West and East: Two Opposing Educations?


I believe that both the west and the east have in their educational philosophies a deep rooted obsession with freeing Human beings. Since ancient times Humans were considered not as free agents in this world but controlled by many forces. First among these forces is the need of all Human beings to survive physically and the fate of most human beings to become desperately dependent on hard toil and mechanical degrading work. Poverty is the ruler of most people most of History. Also modern times, our lives here and now, most of us are still dependent on mechanical repetitive work for long hours, hour after hour, day after day, year after year. In his book “politics” Aristotle discusses at length what this kind of life does to  damage our intellectual capacities.

Yet, there is not much we can do for people in that condition – unless you provide for them by the state or by charity for the rest of their lives. People are born to labor.

But what about the sons and daughters of the nobles, those who will not need to work a day in their lives? Are they free to live a higher life? Intellectual, moral, emotional? They need not spend their lives like machines. They can achieve something higher?

Plato considers them to be enslaved as well! They are just like marionettes who are led by forces that are not them. They are controlled as well. By who? Well, by their desires, their impulses. Their internal forces such as hunger, lust, revenge, cravings. These can overwhelm a Human and push and pull him or her to certain behaviors. Just like an addict who we cannot say he is truly free of his addiction, all human beings are like Marionettes or string-puppets that are directed by their inner impulses. Education in essence is conceived as developing a free person, a person who is truly free. Free of himself. Free from the tyranny of his inner irrational forces. Free to choose which impulses within him he should follow.

Humans who have escaped the life of mechanical repetitive labor still fall to the life of the “Democratic Man” who follows as a slave any impulse within him.

He lives along day by day, gratifying the desires that occur to him, at one time drinking and listening to the flute, at another downing water and reducing; now practicing gymnastic, and again idling and neglecting  everything; and sometimes spending his time as though he were occupied with philosophy.  Often he engages in politics and, jumping up, says and does whatever chances  to come to him; and if he ever admires any soldiers, he turns in that direction; and if it’s money-makers, in that one.  And there is neither order nor necessity in his life, but calling this life sweet, free, and blessed he follows it throughout.

- Plato from The Republic

But this is not enough. Humans are not only controlled by their inner desires that are almost impossible to succumb, but also to other Humans who are good at the art of Rhetoric.   Rhetoric is the art of convincing.  It is the art of manipulating others to think and believe in certain ways that suit the rhetorician. This rhetorician can lead you to do what he wants. The impulses and desires within you are not really yours. They were installed their by a gifted rhetorician from outside yourself.  Today we can  speak this way of commercials that are a modern form of rhetoric and convince us to buy this or that.

Is the art of Rhetoric good or bad?


Take a good look at both these people. They are good, very good, in convincing.

The first is a person who uses his amazing convencing skills to spread hate and violence. This is an Australian Descovery Channel invistagtive report of  a particular charismatic Islamic speaker, Khalid Yasin. Don’t watch all of it, just get the feel of Kahlid yasin’s gift, his ability to talk you into anything.

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We are all attracted to charismatic people. This is the essence of Rhetoric. The art of convincing. And it can be used for the bad.

However, listen to Ken Robinson. Here I do suggest watching the whole video since it is brilliant and thought provoking.


ok, try to return to the discussion here. Ken Robinson speaks well. He uses his gift for the betterment of others. It is a prime example of Rhetoric for the good of mankind.

The ancient world sought for ways to free humans from the art of Rhetoric. Two ways strike me as important. The first – the way of the west is dialectics.  The Greek art of conversation where the teacher brings those he speaks with into the realization that they do not know. He refutes their thesis and he refutes the anti-thesis leaving no possible opinion to be held true. It is a great moment in a man’s life when he realizes that all he believed in up to that moment cannot be true. This moment is a moment of growth. Knowing you do not know. This is the opposite of Rhetoric. Makes you turn in yourself and search for answers.   

The east has come up with meditation as a method of emptying your mind from thoughts. Also this is a way to control your default stream of conciseness, slow it down, and eventually come out free, controlling which thoughts you should be having.


Are these entirely different approaches?







  1. Upper back pain reliefJanuary 26, 2012 at 1:36 am

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  2. EstherFebruary 5, 2012 at 9:10 pm

    Interesting post.
    In my opinion there’s one very important difference.
    In the western approach, as described by the text, the person is being lead by a guide or a teacher. the teacher himself must use rhetoric in the process – he plants the idea about one knowing nothing at all inside the head of his pupil. The process is being led by an outsider. Whereas in the eastern approach, meditation, the whole process is an inner process. a person comes to a point where he voluntarily knows he need to change his way of thinking. He meditates on his own, by himself. To me its more pure and right process of growing.
    By the way, meditation doesn’t have to occur on the peak of Mount Everest, it can happen in the privacy of your own home.

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