Iain C. Adams

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning


The 1960s and 1970s have been periods of critical enquiry for education and the school curriculum. Physical education has been unable to provide a united front to its critics due to rival factions within the profession and the lack of established foci and a logical status of objectives. Seemingly to add weight to arguments and positions some of the factions of physical education have cited Plato as an ally. This has brought nothing but confusion and an appearance of contradiction to Plato's ideas.

The major problem is that the ideas of Plato that pertain to physical education have been artificially detached from his broader educational ideas leaving the underlying "why" of his theories unexamined. The purpose of this study is to examine Plato's philosophy of physical education within his total philosophy to see if Plato is the major protagonist for physical education that many physical educators make him out to be. The values, if any, that Plato attributed to physical education will be compared and contrasted to the values attributed to physical education in Great Britain.

The study was centred on three research questions: (1) What is education in The Republic? (2) What does physical education actualize in the overall concept of education in The Republic? (3) What are the implications of physical education in The Republic for current concepts of physical education in the United Kingdom?

The Republic established that life should be a fully entwined harmony with all of its aspects interfacing with one another. Education should be more than a mere congeries of disciplines; it is a whole whose parts ultimately converge on and influence the whole man.

The following points can be drawn from The Republic as having specific importance for physical education: (1) There should be a critical reexamination of aims and activities in the light of the Platonic view that a man can only live well if he knows the objectives of life and how to attain them. A philosophy of physical education or education has to evolve from a philosophy of life. (2) Physical activity is an important part of experience, being an integral part of the acquisition of intellectual, emotional, cultural, and social experience. This is of such importance that there should be physical educators in all schools, primary as well as secondary; and even kindergarten teachers should be knowledgeable of the theory and practice of physical education. (3) A sound body and good health are prerequisites for a well-adjusted and completely integrated life. The physical educator has to impart sufficient knowledge to the student to be able to assume responsibility for his own health and the realization of his maximal potential. (4) Emphasis should be placed upon an individual's optimal performance for an activity rather than a hypothetical optimal performance of the activity. (5) The physical education programme has to include a spread of activities and an overlap of activities which reflect group and individual similarities and differences. (6) An effective social life depends upon education. Physical educators have to provide opportunities for development through socially relevant experience. (7) Physical education must provide opportunities for the individual to test himself and find and develop his own potential. (8) The physical education curriculum has to be designed with objectives related to those of society as it is and as it should be. The ultimate goal of physical education must be the same as that of education as a whole. Physical education is essentially a process, one of the family of processes which make up education. (9) The condition of the body is of great importance for optimal health and social and intellectual development. Physical education should be compulsory for all students.