Sunday, September 16, 2012

On the Rise


Another way of saying educate is bring up or raise. With these English synonyms, we notice an explicit movement from a lower to a higher position. Socrates indicates such movement throughout the Republic. Remember the first line of the text: “I went down to the Piraeus yesterday with Glaucon….” We will hear many echoes throughout the text relating to this movement upward, toward the light, toward the truth after an initial descent. The related term instruct comes from the Latin participial stem of instruĕre—to build, erect, set up, set in order, prepare, furnish, furnish with information, teach. And another term: pedagogy, which comes from the ancient Greek etymon παιδαγωγεῖον—a room in a schoolhouse in which the attendant slaves waited for their boys. More literally, pedagogy in Greek would be something like leading the child, and in this context, the child in question was a slave boy who was charged with directing the other slave children. We can understand that in the Republic, Plato reverses and subverts Greek pedagogy. Instead of a slave boy leading the other slave children, Polemarchus’s slave, who is the first to speak after Socrates’s narration, stops Socrates, the wisest person, in his ascent back to Athens. Even though Socrates is a free person, he is induced by the slave to pause, to tarry in the lower world of the Piraeus, literally the “beyond land” or “the land beyond the perimeter.”