He returned to Athens and there in about the year 386 BC founded the Academy, where he taught for the rest of his life. The Academy was founded as a school for statesman. Plato had decided that nothing could be done with contemporary politics and contemporary politicians. He therefore decided to set up a school where a new type of politician could be trained, and where the would-be politician might learn to be a philosopher ruler.
He probably did not expect any very immediate results; but he continued to hope, in his own phrase, that he might turn some statesmen into philosophers, and the Academy was always, under Plato, ‘primarily a school of philosophic statesmen’. It was not without a rival. A few years before, Isocrates had also founded a school at Athens. He was continuing the tradition started by the Sophists in the previous century.
They were travelling teachers and lecturers, who appeared in the middle of the century in response to the demand for an education that went beyond the grounding in the works of the poets which formed the traditional Greek curriculum. They taught most things; but since success in life is what most men want, and since the ability to persuade your neighbour is always an important element in success, and was particularly important in the Greek democracies, they all taught rhetoric, the art of self-expression and persuasion.
From this purely practical political interest many of them proceeded to political and moral theory; Thrasymachus in book 1 of the Republic is typical of this side of their activity. And he was typical too in charging fees for his instruction. Isocrates himself criticized the Sophists of his day for triviality and pretentiousness. Nonetheless the rhetorical training which he offered was a continuation of the educational tradition which they started.
He believed that a training in the art of self-expression, in the art of composing and setting out a coherent and persuasive argument, provided in itself an educational discipline that was, together with the literary studies on which it was based, the best preparation for life. If it did not teach morality directly, yet by inculcating standards of good taste, and by the intellectual discipline which it involved, it should give what was in effect a moral training. Isocrates therefore claimed that his methods turned out better men and better statesmen than Plato’s. And in fact, a training in rhetoric remained the standard form of higher education in the ancient world.
Plato’s conception of a higher education was quite different. Briefly, he thought rhetoric superficial because it gave you the means of expression without guarding you against its abuse.
The statesmen must first know how society is to be run; exposition and persuasion come afterwards.
I borrowed the foregoing page from the introduction of The Republic by Desmond Dee, because I believe the Empower Network in the aggregate, is the only organisation unconsciously surfing the Tsunami triggered by Plato 2000 years ago. Compared to other Gurus, David Wood did more than simply master the art of persuasion, he demonstrated that the art of persuasion is tied to good management. David is everywhere, the locomotive he has set in motion, stops at every station for upgrading, increasing between each pause its acceleration into the future. Staff actually answer the phone, if it is past office hours, an answer is usually sent the next day. Everything is simplified so that common people can use and understand the products and concepts of the administration. The training is professional, it even over delivers. And the punch line is, members actually make money. I am proud to be part of this team.