“First attend to the adjustment of your own soul, particularly the regulative liberal learning of your intellect, then project your internal economy on the world as social and political justice. The other way around is headless.” – Eva Brann, The Music of the Republic: Essays on Socrates’ Conversations and Plato’s Writings
Eva Brann is a distinguished and long-serving tutor at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland. She received her Ph.D. in archaeology from Yale University and is the author of numerous works on Greek poetry and philosophy. Dr. Brann has published translations of “Sophist” and “Phaedo,” both by Plato. In 2005 she received the National Humanities Medal. Dr. Brann recently talked about Plato and liberal learning with W. Winston Elliott III, publisher of The Imaginative Conservative.
This interview took place at the Hauenstein Center at Grand Valley State University as part of The Common Ground Initiative Summit 2014: “Have the Liberal Arts Become Too Politicized? A Meeting of Minds, Right and Left.”
As Anthony Esolen wrote in an essay recently published by The Imaginative Conservative: “If we want to learn how to paint, we stand beside the master who knows more than we do, whose example can show us far more than can be put into words. So Michelangelo learned from the great but lesser sculptor Ghiberti, praising his golden work on the doors of the baptistery in Florence, calling them the Gates of Paradise. If we want to learn how to be noble, good, great of soul, courageous, wise, we cannot begin with ourselves. We must find a teacher.”
“Here is one way to summarize the educational aim governing the program of liberal studies then set out— a program that for two and a half millennia prescribed the education of those who were free in the sense of being able to do what we call non-vocational learning, learning not immediately connected to crafts, trades, or professions. This aim is to see in all the free arts and sciences a unifying principle at work, a principle at once of illumination, development, and unification, which Socrates calls ‘the Good.’ You can see why it informs the education of the philosopher kings, whose chief business it is to hold the community together.” – Eva Brann
Note: The interview begins at 3:20 into the video:
This video was originally published here in June 2014, and appears again in celebration of Dr. Brann’s ninetieth birthday.
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Eva Brann: Paradoxes of Education in a Republic
Jacob Klein, A Commentary on Plato’s Meno
Editor’s note: The featured image is a detail from “Plato” by Paolo Veronese, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.