Plato: The Republic, Book X

"all poetical imitations are ruinous to the understanding of the hearers" (21)

 

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 that argues that the artist should not be admitted into the City-State. "For if [we] allow the honeyed Muse to enter, either in epic or lyric verse, not law and the reason of mankind, which by common consent have ever been deemed best, but pleasure and pain will be the rulers in our State"

 

  1. Poetic creations have "an inferior degree of truth" (27)

1.   For each object there is only one idea or form (one idea/form of a bed, a table, etc) (21).

2.   A maker of an idea is a maker of appearances only (22)

3.   There are three makers of a bed: god (maker of idea of an object), carpenter (maker of object), and painter (imitator of what others make) (22).

4.   "the tragic poet is an imitator [who] is thrice removed from the king and from the truth" (23)

5.   An imitator, though removed from the truth, can deceive when s/he presents an image of an idea (23)

6.   "There are three arts which are concerned with all things: one which uses, another which makes, a third which imitates them" (24)

 

  1. Poets are "the associates of an inferior part of the soul" (27)

1.   The mind is divided and often has contradicting opinions about the same thing (viewing the same object differently depending on perception) (26)

2.   We often try to hide our sorrow from people and this is the sign of a good man whose law and reason "bids him resist" acting irrationally while "it is the affliction itself which is urging him to indulge his sorrow" (27)

3.   In each of us there are two principles: reason and passion, and the poet "indulges the irrational nature" (27)

4.   Our manly part finds pride in being quiet in the face of sorrows while our womanly part delights in giving way to sympathy (28)

5.   Poetry "feeds and waters the passions instead of drying them up; she lets them rule, although they ought to be controlled if mankind are ever to increase in happiness and virtue" (28)

6.   Poetry is charming but for the betterment of our city we should be on our guard "against her seductions" (29)