Peculiarities of understanding the right to education in the era of antiquity
Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №11 - 2019
Author: Muzhchil Savelij, Kazakh-American Free University, Kazakhstan
The right to education is one of the inalienable human
rights related to second-generation human rights. Its history is traditionally
counted from 1793, when in the Declaration of Human Rights and the Citizen of
the Jacobin Constitution of the Year I, the public was given the task of
ensuring access to education for everyone.
same time, issues of the right to education are discussed throughout the entire
history of the existence of mankind, not to mention the fact that certain ideas
about the accessibility and necessity of education for various segments of the
population, and justice in the field of education are expressed in a real
social historical practice.
purpose of this article is to consider the views of ancient Greek thinkers on
educational and legal problems and their social conditioning.
all, it is necessary to determine what we mean by the concept of education. For
us, education is, first of all, a synonym for the development of a person in
accordance with the social ideal, which an individual tries to achieve making
all possible efforts. In different epochs, one or another ideal image becomes
relevant, brought to life by a specific way of human social activity.
to education in this case is a historically concrete opportunity that an
individual has to achieve this ideal image and lead a life, a worthy of a man.
The highest degree of realization of such an opportunity is provided by higher
can see, this view differs significantly from the generally accepted one,
reflected, for example, in the definition of M. Zadorina:
'The right to education is a constitutional right to receive a certain amount
of knowledge, creating the prerequisite for socio-economic and legal progress
of society, the development of each person, its culture and well-being' [1, p.
definition cannot be called universal in any way, since the right to education
does not come down to a certain array of available legal acts, and it is not
limited to the possibility of obtaining a certain amount of knowledge.
Understanding the right to education that we offer is focused not on
nominal-quantitative, but on substantial, substantive foundations and has great
A man in
the era of antiquity is thought of as a microcosm, a smaller cosmos, embodying
all the characteristics of a macrocosm, a larger cosmos. The cosmos, which
seemed to be a living creature in the era of antiquity, was seen as harmonious,
intelligent, beautiful, orderly, non-hectic, and wholesome. Therefore, such is
the ideal person.
Orientation to the image
of the cosmos as a basis has features of the organization of social and natural
life activities of that time. According to Gusseva:
'In the structure of practical activity in the antiquity, a special emphasis
was placed on the function of goal-setting, which reflected the embodiment of
the subjective characteristic as the prerogative of the slave owner, a free
citizen in relation to a slave, who was entrusted with only the function of
fulfilling the order of the slave owner. Such a division of activity and emphasis
were reflected in natural-philosophical systems in a special form, in the form
of a hypertrophied idea of the functions of goal-setting, which is expressed in
an ontologized image of the beginning. The image of the beginning, of the cosmos, thus arises as a result
of the human world order' [2, p. 45].
Approaching the image of
the beginning, the self-realization of a man as such, as a special being, that
is equally powerful and equal to the whole, universal, in the representation of
ancient thinkers is possible through knowledge. For Socrates, knowledge is
divine in its origins and status. The task of a man is to obtain this knowledge
through understanding the universals. The degree and depth of this
understanding, the natural predisposition to comprehend the basics and the
beginning of being become the basis and condition for a person to take a
particular position in the organization of public space and ideas about the
justice of this organization. Speaking about the specifics of the legal
consciousness of the ancient era, V.S. Nersesyants
writes: 'The degree of mastery of knowledge means a measure of people's
involvement in the divine principles and, therefore, the level of justice and
legality in public, political and private life' [3, p. 408].
For Plato, true
education is a comprehension of the eternal disembodied world of eidos, which are the prototypes of all bodies, things and
phenomena existing in the empirical world. The knowledge of this eternal world
is accessible to a few chosen ones - only philosophers, and education worthy of
a man, which can be called a truly higher education for representatives of the
era of antiquity, is a philosophical education. For whom is it accessible and
In his works, Plato
distinguishes three classes: rulers, guardians, artisans and landowners, which
reflect the social structure of the ancient Greek polis. This structure is a
hierarchical pyramid. At the top of the social pyramid there are rulers who are
capable of understanding universals and organizing social life in accordance
with them; below there are guards characterized by a certain spirituality,
manifested in devotion to the state; at the base of this pyramid there is the
bulk of the citizens - artisans and farmers, who, according to Plato, do not
rise above material interests and are guided only by drives and sensuality.
is the prerogative of the governing estate. In his 'Laws' Plato writes that it
is the philosophers who should be at the head of the state. The formation of a
philosopher is a matter of almost the entire life. Philosophy 'is allowed to be
studied only after reaching 30 years of age, when the mind has taken root in
its orientation towards stability, maintaining the status quo and obedience to
the teacher philosopher who transmits absolute truths distilled from the
eternal world of ideas' [4, p. 51]. It is only by the age of fifty, that
individuals who have received a philosophical education can begin to manage the
state [5, p. 88]. The long term of the preparation of the philosopher ruler is
determined by their responsibility for the organization of social life in the
image and likeness of the cosmic world order, for establishing harmony and
order in the state where the main valor should not be wealth and nobility, but
wisdom, courage and justice.
The remaining two
classes, according to Plato, must also be educated. In the 'Laws', he calls to
educate all citizens, proclaiming the principle of universal compulsory
education: 'One and all should receive education to the best of their ability'.
Later in the 'State' he writes that only two classes should be trained:
philosophers and guardians.
However, the core of the
Plato's position on education has not changed. In his works he speaks about two
types and levels of education: philosophical-theoretical and empirical. The
former is necessary for the governing class in order to manage public life on
reasonable, fair grounds; the latter for the rest of free citizens, so that
they could navigate in the empirically perceived reality and learn to obey the
laws of social structure. Plato believed that it was not possible to find a
philosopher in the crowd. The most important thing is that the crowd doesn't
need a philosophical education.
Education for the slaves
was out of the question, since they were not given the status of people.
Similar views on
education are expressed by Aristotle. Claiming that all people naturally aspire
to knowledge, he divides all sciences into two groups - philosophy, the science
of 'certain causes and principles', which is the highest form of cognition, and
all others which deal with cognizing empirically observed things. A person
Engaged in philosophy, 'knows everything, although he does not have knowledge
of each subject individually'; 'he is capable of knowing complicated ideas that
are difficult to comprehend for a person [after all, perception by feelings is
common to everyone, and therefore it is easy and there is nothing wise in
this)' [6, p. 68].
If all sciences are studied
for the sake of a pragmatic goal lying outside of it, then the goal of studying
philosophy is in philosophy itself. Philosophical knowledge is a continuous,
endless path of self-creation of a person, their approach to the eternal and
perfect cosmic Mind and thereby gaining higher pleasure and happiness.
For Plato, studies of
philosophy are necessary, first of all, for a rational arrangement of social
reality, while Aristotle is more interested in issues of self-improvement and
the welfare of an individual. The purpose of the philosopher is to become a
mentor for those who are less advanced on this path. 'A wise man should not
receive instruction, but instruct, and this is not he, who should not obey
another, but he who is less wise' [6, p. 68].
who is free and freed from the necessity to earn one's living, can be
successful in studying philosophy, since philosophical studies are a process
that lasts a lifetime.
Of course, the
possibility of continuous study of philosophy is available only to a very
wealthy slave owner. Aristotle does not at all exclude this possibility for
less affluent people engaged in physical labor, saying that people can do fine
and be virtuous even with moderate wealth. Nevertheless, quite rightly, he
believes that the work that is performed for a fee 'deprives people of the
necessary leisure and belittles them' [7, p. 629].
As we see, both Plato
and Aristotle speak of the right to education in accordance with the ideal
image of a man belonging only to large slave owners. How fair is this from the
point of view of great thinkers?
The understanding of the
issue of justice in the field of law takes place within the framework of
For Plato, justice
consists in 'the fact that each beginning (each social class, each member of
the state) should go about their business and not interfere in other people's
affairs. In addition, according to Plato, justice requires the corresponding
hierarchical subordination in the name of the whole. Thus, characterizing
justice in an ideal state, Plato writes: 'it will probably be justice if
everyone minds his own business'; 'justice consists in the fact that everyone
has his own purpose and also fulfills his own purpose' [8, p. 205-206].
Justice, according to Plato, also consists in 'not taking possession of
something which doesn't belong to you and not being deprived of something that
belongs to you' [8, p. 206].
Justice, according to
Plato, implies a 'proper measure', certain equality. He distinguishes between
two types of equality: 'geometric equality' (equality in virtue and features)
and 'arithmetic equality' ('equality of measure, weight and number').
'Geometric equality' is 'the most true and best equality': 'it pays more
attention to bigger things and ideas and less attention to smaller things,
which is proportional to their nature' [9, p. 208]. For Plato, the right to
education lies precisely within the framework of 'geometric equality'.
distributive justice and equalizing justice.
'Distributive justice is
a manifestation of justice in the distribution of everything that can be shared
between members of society (power, honor, payments, etc.). Here it is possible both equal and unequal endowment of
various persons with the corresponding benefits' [3, p. 413].
'Equalizing justice acts
in the sphere of exchange and 'manifests itself in equalizing everything that
constitutes the subject of exchange' [3, p. 413]. This type
of justice is applied in the field of civil transactions, compensation for
harm, crime and punishment' [3, p. 413].
It is quite obvious that
the field of educational activity is the sphere of operation of distributive
As a result of studying
the views of ancient philosophers on the problems of the right to education, we
came to the following conclusions.
The highest, most worthy
for a person education for both Plato and Aristotle is a philosophical
The purpose of
philosophy, its irreplaceable specificity, is in understanding the world as a
whole. Such an understanding helps to understand the laws of the world
development, the basis and prospects of the formation of any particular,
special phenomenon. Thus, the boundaries of the human 'Self' widen infinitely,
embracing the entire universe, in contrast to the space of the individual,
limited by a flat picture of empirically observed reality.
For Plato, philosophical
education has as its immediate goal a rational, harmonious structure of human
life, as harmonious as the structure of the world, of the cosmos. For
Aristotle, it is the path to the personal happiness, understood not as the
continuous enjoyment of things, food, travel, etc., characteristic of our contemporaries, but as a state of
conformity, likening to a beautiful cosmos as a result of continuous selfless
self-improvement of a person.
In the view of ancient
thinkers, the possibility of philosophical reflection on reality is a huge
privilege, the right to which belongs only to a few select people - slave
owners, spared of the need to work for a fee and be engaged in physical labor.
This state of affairs for both Plato and Aristotle seems very fair and
corresponds to the laws of the cosmos. The views of ancient thinkers on justice
in the field of education are explained by natural and social prerequisites -
the structure of available social reality and, thus, the act as its reflection.
The relevance of the
views of the philosophers of antiquity for today is associated with an
understanding of the highest status of philosophy. The inalienable right of any
developing person is the right to form a space of the individual, commensurate
with the space of the whole, providing the ability to correlate itself with
this whole, to comprehend its own existence in its context. Only a complete
philosophical education is the basis for the realization of this right.
As stated in the Message
of the President of the International Federation of Philosophical Societies
Luke Maria Scarantino, dedicated to the celebration
of World Philosophy Day in 2019, it is philosophy that allows us to understand
the social and cultural complexity of our world. It gives us 'the opportunity
to learn to feel being an integral part of a wider world than the one that
directly surrounds us; try to approach human conflicts dialogically and
understand the contradictions in their human and cultural complexity, and not
in simplified one-sidedness' .
notes that many of the leading countries of the world are currently investing
significant resources in philosophical education and research. He especially notes
'the successful efforts of the Mexican philosophical community to include
philosophical and gender education into the constitutional rights of their
country' . Thus, the right to philosophical education for the first time in
the world history receives legislative basis.
In the modern world, the
branch of law called educational law is rapidly developing. The author of the
article is convinced that in the near future the right to philosophical
education will receive the status of one of its most important issues.
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Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №11 - 2019