Although Plato's Republic is best known for its definitive defense of justice, it also includes an equally powerful defense of philosophical education. Plato's beliefs on education, however, are difficult to discern because of the intricacies of the dialogue. Not only does Socrates (Plato's mouthpiece in the dialogue) posit two differing visions of education (the first is the education of the warrior guardians and the second is the philosopher-kings' education), but he also provides a more subtle account of education through the pedagogical method he uses with Glaucon and Adeimantus. While the dramatic context of the dialogue makes facets of the Republic difficult to grasp, in the case of education, it also provides the key to locating and understanding Socrates' true vision of education. Socrates' pedagogical approach with the interlocutors corresponds closely with his vision of the education of the philosopher-kings--an overlap which suggests that the allegory of the cave is representative of true Socratic education.
The first account of education, however, is not included in the dialogue without purpose. In accordance with the progressive, playful, philosophical education suggested by the cave analogy and the philosopher-kings' education, Socrates uses numerous varying and often conflicting ideas and images (among which is the first account of education) to gradually guide his pupils toward a personal realization of knowledge and philosophy.
This paper will first examine the dialogue's two explicit accounts of education, addressing both their similarities and differences. After gaining an understanding of the two accounts, the paper will analyze them in relation to Socrates' own pedagogical method, and thereby unveil the ideals of Socratic education.
Socrates' First Account of Education:
Aim of Guardians' Education: