Wednesday, January 22, 2020
Contemporary Significance of the Greek Views of Paideia :: Philosophy
Contemporary Significance of the Greek Views of Paideia ABSTRACT: We argue that there are three basic views of paideia in ancient Greece. After briefly discussing them, we turn our attention to the contemporary situation. We try to show that the dialogical or Socratic view of paideia can contribute toward a deeper understanding of the contemporary problem of multiculturalism. In this article we will argue first that there are three basic views of paideia in ancient Greece (I). Then after making a brief overview of their fate in the later history (II), we will turn our attention to our contemporary situation and try to show that it is the dialogical or Socratic view of paideia which can contribute to a deeper understanding of the contemporary problem of multiculturalism (III). I. The three basic views of Greek paideia are all connected with the concept of truth and the relation of man to it. I call these views "basic", simply because I consider the man's "transcendental" relationship to truth (which includes the denial of this relationship) fundamental for our understanding of paideia, especially in ancient Greece after Parmenides. 1) The authoritarian view is found in the so-called Presocratic thinkers, such as Parmenides and Heracleitus. They assert the existence of absolute eternal truth that can be grasped intuitively and expressed verbally by a few wise men (sophoi). Even though they disagree and dispute each other on the content of truth, they all share in the esoteric view of truth. Just as Being is separated from the realm of appearance by Parmenides, so the wise man who alone can discern Being is clearly distinguished from the common crowd who cannot move beyond the realm of appearance. Or according to Heracleitus only the wise man can give ears to the eternal Logos amid the ever-changing flow of the world; whereas fools are compared with swine that are content with mud. This view gives the wise the authority to teach Truth ex cathedra. 2) The relativistic view of the Sophists, especially of Protagoras and Gorgias, is more "democratic". We should not forget that the Sophists flourished especially in democratic Athens as testified among others by the friendship between Protagoras and Pericles, the greatest statesman of democratic Athens. Both Protagoras and Gorgias criticized and ridiculed the Parmenidean concept of Being. The famous words of Protagoras, "man is the measure of all things" should be interpreted in this light.