“It’s no easy task—indeed it’s very difficult—to realize that in every soul there is an instrument that is purified and rekindled by such subjects [liberal studies] when it has been blinded and destroyed by other ways of life, an instrument that is more important to preserve than ten thousand eyes, since only with it can the truth be seen.”
Socrates, in Plato’s Republic VII
Yesterday I finished teaching yet another semester of Philosophy. If the power of reason outweighs ten thousand eyes, then how do I measure the worth of forming that instrument, by teaching the subjects to which Socrates refers?
Never easy, often discouraging, always seeming to require more than I can give. Priceless.
To ask myself how I have deserved to be in such a position misses the point; I do not deserve it. Gratitude must be the fundamental response. What can compare with the moments I’ve shared together with my students? Maybe no one will ever know, but us.
And perhaps the central truth that we have come to see together, is the transcendent importance of seeking the truth, together. It is a treasure beyond measure.
Plato (427-347 B.C.), a student of Socrates, and teacher of Aristotle, is considered one of the greatest philosophers of all time. The Republic is one of the most widely read and influential of all books.
Image: the library at Christendom College
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