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every member of the race must have his share in produc-
ing and possessing and preserving them. Now this pro-
gram will perhaps work out successfully in the midst of a
fairly stable world, such as Socrates knew in his young man-
hood, but in Plato's day the Athenian world goes com-
pletely to ruin, and for such a time Plato offers a much
more permanent, and therefore acceptable solution.

For Plato ideas are quite as wonderful instruments of
social organization and control as they are for Socrates.
They are even more wonderful ; in fact, they are quite too
wonderful to have had any such lowly origin as Socrates
supposes. Ideas cannot owe their origin to the shifting,
precarious conditions of social life. Moreover, ideas al-
ways precede experiences. We have the idea of the thing
before we have the thing ; at least, the clear idea is neces-
sary to a clear experience. Certainly ideas exist as pat-
terns before anything worth making can be made. This
proves that ideas exist before things. Things are but im-
perfect copies of ideas ; ideas are the original reality of the
world. The universe is first, a great system of ideas, ex-
istent before all things; and the world is but "a shadow"
or copy of some perfect, preexistent idea. Ideas are older
than all things else, the eternal realities of which all earthly
things are but shadowy copies. Ideas are the eternal forms
or patterns, according to which all things were made or pat-
terned.

According to Plato, Socrates seems also to have been mis-
taken in his conception of the nature of ideas. Socrates
seems to have thought of ideas as ''social bonds" growing
up in the midst of, and out of, the very conditions of social
life. Plato thinks of ideas as "social forms" coming down



THE CONSTRUCTION OF PLATO 87

upon the social world from the heaven of preexistent forms.
Socrates seems to have thought that ideas are flexible, plas-
tic, growing bonds; for Plato ideas seem to have a fixed
character. They are finished, permanent forms; they are
like final systems; they control life not by growing up
within it, but by coming down upon it, surrounding it much
as a hoop surrounds a barrel and holds the staves together.

Socrates was therefore mistaken in his supposition that
ideas could be the possession of all people. Since ideas are
already in existence, they cannot be "developed"; they are
already complete ; they exist in perfection in the ' ' Heaven
of Ideas, ' ' a sort of eternal treasure-house of ideas. Hence
they cannot become the possession of every one. Men can
get them by becoming able to see behind the appearance of
things into the eternal realities of things. This requires
long discipline, not less than thirty-five years of severest
training. Hence these ideas cannot be secured by every
one; they are secured only by a very special class of the
community, the philosophers. These are men who have a
special "golden" nature, capable of long discipline and
willing to undergo the training necessary to the perception
of eternal truth. Ideas attained by such long processes
are far too precious to be lightly made the possession of
every one. Just as all are not capable of becoming "phi-
losophers," so not all are to be trusted with ideas after they
are secured. The education of the world by means of these
ideas is also pretedermined, and is conditioned upon the
natures of the people who make up society. We must now
see what that education becomes under Plato's system of
ideas.

Plato's Hypothesis. Unlike Socrates, Plato set up a
rather complete and definite social hypothesis to bridge the
civic crisis of his time. That hypothesis is too compre-
hensive to be entered into here. It is the substance of



88 DEMOCRACY IN EDUCATION

his Republic. Only certain important phases of it can be
considered here.

According to this hypothesis, the world is, first, ideas,
and afterward, things. Good conduct, good social rela-
tionships, good government, therefore, must all be based
upon clear grasp of ideas. This makes the acquisition of
ideas the most important aspect of individual and social
conduct. But all sorts of false representations and per-
versions of ideas are floating around. This makes neces-
sary the development of a particularly selected and quali-
fied type of individual, the thinker or philosopher, whose
business it shall be to discern ideas and deliver them au-
thoritatively to the world. The state will be perfect only
when it is governed by the philosopher. "Until then, phi-
losophers are kings, or the kings and princes of this world
have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political great-
ness and wisdom meet in one, and those commoner natures
who propose either to the exclusion of the other are com-
pelled to stand aside, cities will never cease from ill, no,
nor the human race, as I believe, and then only will our
State have a possibility of life and behold the light of
day." 1 That is to say, the only realities, the only things
that will surely live through the ages of social confusion,
are ideas. The state finds its lasting reality, its real exist-
ence, in its ideas or ideals; the individual, also, can find
his necessary "fatherland" only in some realm of ideas.
The fixed and ideal order of the universe, slowly becoming
known to the philosopher, gives absolute assurance of the
permanence of man's moral and spiritual hopes. And
education must bend its every effort to find and develop
those men who are capable of becoming philosophers, for
the salvation of the world depends upon them.

But this practically makes of education a purely intel-

i "Republic," V, 473.



THE CONSTRUCTION OF PLATO 89

lectualistic matter. Man has no share, as Socrates sup-
posed, in the development of ideas. A few men, the phi-
losophers, are to discern them; all the rest of the race are
to learn them and be bound by them. Impulses, feelings,
emotions, novelties in social stimulations and the like, all of
which were so important to the Sophists and Socrates and
out of which Socrates seems to have dimly felt all the new
and larger social order was to come these aspects of life
are, for Plato, evils to be controlled by ideas. Knowledge
comes down upon life from above, and it can be "taken
on" by nothing but the disciplined intellect. All that is
good or true or beautiful, and therefore worthy of human
endeavor, exists beforehand in the "Heaven of Ideas"; at
the most, men can discover these preexistent treasures.
Hence education for the philosopher consists of such disci-
pline as will make him fit for this high task of discovering
ideas; while education of all the other members of society
consists of discipline in habits of subordination to the
fixed aspects of the social system.

Plato's Social System. Plato interprets the movements
of his times in such a way as to establish what may be
called an intellectual aristocracy. He conceives of the so-
cial world as being analogous to the nature of the individ-
ual ; and he finds in the individual three aspects : intellect,
the passions, and the desires or appetites. The virtue of
intellect is prudence, or foresight; the virtue of the pas-
sions is fortitude, or fearlessness; the virtue of the appe-
tites is temperance, or moderation. The hope of society
lies, of course, in the intellect; and when the passions and
the appetites lend their energies and fires in proper meas-
ure to the support of the intellect, the life of the individual
becomes rightly balanced and justice, as an individual af-
fair, is established. Corresponding to this individual na-
ture, with its threefold character, we find the social world



90 DEMOCRACY IN EDUCATION

manifests three aspects, or classes. First, there is the
class of philosophers, whose business is the discernment of
ideas, whose virtue is wisdom, and whose duty is leader-
ship of the state. Second, there is the military class, whose
business is the protection of the state, whose virtue is honor
(in the military sense) and who owe obedience to the ruling
class. And third, there is the "working class," whose
business is producing the physical goods of the state, whose
virtue is the creation of wealth, and whose lives are to be
completely dictated by the military powers under the com-
mands of the philosophers. Membership in these classes
is not determined by birth. That one fact alone redeems
Plato's conception from absolute Orientalism. Member-
ship in these classes is determined by a sort of abstract
"native fitness" as this comes out in the processes of edu-
cation and training. Education thus becomes a process of
sifting the whole rising generation with a view to deter-
mining the respective class to which each shall belong ; and
after this determination education becomes specialized to
fit the members of each class for that life each will nor-
mally live.

All this seems to offer something like essential freedom,
or rather like the pathway to freedom, for Plato bases the
whole structure of civilization and the whole hope of hu-
manity upon knowledge, ideas. Thus social progress, edu-
cation, the development of the life of man religiously, po-
litically, and esthetically these are all to be controlled by
the true insight of the philosopher. In this way all prog-
ress, all education, all development, becomes subject to in-
tellect and is dominated by intellectual consideration. Yet
for just these reasons all is finally lost in the mazes of in-
tellectualism. For Plato there is no real progress, as prog-
ress is conceived in evolutionary terms. Whatever is to be
exists already; only the intellect has not yet discerned its



THE CONSTRUCTION OF PLATO 91

existence. Progress is therefore not a realization of new
existence; it is merely the uncovering of the already ex-
istent. That makes it wholly a matter of the intellect ; and
intellectual progress seems to imply the eventual rooting
out of all the evils of anarchic impulse, feeling, and emo-
tion, a culmination that seems to be reached socially in the
stern rigors of the Roman Empire.

Plato's Influence. This great social and educational
program of Plato's states the hypothesis of an educational
and social experiment at which the world Worked rather
strenuously for two thousand years. It may be called the
most extensive scientific experiment the world has ever
hitherto known. For if a scientific experiment essentially
consists in putting an hypothesis to the test of actual con-
ditions, then in this after-history of Platonism we have a
scientific experiment. Plato's hypothesis that reality is
idea and that therefore the whole world can be finally
stated in and controlled by intellectual terms became the
dominant social influence for nearly two thousand years.
It was tested under a wonderful variety of social condi-
tions, as we shall see, and though it failed, its failure is still
a brilliant memory. Because the statement was not suf-
ficiently exacting, its upholders called to their aid the
more extreme hypothesis of Aristotle (to be noted shortly)
and all but succeeded in proving the final truth of their
great proposal. We shall come upon that full story little
by little as we proceed. Here we need mention only that
Plato really draws his scheme of social reorganization from
the old folkway world, especially from the folkways of
Sparta, which he idealizes and criticises and fits to his so-
cial needs. Platonism is really a mighty attempt to jus-
tify the folkway type of social organization, for Plato's
ideas are but the explicit expression of the implicit cus-
toms and habits of the old folkway worlds. To the mem-



92 DEMOCRACY IN EDUCATION

her of the old primitive group, life found its security and
its finality in conformity to the controls of custom and
habit. All individual caprice or impulse or initiative in
the folkway world was of the nature of evil; it might
bring about the final destruction of the group. This was
so in Plato's universe. Plato's thesis might be stated in
this wise: Life, i.e., the permanent form of life, is that
fixed, criticised, and final system which is found only in
the product of the disciplined intellect, corresponding to the
fixed system of customs and habits of the folkways. In or-
der to live fully, one must know, just as in the old folkway
world the individual must be fully habituated. Salvation
from the evils of the world comes through clear conceptions
and conformity to the system which these clear concep-
tions establish, just as salvation from the evils of the prim-
itive world came from membership in and conformity to the
system of the group. Impulses, originalities, initiatives,
and the like are all evils to be controlled by ideas, just as
in the folkway world all impulses were evils to be con-
trolled by the customs of the group. The perfect life is a
life of completely organized, adjusted, and balanced ideas,
which includes the whole range of personal and social living
and which has secured absolute control of all lesser details
of existence, just as the perfect life in the folkway group
was the life which had become completely habituated, with-
out dangers or fears or signs of impending change either
within or without, a sort of life which fulfills the old state-
ment, "a people without a history."

This large hypothesis was, as we have said, eagerly ac-
cepted by the ages that followed Plato. The conditions of
civilization for two thousand years helped to emphasize the
importance and significance of this great interpretation of
the world. The Roman Empire embodied it in political
forms; the Middle Ages organized it into their religious



THE CONSTRUCTION OF PLATO 93

system, including in it, in one timeless whole, past, present,
and future. It came to its full test at the climax of the
Middle Ages. Education was controlled by this concep-
tion through practically all these centuries. Almost all
the efforts of all the powers of authority in state and church
and school and social order were engaged for the great task
of proving it true. But it failed! It failed to meet the
larger tests which non-intellectual processes in the social
world brought against it. At the height of its excellence
and in the midst of its glory it was broken.

For four or five centuries the modern world has been
trying to escape from the lingering implications of endless
fragments of this old hypothesis and from the false educa-
tions that were developed in the ages when the hypothesis
was still under scientific test. Emerson said, "Plato plays
havoc with our originalities," meaning that since Plato no
one has been able to say or think anything new. That is
not true. But there is a sense in which Emerson's state-
ment is most profoundly true. Under the dominance of
the Platonic system there is scant room for anything new or
original in the sense of science. To be sure, Plato has been
one of the most "suggestive" thinkers of all time; many
ages have returned to him for "inspiration," not the least
of which was the Renaissance, the first full expression of
the "modern spirit." But Plato's social and educational
system offers no fundamental inspiration in the modern
struggle for democracy; its structure is too much wrought
out of and into the limitations of the folkway ages. In
this sense Plato laid the foundations for the building up
of the larger folkways of the Middle Ages; and in this
same sense escape from the domination of Plato consti-
tutes the greatest problem of the present, whether in social
organization, religious attitude, moral conception, or edu-
cation.



94 DEMOCRACY IN EDUCATION

We must now go on to discover how for fifteen hundred
years the task of rebuilding or building the larger "folk-
ways" under the leadership of Platonism went on; how
diverse elements were conquered and absorbed; how new
problems brought the development of new controls and new
sanctions, all in the old spirit ; and how in due time all this
building came to its great climax. We shall see how for
fifteen centuries the human mind was subjected to the dis-
cipline of this all-inclusive system. After that we shall
face the task of seeing how the human mind broke away
from this all-inclusive system, declared it inadequate, and
undertook the building of new systems with new aims, new
purposes, new materials, and new tools. But before tak-
ing up this task we must linger for a moment to consider
the fifth answer to the old question of Crito, the answer
of Aristotle.



CHAPTER X

THE FIFTH ANSWER: THE WORK OF ARISTOTLE
(386-322 B.C.)

WE need not linger long in our discussion of the work
of Aristotle at this time, for, while his general point of
view was more practicable than that of Socrates, and more
scientific than that of Plato, it meant very little as an edu-
cational program at that time, and it had little if any in-
fluence upon the educational developments of the immedi-
ately succeeding ages. We shall find its real values emerg-
ing after fifteen hundred years, but we must note its main
characteristics here.

The Historic Background. Aristotle was fortunate
enough to live in that brief period when Philip of Macedon
and Alexander the Great had once again made a secure
social order in the midst of the universal social confusion.
Such a period of social security and stability gave oppor-
tunity for the reappearance of the old doctrine of Socrates,
that knowledge, ideas, develop out of the processes of
human experience. Aristotle renews this doctrine after a
fashion. But the uncertainties of the past and the no less
real uncertainties of the future made a full reliance upon
that Socratic principle precarious, if not impossible.
There must be, as in Plato, some principle not involved in
the uncertainties of human experience upon which social
order can depend. Hence Aristotle shows a curious blend-
ing of attitudes that are both Socratic and Platonic in
origin.

Now in those stirring years from the great awakening in

95



96 DEMOCRACY IN EDUCATION

Greece that came with the Persian Wars to the age of
Alexander there had been a wonderful extension of human
knowledge, with wide explorations into the hidden regions
of nature and human nature. Aristotle was the first to
recognize the extent of these developments, and he made
the first attempts to comprehend, organize, and systema-
tize them. He thus attempts to gather together all the
knowledges that have grown up (the Socratic attitude)
and to enclose these materials in complete systems (the Pla-
tonic attitude). Just as Alexander attempted to organize
the civic turbulence of the times into the forms of a great
world-empire, so Aristotle attempts to organize the intel-
lectual turbulence of the age into logical systems. He
gathered its treasures from all the past; he carried his in-
vestigations into all the ranges of contemporary knowl-
edge; he laid the foundations for intellectual dominion
over the scattered elements of knowledge.

Aristotle as Scientist. Aristotle is the world's leading
example of the deductive scientist. It is true that he was
something of an observer, and, to the extent that observa-
tion enters into the modern inductive method, Aristotle
foreshadowed modern science. But observation covers a
multitude of intellectual shortcomings. Aristotle fre-
quently went observing with his mind already made up, in
which case his "observations" succeeded in finding nothing
but illustrations of his preconceived principles. Perhaps,
since we shall have occasion to deal with this aspect of the
subject again and again, it may be proper to discuss here
the differences between various sorts of observation and
various kinds of science. There are three definitely dis-
tinct sorts of observation: first, observation with an "empty
mind," if that be possible, just "looking 'round." This
begins nowhere, and ends nowhere ; it has no plan of work
and no criteria of accomplishment. If it produces any-



THE WORK OF ARISTOTLE 97

thing, it is wholly by accident. Such "observation" is not
science at all. Second, observation with the mind already
made up, with principles already established, and with
categories finished. This begins with certainties and any-
thing new comes to be merely an illustration of some old
principles. This is the deductive method and is a proper
part of science, but only when it is used for the purpose of
clearing a way through some wilderness of experience which
is later to be subjected to further critical reexamination.
The third sort of observation is that of true induction, in
which the mind has, of course, its principles, its categories,
its standards to be used, but to be used as hypotheses, that
is, to be held subject to correction, criticism, reconstruction,
even to complete denial, if the facts warrant. It should be
seen that in modern science there is a certain blending of
the deductive and the inductive methods, but in ancient
science there was practically nothing of the modern prin-
ciple of inductive observation. Aristotle himself never
fully reached this procedure. Aristotle is the "father of
deductive science," the originator of many systematic be-
ginnings of human knowledge, the first organizing mind
giving form to many sciences, including psychology, logic,
ethics, and esthetics. He was, for that time, what may
rightly be called a "world-mind." He gave impetus to
the organization of knowledge, an impetus that was to have
great issue in the next, the so-called "Alexandrian" age.

But he was essentially an "imperialist" in science, as
Alexander was an imperialist in politics. His influence in
the next age turned men toward compilation of existent
knowledge and away from creative work. His comprehen-
sive world-mind set all his followers to imitating. They
all become second- or third-rate men, filling the library at
Alexandria with extensive systematizations of, and com-
mentaries upon, the world's existent knowledge. The sig-



98 DEMOCRACY IN EDUCATION

nificance of Aristotle in the history of thought and edu-
cation is summed up by Eucken as follows: "He never
has led a progressive movement of thought nor ever af-
forded to any a valuable stimulus. But he has always
proved valuable, in fact indispensable, whenever existing
bodies of thought required extension, logical arrangement,
and systematic completion." 1

The Influence of Aristotle. Aside from a certain general
stimulus to collecting and editing of existent materials,
Aristotle failed of productive educational influence in the
ancient world. Shortly after his death most of his works
were lost or carried away into the East, to be the possession
of Eastern scholars for a thousand years, to be lost to the
memory of Europe. Plato filled the imaginations of men;
his eternal world of ideal realities so much more com-
pletely met the needs of the ages of confusion that fol-
lowed Alexander's death that Aristotle's way of stating the
problem was not missed. So for more than a thousand
years he remained in the obscurity of the East. And when
he came into the West again, he came not by the will of
European influences, or from Greece ; he came by the way
of Africa, brought into Europe by the Saracens, and his
first interpreters to the astonished Middle Ages were cer-
tain great philosophers in the universities of the Moslem
Empire.

But Aristotle came back into the consciousness of west-
ern Europe at a time when he was most needed, when the
final touches were wanting to the completion of the great
folkways of the Middle Ages, when the work that was be-
gun under the influence of Plato was about to fail, because
Plato was, after all, too human. Aristotle arrived just in
time to complete this work of the fifteen hundred years of
Platonic influence which Plato himself could not complete.

i Eucken: "The Problem of Human Life," pp. 72-3.



THE WORK OF ARISTOTLE 99

His great capacity for organization, for building systems,
came into excellent use. His logic was the one thing
needed to squeeze all the rebellious human elements into
the comprehensive world-system and make them submit to
the central authority of existent fact. He thus completed
and rounded off, in thought at least, the most magnificent
conception of civilization and social order the world has
ever known. He still speaks eloquently in the pages of
Thomas Aquinas and Dante.

But we must take leave of him here to follow the thread
of system-building and system destruction until we meet
him again, fifteen hundred years later, at the height of the
Middle Ages.



CHAPTER XI

THE ALEXANDRIAN PERIOD

HISTORY moves on, and old problems are lost to view in



Online LibraryJoseph Kinmont HartDemocracy in education; → online text (page 7 of 31)