Plato

The Republic, Book X

“this whole genre of poetry deforms its audience’s minds.” (64)

 

Plato: Classic Greek philosopher of the 4th cent. BC. Student of Socrates. Teacher of Aristotle. Laid the foundation of Western philosophy. An idealist with a holistic view of the world. Belongs to the mimetic stage of literary theory (that concerned with the relationship between a work of art and the world)

The Republic: In a Socratic dialogue envisioning a city-state ruled by philosopher-kings, Plato argues about whether or not justice brings happiness to the individual.

The Cave Allegory: related to Plato's Theory of Forms where forms or ideas are regarded as higher than the material world, the allegory is about the philosopher who finally leaves the darkness of the cave and enters the light of knowledge, and about the rest of us who are perpetually in a cave, watching illusions on a wall.

The Republic, Book X: A fictional dialogue between Glaucon and his teacher Socrates.

  1. Poetry is an unreliable source of truth:

1.   Our physical/natural world is a reflection of the world of Being/the ideal world.

2.   What’s in this world is a copy of the more perfect world of Being

3.   There are three makers of a bed: god or “the progenitor” makes the real bed, joiner or “the manufacturer” makes the physical bed, painter or “the representer” makes a copy of the bed (66).

4.   When a painter copies a chair, he is not representing “actual reality,” but “craftsman’s product,” and he is not representing the chair as it is but as it “appears to be.” “Representation and truth are a considerable distance apart” (67).

5.   “there are three areas of expertise: usage, manufacture, and representation.” The user knows most, he imparts his knowledge to the manufacturer, leaving the representer far away from the object of representation (70).

6.   Poetry is therefore twice removed from the truth

  1. Poetry appeals to and feeds our weaker and inferior side:

1.   The mind is divided into two parts: rational and irrational: “the best part of our minds is perfectly happy to be guided by reason,” … “there’s another part of our minds which urges us to remember the bad times and to express our grief (74).

2.   The poet “destroys the rational part by feeding and fattening up this other part, and this is equivalent to someone destroying the more civilized members of a community by presenting ruffians with political power” (74).

3.   Poetry can seduce us by its charm, but “if you admit the entertaining Muse of lyric and epic poetry, then instead of law and the shared acceptance of reason as the best guide, the kings of your community will be pleasure and pain” (76).