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and also with a great simplicity of language, and with
examples borrowed from common life, such as we are accus-
tomed to call intuitive examples.

24. The Socratic Irony. — To form an intelligible ac-
count of the Socratic method, it is necessarv to distinguish
its two essential phases. Socrates followed a double method
and sought a double end.

In the first case, he wished to make war against error and
to refute false opinions. Then he resorted to what has been
called the Socratic irony. 1 He raised a question as one
who simply desired to be instructed. If there was the
statement of an error in the reply of the respondent, Socra-
tes made no objection to it, but pretended to espouse the
ideas and sentiments of his interlocutor. Then, by questions
which were adroit and sometimes insidious, he forced him to
develop his opinions, and to display, so to speak, the whole
extent of his folly, and the next instant slylv brought him
face to face with the consequences, which were so absurd and
contradictory that he ended in losing confidence, in becoming
involved in his conclusions, and finally in making confession
of his errors.

25. Matkutics, ok the Abt of giving Birth to Ideas. —

Analogous processes constituted (he other part of the So-
cratic method, that which he himself called maieutics, or the
art of giving birth to ideas.

1 The primitive meaning of the Creek wont f i P ooveic, irony, is interroga-
tion. Socrates gave a jeering, ironical turn to his questions, ami in conse-
quence, this word lost its primary meaning, ami took the one which we

pive it at this time.


Socrates was convinced that the human mind in its normal
condition discovers certain truths through its own energies,
provided one knows how to lead it and stimulate it ; and so
he here appealed to the spontaneity of his auditor, to his
innate powers, and thus gently led him on his way by easy
transitions to the opinion which he wished to make him
admit. However, he applied this method only to the search
for truths which could either be suggested by the intuitions
of reason and common sense, or determined by a natural
induction, that is, psychological, ethical, and religious truths. 1

26. Examples of Irony and Maieutics. — We can best
give an exact idea of the Socratic method b}' means of ex-
amples. These examples are to be found in the writings of
the disciples of Socrates, as in the Dialogues of Plato, such
as the Gorgias, the Euthydemus, etc., and still better in the
Memorabilia of Xeuophon, where the thought of the master
and his manner of teaching are more faithfully reproduced
than in the bold and original compositions of Plato. While
recognizing the insufficiency of these extracts, we shall here
make two quotations, in which is displayed either his incisive,
critical spirit, or his suggestive and fruitful method: " The
thirty 7 tyrants had put many of the most distinguished citi-
zens to death, and had encouraged others to acts of injustice.
'It would surprise me,' said Socrates one day, 'if the keeper
of a flock, who had killed one part of it and had made the

1 The Socratic method for the discovery of truth can he employed only
in those cases where the pupil has the crude materials of the new knowl-
edge actually in store. Psychology, logic, ethics, mathematics, and per-
haps grammar and rhetoric, fall within the sphere of the Socratic method;
hut to apply this method of instruction to geography, history, geology, and,
in general, to suhjects where the material is inaccessihle, is palpably absurd.
The Socratic dialogue, in its negative phase, is aimed at presumption, arro-
gance, and pretentious ignorance; but it is sometimes misused to badger
and bewilder an honest and docile pupil. (P.)


other part poor, would not confess that he was a bad herds-
man ; but it would surprise me still more if a man standing
at the head of his fellow-citizens should destroj' a part of
them and corrupt the rest, and were not to blush at his con-
duct and confess himself a bad magistrate.' This remark
having come to the ears of the Thirty, Critias and Charicles
sent for Socrates, showed him the law, and forbade him to
hold conversation with the young.

" Socrates inquired of them if he might be permitted to ask
questions touching what might seem obscure to him in this
prohibition. Upon their granting this permission: 'I am
prepared,' he said, 'to obey the laws, but that I may not
violate them through ignorance, I would have you clearly in-
form me whether von interdict the art of speaking because it
belongs to the number of things which are good, or because
it belongs to the number of things which are bad. In the
first case, one ought henceforth to abstain from speaking
what is good ; in the second, it is clear that the effort should
be to speak what is right.'

"Thereupon Charicles became angry, and said: 'Since
you do not understand us, we will give you something easier
to comprehend : we forbid you absolutely to hold conversa-
tion with the young.' l In order that it may be clearly seen,'
said Socrates, ' whether I depart from what is enjoined, tell
me at what age a youth becomes a man.' 'At the time
when In' is eligible to the senate, for he has not acquired
prudence till then ; so do not speak to young men who are
below the age of thirty.'

"'But if I wish to buy something of a merchant who is
below the age of thirty, may I ask him at what price he sells

"'Certainly you may ask such a question; but you are
accustomed to raise inquiries about multitudes of things


which are perfectly well known to you ; it is this which is

" ' So I must not reply to a young man who asks me where
Charicles lives, or where Critias is.' 'You may reply to such
questions,' said Charicles. ' But recollect, Socrates,' added
Critias, 'you must let alone the shoemakers, and smiths, and
other artisans, for I think they must already be very much
worn out by being so often in your mouth.'

" 'I must, therefore,' said Socrates, 'forego the illustra-
tions I draw from these occupations relative to justice, piety,
and all the virtues.' " *

In the final passage of this cutting dialogue, observe the
elevation of tone and the gravity of thought. So Socrates
had marvellous skill in allying enthusiasm with irony.

Here is an extract in which Socrates applies the maieutic
art to the establishment of a moral truth, the belief in God :

" I will mention a conversation he once had in my pres-
ence with Aristodemus, surnamed the Little, concerning the
gods. He knew that Aristodemus neither sacrificed to the
gods, nor consulted the oracles, but ridiculed those who took
part in these religious observances. 'Tell me, Aristodemus,'
said he, 'are there men whose talents you admire?' 'There
are,' he replied. ' Then tell us their names,' said Socrates.
' In epic poetry I especially admire Homer ; in dithyrambic,
Melanippides ; in traged\ T , Sophocles ; in 'statuary, Poly-
cletus ; in painting, Zeuxis.' ' But what artists do you think
most worth} 7 of admiration, those who form images destitute
of sense and movement, or those who produce animated
beings, endowed with the faculty of thinking and acting?'
' Those who form animated beings, for these are the work of
intelligence and not of chance.' ' And which do you regard

1 Memorabilia, I. n.


as the creation of intelligence, and which the product of
chance, those works whose purpose cannot be recognized,
or those whose utility is manifest?' 'It is reasonable to
attribute to an intelligence the works which have some useful
purpose.' " l

Socrates then points out to Aristodemus how admirably
the different organs of the human body are adapted to the
functions of life and to the use of man. And so proceeding
from example to example, from induction to induction,
always keeping the mind of his auditor alert by the questions
he raises, and the answers that he suggests, forcing him to
do his share of the work, and giving him an equal share in
the train of reasoning, he finally brings him to the goal
which is to make him recognize the existence of God.


27. The Republic of Plato. — " "Would you form,"
said J. J. Rousseau, "an idea of public education? read
the Republic of Plato. It is the finest treatise on education
ever written." For truth's sake we must discount the en-
thusiasm of Rousseau. The Republic doubtless contains
some elements of a wise and practical scheme of education ;
but, on the whole, it is but an ideal creation, a compound of
paradoxes and chimeras. In Plato's ideal commonwealth, the
individual and the family itself are sacrificed to the State.
Woman becomes so mu< h like man as to be subjected to
the same gymnastic exercises ; she too must be a soldier as
he is. Children know neither father nor mother. From the
day of their birth they are given in charge of common nurses,
veritable public functionaries. In that common fold, " care
shall be taken that no mother recognize her offspring." We
may guess that in making this pompous eulogy of the Repub-
lic, the paradoxical author of the Emile hoped to prepare

1 Memorabilia, I. iv.


the reader for giving a complaisant welcome to his own

28. The Education of Warriors and Magistrates. — .
Plato, by some unexplained recollection of the social con-
stitution of the Hindoos, established three castes in his idea]
State, — laborers and artisans, warriors, and magistrates.
There was no education for laborers and artisans ; it was
sufficient for men of this caste to learn a trade. In politics,
Plato is an aristocrat ; he feels a disdain for the people,
" that robust and indocile animal." It should be observed,
however, that the barriers which he set up between these
three social orders are not insuperable. If a child of the
inferior class gives evidence of exceptional qualities, he must
be admitted to the superior class ; and so if the son of a
warrior or of a magistrate is notably incompetent and un-
worthy of his rank, he must suffer forfeiture, and become
artisan or laborer.

As to the education which he designs for the warriors and
the magistrates, Plato is minutely careful in regulating it.
The education of the warriors comprises two parts, — music
and gymnastics. The education of the magistrates consists
of a training in philosophy of a high grade ; they are ini-
tiated into all the sciences and into metaphysics. Plato's
statesmen must be, not priests, as in the East r but scholars
and philosophers.

29. Music and Gymnastics. — Although Plato attaches a
high value to gymnastics, he gives precedence to music.
Before forming the body, Plato, the idealist, would form
the soul,- because it is the soul, according to him, which, by
its own virtue, gives to the body all the perfection of which
it is capable. Even in physical exercises, the purpose should
be to give increased vigor to the soul : "In the training of

education among the greeks. 29

the body, our young men shall aim, above everything else,
at augmenting moral power." Note this striking picture of
the man who trains only his body : " Let a man apply him-
self to gymnastics, and become trained, and eat much, and
wholly neglect music and philosophy, and at first his body
will become strengthened ; but if he does nothing else, and
holds no converse with the Muses, though his soul have some
natural inclination to learn, yet if it remains uncultivated
by acquiring knowledge, by inquiry, by discourse, in a word,
by some department of music, that is, by intellectual educa-
tion, it will insensibly become weak, deaf, and blind. Like
a wild beast, such a man will live in ignorance and rudeness,
with neither grace nor politeness." However, Plato is far
from despising health and physical strength. On the con-
trary, it is a reproach to him that he has imposed on the
citizens of his Republic the obligation of being physically i
sound, and of having excluded from it all those whose in-
firmities and feeble constitution condemn them to "drag
out a dying life." The right to live, in Plato's city, as in
the most of ancient societies, belonged only to men of robust
health. The weak, the ailing, the wretched, all who are of
infirm constitution, — Plato does not go so far as ordering
such to be killed, but, what amounts almost to the same
thing, — "they shall be exposed," that is, left to die. The
good of the State demands that every man be sacrificed
whose health renders him unfit for civil duties. This cruel
and implacable doctrine shocks us in the case of him whom
Montaigne calls the divine Plato, and shocks us even more
when we discover it among contemporary philosophers, whom
the inspirations of Christian charity or the feeling of human
fraternity should have preserved from such rank hcaitless-
ncss. Is it not Herbert Spencer who blames modern so-
cieties for nourishing the diseased and assisting the infirm?


30. Religion and Art in Education. — Plato had
formed a high ideal of the function of art in education, but
this did not prevent hira from being severe against certain
forms of art, particularly comedy and tragedy, and poetry
in general. He would have the poets expelled from the city
and conducted to the frontier, though paying them homage
with perfumes which will continue to be shed upon their
heads, and with flowers with which they will ever be crowned.
He admits no other poetry than that which reproduces the
manners and discourse of a good man, and celebrates the
brave deeds of the gods, or chants their glory. As a severe
moralist and worshipper of the divine goodness, he condemns
the poets of his time, either because they attribute to the
divinity the vices and passions of men, or because they invest
the imagination with base fears as they speak of Cocytus
and the Styx, and portray a frightful hell and gods always
mad with desire to persecute the human race. Elsewhere,
in the Laws, Plato explains his conception of religion. He
says that the religious books placed in the hands of children
should be selected with as much care as the milk of a nurse.
God is an infinite goodness who watches over men, and he
should be honored, not by sacrifices and vain ceremonies,
but by lives of justice and virtue.

For making men moral, Plato counts more upon art than
upon religious feeling. To love letters, to hold converse
with the Muses, to cultivate music and dancing, such, in the
opinion of the noble spirits of Athens, is the natural route
towards moral perfection. In their view, moral education
is above all an education in art. The soul rises to the good
through the beautiful. "Beautiful and good" (koAos ko.1
dyatfo's) are two words constantly associated in the speech of
the Greeks. Even to-day we have much to learn from
reflections like these: "We ought," says Plato, "to seek


out artists who by the power of genius can trace out the
nature of the fair and the graceful, that our young men,
dwelling, as it were, in a healthful region, may drink in good
from every quarter, whence any emanation from noble works
may strike upon their eye or their ear, like a gale wafting
health from salubrious lands, and win them imperceptibly
from their earliest years into resemblance, love, and harmony
with the true beauty of reason.

"Is it not, then, on these accounts that we attach such
supreme importance to a musical education, because rhythm
and harmony sink most deeply into the recesses of the soul,
bring-ino- gracefulness in their train, and making a man
graceful if he be rightly nurtured ; but if not, the reverse?
and also because he that has been duly nurtured therein will
have the keenest eye for defects, whether in the failures of
art, or in the misgrowths of nature ; and feeling a most just
disdain for them, will commend beautiful objects, and gladly
receive them into his soul, and feed upon them, and grow to be
noble and good ; whereas he will rightly censure and hate all
repulsive objects, even in his childhood, before he is able to
be reasoned with ; and when reason comes, he will welcome
her most cordially who can recognize her by the instinct
of relationship, and because he has been thus nurtured? " l

31. High Intellectual Education. — In the Republic
of Plato the intellectual education of the warrior class
remains exclusively literary and aesthetic. In addition to
this, the education of the ruling class is to be scientific and
philosophic. The future magistrate, after having received
the ordinary .instruction up to the age of twenty, is to he
initiated into the abstract sciences, mathematics, geometry,

1 Republic, 401,402. I have quoted from the version of Vaughan and
Davies. (P.)


and astronomy. To this scientific education, which is to
continue for ten years, there will succeed for five years the
study of dialectics, 1 or philosophy, which develops the highest
faculty of man, the reason, and teaches him to discover,
through and beyond the fleeting appearances of the world of
sense, the eternal verities and the essence of things. But
Plato prolongs the education of his magistrates still further.
After having given them the nurture of reason and intellectual
insight, he sends them back to the cavern 2 at the a«;e of
thirty-five, that is, calls them back to public life, and makes
them pass through all kinds of civil and military employ-
ments, until finally, at the age of fifty, in possession of all
the endowments assured by consummate experience super-
added to profound knowledge, they are fitted to be charged
with the burdens of office. In the Republic of Plato states-
men are not improvised. And yet in this elaborate sj-stem
of instruction Plato omits two subjects of great importance.
On the one hand, he entirely omits the physical and natural
sciences, because, in his nrystic idealism, things of sense are
delusive and unreal images, and so did not appear to him
worthy of arresting the attention of the mind ; and on the
other, though coming after Herodotus, and though a con-

1 Dialectic, as used in the Republic, is neither philosophy nor logic.
I doubt whether it can he considered a subject of instruction at all. It
is rather a method or an exercise, the purpose of which is to subject
received opinions, formulated knowledge, current beliefs, etc.. to a sifting
or analysis for the purpose of distinguishing the real from the apparent,
the true from the false. The Socratic dialogues are examples of the dialectic
method. Dialectic might be defined as the method of thought proper or the
discursive reason in act. (P.)

2 See the allegory of the cavern, Republic, Book vn. In Plato's
scheme of education, knowing is to precede doing, thus following Socra-
tes ■.(Memorabilia, IV. chap, n.) and Bias (Vv£>Qi koI t6t€ Trparre), and
anticipating Bacon ("studies perfect nature, and are perfected by ex-
perience"). (P.)


temporary of Thucydides, lie makes no mention of history,
doubtless through a contempt for tradition and the past.

32. The Laws. — In the Laws, the work of his old age,
Plato disavows in part the chimeras of the Republic, and
qualifies the radicalism of that earlier work. The philoso-
pher descends to the earth and really condescends to the
actual state of humanity. lie renounces the distinction of
social castes, and his very practical and very minute precepts
are applied without distinction to children of all classes. 1

First note this excellent definition of the end of education :
"A good education is that which gives to the body and to
the soul all the beauty and all the perfection of which they
are capable." As to methods, it seems that Plato hesitates
between the doctrine of effort and the doctrine of attractive
toil. In fact, he says on the one hand that education is a
very skilful discipline which, by way of amusement, 2 leads the
mind of the child to love that which is to make it finished.
On the other hand, he protests against the weakness of those
parents who seek to spare their children every trouble and
every pain. " I am persuaded," he says, " that the inclina-
tion to humor the likings of children is the surest of all ways
to spoil them. We should not make too much haste in our
search after what is pleasurable, especially as we shall never
be wholly exempt from what is painful."

Let us add this definition of a good education : " I call
education the virtue which is shown by children when the
feelings of joy or of sorrow, of love or of hate, which arise
in their souls, are made conformable to order."

1 See especially Book vn. of the Laws.

- Compare also this quotation: "A free mind ought to learn nothing as
a slave. The lesson thai, is made to enter the mind by force, will not
remain there. Then use no violence towards children; the rather, cause
them to learn while playing."


With the statement of these principles, Plato enters into
details. For children up to the age of six, he recommends
the use of swaddling-clothes. The habit of rocking, the
natural plays which children find out for themselves, the
separation of the sexes ; swimming, the bow, and the javelin,
for boys ; wrestling for giving bodily vigor, and dancing, for
graceful movement ; reading and writing reserved till the
tenth year and learned for three }'ears.

It would require too much time to follow the philosopher
to the end. In the rules he proposes, he makes a near
approach to the practices followed by the Athenians of his
day. The JRejmblic was a work of pure imagination. The
Laws are scarcely more than a commentary on the actual
state of practice. But here we still find what was nearest
the soul of Plato, the constant search for a higher morality.

33. Xenofiion. — As an educator, Xenophon obe} T ed two
different influences. His master, Socrates, was his good
genius. That graceful and charming book, the Economics,
was written under the benign and tempered inspiration of the
great Athenian sage. But Xenophon also had his evil genius,
— the immoderate enthusiasm which he felt for Sparta,
her institutions and her laws. The first book of the C'yropce-
dia, which relates the rules of Persian education, is an unfor-
tunate imitation of the laws of Lycurgus.

34. The Economics, and the Education of Woman. —
All should read the Economics, that charming sketch of the
education of woman.. We may say of this little work what
Renan has said of the writings of Plutarch on the same sub-
ject : " Where shall we find a more charming ideal of family
life? What good nature! What sweetness of manners!
What chaste and lovable simplicity ! " Before her marriage,
the Athenian maiden has learned only to spin wool, to be


discreet, and to ask no questions, — virtues purely negative.
Xenophon assigns to her husband the duty of training her
mind and of teaching her the positive duties of family life, —
order, economy, kindness to slaves, and tender care of
children. As a matter of fact, the Athenian woman was
still held in a position of inferiority. Shut up in her own
apartments, it was an exception that she learned to read and
write ; it was very rare that she was instructed in the arts
and sciences. The idea of human dignity and of the value
of the human person had not yet appeared. Man had value
only in proportion to the services which he could render the
State, or commonwealth, and woman formed no part of the
commonwealth. Xenophon has the merit of rising above
the prejudices of his time, and of approaching the ideal of
the modern family, in calling woman to participate more inti-
mately in the affairs of the house and in the occupations of
the husband. 1

35. The Cyrop^edia. — The Cyropcedia is not worthy of
the same commendation. Under the pretext of describing
the organization of the Persian State, Xenophon here traces,
after his manner, the plan of an education absolutely uniform
and exclusively military. There is no domestic education,
no individual liberty, no interest in letters and arts. When
the period of infancy is over, the young Persian is made
subject to military duty, and must not leave the encamp-
ment, even at night. The .state is but a camp, and human
existence a perpetual military parade. Montaigne praises
Xenophon for having said that the Persians taught their
children virtue "as other nations do letters." But it is

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