12 Jun 2009

The Republic

Have you never observed the mentality of those who spend all their time on physical education, to the exclusion of musical and poetic education?

Or those whose way of life is the opposite?

Savagery and hardness, in the one case. Weakness and gentleness, in the other.

I have noticed that those whose education is purely physical turn out more savage than they should.

Those who have only musical and moral education, on the other hand, do become softer than is good for them.

What is more, I said, the fierce element comes from the spirited part of their nature. Correctly brought up, it will be brave, but when it is developed to a higher pitch than is it necessary, it is likely to become harsh and unmanageable.

What about the gentle element? Isn't it a property of the wisdom/loving or philosophical nature? Undo relaxation makes it so soft, doesnt it, whereas the right upbringing makes it gentle and well behaved.

The soul of someone who is harmonized in this way is self disciplined and brave, isnt it? Whereas the soul of someone discordant is cowardly and uncivilized?

What about the person who puts a lot of effort into his physical training, and eats like a horse, but has nothing to do with music or philosophy? At first, because his body is in good shape, isnt he full of decision and spirit? Doesnt he become braver than before? But suppose that is all he does. Suppose he has no contact with the Muse. Even if he did have some love of learning in his soul, he gets no taste of learning or enquiry, and has no experience of rational argument or any artistic persuit. As a result, since he never wakes up and has nothing to feed on, and since there is nothing to purify its senses, it becomes weak and deaf, and blind, doesnt it?

Someone like this becomes an enemy of rational argument. He abandons any attempt at persuasion using rational argument, and does everything with savage violence, like a wild animal. He lives his life in ignorance and stupidity, without grace or rythm.

Comments, opinions?


  1. Oh dear, what a difficult subject Helaine has raised.
    Plato had a dualistic view in terms of body and spirit, and since platonic philosophy imposed itself in the Occident we still have this tendency to separate body from spirit (although Aristotle had different views). Wilfred Bion, the famous British psychoanalyst shared Plato's view, for example. Not so with Freud, who had a much more biological perspective of drives.
    I don't think we can separate spirit from body. They speak for each other and we should listen to both (easier said than done, of course).

  2. I agree with you Clara, we cannot separate spirit from body. And quite a subject it is. Its a very interesting perspective. One that I see quite often in children whose upbringings lack in either area, intellectual or physical. It seems as though the traditional school system has made an attempt to create an equilirium with mandatory physical education. However, after highschool it depends on the individual to continue a balanced education, feeding the mind and the body = taming the spirit, so to speak.



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