Education in Plato’s Republic, Part I: Censorship and The Education of the Military Class

Written by Dr. Jason Rheins on December 8, 2021

Plato is the most influential philosopher in the entire Western tradition, or else he shares this distinction with his own student, Aristotle. One of Plato’s most central and passionate interests was in virtue or excellence (Gr.: aretē): what it is, who knows about it, and whether and how it can be developed. Since the goal of Greek education was the inculcation of excellence in the pupil, Plato’s commitment to moral theory was inseparable from an equally profound interest in education. Plato was the first Greek thinker we know of to have a systematic philosophy of education.

One of Plato's most important works on education and the one that's best known by far today is the Republic. In this work, the characters of Socrates and Plato's two elder brothers, Glaucon and Adeimantus, imagine and study the features of an ideal city, the "Kallipolis", in an effort to define justice and to prove that it is intrinsically beneficial to the just person. After rejecting several definitions of Justice in book 1, in the second book the brothers challenge Socrates in earnest to show that Justice is truly good for the just person and Injustice really bad for the unjust person, not only because of personal reputation or the rewards and punishments that might come from such a reputation, but because Justice in and of itself is beneficial and Injustice in and of itself is harmful. To do this Justice must first be defined correctly, but it is not immediately clear what such a definition might be. To find it more easily, Socrates proposes searching on a larger scale. The interlocutors will imagine a city, one as good as possible in every way they can conceive, and then they will look at justice and any other key virtues responsible for the city's excellence.

The passages developing the Kallipolis' three-class system of workers, warriors, and philosopher rulers, together with the moral censorship of poetry in the city and the course of education for the latter two classes, constitute rich sources for Plato's thoughts on education. In what follows, several excerpts from such passages are collected and framed with commentary.

In this, the first in this series about the Republic, we look at the discussion of the education of the warrior class and the censorship of the stories and poetry they will learn from in books II and III.

Republic II.374a-e

"We surely agreed, if you remember, that it is impossible for one man to do the work of many arts well.” “True,” he said. “Well, then,” said I, “don't you think that the business of fighting is an art and a profession?” “It is indeed,” he said. “Should our concern be greater, then, for the cobbler's art than for the art of war?” “By no means.” “Can we suppose, then, that while we were at pains to prevent the cobbler from attempting to be at the same time a farmer, a weaver, or a builder instead of just a cobbler, to the end that we might have the cobbler's business well done, and similarly assigned to each and every one man one occupation, for which he was fit and naturally adapted and at which he was to work all his days, at leisure from other pursuits and not letting slip the right moments for doing the work well, and that yet we are in doubt whether the right accomplishment of the business of war is not of supreme moment? Is it so easy that a man who is cultivating the soil will be at the same time a soldier and one who is practicing cobbling or any other trade, though no man in the world could make himself a competent expert at draughts or the dice who did not practice that and nothing else from childhood but treated it as an occasional business? And are we to believe that a man who takes in hand a shield or any other instrument of war springs up on that very day a competent combatant in heavy armor or in any other form of warfare—though no other tool will make a man be an artist or an athlete by his taking it in hand, nor will it be of any service to those who have neither acquired the science of it nor sufficiently practiced themselves in its use?” “Great indeed,” he said, “would be the value of tools in that case.” “Then,” said I, “in the same degree that the task of our guardians is the greatest of all, it would require more leisure than any other business and the greatest science and training.” “I think so,” said he. “Does it not also require a nature adapted to that very pursuit?” “Of course.” “It becomes our task, then, it seems, if we are able, to select which and what kind of natures are suited for the guardianship of a state.”

Early in their discussion of the ideal state, the interlocutors realize that part of what separates a city from a simple country village or a small enclave of families is the fact that in larger, more sophisticated settlements there emerges a division of labor. The division of labor allows specialization, and specialization improves both the quality and quantity of the works produced by specialists. So, one of the very first rules that they agree upon for their ideal city is that each person will perform one and only one job, that for which he or she is naturally best-suited. This 'Principle of Specialization' is what leads to the introduction of distinct classes into the Kallipolis and, with their introduction, the beginning of the discussion of the training and education that is required the Guardians or military police of the city.

In most of the city-states of 5th-century Greece, armies were made of Citizen soldiers who would spend much of the year engaged in farming, crafts, and other economically productive activities. Sparta was the notable exception. The Spartan elite was a permanent, professional army that was entirely economically dependent on the Spartan serf class and other residents of Laconia. The Spartans also trained from childhood to become fearless and able soldiers. Consequently, they often, but not always, had the better of their fellow Greeks in hoplite warfare.

Here, recalling the principle of Specialization, Plato has Socrates eschew the normal model of Greek citizen-soldiers and endorse a seemingly Spartan-style, permanent military class, whose only work is fighting foes, internal and external, and whose members have received extensive education in the arts of war.

Republic II.375a-376c

“Do you think,” said I, “that there is any difference between the nature of a well-bred hound for this watch-dog's work and of a well-born lad?” “What point have you in mind?” “I mean that each of them must be keen of perception, quick in pursuit of what it has apprehended, and strong too if it has to fight it out with its captive.” “Why, yes,” said he, “there is need of all these qualities.” “And it must, further, be brave if it is to fight well.” “Of course.” “And will a creature be ready to be brave that is not high-spirited, whether horse or dog or anything else? Have you never observed what an irresistible and invincible thing is spirit, the presence of which makes every soul in the face of everything fearless and unconquerable?” “I have.” “The physical qualities of the guardian, then, are obvious.” “Yes.” “And also those of his soul, namely that he must be of high spirit.” “Yes, this too.” “How then, Glaucon,” said I, “will they escape being savage to one another and to the other citizens if this is to be their nature?” “Not easily, by Zeus,” said he. “And yet we must have them gentle to their friends and harsh to their enemies; otherwise they will not await their destruction at the hands of others, but will be first themselves in bringing it about.” “True,” he said. “What, then, are we to do?” “said I. “Where shall we discover a disposition that is at once gentle and great-spirited? For there appears to be an opposition between the spirited type and the gentle nature.” “There does.” “But yet if one lacks either of these qualities, a good guardian he never can be. But these requirements resemble impossibilities, and so the result is that a good guardian is impossible.” “It seems likely,” he said. And I was at a standstill, and after reconsidering what we had been saying, I said, “We deserve to be at a loss, my friend, for we have lost sight of the comparison that we set before ourselves.” “What do you mean?” “We failed to note that there are after all such natures as we thought impossible, endowed with these opposite qualities.” “Where?” “It may be observed in other animals, but especially in that which we likened to the guardian. You surely have observed in well-bred hounds that their natural disposition is to be most gentle to their familiars and those whom they recognize, but the contrary to those whom they do not know.” “I am aware of that.” “The thing is possible, then,” said I, “and it is not an unnatural requirement that we are looking for in our guardian.” “It seems not.” “And does it seem to you that our guardian-to-be will also need, in addition to the being high-spirited, the further quality of having the love of wisdom in his nature?” “How so?” he said; “I don't apprehend your meaning.” “This too,” said I, “is something that you will discover in dogs and which is worth our wonder in the creature.” “What?” “That the sight of an unknown person angers him before he has suffered any injury, but an acquaintance he will fawn upon though he has never received any kindness from him. Have you never marveled at that?” “I never paid any attention to the matter before now, but that he acts in some such way is obvious.” “But surely that is an exquisite trait of his nature and one that shows a true love of wisdom.” “In what respect, pray?” “In respect,” said I, “that he distinguishes a friendly from a hostile aspect by nothing save his apprehension of the one and his failure to recognize the other. How, I ask you, can the love of learning be denied to a creature whose criterion of the friendly and the alien is intelligence and ignorance?” “It certainly cannot,” he said. “But you will admit,” said I, “that the love of learning and the love of wisdom are the same?” “The same,” he said. “Then may we not confidently lay it down in the case of man too, that if he is to be in some sort gentle to friends and familiars he must be by nature a lover of wisdom and of learning?” “Let us so assume,” he replied. “The love of wisdom, then, and high spirit and quickness and strength will be combined for us in the nature of him who is to be a good and true guardian of the state.” “By all means,” he said. “Such, then,” I said, “would be the basis of his character. But the rearing of these men and their education, how shall we manage that?”

The military-police class of warriors, referred to here as the city's "guardians" (and later as the auxiliaries or auxiliary Guardians), must, like well-bred hounds, be strong of body, keen of mind, and high-spirited in order to battle fearlessly against all of the city's threats. However, as the only armed class, it is vital that they not abuse their power or their fellow citizens. This leads to a problem: how to unite the characteristics of spiritedness and gentleness in the same persons. (Uniting these characteristics through breeding continues to be an issue Plato explores in his later political works the Statesman and Laws.)

The solution suggested here is the philosophical nature also present, by analogy, in the guard dog. The guard dog is friendly to those it knows and hostile to those it does not. This is semi-humorously likened to philosophy, the love of wisdom, which loves knowledge and hates ignorance. Such a nature in the guardians could make them both spirited and gentle, but the kind of education that would produce such a character must still be described.

Republic II.376e-378e

“What, then, is our education? Or is it hard to find a better than that which long time has discovered? Which is, I suppose, gymnastics for the body and for the soul music.” “It is.” “And shall we not begin education in music earlier than in gymnastics?” “Of course.” “And under music you include tales, do you not?” “I do.” “And tales are of two species, the one true and the other false?” “Yes.” “And education must make use of both, but first of the false?” “I don't understand your meaning.” “Don't you understand,” I said, “that we begin by telling children fables, and the fable is, taken as a whole, false, but there is truth in it also? And we make use of fable with children before gymnastics.” “That is so.” “That, then, is what I meant by saying that we must take up music before gymnastics.” “You were right,” he said. “Do you not know, then, that the beginning in every task is the chief thing, especially for any creature that is young and tender? For it is then that it is best molded and takes the impression that one wishes to stamp upon it.” “Quite so.” “Shall we, then, thus lightly suffer our children to listen to any chance stories fashioned by any chance teachers and so to take into their minds opinions for the most part contrary to those that we shall think it desirable for them to hold when they are grown up?” “By no manner of means will we allow it.” “We must begin, then, it seems, by a censorship over our story makers, and what they do well we must pass and what not, reject. And the stories on the accepted list we will induce nurses and mothers to tell to the children and so shape their souls by these stories far rather than their bodies by their hands. But most of the stories they now tell we must reject.” “What sort of stories?” he said. “The example of the greater stories,” I said, “will show us the lesser also. For surely the pattern must be the same and the greater and the less must have a like tendency. Don't you think so?” “I do,” he said; “but I don't apprehend which you mean by the greater, either.” “Those,” I said, “that Hesiod and Homer and the other poets related. These, methinks, composed false stories which they told and still tell to mankind.” “Of what sort?” he said; “and what in them do you find fault?” “With that,” I said, “which one ought first and chiefly to blame, especially if the lie is not a pretty one.” “What is that?” “When anyone pictures badly in his speech the true nature of gods and heroes, like a painter whose portraits bear no resemblance to his models.” “It is certainly right to condemn things like that,” he said; “but just what do we mean and what particular things?” “There is, first of all,” I said, “the greatest lie about the things of greatest concernment, which was no pretty invention of him who told how Ouranos did what Hesiod says he did to Kronos, and how Kronos in turn took his revenge; and then there are the doings and sufferings of Kronos at the hands of his son. Even if they were true, I should not think that they ought to be thus lightly told to thoughtless young persons. But the best way would be to bury them in silence, and if there were some necessity for relating them, that only a very small audience should be admitted under pledge of secrecy and after sacrificing, not a pig, but some huge and unprocurable victim, to the end that as few as possible should have heard these tales.” “Why, yes,” said he, “such stories are hard sayings.” “Yes, and they are not to be told, Adeimantus, in our city, nor is it to be said in the hearing of a young man, that in doing the utmost wrong he would do nothing to surprise anybody, nor again by punishing his father's wrong-doings to the limit, but would only be following the example of the first and greatest of the gods.” “No, by heaven,” said he, “I do not myself think that they are fit to be told.” “Neither must we admit at all,” said I, “that gods war with gods and plot against one another and contend—for it is not true either—if we wish our future guardians to deem nothing more shameful than lightly to fall out with one another; still less must we make battles of gods and giants the subject for them of stories and embroideries, and other enmities many and manifold of gods and heroes toward their kith and kin. But if there is any likelihood of our persuading them that no citizen ever quarreled with his fellow-citizen and that the very idea of it is an impiety, that is the sort of thing that ought rather to be said by their elders, men and women, to children from the beginning and as they grow older, and we must compel the poets to keep close to this in their compositions. But Hera's fetterings by her son and the hurling out of heaven of Hephaestus by his father when he was trying to save his mother from a beating, and the battles of the gods in Homer's verse are things that we must not admit into our city either wrought in allegory or without allegory. For the young are not able to distinguish what is and what is not allegory, but whatever opinions are taken into the mind at that age are wont to prove indelible and unalterable. For which reason, maybe, we should do our utmost that the first stories that they hear should be so composed as to bring the fairest lessons of virtue to their ears.”

This next, lengthy passage begins to discuss the actual education of the guardian class, and it has significant implications for art and the city as a whole. Education will begin with music and gymnastics (at this point, letters are either assumed, ignored, or thought subsumed into music). Musikē is broadly the education of the soul and gymnastikē not of the body. (A similar view is expressed in Plato's Laws.) As is typical in Greek education, music will proceed gymnastics. In Spartan education, by contrast, physical training began as early as any other organized kind of training, but Socrates seems to include under music any kind of storytelling or song singing that a child would be exposed to my parents or nurses, even before the age of six or seven.

The earliest kind of stories that constitute the education of the soul are fictional stories. In this passage and others, Plato will have Socrates endorse the telling of falsehoods to both children and adults, provided that they do not convey philosophical falsehoods or morally corrupting misinformation. In this case, is all right to tell children fictions provided that they do not misrepresent the fundamental nature and moral character of the Gods and heroes. At this tender age, children are most easily and lastingly influenced by what they see and hear, so that even if they later learn that the stories they heard as children were false the pernicious influence of such stories would not thereby be wholly uprooted or erased.

The restrictions on acceptable educational content are intended for both matters large and small, but Socrates focuses on the greatest matters as a model for others, as they are of greatest concern and have the greatest influence. These are the stories that concern the Gods, above all the Kings of the Gods, and the greatest or most serious things that they do, such as how they treat other gods and their relatives the Titans, the Giants, the demigods, etc.

The worst of all stories that the Greeks tell children and adults in his eyes is that the greatest of their gods fought intergenerationally between Father and Son, with Ouranos and Kronos trying to swallow their sons, and their sons, Kronos and Zeus maiming and imprisoning them in turn. There was no worse crime in the eyes of Plato and most Greeks, than patricide. Even taking it upon oneself to punish one's own father seemed impious, yet the examples Ouranos and Kronos and Kronos and Zeus emboldened or even justified children who struck out against their parents, as is the case with the title character of Plato's Euthyphro.

Following the lines of earlier philosophers such as Xenophanes, Plato blames Homer, Hesiod, and the other poets for depicting the Gods as harming and wronging one another. This is especially bad as an influencer of the children who will grow to be guardians, as they least of all, should ever imagine it morally permissible to turn against their kin, that is, the other citizens of the Kallipolis. Ergo, there will need to be censorship of all the storytellers in the city, in order to ensure that they do not dangerously misrepresent the proper characters of the Gods and heroes.

Republic II.380a-c

"[B]ut if any poets compose a 'Sorrows of Niobe,' the poem that contains these iambics, or a tale of the Pelopidae or of Troy, or anything else of the kind, we must either forbid them to say that these woes are the work of God, or they must devise some such interpretation as we now require, and must declare that what God did was righteous and good, and they were benefited by their chastisement. But that they were miserable who paid the penalty, and that the doer of this was God, is a thing that the poet must not be suffered to say; if on the other hand he should say that for needing chastisement the wicked were miserable and that in paying the penalty they were benefited by God, that we must allow. But as to saying that God, who is good, becomes the cause of evil to anyone, we must contend in every way that neither should anyone assert this in his own city if it is to be well governed, nor anyone hear it, neither younger nor older, neither telling a story in meter or without meter; for neither would the saying of such things, if they are said, be holy, nor would they be profitable to us or concordant with themselves.” “I cast my vote with yours for this law,” he said, “and am well pleased with it.” “This, then,” said I, “will be one of the laws and patterns concerning the gods to which speakers and poets will be required to conform, that God is not the cause of all things, but only of the good.”

Having made the point that the censorship of stories, especially stories about the gods, will be necessary for the sake of the moral upbringing of the young, particularly future Guardians, Socrates now turns to the principles according to which such stories will be deemed acceptable or unacceptable. He proposes two tropes of discourse about the gods These tropes will have implications for stories about non-divinities—heroes, citizens, and such—but they are most significant as theological strictures, and it is well worth noting that the very first specifications about education that Socrates gives in the Republic are theological ones with a developmental, ethical purpose.

Socrates proceeds to demonstrate that as the Gods are entirely good, they are there for what causes only of good things, and never bad things. It is a common Greek assumption that the gods are the best. In every conceivable way, they are superior to human beings and they live a much happier, blessed existence, free from death and lasting troubles. Plato wholeheartedly agrees with this, but with his own philosophical and moralizing twist. Most Greeks also believe that the Gods are the causes of all manner of things, both good and bad. A very famous passage in the last book of the Iliad aptly summarizes the issue:

Yes, the gods have woven pain into mortal lives, while they are free from care. Two jars sit at the doorstep of Zeus, filled with gifts that he gives, one full of good things, the other of evil. If Zeus gives a man a mixture from both jars, sometimes life is good for him, sometimes not. But if all he gives you is from the jar of woe, you become a pariah, and hunger drivers you over the bright earth, dishonored by gods and men. [Iliad XXIV.525-533]

Plato rejects the "two urn model" of divine intervention and causation. The stories mentioned in this passage (Niobe, the House of Pelops, the Trojan War) include potent examples of the gods causing mortals to suffer severely. Like some earlier philosophical critics of the poets (e.g. Xenophanes), Plato thinks that accounts of the gods fighting one another must be false. Beings that are completely good value the same things (including justice) and have no cause to be at odds with one another. But he goes further theologically than earlier philosophers and argues that accounts of the gods causing harm even to mere mortals must be false, too. The Greeks agree that the gods are happy and best, and according to Plato that which is happy and good must be virtuous. Furthermore, that which is virtuous does not cause harm. So, the gods are incapable of truly harming or wronging someone else. (This does not mean that the Gods are incapable or unwilling to punish wrongdoers; Plato regards punishment as beneficial, not harmful for a wrongdoer, as it opens up the possibility for repentance and correction.)

So, we have the first and most important trope governing the composition and censorship of both children's stories and the adult poetry and prose that comprise the verbal content of the city's musical "curriculum". (Rules regarding the rhythms, modes, and meters of music will be given in book III.)

Republic II.382e-383a

“Then there is no motive for God to deceive.” “None.” “From every point of view the divine and the divinity are free from falsehood.” “By all means.” “Then God is altogether simple and true in deed and word, and neither changes himself nor deceives others by visions or words or the sending of signs in waking or in dreams.” “I myself think so,” he said, “when I hear you say it.” “You concur then,” I said, “this as our second norm or canon for speech and poetry about the gods,—that they are neither wizards in shape-shifting nor do they mislead us by falsehoods in words or deed?” “I concur.”

The second trope governing the depiction of the gods in the Kallipolis is the injunction that the gods must not be depicted as deceivers or “sorcerers”, i.e. shapeshifters. In the stories of Homer and the other poets, the gods frequently disguise themselves in different forms. Sometimes they will appear to a human being as a stranger. At other times they will try to trick them by taking the form of someone they know, and sometimes they will even take the form of an animal or some natural phenomena. Sometimes this is depicted as a real transformation sometimes it is treated as a kind of glamour. Socrates' first point is that the gods do not change their forms. The gods are already as well-off as possible. Therefore, any change would be a change for the worse, in which case the gods would not be as well off, and such deterioration or harm is, of course, unbefitting a god. So, the transformation of the gods is not to be depicted, because it is unworthy of them as a real change. In fact, Plato thinks the best things reality are the most constant and least mutable of all.

But, it is also unworthy of the gods to be deceivers, whether that means assuming a false glamour, sending false dreams and omens, or simply lying to mortals. The gods frequently mislead and deceive mortals in the poems of Homer and Hesiod. In the Theogony, Hesiod claims that the Muses told him directly that they were capable of telling truth and lies resembling reality: “We know how to say many deceptive things looking like real things, but we also know how, whenever we wish it, to proclaim things that are true.” [Theogony 27-28], while one of the first things to happen in The Iliad is Zeus sending a false dream to Agamemnon in order to deliberately lure the Greeks into peril. Socrates' argument against such a view hinges on showing that the gods, perfect and happy as they are, have no motive to deceive anyone or appear falsely.

The typical Greek would have believed that the Gods are sometimes deceivers. And even when the gods are truthful (as through their sacred oracles at Delphi or Dodona, for instance), their messages and signs are often cryptic, ambiguous, or hard to understand clearly.

Here too, Plato's education system is designed to reform Greek beliefs about their gods and undo the moral damage caused by the traditional accounts of the leading poets. Hesiod, and above all Homer, are not so subtly in his crosshairs, and for good reason, as they were the center of Greek musical and grammatical education and would remain so for at least another 800 years.

Republic III.386a-c

“What then of this? If they are to be brave, must we not extend our prescription to include also the sayings that will make them least likely to fear death? Or do you suppose that anyone could ever become brave who had that dread in his heart?” “No indeed, I do not,” he replied. “And again if he believes in the reality of the underworld and its terrors, do you think that any man will be fearless of death and in battle will prefer death to defeat and slavery?” “By no means.” “Then it seems we must exercise supervision also, in the matter of such tales as these, over those who undertake to supply them and request them not to dispraise in this undiscriminating fashion the life in Hades but rather praise it, since what they now tell us is neither true nor edifying to men who are destined to be warriors.”

As Socrates goes on to describe the kinds of depictions of heroes and other subjects that would help or hinder the guardians’ development of virtue, he notes that their courage (the most important virtue for their profession) would be compromised or at least undermined by depictions of the underworld as uniformly bad, e.g., the uniformly dismal Hades in Homer's Odyssey. As the guardians must not fear death, it is better for them to think that the afterlife is a good thing to go to, or at any rate, it is good for those who have been virtuous, e.g. courageous. In previous dialogues, Plato had criticized fear of death and depicted the afterlife as giving just rewards to the dead through reincarnation. In the Phaedo, Socrates argues on his death bed that philosophy is the very preparation for death— the separation of the soul from the body— as the philosopher trains to clear his intellect of the distortions of the senses and the distractions of the appetites. Similarly, the Republic will conclude with an elaborate eschatological tale, the Myth of Er, which again depicts a system of reincarnation designed to punish the wicked and reward the righteous.

Of course, at this point in the dialogue, Socrates and Plato's brothers have not discussed any of these matters. They are agreeing to positive, or at least differentiated, depictions of the afterlife not on the basis of cosmological, theological, or psychological argument or speculation, but solely from pedagogical expedience. With their theological argument, the discussions of two great tropes leave no doubt that Socrates (and Plato) really think that they are true principles, not just useful. This condition is a bit more ambiguous. It is worth remembering this when one comes to the discussion of the noble lie in book 4, for Socrates endorses rulers lying to their citizens of it is for a good cause, as it were, and the present argument may not be offered in an entirely different spirit.

Republic III.392a-c

"We have declared the right way of speaking about gods and daemons and heroes and that other world.” “We have.” “Speech, then, about men would be the remainder.” “Obviously.” “It is impossible for us, my friend, to place this here.” “Why?” “Because I presume we are going to say that so it is that both poets and writers of prose speak wrongly about men in matters of greatest moment, saying that there are many examples of men who, though unjust, are happy, and of just men who are wretched, and that there is profit in injustice if it be concealed, and that justice is the other man's good and your own loss; and I presume that we shall forbid them to say this sort of thing and command them to sing and fable the opposite. Don't you think so?” “Nay, I well know it,” he said. “Then, if you admit that I am right, I will say that you have conceded the original point of our inquiry?” “Rightly apprehended,” he said. “Then, as regards men that speech must be of this kind, that is a point that we will agree upon when we have discovered the nature of justice and the proof that it is profitable to its possessor whether he does or does not appear to be just.” “Most true,” he replied."

At this point in his argument, Socrates cannot yet lay down the key condition for the depiction of men. Ultimately, Socrates thinks that one should not depict vice, or if one does, one must not depict the vicious as happy or flourishing. Similarly, one should depict the virtuous and just as happy and well-off. The reason that these policies cannot get be laid down is that they would be begging the greater context of Socrates' effort to answer the challenge of Glaucon and Adeimantus. Socrates is endeavoring to prove to them that justice is beneficial in and of itself and Injustice harmful. Constructing the Kallipolis and imagining its education is part of that endeavor, but until he has proven the Justice really is beneficial and Injustice really harmful in themselves, he cannot yet institute a trope that assumes the truth of these very propositions. Nevertheless, when the subject of censorship is returned to in book X after the challenge has been fully answered, Socrates will make insistence on the depictions of justice and injustice.


To sum up, then, one of the very first institutions that Plato has Socrates address in the construction of his ideal state is the education of its guardians. Furthermore, the chief aim of the rules that are discussed is the proper moral conditioning of the learners. Finally, the chief means of obtaining good moral training, or at least removing early sources of moral corruption in music (i.e. stories, poetry), is the censorship of the treatments of the gods and heroes to make them conform to sound theological and ethical principles. This tells us a great deal about how central education is to Plato’s entire moral-political philosophy, how fundamental moral instruction is to the goals of Greek pedagogy, and how influential and essential Plato and other Greek philosophers regard morally proper or improper content with respect to character development.

Dr. Jason Rheins

Dr. Jason G. Rheins is a scholar of ancient Greek and Roman philosophy. In 2003 he received his BA with honors in Philosophy and Classical Studies from Stanford University. In 2010 he earned his PhD in Philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania. He has taught or held professorships at the University of Pennsylvania, Swarthmore College, UNC Chapel Hill, St. John’s University, and Loyola University Chicago. He has published articles and book chapters on the history of philosophy, the philosophy of science, and metaphysics. He is currently completing a monograph on Plato’s theology.