Paideia

In ancient Greek, the word Paideia (παιδεία) means "education" or "instruction." Paideia was "the process of educating man into his true form, the real and genuine human nature." [Jaeger, "Paideia" I.xxiii.]

Since self-government was important to the Greeks, Paideia, combined with ethos (habits), made a man good and made him capable as a citizen or a king. [Aristotle, "Politics" 1288b.] This education was not about learning a trade or an art—which the Greeks called banausos, and which were considered mechanical tasks unworthy of a learned citizen—but was about training for liberty (freedom) and nobility (the Beautiful). Paideia is the cultural heritage that is continued through the generations.

The term "Paideia" is probably best known to modern English-speakers through its use in the word Encyclopedia, which is a combination of the Greek terms enkyklios, or complete system/circle, and paideia, or education/learning. [ Encyclopaedia Britannica [http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9058006/paideia] ]

Origins and foundations

The Greeks considered Paideia to be carried out by the aristocratic class, who were said to have intellectualized their culture and their ideas; the culture and the youth are then "moulded" to the ideal. Starting in archaic times, love played an important part in this process, [Xenophon, "Constitution of the Lacedaemonians" 2.12.] as adult aristocrats in most cities were encouraged to fall in love with the youths they mentored. The aristocratic ideal is the Kalos Kagathos, "The Beautiful and the Good." This idea is similar to that of the medieval knights, their culture, and the English concept of the gentleman.

Greek Paideia is the idea of perfection, of excellence. The Greek mentality was "to always be pre-eminent"; Homer records this charge of King Peleus to his son Achilles. This idea is called arete. "Arete was the central ideal of all Greek culture." [Jaeger, "Paideia" I.15.]

In The Iliad, Homer portrays the excellence of the physicality and courage of the Greeks and Trojans. In The Odyssey, Homer accentuates the excellence of the mind or wit also necessary for winning. Arete is a concomitant of what it meant to be a hero and a necessary component in warfare in order to succeed. It is the ability to "make his hands keep his head" against enemies, monsters, and dangers of all kinds, and to come out victorious." [Jaeger, "Paideia" II.56.]

This mentality can also be seen in the Greeks' tendency to reproduce and copy only the literature that was deemed the "best"; the Olympic games were also products of this mentality. Moreover, this carried over into literature itself, with competitions in poetry, tragedy, and comedy. "Arete" was infused in everything the Greeks did.

The Greeks described themselves as "Lovers of Beauty," and they were very much attuned to aesthetics. They saw this in nature and in a particular proportion, the Golden Mean (roughly 1.618) and its recurrence in many things. Beauty was not in the superficialities of color, light, or shade, but in the essence of being—which is structure, line, and proportion.

The Greeks sought this out in all aspects of human endeavor and experience. The Golden Mean is the cultural expression of this principle throughout the Greek Paidea: architecture, art, politics, and human psychology.

In modern discourse, the German-American classicist Werner Jaeger, in his influential magnum opus "Paideia" (3 vols. from 1934; see below), uses the concept of Paideia to trace the development of Greek thought and education from Homer to Demosthenes. The concept of Paideia was also used by Mortimer Adler in his criticism of contemporary Western educational systems, and Lawrence A. Cremin in his histories of American education

ayings and proverbs that defined Paideia

*"'Know thyself' and 'Nothing in Excess,' which were on everyone's lips." [Plato, "Protagoras" 343b.] Words inscribed on the temple at Delphi.
*"Hard is the Good." [Plato, "Republic" 435.]

ee also

*Agoge
*Classical education

Notes

References

* Werner Jaeger, "Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture", vols. I-III, trans. Gilbert Highet, Oxford University Press, 1945.


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