Cicero over Plato and Socrates

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

Andrew Bisset, writing in 1859, decries the emphasis on Cicero over Plato and Socrates in “modern” education:

Cicero was as inferior to Socrates in real courage as in true philosophy. His idea of the highest type of human nature is what he calls a perfect orator, that is, a man who carries this pursuit, which Plato in the Gorgias proves to be so base and pernicious an employment of the intellectual faculties, to its utmost height. In doing this, instead of enforcing by example and precept, simplicity, compactness, and perspicuity in language by the use of the fewest and most apt and simple words, arranged in their most natural order, he has introduced into language verbosity, complication, confusion, and what is falsely called “fine” writing. And the tendency of modern education being to make pedants, not practical men of business, or great statesmen and great warriors, he is admired and imitated, while the true view of the question, as developed by Socrates and Plato, is unknown or kept out of sight.

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