Aesthetic experience may be thought of as leading to eroticism as I suggested above, Part I, ch. Its object, when the ascent towards the Idea of beauty takes place, only apparently is identical with the object of aesthetic experience. It is true that this is always constituted by what is beautiful, but in one case this is the beauty of the Idea which manifests itself as something identical in a variety of different entities that are said to be beautiful.
For instance when one has experience of the beauty of beautiful bodies what one has to grasp is that the beauty the kallos which is present in all of them is one and the same hen kai tauton cf. Symposium b. On the other hand those who, like the lovers of beautiful sights, cultivate an aesthetic experience, do not grasp an identical beauty in many different entities if they grasped it, they would already have some grasp of the idea of beauty, what for them is explicitly excluded , but see those entities as being beautiful on many different grounds because of their colours, which are not identical in all of them, because of their figures, which again are not identical, and so forth, or because of a combination of colour and figure, etc.
What they see are different things which are beautiful in quite different ways, without any identical beauty being detected in them. This is for them a completely satisfying experience, which, precisely for this reason, does not lead them in any way to accomplish an ascent towards the Idea of beauty. Aesthetic experience, far from opening the road to the contemplation of the ideas, is an obstacle to it, since it encourages those who cultivate it to find their happy realization in the world of the many beautiful tones and beautiful colours and shapes, thus in the empirical world around us.
Cultivating aesthetic experience and cultivating philosophy are alternatives, and this is one reason why there is a quarrel between poetry and philosophy on this quarrel see below, ch. But it is sufficiently clear, from what he says of the lovers of beautiful sights towards the end of book V of the Republic , that their experience is limited to the sphere of the many beautiful things and excludes any contemplation of the Idea of beauty cf.
But this is to admit that their position is in some manner an alternative to that of the philosopher and to let it be understood that it offers satisfactions of its own. That this contemplation exists and offers satisfactions of its own cannot be denied. In book X this alternative is even more in the background, but if Plato did not have it in mind there would have been little point on his part in referring to the ideas it would have been sufficient to suggest that the imitator produces imitations of such things as the products of the artisans and to lay stress on the existence of a quarrel between poetry and philosophy.
And the three levels distinguished in the case of painting find no correspondence in the allegory of the cave. The poet, together with the sophist and the rhetorician, contributes to the creation of that deception by which men are induced to regard the reality which falls under our senses as the only reality. The operations he accomplishes are restricted to the sphere of the perceptible, and he encourages men to find themselves at home in this sphere, by getting pleasure from his beautiful imitations.
These imitations do not offer signs which can lead out of the cave. Only philosophical knowledge can teach us to see these signs and make use of them to obtain the condition of genuine freedom. It is also for this reason, and not only because of their competition for education in the cities, that there is a quarrel between poetry and philosophy. More positively, it can be admitted that the attribution of an idealistic aesthetics to Plato is not arbitrary.
In my exposition I offer a rapid synthesis, without keeping distinct the contributions of ancient authors, especially Proclus, and those of modern authors, especially Tate and Verdenius. On the other hand, it has to be remarked at once that these three are not problematic points that are all centred on one issue, so that the interpreter can establish a convergence on the basis of one theory such as that of idealistic aesthetics. It is supposed that, at least in particularly favourable cases, poets and other artists can also make recourse to this second sort of imitation, of which Plato does talk in some contexts for instance Tate adduces passages such as Republic V, d, on which see above, ch.
Thus Proclus admitted that this happens in the case of those poets whose inspiration is truly divine, making appeal to the doctrine of the Phaedrus see above, Part II, ch. He is followed on this point by Verdenius Verdenius, op. Now there is a problem discussed above, ch.
Proclus and Verdenius with him solves the problem by going against the evidence. It is true that Plato attaches much value to the likeness of a work of art, but this idea should not be interpreted in modern terms. In true art likeness does not refer to commonplace reality, but the ideal Beauty. I take the passage of the Laws to concern the imitation of someone beautiful in the sense now specified, there being no reference at all to ideas in the context.
What remains true, first of all, is that Plato as was suggested above, ch. Republic IV, c, also b , but these are images that are different from the images of virtue eidola aretes of which there is talk in Republic X in connection with painting and with poetry cf. Secondly, music can be the source of a pleasure that can be evaluated in a positive way, as recognized in Timaeus , 80b also discussed above, in ch.
Thirdly, it is a source of this sort of pleasure when the harmonies it realizes are an imitation of the harmonies that are realized at a cosmic level, and especially in the movements of the celestial bodies. These harmonies are clearly an instantiation of certain formal characters that in various dialogues are recognized as constituting the criteria of beauty, such as order, measure and proportion see above, ch. In the fourth place, the requirement of satisfying these criteria of beauty can be extended even to the products of certain imitative arts like painting, when they are considered independently of what they reproduce, and to other objects that are not produced by the human hand, including the world as a whole.
Thus there is a field in which beauty is instantiated without having to fall under the condemnation that is applied to the products of the imitative arts. Enneads V 9, And there is some justification in giving a positive reply to this question, for the order which is realized by perceptible reality, as described in a work like the Timaeus , clearly depends on an intelligible order.
The first is that Plato does not think there is a single idea, like the idea of beauty, which by itself constitutes the intelligible basis for that order, for this could only justify the presence of an identical beauty or whatever in all perceptible things.
The objection by Plotinus that, by reference to the idea of beauty, it is not possible to conceive beauty in terms of symmetry and so forth, for in this way a plurality is involved which beauty excludes, has a justification already from the Platonic point of view and is in fact a development of certain of the objections against the various definitions of beauty that are to be found in the Greater Hippias.
It is then not a single idea which constitutes that basis, but the whole ordered world kosmos of ideas, as it is presented in Republic VI, b ff.
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It is similarly a whole world, manifestly always the world of ideas, that constitutes the model for the divine artisan who produces the perceptible world according to the account given in the Timaeus cf. So it is sufficient to have an eye for the beauty that manifests itself in perceptible reality in order to be able to do the work of a good painter or a good musician.
And the failure to draw this distinction leads as we have seen to dismissive judgements which concern the imitative arts without reservations.
What sort of poetry is to be kept out from the well-governed city cf. When he talks of an ancient quarrel between philosophy and poetry, it would seem that all poetry constitutes his target. The willingness to leave a place in the best city to hymns to the gods and praises of good men cf. It was classified as particularly mimetic already in book III, in the sense that it directly brings in the speech and action by the persons represented and is not an exposition of facts or a report of words by the poet himself. It is clearly treated in this way in book X.
Concerning lyrics in particular, this is mentioned together with epic in Republic X, a, thus it is not wholly ignored. It is to be rejected in so far as it is imitative. Tragedy is most typical from this point of view, but lyrics need not be excluded. For instance Sappho gives expression to her unhappiness when her love is not returned, as if suffering an injustice, yet she clearly considers herself a virtuous person. It is precisely this discrepancy which Plato does not admit.
Tragedy exemplifies it in the fullest way, because it often consists in a story which illustrates a passage from good to bad fortune with good fortune that seems to be deserved and bad fortune not , but, in so far as any other sort of poetry illustrates it, it should be dismissed. This devaluation in itself is not without ambiguity, for Plato sometimes suggests that the whole of human life must be regarded as a sort of play see below, ch. However awareness of this human condition is limited to the philosopher, who is the only one to possess the antidote pharmakon of knowledge cf.
What he adds in what follows, as the greatest accusation against mimetic poetry 33 , is not really different from what has already been said about its effect except in stressing its attractiveness. On the whole this negative judgement is not far from that already expressed in Protagoras , ca, where discussing poetry was said by Socrates to be similar to the hiring of girl-musicians to entertain at symposia, instead of getting entertainment from their own conversations, as truly noble and educated people would do.
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This appeal is made in the attempt to save Plato from giving a general and not too persuasive condemnation of imitation, by suggesting instead that what is at issue is only a misconception not shared by him about the nature of imitative poetry. But the difficulty with this charitably meant explanation is that Plato makes it sufficiently clear that, if certain people have come to adopt this position, it is because they have been deceived exepatentai , e, also d by the poets themselves, being the victims of some sort of spell that has been cast on them by the imitator who acts like a sort of magician goes and who in this way creates the impression of being all-wise cf.
See my discussion of this passage above, ch. So it is not just a matter of rejecting an exaggerated claim by some few people. And if their position were not representative of a widely held view about poetry, why bother to give an ample refutation of it?
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Recitation and memorization of large parts of the poems of Homer, Hesiod and other poets constituted one main feature, if not the main feature, of traditional education, as it is clear from indications given by Plato himself, by Aristophanes, etc. This happened, to some extent at least, because there prevailed a didactic view of the function of poetry.
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One can raise the question whether he is always fair in doing so, but the assumption underlying this procedure, that the poets can be criticized for what they say, for the ideology they propound, cannot be seen as illegitimate against this background. Nothing in what was normally said about the poets and in the use that was made of their poems justifies this further assertion.
There are only two passages by ancient authors that can be quoted and are usually quoted by scholars in this connection as offering some support, but they cannot be used without reservations. This boast is rendered suspicious by the fact that it takes place at a party and that he is not immune from Socratic thought. Partly on the same lines is a passage in Aristophanes It is Frogs , vv. Further, this passage too does not separate competence in the arts from others sorts of knowledge and is to be understood as part of a comedy.
But in the end he admits that strictly technical information, e. Overall, this kind of information forms an exercise in general education, not the specifics of skilled performance. In fact, as already remarked above ch. Homer talks of generalship e. He talks of medicine e. This criticism, it should be noted, is quite different from a criticism concerning certain given contents, such as that concerning the view offered by Homer about the gods. This is a strong claim, but not a repetition of the claim about possession of all the arts.
So there is reason to suspect that this other claim is an invention by Plato, even if to some extent he himself may be the victim of a certain lack of distinction between technical and non technical knowledge. If it turns out that this claim is not implied, and that the poets are not doing anything more than innocuously imitate the parlance and demeanour of generals, doctors, and so forth, the argument misfires.
Of course there remain other grounds for criticism, concerning the image that the poets offer of the gods, and so forth, but these cannot be put on the same plane as the general criticism of Republic book X and of the Ion. There also remains the criticism that poets do not know what is just, what is good, and so forth, and this cannot be dismissed as being wholly without substance see on this point next ch.
However I have not met, so far, any persuasive attempt to explain away those assertions by Plato that show him dismissive of poetry. The suggestion put forward in a conversation by Maria Villela-Petit that he is giving an ironical presentation of an account of poetry that is not his own but belongs to the sophists does not seem to have any substantial basis.
As I point out in previous parts of this essay, there are passages e. Republic X, d-e, cannot be taken for reasons given above in this sense.
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