education is not knowing about, but knowing. It is the cure of folly
and the curb of vice, and our only hope of escaping what Socrates
once called 'the greatest peril of this our life'--not sickness
or death, as most of us would say, but the failure to make sense about
the better and the worse, and thus to choose the wrong one, thinking
it the other."
1. Who Is Socrates, Now That We Need
Him? "Nevertheless, people do from time to time come to know
enough about Socrates to be drawn into his company, and to agree,
with rare exceptions, that it would indeed be a good thing to imitate
2. The Square of the Hypotenuse
"Who first called Reason sweet, I don't know. I suspect that
he was a man with very few responsibilities, no children to rear,
and no payroll to meet."
3. The Land of We All "It
is an obvious but simple distinction--though rarely made--that
there are some things that we can do because we are humanity, and
some things that we can do because we are persons, and that there
is some radical and absolute difference between the two classes of
things. They do not overlap. A person can no more invade Normandy
than an army can play the violin."
4. The Right Little Thing "Although
many of us seem to have misunderstood, or even deliberately misconstrued,
the nature of education for a very long time, that nature is still
recognized in some corner of almost every mind."
5. The Gift of Fire "So
I imagined myself in conversation with Prometheus, who had come back
to find out what we mortals had managed to do with the astounding
powers that he had given to us alone of all creatures."
6. Children and Fish "If
you should prefer to understand that children are those human beings
who have not yet found the grasp of their own minds, then the task
you have given yourself, that task of rearing a child wisely and well,
is suddenly transformed from indoctrination to education, in its truest
sense, and made not only possible but even likely--provided, to
be sure, one little prerequisite, which is that you are
not a child, that you have come into the grasp of your mind."
7. The Perils of Petronilla "Epictetus,
who could neither read nor write, supposed that education was an inner
condition, easily--if temporarily--reached, in nothing more
than an afternoon of thoughtful discourse, but a condition by virtue
of which one could do everything that living requires, and do it well."
8. Sad Stories of the Death of Kings
"Any truthful literature will admit: No, this is not life itself,
it is only a serious sort of game, but it is like life, and the mind
that plays here is like yours, and this vision is what you too can
see, and consider, and find worthy, and by which you may know yourself
better. For this book is about you. Every truthful and thoughtful
book is about you, every story is yours."
9. Home Rule "From Epictetus,
we can take another possible understanding of education. It is power
over the inner world, the ability to know and judge the self and to
do something about it."
10. Colonialism "Here is
a truth that most teachers will not tell you, even if they know it:
Good training is a continual friend and a solace; it helps you now,
and assures you of help in the future. Good education is a continual
pain in the neck, and assures you always of more of the same."
11. The World of No One At All
"Epictetus was doing no more than reaffirming, simply and literally,
a very old idea. He could see no sense at all in presuming the existence
of goodness or badness where there was no intention, no will."
12. How to Live (I Think) "Look
around you, near and far, and find someone whom you can praise, and
that without any consideration of self-interest or the profit that
you might take from your praising. Whom do you find to praise? The
just or the unjust? The patient or the impatient? The courageous or
Some texts to which Monsieur Mitchell
refers, directly or indirectly, in The Gift of Fire:
James Madison Federalist
Marcus Aurelius Meditations
Thomas a Kempis The
Imitation of Christ
St. Thomas Aquinas Summa
St. Bernard of Clairvaux On
Fyodor Dostoevsky The