“Imitations practiced from youth become part of nature and settle into habits of gesture, voice, and thought.” Plato, Republic III

Plato showed great concern about how people move and use their bodies. Bodily gestures have significance; and they are connected to deeper realities, especially the dispositions of our soul.

His immediate prescription here was that youth not act parts in plays that are compromising or base. But the point clearly has a broader significance. He connects three things: bodily gestures, ways of speaking, and ways of thinking. The habits of the upright person in all three of these areas are of a piece with one another.

One can wonder what Plato would think of bodily gestures now commonly performed; or those not commonly performed. We might conjecture that he would find them consistent with our ways of speaking, and ways of thinking.

Gestures of respect and deference were once common. And they went hand in hand with ways of speaking, and thinking. Lifting of the hat, bowing of the head; even bending of the knee. Erect stature; hands out of pockets; looking directly at a person. Or when modesty demands, not looking directly.

Once upon a time people were trained in posture. Not simply because it matches a certain kind of speech. Posture itself speaks, sometimes volumes—that I’m listening, that I care, that I know my place, that I respect myself, that I respect you.

Such training was rooted in the conviction not only that gestures are signs of already formed interior dispositions, but also that they can actually cultivate the very dispositions they signify. This is a truth both bracing and encouraging for us.

Young people need to be formed in the manifold ways of goodness. Perhaps we adults need to be re-formed. Yet our re-formation might indeed give the young something they can imitate, that will settle into habits of gesture, voice, and thought.

Plato (427-347 B.C.), a student of Socrates, and teacher of Aristotle, is considered one of the greatest philosophers of all time. The Republic is one of the most widely read and influential of all books.

Image: Norman Rockwell’s Saying Grace

Join the Community.

Become a LifeCraft Member and gain access to our online courses and exclusive content. It's FREE of charge. Period.

If you join as a contributing member, you will help make this content available to an increasing audience and enable me to spend more time in this work. I thank you in advance.

Join the LifeCraft community today and get access to:

  • Man of the Household (Course)
  • Woman of the Household (Course)
  • Concepts Made Clear (Mini-course)
  • Dinner at Home (Mini-course)
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE:
Ordinary Means for an Extraordinary Holiday Season

Ordinary Means for an Extraordinary Holiday Season

“We must also remember that no metamorphosis since pre-historic times is in any way comparable to the metamorphosis that we are now undergoing.” “[Man is] a creature which is not only capable of gratuitous acts but of which it can be said that such acts are this...

read more
Presence when Absent: A Husband’s Gift

Presence when Absent: A Husband’s Gift

“The beloved is said to be in the lover… [even] in the absence of the beloved, because of the lover’s longing towards…the good he wills to the beloved with a love of friendship.” Thomas Aquinas One thing my marriage has taught me is that really ‘being-present’ to...

read more
Does Everyone Need an Obi-wan?

Does Everyone Need an Obi-wan?

“And if someone dragged him away from there by force, up the rough, steep path, and didn’t let him go until he had dragged him into the sunlight, wouldn’t he be pained and irritated at being treated that way?” Socrates, Plato’s Republic We seldom reflect on a stark...

read more

Pin It on Pinterest