16. The history and value of utopian thinking, part 4: the Western philosophical tradition (Plato)

16. The history and value of utopian thinking, part 4: the Western philosophical tradition (Plato)

00:00 / 00:50:52

“We talk about curriculum these days and about education these days as if it existed somehow apart from the social, the society in which we live. And I’m arguing that when we talk about education today, we’re talking about education for capitalism. And we need to start talking about education for democratic socialism.”

—big mike

Listen: iTunes, Spotify, Mixcloud | Transcript

In this episode:

00:00 Greg and Mike reflect: what is the point of this podcast?

03:32 If we primarily read Plato’s Republic today as a moral document, what are the other ways in which we can read it? What does the Republic suggest about the relationship between individual morality and social institutions—which needs to be changed first to transform the other? What do we need to understand about Plato’s historical and social context?

10:56 What can we learn from Plato’s ideas about his ideal society? How do they reflect or challenge our own ideals about society?

14:39 What about education? Why was education so important for Plato’s ideal society? How is that related to the structure of his society—more provocatively, how is education related to the structure of society in general? How does the social structure of the Republic give citizens a definition of what it is to be human?

20:52 How is Plato’s outlining of a social system we now call eugenics still relevant, if uncomfortably, today? How does this relate to his (and our) idea of equality?

24:26 What is Plato telling us about the nature of the self, and how does that relate to questions of society? In what ways are questions of the self also social questions?

26:38 Extrapolating from Plato to our own world, what education would be demanded by a democratic socialist world?

30:06 What does Plato have to tell us about how to change society—through the institutions that already exist, or by tearing down those institutions? How does this relate to his definition of what it means to be human?

36:45 Shifting gears, what does an old Roman division between the law of nature and the law of man have to tell us about our current environmental crisis and, therefore, the crisis of capitalism? How do Marxists fall prey to this division?

43:25 Shifting gears again, why is our impending crisis so unbelievable, in the literal sense of that word—why do people refuse to believe it? What does this have to do with historical time(s)? What does it have to do with the myths we believe in, we live by? And, circling back one last time to the question of education, discarding the premise that it’s ever objective—how do we transmit new, different myths? How are the myths we transmit in education related to the structure of society at large?

Further Reading:

Plato, Republic

[on Greek philosophy and its intrinsic relationship to social theory] Josiah Ober, Political Dissent in Democratic Athens: Intellectual Critics of Popular Rule & Kojin Karatani, Isonomia and the Origins of Philosophy

[on education and eugenics] Ansgar Allen, Benign Violence: Education in and Beyond the Age of Reason

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