Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities

By Martha C. Nussbaum | Go to book overview
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IV
Socratic Pedagogy:
The Importance of Argument

I am a sort of gadfly, given to the democracy by the gods, and
the democracy is a large, noble horse who is sluggish in its
motions, and requires to be stung into life.

—Socrates, in Plato, Apology, 30E

Our mind does not gain true freedom by acquiring materials
for knowledge and possessing other people's ideas but by
forming its own standards of judgment and producing its own
thoughts.

—Rabindranath Tagore, in a syllabus
for a class in his school, c. 1915

Socrates proclaimed that “the unexamined life is not worth living for a human being.” In a democracy fond of impassioned rhetoric and skeptical of argument, he lost his life for his allegiance to this ideal of critical questioning. Today his example is central to the theory and practice of liberal education in the Western tradition, and related ideas have been central to ideas of liberal education in India and other non-Western cultures. One of the reasons people

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