Education and Enlightenment

Education and enlightenment are modifications of social life, the impacts of the industry and efforts by men to improve their social conditions. When social conditions of a given people are reconciled with their destiny through the arts and industry, these people are said to have education. Education consists of culture and enlightenment and so this discussion will also include culture. Culture seems to be more inclined towards empirical matters. Objectively, it tends towards goodness, refinement, and beauty in the arts and social mores (Schmidt, 1996). Subjectively, it tends towards facility, diligence, and dexterity in the arts and inclinations, dispositions, and habits in social mores (Schmidt, 1996). When these do not contradict with man s destiny, they become more attributed to culture resulting in a state in which it produces things that are of great importance to men.

Enlightenment, as opposed to culture, appears to be more associated to theoretical matters. Objectively, it is associated with rational knowledge. Subjectively, it is linked with the adeptness in rational reflection concerning matters of human life depending on how important they are and how much they influence human destiny. This paper seeks to explore what education and enlightenment mean. The discussion of these two concepts will be based on the argument that man s destiny is the measure and goal of all their endeavors and efforts and a focus should be maintained if they do not wish to lose their way. Understanding the concept of education and enlightenment is critical in this respect.

Like other concepts, there is no generally agreed definition of enlightenment. However, the word elicits various general interpretations beginning with the prosperity that began during the 18th century. In other words, it may be said to be synonymous with reason. It may also be seen as the liberation of knowledge from the doctrines of clerical and aristocratic classes, church and politics. Enlightenment may be generally conceived as a totalitarian and radical influence on man which resulted in the greatest cultural shift from a state of anarchy to a state of civilization.

While enlightenment is achieved by a language through the sciences, the same language achieves culture through social relationships, poetry and eloquence (Carr, 2003). Through enlightenment, a language becomes an ideal vehicle of theory while through culture it becomes better suited for practical usage. According to Thoreau (2002), it was only when the various nations of Europe had acquired unique written languages of their own which were sufficient for developing literatures that learning was revived. A combination of theory and practice as such results in an educated language. Enlightenment and culture are related in the same way that theory and practice, or knowledge and ethics are related. From an objective point of view, enlightenment and culture have a close connection even though they are in most cases separated subjectively.

One may talk about the French having more culture while the English having more enlightenment. The Chinese on the other hand may be said to have more culture and little enlightenment while the Greek possessed both culture and enlightenment (Schmidt, 1996). The Greek can therefore be said to have been an educated people just as their language can be said to be an educated language. As such, a people s language may be said as the best indicator of education and enlightenment, both in intensity and breadth.

Man s destiny can be divided into two his destiny as man and his destiny as citizen. These two divisions coincide when it comes to culture since every instance of practical perfection can only be valued in relation to social life and must therefore correspond to man s destiny as a member of society. However, man as man requires no culture but enlightenment. The rights and duties of every member of the society is determined by status and vocation and these require different skills and abilities, different dispositions and inclinations, customs and social mores and a different culture (Barney, 1999). The more they correspond, the more education the nation possesses.

Every individual also needs different skills and theoretical insights to attain them. That is, they require different levels of enlightenment. There is universality in the enlightenment that is concerned with man as man without making status distinction. However, the enlightenment concerned with man as a citizen changes with status and vocation. The destiny of man as such still remains the measure and goals of these efforts. In this regard, it is important to discuss education as an ideal process through which man shapes his destiny.

Even though poetry and art are held to be important in the formation of belief, Plato banished dramatization from ideal education. According to Plato, based on the direction in which education starts, a man will determine his future life (Plato, 2001). It is important to understand the context within which Plato uses the term education. It is often claimed that the concept of education is contentious. As such, it is expected that there are distinctive conceptions of education depending on the context within which it is used. The implication is that there is no generally agreed definition of education, in the same way that there is no generally agreed definition of enlightenment. However, it is reasonable to suppose that the best effort at a definition will lie on some rationally coherent and defensible interpretation. My interpretation will be based on Plato s views.

Plato s work is animated with concerns with education. In the Apology, the life mission of Socrates in practicing philosophy is described as making the Athenians care for virtue. In Gorgias, he holds the claim that happiness wholly depends on justice and education. In Meno and Protagoras, he discusses how virtue can be acquired. In Phaedrus, he explains that there is need for knowledge of the soul and its powers for one to teach and persuade. This in turn requires knowing the whole of nature. There is also a wide consensus in his discussions that the most important activity is education.

According to Socrates, education is a process in which the soul s natural capacities are awakened and developed. He holds that

The power to learn is present in everyone s soul the instrument with which each learns is like an eye that cannot be turned around from darkness to light without turning the whole body education is the craft concerned with turning around the entire soul until it is able to study the good. It isn t the craft of putting sight into the soul. Education takes for granted that sight is there but that it isn t turned the right way of looking where it ought to look, and it tries to redirect it appropriately  (Plato, 2001).

Socrates distinguishes between various kinds of education. First, he sees education as a mere cultural reproduction. Second, he conceives of education as cultivating genuine virtue by requiring knowledge for cultural reproduction. This view of education corresponds with the general aim of education. Education should result in enlightenment. For Plato, education encompasses all the elements that can lead to a desirable destiny for man. Education is the measure and goal of man s destiny since through it, man come to better understand nature and himself.


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