laws (books 1 - 6)
said that for ten years they would not come, and that when they
came, they would go away again without accomplishing any of their
objects, and would suffer more evil than they inflicted. At that
time my forefathers formed ties of hospitality with you; thus
ancient is the friendship which I and my parents have had for you.
Ath. You seem to be quite ready to listen; and I am also ready to
perform as much as I can of an almost impossible task, which I will
nevertheless attempt. At the outset of the discussion, let me define
the nature and power of education; for this is the way by which our
argument must travel onwards to the God Dionysus.
Cle. Let us proceed, if you please.
Ath. Well, then, if I tell you what are my notions of education,
will you consider whether they satisfy you?
Cle. Let us hear.
Ath. According to my view, any one who would be good at anything
must practise that thing from his youth upwards, both in sport and
earnest, in its several branches: for example, he who is to be a
good builder, should play at building children's houses; he who is
to be a good husbandman, at tilling the ground; and those who have the
care of their education should provide them when young with mimic
tools. They should learn beforehand the knowledge which they will
afterwards require for their art. For example, the future carpenter
should learn to measure or apply the line in play; and the future
warrior should learn riding, or some other exercise, for amusement,
and the teacher should endeavour to direct the children's inclinations
and pleasures, by the help of amusements, to their final aim in
life. The most important part of education is right training in the
nursery. The soul of the child in his play should be guided to the
love of that sort of excellence in which when he grows up to manhood
he will have to be perfected. Do you agree with me thus far?
Ath. Then let us not leave the meaning of education ambiguous or
ill-defined. At present, when we speak in terms of praise or blame
about the bringing-up of each person, we call one man educated and
another uneducated, although the uneducated man may be sometimes
very well educated for the calling of a retail trader, or of a captain
of a ship, and the like. For we are not speaking of education in
this narrower sense, but of that other education in virtue from
youth upwards, which makes a man eagerly pursue the ideal perfection
of citizenship, and teaches him how rightly to rule and how to obey.
This is the only education which, upon our view, deserves the name;
that other sort of training, which aims at the acquisition of wealth
or bodily strength, or mere cleverness apart from intelligence and
justice, is mean and illiberal, and is not worthy to be called
education at all. But let us not quarrel with one another about a
word, provided that the proposition which has just been granted hold
good: to wit, that those who are rightly educated generally become
good men. Neither must we cast a slight upon education, which is the
first and fairest thing that the best of men can ever have, and which,
though liable to take a wrong direction, is capable of reformation.
And this work of reformation is the great business of every man
while he lives.
Cle. Very true; and we entirely agree with you.
Ath. And we agreed before that they are good men who are able to
rule themselves, and bad men who are not.
Cle. You are quite right.
Ath. Let me now proceed, if I can, to clear up the subject a
little further by an illustration which I will offer you.
Ath. Do we not consider each of ourselves to be one?
Cle. We do.
Ath. And each one of us has in his bosom two counsellors, both
foolish and also antagonistic; of which we call the one pleasure,
and the other pain.