Law and the Republic

Oliver Miller
Law and Education
Professor Garda
Not here, O Adeimantus, but in another world.
—The Republic, Book XI



In order to understand the Greek influence on our modern-day educational
system, we must first understand the world that the Greeks lived in. “Greece” of the 4th
Century B.C. was not a country as America is a country – rather, it was a collection of
city-states (πολεισ) that fought one another, and occasionally banded together in times of
war. Two of these cities we have heard of: Athens and Sparta. Life was violent and
primitive. A man walking the public road outside his city could be robbed and killed;
there was no national army, no national police force. The vast majority of citizens
worked as farmers, and below them were slaves. From this crude civilization was to
come the intellectual basis for the Western World.
“Law” was a recent development: the word itself did not even exist in Greece
before the 8th century. Before that time, the Greeks were “barbarians” in the classical
sense—they lived in a society of brute force, or were governed over by a king who had
come to power through brute force. But the idea of law developed, as did the more stable
individual city states. By the 6th century, some men had become sufficiently “civilized” –
that is, sufficiently bored and wealthy, to be on the lookout for something new. This new
thing was called a “philosopher”—it was a new toy, a new game, a new idea. Rich men
hired themselves a philosopher in the same way that you or I would buy, say, the latest

iPhone. It was an exciting novelty: men who were paid to do nothing more than sit
around all day and thing about… things.
As the word “law” had to be invented, so did the word “philosopher.” The word
Πηιλο (love) added to the word Σοπηια (wise) means, simply, “lover of wisdom.” There

were a few famous philosophers before the age of Plato and Socrates. There was Thales