Monday, December 8, 2014

Socratic Virtue: Education as Aristotelian Happiness

"Education in our times must try to find whatever there is in students that might yearn for completion, and to reconstruct the learning that would enable them autonomously to seek that completion."
                                                                        - Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind

Socrates may be the most venerated example of a teacher today but in ancient Greece his method of inquiry created great controversy. He subjected the people in the city to his examination, asking questions. He asked politicians, poets and manual artisans to teach him what they knew about justice, virtue, and piety. Eventually Socrates’ investigations brought him into trouble and late in life, he was accused of corrupting the youth of Athens.

Our knowledge of Socrates as a teacher is mediated through his students, particularly Plato and Xenophon. That second-hand information obscures his thought with no systematic writings to draw direct conclusions. The depiction of Socrates in Aristophanes’ The Clouds raises even more questions about Socrates’ alternative method of teaching and its relation to the traditional values of Athens. We are left to wonder whether Socrates was the moral relativist his accusers claimed or the noble idealist his students depict.

Nevertheless, we can conclude that Socrates concerned himself with questions about education and its capacity to teach how to pursue what is good. His pursuit of the knowledge follows Aristotle’s belief that intellectual contemplation is the highest virtue.

However, we are left with a question of which Socrates is the true Socrates. In Plato’s The Apology, he is a martyr for philosophy, accused for corrupting the youth as portrayed by Aristophanes. In Aristophanes’ The Clouds, he is a mischievous gadfly, teaching dangerous ideas. In Plato’s The Republic, he is the most serious student of justice and virtue. In Xenophon’s Memorabilia, he is a sage of practical wisdom. With Aristotle’s Apology lost to the ages, we can only infer from the Nicomachean Ethics and Politics which Socrates he thought exemplified the virtuous teacher.

I. Plato’s The Apology
Socrates accusers charge him for being “a wise man, a thinker on the things aloft, who has investigated all things under the earth, and who makes the weaker speech the stronger.” (The Apology 18b-c). 

Socrates asks his audience to “teach and tell each other” if they have heard him teaching wrongdoing or to disbelieve in the city’s gods. He tells the judges that his accusers “go hold of the many of you from childhood.” (18b-c) Socrates claims in he did not “attempt to educate human beings and make money from it” (19e-20a) though he believed it noble to teach so if one has knowledge.

Rather, Socrates answers his critics that his “affair” is the practice of human wisdom (20d). With this regard, he says he only sought to investigate the Oracle of Delphi’s prophecy:

That one of you, O human beings, is wisest, who, like Socrates, has become cognizant that in truth he is worth nothing with respect to wisdom. (23b)

Followers of Socrates begin to imitate his method of inquiry. He mentions that these young people have the most leisure and are sons of the wealthiest in Athens. They discover that many of those who claim to know something know nothing upon examination. Angry at their own ignorance, they blame Socrates for corrupting the young, but people ask “By doing what and teaching what?” Socrates says they have nothing to specifically accuse him of teaching other than what they accuse all who philosophize of doing. (23c-23e)

Socrates never truly contends that he does not teach the young people he is accused of corrupting. He asks Meletus “do you not regard it as most important how the youth will be best possible?” (24d) Meletus asserts that it is the duty of the laws, judges, Councilmen, Assemblymen, and all the Athenians to better the young. Socrates asks how it is that he is the only one whose teaching corrupts the young and that if he is so skilled in teaching the young compared to the rest of the city, why would he corrupt them when it would harm himself. Socrates argues that either he does not corrupt or if he does corrupt, he does so involuntarily. If it is the duty of those who know to teach those who do not know, Meletus had the obligation to teach Socrates how his teaching involuntarily corrupts. Socrates says,

The law is not that you bring me in here for such involuntary wrongs, but that you take me aside in private to teach and admonish me. For it is clear that if I learn, I will at least stop doing what I do involuntarily. But you avoided associating with me and teaching me, and you were not willing to, but instead you brought me in here, where the law is to bring in those in need of punishment, not learning. 26a-b

Socrates choice to lead a private life rather than a political life, examining others in search of their wisdom, demonstrates prudence regarding his knowledge. He says “it is apparent that I was the sort of man…who never conceded anything to anyone contrary to the just—neither to anyone else, nor to any of those who my slanderers say are my students.” He continues to reject the charges, stating, “I have never been anyone’s teacher; but if anyone, whether younger or older, desired to hear me speaking and doing my own things, I never begrudged it to him.” (33a-33b) He argues that those who follow him “enjoy hearing men examined who suppose they are wise, but are not. For it is not unpleasant.”(33b-c)

Socrates desire for inquiry even allows him to accept his conviction and punishment. When he declares that the “unexamined life is not worth living” (38a), he implies that to silence his examinations would end his happiness. He is content to continue toward the dreaming sleep that is death or if the journey through Hades is true, to continue to examine Orpheus, Musaeus, Hesiod, Homer, Palamedes, Ajax, Odysseus, and Sisyphus (41a-41c).

Socrates then invites the judges that when his sons grow up, to “punish them” and “pain them in the very same way I pained you, if they seem to you to care for money or anything else before virtue” (42e). His invocation of his sons demonstrates the failure of the Athenians belief that a forceful punishment will persuade a people toward an education of virtue. Socrates dies at 70 years of age after having lived a life exhibiting how persuasion can be more a powerful education and that knowledge of ignorance was not ignorance itself.

However, Socrates accusers did not understand his suggestion of an alternative means to education because a comic poet, Aristophanes taught them to think of Socrates as someone who was irresponsible, rejecting old values to pursue pleasure without prudence.

II. The Clouds: A critique of Socratic education or a mistaken Sophist education?
Aristophanes’ The Clouds portrays Socrates in a comedic manner, irresponsibly teaching impressionable young men to undercut the laws and traditions of Athens (Thomas West 11-12). Strepsiades, an old literal-minded man with debts, goes to Socrates’ “thinker of wise souls” where students are taught “how to win both just and unjust causes by speaking.” (Aristophanes 93-98)

The play introduces Socrates as a man who “treads on air” in a basket, investigating nature and its Mysteries. He introduces Strepsiades to “heavenly Clouds” which he describes as “great goddesses for idle men, who provide us with notions and dialectic and mind, and marvel-telling and circumlocution and striking and seizing.” (315-320)

However much importance Socrates gives to the Clouds, he also notes that they “nourish most of the sophists” who he describes as “Thurian diviners, practicers of the art of medicine, idle-long-haired-onyx-ring-wearers.” (330-335) The last of which is a word coined by poets meaning “foppish, sophisticated intellectuals and aesthetes.” (Four Text on Socrates “The Clouds” note. 63) Yet despite this slight to the sophists, Socrates makes absurd rhetorical claims about the origins of clouds, rain, and thunder.

Socrates attempts to teach rhetoric to Strepsiades, asking him whether speaking is in his nature. Strepsiades replies that “to be a cheat is.” (485-487) Socrates continues to try to teach him, even subjecting him to the bites of bedbugs. However, Strepsiades interest getting out of his debts becomes too difficult when he says he could avoid lawsuits by hanging himself. Socrates tells him that he’s talking “nonsense” and “foolishness” and refuses to teach him. (780-785)

After Strepsiades, he brings his son Pheidippides, who is reluctant to learn rather than ride horses. Pheidippides is initially rude to Socrates and Socrates wonders whether or not he can teach him but Strepsiades assures him “Have no care, teach him, he’s wise-spirited by nature.” (875)

Strepsiades asks Socrates, “He’s to learn those two speeches: the stronger, whatever it may be, and the weaker, which argues the unjust things and overturns the stronger. If not both, he’s to learn at least the unjust one by every art.” (882-885) Socrates leaves Pheidippides to observe a debate between the Just Speech and the Unjust Speech.

Unjust Speech casts the Just Speech as an “old fogy and out of tune,” (905) and the Just Speech accuses Unjust Speech as the reason why “none of the lads is willing to go to school” and that “someday the Athenians will recognize what sorts of things you teach the mindless.” (915-918) Eventually, the Chorus interrupts and tells both to “Stop your battling and raillery! But display, [to Just Speech] you, what you used to teach them in the past, [to Unjust Speech] and you, the novel education, so that he, [indicating Pheidippidies] when he’s heard you both speaking against each other, may decide and go to school.” (933-940)

Eventually, both agree to teach Pheidippides with Just Speech arguing for moderation and Unjust Speech arguing for pleasure.

The Socratic dialectic concludes with Unjust Speech undoing Just Speech by unveiling his hypocrisy. Just as Strepsiades desired an unjust end from his learning; Pheidippides similarly learns to abuse the arguments to get back at his father, though Socrates praised Pheidippides as having learned the dialectic. After learning about unjust speech, Pheidippiades relishes in his new power of persuasion and the ability to combat the old with the new.
How pleasant it is to consort with novel and shrewd matters
and to be able to look down on the established laws!
For I, when I was applying my mind to horsemanship alone,
couldn’t even say three phrases before I went wrong. But now that he himself has made me stop these thingsAnd I am associating with subtle notions and speeches and ponderingsI do suppose that I will teach him that it is just to punish one’s father! (1398-1405)
After Pheidippides says he will argue that one should also beat one’s mother, Strepsiades despairs for his suffering. The Clouds tell him that he is responsible for the consequences because he had twisted himself into “villainous affairs” and that though The Clouds recognized him as being a lover of such things, they did not warn him because they “throw him into evil so that he may know the dread of the gods.” (1455-1460) Strepsiades laments forgetting the gods and sets fire to the thinkery.

Martha Nussbaum argues in “Aristophanes and Socrates on learning practical wisdom” that Aristophanes mistakenly assimilates Socrates with the Sophists to launch a generalized attack on intellectuals. (Nussbaum 49) Yet the story illuminates a debate about moral education, particularly the distinction between “conventon (nomos) and nature (physis) in human life.” (52)

Nussbaum argues that Socrates does not endorse the Unjust Speech, despite its victory in the contest he staged. Contrary to the conclusion about his hedonism by his accusers, Socrates has “detachment from such ‘earthly’ matters as moral habituation and the management of the passions” and that he indicates, “education is a precise matter, a matter for a few initiates, for experts.” He has contempt for Strepsiades inability to learn to argue. We cannot see Strepsiades’ cheating of his creditors as Socrates endorsing that “the clever are justified in cheating the ignorant.” (70)

The difference between Aristophanes and Plato’s Socrates is that Aristophanes portrays Socrates as a “midwife” of others ideas, while Plato negates them. In The Clouds, Socrates tells Strepsiades that he is ignorant, he “shoots down” traditional moral views but the effect of his teaching is that people pursue their own conclusions.

Again, the blurred distinction between Socrates and sophists play into the portrayal of Socratic method as an education. Nussbaum describes how popular sophists minimized the discomfort of the learning process and “gave their listeners a verbal feast, flattering their appetites for pleasure.”

She draws the distinction using Strepsiades encounter with bedbugs at the thinkery:
Talking to Socrates undoubtedly was like being bitten and drained; talking to the others was as easy as eating.
Nussbaum concludes that Aristophanes’ Socrates does similarly emphasize on “self-inquiry and self-knowledge, and his apparent goal of achieving and imparting wisdom” and exhibits his concern for “getting in touch directly with the real nature of the subject-matter” rather than a relativistic viewpoint. 

Nevertheless, Nussbaum notes that there is a “conspicuous absence of positive moral advice, or of any substantive account of the human good.” (75) The completion of Pheidippides points to a lack of prudence in Socrates’ moral teaching of the young, whom he believes more malleable than old Strepsiades.

III. Education in The Republic
Regarding moral education in The Clouds, Nussbaum explains Socrates is “at best morally neutral; at worst he condones deceit.” (48) Plato’s dialogues counter the portrayal that Socrates was unconcerned with morality.

a) The Guardians
The Republic deals entirely concerned with establishing a state governed by reason and virtue, starting with the careful education of the individual. While Socrates’ just city in speech relegates some people to artisanal crafts, the main focus of his discussion of education concerns that of the guardians, soldiers who will become leaders of the city.

Socrates argues that as just workers have been assigned to jobs “for which his nature fitted him” (374b), education should be fitted to an individual’s nature. However, since guardians must be both skilled at the art of war and keep the city at peace, his main concern regarding guardians is “where will we find a disposition at the same time gentle and great-spirited?” (375c4-5)

At first, Socrates wonders whether finding such a disposition in men might be impossible but he finds an example in nature with the disposition of noble dogs (375e). Socrates says that like a dog who is gentle to people it knows and opposite with those they don’t know” so must be a guardian. He says we must educate guardians to know the good so they will “by nature be a philosopher and a lover of learning.” (376c) Socrates says that we should teach children gymnastic for bodies and music for the soul.  (376d-e) This education must teach children at the beginning when they are the “most plastic, and each thing assimilates itself to the model whose stamp anyone wishes to give to it.” (377a)

Starting in Book III of The Republic, Socrates outlines how a new education that will bring the soul into alignment with wisdom, justice, temperance and prudence.

Since men learn by imitation Socrates argues that poets ought to only speak of good dispositions, music and gymnastics ought to teach only that which is good. He also believes that guardians ought to be persuaded rather than forced to hold convictions. He also suggests giving homes and food to the guardians to prevent them from harming citizens.

Adeimantus interrupts in the beginning of Book IV and asks “What would your apology be, Socrates, if someone were to say that you’re hardly making these men happy” and they receive nothing for their good to the city (419a). Socrates counters that this is not for exceptional happiness for one group but for the whole city and that “If by being well educated they become sensible men, they’ll easily see to all this.” (423e3-5)

So Socrates asserts that the guardians will be the most fitted toward leading the city’s affairs with their knowledge but he argues that education that lawgivers will gain the courage and wisdom to preserve the city through “the preserving of the opinion produced by law through education about what—an what sort of thing is terrible.” (429b-c)

b) The Philosopher

The usefulness philosophy soon becomes a question to Adeimantus and he asks,
"Now someone might say that in speech he can’t contradict you at each particular thing asked, but in deed he sees that of all those who start out on philosophy—not those who take it up for the sake of getting educated when they are young and then drop it, but those who linger in it for a longer time—most become quite queer, not to say completely vicious; while the ones who seem perfectly decent, do nevertheless suffer at least one consequence of the practice you are praising—they become useless to the cities." (487c-d)
Socrates answers for the usefulness of philosophers, he compares the knowledge to that of a true pilot on a ship who pays attention to the “year, seasons, heaven, stars, winds, and everything that’s proper to the art, if he is going to be skilled at ruling a ship.” (488d-e) Yet this person will be described as a “stargazer, a prater and useless to them by those who sail on ships.” (489a)

However, Socrates argues that that those who do not ask for the honor the philosopher fail to use him properly as a tool by expecting him to rule. Philosophers are not honored because philosophy’s accusers assert “most of those who go to it are completely vicious and the most decent useless.” (489d)

Socrates asserts, “it is the nature of the real lover of learning to strive for what is.” (490a-b) This leads the philosopher’s nature to be in opposition to those who argue with his usefulness and so we conclude that the many corrupt this nature of philosophy. What Socrates praised in the nature of a perfect philosopher like courage and moderation, have a part in “destroying the soul that has them and tearing it away from philosophy.” (491b)

However, he says souls with the best nature become exceptionally bad when they get bad instruction. So the nature of the philosopher requires a “suitable course of learning” which will grow every kind of virtue.

Socrates asks Adeimantus whether he believes that “certain young men are corrupted by sophists, and that there are certain sophist who in private capacity corrupt to an extent worth mentioning?” Socrates counters this argument with “Isn’t it rather the very men who say this who are the biggest sophists, who educate most perfectly and who turn out young and old, men and women, just the way they want them to be?” (492b-c)

The greater threat to philosophic is the necessity of appealing to the many. Socrates asks how the various gatherings of many will sway “the young man’s heart” and wonders “what kind of private education will hold out” rather than be “swept away by such blame and praise and go.” The philosopher’s opinion of the noble and base will be “borne by the flood” of the multitude. (492c-d)

Socrates says “educators and sophists” will then cause harm by failing to persuade the many toward noble actions. They educate according to the opinions of the many by necessity. Wisdom instead becomes defined by feeling rather than knowledge or moderation. Instead of thinking for the sake truth, “the so-called necessity of Diomede” will compel philosophers to produce what men will praise. Socrates concludes, “It’s impossible… that a multitude be philosophic.” (494a)

This does not mean that the philosopher must reject bringing philosophy into the city if a pure education cannot be achieved even if an imperfect environment may corrupt learning. Rather than destroying the city to start anew, “philosophers must be established as the most precise guardians.” (503b) Few people will have the ability to be both “good at learning” and yet have “not easily changeable dispositions” simultaneously. (503c-d) He explains the divided line to explain how to educate: "first knowledge, the second thought, the third trust, and the fourth imagination." (534a) Thus Socrates describes this education through the image of leaving a cave where shadows are cast on a wall.

c) The Cave
While the cave presents an image to understand the difference between the knowledge of many (shadows on the walls on the cave) and the philosopher (the objects casting those shadows through the light), Socrates’ most relevant contribution how education should perform in the city comes in explaining to Glaucon how to explain ideas using images.

‘Education is not what the professions of certain men assert it to be. They presumably assert that they put into the soul knowledge that isn’t in it, as though they were putting sight into blind eyes.’

‘Yes,’ he said, ‘they do indeed assert that.’

‘But the present argument, on the other hand,’ I said, ‘indicates that this power is in the soul of each, and that the instrument with which each learns—just as an eye is not able to turn toward the light from the dark without the whole body—must be turned around from that which is coming into being together with the whole soul until it is able to endure looking at that which is and the brightest part of that which is.’ (418c-d)

Thus the ability to learn is in the nature of each person but must be rightly turned toward its object. Similarly, the virtues of the soul are close to that of the body but must be produced by exercises that will encourage prudence. Socrates argues just as the eye has the difficulty of going from the dark to the light and from the light to the dark, the nature of those without education and with continuous education will need to be conditioned to their best natures through training.

He argues that “the current mistake in philosophy—as a result of which, as we also said before, dishonor has befallen philosophy—is that men who aren’t worthy take it up.”(535c-d) Socrates then concludes that education must teach not only inquiry but also moderation particularly with regards to the use of the dialectical for arguments.

Isn’t it one great precaution not to let them taste of arguments while they are young?
I suppose you aren’t unaware that when lads get their first taste of them, they misuse them as though it were play, always using them to contradict; and imitating those men by whom they are refuted, they themselves refute others, like puppies enjoying pulling and tearing with argument at those who happen to be near. (539b)

Then when these young men are refuted, they fall into disbelief and as a result “the whole activity of philosophy become the objects of slander among the rest of men.” (539c) Teaching ought use prudence so that learning will be more sensible and make a practice of the honorable.

d) Dialogue as a demonstration of teaching
Plato uses dialogues with interlocutors to demonstrate the Socrates’ approach to teaching. Adeimantus demonstrates an impatience for answers, teasing out conclusions from Socrates before he completes an argument. Glaucon exhibits a playful attitude towards formulating ideas.  It is difficult to determine how much of the material in The Republic is Plato’s artistic license but Socrates ideas concerning education counter the portrayal of him as a reckless sophist teacher, unconcerned with the moral consequences of teaching children. His teaching aims at furthering the goals of justice and virtue, rather than simply questioning the traditions of Athenian society. These goals, however, are not the entire virtue of a Socratic education; like justice, he demonstrates that a good education conditions the soul to be happy because it is virtuous “itself by itself.”

IV. Xenophon’s Memorabilia
Xenophon argues that Socrates had respect for tradition and the gods. He argues that Socrates believed “In short, what the gods have granted us to do by help of learning, we must learn.”(Book I. i. 9) He says Socrates marveled at those who claimed to know human nature. “Students of human nature, he said, think that they will apply their knowledge in du course for the good themselves and any others they choose.” (I. i. 16)

He also contends with the idea that Socrates corrupted the youth, arguing that he was in strict control of his own passions and appetites. Without desire for vice, Xenophon argues that Socrates more likely cured others of it. He says, “To be sure, he never professed to teach this; but by letting his own light shine, he led his disciples to hope that they through imitation of him would attain such excellence (I. ii. 2-4)

While Xenophon argues that perhaps Socrates should have taught prudence before politics,  he says “I find that all teachers show their disciples how they themselves practices what they teach.” (I. ii. 17) Yet Xenophon finds himself agreeing with the poets about a moral education saying “From the good shalt thou learn good things; but if thou minglest with the bad thou shalt lose even what thou hast of wisdom.” (I. ii. 20) Therefore, one cannot directly attribute the later wrongdoing of Socrates’ students to Socrates teaching.

Later, Xenophon recalls a conversation when Antiphon tells Socrates that he is “a just, but by no means a wise man” because he declines to take money for his teachings. (I. vi. 11) Socrates retorts,

For to offer one’s beauty for money to all comers is called prostitution; but we think it virtuous to become friendly with a lover who is known to be a man of honour. So is it with wisdom. Those who offer it to all comers for money are known as sophists, prostitutors of wisdom, but we think that he who makes a friend of one whom he knows to be gifted by nature, and teaches him all the good he can, fulfills the duty of a citizen and a gentleman. (I. vi. 13-14)

Xenophon even reveals Socrates to be an advocate of even debating with the masses, despite his preference for a private education. He talks to Glaucon’s son, Charmides.

Socrates commends Charmides for giving excellent advice and sound criticism in conversations with public men. Charmides counters that “A private conversation is a very different thing from a  crowded debate, Socrates.” (III. vii. 4) Socrates says “a man who is a good at figures counts as well in a crowd as in solitude; and those who play the harp best in private excel no less in a crowd.” Charmides points that bashfulness and timidity come natural to a man in the presence of the multitude.

Socrates says not to fear ridicule or “behave like a man who can beat trained athletes and is afraid of amateurs.” Even if the Assembly laughs at sound argument, he tells Charmides that a good man can manage them. He says “don’t be ignorant of yourself: don’t fall into the common error. For so many are in such a hurry to pry into other people’s business that they never turn aside to examine themselves.” (III. vii. 7-9)

Xenophon begins book IV by saying that “Socrates was so useful in all circumstances and in all ways, that any observer gifted with ordinary perception can see that nothing was more useful than the companionship of Socrates.” He says Socrates would often say he was “in love” with his heart set not on those who were “fair to outward view” but those “whose souls excelled in goodness.” He recognized their “quickness to learn whatever subject they studied, ability to remember what they learned, and desire for every kind of knowledge.” For Socrates “education would make such beings not only happy in themselves… but capable of conferring happiness on their fellow-men and on states alike.” (IV. i. 1-3)

V. Aristotelian habit and virtue
Aristotle’s view of education coincides with Socrates’ students. In the Nicomachean Ethics, he argues the importance of ethical virtue in education:
Thus ethical virtue is concerned with pleasures and pains; for we do what is bad for the sake of pleasure, and we abstain from doing what is noble because of pain. In view of this, we should be brought up from our early youth in such a way as to enjoy and be pained by the things we should, as Plato says, for this is the right education. (1104b 4-13)
Aristotle agrees with bringing the parts of the soul (sense, intellect, desire) into harmony much like Socrates has reason overcome desires to bring the soul’s spiritedness toward virtue. He argues, “The function of both thinking parts of the soul, then, is truth; so the disposition according to which each part attains truth in the highest sense is the virtue of that part.” (1139b 10-15) So for Aristotle ethical virtue requires not only reason but also learning through habit. He hints that knowledge is not enough to ensure virtuous actions:
Wisdom and prudence must be worth of choice for their own sake, at least since each of them is a virtue of the corresponding part of the soul, even if neither produces anything. But more than this, they do produce something, not as the medical art produces health, but as health [as habit produces a healthy activity], and it is in this sense that wisdom produces happiness; for being a part of the whole of virtue, wisdom produces happiness by its possession and exercise. (1144a line 1-7)
While Socrates argues that virtues are “reasons for” an action, Aristotle notes that “they are with reason.” (1144b 30) Aristotle makes a distinction that good habits align the soul’s nature with virtue. However, Aristotle leaves open the question of what reasons an education aims for stating, “As for each individual’s education, in virtue of which a man becomes good without qualification, we must determine later whether it belongs to politics or to another inquiry, for perhaps to be a good man is not the same as to be a good citizen in every case.” (1130b 28-30)

An education, therefore, may have to counter one’s nature with the artifice of teaching and practice according to its context. In Politics, Aristotle concludes book 7 with “…one should follow the distinction of nature, for all art and education wish to supply the element that is lacking in nature.” ( Politics 1337a 1-5)

He continues in book 8 to say, “That the legislator must, therefore, make the education of the young his object above all would be disputed by no one. Where this does not happen in cities it hurts the regimes.”(1337a 12-15) He argues that education ought to fit a regime, with a “preparatory education and habituation” to make clear the view of “actions of virtue.” (1337a 21)

However, Aristotle notes that though education must be made common, there is a dispute about how one ought to educate. He explains,

Not everyone conceives that the young should learn the same things either with a view to virtue or with a view to the best way of life, nor is it evident whether it is more appropriate that it be with a view to the mind or with a view to the character of the soul. (1337a 37-39)

Aristotle notes there is contention about what is useful to training and what belongs to leisure. Aristotle outlines letters, gymnastics, music and drawing as customary to education. His largest divergence from Socrates deals with how an education can prevent incontinence—knowledgeable wrongdoing—which Socrates does not believe is possible but which Aristotle believes an education must habituate students against. Socrates may consider prudence from wrongful pleasures a virtue but Aristotle describes that prudent abstention from pleasure is not always virtuous if it the pleasure is associated with something good.

A good example of Aristotle’s divergence from Socrates’ view of education comes through the question of music and prudence. He says that Socrates might compare relaxed music to drinking—creating excitement in the young rather than teaching prudence. Aristotle, however, argues the harmonies are appropriate because of the capacity to involved “order and play.” Aristotle considers combing pleasure with education as bringing the soul into harmony by following the “defining principles for purposes of education—the middle, the possible, and the appropriate.” (1342b 19-35)

Nussbaum argues that a “moral education” brings Socrates respect for reason’s harmony with the body and soul and Aristotle’s attention to tradition and habituation as an alternative to the dire predictions of Aristophanes’ play. (Nussbaum 89)

Thus in the conclusion of the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle concludes that since “happiness is an activity according to virtue,” which is continuous, concerned with best of known objects, self-sufficient, loved for its own sake, and possesses pure pleasure, happiness is best described as intellectual contemplation.

For this reason, Aristotle joins Socrates in differentiating teaching philosophy from the sophists teach for money. He says that because “no one would give money for what they actually know” the “charges against these men, then are brought with good reason since they do not do what they were paid for.” (Ethics 1164a 39-35). Whereas he argues that philosophy is taught for the sake of the receiver, a mark of a “perfect friendship.”

Thus Aristotle claims that virtue “should be the return to a man under whom one has studied philosophy, for the worth of philosophy cannot be measured in money, and there is not equivalent value which can match it; but perhaps it is enough, as is done for gods and parents, to return what one can.” (1164b 1-5)

The tensions between Platonist and Aristotelian conclusions might make a Socratic education seem implausible, if not impossible. One favors reason as science, while the other regards wisdom as an art. One starts education within the individual, while the other believes it begins with society. One believes in a private education, while the other believes in a common. One questions how do we know what is good; while the other is concerned with how to do what we know is good.

These may be oversimplifications of either school of thought but despite their differences, both schools of thought agree that education ought to condition those suited to philosophy to pursue its value within itself. The schools may differ on how to use the dialectic to make universal or particular judgments but they agree that intellectual contemplation and philosophical deliberation can discern right action rather than falling back on the subjectivity of the sophist teachers.

An education will teach students the means to search for the truth through good reason and good habit. However, Socrates, Plato, Xenophon, Aristophanes, and Aristotle all recognize the limits of teaching all students to be completely virtuous. Their views about education exhibit the tension between the desires of the soul, the stability of a city, the purpose of virtue and the usefulness of philosophy. Measuring an education value depends on what good it aims to achieve.

The ideal education follows Aristotle’s ideal of happiness, where doing the activity itself accomplishes its ends within itself. In this way, Socrates persistent examination of life in the pursuit of knowledge serves this end unto itself. Socrates’ willingness to die to defend philosophy demonstrates his belief that reason ought to rule the individual and consequently, the city. His students embody his belief that reason would cause a city to become governed by reason. Philosophers may never become true philosopher-kings, but the establishment of Socrates’ form of education does turn the aim of education toward the good.