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Researching Socratic Pedagogy And Education In Plato's Republic

4911 words - 20 pages

Researching Socratic Pedagogy and Education in Plato's Republic

ABSTRACT: Though Plato never wrote a dialogue that explicitly asks, "What is education?", few argue that he is uninterested in the subject; after all, Plato, like Socrates, was a teacher. In his magnum opus, the Republic, Plato deals with education repeatedly. The eduction of the guardian class and the allegory of the cave present two landmark pedagogical passages. Yet to catch a glimpse of Socratic pedagogy, we must first sift through the intricacies of dialogue. In addition to the complexity inherent in dramatic context, it seems clear that Socrates’ remarks are often steeped in irony. Thus, we stumble upon a problem: how should we read these passages on education? Does Plato mean for us to read them genuinely or ironically? I will argue that Plato uses the dramatic context of the Republic to suggest that Socrates presents the education of the guardians ironically, while reserving the allegory of the cave for a glimpse of Socrates’ genuine pedagogy.

I. Introduction

Though Plato never wrote a dialogue that explicitly asks, "What is education?", few argue that he is uninterested in the subject; after all, Plato, like Socrates, was a teacher.(1) In his magnum opus, the Republic, Plato deals with education repeatedly. The education of the guardian class and the allegory of the cave present two landmark pedagogical passages. Yet to catch a glimpse of Socratic pedagogy, we must first sift through the intricacies of dialogue. In addition to the complexity inherent in dramatic context, it seems clear that Socrates' remarks are often steeped in irony.(2) Thus, we stumble upon a problem: how should we read these passages on education? Does Plato mean for us to read them genuinely or ironically?

I will argue that Plato uses the dramatic context of the Republic to suggest that Socrates presents the education of the guardians ironically, while reserving the allegory of the cave for a glimpse of Socrates' genuine pedagogy. The first portion of this paper will analyze various dramatic elements that indicate Socrates' ironic intent with respect to the education of the guardians. The second portion will focus on the allegory of the cave as Socrates' genuine conception of ideal paideia (or education).

II. Dramatic Context and the Introduction of Irony

A. Conventional Irony

Unfortunately perhaps, we cannot look at Plato's treatise on education to learn about his educational theory because he does not write analytical treatises. Instead, Plato employs written dialogues to inspire philosophical insight in his students. In light of Plato's dialogical style, the dramatic context introduces new complexities to the project of figuring out Socratic pedagogy.

While many may find Plato's drama a refreshing alternative to the dry argumentation of a treatise, it is likely that Plato's purposes are not limited to reading ease. In fact, in many ways the use of drama makes reading Plato...

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