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Plato’s second account of
education is through the belief that it is important for philosopher kings to
rule the city. Socrates calls the guardian education as being incomplete, as he
now acknowledges the importance of a ruler with the intellect, to lead.
Consequently, the potential philosopher king must attain an education that will
help him identify and improve his philosophical nature. The dialogue mentions
“”It must also be given gymnastic in many studies to see whether it will
be able to bear the greatest studies, or whether it will turn out to be a
coward” (Plato, 2000). From this we can conclude that education does not
only serve the purpose of making a man a particular way, but it also aids in
identifying those who are proficient enough to philosophize and this in turn,
helps in strengthening the characters of those who are really, truly capable.

 

 

Plato adds a cave analogy in the
dialogue, where he shows Socrates explain the process of how enlightenment is
brought about by education. Socrates does this by providing a description of a
cave in which humans, since birth, are chained to a wall.  Behind them there are certain masters,
carrying figurines that cast shadows on to the wall in front of the prisoners.
As the prisoners, do not know anything else, they accept the shadows as their
reality, however they are only able to see and hear a tiny segment of the big
intelligible world. The image of the cave, for the readers, evokes and echoes
the memory of the earlier untruthful tales discussed by Socrates, which shows
that the new education is meant to liberate the prisoners from all the false
convictions, perspectives and opinions that they had to adopt, when they were
chained in the cave. This results in the creation of a powerful image through
which Socrates is able to show Glaucon, all that is good, and how it can be
obtained. What the good actually constitutes of is hard to perceive as it is
beyond reality and therefore, hard to see, but once it is fully comprehended,
then it becomes clear that it “is the cause of all that is right and fair
in everything,” and must be possessed and understood by prudent rulers
(Plato, 2000). Therefore, here Plato depicts how a progressive education can
teach a man to use their existing capacity of knowledge to rule. Socrates
mentions “Education is not what the professions of certain men assert it to be.
They presumably assert that they put into the soul knowledge that isn’t in it,
as though they were putting sight into blind eyes…but the present argument, on
the other hand…indicates that this power is in the soul of each and that the
instrument with which each learns–just as an eye is not able to turn toward
the light from the dark without the whole body–must be turned around from that
which is coming into being together with the whole soul until it is able to
endure looking at that which is and the brightest part of that which is”
(Plato, 2000). In comparison to the account for the first education, the
purpose for this education shows how the nature of the child born matters less
than their education as anyone can become a philosopher with right and suffice
training. This shows, how the purpose of education for these philosopher kinds
is to eventually be able to teach the children exactly how to be able to
distinguish the right from wrong, by presenting them with the whole truth.

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One must also comment on the
narrative style of the Republic. Socrates’ style of questioning and answering
arguments is significant as it aids in adding meaning to his discussion. He
uses tools like irony, reverse psychology, and imagery on Glaucon in order to
convince him on the enlightening benefits of philosophical education. Although
these tools are used to coerce Glaucon, Socrates still prefers to have his
student not blindly accept the truth, rather realise it. Therefore, by subtly
directing the whole discussion through questions, Socrates allows his students
to be able to independently make an account of their own knowledge.
Furthermore, by presenting them with numerous point of views and perspectives,
he teaches them to look beyond just conventions, and long held traditions,
thereby allowing them to be more open towards new ideas.

All in all, the accounts for
education provided can be considered as a whole as an example of Socratic
teachings. He is shown to formulate a version of the education process and guides
his disciples through questioning their knowledge and intelligence. He does
through the divided line metaphor ‘first knowledge, the second thought, the
third trust, and the fourth imagination’ (Plato 2000). After talking about
imagination, Socrates is shown to move on to talk about how rulers should not
be blindly following the educational stories and norms that they have been
told. After which he moves on to the discussion over the education needed for the
ideal philosopher king or ruler. At the end, Socrates defines the concept of
knowledge and educates us on what it is. This way the Socratic education
provides a means for men to become excellent and better rulers. In the end of
Book 10, Socrates, moves on from discussing the concept of justice in his ideal
city, and talks about the justice involved in philosophical men. Even though
the dense dialogues are quite complex to keep up with, the standard message
follows the divided line, by showcasing the ideal process of education. Through
this dialogue, not only does Plato portray the true version of the Socratic education
but in the process the readers find themselves being educated alongside Socrates
disciples, Glaucon and Adeimantus.

 

 

In conclusion, Plato’s ‘Republic
asks the basic question on what type of society we want to live in? and more
importantly, how do we educate the inhabitants of this society? This shows how
the republic maintains an interesting relationship between human nature and its
reflection of the society. (Turan, Selahattin, 2011). as Plato’s ideal state
mentions how humans are in need of a society, similarly education is vital for
the development of a noble and empathetic character. We also see similarities
between Aristotle and Plato as both agree to how education is strongly
connected towards the creation of a constitution. Lastly, Williams (1903) summarises
Plato’s ideas on the function of education are of ‘great interest, not more
from their antiquity and the eminence of their sources, that from the fact that
several of them, such as the necessity of universal education and compulsory
education, the need of care in selecting literature for the young, and the
importance of beginning any reform of national manners in the schools, which
are of recent introduction into educational practice, originated with the
famous Athenian philosopher, twenty two centuries ago.”

 

 

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