Studies on human intelligence and soul are of a critical importance for the society development nowadays. The role and origin of these two subjects have been discussed by various professors and philosophers in various times. Among all the prominent scholars two names stand out: Plato and Howard Gardner whose ideas are reviewed in this essay. In Book 4 of the Republic we can find Plato’s thoughts about three parts of the soul, which are the appetitive, the rational, and the spirited (95-96). Though Howard Gardner’s essay “The Theory of Multiple Intelligences” discusses human intelligence not the soul, his approach is also pluralistic and he yields seven distinct intelligences, which include musical, bodily-kinesthetic, logical-mathematical, linguistic, spatial, interpersonal and intrapersonal (Smith). Plato’s notion of the rational part of the soul, “the one with which man reasons,” has much in common with Gardner’s understanding of intelligence (95). Both the soul and intelligence are used naturally in people’s lives; they do not think how to use it, but it helps to make wise and rational decisions. On the other hand, we should also review another Plato’s work “The Allegory of the Cave”, which is “an extended allegory, where humans are depicted as being imprisoned by their bodies and what they perceive by sight only” (Ellis-Christensen).
By analyzing the essays of Plato and Gardner, one can draw a parallel between the notion of intelligence or the rational part of the soul and education in a human society. Nowadays education, which is liberal, tends to teach students how to think on their own, not according to a general sample. It has become broader in comparison to a conservative one, which was very basic and consisted of only academic courses with no electives. As a result, people who got a more conservative education would rarely express their thoughts and ideas or advance a new theory that contradicts the generally accepted rules. However, in today’s society people, who are liberally educated, can controvert the things they are taught. They do their own research and establish new conclusions, which enable them to deal with the things that take up place in their lives, whether it is the attitude towards religion or choice of job, of the place to live, attitude towards people or what to dream about. It provides people with a much wider choice ability and frees them from the restraints that they may have in their lives. Gardner and Plato in their essays agreed that a liberal education is much more promising than a conservative one. Plato is sure that “the instrument of knowledge can only by the movement of the whole soul be turned from the world of becoming into that of being” (454). Gardner was interested in deep understanding, performance, exploration and creativity (Smith). Plato showed that truth must be experienced rather than told because language cannot instill a belief (Ellis-Christensen).
According to Gardner, intelligence is “the ability to solve problems, to find the answers to specific questions, to learn new material quickly and efficiently” (507). So people use different types of intelligence from the day they were born in order to learn and solve different problems. Gardner posits that “the theory of multiple intelligences diverges from traditional points of view” and that is why people with a more conservative education would think that Gardner’s ideas were ridiculous because nobody would be able to understand them as they would never look into things deeply (Gardner 509). The understanding of intelligence would be perceived by them as only being smart at school, but in reality Gardner meant that people can and should challenge the things that they learn because “constraints can be suggestive and ultimately freeing” (Smith et al).
In the essay “The Allegory of the Cave” Plato shows that the lack of liberal education does not let the prisoners “perceive ‘true’ reality” (Ellis-Christensen). The prisoners could not see anything but shadows of pictures with the help of only a small fire. In the end, however, one of the prisoners managed to see the truth and the real world. After his enlightenment, “first he will see the shadows best, next the reflection of men and other objects in the water, and then the objects themselves” (Plato 451). Plato was saying that other prisoners were not liberally educated, they “were never allowed to move their heads,” were unable to see the truth, were ultimately confined within darkness, kept in darkness (450).
Out of all kinds of intelligence mentioned by Howard Gardner, Socrates would have to favor interpersonal intelligence, which involves the ability to understand and distinguish others’ feelings and intentions. Interpersonal intelligence helps people to work effectively in a team. It could help to take people out of darkness “…if any one tried to lose another and lead him up to the light” (Plato 451). One person can make another stay in darkness and ignorance or enlighten them. If people interact and work together, they are stronger, they can “catch the offender, and they would put him to death” (Plato 453).
Therefore, both Gardner and Plato supported liberal education and believed that person’s soul or intelligence can get the knowledge only with the help of experience, not words. Though the words can influence person’s perception of the reality, the key factor is the intelligence and challenging the things people learn. Liberal education teaches people to think and analyze for themselves, make conclusions as well as provides broader education; whereas conservatively educated people would not dare to challenge the things they are taught. As evident in these two essays, people are allowed to control their life’s forces by being free from all the restraints that are part of everyday life.