Plato De Magistro

Thyrion, Stacie, Philosophy - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Devereux, Daniel, Philosophy, University of Virginia

What makes a teacher good? What does it take for one person to successfully lead another person to knowledge? What kind of people typically make the best teachers? And how can we possibly choose the best teacher for ourselves before we’re actually educated? The main aim of this dissertation is to begin a comprehensive treatment of Plato’s theory of education by focusing on his thoughts on teachers in the corpus. Throughout the dialogues Plato considers a series of candidate teachers who might serve as educators in the polis, including rhetoricians, poets, and sophists, and at times, even written texts and language itself. These candidate teachers are always rejected in favor of philosophers as teachers. From these discussions we can cull important essentials of Plato’s picture of education. From his consideration of rhetoricians as teachers in the Phaedrus, we get a set of criteria that any instance of good teaching must meet. From his consideration of poets in the Symposium, we see that poets are inferior teachers because they are not intellectuals, and as a result they teach the wrong lessons – on the proper relationship between the mortal and the divine, for example. From the consideration of sophists in the Cratylus, the Theaetetus, and the Protagoras, we see that sophists are problematic teachers because they are shallow intellectuals, with teaching practices that are often incoherent with their theoretical beliefs. Ultimately it is the philosopher who is the best teacher, because of his pursuit of the truth, his careful methodology, and the deep coherence between his teaching practices and his philosophical commitments.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
plato, education, phaedrus, symposium, cratylus, protagoras, theaetetus
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