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The Paideia Archive: Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 3, 1998

Ancient Philosophy

Jonathan Cohen
Pages 85-92

Philosophy is Education is Politics
A Somewhat Aggressive Reading of Protagoras 334d-338e

The passage in question begins with a breakdown in the discussion between Socrates and Protagoras because of disagreement about what its ground rules will be and concludes with the discussion’s restoration. Though formally a mere hiatus from the main line of argument, this passage in fact contains a parable about politics, addressing the question, "How can people of differing abilities and preferences come together to form a community?" Since the passage appears in the middle of a dialogue explicitly concerned with education, the parable extends to education as well. The passage thus provides a springboard for insight into some essential interconnections between and among philosophy, education, and politics. On the one hand, a genuine practitioner of any of the three is ipso facto a engaged in the other two at the same time. And on the other hand, the three share an internal structure which is reflexive and transitive at the same time.

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