Describe the education of the guardians as it is presented in books 2 and 3 of Plato's Republic.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The guardians are those special individuals who, in Plato's ideal republic, will be the ones in charge. Dominated by the rational part of the soul and steeped in an extensive knowledge of philosophy and mathematics, they will provide society with its political and moral leadership.

The guardians are not...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

The guardians are those special individuals who, in Plato's ideal republic, will be the ones in charge. Dominated by the rational part of the soul and steeped in an extensive knowledge of philosophy and mathematics, they will provide society with its political and moral leadership.

The guardians are not simply suited to their exalted positions by nature; they must be educated in the appropriate manner. And as one can imagine, this is a long, hard, and demanding process. First and foremost, education involves the shaping of the soul. In practical terms, this means that the soul of the guardian-to-be must only be allowed to consume that which conduces to its general health (i.e., that which is rational and moral). For instance, it is perfectly acceptable to teach stories about the gods but only if they present the gods in a positive light—not as the capricious, amoral tyrants that Homer portrays them to be.

To some extent, there is no appreciable difference between the prescribed curriculum for the education of the guardians and the cultural life of the city as a whole. In both cases, there will be strict limitations on artistic expression, with poetry all but banished, except for eulogies to the famous and hymns to the gods. There will be music and painting, but they will be strictly controlled to ensure that they convey a serious moral message.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Plato's Republic explores the ideas of morality and what it means to be just and fair, both as an individual and as a society. Plato spends two of the chapters (books 2 and 3, as they are called) of this dissertation exploring the idea of a just society. In these sections, he outlines his idea that a just society requires "guardians": what we in the modern era would refer to as governors.

Essentially, Plato is saying that for a society to remain true and just, there need to be bastions of justice and fairness who will enact those virtues for the country, enforcing any areas that are lacking. In order to do this properly, these guardians need to be educated in the following areas: wisdom, courage, justice, and temperance (i.e., they should learn poetry, mathematics, music, and reasoning/debate). In addition, they should be taught extensively in physical fitness so they can live long without the need for medical care. All of these things, he reasons, go into establishing virtuous, intelligent, and strong guardians of a society.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Plato wrote the Republic around 380 BCE to discuss the philosophy behind justice, education, the ideal city, and the ideal citizen. The main character is Socrates, and he provides guidance on two types of education: one for the warrior-guardian class and one for the philosopher-king class.

The ideal education would include four areas of emphasis: music, sport (gymnastics), math, and dialectics (reasoned discourse using the Socratic method).

Students who are able to balance these four areas will find balance in in their lives.

In Book II, Socrates and the brothers Glaucon and Adeimantus go back and forth in dialogue about justice. Socrates suggests they should frame the discussion of justice in terms of the city rather than the individual. He uses the Warrior-Guardian as an example of one who needs to learn music, sports, and philosophy because he needs to be strong, but wise. Specifically, Socrates says Warrior-Guardians should be "philosophic, spirited, swift, and strong."

In Book III, Socrates delves more deeply into the specifics of education. For example, he suggests that warrior-guardians should learn from stories with simple narratives that teach moderation. Socrates also raises the question of telling the truth versus lying (for example, kings can lie for the good of the city and the people).

Overall, guardians should be temperate, moderate, and courageous. They should avoid heavy drinking, dramatic poetry, and laughter. They should be wise and efficient and learn to take care of the state. They should not question their teachers and should leave the deep thinking to the philosopher-kings.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Plato's Republic was written in 380 B.C. It is known as a Socratic dialogue and is perhaps one of Plato's best known works. In book two, Socrates, Thrasymachus and Adeimantus decide to focus on a just city instead of a just man. The three then decide they will need guardians for this city.

In book three, they come with what the education should be for these guardians. Socrates breaks the education system into two. Poetry and fiction should not be allowed in the education,they then decide that the guardian should be educated on four virtues such as: wisdom, courage, justice and temperance. The second part should be on gymnastics, because they had the belief that the physical exercise would keep them healthier longer. They also decided that males and females should be given the same education. Wives and children should be shared and that there should be no personal property among them. 

At the age of eighteen the would be guardians study intellectual studies and physical activity, then military training for two years. Ten years of math comes next. When they are thirty they have five years of dialect training. The next fifteen years are spent as leaders. By the time they reach the age of fifty,they are then considered fully aware of the form of the good and totally mature.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team