P H I L O S O P H Y P A T H W A Y S ISSN 2043-0728
Issue number 143
20th May 2009
I. 'Buber's Challenge: I and Thou' by Kathleen O'Dwyer
II. 'Nietzsche and Will to Power' by Martin Jenkins
III. 'Makers, Users and Imitators: Plato's Republic and Modern Education'
by Peter S. Borkowski
IV. Philosophical Investigations Wiki: letter from Martin Cohen
I would first like to express my thanks to the many people who emailed in
response to the last issue of the Pathways e-journal; to those who expressed
their condolences for my recent bereavement, and also for the many strong
expressions of support and encouragement for my work with Pathways.
Launching this issue, Kathleen O'Dwyer's article on Martin Buber reads like a
response to my remarks on moral dialogue in the last issue. While my own
inspiration comes from reading, or struggling to read, Emmanuel Levinas, I
would readily accept that Buber in many ways lays out the core structure of
dialogue between an 'I' and a 'thou' more simply and clearly, in language which
bears the stamp of a great poet and teacher.
Martin Jenkins' article on Nietzsche's concept of the Will to Power is the
fruit of his research for the Fellowship of the International Society for
Philosophers. Distilling the main line of argument from his dissertation,
Martin Jenkins makes a case for a neo-anarchist, anti-aristocratic reading of
Nietzsche which would put him without too great a stretch in the company of the
young Marx, or perhaps even Buber.
In his second article for Pathways, Peter Borkowski offers a provocative
reading of Plato's dialogue Republic which amounts to a stringent critique of
current educational philosophy and pedagogical practice. Have we abandoned the
great ideals of philosophy and become sophists? What would it take to put the
clock back? If as Borkowski suggests, the only hope left is in the hands of
philosophically-minded parents not institutions run for the hoi polloi, then
the only solution would appear to be the mass abandonment of schools and
colleges in favour of home education.
I. 'BUBER'S CHALLENGE: I AND THOU' BY KATHLEEN O'DWYER
How do we relate to each other?
As individuals, we are intermittently aware of our sometimes subtle but
undeniable separateness and distance from others, even those with whom we share
bonds of love, friendship or acquaintance. This separateness is seen
simultaneously as a reason to rejoice, at our uniqueness, our privacy and our
protection from total knowability and penetration, and as a source of longing,
for complete sharing of ourselves and our experiences, for unreserved honesty
between one and the other, and for the diverse manifestations of the ideal of
No matter how self-contained, self-reliant, or self-satisfied we may be it is
difficult to contest the premise that we are essentially social, relating and
other-focused beings. Even in our private thoughts and dreams we contemplate a
relationship with the other; many of our actions are chosen and undertaken in
the belief, hope or fear that they will somehow be witnessed by or narrated to
and heard by another. A life that is lived without thought for others is almost
unimaginable; human existence demands the existence of others, in person, in
memory or in imagination. To live is to relate. Thus, in the interplay between
distance, wherein the self is experienced as a separate and private entity, and
relation, whereby this same self is also experienced as interacting with and
relating to the outer world, the polarities of human existence are embodied.
The existence of the self cannot fully satisfy the self; the question emerges:
'what for?' Indeed, this question may be posed regarding many, if not all,
aspects of human experience. It opens to other questions relating to purpose,
meaning, consequence and direction, and as with so many such questions,
definitive answers are not available. Regarding the question of the self, why
exist, why be honest, why be responsible, why live, the self alone cannot
provide a viable answer. The self cannot fully satisfy an answer to this
question, cannot fully provide the purpose and the means to live authentically.
In the words of the Irish poet, Brendan Kennelly,
Self knows that self is not enough,
the deepest well becomes exhausted.
(Kennelly, 2004: 425)
We need others. We need others to share what we have achieved, what we have
dreamed, what we hope and fear. We need others to receive what we want to offer.
We need others to expand and interrogate our thoughts and experiences with
questions and perspectives which we would otherwise not encounter. We need
others to acknowledge, reflect and recognize our selfhood, our personhood, our
being. Being authentic, 'being oneself', remains a merely theoretical
abstraction unless it is tested in an encounter with an other.
But how do we relate to others? In the ideal, imagined vision of relationship
there is an absence of fear, of judgement and of expectation. We meet the other
in an openness of mutual interest, attention and sharing. We learn and grow in
understanding and appreciation of ourselves, of others and of the world. How
often, if ever, is this ideal translated into the reality of human
relationships, and how often is it diminished and distorted into encounters
which are characterized by self-righteousness, self-protection and
self-advancement? Human relationship is the arena of the greatest possibility
regarding joy and meaning, affirmation and enrichment, but it is also the space
within which suffering, pain and damage is inflicted and endured. Our
relationships are essential to us as living beings, but the nature of these
relationships is complex and ambiguous, having the power to influence our lives
negatively or positively.
The subject of human relationships is a topic explored by philosophers from the
earliest times. Plato and Aristotle discussed the nature of human relationships
in terms such as love, friendship, relationship between teacher and pupil,
between the state and the citizen and between master and slave, and
philosophers have continued to address various aspects of this subject. Martin
Buber is a philosopher who examines the question of 'connection', what he
describes as the relationships which constitute human being or human existence.
Buber insists that one cannot become a person by oneself, that life is
essentially relational, and that 'All real living is meeting' (Buber, 2004a: 17).
We are always relating, 'meeting', even when alone, with the world, with
memory or with imagined others. However, Buber also accepts the inevitable
solitariness of the human condition, whereby each person 'goes the narrow way
from birth towards death, tests out what none but he can, a wrestling with
destiny, rebellion and reconciliation' (Buber, 2004: 146).
There are 'tests' in the individual's life which are only encountered and
experienced personally and subjectively; the individual 'wrestles' with his/
her destiny, his/ her life, and no one else can shoulder this responsibility.
This 'wrestling with destiny' often involves 'rebellion', opposition to what is
and to what one is, a revolt against one's destiny, but it may also result in
'reconciliation', acceptance and joy. In asserting emphatically that 'one is
alone', Rilke argues,
...that even between the closest human beings infinite
distances continue to exist, [but] a wonderful living side
by side can grow up, if they succeed in loving the distance
between them which makes it possible for each to see the
other whole and against a wide sky.
(Rilke, 2004: 34)
Various experiences, historical, political, and cultural, can portray this
essential solitude as a burden to be evaded, but Rilke is claiming that it is
through joyfully accepting 'the infinite distances' between them that
individuals can actually encounter each other and relate to each other in a
In his writings, most notably I and Thou, Buber expresses his belief that the
deepest reality of human life lies in the relation between one being and
another. Relationship is an essential aspect of the human condition. In his
outline of human relationships, Buber describes and contrasts two different
approaches and attitudes in our encounter with the other. The I-Thou
relationship is one of openness, mutuality, and presence; it is a real meeting
between two selves where both are recognized and respected as unique
individuals. Buber's use of the pronouns 'I' and 'Thou' puts an emphasis on the
presence of genuine personhood. The 'I' is an expression of the 'real self',
without regard to performance, image or presentation. It is imbued with the
courage of risk and vulnerability necessary for self-expression and
self-revelation. The 'thou' is personal and unique, it recognises the
personhood and individuality of the other, and it addresses this other as
another self. This is an experience of genuine relation, mutuality and dialogue.
Buber insists that mutuality is essential to genuine relationship, the
mutuality of persons meeting each other without presumption, conviction, or the
superiority of a one-sided expertise.
However, Buber asserts that a more commonly assumed mode of connection is that
of the I-It relationship. Here, the other is encountered as an object -- 'It' --
without the intention or expectation of genuine connection. In many
encounters between human beings, there may be the appearance of relationship
and communication, yet the other remains an object unconnected with the self,
the other remains an 'It'. Such encounters are not inspired by the desire to
meet the other as a constantly unpredictable and unfamiliar presence, the
desire to be ever open to unfolding possibilities and the desire to open the
self to each new moment. These encounters are characterised by an effort to
impose a fixed and selective image of the self and by a determination to
maintain pre-conceived impressions of the other. The resulting 'relationship'
is therefore static, unchanging and devoid of possibility.
The motivations underlying these 'connections' are sometimes denied or ignored;
the motivation to impress, to gain popularity and praise, to prove one's
superiority in some way, to diminish another... we do not like to admit to such
intentions and often we are not consciously aware of their underlying influence.
There is an element of self-deception at play here. There is a pretence of
dialogue, of open communication between two people, but often the reality is
that of one or more monologues devoid of listening, hearing and attention.
Buber gives concrete examples of pseudo-dialogue, apart from the practical
necessity of gaining and exchanging information which is inherent in many human
interchanges, i.e. 'technical dialogue... which is prompted solely by the need
of objective understanding' (Buber, 2004: 22). 'Technical dialogue' is
characteristic of consumer-provider communication and pervades a range of
activities and experiences; issues relating to health, education, housing,
politics and a vast array of practical concerns are dealt with in a manner
which may not involve personal communication, mutuality or genuine relationship.
But even in our more personal encounters, there is often evidence of
pseudo-dialogue. Echoing Nietzsche's statement that 'I and Me are always too
earnestly in conversation with one another' (Nietzsche, 2003: 82), Buber gives
examples of relationships which point to the intrinsic preoccupation with self
which often underlies the pretence at genuine communication:
A debate in which the thoughts are not expressed in the way
in which they existed in the mind... a conversation
characterized... by the desire to have one's own
self-reliance confirmed by marking the impression that is
made... a friendly chat in which each regards himself as
absolute and legitimate and the other as relativized and
questionable; a lovers' talk in which both partners alike
enjoy their own glorious soul and their precious experience
... what an underworld of faceless spectres of dialogue!
(Buber, 2004: 22, 23)
The focus of 'a debate' is perhaps more concentrated on performance and
competition than with a real sharing of ideas. Thoughts are edited and revised
in accordance with this focus, and so they 'are not expressed in the way in
which they existed in the mind'. Are thoughts ever expressed in this way? Is
such expression, free of censorship and audience consideration, possible or
desired? Perhaps full, transparent expression is impossible, but perhaps there
are degrees of distortion and of revelation. The difficulties inherent in the
use of language is acknowledged by Buber as he refers to attempted expression
and response as 'stammering perhaps', but he suggests that the effort, the
'stammering', while imperfectly voicing the inner world, nevertheless may attain
its goal: ' the soul is but rarely able to attain to surer articulation -- but
it is an honest stammering, as when sense and throat are united about what is
to be said (Buber, 2004: 20). In other words, when the intention is to
articulate one's thoughts honestly the result may be genuine though imperfect
Buber describes 'a conversation' which is characterised by a concentration on
the impression one assumes one has made on the other; the focus is on the self,
one's performance, one's responses and the perceived reactions of the audience.
Very little listening occurs here; the conversation is maintained by various
monologues with very little scope for dialogue.
'A friendly chat', according to Buber's description, is often devoid of
mutuality or respect; each considers him/ herself as central and the other as
less significant and capable. Opinions and judgements are already formed, and
the chat is merely a proclamation of the validity of one's position. One's
concentration is confined to what one is saying, how one is being perceived,
and how one is going to react. There is little attention or energy available to
hear and respond to the other.
Buber is also quite cynical about 'a lovers' talk', suggesting that the
partners involved are engrossed in their own selves and their own experiences.
What is absent here is the intimacy of mutuality, in the emotional and the
All the examples offered by Buber are, in his view, evidence of 'faceless
spectres of dialogue'. How commonly do we experience an uneasy inkling that
some, at least, of our encounters fall within this sphere of 'spectres'? How
often do we approach an encounter with an emphasis on its utility, its
convenience or otherwise, or its potential threat to our vulnerability or
security? For Buber, the appearance of relationship, of dialogue, is merely the
public play of parallel monologues, where neither partner hears, nor is
interested in hearing, what the other says: 'The most eager speaking at one
another does not make a conversation' (Buber, 2004: 3). 'Speaking at', as
distinct from speaking to, is a parody of dialogue and a dismissal of the
possibility of communication between human beings.
The duplicity and distortion underlying this masquerade of relationship
reflects and maintains internal and external conflict, because, as Buber states,
'The origin of all conflict between me and my fellow-men is that I do not say
what I mean, and that I do not do what I say. For this confuses and poisons,
again and again and in increasing measure, the situation between myself and the
other man' (Buber, 2002: 22). This pseudo-encounter cancels any possibility of
meeting with the person/ presence/ reality of the other, whether this is
expressed in words or silence, in action or stillness, in expectation or
despair. According to Buber, this is a rejection of life's possibilities, a
distortion of relationship, and a negation of the reality of human living:
When a man withdraws from accepting with his essential
being another person in his particularity -- a particularity
which is by no means to be circumscribed by the circle
of his own self, and though it substantially touches and
moves his soul is in no way immanent in it -- and lets
the other exist only as his own experience, only as a
'part of myself'... then dialogue becomes a fiction, the
mysterious intercourse between two human worlds only a
game, and in the rejection of the real life confronting him
the essence of all reality begins to disintegrate.
(Buber, 2004: 28)
The rejection of the real life confronting the individual is, in Buber's view,
a withholding of the self on some level from the ambiguity and unpredictability
of a fully-embraced encounter, it entails a guarded and partial address to the
other, and it sets limits on the reception and response to the call of the
other in all its possibilities, dangers, and challenges. This is a failure to
accept 'another person in his particularity', uniqueness and unpredictability;
it does not respect the independent existence of the other because it sees the
other merely through one's self-centred lens as 'part of myself'. When
relationships are characterized in this way they are reduced to a 'game', a
playing at dialogue and communication.
What is the source of this propensity to pseudo-relationships which runs
contrary to the innate human desire for genuine connection? Why are we afraid
or reluctant to 'say what we mean' and to hear what the other is saying? Poets
have often wrestled with these questions. W.H. Auden describes the paradox:
At lucky moments we seem on the brink
Of really saying what we think we think:
But, even then, an honest eye should wink.
(Auden, 1994: 695).
We consider those times when we are 'on the brink of really saying what we
think we think' to be 'lucky', but sadly the possibility often fails. Another
poetic expression of this paradox is given by Philip Larkin, in his poignant
portrayal of the commonly experienced conflict between honesty and kindness,
the intensity of which appears to expand according to the degree of intimacy
Nothing shows why
At this unique distance from isolation
It becomes still more difficult to find
Words at once true and kind
Or not untrue and not unkind.
(Larkin, 1988: 129).
Here, the poet is acknowledging that closeness in a relationship is often
inversely related to honest expression. Kindness is a stronger motivation than
truth and honesty, and as intimacy grows between two people each becomes aware
of the responsibilities accompanying the privilege of experiencing the
self-revelation of the other. Larkin is suggesting perhaps that the more we
know another person the more we have an ethical obligation to refrain from
consciously wounding that person on any level. Accordingly, some things must
remain unsaid, unasked and unjudged.
The prevalence of the I-It relationship and the absence of genuine
communication and mutuality, the I-Thou relationship, is due to factors which
are complex, varied and subjective. However, fear seems to be a pervasive
influence in these factors; fear of hurting and being hurt, fear of being
misunderstood and fear of being rejected on some level. Therefore, trust is an
essential characteristic of genuine relationship; trust in oneself and one's
motives, trust in the other, and trust in the unpredictable possibilities of
each encounter between one and another. Each genuine encounter is always new
and uncontrollable; it is not served by preconceived judgements or expectations,
but must remain open to the undeniable mystery and potential of its
experience. As Buber says, 'Everything is changed in real meeting' (Buber, 1999:
242) and the nature of the change cannot be controlled or predicted.
Buber likens the experience to an encounter with a newborn child, suggesting
innocence and possibility, trust and acceptance, respect and awe:
In spite of all similarities every living situation has,
like a newborn child, a new face, that has never been
before and will never come again. It demands of you a
reaction which cannot be prepared beforehand. It demands
nothing of what is past. It demands presence,
responsibility; it demands you.
(Buber, 2004: 135)
We may be dulled, by familiarity, habit, or fear, into a concentration on the
'similarities every situation has', we may assume that there is nothing new to
be experienced and welcomed, that we are 'prepared' by fore-knowledge and
repetition, and that our 'past' experiences and meetings are a template for
whatever we encounter in the present. But Buber claims that such a reaction
negates the possibilities of genuine relationship. Recognition of uniqueness
rather than similarity, in the person, the event and the situation is
prerequisite to the I-Thou relationship: 'Mankind's great chance lies precisely
in the unlikeness of men' (Buber, 2002: 10).
Acceptance of difference, of otherness, of the other-than self is essential to
the experience of mutuality wherein 'I wish his otherness to exist, because I
wish his particular being to exist' (Buber, 2004: 72). What is needed is
'presence', attention to the present moment, and responsibility, the ability to
respond to the 'presence' of the other. According to Buber, 'genuine
responsibility exists only where there is real responding... to what happens to
one [in] each concrete hour allotted to the person' (Buber, 2004: 18, 19). He
rejects the 'illusion of a responsibility without a receiver' (Buber, 2004: 53).
In other words, high-sounding proclamations of responsibility are empty
cliches unless they are translated into our actual response to the concrete
situation in which we find ourselves.
Buber has been criticized for what is deemed to be his overly idealistic vision
of the I-Thou relationship. It is argued that the demand for the presence, the
response and openness associated with this vision is not really possible in the
real world. Buber admits the difficulty of maintaining such a vision in all
situations; he argues that mostly there is an intermingling or an alternating
between the two modes of being. He says we have a 'two-fold attitude' to the
world (Buber, 2004: 11). But he considers that the effort to relate
authentically is essential and worthwhile. The risks are varied and
unpredictable, but the failure to pursue the possibility carries even greater
risks, the consequences of which are evident in personal, social and global
1. Buber insists on the necessity of mutuality in all real relationships whilst
acknowledging that in areas such as education and psychotherapy this mutuality
cannot be fully developed.
2. The psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, reiterates Buber's assertion: 'the meeting of
two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is
any reaction, both are transformed' (Jung, 2004: 49, 50). Remaining unchanged
is not an option in a real relationship.
3. The 'unlikeness' or difference between individuals is stressed here by Buber;
while this reality is acknowledged by many thinkers, others assert that these
differences are less significant than the likenesses and links that also exist
between human beings.
Auden, W.H., 1994. Collected Poems. London: Faber and Faber
Buber, Martin, 1999. Martin Buber on Psychology and Psychotherapy, ed. Judith
Buber Agassi New York: Syracuse University Press
Buber, Martin, 2002. The Way of Man. London: Routledge
Buber, Martin, 2004. Between Man and Man. New York: Routledge Classics
Buber, Martin, 2004a. I and Thou. London: Continuum
Nietzsche, Friedrich, 2003. Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Translated by R. J.
Hollingdale. London: Penguin Books
Rilke, Rainer Maria, 2004. Rilke on Love and Other Difficulties. New York: W. W.
Norton & Company
(c) Kathleen O'Dwyer 2009
II. 'NIETZSCHE AND WILL TO POWER' BY MARTIN JENKINS
The Will to Power is a notorious term. It conjures up images of Leni
Riefenstahl's film documentary 'Triumph of the Will'; of the indefatigable
will-power of a tyrant. Associated with other terms used by Nietzsche such as
'blond beast', 'Superman', 'the herd' and the 'Death of God', it is no surprise
that the name of Nietzsche has been associated with Fascist and Nazi doctrine
and practice. At a lesser level, he is generally associated with
anti-democratic authoritarianism; with what one of his earliest admirers termed
'Aristocratic Radicalism'. The defence of Nietzsche against Fascist
misappropriation has been accomplished elsewhere. My intentions here are to
challenge the reading of 'Aristocratic Radicalism', to demonstrate that there
are alternative readings and, to demonstrate that Will to Power furnishes
plurality and a post-modern Anarchism.
In what ensues, I will demonstrate the feasibility of this contention by means
of an examination of the doctrine of Will to Power.
What is it?
Will to Power is omnipresent because it is ontological. It constitutes all of
nature including the human subject. It is not power in the instrumental
sense where a subject uses power. Power is immanent, it is what a thing is and
it is what a thing does. This does not entail that Power is a Being that
rigidly inflates reality; Power is dynamic, is a becoming, is overcoming.
Nature does have a 'necessary and 'calculable' course, not because it follows
'laws' but because it overcomes itself, from out of itself. Thus 'every power
draws its ultimate consequences at every moment'. Nietzsche writes that:
A quantum of power is just a quantum of drive, will, affect,
more precisely, it is nothing other that this willing,
Thus Will to Power is not a metaphysical essence, the real which grounds
appearance. It is the plural instantiation of power [macht], in shifting
configurations which seek more power -- hence will to power [Wille zur macht].
Domination and Mastery
Reading Nietzsche's completed and published works, Will to Power seemingly acts
to dominate and master weaker instances of Will to Power. Every living thing
is composed of drives, affects which, as quoted, are quanta of power. Each
drive etc would like to present itself as the master of all other drives, for
all drives are tyrannical'. Crudely put, this obviously means that the
strongest dominate by mastering the weaker.
Applied analogously to the political realm, it augurs authoritarianism and can
be likened to what George Brandes termed Aristocratic Radicalism. This is
where an elite few dominate and master the weaker many. Life is essentially
Domination and mastery. This aim, according to Beyond Good and Evil (BGE) para
259, is achieved by appropriating, overpowering or incorporating and exploiting
the alien and weaker. In BGE para 230, this essential tendency is extended to
the rarefied realm of intellect, of the mind [Geist] of individuals:
Its intention here is to incorporate new 'experiences', to
classify new things into old classes which is to say: it
aims at growth or more particularly, the feeling of growth,
the feeling of increasing strength.
A reading of this passage contests the singular conclusion that Will to Power
overcomes to Master and Dominate. For Nietzsche says that Will to Power also
overcomes to grow.
Growth and Expansion
Not only is there textual evidence that Will to Power overcomes to grow and
expand, there is also support from the resolutions to problems inherent in the
Mastery and Domination thesis making it the defining characteristic. For,
strictly adhering to the Mastery and Domination thesis, once a weaker
instantiation of Will to Power has been overcome and mastered, that should be
the end of the matter; mastery heralds a static state. If more mastery is
sought, this goes beyond mastery qua mastery and its consequent static state.
The answer as to why this should occur is found with Growth. The achievement of
mastery is but a stage for the cumulative next stage of greater mastery; this
being achieved by growth.
Maybe, growth is a means to more mastery -- Mastery still defining Will to
Power? This misses the above point that Mastery per se, is a stasis. If the
limits of the stasis of Mastery are breached, something else is involved in the
Will to Power overcoming. The candidate for this is Growth.
An instantiation of Will to Power [in drives, affects, geist, individuals and
peoples] overcomes other instantiations so as to grow. It does this by
incorporating [einverlibung] and exploiting those weaker instantiations; ruling
over them and using them in the pursuit its own growth. Remember, this does not
employ the instrumental sense of power whereby something uses some thing else.
Power expands and grows because this is what power does -- this is its 'Will'
so to speak. All living material seeks to discharge its power. The true
will of life is the creating of ever-greater units of power.
Being so possessed by a greater degree of Power necessitates the overcoming etc.
of weaker instances of Will to Power by stronger, more powerful ones. This
trajectory taken to its conclusion entails at the physiological micro-level a
strong elite of drives and affects; at the human macro level it entails a
ruling elite of strong individuals. So Aristocratic Radicalism with its
political connotations is not restricted to the Domination/ Mastery thesis, it
is also coterminous with Growth.
Considered socio-politically, Aristocratic Radicalism will require a rigid,
hierarchical structure. The elite minority will employ the masses to further
its own ends. As Nietzsche writes about Aristocratic society:
The crucial thing about a good and healthy aristocracy
however, is that it does not feel that it is a function but
rather its essence and highest justification -- and that
therefore it has no misgivings in condoning the sacrifice
of a vast number of people who must, for its sake be
oppressed and diminished into incomplete people, slaves,
Society is deemed not to exist for its own sake but only as the foundation and
scaffolding that enables a select kind of creature to ascend to its higher task
and existence. Threats to this order will be repressed and incorporated on pain
of the transgression of its existence. However, a rigidly hierarchical order
practising a pathos of distance must only permit an homogeneous becoming and
overcomings of Will to Power.
Paradoxically, this situation is similar to the secularised Christianity of the
'herd morality' or 'Modern Ideas' which Nietzsche vehemently opposed. This
morality is totalitarian and says 'No' to whatever is distinct, different, and
So Nietzsche appears both to support and oppose the same situation, namely a
stasis of Being, especially Reactive Being. In developing this latter point,
recourse to the insights made by French philosopher Gilles Deleuze is required.
Active and Reactive
In his Nietzsche and Philosophy, Deleuze states that what ontologically exists,
are forces. Forces are the Becoming of Being and the Being of Becoming. The
Will to Power determines their quantity and quality making them Active or
Reactive, strong or weak. It does this in the Eternal Return which, is either
the reconfiguration or reinforcement of forces at every moment -- reality
returns from itself to re-make itself. If active forces are pre-eminent,
difference, chance, multiplicity ensue. If Reactive forces are pre-eminent,
what already exists is reproduced. The latter reinforce structures already in
existence; the former explode the limitations of existing structures to create
something new and different.
Reactive Slave Morality
The predominance of reactive forces is evidenced in the Slave Morality. This
morality, which has morphed from Christian metaphysico-ethics to modern ideas
of equality, of a singular monopoly truth; is essentially reactive. In its
origins it reacted to the more powerful Noble Masters by surreptitiously
inverting their value system. Essentially weak and weary, and therefore fuelled
by ressentiment against the healthily happy and strong and, against existence in
general, it says a protective and reactive 'No' to everything that may threaten
it. Hence its proffers one truth, one god and one value system under which
everyone, without exception, must uniformly abide. What is different and new is
incorporated into its existing value system. The Noble Masters were possessed
more by active forces making them energetic, curious, pro-active, spontaneous:
more warlike in searching for challenges. Writing against the hegemony of Slave
Morality, Nietzsche encouraged the reception of active forces and their
creativity in the guise of the Ubermensch, Free Thinkers and Spirits and, New
If active forces are present in reality, they will be present in Aristocratic
Radicalism. As they will transgress, explode the structures of given reality;
they will undermine Aristocratic Radicalism and its homogeneous, rigid,
Reactive Aristocracy and Active Anarchism
From Nietzsche's own description, the nature and practices of reactive Slave
Morality appear similar to those of Aristocratic Radicalism. Both monopolise
truth and value, both enforce a rigid homogeneous social structure, both oppose
and suppress what is different and other to it. It seems safe to conclude both
As such Will to Power overcoming so as to grow and expand must be reactive.
Those forces which breach, explode and transgress existing reactive structures
are active. In so acting, they establish something new, something different to
the existing reactive structures. Although dependent on the activity of Will to
Power, it is clear that active forces can resist the inexorability of
Aristocratic Radicalism. The more acts of active transgression there are, the
more points of resistance to Aristocratic Radicalism. Indeed, following this
trajectory, it is unlikely there will be a singular power structure. Instead
there will be many power structures; there will be a plurality.
Further, active forces will revalue the reactive structures to instantiate new
values in their very activity. This is to deconstruct the existing conditions
of truth, of value and reconfigure them. This is similar to the practice of
Critical Ontology found in the writings of Michael Foucault and Gilles Deleuze.
 This practice can be termed Post-Modern Anarchism as it deconstructs and
reconstructs the determinations of value, of structures on all levels.
Contrary to the readings of Will to Power as inexorably entailing Aristocratic
Radicalism, I hope to have shown that it can also entail alternatives such as
an active Anarchy of becoming entailing the revaluation of values and
1. Friedrich Nietzsche. Beyond Good and Evil. Oxford University Press 1998.
para 6, 19, 36. Also Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Penguin 1969. Of Self-Overcoming.
2. Ibid. Of Self-Overcoming. Here, Zarathustra identifies Will to Power as Life:
'And life itself told me this secret 'Behold' it said, 'I
am that which must overcome itself again and again'.
3. BGE. op. cit. above: para 22.
4. Friedrich Nietzsche. On the Genealogy of Morality. Hacket. 1998. Ist Essay
5. Nietzsche scholar Bernd Magnus makes a distinction between Nietzsche
scholars. Those who use or 'lump' both the completed, published, authorised
works of Nietzsche and the unpublished notes, posthumously published notebooks
he terms 'lumpers'. Those who utilise the completed etc works alone he terms
'splitters'. As a 'splitter', I maintain that the completed works contain all
the main themes of Nietzsche's philosophy; works such as The Will to Power are
therefore superfluous and unreliable.
See: Bernd Magnus 'The Use and Abuse of The Will to Power'. Reading Nietzsche.
Oxford University Press. 1988.
6. Beyond Good and Evil. op. cit. para 6.
7. George Brandes. Essay On Aristocratic Radicalism. William Keinman, London
8. Beyond Good and Evil. op. cit. para 259
9. Ibid. para 230.
10. For example, see:
The Anti-Christ. Penguin 1990 para 2, 6.
Beyond Good and Evil op. cit. above: para 230, 259.
Genealogy of Morality. op. cit. above: Essay 2, para 12.
11. Beyond Good and Evil op. cit. above, para 13.
12. Ibid. para 259.
13. For example see ibid para 202, 203.
14. Gilles Deleuze Nietzsche and Philosophy. Athlone Press 2006.
15. The Ubermensch is mentioned predominantly in the Prologue in Thus Spoke
Zarathustra. This term disappears in Beyond Good and Evil. Instead, Nietzsche
writes of New Philosophers, 'experimenters', 'Free, very free spirits' of the
future. See: para 42, 43, 44, 61, 199, 200, 201, 202, 203, 204-213.
The Dionysian reappears in Twilight of the Idols as the Tragic Artist and in
Ecce Homo is connected with Thus Spoke Zarathustra. See Friedrich Nietzsche
'Expeditions of an Untimely Man', 'What I Owe the Ancients', Twilight of the
16. Will to Power is interpreted by some philosophers as justifying the
political philosophy of Agonal Liberalism. Again, the singularity of the
Aristocratic Radicalism reading is challenged.
Antonio Y. Vasquez-Arroyo 'Agonised Liberalism: The Liberal Theory of William E.
Connolly. Radical Philosophy 127. 2004.
Keith Ansell-Pearson Chapter 8 Nietzsche and contemporary Liberalism.
Introduction to Nietzsche as a Political Thinker. Cambridge University Press
17. Michel Foucault [1926-1984] analysed the genealogical development of the
conditions of 'Truth'. 'Truth' is the transmission of Power by multifarious
means. Studying areas such as deviance, madness, criminality, sexuality; his
'critical ontology' highlights the construction of such identities, their limits
and the possibility of going beyond them. Critical Ontology provides a more
sensitive analyses to Power relations than classic Democratic-Liberalism. His
thought has been applied to Identity Politics, to Cultural studies and later on,
in tracing the construction and transgression of the subject under
Gilles Deleuze [1925-1995] thought passed through many stages. In Nietzsche and
Philosophy, forces are configured by Will to Power in the Eternal Return as
actively transgressing ontological structures or reactively reinforcing them.
The configuration and reconfiguration of Power is continued in subsequent works.
For an effective overview of this see: Preface & Ch 5 Many Politics. Gilles
Deleuze and Clare Parnet. Dialogues II Continuum 2002.
Post-Modern Anarchism is different from 'Modernist' Anarchism. The latter
eschatologically struggles to abolish the state emancipating the rational
sovereign individual into the realm of Freedom and Equality. The former is a
continuous deconstruction of epistemological discursive truths borne of Power
to redefine their prescribed identities and limits eschewing any overarching
narrative of the macro-historical process.
Saul Newman. 'War On the State: Stirner and Deleuze's Anarchism'.
John Glassford. 'Did Friedrich Nietzsche Plagiarise from Max Stirner?' Journal
of Nietzsche Studies para 8 1999.
Thanks to the members of Chester Philosophy Forum and their contributions to an
earlier draft of this essay.
(c) Martin Jenkins 2009
III. 'MAKERS, USERS AND IMITATORS: PLATO'S REPUBLIC AND MODERN EDUCATION'
BY PETER S. BORKOWSKI
The holistic treatment which Plato gives education in the Republic makes it
more than a treatise. I would like to offer my reading of books six to ten of
that great work in light of the practices and assumptions in modern education.
While there are both strong and weak points in our various systems of
elementary, secondary, and higher education, my purpose is simply to highlight
the importance -- perhaps necessity -- of an integrated philosophy to models
and pedagogies of education. The purpose of a system of education for Plato was
to filter out the most knowledgeable for the purpose of ruling society, but
there has never been any basis for believing that a highly trained cadre of
virtue lovers could ever wrest power from the tyranny of institutions. Plato
felt that only such an elite could properly administer a just society but in
practice such hope does not square with the law of fallenness in humanity. In
spite of any short-comings in contemporary schools or in Plato's system, we
learn from the Republic that no curriculum is credible without an integrated,
systematic treatment of ultimate things.
Philosophers and the harmony of education
There is an assumption today that 'educator' pertains exclusively to those
administrators and 'facilitators' in today's elementary and secondary schools,
and even to some extent in higher education. The academic terms 'doctor' and
'professor' carry a different significance -- they are titles, not occupations.
The nature of their work is inferred from the titles. In the Republic, to be an
educator implies grasping an holistic system against which one may judge the
training (educating) of a pupil, so that 'his name rhymes with virtue', as
Socrates would put it. When secondary school teachers and administrators call
themselves 'educators', they are claiming a power which transcends titles.
Those who would claim such logos-power, what ancient Scandinavians thought
divine even, must have some insight to truth. This is why the word spjal in our
Teutonic tradition carries still a sense of the mystical and magical in our
modern word 'spell'. To write and read (and therefore the quasi-mystical
activity to interpret) means being in possession of the Logos.
To claim to be an educator would require possessing not only something which is
beyond the grasp of non-educators and the to-be-educated, but also necessary to
them. The logos then is generative, driving each successive generation of
pupils through our world of fallenness, out of our respective caves, and into
the noetic luminon. To accomplish this, Plato saw virtue as the measure and
educators should want 'to see them feelingly', to borrow a phrase from
Shakespeare. Insofar as education is more than merely learning a trade or skill,
there can be no curriculum of it without a theoretical (i.e., philosophical)
foundation. The moment normativity occurs regarding behaviour or what to value,
education goes beyond job-skills. While some would point out that values and
proper behaviour are skills, equal in value yet different from those such as
assembling a circuit board or balancing a ledger, value implies a theory of
society and a theory of society implies a theory of mankind.
To dress the Republic in the cultural robes and tunics of the Aegean mind will
not do. Socrates/ Plato were not speaking to Greeks, they were not speaking to
a different race of men, but to humanity. Because of its trans-cultural and
universal nature, Plato's theory of paideia (the educated soul) can teach us
today about our priorities and how we look at our schools. Pedagogical
perspectives, then as now, are not 'turned towards the truth' (VII 519d);
educators and their subjects both see well enough, he said, but their eyes are
diverted -- and therefore inverted as if glimpsing into a Cave.
The Muses and the harmony of mind/ soul/ discipline
It is important to recall that there were three genuine Muses, different from
the nine which had emerged through the eloquence and manufacture of generations
of master rhapsodists. These three, Practice, Memory, and Song, are said to
derive from the names of the three cords on the lyre. They resemble Plato's
first stage of education, his trivium of music, poetics, and physical training.
1. Melete (practice) This Muse pertains to practice, that which builds habit
(ethismos), which concerns primarily the tendency to feel pleasure and pain and
hence fit in with the culture's ethos. It is a gauge needed to recognize virtue
(arete) and Aristotle elaborated this aspect of it best in Nicomachean Ethics.
Aspects of physical education and discipline (gumnastike) in the Republic are
also implied here -- 'our guardian must be both a warrior and a philosopher'
(VII 525b). Whether cultivating a skill or talent or routine, repetition both
meditative and physical is essential.
2. Mneme (memory) This Muse pertains to the philosophic nature (VI 490a);
memory is the antithesis of writing, which Socrates warned against relying on.
The new and improved tri-Museic pillars of Plato's paideia are a theory of
mimesis. Its place in education is based on the immortality of the soul
(Meno 81c) because, for Plato, memory, or reminiscence, concerns man's
capacity to attain truth (the metaphor used is 'to see truth') and only if the
mind ('the eyes of the soul') is turned toward it.
Memory not only enables us to recollect (anamnesis) or rediscover truth about
the world but is also an integral feature of identity. In his analysis of the
contemporary 'attack on memory', Richard Weaver spoke best of this point:
I do not find any other period in which men have felt to an
equal degree that the past is either uninteresting or is a
reproach to them. When we realize the extent to which one's
memory is oneself, we are made to wonder whether there is
not some element of suicidal impulse in this mood, or at
least an impulse of self-hatred.
Since identity concerns memory, it follows, according to Weaver, that morality
does too because morality cannot be elaborated without reference to how and
what one perceives oneself to be. Pupils and students today are taught to
forget the past and think ahead about the future or, worse, that the past can
be rewritten if it doesn't suit one's palate. Identity is formed over time,
through mistakes and successes, Weaver noted, 'and people who would forget
their history, cultural or personal, will be reduced to living by immediate
responses to immediate challenges... the past and future are conceptual; the
present is empirical'.
The theory surrounding the term 'Ideas' concerns mimesis -- the re-cognition of
what is good and what is true. These are not discovered but recalled. For the
Greeks, unlike in our times, all is spiritual, cyclical, infinite. The
spiritual pervaded every perceptible human and natural phenomenon (It's
interesting that I just separated the human from the natural automatically!).
For moderns, the spiritual in learning is gone except for certain occasions in
a metaphor or figure of speech. Recollection then is the spiritually apt term
for what to us would be a 'discovery' rather than a recovery. Thomas Hobbes,
whom I suspect as being one of the original co-conspirators against memory,
helped to initiate its descent by announcing to the eager ears of the
Enlightenment world that memory is a 'decayed sense'. Richard Weaver once
pointed out that this picturing of it in effect 'reduces memory to the status
of sensation [not unlike Locke's tabula rasa] and makes it subject to a
physiological wearing out'. For Plato, memory is epistemological.
3. Aoide (song) It is difficult for moderns to make out the contours of
relevance of this Muse to education, much less to orienting the soul, but Plato
was clear. Music provides a basis for learning the history, identity, and the
ethos of the community through stories, which requires learning vocabulary,
grammar, and the logic of metrics. Song in the sense that it is outlined in the
Republic is not music class or playing in a garage band. Song meant (means) the
harmonic structure of reason which comes full measure in metrics, tropes,
schemes, and the flowers of intellectual concord in a rhythmic syllogism. In a
previous article, I wrote on the significance of grammar and stories to
critical thinking and we may draw a parallel here with music and reasoning.
Mousike does not provide knowledge but the equilibrium and inner equipoise
necessary to embarking upon higher courses of study (VII 522a). Plato saw
deeper into the psychological aspects of harmony. Perhaps he played the lyre
when working on a definition much the same as Sherlock Holmes on his violin
when working on a case.
These then are the three Muses of Plato's system. They are trans-cultural,
perennial features of humanity which make our genetic link to Ideals. All three
work in cadence. If one receives too much music, he becomes 'soft' while
physical training alone leads to 'toughness' and 'savagery' (III 410c). All
three result in the habituation necessary to seeing the correct form of
moderation, courage, and so on. With proper discipline, they are necessary for
a person to have what Aristotle called khreston ethos, often translated as
Plato would delegate the vocational subjects (computers, ship building, farming,
mechanics, accountancy, medicine, and so on) to other institutions. The road
up the divided lines of the educational system had another purpose. The next
step after learning the harmony of sound (harmony of behaviour, conduct, and
the notation of the world) is the harmony of numbers, the intellectual
engineering behind one's ability to engage in dialectics.
Numbers and the harmony of phusis
While physical training continued into early-adulthood (much on account of the
necessities of the age for preparedness in battle), the next step in training
the intellect was 'that common thing that every craft, every type of thought,
and every science uses and that is among the first compulsory subjects for
everyone... number and calculation, for isn't it true that every craft and
science must have a share in it?' (VII 522c). Mathematical reasoning is not
only practical, it is akin to abstraction and conceptualization of philosophy,
astronomy, geometry and building, statistical reasoning, warfare, and, for
Plato, urban planning for the kalliopolis. Mathematics is not for knowing the
merely occasional, knowing about what comes into being and passes away, it's
about the eternal: 'for geometry is knowledge of what always is' (VII 527b).
One recent New York curricular report tells us that it is 'necessary to
function in a world very dependent upon the application of mathematics'. Such
claims do concern cognition but for limited, concrete needs.
Dialectics and Harmony
Plato's system assumes that there is such a thing (reality) as truth and that
character is equal to soul. The only souls which will be able to pursue truth
then are virtuous ones. Plato insists that to be a ruler is a lifestyle, not a
salaried job (VI 487c-d) and as a lifestyle it requires a particular character
type, and as a particular character type it requires instilling the habits
which produce such a character. This, he believed, would necessarily imply a
value for truth. Truth, he has it, cannot be grasped unless a person has
laboured up the ladder of the divided line. This is not merely a pedagogy or a
curriculum; it is a comprehensive, holistic philosophy of human soul-types and
purpose, a phenomenological psychology of the world.
-- Pure reasoning: examination of axioms/ first principles (arkhai)
-- Mathematical reasoning: discovering physical laws/ axioms/ first principles
-- Belief from data received and ordered by the senses
-- Perception and image; imagination but in the sense of reflections,
inaccurate or indirect perception and conjecture, artistic rendition (eikasia)
One cannot be at the same time a lover of wisdom and a lover of falsehood (VI
485c). This was Plato's concern about the 'great evil' coming from dialectic as
it was sophistically practiced in his time (VII 537d). To climb the ladder a
certain moral maturity is required for a student to be able to recognize or
'see' the good amongst the bad; for example, when distilling or dismantling an
argument. This is the ethical imperative behind the study of logic. How many
students learn deductive or predicate logic today through a moral lens? Cicero
taught that the perfect orator must also be at the same time a moral person and
that without moral qualities one will not become a good orator. Quintilian
taught the same. One of his concluding points in De Institutione Oratoria is
that an orator is a good person who is learned in the arts of speech. This
notion is fundamental to Western culture generally.
If we reflect on the moral ultimacy which the Cave symbolized for Plato, it is
clear, as Martin Lings once described it, that those who ascend from the Cave
and return to instruct bear the stamp of the Divine: their mission is to
enlighten Cave dwellers about nature, about the stars and the rain and the lush
verdure of nature, its animals, their habitats, and all the technology which
mankind has accrued in his tenure in the world, all these things 'in their full
glory', said Lings, which means in their truth. Some in the Cave marvel at the
Words of these teachers, being seduced (educated) by the indescribable beauty
of measurement, experiment, poetry, biology, navigation, and the dream which is
mankind's genetic fascination with his placement in the order of everything.
Others in the Cave however become indignant, believing those who teach such
things to be madmen and that the shadows they know and which their parents and
grandparents knew are the highest realities that exist on the evidence that
they deem their shadows sufficient; they whimper and exclaim that the
enlightened ones should be punished for imposing their own narrative upon them.
These two types of students are eternally symbolic of learners generally: those,
said Lings, who are conscious of their imprisonment and in so being have taken
the first steps to liberation and those who believe they know reality already.
Makers, users, and imitators
In terms of today's education system, its elective system, student-centred
learning, all-inclusive education (i.e., where everybody can be a guardian),
teachers as 'facilitators' who allow pupils or students to construct their own
Caves, Plato's image of makers, users, and imitators (X 601d-602b) shows a
great difference in value.
The status of our belief about the absolute informs us about what knowledge is;
this in turn informs us about who we are and our purposes for procuring it. The
Ideas or Forms are supreme in the sense that they are not only true but, more
importantly, immutable. Immutability concurs with immortality. Using a bed as
his example, the Platonic hierarchy goes as such (X 267b):
i. IDEAS: The perfect idea of a bed, the universal, made by
ii. Users/ Makers: The actual, particular, nominal bed,
fashioned from the hands of a maker. The user of a bed is
one who realizes its being. Whether what makers produce is
good or not depends on the estimation of users. Users of
the products have knowledge as to the products' merit or
value. The makers produce according to the information or
feedback provided by the users. Their activities are
reciprocal. The energy or dynamics of interaction between
these two provides a path to reflection on the Ideal.
iii. Imitators: The image (perspective) of a bed might be
made by, for example, painters or poets. This image might
entertain or be consumed. There is no permanence.
In any given example, imitators have only opinions and temporal impressions,
which might be true or false but nevertheless disqualify imitators from being
competent teachers of virtue (X 597b). Moreover, artistic production is
generally subjective; it can be used to serve a client's caprice, or personal
ideological and political ends; it expresses the moods, not reason. Imitation
is 'far removed from the truth, it touches only a small part of each thing and
that is itself only an image' (X598b).
In short, the artist/ imitators make all that is sensual about experience to
rule us when it is we that should rule what they imitate. 'If you admit the
pleasure-giving Muse, whether in lyric or epic poetry, pleasure and pain will
be the kings of your city instead of law or... reason' (X 607a). Plato
confesses the joy which poetry brings but points out that regardless of its
'charm' there is no getting around it: 'to betray what one believes to be the
truth is impious' (X 607c).
Today's education in light of the Museic ideals
1. Today's curricula are not based on a theory of ultimate things.
Plato derived his paideia from a complex and intricately argued theory of
ultimacy. That theory had for its axioms that there is absolute truth, there is
virtue, and the path to truth cannot be embarked upon without virtue. Virtue and
the tekhne relevant to it are instilled per music, verse, and discipline. This
prepares the soul to study numbers. The study of numbers and some 'experience
under one's belt' (empeireia; VII 539e, IX 582a-e, X 601d) prepare the soul for
dialectics. The divided line serves not only as an epistemological map but also
a geography of the soul. No modern theory of paideia even comes close to
attempting this. So intimidating would such a task be to modern teachers
colleges that grand systems are simply dismissed as quaint or Quixotic.
Curricula now are designed to implement governmental policy, which is merely a
form of expediency or pragmatism.
2. Not all people wish to engage in a pursuit of truth or be virtuous.
State schools assume that young people do or that if they don't it's because
they don't know that they do. One of the ways to help draw students into virtue
was/ is Plato's view that philosophy, and thus any learning, begins with a very
magical moment: thaumazein (to wonder), that curiosity -- including doubt,
suspicion, and intrigue -- about nature that's needed in order to attract
attention to something higher than the base pleasures of gossip and gadgets.
But not all souls want to wonder. This is another feature of fallenness.
Amongst the things which corrupt a person, today and in the Republic, we read
'beauty, wealth, physique, relatives in high places of influence, and all else
that goes in hand with these' (VI 491c). Plato remarks that excellence of body
and material acquisitions are not indicative of excellence in soul. Young
people in such conditions will be filled with impractical expectations and such
an individual will be a 'know-it-all'.
And if someone approaches a young man in that condition and
gently tells him the truth, namely, that there's no
understanding in him, that he needs it, and that it can't
be acquired unless he works like a slave to attain it, do
you think that it will be easy for him to listen when he's
in the midst of so many evils? (VI 494d).
Education then is not about putting knowledge into souls that lack it, like
trying to put sight into the blind (VII 519b). Souls turned towards darkness
commit evil not for lack of knowledge or perception but because they are
weighted down from the formative years of childhood by worldly fallenness --
feasting, impulsiveness, whim, lack of discipline and manners -- all the
sensual appetites and the love of entertainments over truth. The sharper such
an eye can see, the more evil it accomplishes (VII 519c). As such, no
ideological commitment or technical skill can produce happiness nor guarantee
that a person will turn out okay later in life if fundamental truths about
character/ soul development are ignored: 'those with the best natures become
outstandingly bad when they receive a bad upbringing' (VI 491d). Thus, one
skilled in numbers and logic will still be in discord with the order of the
kosmos if virtue is lacking.
Plato at least attempted to filter out the wonderers as they got older. This
however does not fit contemporary learner-outcome goals where all are to be
made into wonderers. To make all people wonderers and therefore 'knowers', they
must be put in the first position.
3. Imitators are now the authors of the Ideas (Forms).
Here then is a rough sketch of our contemporary hierarchy:
i. Imitators: Knowledge is created, identities are
constructions, art is whatever, tradition and exhortations
to value or ethics are constraints and impositions; life,
like any gadget, is supposed to be user-friendly; poetry,
like music, tickles rather than teaches, Baudrillardian
consumption is virtue.
ii. Users/ Makers: still in second position as above; but
school knowledge is for the purpose of procuring a good job,
the reward of which means working (as a maker) to satisfy
the need of another consumer (user); individuals are 'human
resources' conditioned to work so that they will desire to
purchase (as users) the production of other human resources
(makers) through the marketing men whose sole task is to
create needs for products and services. This relationship
is not used to reflect on any Ideal but to reflect on the
economic identity of desire.
iii. IDEAS: Ideals, Forms, notions of permanence, subjective
appearances and perspectives, personal matters, and, when
not in conformity or consensus with the administration,
4. Consensus is the new yardstick for truth.
Consensus Building is now perhaps the principle pedagogical value behind
curriculum design: the emphasis is on replacing individual ideas and beliefs
for 'common goals'. These goals are in a way also marketed insofar as they come
to the classroom not via ultimacy or truth. Those goals are dictated from the
national level to local school boards. In the literature consensus is referred
to as 'Synthesis', one of the high-order thinking skills in psychologist
Benjamin Bloom's taxonomy, which assigns evaluation, synthesis and analysis as
'high-order' skills and comprehension and knowledge as the two 'low-order'
skills (an instance of the same reversal above). Bloom, considered to be the
father of Outcome-Based Education, proclaimed that 'The purpose of education
and the schools is to change the thoughts, feelings, and actions of students'
(See Kjos, ch. 2 and 3). Consensus on an answer or solution, predetermined by
the teacher's manuals and guidebooks, is arrived at in Hegelian fashion (e.g.,
as in the International Baccalaureate, Community Education, Mastery Learning,
Values Clarification, Delphi Technique, et al.).
Additionally, since the theories of Wolff, Rousseau, and Dewey, principally,
schooling has been understood as the means to letting children create
themselves within the ideological perimeters set by the state educational
apparatus, to create their own values by means of consensus, and to learn
enough hard skills to find a job upon graduation. That is what the sophists
taught: what the hoi-polloi value is the sole criterion for knowledge and thus
truth. In sophistic education, wisdom is nothing other than 'majority
convictions when people gather together' (VI 493a). Socrates warned that
whoever would consider the moods and pleasures of the majority to be a guide to
teaching would indeed be a 'strange educator'.
5. Virtue is the purview of schools.
In Plato and in today's education, virtue is assumed to be the domain of the
system. There is the implication behind it all that parents or culture or
history or tradition cannot provide children and adolescents with the correct
views (values, assumptions, etc) about society, only today's administrators and
Plato's rulers can accomplish that. We may remark Rousseau's view that all
children are born good but that they are corrupted by their traditions and
parents. For Plato, we are all born with access to truth but not all students
can get a virtue-bound upbringing. From both, elements of utopianism emerge.
6. Plato's truth seekers rule in utopia; compulsory state virtue is utopian.
If we are to accept Plato's system, what would be needed is a thorough
revolution, a putsch in education where philosophers would take the hill.
Philosophers, however, do not engage in such acts, nor do scientists, nor did
the prophets; hoi-polloi do this in their fallenness and are suspicious of
anyone who would challenge them. 'The majority cannot be philosophic [and they]
will disapprove of, or at least be suspicious of, philosophers' (VI 494a). In
the Republic, it is hoi-polloi who are to be ruled; but in fact, they are and
always have been the rulers. In this sense Plato's education is utopian. The
monastic schools knew this well and let fallenness take its course where it
would and let the pursuit of knowledge and virtue happen where they would.
Government schools attempt to teach virtue not for the elite who will rule our
country in the future but for everyone. They claim that there is no absolute
truth but that their worldview ethic (virtues) is the correct one. Is it not a
bit of an imposition to insist that all people should know and should be
virtuous? Is it not utopian to believe that one standard or global curriculum
of value and knowledge fits all -- especially after exhortations to celebrating
diversity and cultivating a child's self?
Ultimacy and fallenness
After William Ockham walked away as the winner in the nominalist debate
(perhaps the greatest psychological-epistemological rattling event in history),
Ideas were no longer ultimate. They perform math-like functions as propositions
in the way of John Locke's concept of the mind as 'white paper, devoid of all
characters'. Truth became the empirical impressions typed upon not a mind but a
brain. Since Derrida and post-structuralism, however, Ideas are not fixed upon
that paper even; they get written over, smudged at places, their meaning or
signification morphing with each set of new characters following them; they are
momentary and pluriform, corruptible and unstable. Both the radical
empirico-positivism and consumerism of modern education and the surrealistic
butterflies and pinwheels of postmodernism have attacked and leveled ultimacy
from both flanks much the way Rome sacked Carthage in the Third Punic War:
totally. Plato would surely complain that neither notion of writing is
distinguishable from the kind of writing on the walls of a Cave, both being
stern rejections of the various ways that memory and permanence cohabitate with
knowledge, identity, and truth. On the basis of Plato's system, it could be
argued that the rejection of absolutes or ultimacy has precipitated the
fallenness which is seen best in schools and, thus, in our rulers.
Teach the child, not the system. If readers find sound doctrine in Plato's
understanding of the education of character and therefore mind, if today truth,
proportion, and beauty are reduced to being constraints upon the imagination, if
'art is whatever', if every child can be his own source of knowledge, then an
alternative to state schooling is imperative. But it is up to
parent-philosophers to be the guardians of their children's minds; we cannot
rely on philosopher kings to ascend to power or institutional administrators to
deliver. Fallenness in the world does not allow the virtuous to rule society and
it does not allow all people to become virtuous through state edict (a.k.a.
Plato's worst-case scenario of the tyrannical soul, and thus the city ruled by
it, might arrive sooner or later. But the time has already come when most
teachers and administrators have turned themselves away from the truth and
towards fables (2 Tim. 4:3).
Berit Kjos, Brave New Schools, Harvest House 1995.
Martin Lings, Ancient Beliefs and Modern Superstitions (1965), Quinta Essentia
Plato, Republic (transl. G M A Grube), Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. 1992.
Richard Weaver, Visions of Order (1964), Intercollegiate Studies Institute 2006.
Recommended for the themes pertaining to education
Frederick Eby, The History and Philosophy of Education: Ancient and Medieval
Terence Irwin, Plato's Moral Theory: The Early and Middle Dialogs
H I Marrou and George Lamb, A History of Education in Antiquity
R B Onians, The Origins of European Thought
Plato: Protagoras, Meno, Euthyphro
Gerasimos Santas, 'Plato's Protagoras and explanations of weakness' in Gregory
Vlastos (ed.), The Philosophy of Socrates
C C W Taylor, Plato: Protagoras
Gregory Vlastos, Platonic Studies
(c) Peter Borkowski 2009
IV. PHILOSOPHICAL INVESTIGATIONS WIKI: LETTER FROM MARTIN COHEN
Date: Wed, 29 Apr 2009
Subject: Re: Philosophical Investigations
From: Martin Cohen firstname.lastname@example.org
Following up your kind suggestion to write something for the Pathways journal,
Pierre-Alain Gouanvic and I would like to invite Pathways philosophers with a
particular interest in philosophy of science to visit:
and consider joining in this interesting and unusual project.
I shall let Pierre-Alain introduce it:
'The lack of curiosity of most intellectuals about
so-called scientific matters (about the world, really) is a
mix of cowardice (why downgrade to the status of mere
student of Science when you can issue broad statements
about 'Life Sciences', 'Biopower', 'Technoscience', etc,
etc, or pretend to be an inquisitive Socrates when you're a
Sophist, really) and of plain old narrowmindedness disguised
What is needed, he adds is a new 'Seattle': another large-scale grassroots
movements of 'citizens reclaiming control, not over the economic sphere
(although it is still obviously needed), but over the production of scientific
There are, as everyone knows, many 'wikis' on the internet, even if most people
only are familiar with 'Wikipedia'. But Wikipedia did not invent the
characteristic software, the 'Wiki', which essentially serves to allow several
editors to work on the same article. Wikipedia, in fact, wastes this great
facility, as it explicitly forbids what it calls 'original research'. On the
Investigations site, on the other hand, that is what we are interested in.
Pages currently being worked on, for example, include:
-- The evolution of Evolution Theory
-- Does God exist? Scientific and Philosophical aspects of that hardy perennial
-- How can perception be faster than nerve transmission?
-- Homeopathy : fact or fiction?
-- The Coincidence of Civilisation Can Civilization be Based on a Coincidence?
The two co-ordinator/ supervisoring editors manage the site. Contributors are
grouped into three categories: 'guests', which is everyone, and 'authors' which
is what all the 'guests' become when their contributions are accepted as being
constructive and properly researched - which it is assumed will normally be the
case. Some authors may be invited to become 'editors' with a supervisory role
over a defined area of content later.
When pages are completed to the editors satisfaction, they are closed to
further editing, although 'suggestions' can still be made on their associated
With best wishes to Geoffrey and all Pathways colleagues,
Editor, 'The Philosopher'
Co-editor 'Philosophical Investigations'
Philosophy Pathways is the electronic newsletter for the
Pathways to Philosophy distance learning program
To subscribe or cancel your subscription please email your
request to email@example.com
The views expressed in this journal do not necessarily
reflect those of the editor. Contributions, suggestions or
comments should be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org