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Just stories November 13, 2010

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Education, Philosophy.
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In Plato’s Republic, Socrates is worried about the impact that the mythological stories of his day are having on children:

they are stories not to be repeated in our State; the young man should not be told that in committing the worst of crimes he is far from doing anything outrageous; and that even if he chastises his father when does wrong, in whatever manner, he will only be following the example of the first and greatest among the gods. . . .

If [our future guardians] would only believe us we would tell them that quarrelling is unholy, and that never up to this time has there been any quarrel between citizens; this is what old men and old women should begin by telling children; and when they grow up, the poets also should be told to compose for them in a similar spirit. But the narrative of Hephaestus binding Here his mother, or how on another occasion Zeus sent him flying for taking her part when she was being beaten, and all the battles of the gods in Homer — these tales must not be admitted into our State, whether they are supposed to have an allegorical meaning or not. For a young person cannot judge what is allegorical and what is literal; anything that he receives into his mind at that age is likely to become indelible and unalterable; and therefore it is most important that the tales which the young first hear should be models of virtuous thoughts.

I wonder what Socrates would have thought about the stories of Korah, the Binding of Isaac, the plagues of Egypt, the conquests of Joshua, the destruction of Amalek

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