TABLE OF CONTENTS
TABLE OF CONTENTS………………………………...vi
Works and Chronology……………….....4
Intention for the Distinction ……15
VIEWS ON CLASS DISTINCTION
2.1 Aristolte’s view……………………….18
2.2 Karl Marx’s view……………………..20
The tenability of Egalitarianism………...26
HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF EDUCATION.
Notion of Education…………..30
Christian Education ………….35
PLATO’S CLASS DISTINCTION AND CONTEMPORARY EDUCATION.
Implications of Plato’s Class Distinction……….....43
of Contemporary Education ……….47
of Plato’s Class Distinction on Contemporary
CRITICAL EVALUATION AND CONCLUSION.
Notes on Plato’s Class Distinction ………. 55
defects and Impact of Contemporary Education ……... 59
The integral nature of the human
society makes the interaction of one another within the society necessary.
Thus, there exist economic, social, religious and political institutions that
foster this required integration. The popular John Donne’s phrase that ‘no man
is an island’ advocates a complementarity of each other’s capacity for a
wholesome society. Aristotle in his Politics asserted that nature
intends man to live in a society. “He who is unable to live in society or who
has no need because he is sufficient for himself must either be a beast or a
is only in a society therefore that man can develop his potentialities as a
human being. The state, which is described as an organized political community,
becomes therefore a plat-form for the realization of this natural need for
For Plato, the nature of the state
requires a division of labour so that the diverse needs of man within the state
would be met. The outcome of this division, if followed according to the
natural disposition of each to his class, is justice in the state and happiness
for the individuals within the state.
The itinerary of Plato’s class
distinction within the state as he proposed for the then Athenian state left a
significant mark on education. Through out the history of the development of
education, some imports of Plato’s political propositions seemed evident
especially in contemporary education. In a bid to make this clearer, it is
necessary in this introductory part to state the purpose, scope, method and
division of this work.
PURPOSE OF STUDY
Having stated the nature of the human
society and the necessity of the state above, I intend to look at Plato’s view
of the ideal state. His propositions on the nature of the ideal state introduce
the role of education while answering the questions of ‘who’ occupies ‘which’
class in the three classes of his ideal state.
The end of this would be to explain how his class distinction remains
the backdrop of contemporary education.
SCOPE OF WORK
This work examines Plato’s
proposition for an ideal (Athenian) state through his class distinctions in the
state. A look at different views on this class distinction gives more
explanation to the reality of different classes within a state/society. With an
inference of the implications of Plato’s class distinction and a look on the
nature of contemporary education, the influence of the former on the latter is
easily brought to limelight.
Expository method is employed in
explaining Plato’s propositions for an ideal state and the distinctions in
class within the state. However, an analytic tone underlies the whole thesis
purposely for realizing the philosophical evaluation of the influence of his
(Plato’s) class distinction in contemporary education.
DIVISION OF WORK
Apart from this introductory part,
this work comprises five chapters. The first chapter exposes the general
background of Plato’s political philosophy, which also treats his idea of the
make up of the ideal state. The second explores some views on class distinction,
which is concluded with the tenability of egalitarianism. Chapter three traces
the historical development of education from the ancient to the contemporary
ages of education. Chapter four derives the practical implications of Plato’s
class distinction from which the influence of the class distinction on
contemporary education is gleaned. Chapter five makes a critical evaluation on
Plato’s class distinction and the impact of contemporary education.
Plato was born at Athens in 428BC into a distinguished
Aristocratic family. His birth coincided with the era of the Periclean
democracy when Athens
was at its peak in culture and learning. The greatness of Athens before this time dates back to when Athens, under
Cleisthenes, defeated the Persians in battle. By the political strength and
genius of Cleisthenes, Athens
started booming in commerce and social life. This glory was short-lived. The
city-state of Sparta,
a neighbouring Greek
State, out of sheer
jealousy and covetousness for Athenian wealth, status and power declared a war,
which lasted twenty seven years. Athens
was defeated in 404B.C.
This defeat of Athens marked the end of the only democracy
in the ancient world. It brought with it a traumatic degeneration in moral
ethos and politics of Athens.
Plato was a living witness to all these.
Plato’s father was Ariston and his
mother, Perictione. His mother was a sister of Charmides and niece of Critias,
who were both ringing figures in the oligarchy of 404BC. He had two brothers:
Adeimantus and Glaucon, who were both represented in the Republic. He had Patone as his sister. Plato’s real name was
Aristocles but was later called Plato due to his broad physique.
name was Aristocles but nature has invested him with a powerful structure and
very soon everybody was calling him Plato literally, the broad-shouldered one.
In 403B.C. when Plato was only
twenty-four, the Periclean democracy had been overthrown and replaced by a
dictatorship of the thirty oligarchs who were incidentally Plato’s relatives.
Plato, who has always had a flair for a political career, was urged to enter
into politics by these oligarchs. The oligarch however embarked on a rule of
violence and attempted to lure Socrates into their crimes.
Plato was totally disgusted with the oligarchy, which was eventually done away
with and democracy reinstituted.
The restored democracy did not fair
better either. It was a rule characterized by ineptitude and wanton indiscipline,
a mob rule where practically every citizen went to the house of assembly to air
his/her views and record his/her vote. This era turned out to be an era of
great political decadence especially in Athens. Plato was inspired to seek for
a remedy for his disorganised society given the trial, conviction and death of
Socrates, Plato’s friend and master, on unjust charges of impiety, corruption
of the minds of the youth and for establishing new gods. Plato, shattered and
dismayed by this atrocious brutality towards Socrates, resolved to abandon home
politics permanently. He withdrew to Megara and took shelter with the
To find a cure for the ills of
society as well as to forget his sorrows regarding the death of Socrates, he
preoccupied himself with much learning and contemplation. This took him to
Sicily, Italy and Egypt. As he observes in one of his works, “…we are not only
to look to our own country for examples, but seek in the world at large for
specimens of the highest, divine order of men, who though rare, might from time
to time be found under every form of government and no perfect civilization can
be attained without this means of observation and improvement.” It is not clear how long Plato
sojourned in Egypt
but the more important point is that there are evident traces of information
collected in Egypt
through his writings and so far, it cannot be doubted that this visit had its
influence on the character of his philosophy.
On his return to Athens, Plato established his Academy in
386B.C. near the sanctuary of the hero, Academies. The Academy may rightly be
described as the first European university; for the studies there were not
confined to Philosophy only but extended over a wide range of auxiliary
sciences such as Mathematics, Astronomy, Geometry, Gymnastics, Biology and the
physical sciences. Again, admission was not restricted to Athenian citizens;
youths came also from abroad. The curriculum of the Academy was designed to
train and nurture a new species of politicians who would eventually become
Philosopher-kings. For the rest of his life, he presided over the Academy
making it the intellectual centre of Greek life. Its only rivalry was the
school of Isocrates. After his failed attempts to make Dionysius II a
Philosopher king and his city and Syracuse an ideal state, he remained in
Athens devoting all his powers of thought to Philosophizing, teaching and
writing at the Academy. He died at the age of 80 in the year 348B.C.
His Works and Chronology.
Apart from lectures delivered at the
Academy and the letters he wrote to his associates, Plato left so many valuable
writings for posterity. They are collectively called The Dialogues. It is hard to distinguish Socraticism from Platonism
in the Dialogues because Socrates,
the chief interlocutor appears to be the mouthpiece of Plato’s opinions. The
non-existence of any separate work by Socrates himself in which he expressed
his own ideas also compounded the issue.
A convenient chronology has been
worked out over the years regarding the Dialogues
of Plato. The chronology of his works discloses the development of Plato’s
thoughts, how it changed - if it did change, what modifications were introduced
in the course of time and what fresh ideas were introduced. These trends in his
works follow the events and course of time and thus, like other Philosophers’
writings, to understand Plato’s thought the chronology of his works is very
The list is categorised into Socratic
period – when it is supposed that the influence of the Socratic
intellectual determination is still with Plato. The Transitional period
– here it is assumed that Plato is moving towards originality in thought and
writing. The period of Maturity – depicting original thoughts of Plato
and The Period of Old Age – a period of noticeable perfection in thought
due mainly to experiences and convictions.
Apology: Socrates’ defence at his trial.
Crito: Socrates is exhibited as the good
citizen, who in spite of his unjust condemnation is willing to give up his life
in obedience to the laws of the State. Escape suggested by Crito and
others and money is provided to pay through his escape but Socrates declares
that he will not escape the laws but will abide by his principles.
Euthyphron: Socrates awaits his trial for
Laches: On courage.
Ion: Against the Poets and rhapsodists.
Protagoras: Virtue is knowledge and can be thought.
Charmides: On temperance.
Republic: Bk.I on Justice.
Gorgias: The practical politician, or the rights of
the stronger versus the Philosopher, or justice at all costs.
Meno: Teachability of virtue corrected in
view of ideal theory.
Against logical fallacies of later sophists.
Hippias I: On the Beautiful.
Hippias II: Is it better to do wrong voluntarily or
Cratylus: On the theory of language.
Menexenus: A parody on rhetoric.
Period of Maturity.
Symposium: Earthly beauty is but a shadow of true Beauty.
Phaedo: Ideas and Immortality.
Rebublic: The State, Dualism strongly emphasized.
Phaedrus: Nature of love; possibility of philosophic
rhetoric, tripartition of the soul as in Republic.
D. Works of Old Age.
Theactetus: Knowledge is not sense perception.
Parmenides: On the defence of the ideal theory
Sophistes: Theory of ideas considered again.
Politicus: The true ruler is the knower. The legal
status is a make-shift.
Philebus: Relation of pleasure to good.
Timaeus: Natural science, the doctrine of demiurges
Critias: Ideal agrarian state contrasted with
imperialistic sea power ‘Atlantis.’
Laws and Epinomis: He makes concessions to real life, modifying the utopic face of the Republic.
Letters 7 & 8: Must have been written after the
death of Dion in 353BC. It should be noted that Plato never published a
complete and nicely rounded off Philosophical system. The reason was that:
thoughts continued to develop as fresh problems other difficulties to be discussed,…certain
modifications to be introduced occurred to his mind.
Plato’s Class Distinction.
Plato’s political thoughts like the
rest of his thoughts and other philosophers’ sweep from his historical
environment and the socio-political conditions that prevailed in Greece
(especially in Athens and Sparta) at that time. The Polis or City-State was for
centuries the context for Greek life and thought. It was regarded as the ideal
social organism for the proper realization of good life. There were three
legally and distinct classes: First was the body of citizens who were
entitled to take part in its social life – they attended town meetings and were
eligible to a range of public offices. They also participated in public debates
and elections. This class was a privilege attained by birth. The second main
group was made up of the resident foreigners. Athens was a predominantly
commercial city and so harboured a good number of foreigners. This group has no
part in the political life of the city but were socially influential and they
had freedom of movement. The third group were the slaves. They formed
one – third of the total population of the city state. The slave like the
foreigner lived happily especially during the time of war when his service is
needed by the state. There were two kinds of slavery: the unskilled slavery of
the mines and the skilled slavery of the pottery and domestic life. Barker
described the situation thus:
of slaves at Athens
was on the whole good. Majority of the slaves were skilled workers …and they
could be made to give the best of their skill only by good treatment… In social
life, slaves were treated as equals and in dress, they were often
indistinguishable from freemen.
Plato could not understand this
freedom and so he blamed it somewhere on the principle of unlimited liberty
characteristic of a radical democracy like in Athens:
extreme of popular liberty is when the slave bought with money, whether male or
female is just as free as his or her purchaser.
This is in brief a general condition
of life in the city state with which most of Plato’s political thought was
occupied and to which it adjusted its conclusions. Given the three distinct
classes of the City-state of Athens, Plato recognised the faulty and diseased
state of Athenian politics. He therefore sought to deal radically with the
problem by constructing the ideal state. He links the relation between the
individual and the state. The state for Plato is man writ large.
The state is a natural institution, natural because it reflects the structure
of the human nature. He institutes three classes in the state as analogous to
the three parts of the human soul. He explains that the human soul is divided
into three parts: the rational element, the spirited element and the appetitive
The craftsmen or artisans as a class,
represent the lowest part of the soul – the appetites. The guardians embody the
spirited element and the highest class, the rulers, represent the rational
the ideal state would be composed of three classes: the rulers to administer
it, guardians or soldiers to defend it and the artisans to provide the
essentials of life. The ideal state would be one in which the three classes
like the three parts of the soul function harmoniously. The Platonic state
therefore is a community marked by a division of labour among the three
classes: the rulers or perfect guardians, the soldiers at first called
guardians and afterwards, auxiliaries, and the producing class, whom he called
The first class, the rulers,
according to Plato, are specially trained group of intellectuals who should
rule the state. He gave careful directions for choosing the rulers and for
making sure that once chosen, they do not work for their advantage. The ruler,
said Plato, should be the one who has been fully educated; one who has come to
understand the difference between the visible world and the intelligible world;
between the realm of opinion and the realm of knowledge; between appearance and
reality. Rulers are basically to be
distinguished through education. Plato’s institution of this class also drives
from the unjust condemnation of his master, Socrates. To avert such irrational
control of the state, rulers should be philosophers; educated. The
philosopher-king by analogy should be the captain of the ship as he knows the
art of navigation. The rulers though selected amidst the guardians through
thorough education, are meant to calm the rest of the classes to be content
with their class through the noble lie. The noble lie would say that the god
who fashioned all people mixed gold in the composition of those who were to
rule, put silver in the guardians and iron and brass in the farmers and
would imply that all by nature were destined for their respective classes.
Though Plato recognises the defect of lying, he made it exclusively for the
Then if anyone
should have the privilege of lying, the rulers
of the state
should be the persons.
He prohibits others from lying
else should meddle with anything of the kind… if then the rulers catch anybody
beside himself lying in the state, he will punish him for introducing a
practice, which is equally subversive and destructive of the ship of the state.
As such, philosopher-kings are given
absolute power to rule. Plato insists however, that all children be raised
communally by the state until they are about eighteen. At that time they will
be made to undergo three types of tests to determine prospective rulers from
those who are to become warriors and artisans.
The second class, the soldiers, who
defend the state, manifest the virtue of courage. They are given special
training and are selected as they manifest this virtue necessary for the
safeguard of the state. The first class, the rulers, come from this group
because they need this virtue of courage but are individuals that are
distinguished intellectually to meet the interests of the state. For the
guardians to be really good and noble guardians of the state, they are to
require philosophy and spirit, swiftness and strength. They are to be educated
to distinguish between enemies and friends. The soldiers, according to Plato’s
educational curriculum, are watched from their youths upwards to be placed in
We must watch
them from their youths upward and make them perform actions in which they are
most likely to forget or to be deceived and he who remembers and is not
deceived is selected.
As such, Plato designates the
qualities of the soldier that necessitate their position in the class:
word guardian in the fullest sense ought to be applied to this higher class
only who preserve us against foreign enemies and maintain peace among our
citizens at home…
They are to guard the state and go to
war when the need arises. He designates them as auxiliaries to the extent they
support the principles of the rulers. Thus, the class of soldiers are
distinguished within the educational curriculum in physical training, which
involves athletics and gymnastics. He recommends that training for the soldiers
be more exerting and sophisticated in order to make them as wakeful as
well-bred watch-dogs. Besides,
…if they are
to be courageous, must they not learn other lessons than these as will take
away the fear of death?
He thus recommends suitable lessons
for the soldiers especially those that expunge fears. In line with these, he
strikes out some of Homer’s and Hesiod’s poems that he considers unsuitable for
I do not say
that these horrible stories may not have use of some kind but there is a danger
that the nerves of our guardians may be rendered to excitable and effeminate by
The third class, the artisans,
represent the lowest part of the soul, the appetite. They are made up of
farmers, traders and craftsmen. In well ordered states, Plato says:
commonly those who are the weakest in bodily strength and therefore of little
use for any other purpose; their duty is to be in the market and to give money
in exchange for goods to those who desire to sell and to take money from those
who desire to buy.
Thus, artisans, as Plato would wish to
recognise them, are incapable of learning philosophy. They are the class that
intellectually rest on the level of opinion and do not have knowledge. They are
only best placed at the crafts as artisans and farmers. This group according to
the noble lie are naturally made of iron and brass.
Plato’s Intention for the Class
One of the major incidents that led
to Plato’s political philosophy was the death of Socrates. He saw traces of the
inability of Athenian democracy to produce great leaders in the way it treated
Socrates, one of its greatest citizens. He could not understand how a man like
Socrates, such an excellent Philosopher, a good man and moralist could be put
to death by Athenian authorities.
Consequently, future politicians were to receive a sound education in
Philosophy for he believes that only philosophers could be good rulers.
Moreover, Plato holds that the state
is a reflection of people’s economic needs because no individual is
self-sufficing. Thus, the need for a division of
labour within the state:
…as we have
many wants, and many persons are needed to supply them, one takes a helper for
one purpose and another for another and when these partners and helpers are
gathered together in one habitation, the body of inhabitants is termed a state.
Plato maintains that our needs
require many skills and no one possesses all the skills needed to produce food,
shelter and clothing. There must be a division of labour amidst the classes we
saw earlier: Rulers, Guardians and Artisans. Within the state, Plato’s
political philosophy sought to proffer an ideal state. What makes this state
ideally just according to Plato, is the dedication of each of its component
parts to the task for which it is naturally suited and specially trained.
More significant here is Plato’s
conception of Justice in the state. He saw the harmonious working of these
classes as a ground for justice in the state. He aimed at achieving justice
which he likened to the harmony of the three parts of the soul. Justice in the
state exists when the artisans, soldiers and philosopher-king exhibit the
virtues of temperance, courage and wisdom respectively.
Plato was aware that it would not be
simple to convince people to accept this system of classes in the state,
particularly if they found themselves in a class that might not be the one they
would choose if they had the chance. This formed the backdrop of the noble
lie. In all, Plato aimed at a division of labour to meet the needs of the state
where one occupies a class one has been naturally disposed to fill. He aimed at
justice for the state as a natural institution which reflects the structure of
the human nature.
In the ideal state, it should be
noted, Plato emphasized his concern over the ruling class, by maintaining that
the philosopher-king is most suitable to rule. He intends that the ruler be
educated to learn the real art of governance. He is convinced that the state in
the hands of the philosopher-king is rationally governed. This is why he
emphasized the education of the ruling class. With the complementary functions
of the soldiers and artisans, Plato’s ideal state is achieved.