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bution to the progress of the world, the working out of a
stage in the development of intelligence and education with-
out which modern civilization could not Have been achieved.
There is absolutely no way out of the folkways save through
"sophism," though the Sophists themselves never com-
pletely escape. He who comes through into the world of
complete freedom must be at some time a Sophist, but he
must become, like Socrates, something more than a Sophist,
or at least the ' ' greatest of the Sophists. ' '

The Fallacies of the Sophist Position. Psychology, as
such, did not exist in the Sophist period ; hence they failed
to appreciate their own half -complete attitudes. Pioneers
in the individual advance, they became, as was almost in-
evitable, individualists, ignoring or denying the meaning
and the existence of the "social." They built a new world,
or thought they did, out of individual impulse. Thus they
thought they were fostering the individual and denying the
social control which had hitherto suppressed the individual.

In this there were two big facts they did not and could
not know. First, that the individual does not exist and
cannot come into being apart from society. Second, that
individual impulse may be itself the basis of lasting and
permanent universal social bonds. That is to say, society
produces the real individual, and society is itself assured
in the genuine needs of the individual. But it must re-



THE PROPOSALS OF THE SOPHISTS 69

main for Socrates, and a thousand thinkers after him, to
straggle through the long thought-paths that lead to this
result. Meanwhile we must turn to Socrates and ask for
the third answer to the problem of the Greeks.



CHAPTER VIII

THE THIRD ANSWER: THE CONTRIBUTION OP SOCRATES
(469-399 B.C.)

"MANKIND can hardly be too often reminded," says
John Stuart Mill, "that there once was a man named
Socrates." But few people, even students of history, phi-
losophy, and education, know why Mill said that, or what
Socrates really contributed to the progress of humanity.
Davidson says : * ' ' Socrates discovered free personality
and moral freedom, and made the greatest of all epochs in
the world's history." "What does such a statement really
mean ? What was the real work of this man Socrates ?

The Situation Reviewed. It is evident that Socrates
contributed something that was of the nature of a distinct
advance, a break with the answers of both the conservatives
and the sophists, the introduction of something new, the
setting of the currents of history into new channels. If
we are to understand his work, we must get a clear grasp
of his problem.

We have already seen two possible ways of living: life
according to habit and custom, as in the folkways ; and life
according to impulse, feeling, and opinion, as advocated
by the Sophists. These are the two answers already pro-
posed. Now if there is nothing further, what must the
Greek world do? Is the Sophist program possible?
Where does it lead? To complete anarchy, to the destruc-
tion of social order, to a world peopled by individu-
als who have no sense of common relationship? If

i "History of Education," p. 101.

70



THE CONTRIBUTION OF SOCRATES 71

so, what is the end of the story to be? But on the other
hand, is it possible to go back into the old folkway life, to
the bondage of custom and tradition? Where would such
a pathway lead eventually? To stagnation, to corruption,
to a world that had lost the little gleam of light and had
fallen back into despair.

But, if no other pathway opens, Athens must go one way
or the other of these two to a life of slavish habit again,
or to a life of unlimited confusion. And in the end we
can readily see which of these will happen. Athens will
fall back into some sort of unintelligent folkway. Custom
and habit will reassert their control over the world, be-
cause man must have a social world. Men cannot live the
sort of life the Sophists insisted upon. Men cannot exist
like grains of sand in a heap, mere atoms of a social mass.
Men are the products of a social order, and they cannot live
without a social background, a ''fatherland" of some sort.
This is something the folkways had provided; but the
Sophists derided the idea.

On the other hand, have the Sophists offered nothing of
value to the world? Must their work go entirely for noth-
ing? That depends. They have offered something of
priceless worth, if the world really gets it. But the tragic
fact is that the Sophists were incapable of finishing what
they began, and their work would be worse than useless
unless it were really carried through. They were on a
pathway that led to finer, larger, richer fields of living than
anything the world had dreamed of. But they did not see,
they could not follow to the end. Socrates did see, for
he was on the same road, a road which all must travel who
would escape from the folkways into a life of intelligence.
Socrates followed to within sight of the end at least. He
was the "greatest of the Sophists," the first real thinker
in the world 's history. What was it he thought ?



72 DEMOCEACY IN EDUCATION

Two Programs, and a Third. The characteristic of the
folkways is Habit. Habit, as developed in the customary
life of the folkways, has two aspects. It is first a universal
social bond, holding together all who have been habituated ;
second, it is mechanical, externally imposed, inculcated by
means of a fixed education, suppressing all individual im-
pulse, originality, and personal expression. There are
here, therefore, a good the bond of a common social life
and an evil a mechanical and external system which so-
ciety imposes upon all individuals for their control.

The characteristic of the Sophist program is Individual
Impulse. Impulse also has two aspects. It is first per-
sonal, the expression of the inner life, original, fraught
with the keenest personal interest, but it is also particular,
the peculiar possession of one individual, private, unlike
anything else in the world. There are here, therefore,
again a good personal expression of the inner life and
an evil a particular, private program of living which
holds its right to exist against all protest.

Now, the advocate of the older folkway program stood
firmly for his proposals, and the Sophist stood firmly for
his. It is the glory of one man, Socrates, that he dared to
tear these two programs to pieces, to take from each of them
the good, the desirable element, to attempt to combine these
desirable elements into a new program and to discard the
other elements. After all, the significant element in the
folkways was the universal social bond, the thing that
made society. If some other way of assuring this social
bond can be found, no one need insist upon the mechanics
of the folkways. Again, the significant thing in the Sophist
program is personal initiative, the reality of the individu-
al's inner life. If this can be assured in society, the doc-
trine of an atomistic world of individuals can be readily
discarded.



THE CONTRIBUTION OF SOCRATES 73

And so, Socrates assures us, out of these two diverse and
even antagonistic programs a third, a new program, can be
developed which will combine the good from each of the
old. Let us combine the ideal of a real social order, con-
tributed by the folkways, with the ideal of personal initia-
tive and individual expression contributed by the Sophists.
So far, so good ; but how can this be done ? Personal initia-
tive is an impulse ; hence it is a particular expression, while
social order is a universal expression. Can a particular
impulse become a universal bond ? The reactionaries would
have said "No," and the Sophists did say "No." But
Socrates said "Yes," and in that courageous statement he
found a way out of both the mechanics of the folkways and
the anarchy of impulse into the world of ideas and moral
freedom.

Socrates' Doctrine of Ideas. We have seen that the
Sophists had "opinions" and that the people of the folk-
ways had "habits." Socrates partly points out, partly
implies, that implicit in every habit there is the "idea"
of that habit, that is to say, an intelligent statement of the
nature and significance of the habit by means of which
two people can discuss the habit, agree upon it, under-
stand it, even work out a program by which it can be in-
culcated. He fully points out that implicit in every im-
pulse and every "opinion" there is an "idea." He calls
these "opinions" of the Sophists " half -thoughts. " He
tells them that their salvation lies not in these partial prod-
ucts of personal initiative, but in carrying their impulses
through until they become "whole-thoughts," that is, fully
developed "ideas"; and he insists that when an impulse
or an "opinion" has been carried through to complete de-
velopment, until it has become an ' ' idea, ' ' it ceases to be a
"particular" and becomes a "universal." That is to say,
every impulse, though it may seem to be the most particular



74 DEMOCRACY IN EDUCATION

thing in the world, is really an incipient universal. It has
its universal significance, and every universal proposition
has grown out of some particular impulse or half -mature
"opinion."

Impulses and "opinions" then, when they are fully
developed, become universals, and instead of destroying the
social order as the reactionaries feared and the Sophists
hoped, they affirm and assure the social order, or some so-
cial order. What the Sophists most emphasized, individual
impulse and "opinion," is thus shown by Socrates to be
the very foundation of some larger social order, with this
advantage over the old social order : the new, developed out
of impulses and "opinions," can be both personally pos-
sessed by its members and intelligently understood, organ-
ized, criticised, and controlled by them. Ideas release us
from the machine-made order of the folkways and from the
anarchy of the Sophist program into the world of intelli-
gent understanding and control, "the world of free per-
sonality and moral freedom," and this "discovery of ideas"
marks the beginning of the "greatest epoch in the world
history." Socrates occupies the place in history that he
holds because he found the way out of both the stagnation
of habit and the anarchy of impulse. It is for this reason
that "mankind cannot be too often reminded" that he
lived. Ideas can take the place of the unconscious mech-
anism of the folkways on the one hand and the conscious
"half thoughts" or opinions of the Sophists on the other.
They give man control over his own destiny; they make
him free.

The Significance of All This for Education. Through
the work of Socrates the world for the first time reached the
conception of a life of freedom that should still be subject
to some sort of general rule or intelligence or ' ' law. ' ' Here
is a freedom not of the "outlaw," but of an encompassing



THE CONTRIBUTION OF SOCRATES 75

social order, a social order that has been developed by
human nature, by individual growth and thought, a social
order that gives both freedom and the sense of "father-
land."

But the doubt arises, can ideas really be social bonds?
Does knowledge unite people ? Socrates insists that it does.
Opinions divide people, because they are accidental, uncriti-
cised, based on old prejudices or other folkway attributes;
but ideas unite people, because they have been criticised,
shorn of their particular elements, and carried through
until only their universal and common elements and mean-
ings remain. They represent really human attitudes, atti-
tudes that all humans can share.

But where do ideas come from? They seem rather won-
derful things. What is their origin? Socrates taught in
the midst of the busy life of the city. He had no school.
He called men aside as they passed along the street and he
said to them: "Do you know what you are doing?"
Here was his school, himself as teacher, his pupil a man
picked up at random or some one who sought him out.
He saw that men were going about their living and their
work either under the control of mechanical habit or under
the urge of some half-developed ' ' opinion. ' ' In either case
they were victims of external and impersonal controls.
Socrates insisted that man's first duty was to "know him-
self," to think through from both habit and opinion to
real ideas that he can call his own. Ideas, we thus see,
grow out of the very soil of common experience, out of the
heart of life, out of the world of work, out of the civic
situation. Ideas are social products. In the growth of
experience, in the midst of habits, opinions, and impulses,
ideas are needed, are called for, are slowly developed and
hammered into shape for use, for the control of impulses,
for the explanation and criticism of habits, for the fore-



76 DEMOCRACY IN EDUCATION

casting of the future. Social experience finds its finest
fruit in the production of illuminating and organizing
ideas.

Such a discussion probably exaggerates the Socratic posi-
tion a little, for he did not see all that is implied in ideas.
But such an explanation of his position seems necessary if
we are to see clearly what Mill and Davidson and hundreds
of others mean when they speak in such eulogistic terms of
this man. It helps us to see, also, what is meant by the
saying, "Socrates brought down philosophy from heaven
to dwell among men."

The "Socratic Method." Socrates taught by asking
questions. His questions were directed to the habit he
wanted to uncover, to the impulse he wanted to explore, in
the hope that he might be able to help "bring to birth,"
as he called it, the idea that should explain either the
habit or the impulse in question. "Asking questions" is
not necessarily Socratic. The Socratic method works for
the production of ideas in the soil of the pupil 's experience.
It is like the farmer's use of the hoe. The farmer does not
expect to uncover corn when he hoes up the ground. He
does expect to stimulate the growth of the corn in and
on the stalk, where it should grow. So Socrates asked
questions for the purpose of stimulating the growth of
ideas within the experience of the student. Such ideas be-
long to the one who grows them. Such ideas need no fur-
ther emotional stimulant in order to get them into action.
They act because they are outlets which experience has been
blindly seeking. Hence the good can be taught, if it is
taught so that it rises up within the actual experience of the
individual himself; but it cannot be taught by forcing it
upon the individual from without. The teacher brings
forth ; he does not put in information.

The Failure of the Socratic Program. The great con-



THE CONTRIBUTION OF SOCRATES 77

tributions of Socrates are these: he shows the significance,
nature, and origin of ideas, and the method of develop-
ing ideas as social products. He opened up to the world
the unsuspected inner realm of ideal intelligence, the realm
of freedom, the realm of civilization and science. He
pointed to a gradually growing civilization that should,
little by little, realize the meanings implicit in its own hab-
its and impulses, until it should come to know itself and
thus reach freedom. He found the way out of the folk-
ways without destroying what the folkways had accom-
plished. He escaped from sophistry by being the greatest
of the Sophists.

But his promises and his methods failed in very complete
degree in the Greek world, and for obvious reasons. Soc-
rates stands at the apex of Greek intelligence; decline be-
gins with his death. He failed for two main reasons. The
first of these was that the Greek political and social order
was rapidly disintegrating, and in such a time men want
some immediate solution for their difficulties. Something
much more adaptable to the conditions of the times was
found in a later answer to this same old Greek question.
The Socratic program of building up an intelligent social
order from within involved too much time, too much faith
in a stable future, too much intelligence, too much knowl-
edge for such an early period in the development of intel-
ligence.

The second reason why it failed was that men are not
quite brave enough to face the uncharted future. Human-
ity is rather timid. Men want certainty, or at least a high
degree of assurance. The sophist is the unusual man who
breaks with the past rather heedlessly and boasts of his
ability to live without social order or community tradition.
But most men are lost when out of sight of familiar ob-
jects. Socrates opened up the great world of intelligence,



78 DEMOCRACY IN EDUCATION

the land of moral and intellectual pioneering. That land is
still, after more than two thousand years, not crowded. It
is highly praised from afar. It is the rather rare indi-
vidual who freely chooses to enter and explore. Is it any
wonder that in those earlier days the proposal to solve the
world's problems by social intelligence failed to meet a
unanimous response? And in the light of the old securi-
ties of life, property, tradition, custom, and privilege un-
der the folkways and the daring uncertainties of life in a
Socratic social order, is there any real basis for wonder
that the good men and true in Athens decided that it was
necessary for the peace and security of the city of Athens
that Socrates must die?

But we thus find ourselves, through his work, freed from
the folkways and standing on the borders of the land of
"free personality and moral and intellectual freedom."
But dare we go in? Is it not an illusion set for our de-
struction, and are we brave enough ? Is it not too wonder-
ful? Can we attain unto it? Another land, less arduous
of prospect and more beautiful, lies at the end of another
road. With the death of Socrates, and his consequent dis-
crediting, another leader of the life of inquiry appears.
Plato offers another solution to those who want intelligent
answer to their question. Socrates is gone; Plato shall be
our leader. He is wiser than Socrates, as we shall see, for
he does not expect too much of men. Philosophy, educa-
tion, ethics, religion, social organization all are turning
from the impracticable program of Socrates to the less
arduous aims of Plato. We, too, shall turn and follow him
into the land of the ultimate good. If, perchance, the path
we follow shall lead us into another folkway world, it will
at least be a larger and a nobler world than that of the
primitive age, and it will certainly be more secure by far
than this wild dream of Socrates !



THE CONTRIBUTION OF SOCRATES 79

We thus see how the race escapes from the folkways for
a moment, only to be frightened at its freedom. We turn
now to Plato and the beginnings of the building of a new
and larger type of world-folkway. We shall follow Plato
and Platonism for more than a thousand years, until once
more the spirit of inquiry breaks through the certainties of
the Middle Ages and gives us the dawn of the Modern Age,
of science, i.e., of intelligence that is sure of itself and that
can stand the test of the years.



PART III
BUILDING THE LARGER FOLKWAYS



CHAPTER IX

THE FOURTH ANSWER: THE CONSTRUCTION OF PLATO
(427-347 B.C.)

THE answer which Socrates gave to the old Greek ques-
tion "What shall be done when the folkways break down?"
is the one way out of the folkway situation. But it was
not a way that the world could take at the time it was given.
The world was still too unpracticed in the ways of this
freedom, when the whole Greek social structure began to
disappear. The people were still too close to the morbid
terrors of the old primitive conceptions of life, too close to
the anarchies of the days of Alcibiades, too lacking in any
clear understanding of the way in which social order grows
out of individual necessity, too distrustful of an educational
doctrine that asserted that organizing ideas can grow up
out of the soil of unorganized, even anarchical, impulses
and individual feelings.

From another point of view this program of Socrates
was impossible. We now know that the world of knowl-
edge and ideas does not grow by mere addition, by accumu-
lation of fact by fact. It grows by hypotheses. Intelli-
gence builds hypothetical structures and puts them to the
test. If they stand the test, the world of knowledge has
been greatly enlarged; if they fail, the world still moves
on, because not all of life is involved in any one hypothesis.
Socrates had no great social hypothesis, capable of stir-
ring the imagination of the age, to offer. He had a method
of developing knowledge or ideas. He seems to have
thought that men could go on endlessly accumulating

83



84 DEMOCRACY IN EDUCATION

knowledge and ideas, turning customs wrong side out and
making opinions submit to analysis. Doubtless this pro-
gram could have succeeded in a complete little world like
Athens was in her days of isolation, but it could not be
done in the cosmopolitan days that followed the war with
Sparta. Greek life was soon to become chaos; the Greek
world was soon to pass out of corporate existence; the
"fatherland" was to dissolve into the mists of history.
The Greek needed a real hypothesis of a permanent world
to help him through this juncture. He needed assurance
of the reality of his ideals, of the permanence of his con-
ceptions of the Good and the True. He needed to become
possessed of a new " fatherland. " Plato supplied this in
his wonderful hypothesis of a great spiritual world-order,
existent before all earthly things, of which, indeed, the
world and all created things are but shadowy copies. Soc-
rates' doctrine of ideas also plays up into Plato's concep-
tion in an admirable way. If, as the most complete result
of this teaching of Plato's, the world is plunged back into
a new folkway organization, we need not wonder too much.
History shows one fact beyond dispute: freedom of the
moral and intellectual sort is not easily attained, and is
kept only by being endlessly rewon.

He only wins his freedom and existence
Who daily conquers it anew.

Plato's Problems. Plato faced two great problems. The
first was still that of Socrates: the internal decadence of
the Greek life. The solution of this problem would doubt-
less follow for him the lines laid down by his teacher,
Socrates. But the second was a problem that was just be-
coming evident in Socrates' time, but which became the
most obvious characteristic of Plato's period: the political
disintegration of the Greek world. Plato was about twen-



THE CONSTRUCTION OF PLATO 85

ty-three when Sparta conquered Athens. In his lifetime
Sparta fell before Thebes. Thebes was conquered by her
own sloth and indolence after the death of her great leader,
Epaminondas. This meant the end of Greek political life
in independent states. Sparta and Thebes had exhausted
Athens; Athens and Thebes had crippled Sparta; Sparta
and Athens had checked Thebes. All these once promising
states had been destroyed in turn. Nothing but anarchy
and confusion remained, and the prospect of conquest by
some outside power. This was the background of Plato's
life.

Now an age like this needs something to help carry social
and personal ideals safely through. The familiar ''father-
land" has failed. Where shall a new "fatherland" be
found? Why do not the "ideas" of Socrates hold this dis-
integrating world together? Why do not all individuals
feel the cementing character of common knowledge and re-
main true to the social ideal? These are questions that
Socrates could not have answered. Plato must go more
deeply into the problem. Plato believes in knowledge and
ideas more fully, if possible, than did Socrates. But his
knowledge and ideas are of a different sort. They have a
different origin, a different nature, a different value, and
a different function to perform. Let us examine these
facts more fully.

Plato's Doctrine of Ideas. According to Socrates, the
new social order will find its controls in ideas. But for him
ideas have essentially a democratic origin; they grow up
out of the confusions of the common life, in the midst of the
world's work, under the pressure of events, and in the
process of development of individuals who feel the con-
flicts of the social world about them and who respond to the
stimulations of the social world in this new way. Thus
we may see that, for Socrates, any one may produce ideas,



86 DEMOCRACY IN EDUCATION

any one may possess them ; no one in particular is responsi-
ble for them, and no one in particular is authorized to pro-
tect them or preserve them. Ideas are social products, and



Online LibraryJoseph Kinmont HartDemocracy in education; → online text (page 6 of 31)