Integrity in the Academy

Integrity in the Academy

Note: The following entry is from Dr. Owen Anderson (Arizona State University), a Fellow of the Institute for Classical Education

In my previous post I discussed the need for common ground.  If there is no common ground then we cannot come to agreement.  Common ground begins with reason as that by which we understand.  The Academy starts with Socratic self-examination.  The unexamined life is not worth living and the examined life is worth living.  Self-examination requires integrity.  And integrity is a concern for consistency in what we think, say, and do.

If Plato is the father of the academy then Socrates is the grandfather.  And his trial is the paradigmatic example of a philosopher.  He was on trial because he asked various experts if they had wisdom or only thought they had wisdom.  The politicians or lawyers, the artists, and the craftsmen.  Although he found those who thought they were wise, he didn’t find anyone who was actually wise.  And although he thought they would be happy to learn that they were mistaken so that they could begin seeking wisdom instead they sought to kill him.

As rational beings we implicitly claim to know.  We like to show others that we know and talk about things we know.  We are insulted if we are called a fool which is someone who thinks he knows but does not know.  But there is a problem.  When called upon to show that we know basic things we, like those who were questioned by Socrates, are often exposed as not knowing what we should know.  If we had integrity, we would know basic things.  And if we knew them, we could show this when asked.

Self-examination begins in confessing we do not know what we should know.  If I had a concern for consistency then I would know basic things.  I don’t know basic things.  What is the conclusion?  This is where the Academy begins.  A realization of our own condition and the necessity of integrity.  Maybe we can call this Solomon’s Academy where we see that image of wisdom calling out in the streets offering the path of life.


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