Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Vernon, Mark. "Plato's Dialogues, Part 6: The Philosophical School." GUARDIAN September 7, 2009.

What would it have been like to attend the Academy, Plato's ancient school? You didn't have to pay, though you did have to have wealth to afford the leisure. A pupil of Aristotle, Dicearchus, stressed that Plato's academicians were treated as free and equal. Women were not only allowed to take part, but two women were remembered in antiquity by name, Axiothea and Lastheneia. They all wore simple cloaks. One lecture that was delivered by Plato was on "The Good". We know about it because whilst the audience arrived thinking they might learn something about the good life, they were actually subjected to a celebration of mathematics. They should have known better: "Let no one unskilled in geometry enter," was purportedly written over the entrance. Plato would have put geometry at the top of Philosophy 101. There is a parody of life in the Academy written by the comic playwright Epicrates. He mocks the activities of the students, picturing them discussing the nature of a pumpkin: "Well now, first of all they took up their places, and with heads bowed they reflected for a long time. Then suddenly, whilst they were still bent low in study, one of the lads said it was a round vegetable, another that it was a grass, another that it was a tree." What is striking about this "account" is that the academic way of life provided grounds for mirth at all: it must have struck ancient Greeks as decidedly odd, and novel, for groups of people to gather together to contemplate, discuss and study. Education is a crucial concern here, and Plato believed it was the foundation of any healthy politics. . . . Read the rest here:

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