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The Paideia Archive: Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 3, 1998

Ancient Philosophy

Victor Boutros
Pages 55-64

Spelunking with Socrates
A Study of Socratic Pedagogy in Plato’s Republic

Though Plato never wrote a dialogue that explicitly asks, "What is education?", few argue that he is uninterested in the subject; after all, Plato, like Socrates, was a teacher. In his magnum opus, the Republic, Plato deals with education repeatedly. The eduction of the guardian class and the allegory of the cave present two landmark pedagogical passages. Yet to catch a glimpse of Socratic pedagogy, we must first sift through the intricacies of dialogue. In addition to the complexity inherent in dramatic context, it seems clear that Socrates’ remarks are often steeped in irony. Thus, we stumble upon a problem: how should we read these passages on education? Does Plato mean for us to read them genuinely or ironically? I will argue that Plato uses the dramatic context of the Republic to suggest that Socrates presents the education of the guardians ironically, while reserving the allegory of the cave for a glimpse of Socrates’ genuine pedagogy.

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