These people will also discover the seemingly insignificant conventions their predecessors have destroyed. Things like this: When it is proper for the young to be silent in front of their elders, when they should make way for them or stand up in their presence, the care of parents, hair styles, the clothes and shoes to wear, deportment, and everything else of that sort.
Socrates, in Plato’s Republic, Book IV
Seemingly insignificant conventions. Powerful phrase indeed. We easily slip into judging certain things to be insignificant—in any case in the shadow of, well, other looming issues. Hair styles, standing-up or not, deportment: do we have the energy to notice and evaluate, much less address such issues? Parallels between Socrates’ day and ours can be rather striking. He seems to think that certain customary habits didn’t just slip away, or fade out of fashion. They were destroyed. He also thinks that these customs can express, and cultivate, fundamental moral dispositions and convictions and thus make an important difference in life. Soon after the above statement Socrates points out that such matters are normally not the subject of legislation; we don’t make laws about hairs styles, posture, manners, or even the care of parents. Education—and this taken broadly to mean how we form the young—is what sets the standards, and by and large determines such things.
Considering the state of education over the past fifty years, perhaps it is not a stretch to say that our conventions—many of which even if not perfect did contribute to good community and real happiness—have indeed been destroyed. But perhaps it is too easy to point fingers. Education can and should, in its most basic sense, be going on in all our homes. It is worth asking ourselves whether we are cultivating customs that reflect and buttress our moral convictions, and whether we are leading by example in the areas Socrates mentions, and in “everything else of that sort.”
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.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE:
“‘Try to pay attention to me,’ she said, ‘as best you can. You see, the man who has been thus far educated in matters of Love, who has beheld beautiful things in the right order and correctly, is coming now to the goal of Loving: all of a sudden he will catch sight of...read more
“Peace is the tranquility of order.” St. Augustine, The City of God There are few words that exercise such a power over our hearts, and our imagination. A few years ago I was giving a lecture at a division-one university, introducing students to some basic points in...read more
When I was down beside the sea A wooden spade they gave to me To dig the sandy shore. Robert Louis Stevenson, At the Sea-Side A Child's Garden of Verses There is nothing quite like playing alone. To watch it is a privilege. Indeed, in watching one might even...read more
Husband, father, and professor of Philosophy. Bacon from Acorns springs from one conviction: there is an ancient wisdom about how to live the good life in our homes, with our families; and it is worth our time to hearken to it. Let’s rediscover it together. Learn more.