link: Socrates



Theme: Traditionally, philosophy was a struggle to discover and to live the good and virtuous life. Probably the best example of this quest was Socrates. Socrates' challenge to reflect on the soul initiated the tradition of freedom in education as education for development of the human mind or 'soul'... critical rationality or 'creative intelligence i.e. the 'Socratic tradition'.

 "With his argument, Socrates demonstrated how keen intellectuality is integrally and symbiotically related to a spiritual and moral vision."  (David Purpel. Holistic Education in a Prophetic Voice in John Miller (Ed.) Worldviews, Educational Orientations and Holistic Education p. 74)

ANCIENT GREEKS  gods resided in the natural world  For the ancient Greeks, the world was considered to be the realm in which divinities or 'gods' lived. People believed that the realm of the gods was not outside the world but in the world. They believed that there was no thing in which gods did not reside. Gods resided in natural things and there was no part of nature in which the gods did not reside. There were gods residing in all the natural things which make up the material world. They believed that all things are full of gods - 'panta plere theon'. There were gods of the rivers, the stars, the harvest and every natural phenomenon. In ancient Greek thought, the material world of nature was considered to be sacred. The ancient Greeks believed that in order to prevent the universe from coming to a standstill, they had to nourish and appease the gods.They believed that their very survival and the existence of their world depended on the appeasement of the gods which resided in the natural things which made up their material world... depended on their accomplishment of the prescribed rites... carrying out the rites which were prescribed by their religions.

The 'religions of antiquity'  were systems of rites for appeasing the gods which resided in the natural world.

HUMAN MIND OR 'SOUL' CONSIDERED TO BE OF LITTLE VALUE until Socrates challenged the view: The ancient Greeks regarded the human mind or 'soul' as profane and of little value. It was not until Socrates challenged this view that the human mind became an object of reflection and a subject of concern for education. Education of the human mind was initiated with Socrates' challenge to reflect on it. Particular reference is made to Socrates of the Apology. In the Apology Socrates attempts to describe the meaning of his life and death. The Apology is a pivotal part of the history of freedom in education. It conveys eloquently and poignantly the human passion for freedom and truth in the face of the forces of conformity and expediency.

In ancient Greek civilization, when Socrates challenged the Athenian state the human mind or 'soul' became a subject of concern for education.

SPIRITUAL JOURNEY  Note the orientation of Socrates' argument:There is an important dimension of Socrates' story... description of the meaning of his life and death as told in the Apology that is often neglected and even forgotten. There are passages in which Socrates makes it clear that he is on a spiritual journey and insists that his intellectual engagement with the citizens of Athens is connected to that journey. In the Apology Socrates was convinced that his search for greater clarity and understanding is sanctioned and required by the gods. His queries, reflections, and debates represent sacred responsibilities and obligations.  When he is indicted by the citizens of Athens, he replies as follows: "Gentlemen of the jury, I am grateful and I am your friend, but I will obey the gods rather than you and as long as I draw breath and am able I shall not cease to practise philosophy... Be sure this is what the gods order me to do, and I think there is no greater blessing for the city than my service to the gods. For I go around doing nothing but persuading both young and old among you not to care for your body or your wealth in reference to or as strongly as for the best possible state of your soul." In the account of the Apology, Socrates justified his freedom to speculate on the human mind by acknowledging its profanity and appealing to the sacredness of the gods.

 He justified the right of the thinker to enjoy complete freedom of thought by acknowledging the belief that the thinker "runs no risk of trespassing upon the domain of the gods!" Consequently he should enjoy complete freedom to think!

IMPLICATIONS FOR EDUCATION The Western tradition of critical rationality is based on freedom in education... that is the freedom to cultivate intelligence.... education for the human mind... the so-called 'Socratic tradition'. Socrates claimed that it was possible to 'discover the truth' through inquiry, discussion and argument... known as the 'Socratic techniques'. The spirit of inquiry runs through the entire history of philosophy. It shaped many of the modern notions of science. The struggle continues... freedom of thought...'inner freedom'... 'holistic education'...