathematics, Plane Geometry, Solid Geometry and Astronomy.
Earlier on, Plato had explained the roles of Music and Gymnastics in education. However, even though these two aspects are useful, they do not teach you about knowledge and wisdom. Instead, they only help to create a harmonious soul (one that is neither too effeminate nor too savage) through the influence of habits. In the context of my examples, they simply assist to inculcate good values and habits such as reading, listening to music, exercising, and having a proper diet.
Therefore, one would need an advanced education in mathematics to achieve true wisdom. One should first study mathematics, followed by plane geometry, solid geometry and astronomy (study in the motion of celestial objects) respectively. Studying these disciplines seriously will lead one towards the ultimate truth and wisdom. This is because music and gymnastics are mainly concerned with visible and tangible things such as health and literary education, while mathematics deals with problems that can only be solved through intellectual deduction. Therefore, since the ultimate truth can only be attained through pure reasoning, mathematics helps to develop our mind so that it will be robust enough to achieve pure wisdom and knowledge.
How Mathematics Can Improve Your Life
The influence of the Republic’s “mathematical education” can definitely be seen in our education system today. From young, we are taught basic arithmetic, before progressing on to algebra and geometry in the latter stages of our education. Those who are interested can opt to get a college degree in mathematics, but at the very least we are all subjected to a compulsory education in the foundation of mathematics at a young age.
Personally, I feel that the basic mathematical foundation we get as teenagers suffices in our quest to become a well-educated and well-rounded individual. I do not really think it is necessary to get the in-depth mathematical education described in the Republic.
That said, if you happen to be specializing in some mathematical-related field, it is definitely beneficial for your mind. For example, I have friends who are physicists and engineers by training, and you can tell that they are able to analyze things in a quick and logical manner.
Personally, my “mathematical education” comes from Microsoft Excel VBA Programming. According to Steve Jobs, “everyone should learn how to program a computer, because it teaches you how to think”. There is certainly truth in this statement. I only got into programming when I started my corporate job. Prior to that, I had never done any form of programming before.  Once I started learning VBA, I realized that I had to think hard about how to write the codes in a proper and logical way. If I did not do so, there would be errors and the program would not run or crash halfway while running. Hence, programming trains my mind by forcing me to think logically. As Steve Jobs puts it, it “teaches me how to think”.
Dialectic, the final aspect of the Republic’s education, is the culmination of the first three components of education. In the dialogue, Socrates states that everything that has been discussed thus far is simply a “preclude” to the ultimate education: dialectics. The first three aspects of music, gymnastics and mathematics simply ensure that the student is ready to engage in dialectics training.
We can only achieve absolute wisdom and truth through dialectics. This is because music and gymnastics only deal with visible and tangible things such as health and literary education, while mathematics is basically a tool to train and develop the mind. However, dialectics is the ultimate discipline that will lead us towards pure truth and wisdom.
Dialectics (known as the Socratic method in modern times) involves the asking and answering of philosophical questions between individuals. Individuals engage in debates with each other as a way of gaining philosophical insights. If the individuals have been properly educated, these insights will be the pure truths. On the other hand, if they were not well-trained in the first three aspects, they would not be able to gain such insights. For example, if an individual were not good in mathematics, how would he be able to derive the true laws of physics through dialectics?
How Dialectics Can Improve Your Life
Similar to Plato, I believe that it is important to have a good foundation in music, gymnastics and mathematics so that we can engage in dialectics effectively. “Music” helps you attain general knowledge, “gymnastics” improves your health and confidence, and “mathematics” trains you to have a sharp mind. Being a well-rounded individual, you would then be able to engage in fun and intellectual conversations with your friends (and have a higher chance of winning the argument!).
For me, I enjoy debating with my friends about various issues while chilling out at a pub over some nice cold beer. Obviously, these issues are not restricted to philosophical topics but also include politics, books, finance, and other random issues that interest us. These debates improve my understanding of the issues because I am forced to think about them on a deeper level in the debates, and very often I gain new perspectives and insights after the friendly arguments.
When I read, I try to engage in “conversations” with the book. I do not accept the book’s contents blindly, but instead I read critically and always try to analyze if the author is making a wrong statement or judgment. After I finish reading a book, I will normally write a short summary to organize my thoughts and improve my understanding of its contents. When I meet up with my friends, I will bring up some of the interesting points in the book to initiate a intellectual conversation or debate.

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