Plato – Concept of Education

Dr. V.K.Maheshwari, M.A(Socio, Phil) B.Sc. M. Ed, Ph.D

Former Principal, K.L.D.A.V.(P.G) College, Roorkee, India

Plato was a poet and mystic, as well as a philosopher and dialectician combining, in a rare degree, great powers of logical analysis and abstract thought with wonderful poetic imagination and deep mystical feeling. His character was noble ; he was an aristocrat by birth and by temperament, an uncompromising idealist, hostile to everything base and vulgar.

Plato  was born between 424 and 423 B.C.E. Both of his parents came from the Greek aristocracy. Plato’s father, Ariston, descended from the kings of Athens and Messenia. His mother, Perictione, is said to be related to the 6th century B.C.E. Greek statesman Solon.

Plato had three siblings, two brothers, Adeimantus and Glaucon, and a sister Potone. As per popular sources, his father is believed to have died when Plato was very young. Eventually, his mother married Pyrilampes, an ambassador to the Persian court several times. Plato grew up in the household of six children which included a stepbrother, a sister, two brothers and a half-brother.

According to Diogenes, Plato was named after his grandfather Aristocles following the tradition of the naming the eldest son after the grandfather. Later his wrestling coach dubbed him, “Platon” based on his broad and strong figure. Plato received the common Athenian education, both physical and mental. He was taught grammar, music, painting, and gymnastics by the most distinguished teachers in the Athens. He also attended courses of philosophy. In his youth, Plato took the profession of poetry. At first he wrote dithyrambs and then turned into writing lyric poems and tragedies. Later when he met Socrates, he burnt his poems and turned to philosophy.

As a young man, Plato experienced two major events that set his course in life. One was meeting the great Greek philosopher Socrates. Socrates’s methods of dialogue and debate impressed Plato so much that he soon he became a close associate and dedicated his life to the question of virtue and the formation of a noble character. After Socrates’s death, Plato travelled for 12 years throughout the Mediterranean region, studying mathematics with the Pythagoreans in Italy, and geometry, geology, astronomy and religion in Egypt. During this time, or soon after, he began his extensive writing.

As far as the actual relationship between Socrates and Plato is concerned. From Apology of Socrates, we can derive that Plato was the most devoted young follower of Socrates. In the dialogues, Plato himself declares, “no writing of Plato exists or ever will exist, but those now said to be his are those of a Socrates become beautiful and new”. Historians like Xenophon and Aristophanes present a different image of Socrates unlike the one shown by Plato.

Plato travelled to Italy, Sicily, Egypt and Cyrene and returned Athens at the age of forty. On his return to the city, sometime around 385 B.C.E., Plato founded a school of learning, known as the Academy, which he presided over until his death. The Academy operated until 529 C.E.., when it was closed by Roman Emperor Justinian I, who feared it was a source of paganism and a threat to Christianity. Over its years of operation, the Academy’s curriculum included astronomy, biology, mathematics, political theory and philosophy.

Plato’s final years were spent at the Academy and with his writing.  he founded one of the earliest known organized schools in Western Civilization, The Academy, on a plot of land in the Grove of Hecademus or Academus. Many prominent intellectual people schooled in The Academy including Aristotle.

In 367 B.C.E., Plato was invited by Dion, a friend and disciple, to be the personal tutor of his nephew, Dionysius II, the new ruler of Syracuse (Sicily). Dion believed that Dionysius showed promise as an ideal leader. Plato accepted, hoping the experience would produce a philosopher king. But Dionysius fell far short of expectations and suspected Dion, and later Plato, of conspiring against him. He had Dion exiled and Plato placed under “house arrest.” Eventually, Plato returned to Athens.

He died in Athens around 348 B.C.E., when he was in his early 80s.

Philosophical  Rationale

Although Plato did not explicitly divide philosophy into logic, metaphysics (physics), and ethics (practical philosophy, including politics), he makes use of such a division in his works.His work covered a broad spectrum of interests and ideas: mathematics, science and nature, morals and political theory.

Concept of knowledge and Concept of Soul

Plato had pointed out that in order to live a rational and good life we  must have knowledge of the good. He did not present a theory of the method of reaching it, but he practised the art of evolving truth in the form of the dialogue. Knowledge is justified true belief, an influential view that informed future developments in epistemology Plato  floats the idea that knowledge is a matter of recollection, and not of learning, observation, or study. Plato is often found arguing that knowledge is not empirical, and that it comes from divine insight.

Plato argued, then the Sophists are quite right in their contention that there can be no genuine knowledge. Sense-perception does not reveal the true reality of things, but gives us mere appearance. Opinion may be true or false. Genuine knowledge is knowledge based on reasons, knowledge that knows itself as knowledge, knowledge that can authenticate itself. The great majority of men do not know why they act as they do; they act instinctively, according to custom or habit, like ants, bees, and wasps; they act selfishly, for pleasure and profit, hence the masses are a great unconscious Sophist.

We must advance from sense-perception and opinion to genuine knowledge. This we cannot do unless we have a desire, or love of truth, the Eros, which is aroused by the contemplation of beautiful ideas: we pass from the contemplation of beauty to the contemplation of truth. The love of truth impels us to dialectics; it impels us to rise beyond sense-perception to the idea, to conceptual knowledge, from the particular to the universal.

The notion or idea does not have its origin in experience; we do not derive it from particular cases by induction. When the notion has been evolved, other notions may be deduced from it; we develop its implications or meanings, and so reach new and absolutely certain knowledge. Man is, therefore, indeed, the measure of all things, of all truth, because there lie embedded in his soul certain universal principles, notions, concepts, or ideas, which form the starting-point of all his knowledge.

The same result is reached in another way. Truth is the knowledge of reality, of being as such, of that which is. The world perceived by our senses is not the true world; it is a changing, fleeting world, one thing to-day, something else tomorrow (Heraclitus) ; it is mere appearance, illusion. True being is something permanent, unchangeable, eternal . Hence, in order to have genuine knowledge, we must know the permanent and unchangeable essence of things.

Plato  is an intellectualist—that is, he claims that people always act in the way they believe is best for them .Hence, all wrongdoing reflects some cognitive error. Plato conceives of the soul as having three parts:

1.            A rational part (the part that loves truth, which should rule over the other parts of the soul through the use of reason),

2.            A spirited part (which loves honour and victory), and

3.            An appetitive part (which desires food, drink, and sex),

Justice will be that condition of the soul in which each of these three parts “does its own work,” and does not interfere in the workings of the other parts . When these three inward principles are in tune, each doing its proper work, the man is just.

Plato sees various stages of the human mind i.e. from ignorance to true knowledge.

The lowest stage the  stage of appetitive soul .Here 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.

A further stage of development of human mind is  the stage of appetitive soul. To this stage, Plato also assigned 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.

The human soul, then, is, in part, pure reason , and this rational part is its characteristic phase. It enters a body, and there is added to it a mortal and irrational part, which fits it for existence in the sense-world. The union with the body is a hindrance to the intellectual aspirations of the soul, to knowledge ; the presence of impulses and desires is a hindrance to the ethical supremacy of reason, which reason itself must seek to overcome, as Plato shows in his ethics.

A soul that has contemplated the pure eternal ideas must, in part at least, be like these ideas, pure and eternal; for only like can know like. The doctrine of reminiscence proves the pre-existence and continued existence of the soul. Other proofs of immortality are: the simplicity of the soul: whatever is simple cannot be decomposed ; and its life or spontaneity : such a principle of activity cannot be destroyed; life cannot become death .

The pure rational soul, which was created by the Demiurge, once inhabited a star. But it became possessed with a desire for the world of sense and was in closed in a material body as in a prison. In case it succeeds in overcoming the lower side of its nature, it will return to its star, otherwise it will sink lower and lower, passing through the bodies of different animals (transmigration of souls). If the soul had resisted desire in its celestial life, it would have continued to occupy itself, in a transcendent existence, with the contemplation of ideas. As it is, it is condemned to pass through a stage of purification.

Plato advocates a belief in the immortality of the soul, In the early transitional dialogue, the Meno, Plato has Socrates introduce the Orphic and Pythagorean idea that souls are immortal and existed before our births. All knowledge, he explains, is actually recollected from this prior existence.

The Theory of Forms (Doctrine of Ideas)

The Theory of Forms ( Theory of Ideas) typically refers to the belief that the material world as it seems to us is not the real world, but only an “image” or “copy” of the real world. The forms, ,are archetypes or abstract representations of the many types of things, and properties we feel and see around us, that can only be perceived by reason .In other words, Plato was able to recognize two worlds: the apparent world, which constantly changes, and an unchanging and unseen world of forms, which may be the cause of what is apparent.

There are, then, two principles; we should say, mind and matter, of which mind is the true reality, the thing of most worth, that to which everything owes its form and essence, the principle of law and order in the universe; while the other element, matter, is secondary, a dull, irrational, recalcitrant force, the unwilling slave of mind, which somehow, but imperfectly, takes on the impress of mind. Form is the active cause, matter is the cooperative cause. It is both friend and foe, an auxiliary and an obstruction, the ground of physical and moral evil, of change and imperfection.

According to Plato the ideas or forms  are not mere thoughts in the minds of men or even in the mind of God  ; he conceives them as existing in and for themselves, they have the character of substantiality, they are substances ,real or substantial forms: the original, eternal transcendent archetypes of things. The particular objects which we perceive are imperfect copies or reflections of these eternal patterns. Men may come and men may go, but the man-type, the human race, goes on forever.

The principle, of the Platonic ” matter,” forms the basis of the phenomenal world; as such it is the raw material upon which the forms are somehow impressed. It is perishable and unreal, imperfect, non-being whatever reality, form, or beauty the perceived world has, it owes to ideas. Some interpreters of Plato conceive this Platonic ‘ ‘ matter ‘ ‘ as space ; others as a formless, space-filling mass.

Nature owes its existence to the influence of the ideal world on non-being or matter: as a ray of light, passed through a prism, is broken into many rays, so the idea is broken into many objects by matter. In the Timaeus, Plato locates the parts of the soul within the human body: Reason is located in the head, spirit in the top third of the torso, and the appetite in the middle third of the torso, down to the navel.

There are three kinds of knowledge, sense-perception, opinion, and genuine knowledge or Science. This division influences Plato’s psychology. In sensation  and opinion the soul is dependent on the body; in so far as it beholds the pure world of ideas, it is pure reason. The copies of the pure ideas, as they exist in the phenomenal world, merely incite the rational soul to think; sensation provokes ideas, it does not produce them. Hence, the soul must somehow possess ideas prior to its contact with the world of experience. Plato teaches that the soul has viewed such ideas before, but has forgotten them ; the imperfect copies of ideas in the world of sense bring back its past, remind it, as it were, of what it has seen before: all knowledge is reminiscence and all learning a reawakening. Hence, the soul must have existed before its union with a body.

An important phase of Plato’s psychology is the doctrine of the “Eros. Just as sense-perception arouses in the soul the remembrance of pure ideas, or Truth, so the perception of sensuous beauty, which arouses sense-love, also arouses in the soul the memory of ideal Beauty contemplated in its former existence. This recollection arouses yearning for the higher life, the world of pure ideas. Sensuous love and the yearning for the beautiful and the good are one and the same impulse ; in yearning for eternal values, the soul yearns for immortality.

The universe is, at bottom, a rational universe: a spiritual system. Objects of sense, the material phenomena around us, are mere fleeting shadows of eternal and never-changing ideas; they cannot endure and have no worth.. The body and the senses are not the true part; indeed, the body is the prison-house of the soul, a fetter, deliverance from which is the final goal of the spirit. The release of the soul from the body and the contemplation of the beautiful world of ideas,  is the ultimate end of life.

The ideal, therefore, is a well-ordered soul, one in which the higher functions rule the lower, one which exercises the virtues of wisdom ,courage . self-control ,and justice . A life of reason, which means a life of virtue, is the highest good. Happiness attends such a life ; the just man is after all the happy man. Pleasure, however, is not an end in itself, it is not the highest factor in the life of the soul, but the lowest.

The Cosmology / The God/ Demiurge

Like a human artist or workman, the Demiurge or Creator fashions the world after the pattern of the ideal world; guided by the idea of the Good, he forms as perfect a universe as it is possible for him to form, hampered, as he is, by the principle of matter.

The Demiurge is not really a creator, but an architect ; the two principles, mind and matter, are already in existence: a being is needed who will bring them together. In order to realize his purpose, he endows the world, which is composed of the four material elements, earth, air, fire, water, with soul and life. This world-soul he compounds of the indivisible and divisible, of identity and change, of mind and matter (the four elements), in order that it may know the ideal and perceive the corporeal. It has its own original motion, which is the cause of all motion; in moving itself it also moves bodies; it is diffused throughout the world and is the cause of the beauty, order, and harmony in the world: this is the image of God, a visible God. The world-soul is the intermediary between the world of ideas and the world of phenomena. It is the cause of all law, mathematical relations, harmony, order, uniformity, life, mind, and knowledge: it moves according to fixed laws of its nature, causing the distribution of matter in the heavenly spheres, as well as their motion.

Besides the world-soul, the Creator created souls or gods for the planets and rational human souls, leaving it to the lower gods to create animals and the irrational part of the human soul. Everything has been made for man, plants to nourish him, and animal-bodies to serve as habitations for fallen souls.

We have, therefore, in Plato’s cosmology many gods, to none of whom he definitely ascribes personality, perhaps because he took this for granted, conceiving them in analogy with the human soul: the Idea of the Good, the total world of ideas, the Demiurge, the world-soul, the planetary souls, and the gods of the popular religion.

Plato represented  hold certain religious beliefs, such as: The gods are completely wise and good .Ever since his childhood Socrates has experienced a certain “divine something” which consists in a “voice” ,or “sign” that opposes him when he is about to do something wrong Various forms of divination can allow human beings to come to recognize the will of the gods . No one really knows what happens after death, but it is reasonable to think that death is not an evil; there may be an afterlife, in which the souls of the good are rewarded, and the souls of the wicked are punished.

Plato Concept of Education

Plato gave immense importance to education. In his treatise ”The republic”, Plato has dealt with education in details.

According to Plato- 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”.

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 can not 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.

The whole process of learning requires teachers and students; teachers are the ones who know the subject matter to be taught.

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.

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 .

Goal of Education

Plato’s philosophy of education aims at preparing learners for future life. Plato  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.

The objective 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. This explanation of Plato on education highlights his object of education and guides the readers in proper direction to unfold the ramifications of his theory of education.

In “Laws’ he says repeatedly:
“Education is the first and the fairest thing that the best of men can ever have”.
According to Plato the aim of education is the welfare of both the safety of the society and the food of individual. He was of the opinion that education should develop the sense of ideas in people in whom the ability is there, and should purpose and direct each one through the guidance of philosophers for the performance of those works which fits them naturally to perform

Thus, the aim of education is to enable a person to acquire the knowledge of this cause of the causes, the absolute good. Education prepares a man for the vision of absolute reality.And that is why, education right from the beginning is a preparation for the future.

Plato’s significance lies in giving a clear understanding to educators about the meaning of different concepts that appeared in the discourse on education in the history. These concepts include ideas, reason, goodness, metaphysics, dialectics, sense perception, representation, virtue, art as a medium of instruction, motivation and truth. If one looks closely at these concepts , one can easily find that in any discourse on educational philosophy, these words make more frequent appearances. Plato’s philosophy helps us in understanding these terms.

Plato presented his philosophy of education in his Republic. The basic theme of education is inquiry is justice. The basic question around which the dialog revolves is , ” what is the meaning of justice.” Socrates defines justice through establishing an analogy between society and individual.

Plato goal of education is for the good of the individual and for the safety of the state. The aim of education, according to Plato, is the welfare of both the individual and the society. His guiding principle is that, “Nothing must be admitted in education which does not conduce to the promotion of virtue. Moreover, Plato’s treatment of education in the “Laws” is different from that of his “Republic”. Education in the “Laws” is to be universal and not restricted, as in the “Republic”, to the guardian class and is to be compulsory. Children should come to the school not only if their parents please, but there should be compulsory education.

The highest goal of education, Plato believed, is the knowledge of Good; to nurture a man to a better human being it is not merely an awareness of particular benefits and pleasures,

Plato has designed his educational plan for the education of guardians or rulers. Thus his basic question is how to educate a person in the earlier part of his life to enable him to become a philosopher, a lover of wisdom and truth in the later years. How a person becomes a philosopher? Plato says that through the knowledge of absolute good, or the metaphysical truths , one becomes a philosopher. So the aim of education in Plato is to enable the learners to know the metaphysical truth. Thus metaphysics is the aim of education and learning .

Plato: Stages of Education

Plato’s model of education can be called “functionalist”: a model designed to produce competent adults to meet the needs of the state.

First stage:

Plato believed that education began from the age of seven and before this children should stay with their mothers for moral education and genders should be allowed to plays with each other.

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.

Second stage

This stage is till the age of seventeen. The content of education comprises Gymnastics , literature, music elementary mathematics. Gymnastics is essential for the physical and mental growth.Music is chosen as the medium of education, an avenue for the spiritual growth,  and ideas are the contents of education for this stage. After the age of six years both girls and boys should be separated and boys should play with boys and girls with girls and they should be taught the use of different arms to both sexes. This stage goes up to the age of seventeen years

Third stage

This stage is till the age of twenty. This stage is meant for cadetship and is related to physical and military training. The youth are bought into the stage of battle in this age. After the age of seventeen years the youth should be brought to battle filed to learn real life experiences.

Fourth stage

The four stages start at the age of twenty five to thirty years and in this age they get the training of Mathematical calculation and last for another ten years, after the completion the selected one’s are admitted in the study of dialect. Here students undergo mathematical training preparatory to dialectic

Plato has highlighted the qualities needed for an individual to enter higher education. He proclaimed that preference should be given to the surest, bravest, fairest and those who have the natural gifts to facilitate their education.

Fifth stage

This age is from ages thirty to thirty five.Plato restricted the study of dialectic to this age because he felt that an individual should be mature enough to carry on the study in dialectic,especially about ultimate principles of reality.

Six stage

This age is from thirty five to fifty years,  when according to Plato,an individual is ready as a philosopher or ruler, to return to practical life to take command in war and hold such offices of state as befits him. After reaching 50 one should spend the life in contemplation of “the Good” their chief pursuit should be philosophy and should participate in politics, and rule for the good of the people as a matter of their duty.

Selection of Students

Plato discussed the selection of students together with examinations of the student. 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.

These selections were in accordance with the age and stage to which these students were admitted. In Greece, pupils were being accepted in the first level at the age of six. Plato emphasised that education must start early. In Greece, boys and girls were being separated. As Plato says, “ when the boys and girls have reached the age of six, the sexes should be separated; boys should spend their days with boys and girls with girls.”. Boys and girls were being taught the same things separately, but the spirit in which they were taught, differed because boys were destined to be soldiers, while girls would become mothers of families, they would only be called upon in an emergency to defend the state.

On Special School

Due to the differences of intelligence and talents, Plato suggested that different schools should be established in order to meet the needs of these people; rulers, soldiers and populace should be educated separately.

Practical work

In the learning process, both Plato wished practical work to be included. For example Plato insisted that those who want to be good builders or good husbandman should learn practically their work. Plato emphasised this point in this way:

…I insist that a man who intends to be good at a particular occupation must practice it from childhood: both at work and at play he must be surrounded by the special ‘tools of the trade’. For instance a man who intends to be a good farmer must play at farming, and the man who is to be a builder must spend his play time building toy houses.

Plato considered the role of tradition in learning. it is through tradition that one learns or knows about the history of his/her society.

The Role of Teacher

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 technique 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. 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.

Plato  believed, and demonstrated, that educators must have a deep care for the well-being and future of those they work with. Educating is a moral enterprise and it is the duty of educators to search for truth and virtue, and in so doing guide those they have a responsibility to teach. As Charles Hummel puts it in his excellent introductory essay (see below), the educator, ‘must never be a mere peddler of materials for study and of recipes for winning disputes, nor yet for promoting a career.

In the case of formal education Plato emphasised the role of teachers. Plato thought that the role or the function of teachers is to communicate a subject matter to the pupils. Teachers are those who know the subject matter. He emphasised that teachers should have enthusiasm, they should have a spirit of helping students, and good behaviour, treat students with equality and friendship.He  believed that students learn many things from their teachers, not only what teachers teach, but also social behaviour through the example shown by their teachers.

In another place he writes “Do not then train youths by force and harshness, but direct them to it by what amuses their minds so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.”

Organization  of Curriculum

In The Republic, Plato has discussed his aim of Education, his notion of how education should proceed at different stages of life, and about the content of education and a well defined curriculum. for it. In the republic he has drawn up a blue print of what our ideal society should be and what role education has to play in the maintenance of justice and the functions of different social classes.

Plato contributed a lot in the form of ideas and it inspired his follower to find new ways for education and training of the children. In fact Plato himself did not contribute directly to science and mathematics but he stress on these subjects, his philosophy of education influenced the developments of these subjects in centuries to come. In the philosophy of Plato we can see some signs of the philosophy of Socrates; However Plato covered the major aspects of philosophy discussed today.
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. But 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.

Plato prescribed a general type of curriculum prevailing in Greece at that time. The curriculum for the early training, that occupied first seventeen years of life, was comprised of music and gymnastics. The word music was used in a much broader sense than we use it today. It included poetry, drama, history, oratory and music in its more limited sense.

Plato ,  define different stages for the organization and curriculum; 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”.

Plato’s   Method  of Instruction- The Dialectical Method

Plato is in favor of education in a free atmosphere without any compulsion or check. Plato doesn’t write treatises, but writes in an indirect way, encouraging the reader to ask questions and think for himself. But, like his teacher Socrates, Plato is often happy to play role of observer rather than a preacher. Plato says all elements of instruction should be presented to the mind in childhood, nor how ever, under any notion of forcing . He says that , ” it is better for a learner to be a free man and not to a slave in the acquisition of knowledge.” According to Plato knowledge which is acquired under compulsion detains no hold on the minds of the bearers. Plato believed that there was no compulsion in teaching and it should be more of an amusement.

The teacher must know his or her subject, but as a true philosopher he or she also knows that the limits of their knowledge. It is here that we see the power of dialogue – the joint exploration of a subject – ‘knowledge will not come from teaching but from questioning’.

In this method, the philosopher collects all of the instances of some generic category that seem to have common characteristics, and then divides them into specific kinds until they cannot be further subdivided.

The role of dialectic in Plato’s thought is contested but there are two main interpretations; a type of reasoning and a method of intuition.  Plato’s dialectic is “the process of eliciting the truth by means of questions aimed at opening out what is already implicitly known, or at exposing the contradictions and muddles of an opponent’s position.” Dialectic is the art of intuition for “visualising the divine originals, the Forms or Ideas, of unveiling the Great Mystery behind the common man’s everyday world of appearances.”

Dialectics is this art of thinking in concepts; concepts, and not sensations or images, constitute the essential object of thought. We cannot, for example, call a man just or unjust unless we have a notion, or concept, of justice, unless we know what justice is; when we know that, we can judge why a man is just or unjust

The dialectical method consists, first, in the comprehension of scattered particulars in one idea, and second, in the division of the idea into species, that is, in the processes of generalization and classification. In this way alone can there be clear and consistent thinking; we pass from concept to concept, upward and downward, generalizing and particularizing, combining and dividing, synthesizing and analyzing, carving out concepts as a sculptor carves a beautiful figure out of a block of marble. Judgment expresses the relation of concepts to one another, articulates concept with concept, while the syllogism links judgment with judgment, in the process of reasoning.

One of the significant features of the dialogical (dialectic) method is that it emphasizes collective, as against solitary, activity. It is through the to and fro of argument amongst friends (or adversaries) that understanding grows (or is revealed). Such philosophical pursuit alongside and within a full education allows humans to transcend their desires and sense in order to attain true knowledge and then to gaze upon the Final Good (Agathon).

Nursery education

Plato gives importance to nursery education, he thinks nursery education plays a vital role in the education of man, it help to build his moral character and state of mind “The most important part of education is proper training in the nursery Plato “The most effective kind of education is that a child should play among-st lovely things.”

Plato wants a place where children love to go and stay there and they play with things which enhance their education by playing..” Plato recommended play method at elementary level; student should learn by doing. Plato wants motivation and interest in learning. He is against the use of force in education.

“Knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.

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 judgement. Nevertheless, the education was restricted on a blend of the soft and the rough, so that these 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.Physical education

Early Education

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 emphasized: it is because of this that so rigid a censorship of the music and poetry to be used in education is required ….

At the first stage of life i.e. before the age of seven years, the child should not be educated formally. He should stay with his mother or nurse and be educated in their company. At this stage the mother or the nurse should tell him the authorized tales about the gods and heroes of the nation to develop the trait of noble character in them.

For the early education, Plato recommends the inclusion of dances, hunting and field exercises in gymnastics.

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. 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.

The education of these two subjects aimed at producing an improved soul and a healthy body. Even moral results were obtained through them. Music helped the child to grow gentle, graceful and harmonious. Gymnastics helped him to develop, courage, patience, reason, consideration, and temperance and whole mindedness.

The higher education

For higher education Plato emphasizes the study of numbers and geometry. This will sharpen the minds of students. Astronomy is another subject recommended by Plato for higher education. Lastly, music was also included. Student will study the subjects at this stage mathematics, literature and philosophy. Later on he would be opponent at a minor administrative position to get experience for the future more important governing positions.

Plato on Gender Discrimination

Plato fought against the discrimination of women. At that time women in Greece were not considered the same as men so they were not given education since they were staying home caring for children. For him, women had to be given the same education as men. He believed that differences between sexes are not relevant in constructing a society. He thought that females and males have got the same right of receiving education from the state since the interest of the state is paramount and the kind of education which will produce good men will also produce good women. . He was totally against gender and religious discrimination and proposed that education should be provided to all without any discrimination i.e. without considering race, sex or religion.

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 fulfil their duties they must have the same nurture and education.

Plato believed that women are equal to men and that, although some women are physically smaller or weak, some women are physically equal to men therefore those women who are physically strong should be allowed to learn the same skills that men do. In his book Republic Plato describes how male and female receive the same education and be given the same duties in society as given to the male member. These people are the ones who will be in charge his republic which would be an ideal society, where philosophers are kings. In other words, who know what is good for the people and for the mankind and take their decisions based on that knowledge.

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 does not suggest separate curriculum for women. Women should also be educated in music and gymnastics as well as the art of war. He says that women and girls should undergo the same gymnastic and military exercises as men and boys.

Plato also emphases on women education, he consider the same kind of education for women. Women should the same physical and educational training; they should know the art of war. The main aim of Plato was that each member of the society should undertake his work and responsibilities.












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