Superphysics Superphysics
Chapters 3-4

Ancient vs Modern Education. Education in a Republic

by Montesquieu Icon
4 minutes  • 666 words
Table of contents

Chapter 3: Education in a Despotic Government

Education in monarchies tends to raise and ennoble the mind.

In despotic governments, its only aim is to debase it.

  • Here, it must necessarily be servile.
  • Even in power, such an education will be an advantage because every tyrant is at the same time a slave.

Excessive obedience supposes ignorance in the person that obeys. The same it supposes in him that Edition= current; Page= [42] commands; for he has no occasion to deliberate, to doubt, to reason; he has only to will.

In despotic states each house is a separate government. As education, therefore, consists chiefly in social converse, it must be here very much limited= all it does is to strike the heart with fear, and to imprint on the understanding a very simple notion of a few principles of religion. Learning here proves dangerous, emulation fatal; and, as to virtue, Aristotle cannot think there is any one virtue belonging to slaves= * if so, education in despotic countries is confined within a very narrow compass.

Here therefore education is in some measure needless= to give something, one must take away every thing; and begin with making a bad subject, in order to make a good slave.

For why should education take pains in forming a good citizen, only to make him share in the public misery? If he loves his country, he will strive to relax the springs of government= if he miscarries, he will be undone= if he succeeds, he must expose himself, the prince, and his country, to ruin.

Chapter 4: Difference between the Effects of ancient and modern Education

MOST of the ancients lived under governments that had virtue for their principle; and, when this was in full vigour, they performed actions unusual in our times, and at which our narrow minds are astonished.

Another advantage their education had over ours; it never was effaced by contrary impressions. Epaminondas, the last year of his life, said, heard, beheld, and performed, the very same things as at the age in which he received the first principles of his education.

In our days we receive three different or contrary educations; namely, of our parents, of our masters, and of the world. What we learn in the latter effaces all the ideas of the former. This in some measure arises from the contrast we experience between our religious and worldly engagements; a thing unknown to the ancients.

Chapter 5: Education in a republican Government.

IT is in a republican government that the whole power of education is required. The fear of despotic governments naturally rises of itself amidst threats and punishments: the honour of monarchies is favoured by the passions, and favours them in its turn.

But virtue is a self-renunciation, which is ever arduous and painful.

This virtue may be defined the love of the laws and of our country. As such love requires a constant preference of public to private interest, it is the source of all private virtues; for they are nothing more than this very preference itself.

This love is peculiar to democracies. In these alone the government is intrusted to private citizens. Now, government is like every thing else= to preserve it, we must love it.

Has it ever been heard that kings were not fond of monarchy, or that despotic princes hated arbitrary power?

Every thing, therefore, depends on establishing this love in a republic; and to inspire it ought to be the principal business of education= but the surest way of instilling it into children is for parents to set them an example.

People have it generally in their power to communicate their ideas to their children; but they are still better able to transfuse their passions.

If it happens otherwise, it is because the impressions made at home are effaced by those they have received abroad.

It is not the young people that degenerate= they are not spoilt till those of maturer age are already sunk into corruption.

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