PHILOSOPHY PATHWAYS ISSN 2043-0728
Issue number 143 20th May 2009
I. 'Buber's Challenge: I and Thou' by Kathleen O'Dwyer
II. 'Nietzsche and Will to Power' by Martin Jenkins
III. 'Makers, Users and Imitators: Plato's Republic and Modern Education'
by Peter S. Borkowski
IV. Philosophical Investigations Wiki: letter from Martin Cohen
I would first like to express my thanks to the many people who emailed in response to the last issue of the Pathways e-journal; to those who expressed their condolences for my recent bereavement, and also for the many strong expressions of support and encouragement for my work with Pathways.
Launching this issue, Kathleen O'Dwyer's article on Martin Buber reads like a response to my remarks on moral dialogue in the last issue. While my own inspiration comes from reading, or struggling to read, Emmanuel Levinas, I would readily accept that Buber in many ways lays out the core structure of dialogue between an 'I' and a 'thou' more simply and clearly, in language which bears the stamp of a great poet and teacher.
Martin Jenkins' article on Nietzsche's concept of the Will to Power is the fruit of his research for the Fellowship of the International Society for Philosophers. Distilling the main line of argument from his dissertation, Martin Jenkins makes a case for a neo-anarchist, anti-aristocratic reading of Nietzsche which would put him without too great a stretch in the company of the young Marx, or perhaps even Buber.
In his second article for Pathways, Peter Borkowski offers a provocative reading of Plato's dialogue Republic which amounts to a stringent critique of current educational philosophy and pedagogical practice. Have we abandoned the great ideals of philosophy and become sophists? What would it take to put the clock back? If as Borkowski suggests, the only hope left is in the hands of philosophically-minded parents not institutions run for the hoi polloi, then the only solution would appear to be the mass abandonment of schools and colleges in favour of home education.
I. 'BUBER'S CHALLENGE: I AND THOU' BY KATHLEEN O'DWYER
How do we relate to each other?
As individuals, we are intermittently aware of our sometimes subtle but undeniable separateness and distance from others, even those with whom we share bonds of love, friendship or acquaintance. This separateness is seen simultaneously as a reason to rejoice, at our uniqueness, our privacy and our protection from total knowability and penetration, and as a source of longing, for complete sharing of ourselves and our experiences, for unreserved honesty between one and the other, and for the diverse manifestations of the ideal of genuine relationship.
No matter how self-contained, self-reliant, or self-satisfied we may be it is difficult to contest the premise that we are essentially social, relating and other-focused beings. Even in our private thoughts and dreams we contemplate a relationship with the other; many of our actions are chosen and undertaken in the belief, hope or fear that they will somehow be witnessed by or narrated to and heard by another. A life that is lived without thought for others is almost unimaginable; human existence demands the existence of others, in person, in memory or in imagination. To live is to relate. Thus, in the interplay between distance, wherein the self is experienced as a separate and private entity, and relation, whereby this same self is also experienced as interacting with and relating to the outer world, the polarities of human existence are embodied.
The existence of the self cannot fully satisfy the self; the question emerges: 'what for?' Indeed, this question may be posed regarding many, if not all, aspects of human experience. It opens to other questions relating to purpose, meaning, consequence and direction, and as with so many such questions, definitive answers are not available. Regarding the question of the self, why exist, why be honest, why be responsible, why live, the self alone cannot provide a viable answer. The self cannot fully satisfy an answer to this question, cannot fully provide the purpose and the means to live authentically. In the words of the Irish poet, Brendan Kennelly,
Self knows that self is not enough,
the deepest well becomes exhausted.
(Kennelly, 2004: 425)
We need others. We need others to share what we have achieved, what we have dreamed, what we hope and fear. We need others to receive what we want to offer. We need others to expand and interrogate our thoughts and experiences with questions and perspectives which we would otherwise not encounter. We need others to acknowledge, reflect and recognize our selfhood, our personhood, our being. Being authentic, 'being oneself', remains a merely theoretical abstraction unless it is tested in an encounter with an other.
But how do we relate to others? In the ideal, imagined vision of relationship there is an absence of fear, of judgement and of expectation. We meet the other in an openness of mutual interest, attention and sharing. We learn and grow in understanding and appreciation of ourselves, of others and of the world. How often, if ever, is this ideal translated into the reality of human relationships, and how often is it diminished and distorted into encounters which are characterized by self-righteousness, self-protection and self-advancement? Human relationship is the arena of the greatest possibility regarding joy and meaning, affirmation and enrichment, but it is also the space within which suffering, pain and damage is inflicted and endured. Our relationships are essential to us as living beings, but the nature of these relationships is complex and ambiguous, having the power to influence our lives negatively or positively.
The subject of human relationships is a topic explored by philosophers from the earliest times. Plato and Aristotle discussed the nature of human relationships in terms such as love, friendship, relationship between teacher and pupil, between the state and the citizen and between master and slave, and philosophers have continued to address various aspects of this subject. Martin Buber is a philosopher who examines the question of 'connection', what he describes as the relationships which constitute human being or human existence. Buber insists that one cannot become a person by oneself, that life is essentially relational, and that 'All real living is meeting' (Buber, 2004a: 17). We are always relating, 'meeting', even when alone, with the world, with memory or with imagined others. However, Buber also accepts the inevitable solitariness of the human condition, whereby each person 'goes the narrow way from birth towards death, tests out what none but he can, a wrestling with destiny, rebellion and reconciliation' (Buber, 2004: 146).
There are 'tests' in the individual's life which are only encountered and experienced personally and subjectively; the individual 'wrestles' with his/ her destiny, his/ her life, and no one else can shoulder this responsibility. This 'wrestling with destiny' often involves 'rebellion', opposition to what is and to what one is, a revolt against one's destiny, but it may also result in 'reconciliation', acceptance and joy. In asserting emphatically that 'one is alone', Rilke argues,
...that even between the closest human beings infinite
distances continue to exist, [but] a wonderful living side
by side can grow up, if they succeed in loving the distance
between them which makes it possible for each to see the
other whole and against a wide sky.
(Rilke, 2004: 34)
Various experiences, historical, political, and cultural, can portray this essential solitude as a burden to be evaded, but Rilke is claiming that it is through joyfully accepting 'the infinite distances' between them that individuals can actually encounter each other and relate to each other in a genuine way.
In his writings, most notably I and Thou, Buber expresses his belief that the deepest reality of human life lies in the relation between one being and another. Relationship is an essential aspect of the human condition. In his outline of human relationships, Buber describes and contrasts two different approaches and attitudes in our encounter with the other. The I-Thou relationship is one of openness, mutuality, and presence; it is a real meeting between two selves where both are recognized and respected as unique individuals. Buber's use of the pronouns 'I' and 'Thou' puts an emphasis on the presence of genuine personhood. The 'I' is an expression of the 'real self', without regard to performance, image or presentation. It is imbued with the courage of risk and vulnerability necessary for self-expression and self-revelation. The 'thou' is personal and unique, it recognises the personhood and individuality of the other, and it addresses this other as another self. This is an experience of genuine relation, mutuality and dialogue.
Buber insists that mutuality is essential to genuine relationship, the mutuality of persons meeting each other without presumption, conviction, or the superiority of a one-sided expertise.
However, Buber asserts that a more commonly assumed mode of connection is that of the I-It relationship. Here, the other is encountered as an object -- 'It' -- without the intention or expectation of genuine connection. In many encounters between human beings, there may be the appearance of relationship and communication, yet the other remains an object unconnected with the self, the other remains an 'It'. Such encounters are not inspired by the desire to meet the other as a constantly unpredictable and unfamiliar presence, the desire to be ever open to unfolding possibilities and the desire to open the self to each new moment. These encounters are characterised by an effort to impose a fixed and selective image of the self and by a determination to maintain pre-conceived impressions of the other. The resulting 'relationship' is therefore static, unchanging and devoid of possibility.
The motivations underlying these 'connections' are sometimes denied or ignored; the motivation to impress, to gain popularity and praise, to prove one's superiority in some way, to diminish another... we do not like to admit to such intentions and often we are not consciously aware of their underlying influence. There is an element of self-deception at play here. There is a pretence of dialogue, of open communication between two people, but often the reality is that of one or more monologues devoid of listening, hearing and attention.
Buber gives concrete examples of pseudo-dialogue, apart from the practical necessity of gaining and exchanging information which is inherent in many human interchanges, i.e. 'technical dialogue... which is prompted solely by the need of objective understanding' (Buber, 2004: 22). 'Technical dialogue' is characteristic of consumer-provider communication and pervades a range of activities and experiences; issues relating to health, education, housing, politics and a vast array of practical concerns are dealt with in a manner which may not involve personal communication, mutuality or genuine relationship. But even in our more personal encounters, there is often evidence of pseudo-dialogue. Echoing Nietzsche's statement that 'I and Me are always too earnestly in conversation with one another' (Nietzsche, 2003: 82), Buber gives examples of relationships which point to the intrinsic preoccupation with self which often underlies the pretence at genuine communication:
A debate in which the thoughts are not expressed in the way
in which they existed in the mind... a conversation
characterized... by the desire to have one's own
self-reliance confirmed by marking the impression that is
made... a friendly chat in which each regards himself as
absolute and legitimate and the other as relativized and
questionable; a lovers' talk in which both partners alike
enjoy their own glorious soul and their precious experience
... what an underworld of faceless spectres of dialogue!
(Buber, 2004: 22, 23)
The focus of 'a debate' is perhaps more concentrated on performance and competition than with a real sharing of ideas. Thoughts are edited and revised in accordance with this focus, and so they 'are not expressed in the way in which they existed in the mind'. Are thoughts ever expressed in this way? Is such expression, free of censorship and audience consideration, possible or desired? Perhaps full, transparent expression is impossible, but perhaps there are degrees of distortion and of revelation. The difficulties inherent in the use of language is acknowledged by Buber as he refers to attempted expression and response as 'stammering perhaps', but he suggests that the effort, the 'stammering', while imperfectly voicing the inner world, nevertheless may attain its goal: ' the soul is but rarely able to attain to surer articulation -- but it is an honest stammering, as when sense and throat are united about what is to be said (Buber, 2004: 20). In other words, when the intention is to articulate one's thoughts honestly the result may be genuine though imperfect communication.
Buber describes 'a conversation' which is characterised by a concentration on the impression one assumes one has made on the other; the focus is on the self, one's performance, one's responses and the perceived reactions of the audience. Very little listening occurs here; the conversation is maintained by various monologues with very little scope for dialogue.
'A friendly chat', according to Buber's description, is often devoid of mutuality or respect; each considers him/ herself as central and the other as less significant and capable. Opinions and judgements are already formed, and the chat is merely a proclamation of the validity of one's position. One's concentration is confined to what one is saying, how one is being perceived, and how one is going to react. There is little attention or energy available to hear and respond to the other.
Buber is also quite cynical about 'a lovers' talk', suggesting that the partners involved are engrossed in their own selves and their own experiences. What is absent here is the intimacy of mutuality, in the emotional and the mental realms.
All the examples offered by Buber are, in his view, evidence of 'faceless spectres of dialogue'. How commonly do we experience an uneasy inkling that some, at least, of our encounters fall within this sphere of 'spectres'? How often do we approach an encounter with an emphasis on its utility, its convenience or otherwise, or its potential threat to our vulnerability or security? For Buber, the appearance of relationship, of dialogue, is merely the public play of parallel monologues, where neither partner hears, nor is interested in hearing, what the other says: 'The most eager speaking at one another does not make a conversation' (Buber, 2004: 3). 'Speaking at', as distinct from speaking to, is a parody of dialogue and a dismissal of the possibility of communication between human beings.
The duplicity and distortion underlying this masquerade of relationship reflects and maintains internal and external conflict, because, as Buber states, 'The origin of all conflict between me and my fellow-men is that I do not say what I mean, and that I do not do what I say. For this confuses and poisons, again and again and in increasing measure, the situation between myself and the other man' (Buber, 2002: 22). This pseudo-encounter cancels any possibility of meeting with the person/ presence/ reality of the other, whether this is expressed in words or silence, in action or stillness, in expectation or despair. According to Buber, this is a rejection of life's possibilities, a distortion of relationship, and a negation of the reality of human living:
When a man withdraws from accepting with his essential
being another person in his particularity -- a particularity
which is by no means to be circumscribed by the circle
of his own self, and though it substantially touches and
moves his soul is in no way immanent in it -- and lets
the other exist only as his own experience, only as a
'part of myself'... then dialogue becomes a fiction, the
mysterious intercourse between two human worlds only a
game, and in the rejection of the real life confronting him
the essence of all reality begins to disintegrate.
(Buber, 2004: 28)
The rejection of the real life confronting the individual is, in Buber's view, a withholding of the self on some level from the ambiguity and unpredictability of a fully-embraced encounter, it entails a guarded and partial address to the other, and it sets limits on the reception and response to the call of the other in all its possibilities, dangers, and challenges. This is a failure to accept 'another person in his particularity', uniqueness and unpredictability; it does not respect the independent existence of the other because it sees the other merely through one's self-centred lens as 'part of myself'. When relationships are characterized in this way they are reduced to a 'game', a playing at dialogue and communication.
What is the source of this propensity to pseudo-relationships which runs contrary to the innate human desire for genuine connection? Why are we afraid or reluctant to 'say what we mean' and to hear what the other is saying? Poets have often wrestled with these questions. W.H. Auden describes the paradox:
At lucky moments we seem on the brink
Of really saying what we think we think:
But, even then, an honest eye should wink.
(Auden, 1994: 695).
We consider those times when we are 'on the brink of really saying what we think we think' to be 'lucky', but sadly the possibility often fails. Another poetic expression of this paradox is given by Philip Larkin, in his poignant portrayal of the commonly experienced conflict between honesty and kindness, the intensity of which appears to expand according to the degree of intimacy being experienced:
Nothing shows why
At this unique distance from isolation
It becomes still more difficult to find
Words at once true and kind
Or not untrue and not unkind.
(Larkin, 1988: 129).
Here, the poet is acknowledging that closeness in a relationship is often inversely related to honest expression. Kindness is a stronger motivation than truth and honesty, and as intimacy grows between two people each becomes aware of the responsibilities accompanying the privilege of experiencing the self-revelation of the other. Larkin is suggesting perhaps that the more we know another person the more we have an ethical obligation to refrain from consciously wounding that person on any level. Accordingly, some things must remain unsaid, unasked and unjudged.
The prevalence of the I-It relationship and the absence of genuine communication and mutuality, the I-Thou relationship, is due to factors which are complex, varied and subjective. However, fear seems to be a pervasive influence in these factors; fear of hurting and being hurt, fear of being misunderstood and fear of being rejected on some level. Therefore, trust is an essential characteristic of genuine relationship; trust in oneself and one's motives, trust in the other, and trust in the unpredictable possibilities of each encounter between one and another. Each genuine encounter is always new and uncontrollable; it is not served by preconceived judgements or expectations, but must remain open to the undeniable mystery and potential of its experience. As Buber says, 'Everything is changed in real meeting' (Buber, 1999: 242) and the nature of the change cannot be controlled or predicted.
Buber likens the experience to an encounter with a newborn child, suggesting innocence and possibility, trust and acceptance, respect and awe:
In spite of all similarities every living situation has,
like a newborn child, a new face, that has never been
before and will never come again. It demands of you a
reaction which cannot be prepared beforehand. It demands
nothing of what is past. It demands presence,
responsibility; it demands you.
(Buber, 2004: 135)
We may be dulled, by familiarity, habit, or fear, into a concentration on the 'similarities every situation has', we may assume that there is nothing new to be experienced and welcomed, that we are 'prepared' by fore-knowledge and repetition, and that our 'past' experiences and meetings are a template for whatever we encounter in the present. But Buber claims that such a reaction negates the possibilities of genuine relationship. Recognition of uniqueness rather than similarity, in the person, the event and the situation is prerequisite to the I-Thou relationship: 'Mankind's great chance lies precisely in the unlikeness of men' (Buber, 2002: 10).
Acceptance of difference, of otherness, of the other-than self is essential to the experience of mutuality wherein 'I wish his otherness to exist, because I wish his particular being to exist' (Buber, 2004: 72). What is needed is 'presence', attention to the present moment, and responsibility, the ability to respond to the 'presence' of the other. According to Buber, 'genuine responsibility exists only where there is real responding... to what happens to one [in] each concrete hour allotted to the person' (Buber, 2004: 18, 19). He rejects the 'illusion of a responsibility without a receiver' (Buber, 2004: 53). In other words, high-sounding proclamations of responsibility are empty cliches unless they are translated into our actual response to the concrete situation in which we find ourselves.
Buber has been criticized for what is deemed to be his overly idealistic vision of the I-Thou relationship. It is argued that the demand for the presence, the response and openness associated with this vision is not really possible in the real world. Buber admits the difficulty of maintaining such a vision in all situations; he argues that mostly there is an intermingling or an alternating between the two modes of being. He says we have a 'two-fold attitude' to the world (Buber, 2004: 11). But he considers that the effort to relate authentically is essential and worthwhile. The risks are varied and unpredictable, but the failure to pursue the possibility carries even greater risks, the consequences of which are evident in personal, social and global experiences.
1. Buber insists on the necessity of mutuality in all real relationships whilst acknowledging that in areas such as education and psychotherapy this mutuality cannot be fully developed.
2. The psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, reiterates Buber's assertion: 'the meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed' (Jung, 2004: 49, 50). Remaining unchanged is not an option in a real relationship.
3. The 'unlikeness' or difference between individuals is stressed here by Buber; while this reality is acknowledged by many thinkers, others assert that these differences are less significant than the likenesses and links that also exist between human beings.
Auden, W.H., 1994. Collected Poems. London: Faber and Faber
Buber, Martin, 1999. Martin Buber on Psychology and Psychotherapy, ed. Judith Buber Agassi New York: Syracuse University Press
Buber, Martin, 2002. The Way of Man. London: Routledge
Buber, Martin, 2004. Between Man and Man. New York: Routledge Classics
Buber, Martin, 2004a. I and Thou. London: Continuum
Nietzsche, Friedrich, 2003. Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Translated by R. J. Hollingdale. London: Penguin Books
Rilke, Rainer Maria, 2004. Rilke on Love and Other Difficulties. New York: W. W. Norton & Company
(c) Kathleen O'Dwyer 2009
II. 'NIETZSCHE AND WILL TO POWER' BY MARTIN JENKINS
The Will to Power is a notorious term. It conjures up images of Leni Riefenstahl's film documentary 'Triumph of the Will'; of the indefatigable will-power of a tyrant. Associated with other terms used by Nietzsche such as 'blond beast', 'Superman', 'the herd' and the 'Death of God', it is no surprise that the name of Nietzsche has been associated with Fascist and Nazi doctrine and practice. At a lesser level, he is generally associated with anti-democratic authoritarianism; with what one of his earliest admirers termed 'Aristocratic Radicalism'. The defence of Nietzsche against Fascist misappropriation has been accomplished elsewhere. My intentions here are to challenge the reading of 'Aristocratic Radicalism', to demonstrate that there are alternative readings and, to demonstrate that Will to Power furnishes plurality and a post-modern Anarchism.
In what ensues, I will demonstrate the feasibility of this contention by means of an examination of the doctrine of Will to Power.
What is it?
Will to Power is omnipresent because it is ontological. It constitutes all of nature including the human subject. It is not power in the instrumental sense where a subject uses power. Power is immanent, it is what a thing is and it is what a thing does. This does not entail that Power is a Being that rigidly inflates reality; Power is dynamic, is a becoming, is overcoming. Nature does have a 'necessary and 'calculable' course, not because it follows 'laws' but because it overcomes itself, from out of itself. Thus 'every power draws its ultimate consequences at every moment'. Nietzsche writes that:
A quantum of power is just a quantum of drive, will, affect,
more precisely, it is nothing other that this willing,
Thus Will to Power is not a metaphysical essence, the real which grounds appearance. It is the plural instantiation of power [macht], in shifting configurations which seek more power -- hence will to power [Wille zur macht].
Domination and Mastery
Reading Nietzsche's completed and published works, Will to Power seemingly acts to dominate and master weaker instances of Will to Power. Every living thing is composed of drives, affects which, as quoted, are quanta of power. Each drive etc would like to present itself as the master of all other drives, for all drives are tyrannical'. Crudely put, this obviously means that the strongest dominate by mastering the weaker.
Applied analogously to the political realm, it augurs authoritarianism and can be likened to what George Brandes termed Aristocratic Radicalism. This is where an elite few dominate and master the weaker many. Life is essentially Domination and mastery. This aim, according to Beyond Good and Evil (BGE) para 259, is achieved by appropriating, overpowering or incorporating and exploiting the alien and weaker. In BGE para 230, this essential tendency is extended to the rarefied realm of intellect, of the mind [Geist] of individuals:
Its intention here is to incorporate new 'experiences', to
classify new things into old classes which is to say: it
aims at growth or more particularly, the feeling of growth,
the feeling of increasing strength.
A reading of this passage contests the singular conclusion that Will to Power overcomes to Master and Dominate. For Nietzsche says that Will to Power also overcomes to grow.
Growth and Expansion
Not only is there textual evidence that Will to Power overcomes to grow and expand, there is also support from the resolutions to problems inherent in the Mastery and Domination thesis making it the defining characteristic. For, strictly adhering to the Mastery and Domination thesis, once a weaker instantiation of Will to Power has been overcome and mastered, that should be the end of the matter; mastery heralds a static state. If more mastery is sought, this goes beyond mastery qua mastery and its consequent static state. The answer as to why this should occur is found with Growth. The achievement of mastery is but a stage for the cumulative next stage of greater mastery; this being achieved by growth.
Maybe, growth is a means to more mastery -- Mastery still defining Will to Power? This misses the above point that Mastery per se, is a stasis. If the limits of the stasis of Mastery are breached, something else is involved in the Will to Power overcoming. The candidate for this is Growth.
An instantiation of Will to Power [in drives, affects, geist, individuals and peoples] overcomes other instantiations so as to grow. It does this by incorporating [einverlibung] and exploiting those weaker instantiations; ruling over them and using them in the pursuit its own growth. Remember, this does not employ the instrumental sense of power whereby something uses some thing else. Power expands and grows because this is what power does -- this is its 'Will' so to speak. All living material seeks to discharge its power. The true will of life is the creating of ever-greater units of power.
Being so possessed by a greater degree of Power necessitates the overcoming etc. of weaker instances of Will to Power by stronger, more powerful ones. This trajectory taken to its conclusion entails at the physiological micro-level a strong elite of drives and affects; at the human macro level it entails a ruling elite of strong individuals. So Aristocratic Radicalism with its political connotations is not restricted to the Domination/ Mastery thesis, it is also coterminous with Growth.
Considered socio-politically, Aristocratic Radicalism will require a rigid, hierarchical structure. The elite minority will employ the masses to further its own ends. As Nietzsche writes about Aristocratic society:
The crucial thing about a good and healthy aristocracy
however, is that it does not feel that it is a function but
rather its essence and highest justification -- and that
therefore it has no misgivings in condoning the sacrifice
of a vast number of people who must, for its sake be
oppressed and diminished into incomplete people, slaves,
Society is deemed not to exist for its own sake but only as the foundation and scaffolding that enables a select kind of creature to ascend to its higher task and existence. Threats to this order will be repressed and incorporated on pain of the transgression of its existence. However, a rigidly hierarchical order practising a pathos of distance must only permit an homogeneous becoming and overcomings of Will to Power.
Paradoxically, this situation is similar to the secularised Christianity of the 'herd morality' or 'Modern Ideas' which Nietzsche vehemently opposed. This morality is totalitarian and says 'No' to whatever is distinct, different, and thereby threatening.
So Nietzsche appears both to support and oppose the same situation, namely a stasis of Being, especially Reactive Being. In developing this latter point, recourse to the insights made by French philosopher Gilles Deleuze is required.
Active and Reactive
In his Nietzsche and Philosophy, Deleuze states that what ontologically exists, are forces. Forces are the Becoming of Being and the Being of Becoming. The Will to Power determines their quantity and quality making them Active or Reactive, strong or weak. It does this in the Eternal Return which, is either the reconfiguration or reinforcement of forces at every moment -- reality returns from itself to re-make itself. If active forces are pre-eminent, difference, chance, multiplicity ensue. If Reactive forces are pre-eminent, what already exists is reproduced. The latter reinforce structures already in existence; the former explode the limitations of existing structures to create something new and different.
Reactive Slave Morality
The predominance of reactive forces is evidenced in the Slave Morality. This morality, which has morphed from Christian metaphysico-ethics to modern ideas of equality, of a singular monopoly truth; is essentially reactive. In its origins it reacted to the more powerful Noble Masters by surreptitiously inverting their value system. Essentially weak and weary, and therefore fuelled by ressentiment against the healthily happy and strong and, against existence in general, it says a protective and reactive 'No' to everything that may threaten it. Hence its proffers one truth, one god and one value system under which everyone, without exception, must uniformly abide. What is different and new is incorporated into its existing value system. The Noble Masters were possessed more by active forces making them energetic, curious, pro-active, spontaneous: more warlike in searching for challenges. Writing against the hegemony of Slave Morality, Nietzsche encouraged the reception of active forces and their creativity in the guise of the Ubermensch, Free Thinkers and Spirits and, New Philosophers.
If active forces are present in reality, they will be present in Aristocratic Radicalism. As they will transgress, explode the structures of given reality; they will undermine Aristocratic Radicalism and its homogeneous, rigid, hierarchical structures.
Reactive Aristocracy and Active Anarchism
From Nietzsche's own description, the nature and practices of reactive Slave Morality appear similar to those of Aristocratic Radicalism. Both monopolise truth and value, both enforce a rigid homogeneous social structure, both oppose and suppress what is different and other to it. It seems safe to conclude both are reactive.
As such Will to Power overcoming so as to grow and expand must be reactive. Those forces which breach, explode and transgress existing reactive structures are active. In so acting, they establish something new, something different to the existing reactive structures. Although dependent on the activity of Will to Power, it is clear that active forces can resist the inexorability of Aristocratic Radicalism. The more acts of active transgression there are, the more points of resistance to Aristocratic Radicalism. Indeed, following this trajectory, it is unlikely there will be a singular power structure. Instead there will be many power structures; there will be a plurality.
Further, active forces will revalue the reactive structures to instantiate new values in their very activity. This is to deconstruct the existing conditions of truth, of value and reconfigure them. This is similar to the practice of Critical Ontology found in the writings of Michael Foucault and Gilles Deleuze.  This practice can be termed Post-Modern Anarchism as it deconstructs and reconstructs the determinations of value, of structures on all levels.
Contrary to the readings of Will to Power as inexorably entailing Aristocratic Radicalism, I hope to have shown that it can also entail alternatives such as an active Anarchy of becoming entailing the revaluation of values and identities.
1. Friedrich Nietzsche. Beyond Good and Evil. Oxford University Press 1998. para 6, 19, 36. Also Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Penguin 1969. Of Self-Overcoming.
2. Ibid. Of Self-Overcoming. Here, Zarathustra identifies Will to Power as Life:
'And life itself told me this secret 'Behold' it said, 'I
am that which must overcome itself again and again'.
3. BGE. op. cit. above: para 22.
4. Friedrich Nietzsche. On the Genealogy of Morality. Hacket. 1998. Ist Essay para 13.
5. Nietzsche scholar Bernd Magnus makes a distinction between Nietzsche scholars. Those who use or 'lump' both the completed, published, authorised works of Nietzsche and the unpublished notes, posthumously published notebooks he terms 'lumpers'. Those who utilise the completed etc works alone he terms 'splitters'. As a 'splitter', I maintain that the completed works contain all the main themes of Nietzsche's philosophy; works such as The Will to Power are therefore superfluous and unreliable.
See: Bernd Magnus 'The Use and Abuse of The Will to Power'. Reading Nietzsche. Oxford University Press. 1988.
6. Beyond Good and Evil. op. cit. para 6.
7. George Brandes. Essay On Aristocratic Radicalism. William Keinman, London 1914.
8. Beyond Good and Evil. op. cit. para 259
9. Ibid. para 230.
10. For example, see:
The Anti-Christ. Penguin 1990 para 2, 6. Beyond Good and Evil op. cit. above: para 230, 259. Genealogy of Morality. op. cit. above: Essay 2, para 12.
11. Beyond Good and Evil op. cit. above, para 13.
12. Ibid. para 259.
13. For example see ibid para 202, 203.
14. Gilles Deleuze Nietzsche and Philosophy. Athlone Press 2006.
15. The Ubermensch is mentioned predominantly in the Prologue in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. This term disappears in Beyond Good and Evil. Instead, Nietzsche writes of New Philosophers, 'experimenters', 'Free, very free spirits' of the future. See: para 42, 43, 44, 61, 199, 200, 201, 202, 203, 204-213.
The Dionysian reappears in Twilight of the Idols as the Tragic Artist and in Ecce Homo is connected with Thus Spoke Zarathustra. See Friedrich Nietzsche 'Expeditions of an Untimely Man', 'What I Owe the Ancients', Twilight of the Idols.
16. Will to Power is interpreted by some philosophers as justifying the political philosophy of Agonal Liberalism. Again, the singularity of the Aristocratic Radicalism reading is challenged.
Antonio Y. Vasquez-Arroyo 'Agonised Liberalism: The Liberal Theory of William E. Connolly. Radical Philosophy 127. 2004.
Keith Ansell-Pearson Chapter 8 Nietzsche and contemporary Liberalism. Introduction to Nietzsche as a Political Thinker. Cambridge University Press 1999
17. Michel Foucault [1926-1984] analysed the genealogical development of the conditions of 'Truth'. 'Truth' is the transmission of Power by multifarious means. Studying areas such as deviance, madness, criminality, sexuality; his 'critical ontology' highlights the construction of such identities, their limits and the possibility of going beyond them. Critical Ontology provides a more sensitive analyses to Power relations than classic Democratic-Liberalism. His thought has been applied to Identity Politics, to Cultural studies and later on, in tracing the construction and transgression of the subject under neo-Liberalism.
Gilles Deleuze [1925-1995] thought passed through many stages. In Nietzsche and Philosophy, forces are configured by Will to Power in the Eternal Return as actively transgressing ontological structures or reactively reinforcing them. The configuration and reconfiguration of Power is continued in subsequent works. For an effective overview of this see: Preface & Ch 5 Many Politics. Gilles Deleuze and Clare Parnet. Dialogues II Continuum 2002.
Post-Modern Anarchism is different from 'Modernist' Anarchism. The latter eschatologically struggles to abolish the state emancipating the rational sovereign individual into the realm of Freedom and Equality. The former is a continuous deconstruction of epistemological discursive truths borne of Power to redefine their prescribed identities and limits eschewing any overarching narrative of the macro-historical process.
Saul Newman. 'War On the State: Stirner and Deleuze's Anarchism'. http:---
John Glassford. 'Did Friedrich Nietzsche Plagiarise from Max Stirner?' Journal of Nietzsche Studies para 8 1999.
Thanks to the members of Chester Philosophy Forum and their contributions to an earlier draft of this essay.
(c) Martin Jenkins 2009
III. 'MAKERS, USERS AND IMITATORS: PLATO'S REPUBLIC AND MODERN EDUCATION'
BY PETER S. BORKOWSKI
The holistic treatment which Plato gives education in the Republic makes it more than a treatise. I would like to offer my reading of books six to ten of that great work in light of the practices and assumptions in modern education. While there are both strong and weak points in our various systems of elementary, secondary, and higher education, my purpose is simply to highlight the importance -- perhaps necessity -- of an integrated philosophy to models and pedagogies of education. The purpose of a system of education for Plato was to filter out the most knowledgeable for the purpose of ruling society, but there has never been any basis for believing that a highly trained cadre of virtue lovers could ever wrest power from the tyranny of institutions. Plato felt that only such an elite could properly administer a just society but in practice such hope does not square with the law of fallenness in humanity. In spite of any short-comings in contemporary schools or in Plato's system, we learn from the Republic that no curriculum is credible without an integrated, systematic treatment of ultimate things.
Philosophers and the harmony of education
There is an assumption today that 'educator' pertains exclusively to those administrators and 'facilitators' in today's elementary and secondary schools, and even to some extent in higher education. The academic terms 'doctor' and 'professor' carry a different significance -- they are titles, not occupations. The nature of their work is inferred from the titles. In the Republic, to be an educator implies grasping an holistic system against which one may judge the training (educating) of a pupil, so that 'his name rhymes with virtue', as Socrates would put it. When secondary school teachers and administrators call themselves 'educators', they are claiming a power which transcends titles. Those who would claim such logos-power, what ancient Scandinavians thought divine even, must have some insight to truth. This is why the word spjal in our Teutonic tradition carries still a sense of the mystical and magical in our modern word 'spell'. To write and read (and therefore the quasi-mystical activity to interpret) means being in possession of the Logos.
To claim to be an educator would require possessing not only something which is beyond the grasp of non-educators and the to-be-educated, but also necessary to them. The logos then is generative, driving each successive generation of pupils through our world of fallenness, out of our respective caves, and into the noetic luminon. To accomplish this, Plato saw virtue as the measure and educators should want 'to see them feelingly', to borrow a phrase from Shakespeare. Insofar as education is more than merely learning a trade or skill, there can be no curriculum of it without a theoretical (i.e., philosophical) foundation. The moment normativity occurs regarding behaviour or what to value, education goes beyond job-skills. While some would point out that values and proper behaviour are skills, equal in value yet different from those such as assembling a circuit board or balancing a ledger, value implies a theory of society and a theory of society implies a theory of mankind.
To dress the Republic in the cultural robes and tunics of the Aegean mind will not do. Socrates/ Plato were not speaking to Greeks, they were not speaking to a different race of men, but to humanity. Because of its trans-cultural and universal nature, Plato's theory of paideia (the educated soul) can teach us today about our priorities and how we look at our schools. Pedagogical perspectives, then as now, are not 'turned towards the truth' (VII 519d); educators and their subjects both see well enough, he said, but their eyes are diverted -- and therefore inverted as if glimpsing into a Cave.
The Muses and the harmony of mind/ soul/ discipline
It is important to recall that there were three genuine Muses, different from the nine which had emerged through the eloquence and manufacture of generations of master rhapsodists. These three, Practice, Memory, and Song, are said to derive from the names of the three cords on the lyre. They resemble Plato's first stage of education, his trivium of music, poetics, and physical training.
1. Melete (practice) This Muse pertains to practice, that which builds habit (ethismos), which concerns primarily the tendency to feel pleasure and pain and hence fit in with the culture's ethos. It is a gauge needed to recognize virtue (arete) and Aristotle elaborated this aspect of it best in Nicomachean Ethics. Aspects of physical education and discipline (gumnastike) in the Republic are also implied here -- 'our guardian must be both a warrior and a philosopher' (VII 525b). Whether cultivating a skill or talent or routine, repetition both meditative and physical is essential.
2. Mneme (memory) This Muse pertains to the philosophic nature (VI 490a); memory is the antithesis of writing, which Socrates warned against relying on. The new and improved tri-Museic pillars of Plato's paideia are a theory of mimesis. Its place in education is based on the immortality of the soul (Meno 81c) because, for Plato, memory, or reminiscence, concerns man's capacity to attain truth (the metaphor used is 'to see truth') and only if the mind ('the eyes of the soul') is turned toward it.
Memory not only enables us to recollect (anamnesis) or rediscover truth about the world but is also an integral feature of identity. In his analysis of the contemporary 'attack on memory', Richard Weaver spoke best of this point:
I do not find any other period in which men have felt to an
equal degree that the past is either uninteresting or is a
reproach to them. When we realize the extent to which one's
memory is oneself, we are made to wonder whether there is
not some element of suicidal impulse in this mood, or at
least an impulse of self-hatred.
Since identity concerns memory, it follows, according to Weaver, that morality does too because morality cannot be elaborated without reference to how and what one perceives oneself to be. Pupils and students today are taught to forget the past and think ahead about the future or, worse, that the past can be rewritten if it doesn't suit one's palate. Identity is formed over time, through mistakes and successes, Weaver noted, 'and people who would forget their history, cultural or personal, will be reduced to living by immediate responses to immediate challenges... the past and future are conceptual; the present is empirical'.
The theory surrounding the term 'Ideas' concerns mimesis -- the re-cognition of what is good and what is true. These are not discovered but recalled. For the Greeks, unlike in our times, all is spiritual, cyclical, infinite. The spiritual pervaded every perceptible human and natural phenomenon (It's interesting that I just separated the human from the natural automatically!). For moderns, the spiritual in learning is gone except for certain occasions in a metaphor or figure of speech. Recollection then is the spiritually apt term for what to us would be a 'discovery' rather than a recovery. Thomas Hobbes, whom I suspect as being one of the original co-conspirators against memory, helped to initiate its descent by announcing to the eager ears of the Enlightenment world that memory is a 'decayed sense'. Richard Weaver once pointed out that this picturing of it in effect 'reduces memory to the status of sensation [not unlike Locke's tabula rasa] and makes it subject to a physiological wearing out'. For Plato, memory is epistemological.
3. Aoide (song) It is difficult for moderns to make out the contours of relevance of this Muse to education, much less to orienting the soul, but Plato was clear. Music provides a basis for learning the history, identity, and the ethos of the community through stories, which requires learning vocabulary, grammar, and the logic of metrics. Song in the sense that it is outlined in the Republic is not music class or playing in a garage band. Song meant (means) the harmonic structure of reason which comes full measure in metrics, tropes, schemes, and the flowers of intellectual concord in a rhythmic syllogism. In a previous article, I wrote on the significance of grammar and stories to critical thinking and we may draw a parallel here with music and reasoning. Mousike does not provide knowledge but the equilibrium and inner equipoise necessary to embarking upon higher courses of study (VII 522a). Plato saw deeper into the psychological aspects of harmony. Perhaps he played the lyre when working on a definition much the same as Sherlock Holmes on his violin when working on a case.
These then are the three Muses of Plato's system. They are trans-cultural, perennial features of humanity which make our genetic link to Ideals. All three work in cadence. If one receives too much music, he becomes 'soft' while physical training alone leads to 'toughness' and 'savagery' (III 410c). All three result in the habituation necessary to seeing the correct form of moderation, courage, and so on. With proper discipline, they are necessary for a person to have what Aristotle called khreston ethos, often translated as 'just sentiments'.
Plato would delegate the vocational subjects (computers, ship building, farming, mechanics, accountancy, medicine, and so on) to other institutions. The road up the divided lines of the educational system had another purpose. The next step after learning the harmony of sound (harmony of behaviour, conduct, and the notation of the world) is the harmony of numbers, the intellectual engineering behind one's ability to engage in dialectics.
Numbers and the harmony of phusis
While physical training continued into early-adulthood (much on account of the necessities of the age for preparedness in battle), the next step in training the intellect was 'that common thing that every craft, every type of thought, and every science uses and that is among the first compulsory subjects for everyone... number and calculation, for isn't it true that every craft and science must have a share in it?' (VII 522c). Mathematical reasoning is not only practical, it is akin to abstraction and conceptualization of philosophy, astronomy, geometry and building, statistical reasoning, warfare, and, for Plato, urban planning for the kalliopolis. Mathematics is not for knowing the merely occasional, knowing about what comes into being and passes away, it's about the eternal: 'for geometry is knowledge of what always is' (VII 527b). One recent New York curricular report tells us that it is 'necessary to function in a world very dependent upon the application of mathematics'. Such claims do concern cognition but for limited, concrete needs.
Dialectics and Harmony
Plato's system assumes that there is such a thing (reality) as truth and that character is equal to soul. The only souls which will be able to pursue truth then are virtuous ones. Plato insists that to be a ruler is a lifestyle, not a salaried job (VI 487c-d) and as a lifestyle it requires a particular character type, and as a particular character type it requires instilling the habits which produce such a character. This, he believed, would necessarily imply a value for truth. Truth, he has it, cannot be grasped unless a person has laboured up the ladder of the divided line. This is not merely a pedagogy or a curriculum; it is a comprehensive, holistic philosophy of human soul-types and purpose, a phenomenological psychology of the world.
-- Pure reasoning: examination of axioms/ first principles (arkhai)
-- Mathematical reasoning: discovering physical laws/ axioms/ first principles
-- Belief from data received and ordered by the senses
-- Perception and image; imagination but in the sense of reflections, inaccurate or indirect perception and conjecture, artistic rendition (eikasia)
One cannot be at the same time a lover of wisdom and a lover of falsehood (VI 485c). This was Plato's concern about the 'great evil' coming from dialectic as it was sophistically practiced in his time (VII 537d). To climb the ladder a certain moral maturity is required for a student to be able to recognize or 'see' the good amongst the bad; for example, when distilling or dismantling an argument. This is the ethical imperative behind the study of logic. How many students learn deductive or predicate logic today through a moral lens? Cicero taught that the perfect orator must also be at the same time a moral person and that without moral qualities one will not become a good orator. Quintilian taught the same. One of his concluding points in De Institutione Oratoria is that an orator is a good person who is learned in the arts of speech. This notion is fundamental to Western culture generally.
If we reflect on the moral ultimacy which the Cave symbolized for Plato, it is clear, as Martin Lings once described it, that those who ascend from the Cave and return to instruct bear the stamp of the Divine: their mission is to enlighten Cave dwellers about nature, about the stars and the rain and the lush verdure of nature, its animals, their habitats, and all the technology which mankind has accrued in his tenure in the world, all these things 'in their full glory', said Lings, which means in their truth. Some in the Cave marvel at the Words of these teachers, being seduced (educated) by the indescribable beauty of measurement, experiment, poetry, biology, navigation, and the dream which is mankind's genetic fascination with his placement in the order of everything. Others in the Cave however become indignant, believing those who teach such things to be madmen and that the shadows they know and which their parents and grandparents knew are the highest realities that exist on the evidence that they deem their shadows sufficient; they whimper and exclaim that the enlightened ones should be punished for imposing their own narrative upon them. These two types of students are eternally symbolic of learners generally: those, said Lings, who are conscious of their imprisonment and in so being have taken the first steps to liberation and those who believe they know reality already.
Makers, users, and imitators
In terms of today's education system, its elective system, student-centred learning, all-inclusive education (i.e., where everybody can be a guardian), teachers as 'facilitators' who allow pupils or students to construct their own Caves, Plato's image of makers, users, and imitators (X 601d-602b) shows a great difference in value.
The status of our belief about the absolute informs us about what knowledge is; this in turn informs us about who we are and our purposes for procuring it. The Ideas or Forms are supreme in the sense that they are not only true but, more importantly, immutable. Immutability concurs with immortality. Using a bed as his example, the Platonic hierarchy goes as such (X 267b):
i. IDEAS: The perfect idea of a bed, the universal, made by
ii. Users/ Makers: The actual, particular, nominal bed,
fashioned from the hands of a maker. The user of a bed is
one who realizes its being. Whether what makers produce is
good or not depends on the estimation of users. Users of
the products have knowledge as to the products' merit or
value. The makers produce according to the information or
feedback provided by the users. Their activities are
reciprocal. The energy or dynamics of interaction between
these two provides a path to reflection on the Ideal.
iii. Imitators: The image (perspective) of a bed might be
made by, for example, painters or poets. This image might
entertain or be consumed. There is no permanence.
In any given example, imitators have only opinions and temporal impressions, which might be true or false but nevertheless disqualify imitators from being competent teachers of virtue (X 597b). Moreover, artistic production is generally subjective; it can be used to serve a client's caprice, or personal ideological and political ends; it expresses the moods, not reason. Imitation is 'far removed from the truth, it touches only a small part of each thing and that is itself only an image' (X598b).
In short, the artist/ imitators make all that is sensual about experience to rule us when it is we that should rule what they imitate. 'If you admit the pleasure-giving Muse, whether in lyric or epic poetry, pleasure and pain will be the kings of your city instead of law or... reason' (X 607a). Plato confesses the joy which poetry brings but points out that regardless of its 'charm' there is no getting around it: 'to betray what one believes to be the truth is impious' (X 607c).
Today's education in light of the Museic ideals
1. Today's curricula are not based on a theory of ultimate things.
Plato derived his paideia from a complex and intricately argued theory of ultimacy. That theory had for its axioms that there is absolute truth, there is virtue, and the path to truth cannot be embarked upon without virtue. Virtue and the tekhne relevant to it are instilled per music, verse, and discipline. This prepares the soul to study numbers. The study of numbers and some 'experience under one's belt' (empeireia; VII 539e, IX 582a-e, X 601d) prepare the soul for dialectics. The divided line serves not only as an epistemological map but also a geography of the soul. No modern theory of paideia even comes close to attempting this. So intimidating would such a task be to modern teachers colleges that grand systems are simply dismissed as quaint or Quixotic. Curricula now are designed to implement governmental policy, which is merely a form of expediency or pragmatism.
2. Not all people wish to engage in a pursuit of truth or be virtuous.
State schools assume that young people do or that if they don't it's because they don't know that they do. One of the ways to help draw students into virtue was/ is Plato's view that philosophy, and thus any learning, begins with a very magical moment: thaumazein (to wonder), that curiosity -- including doubt, suspicion, and intrigue -- about nature that's needed in order to attract attention to something higher than the base pleasures of gossip and gadgets. But not all souls want to wonder. This is another feature of fallenness. Amongst the things which corrupt a person, today and in the Republic, we read 'beauty, wealth, physique, relatives in high places of influence, and all else that goes in hand with these' (VI 491c). Plato remarks that excellence of body and material acquisitions are not indicative of excellence in soul. Young people in such conditions will be filled with impractical expectations and such an individual will be a 'know-it-all'.
And if someone approaches a young man in that condition and
gently tells him the truth, namely, that there's no
understanding in him, that he needs it, and that it can't
be acquired unless he works like a slave to attain it, do
you think that it will be easy for him to listen when he's
in the midst of so many evils? (VI 494d).
Education then is not about putting knowledge into souls that lack it, like trying to put sight into the blind (VII 519b). Souls turned towards darkness commit evil not for lack of knowledge or perception but because they are weighted down from the formative years of childhood by worldly fallenness -- feasting, impulsiveness, whim, lack of discipline and manners -- all the sensual appetites and the love of entertainments over truth. The sharper such an eye can see, the more evil it accomplishes (VII 519c). As such, no ideological commitment or technical skill can produce happiness nor guarantee that a person will turn out okay later in life if fundamental truths about character/ soul development are ignored: 'those with the best natures become outstandingly bad when they receive a bad upbringing' (VI 491d). Thus, one skilled in numbers and logic will still be in discord with the order of the kosmos if virtue is lacking.
Plato at least attempted to filter out the wonderers as they got older. This however does not fit contemporary learner-outcome goals where all are to be made into wonderers. To make all people wonderers and therefore 'knowers', they must be put in the first position.
3. Imitators are now the authors of the Ideas (Forms).
Here then is a rough sketch of our contemporary hierarchy:
i. Imitators: Knowledge is created, identities are
constructions, art is whatever, tradition and exhortations
to value or ethics are constraints and impositions; life,
like any gadget, is supposed to be user-friendly; poetry,
like music, tickles rather than teaches, Baudrillardian
consumption is virtue.
ii. Users/ Makers: still in second position as above; but
school knowledge is for the purpose of procuring a good job,
the reward of which means working (as a maker) to satisfy
the need of another consumer (user); individuals are 'human
resources' conditioned to work so that they will desire to
purchase (as users) the production of other human resources
(makers) through the marketing men whose sole task is to
create needs for products and services. This relationship
is not used to reflect on any Ideal but to reflect on the
economic identity of desire.
iii. IDEAS: Ideals, Forms, notions of permanence, subjective
appearances and perspectives, personal matters, and, when
not in conformity or consensus with the administration,
4. Consensus is the new yardstick for truth.
Consensus Building is now perhaps the principle pedagogical value behind curriculum design: the emphasis is on replacing individual ideas and beliefs for 'common goals'. These goals are in a way also marketed insofar as they come to the classroom not via ultimacy or truth. Those goals are dictated from the national level to local school boards. In the literature consensus is referred to as 'Synthesis', one of the high-order thinking skills in psychologist Benjamin Bloom's taxonomy, which assigns evaluation, synthesis and analysis as 'high-order' skills and comprehension and knowledge as the two 'low-order' skills (an instance of the same reversal above). Bloom, considered to be the father of Outcome-Based Education, proclaimed that 'The purpose of education and the schools is to change the thoughts, feelings, and actions of students' (See Kjos, ch. 2 and 3). Consensus on an answer or solution, predetermined by the teacher's manuals and guidebooks, is arrived at in Hegelian fashion (e.g., as in the International Baccalaureate, Community Education, Mastery Learning, Values Clarification, Delphi Technique, et al.).
Additionally, since the theories of Wolff, Rousseau, and Dewey, principally, schooling has been understood as the means to letting children create themselves within the ideological perimeters set by the state educational apparatus, to create their own values by means of consensus, and to learn enough hard skills to find a job upon graduation. That is what the sophists taught: what the hoi-polloi value is the sole criterion for knowledge and thus truth. In sophistic education, wisdom is nothing other than 'majority convictions when people gather together' (VI 493a). Socrates warned that whoever would consider the moods and pleasures of the majority to be a guide to teaching would indeed be a 'strange educator'.
5. Virtue is the purview of schools.
In Plato and in today's education, virtue is assumed to be the domain of the system. There is the implication behind it all that parents or culture or history or tradition cannot provide children and adolescents with the correct views (values, assumptions, etc) about society, only today's administrators and Plato's rulers can accomplish that. We may remark Rousseau's view that all children are born good but that they are corrupted by their traditions and parents. For Plato, we are all born with access to truth but not all students can get a virtue-bound upbringing. From both, elements of utopianism emerge.
6. Plato's truth seekers rule in utopia; compulsory state virtue is utopian.
If we are to accept Plato's system, what would be needed is a thorough revolution, a putsch in education where philosophers would take the hill. Philosophers, however, do not engage in such acts, nor do scientists, nor did the prophets; hoi-polloi do this in their fallenness and are suspicious of anyone who would challenge them. 'The majority cannot be philosophic [and they] will disapprove of, or at least be suspicious of, philosophers' (VI 494a). In the Republic, it is hoi-polloi who are to be ruled; but in fact, they are and always have been the rulers. In this sense Plato's education is utopian. The monastic schools knew this well and let fallenness take its course where it would and let the pursuit of knowledge and virtue happen where they would.
Government schools attempt to teach virtue not for the elite who will rule our country in the future but for everyone. They claim that there is no absolute truth but that their worldview ethic (virtues) is the correct one. Is it not a bit of an imposition to insist that all people should know and should be virtuous? Is it not utopian to believe that one standard or global curriculum of value and knowledge fits all -- especially after exhortations to celebrating diversity and cultivating a child's self?
Ultimacy and fallenness
After William Ockham walked away as the winner in the nominalist debate (perhaps the greatest psychological-epistemological rattling event in history), Ideas were no longer ultimate. They perform math-like functions as propositions in the way of John Locke's concept of the mind as 'white paper, devoid of all characters'. Truth became the empirical impressions typed upon not a mind but a brain. Since Derrida and post-structuralism, however, Ideas are not fixed upon that paper even; they get written over, smudged at places, their meaning or signification morphing with each set of new characters following them; they are momentary and pluriform, corruptible and unstable. Both the radical empirico-positivism and consumerism of modern education and the surrealistic butterflies and pinwheels of postmodernism have attacked and leveled ultimacy from both flanks much the way Rome sacked Carthage in the Third Punic War: totally. Plato would surely complain that neither notion of writing is distinguishable from the kind of writing on the walls of a Cave, both being stern rejections of the various ways that memory and permanence cohabitate with knowledge, identity, and truth. On the basis of Plato's system, it could be argued that the rejection of absolutes or ultimacy has precipitated the fallenness which is seen best in schools and, thus, in our rulers.
Teach the child, not the system. If readers find sound doctrine in Plato's understanding of the education of character and therefore mind, if today truth, proportion, and beauty are reduced to being constraints upon the imagination, if 'art is whatever', if every child can be his own source of knowledge, then an alternative to state schooling is imperative. But it is up to parent-philosophers to be the guardians of their children's minds; we cannot rely on philosopher kings to ascend to power or institutional administrators to deliver. Fallenness in the world does not allow the virtuous to rule society and it does not allow all people to become virtuous through state edict (a.k.a. global curriculum).
Plato's worst-case scenario of the tyrannical soul, and thus the city ruled by it, might arrive sooner or later. But the time has already come when most teachers and administrators have turned themselves away from the truth and towards fables (2 Tim. 4:3).
Berit Kjos, Brave New Schools, Harvest House 1995.
Martin Lings, Ancient Beliefs and Modern Superstitions (1965), Quinta Essentia 1991.
Plato, Republic (transl. G M A Grube), Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. 1992.
Richard Weaver, Visions of Order (1964), Intercollegiate Studies Institute 2006.
Recommended for the themes pertaining to education
Frederick Eby, The History and Philosophy of Education: Ancient and Medieval
Terence Irwin, Plato's Moral Theory: The Early and Middle Dialogs
H I Marrou and George Lamb, A History of Education in Antiquity
R B Onians, The Origins of European Thought
Plato: Protagoras, Meno, Euthyphro
Gerasimos Santas, 'Plato's Protagoras and explanations of weakness' in Gregory Vlastos (ed.), The Philosophy of Socrates
C C W Taylor, Plato: Protagoras
Gregory Vlastos, Platonic Studies
(c) Peter Borkowski 2009
IV. PHILOSOPHICAL INVESTIGATIONS WIKI: LETTER FROM MARTIN COHEN
Date: Wed, 29 Apr 2009 Subject: Re: Philosophical Investigations From: Martin Cohen firstname.lastname@example.org
Following up your kind suggestion to write something for the Pathways journal, Pierre-Alain Gouanvic and I would like to invite Pathways philosophers with a particular interest in philosophy of science to visit:
and consider joining in this interesting and unusual project.
I shall let Pierre-Alain introduce it:
'The lack of curiosity of most intellectuals about
so-called scientific matters (about the world, really) is a
mix of cowardice (why downgrade to the status of mere
student of Science when you can issue broad statements
about 'Life Sciences', 'Biopower', 'Technoscience', etc,
etc, or pretend to be an inquisitive Socrates when you're a
Sophist, really) and of plain old narrowmindedness disguised
What is needed, he adds is a new 'Seattle': another large-scale grassroots movements of 'citizens reclaiming control, not over the economic sphere (although it is still obviously needed), but over the production of scientific knowledge.'
There are, as everyone knows, many 'wikis' on the internet, even if most people only are familiar with 'Wikipedia'. But Wikipedia did not invent the characteristic software, the 'Wiki', which essentially serves to allow several editors to work on the same article. Wikipedia, in fact, wastes this great facility, as it explicitly forbids what it calls 'original research'. On the Investigations site, on the other hand, that is what we are interested in.
Pages currently being worked on, for example, include:
-- The evolution of Evolution Theory
-- Does God exist? Scientific and Philosophical aspects of that hardy perennial
-- How can perception be faster than nerve transmission?
-- Homeopathy : fact or fiction?
-- The Coincidence of Civilisation Can Civilization be Based on a Coincidence?
The two co-ordinator/ supervisoring editors manage the site. Contributors are grouped into three categories: 'guests', which is everyone, and 'authors' which is what all the 'guests' become when their contributions are accepted as being constructive and properly researched - which it is assumed will normally be the case. Some authors may be invited to become 'editors' with a supervisory role over a defined area of content later.
When pages are completed to the editors satisfaction, they are closed to further editing, although 'suggestions' can still be made on their associated discussion page.
With best wishes to Geoffrey and all Pathways colleagues,
Martin Cohen Editor, 'The Philosopher' Co-editor 'Philosophical Investigations'