Philosophical Documents in Education Chapters 1 & 2: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle

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Philosophical Documents in Education

Chapters 1 & 2: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle

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Created by

Dani Morris-White Avery Steele

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Philosophical views of Socrates and


Chapter 2: Philosophical view of Aristotle

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Chapter 1 - Socrates and Plato

Who was Socrates? Time Line

● 470 BC-Born in Athens, Greece to a

stonemason and a midwife

● 470-400-Grows up during Greece’s

“Golden Age”

-Serves in the Peloponnesian War

-Marries, has 7-8 children

-Declared wisest man

-On trial for corrupting minds of youth

● 399-Found guilty, forced to drink


(Johnson, T. and Reed, R. pg. 17)

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Who was Socrates?In the history of philosophy there are differing perspectives of what being

educated means. The battle of defining what it means to be educated began

around 2400 years ago when Socrates was killed. Socrates spent years

questioning those who claimed to be wise, only to discover they were not. He

willing admitted to being a fallible human being and spent his life trying to help

others realize their own ignorance. He believed the first step to improving was

seeing your own imperfections. He wanted to help others think by helping them

be aware of the weaknesses in their thinking, yet not telling them what to think.

He felt humans can never know absolutes of what is good or right, but they can

make progress in discovering errors in the ways of the world. The Athenians

believed he was wise but did not agree with his teaching style, it angered them

(Johnson, T. and Reed, R. pg. 2-3).

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Historical Perspective The history of Western philosophy begins with a group of men known as natural philosophers or pre-

Socratics. They had a mission to discover the secrets of the natural world, understanding natural

environment, while being able to base it all on a few explainable principles. They believed one could

reason their way to truth. They felt a person who knew the truth about natural things was what defined

them to be wise or educated. However, from their own perspectives they would at times reason their way

down to different causes or conclusions (Johnson, T. and Reed, R., pg. 18).

Another group of philosophers, the Sophists, were in disagreement with the natural philosophers. They

disagreed with the idea of having many conclusions to a cause and saw it as unreliable. They decided to

use reason as a useful tool. Sophists became the first professional teachers. Regardless of whether

something was true or not, they used the art form of persuasive argument. Training males how to make a

claim and win arguments. Leaning towards an educated person now being someone who instead of

being able to know the truth of the natural world, to being someone who could argue persuasively. Based

on the dialogue Apology, Socrates was accused of being a natural philosopher and a Sophist (Johnson,

T. and Reed, R. pg. 18).

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Historical PerspectiveDue to his distrust of the written word, Socrates did not write. Historically and philosophically what we know of Socrates comes from the

plays of his student Plato. Commentators feel the most accurate views of Socrates are in Plato’s earliest dialogues. Over the course of

dialogues like Apology,Socrates and his students discovered that those considered to be wise did not deserve that status. Him

understanding his limits of not knowing it all, made him wiser. An educated person to Socrates was one who understands that he or

she does not know, and that they do have limitations in their knowledge. Outside of Jesus, Socrates was considered one of the two

greatest teachers in Western tradition. It caused him to have many enemies, but Socrates, though he claimed no doctrine, believed

God alone is wise and the wisdom of man has no real value (Johnson, T. and Reed, R. pg. 19-22).

Socrates also had enormous trust in the power of dialogue. Most historians trusted written word for their messages to spread. For him,

through conversations truths would emerge. Those who claimed to be wise would discredit themselves through their own mouths. In

The Republic, he has a dialogue where one truth that seems to come out is what we do know is nothing in comparison to what we don’t

know. Do not exalt man for what he thinks he has figured out, but be open to continuous growth and understanding of the so much

more that there is to know, even though, due to the weakness of man, we will never comprehend all that there is to know. What you

know at the current time could be considered your reality, however those who know more at the same time as your current reality have

a different reality, which invalidates what you saw as a true reality. You think you know, but it is because you are unaware of all that

you do not know. Finding that those who are considered to know and be wise can be comfortable in their darkness, feeling they know

enough. Instead of receiving someone who shares the idea that there is more to know, they would rather remove the person who

shows them their shortcomings as men (Johnson, T. and Reed, R. pg. 19-26). Which was exactly what was done to Socrates.

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Rationale for the importance and current


After learning of Socrates’ philosophy and teaching style, and how he

stuck to his beliefs even in the face of death, you get a sense of

importance in what he stood for. His beliefs were important to him, and

they were important enough for his enemies to want him killed. He was

blamed for corrupting the minds of the youth of that time. He used a

method of powerful questioning to guide his students into discovery,

instead of telling them what to know. To be educated he wanted them

to know all they could, yet not neglecting the importance of what they

do not know (The Educational Theory of Socrates, 2011).

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Rationale for the importance and current


Today educators are advised and trained to use higher order thinking questions, depth of

knowledge questioning, inquiry, and dialogue. This questioning all seems very related to

the philosophy of Socrates. 21st century learning is all about student discovery and

problem solving, while teachers facilitate that learning. Helping students learn to think,

not what to think. This method opens students up to understand that they are to be

lifelong learners. They should never put learning in a box, because life is about constant

change, which means constant learning. Our country prides itself on being creative and

innovative. Creativity begins with the freedom to think of the what if’s and what could

be’s, outside of the what we already know. Educators are also trained to incorporate

collaboration and dialogue within learning. This can be done through discussion or

debates/arguments. Students are to make a case and give support to that case. Through

dialogue they sometimes change from their original position. This method of learning

opens them up to be more collaborative within the work place and in society.

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Socrates’ Philosophy Connected to my

teaching and learning

As I have learned more about Socrates from this chapter, I can reflect and see how he has

impacted my own personal learning and teaching. When I was first introduced to inquiry in

college I was not exactly on board. Exploration time can sometimes feel like free time for

students to waste time. However, when questioning and dialogue is purposeful and well

constructed within lessons you feel successful as a teacher and students feel successful when

they have learned strategies to gain knowledge on their own. They feel smarter when they are

less dependent on a teacher, because the teacher has equipped with the skill of how to think

through problem solving and not what to think.

In my classroom, my students always enjoyed when we would divide the room based on an

initial belief of a particular claim. As each side would share their reasoning for their claim,

almost always minds would change. Listening to the views of their peers would cause some to

rethink their initial claim. We would then even share what caused them to change their minds.

This method shows the power of questioning, dialogue, and being open to learning.

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Socrates’ Philosophy Connected to my

teaching and learning

In this course, we have learned that the Perennialist philosophy

relies on the traditional ability of reasoning. Similar to Socrates’

method. Teachers are to stimulate discussion and teach using

various teaching styles like lecture and oral discussion (Ornstein,

A. and Hunkins, F., 2013, pg.34).

Realistically, questioning is a part of all philosophies. There is

not one philosophy that suggests telling students everything, so

in a way Socrates impacts all philosophies, which in turn affects


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I have chosen a visual of mechanical

gears to represent the philosophy of

Socrates because he was always

thinking and questioning. He

constantly questioned things in his

mind, just as much as he questioned

others. Described as “Socratic irony”,

he was always aware of what he did

not know (Johnson, T. and Reed, R.

pg. 19).

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Who is Plato?Time Line

● 427 BC-Born in Athens, Greece

to a prominent family

● 405-400-Studies with Socrates

● 399-Attends the trial and

execution of Socrates

● 387-Establishes the Academy

● 367-Accepts Aristotle into the


● 347-dies in Athens

(Johnson, T. and Reed, R. pg. 17)

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Historical Perspective After witnessing the death of his beloved teacher Socrates, Plato realized the

vulnerability of intellectuals in Athens. His solution was to replace the Socratic

critic with authoritative experts. He believed certain individuals were gifted.

They were the guardians of mastery of truth and goodness, therefore they

should have political power and the allegiance of others. He argued that

through many years of guided, rigorous study individuals could obtain certain

knowledge. His ideal is that society should be governed by an all-powerful

philosopher king. Plato agrees with Socrates that intellectuals are to be

teachers, but in a more conservative way. His goal for education is to guide the

gifted few to truth and to socialize, while the lesser intellectuals will obtain

lesser roles in society. This philosopher king idea results in educational and

political authoritarianism (Johnson, T. and Reed, R. pg. 4).

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Rationale for the importance and current


Plato’s writings are divided into periods:

❖ The Early Period-Socratic dialogues that focus on ethics

❖ Middle Period-Focus on the theory of ideas and metaphysical doctrines

❖ Late Period- Focus on his reconsideration of the middle period, mainly theory of ideas

Plato is called Socrates’ most important pupil. His dialogues are the written history of Socrates. Plato

modeled the dialogue process, along with a method of breaking things down. An educator is to lead a

student into true knowledge. A good teacher guides a student to their maximum potential (Johnson, T.

and Reed, R. pg. 20).

This is very relevant to today because educators are to advocate for all students. They should believe

that all students can learn. We are to meet students where they are and help them achieve their

maximum potential. We are also asked today to focus on students as individuals. Differentiation and

individualization should be a part of implemented curriculum. We are to provide accommodations for

the many needs of students, but that does not mean hold back due to special needs.

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Plato’s philosophy connected to my teaching and


Whether in the role of student or an educator Plato has

impacted my teaching and learning. The American

educational system is formated for hierarchical learning,

from elementary up to college.School has always been

about gaining knowledge to your full potential, while at the

same time gaining character. The goal is to become

educated as well as a productive member of society

(Ornstein, A. and Hunkins, F., 2013 pg. 31).

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Chapter 2 - Aristotle

Aristotle was a Macedonian who came to

study at Plato’s Academy in 367 BC. He

was a great thinker and eventually was

appointed as the tutor for the Macedonian

Prince. He created the Lyceum in Athens,

Greece where he wrote many of his most

influential studies. He left Athens in the

midst of political unrest and having been

charged with unsubstantiated crimes he

retreated back to Macedonia where he

eventually died of natural causes, Johnson

and Reed (2012).

Who was Aristotle?

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Aristotle - Historical PerspectiveAristotle continued his education at the age of 18 as a student of Plato at the Academy in Greece. He

studied and ascertained the philosophical views of Plato until his death in 347 BC. While studying

under Plato, Aristotle was inspired by the idealistic views of his teacher. He, in his early works,

supported the views of Plato and did not begin to develop his own ideals and theories until after he

was appointed as tutor to Prince Alexander. This association would enable Aristotle to be able to

investigate cultures, civilizations, plants and animal species that the Greeks had never encountered.

He was able to study and classify many real word items. Because of his experiences with working

with objects and matter he began the foundation of the process, which we know as the scientific

method, of making observations before coming up with a conclusion. These experiences along with

the establishment of his own school, the Lyceum, lead to Aristotle creating his own philosophies. He

believed that everything had a purpose and that people should strive to live a life of moderation in

order to be happy. He thought that a person must be educated in the world around him in order to

develop good habits which would build moral virtue and that one must actively seek out knowledge to

build intellectual virtue. This puts an emphasis on learning mathematics, and science methods above

other subjects. This is the major view of the realist way of thinking.

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Aristotle - Rationale for Philosophy’s


Aristotle is credited as being “linked to the development of realism” (Ornstein &

Hunkins, 2013, p. 31). His views and the process that he used to characterize

objects created the realist approach that one must “look outside the individual

in their pursuit of truth and knowledge” (Johnson & Reed, 2012, p. 5). His

realistic view of the human being is important to both ones intellectual and

moral self. He maintains that a person must build habits that will cause them to

be morally virtuous and intellectually virtuous. This means that if a family

makes it a habit to always participate in community service, the children will

develop this good habit as well. He states, “an educated person unites morality

and reason in virtuous action” (Johnson & Reed, 2012, p 31).

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Aristotle - Relevance of Philosophy

to contemporary educational issuesThe Philosophies of Aristotle continue to be of use in the modern day classroom. I for one, use the simple

principle of instilling good habits in my students on a daily basis. I have them practice behaviors that I feel are

important to having a healthy classroom environment. We, especially in the beginning of the school year,

practice lining up and pushing in their chair and walking down the hall without talking. We practice this over

and over so that now when I ask them to line up they can complete these actions the way I expect them to be

done without my needing to remind them of what to do. It becomes a habit and they routinely go through the

motions in the correct way. This is also true for completing assignments and for building stamina for reading.

The goal is that hopefully once these children leave my classroom they will be able to continue these good

habits and lead a productive life. Something so small as to push in your chair builds respect for your

environment and for your neighbor. These qualities are essential to our fundamental way of life.

Another of Aristotle’s guiding principals that is relevant to contemporary education is his value of studying the

sciences. There was a big shift in the way educators teach science and the importance of reading informative

nonfiction text. It is important to engage the learner in scientific inquiry and allow them to make observations

and conclusions in a hands-on environment. In my own classroom I use science kits and note booking in

order to give the students an experience where they are able to make observations, ask questions, do

experiments and come up with rationales about the world around them. Aristotle believed that we gain

knowledge by understanding the word in which we live.

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The Golden Mean Aristotle’s philosophy is that in order

to be happy one must strive to live a

life of balance. He states in,

Nicomachean Ethics (as cited in

Johnson & Reed, 2012) “Now it is a

mean between two vices, that which

depends on excess and that which

depends on defect.” This makes me

think about balancing my family with

my career and how it is important to

give equal time to both in order to

lead a healthy, happy life.

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Philosophical Summaries:

Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle

An educated person is

one who understands

that he or she does not

know what they do not

know, and that they

have limitations in their


Preferred dialogue

method as teaching


His goal for education is to

guide the gifted few to

truth and to socialize

His philosopher king idea

results in educational and

political authoritarianism.

Believed that a

person must be

educated in the world

around him in order to

develop good habits,

which would build

moral virtue, and that

one must actively

seek out knowledge

to build intellectual


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4thcoming. (2011). 10 Great Quotes from Plato. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfkln9UHZUY

4thcoming. (2011). 10 Great Socrates Quotes in Less than a minute. Retrieved from


Johnson, T. W. & Reed, R. F. (2012). Philosophical Documents in Education (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education,


New Foundations. (2011). The Educational Theory of Socrates. Retrieved from


Ornstein, A. C. & Hunkins, F. P. (2013). Curriculum: Foundations, principles, and issues (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ:

Pearson Education, Inc.

Philokid (2012). Free Will: How Should You Act When You Don’t Know if it Exists?. Retrieved from


Quesnel, D. (2013). Coach DQ: Career Coaching for Top Performers. Retrieved from http://coachdq.com/tag/work-life-balance/

Upbeatden (2010). Aristotle Quotes to Live Life By. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ODZnjTdEae8